Summary: a forgotten enemy comes back through the most unusual means
Setting: Washington DC, Arlington, etc... the normal places. Late summer, 1987.
Author's note: A HUGE thanks to my beta readers: Marni, Bohemian Fling, neyney and Aubrey. From comments to "don't end a sentence like that" to "would Dotty use slang?", they've been a trendous help in making this story something I can really be proud of. This is my first fanfic for SMK, and I've been toying with this idea since August. I haven't been working on it since August, but it was lurking there. Also, I realize that this story just touches on some issues that I feel would have to be dealt with in the saga that is Amanda and Lee. However, I didn't go into too much depth with them, because they can (and have, in some other works) be turned into stories themselves. Also, this thing has a plot, and I didn't want to try to get everything in there and take away from the plot. I hope I address the issues with the right amount of justice to your opinions.
Feedback: sure. Flames? um. if this story somehow ticks you off, I would love to know why.
Archive: just this one, please
There was a knock on the door. He slowly got up and walked over to see if it was who he thought it was. "You're early, Karl," he said evenly. "You sure you've got everything?"
Karl handed his benefactor a large envelope. "Yeah," he replied. "It's all there."
"He'll be here. He wanted to get some distance from the car in case he was followed."
The man walked over to the table and opened the envelope as he sat. He started to read the contents very carefully.
"Uh...." Karl stammered. "Where's the cash?"
"You'll get it when I make sure what I want is in here," the man replied without taking his eyes of the papers.
There was another knock on the door. Karl was relieved to have his partner join him. "He's going over the file." Vince nodded. "Did you get to the pictures, yet?"
"No, I want to look over everything carefully. Don't worry; I'll get to them. Why don't you and Karl make yourselves comfortable. I will need your services again, I'm sure."
"Well, this wasn't easy. He's a secret agent, you know. And so is she. It was hard to sneak around, watching them," Vince said proudly.
The man didn't look up as he finally got to the pictures. "It looks like you got an eyeful. They certainly have gotten a lot closer since the last time I sa-" He stopped in shock as he saw the picture Vince had prompted him to see. "Well, I'll be damned."
The two voyeurs looked over his shoulder and smiled at each other, knowing what their employer was thinking. "It's pretty amazing, isn't it?"
The man looked up at them for the first time, his plan already made up in his mind. "It looks like I now have a way of getting what I want. You know what you have to do." Vince smirked. "Yeah, we do."
"What?!" All Amanda heard was "Lee" and "dinner" from her bedroom.
"Mom, Lee's here," Phillip stated to his mother as he walked by her room.
"Thank you, Phillip," she smiled at her eldest son. "Tell him I'll be right down."
"LEE! MOM'LL BE RIGHT DOWN!"
Amanda jumped at the shout and soon heard Jamie's laughter. "Good way to give her a heart attack, stupid."
"Jamie, don't call your brother stupid. And Phillip, thanks, but I didn't need that eardrum anyway. Take it easy," Amanda said as she kissed her sons good-morning.
"....... I got tied up with an assignment last night, Dotty, sorry that I missed dinner," Amanda heard Lee saying as she descended the stairs.
"Well, I hope that you're coming tonight?" Dotty asked warmly as she finished her milk.
Amanda quickly kissed her "fiance" on the cheek and hurried around the kitchen, trying to get some breakfast. "You're coming for dinner and staying tonight, right? What about our assignment today? Do you think we'll be done shooting those lobsters by five?"
Lee smiled at the sight of Amanda running all around the place and at her use of code words around her family. *My* family, Lee thought. "I'll make sure of it. We've had more interesting assignments, and I don't want to stay too long, or we'll end up smelling like lobsters."
Amanda made a face. He was having too much fun with her impromptu choice of cover. "Good. We're having flounder-" It was Lee's turn to make a face, and Dotty laughed. "Just kidding," Amanda said with a smirk.
The boys ran into the kitchen, eager to eat their breakfast and be gone.
"Do you boys have your lunches for the field trip?" Amanda asked, trying to remember if there was anything she had forgotten. "Mother, do you have the number IFF gave me for our location?"
It was a good thing that `yes' was the universal response, Lee thought. He didn't know how she managed to do it all before he came to pick her up every morning. A flash of apprehension washed over him. Was it only three more weeks? Amanda, in the midst of all the organized chaos, caught the expression on his face and smiled sweetly at him. He smiled back, feeling a sudden glow. He had to wait three more weeks?
"OK... I think that's everything," Amanda said cheerfully.
"Oh, Mom! I forgot," Jamie bounced up. "Dad called last night. He wanted to know if the two of you could meet sometime soon. He sounded kind of upset."
Amanda's head shot up. "That's odd. He seemed fine when I talked to him the other day. I hope everything is OK with him."
"Maybe he's jealous of your wedding to Lee..." Dotty offered. Lee inwardly brightened at the thought of making Joe King jealous. Amanda caught that, too, and shot him a glance. He sobered immediately.
"I don't think so, Mother. After all, he's remarried, right?"
"I'll call Joe tonight, after dinner," Amanda turned towards Lee. "Are you ready?"
"I would say so," he joked. "Have fun today, guys."
"Thanks, Lee," they chorused. "Bye. Have fun with the lobsters."
"We'll try," Lee called out as he and Amanda finally made their way out the front door.
"Getting nervous?" Amanda teased once they were safely in his car and driving away.
"What makes you think that?"
"I saw you in there. Looking around like you didn't know which end was up," she started slowly. She wanted Lee to talk about what he was feeling. His face bore that familiar exression that something was bothering him. She knew he was nervous. She was nervous too, but the most difficult part was over. Their family and Billy knew they were married. To the rest of the world they were getting married in three weeks. They had `come clean' in the beginning of the summer, realizing that the trials of their hidden marriage were more of a struggle than their initial fears of their jobs affecting their family. They had wanted a public ceremony for themselves and everyone else, and those plans had turned into minor chaos when Dotty took over.
Their initial plan of having Lee move in with them had to take a back seat to the wedding plans. It hadn't been easy. She could still detect some hurt whenever Mother or one of the boys would make an off-hand remark, but things were getting better. They genuinely loved Lee and were anxious for him to become a permanent resident in their house. While her family would most likely never know what they did for a living, it was a relief to her that she and Lee could at least be husband and wife twenty-four hours a day, instead of once in a while.
"Yeah, I'm nervous. Sometimes it seems a little overwhelming," Lee admitted and looked over at her. "But I know it's right. All I have to do is think about the last year, and how hard it's been, to know that this is right."
"I'm glad you feel that way. I do too. Nothing has felt so right before," she said.
"I still get a little nervous. This is new to me."
"Me too. But you're doing wonderfully so far. This is going to work simply because it's meant to."
He looked over at her and smiled. "You always do that."
"Do what?" she asked, curious.
"Make me feel better."
"Well, you've got nothing to fear," she soothed, running her fingers softly through his hair. "Mother loves you. The boys love you. You fit in with everyone."
He looked over at her. "Especially you. We fit perfectly. Especially when we're-"
"Drive the car, Stetson," she pulled her hand back, her eyes sparkling with the same thoughts as her husband. "There'll be plenty of time for that in three weeks."
"Three weeks! Amanda!" Lee almost stopped the car with exasperation.
She laughed at his whining. "I don't want you to get tired of me."
He almost thought she was serious until he looked over and saw her smirking face. "I'll never get tired of you, especially after what you did on Monday night."
"What I did? You're the one with the `magic fingers'," she retorted.
"Just wait until you find out what else my fingers can do," he cast a seductive glance at her, which was received with shocked amusement.
"I have a lot of planning to do," she trailed off bringing her fingers back to his face, his expression giving her other ideas. "Well, the boys are going to be with Joe this weekend..."
"I like the way you think, Mrs. Stetson," Lee kissed her fingers lovingly.
"Lee, that pile on your desk has gotten larger," Amanda observed as they entered the Q-Bureau.
He shrugged. "I've got more important things on my mind," he said wistfully.
"Is that what you're going to tell Billy when he asks you about something that you don't know about because it's in there?" she challenged, grinning.
"Good question, Amanda," a new voice commented. They both whirled around to see their Section Chief standing in the doorway.
"I got in before you two could lock the door," Billy said, half-amused.
"We don't lock the door-" Lee started. "Save it," Billy interrupted. "That pile does have important information in it, you know. It couldn't hurt to at least look at it before you throw it on top of that stack. Here's another one. Humor me, Scarecrow."
Lee looked down at the sheet. "Billy, isn't this police business? It's not our fault they can't keep a better eye on the people we send to their prisons."
"It's just FYI. They're not asking us to do anything about it, just to keep our eyes open for these guys."
"We will, Sir," Amanda jumped in. "Thank you, Amanda," Billy smiled. "Listen, things have been rather light around here. You two have enough to worry about with your wedding a few weeks away. If anything comes up, I'll try to pass it to someone else."
They both looked over at him in shock. Amanda recovered first. "Uh.. Thank you, Sir."
"I'll try. I can't promise anything, but it doesn't look like anything major will be coming up in the next few weeks."
"Famous last words," Lee threw in, but he was grateful that Billy was doing this for them.
Billy looked over at him. "I'll take that as a thank you. You've let me in on your little secret, and you've honored me by asking me to be your best man. It's the least I can do."
"Yes, thank you, Sir."
Billy smiled to himself. "So, I expect that pile to be gone within the next few days, Scarecrow. I'll see you both in the meeting at ten." He left, but before Lee or Amanda could say anything, their boss peeped his head through the door again. "And don't lock the door!"
Lee couldn't hide his mirth any longer. His face broke into a huge grin as he hugged his wife and whirled her around the room. "This is wonderful! He's practically given us a month off!" Amanda was ecstatic as well. "I can't believe it! We're done with everything we've been assigned to, and it's just a matter of paperwork! But Lee, what if something does come up?"
"Francine can take care of it."
"Yeah, I guess so. Gosh, I hope nothing comes up. These wedding plans are enough to keep me...er.. us busy for hours."
"It was easier when we eloped."
"Tell me about it. But that was for us. This is for everyone," she leaned over to kiss him on the cheek. "And it'll be just as special, I know it."
"Me too," Lee said, grinning. "Hey, why don't we play hooky like we had originally planned this morning? My apartment has missed you."
"Since Monday? Lee, that was only three days ago," Amanda laughed. "No, we shouldn't press our luck. We can make whatever plans we need to make from here, and you can finally get that pile down to a normal size."
Lee sighed. "Yeah, I guess you're right. But it'll be nice just to stay inside an office all day."
"Like normal people?"
"Yeah, I guess so. Go figure," Lee smiled and looked at her. Life had a funny way of coming full circle.
Now, the man turned around and looked evenly at him. "Is it done?"
"Yeah, Vince is seeing to the final arrangements. He should be here soon."
"Good. I plan to move tonight," the man smirked. "This is where the fun begins."
"Good luck, Sir," Karl offered, not sure if luck was what the man wanted.
"Thanks, you know what to do. Inform our guest when he comes to that his host will be seeing him shortly. I need to get situated first."
Something was up with Joe. It had been many years, but Amanda knew how to read her ex-husband. Jamie had said he sounded upset about something, and it was plainly written on Joe King's face.
"Joe, I can't help but notice that something is bothering you," she offered quietly as she sipped her coffee. For Lee's peace of mind, she had promised to keep it short. Despite everything, she knew that Lee still harbored some ill feelings about her relationship with Joe. He would have to deal with it, she had repeatedly told her husband; she and Joe had two children together, and she, for their sakes, wanted to keep things as pleasant with Joe as possible. She still cherished him as a friend. A friend, she could easily tell, who was troubled.
He shuffled his feet nervously and played with his pie. He had difficulty looking directly at her.
"Please, Joe. Maybe I can help you," she persisted. "You did call me to talk about whatever it is that was bothering you. Am I right?"
He looked at her in the eyes for the first time. Amanda was slightly unnerved that she couldn't read his expression. After all these years, after all that had happened, she always could tell to some degree what Joe King was thinking. At that moment, however, she had no idea.
The vague expression vanished after a second and was replaced with an almost sheepish smile. "It's no big deal, Amanda," he said softly. "Well, it might be, depending on your reaction."
"I'm afraid I can't make it to your wedding," he stated. Amanda looked down at her food. "Joe, I know it would be awkward, but I think that, for the boys, maybe you should be there. I mean, I was there when you married Carrie."
"It's nothing like that, Amanda," he said quickly. "It's business. I have a meeting with the Estoccian government that has been put off so many times, that I'm afraid it can't wait anymore."
"But the wedding is three weeks away," she protested. "It's not like all this is happening tomorrow."
"It's not in my control, Amanda," he looked away, as if trying to think of the right words. "And to tell you the truth, I think it's a good idea that I don't go to the wedding anyway."
"Why?" she asked, only slightly surprised. Joe, despite all claims to the contrary, harbored some negative feelings towards Lee, just as Lee did for Joe. It must be a masculine thing, Amanda had once concluded; she thought nothing but the best of Carrie King. "Because I'm getting married again?"
"Amanda," he tried to explain, "What makes you think that this marriage will work when ours didn't?"
This did surprise her. "Joe, weren't you the one who got re- married first?"
"But what you and Lee do for a living, are you sure it's not just two people caught up in the excitement of everything? I mean, look, you had to keep your marriage a secret for months. That doesn't sound stable to me."
Amanda hoped her jaw didn't drop too much. "Lee and I love each other. But more than that, we're friends, and we're equals. We may have seemingly exciting jobs, but our relationship is solid and is `normal' as any relationship can be. He gives me things I need, allows me to feel the way I need to feel. And I do the same for him. Why are you suddenly bringing this up? Are you and Carrie-"
"No, we're very happy," he looked up at her again. "I just don't want to see you get hurt, that's all."
Amanda smiled. "That's very sweet, Joe. But I'm a big girl now. I can take care of myself."
"You sure can," he said with an expression she again couldn't decipher. "You're a different woman."
"I'll take that as a compliment," she sighed. "Now, Joe, really, can you try to reschedule your meeting?"
"I'm sorry, but actually, I leave after the weekend, and I don't think I'll be back for a month. I still want to have the boys over for the weekend, though. I'll tell them then. I'm sorry, Amanda, but this did just come up. I tried to get around it, but you know how governments can be," he looked at her and grinned mischievously.
She had to laugh softly. "Yeah, they've got the worst timing. Well, we'll keep a place for you and Carrie. I really hope you can make it. It will be a good thing for all of us."
"I'm sure it will be," he started to collect his things when he stopped and looked at her with intensity. "Make sure he takes care of you."
Amanda smiled. "He always does."
Lee was sitting on the couch, waiting for Amanda to come back from her after-dinner chat with Joe. Although he knew in his mind and heart how much Amanda loved him, Lee was still jealous of Amanda and Joe. He knew it was a foolish thing to feel. It would have been so much easier if their divorce had been nasty, like so many others he encountered. He knew that Phillip and Jamie were the reason they remained friends. He also knew that he was glad that everyone got along. However, there was still that part of him that wished Joe would take Carrie and move to New York or someplace further than a fifteen minute commute away.
He picked up a bridal magazine and began thumbing through it. When he and Amanda had decided to go public with their relationship, he had promised her a big wedding. Something, he was surprised to learn, she didn't want. She preferred a simple, sweet church service and a quiet reception at a restaurant and not a big ceremony or a huge party. She had said she just wanted everyone who counted to know they were going to spend the rest of their lives together. Apparently, she still wanted a fancy bridal gown, he thought with a loving smirk. She could come down the aisle in jeans, for all he cared. He had suggested that she wear the suit that she had worn for their first marriage, but she had seemed appalled at the idea.
"That will never do!" she had exclaimed. "It was fine for an elopement but not for a church service. Besides, that has its own memories... I want this one to be different for its own day." Lee grinned about whatever she had chosen to wear for their second wedding. He knew she would be beautiful; she always was.
"What's that grin on your face for, big fella?" Lee jerked around to see his wife standing to his side, smiling at him.
"I was just thinking about what you are going to wear at our wedding."
"Oh.. I see," she smirked as she read his expression. "The wedding or the wedding night?"
"I hope you'll be wearing nothing on our wedding night," he whispered into her ear as she leaned over to kiss him hello.
"What did Joe want?"
She sighed. "Joe isn't going to be able to make it to the wedding," she declared and looked over at him. "You can wipe the grin off your face."
"Really?" he felt the ends of his mouth curve upward, despite himself.
"I told you to wipe the grin off your face, Stetson."
"Sorry," he said, laughing. "Why?"
"Meeting with the Estoccian government. He said he tried to get out of it but couldn't. He also said that he was kind of glad that he wasn't going to be at the ceremony."
"That doesn't surprise me."
"Me either," she sighed again, plopping onto the couch. "What is with you two? This isn't the Middle Ages! I mean, Joe did get re- married first, and I even went to that wedding."
"Were you jealous?" he asked, sitting next to her and putting his arms around her.
She looked at him. "No," she said, almost to herself. "I really wasn't. I was happy for him. The boys like Carrie, which was my main concern. As long as they were content with the new adjustments, then I was fine. As far as my own closure to our relationship, I felt that when he came back from Africa two years ago."
He studied her. "Really? What if I wasn't in the picture?"
"I can't think of that. You're totally entangled in how we've all changed over the last few years. I'm a different person because of you. Joe told me that I wasn't the same person he divorced. You're the reason why. You showed me what I could be," she confided.
He beamed at her. "Well, thank you, Mrs. Stetson." She couldn't help but laugh. "Well, it's the truth. So, when you ask me if I would have felt differently if you weren't in the picture, I simply can't answer that. If Joe came back and you and I hadn't met, who knows? `What ifs' and `could have beens'... thinking about them doesn't help, does it?"
"You sound like me," Lee said, nuzzling her ear. In spite of how much she loved what he was doing, she had to tell him what else Joe said. "Lee," she started, turning to look at him. "Joe also had doubts about our marriage, yours and mine." His head shot up. "Why?"
"I don't know. I asked him if he was having problems with Carrie, and he said no. I really have no idea why he brought up our relationship-"
"Yours and mine," Lee clarified, even though he really didn't have to after becoming well-versed in Amanda-speak.
"Yes, our relationship. Lee, do you think he's jealous?"
"Maybe he is; I couldn't tell you that. Maybe he's just finally realizing that you're not going to be here waiting for him anymore."
"But he got re-married first. He's moved on."
"Yes, but I'm sure there's always been some part of him, in the back of his mind, that has thought that you'd always be there, waiting for him."
"That is the most chauvinistic thing I-"
"Exactly, Amanda. I'm not saying that Joe wishes that you'd stay single forever. I'm sure he's happy for us. Maybe on some level, he still has to come to terms with it, with you married to another man. That's why I asked you if you felt jealous at Joe and Carrie's wedding."
"It makes sense," she nodded as she thought about it.
"It does make sense," he said, trying to get her to forget the whole thing by resuming his previous task with her ear. "Now, you've got enough to think about. Let Joe go and sulk in Africa.
He's not your responsibility anymore."
She sighed and gave in to the inevitable. "You're right. Can we fast forward to three weeks from now? I want to be on our honeymoon, where I don't have to lift a finger."
"I can give you a sneak peek," he murmured as he lifted his head to kiss her, successfully making her forget her entire conversation with Joe.
"Yeah, I read through them. Was there something I was supposed to find?" Lee barely glanced up from his work. Actually, it wasn't work; it was his contribution to the wedding plans. Amanda and Dotty had taken over the actual nuptial preparations, and Amanda had entrusted him completely with the honeymoon arrangements. At first, he wanted to surprise her with their destination, but after thinking twice about it, he decided that she should at least help chose where they would go.
"Lee, can you pull yourself away from whatever it is you're doing?" Billy insisted, getting irked. "The police are getting antsy; they still haven't caught some of those guys."
"Billy," Lee's head snapped up in irritation. It was just a formality that he was even at the office. The renewal of vows was in four days, and Billy had more than followed through on his promise not to give either Lee or Amanda any serious work. They had caught up with their paperwork and were now just filling in time until their big day.
"Can you get someone else to take care of that?" Lee suggested. "I've got a lot of work to do here-"
"I'm not asking you to do anything major, Scarecrow. Calm down," Billy shook his head. "You know, it was a favor I did for you and Amanda by going easy on you; it wasn't an obligation."
Lee sighed. "I'm sorry; you're right, Billy. What is it that you want me to do?"
"Here's a revised list of people they don't have tabs on yet," he said, handing it over to the agent. "Just go around and ask questions. The more information we have, any bits of information, will help nail these guys."
"I thought this was a police thing."
"Well, considering number three on that list is someone you put away three years ago, and that he's a convicted attempted assassin, they thought we had a need to know."
Lee read the name over again, the memory going through his head. "Oh, yeah, that guy. Well, I'll go around this afternoon, after lunch. I promised I'd meet Amanda."
Billy smiled. "How is it going?"
"OK, I guess. She and Dotty are running around, just getting last minute things taken care of. It's insane, Billy," he laughed slightly. "This is a small wedding, and things are crazy. I can't imagine what a bigger one would be like. I bet this was one of the reasons why she didn't object too much to eloping."
"I bet you're glad you came clean with your family," Billy studied him.
"Yeah, at least we don't have to lie about that anymore."
"They seem to have forgiven you."
"Well, they still don't know the whole truth. Amanda and I haven't discussed telling them about what we really do here."
"You know, we could work something out about what we tell them," Billy suggested.
"Telling our family about our jobs really is too risky. The less they know, the better."
"If you say so, but just let me know when you want to tell them about your jobs."
Lee was quiet for a moment. "Have you talked to Dr. Smyth yet?"
"I spoke with him the day you announced your engagement. He still wants to split you up after you come back."
"We don't want that, Billy. It's part of the reason why we stayed quiet for so long." Lee rubbed his temples, suddenly feeling tired of all the mess.
"I'm trying, really. I have to say that I agree with him on this, though," Billy waved his hand before Lee could say anything. "Look, this involves both you and Amanda, so I'll wait until you're both here. You knew that being married and staying together professionally most likely wouldn't happen, so we'll jump off that bridge when we come to it."
"We'll make the best of it," Lee murmured to himself and looked up at his boss. A quiet understanding filled the two. "Thanks."
"Go see your wife, and talk to your people."
Amanda glanced anxiously at her watch. She hated being late. Lee was going to get worried, as he always did. She and Mother had been tied up with double checking the florists; she had no idea that it was time to leave to meet her husband until she looked at her watch and realized it was later than she had thought it was.
She quickened her pace, trying to glance over her shoulder without being too obvious. She had an uneasy feeling in her stomach, something she knew was more than nervous knots over the wedding plans. Adding to her tension was the oddly vacant street. Usually, this area was mobbed at lunchtime. Just how late was she?
Suddenly, a man came out of nowhere and stood in her path.
"Excuse me, ma'am," he said. "But can you direct me to Corcoran Street?"
She blinked her eyes, distracted. "I'm sorry?"
He looked around, trying to get his bearings. "I seem to be a little lost. Where is Corcoran Street?"
"Oh," she said, slowing her pace. "You have to turn around, and-"
Before she could finish, the man grabbed her arm harshly and whirled her into an alley. Amanda gasped in alarm and struggled against his hold. She hit his other shoulder with her purse, surprising him and momentarily freeing her arm. She jerked away and turned to run, only to be face to face with a second man, nearly twice the size of the other, blocking her way.
"C'mon, honey, we just want to ask you a few questions," the second man said, pushing her backwards.
"Leave me alone!" she shouted, pushing back while looking for something to use as a weapon. She backed into the first man, who grabbed her around her waist, lifting her off her feet.
Not willing to become a victim, she kicked backwards, her low heel jabbing the man in his calf, causing him to gasp in surprised pain. She bent over and picked up a broken piece of glass and turned around.
"I said, leave me alone," she hissed, advancing towards the pair. Undaunted, the second man crept forward, and she hoped she was successful in hiding her fear.
"HEY!" a voice from behind the men yelled, causing all three to come to attention. "Let her go!"
Amanda couldn't see who it was, but the voice sounded familiar. The two thugs looked at each other, and, after a moment of silent agreement, ran past her, pushing her to the ground. She landed with a yelp and a thud, more annoyed than injured.
Her `savior' ran up to her, crouching down to examine her for any wounds. She stared back, surprise and relief flooding over her.
"Amanda!" he exclaimed. "Are you all right?"
"Joe!" she gasped. "What are you doing here? I thought you were away for a month!"
"I got back sooner than I thought. Oh my God, are you hurt?"
"No, I'm fine. They took me by surprise, that's all," she said quickly, assuring them both that she was truly unhurt. "I should have known better, but I was distracted about being late, and- Oh my gosh! Lee! He's going to be worried sick and I'm late already, and-"
"Amanda," Joe put his finger over her mouth, silencing her. "Are you sure you're OK?"
She smiled at him. "Yes, I'm fine, Joe. Thank you for saving me."
"Looks like you did fine by yourself," he shrugged. "Must be the Agency training."
"Or it could be natural self defense," she reasoned.
"Can I walk you to where you're meeting Lee?"
Amanda smiled in appreciation. "That would be nice, thank you," she said gratefully, taking his arm.
"Don't you think you should go to the police and report this?" he asked.
"I will after I eat. I am already late, and I'm starving. Besides, I won't forget those faces," she shivered.
He slowed his pace and studied her, an odd expression on his face. "Really?"
"Oh, no, some faces you don't forget, and would-be muggers are definitely up there," she assured him.
"Good," he said quietly, almost to himself. It was Amanda's turn to slow down and study him.
"Oh, it's good that you've got a good memory like that, that's all," he stammered, clearing his throat. "You can never be too careful."
"That's the truth," she murmured. She looked around, wanting to change the subject. "So, how was Estoccia?"
"Estoccia?" she asked again, puzzled by his distraction.
Only a moment before, he was completely attentive, and now, when she started talking about more comfortable things, he seemed preoccupied.
"Oh, it was the same, I guess. Same old bull," he grinned at her.
His vague answer puzzled her more. "And how is the Prime Minister?"
"He's OK. His Inspector General is still giving him a hard time," he laughed uneasily.
"Oh, well, he can't be any worse than the last one," she said wryly.
He threw her a confused glance, but she didn't respond. "Well, I take it you're meeting Lee here?"
"Huh?" she looked up and realized that she must have stopped walking as they reached the restaurant. "Oh, yeah, Emelio's. Would you like to come in for a drink?"
"No, I have to head to the office. You sure you're OK?"
"Yes, Joe, I'm fine. You're as bad as Lee!" she laughed, shaking off her unease.
"Our concerns are well-founded, sweetheart," he smiled back. "Take care."
"I should have been there for you," Lee sighed.
"Lee, don't even start. I took care of it. You're not to blame," she put her hand on top of his, fully prepared for his unjustified feelings of guilt.
He looked at their hands, trying to change his guilt into a more proactive emotion. But he still felt awful that he hadn't been there for her, even though he was proud that she had managed to take care of herself. "Are you hurt?"
"Just a bump or two, thankfully. No scratches will ruin my appearance at the wedding," she half joked. "In all honesty, Lee, it was a random thing, the mugging, but what really got me was Joe's attitude after it."
"Is he still upset about our jobs?"
"No, it's not that. There is something about him. He just seems different."
Lee studied her, admiring how well she was shaking off the mugging. "So, you think it's more than Joe being jealous?"
"I don't know, Lee. It just seems like something is on his mind."
"I think that..." he said, caressing her hand, a gesture of reassurance for them both. "you've got enough to worry about right now."
She smiled tiredly at him. "You're right."
He started to stand up. "C'mon, let's get an ID on the thugs that did this."
"No, Lee, please," she moaned. "I want to enjoy our lunch and forget about it for a while. I want to be with my husband for a little while and pretend to be normal."
He sighed in mock exasperation. "Oh, OK. But as soon as we're done, I want you to go into the Agency for a composite sketch."
"Fine, you win," she pulled on his hand, making him sit and join her.
"Amanda," he sighed, not really knowing why he was choosing this moment to bring up his discussion with Billy. "Billy, uh, seems to think that we're going to be split up after our marriage is final and public."
She looked at her plate. "I didn't think we could have everything."
"What do you want to do?"
"I want to stay partners with you," she looked back up, seeing the complete honesty she was feeling reflected in his eyes.
"What's your second choice?"
"If I can't be in the field with you, then..." she trailed. "Lee, I like being in the field, but I think I like the field because I'm with you. Without you, I don't know if it will be the same."
"I know what you mean," he sighed. "I can't imagine how I survived in the field before you came into my life."
"I guess we have to come to a decision about this."
"You know that you have my reluctant, but full, support if you want to stay in the field...without me." He locked his eyes with hers.
"You're really going to leave the field." she shook her head, the statement more factual than questioning.
"It's not practical for a family man, really," he said and waved his hand before she could remark on the unfairness of the comment. "It doesn't pay as much as Administration does. There are a few offers that would be a very wise pursuit, and they don't happen very often."
"But would you be happy?"
"If I get to come home to you, I'll be the happiest man in the world," he said earnestly, making her blush. "To quote a very wise, very beautiful woman, `Even the great ones gotta know when to let go'."
"That's very sweet, but I just hope you're sure about this."
"I'm sure," Lee nodded. "What about you?"
"I don't think," she started, "it will be the same without you. We work best as a team. I don't know if I could break in a new partner."
Lee laughed aloud at that. "I would be a tough act to follow."
"And wouldn't you be worried if I fell in love with my new partner?"
"I'll make sure you get paired up with Francine."
"Bite your tongue," she chuckled. "Seriously, Lee. I do like being in the field, but I don't know if I'll still like it as much without you. I guess we'll jump off that bridge when we get to it."
"That's exactly what Billy said before I left."
"Well, then, I guess we better wait until we get to that bridge," she smiled tiredly.
They dropped the conversation, as well as discussion of the aftermath of her attempted mugging, and spent the rest of their lunch talking about their wedding.
"So, was she spooked?" Karl asked as his employer entered.
"Yeah, I think so," was his response, followed by a satisfied grin. "Things are going nicely."
"When are you going to make your next move?" Vince asked, coming in from the small kitchenette.
"At the most poetic time I can think of," he answered. "Let's go, gentlemen; we have a wedding to prevent."
"Aw, c'mon, Mom," Phillip groaned in mock exasperation. "We're gonna party on Saturday. Aren't you looking forward to it? Being the center of attention, dancing the night away, all the gifts?"
Amanda ran her fingers through his hair. "I wish someone else did all the dirty work so I really could enjoy all that," she sighed wearily.
"Don't worry, Mom," Jamie said, putting his arm through hers. "Phillip just wants to look good in his tux for Anna Wilson."
"Boys, please, not right now," Amanda rubbed her temples, trying to postpone the inevitable headache. "For forty-eight hours, can you please not do that? Please?"
They looked ruefully at each other and nodded. She gave each of them a sideways glare. "And I trust that each of you will behave like the gentlemen I raised you to be tomorrow, especially at the church."
"Give us some credit, Mom," Jamie said with a grimace. "We know how hard you've worked on this."
"Maybe you should have kept your marriage secret, so you wouldn't have to deal with any of this," Phillip offered, not accusingly, but thoughtfully. "Why are you doing this, anyhow?"
She looked at him and then at his brother. "For you guys, really. I thought you deserved it."
"We just want to see you happy, Mom," Jamie leaned in, putting his head on her shoulder.
She kissed their heads. "Well, it's also for your Grandma," she said with a wry grin, which they returned. "She was mad enough about our eloping. Not being able to have some sort of festivities would have made her unbearable."
"Is Lee coming over tonight?" Phillip asked, brightening a little.
"I think so, later."
"Doesn't he know that it's bad luck to see the bride before the wedding?" he teased.
"Well, considering that their last wedding celebration ended shortly-" Jamie stopped, paling as he straightened and looked at his mother worriedly. "I'm sorry, Mom, I didn't mean to bring it-"
Amanda kissed his forehead. "It's OK, Jamie. That's another reason we wanted to do this, so we could have a real honeymoon. And Lee most likely isn't spending the night. He still has a lot of packing to do at his place, even though most of its already over here."
"Oh, that's too bad," Phillip said quietly. "I'm kind of sick of all this girly planning going on."
"That makes two of us, buster," Amanda admitted, and they laughed. She sobered and looked at her boys. "Fellas, you know I don't like to ask you too much about you and your dad, but do you think he's been acting starngely lately?"
Jamie straghtened. "A little, yeah," he confided. "Right before he left for Africa, he seemed real quiet."
"We just thought he was thinking about your wedding to Lee,"Phillip added. "Why are you asking?"
Amanda shrugged. "He came back from Africa early, and I saw him this afternoon. He seemed different, that's all. I wanted to know if it was only me thinking that."
"Maybe it's jet lag," Phillip offered.
"I wouldn't worry about it, Mom," Jamie said. "He'll get over whatever's wrong with him."
"You're right," she kissed their heads and looked at her watch. "You two better get upstairs and ready for bed."
After their expected moaning, they complied and kissed her good-night, leaving her alone with her thoughts.
The inner glow she had at the idea of publicly being Lee's wife came over her again. She knew that they had many hard decisions to make, but for now, she was content in just being an expectant bride waiting for her big day. She thought of the gown she had chosen and knew that Lee would love its simplicity and elegance.
What he will really like was what she had purchased for their `wedding night,' she thought with a sly smile as she pulled the Rebecca's Fantasies catalogue page out her jeans pocket and stared at the circled picture. Even though it was a renewal of vows and not technically a wedding, they still treated it as such. She sighed in contentment at the brief quiet that overtook her household.
She heard a tap on her back window and grinned. Sometimes Lee was so nostalgic. She walked over to her kitchen window, looking for her husband, and was surprised not to see his face grinning back at her. Puzzled, she went out the back door and walked to the gazebo.
"Lee?" she called softly. "Is that you?"
"Afraid not," a harsh voice from behind her hissed into her ear. She whirled around to be face to face with one of the thugs who had attempted to mug her that morning. She tried to scream, but a hand came up from behind her, covering her mouth. She struggled frantically, but they outnumbered and out-muscled her. Still fighting, her eyes caught sight of a third man walking to her.
Before she could register his features, a cloth went over her face, and a horribly familiar heaviness overcame her senses before all went black. She slumped against the man holding her.
"Seems like we played this tune before, Mrs. King," the third man said thoughtfully as Karl put his arms under her torso and legs. "Let's go before Stetson comes."
Lee felt himself smile as he put his key into the front door lock. Who would have thought that he would finally be going through the front door of Amanda's house with his own key? There were times when he loved life's little ironies.
"Amanda?" he called. "Dotty? Phillip? Jamie?"
There was a thundering down the stairs as his stepsons greeted him. "Hey guys, excited about Saturday?"
"Yeah, I can't wait, Lee," Phillip gushed. "My tux is all pressed and-"
"Ready to be shown off in front of what's-her-name?" Lee joked.
"Hey, Mom said that you all had to stop teasing me," Phillip objected.
"Speaking of your mother," Lee said, looking around. "Where is she?"
"She was waiting down here for you," Jamie answered, looking around as well. "I heard the back door open and shut, maybe she's outside."
Lee shrugged, trying to push down that all too familiar feeling of anxiety that always overcame him whenever he thought Amanda might be in trouble. She had chided him about that more often than not, and yet he still couldn't help feeling antsy when he couldn't easily account for her absence. He opened the back door.
"Mom!" Phillip called from behind him.
"Guys," Lee turned around, preventing them from going outside. "I'll go get her."
He took a few steps outside, that feeling rising with every one. "Amanda!" he called again. He walked to the gazebo. No sign of her. He looked around more carefully, searching for something to tell him where she was.
Then he saw it. It was hardly a clue, just a scrap of paper. He picked it up. From its condition, it looked like it had been crumpled in a pocket. His mood changed from tepid fear to dread. It wasn't anything significant, just part of a Rebecca's Fantasies catalogue. It was something that Amanda would definitely *not* have wanted him to see.
He ran back to the house.
"Where's Mom?" Jamie asked, immediately concerned at the look on Lee's face.
Lee didn't even bother trying to come up with an excuse. "I don't know, but I'm going to find her," he said as he rushed to the phone.
Amanda shook the remaining bits of chloroform out of her system and moaned with fatigue and disorientation. Trying to get more comfortable, she realized that she was handcuffed behind her back She looked around, hoping to get a sense of her surroundings, but a blindfold covering her eyes quickly ended that plan. She observed her soundings to the best of her limited abilities, realizing that she was not in a moving vehicle but inside a room.
She had obviously been unconscious for the entire length of her `trip,' another factor against her. Knowing that the best way to plan her next move was to wait for her captors to return, she sat very still and listened.
Fortunately, she didn't to have to wait long. She heard a door open and two pairs of footsteps came toward her.
"Looks like our guest is awake, Vince," she heard a voice say. She knew, without hesitation, that that voice belonged to one of those thugs from that afternoon.
"Yeah, looks that way to me, Karl," she heard the other voice say.
"What do you want from me?" she asked, knowing that she should have kept quiet.
"Oh, we don't want anything from you, Mrs. King," the first voice, Karl, answered. "We're just doing what we're paid for."
"And what would that be?" she challenged, getting a feel for what she was up against.
"You'll have to ask our boss," Karl replied. "C'mon, there's someone who would really like to see you."
He grabbed her arm and hauled her to her feet. Oh, no, she thought. Lee! Oh, please don't let them have Lee! She gave no struggle as they guided her down a short hall. They paused as one of them unlocked a door.
"Here you go," Vince said as he removed her blindfold and pushed her harshly inside. Almost stumbling to the ground, she whirled around to see the door slamming behind her. Looking anxiously around, she scanned for any means of escape. It was then when she finally saw the room's other occupant.
She stopped in shock, her mouth hanging open. There, tied to a chair and looking very confused and more than a little frightened, was-
Lee stopped long enough to regard his boss. "Well, what the hell else can I do? My wife is out there somewhere and the only thing I *can* do is think about it."
"Just hold on," Billy said calmly. He sat down and motioned for Lee to do the same. "What did you tell your family?"
Lee sighed. "That I was going to the cops. I said I'd call them as soon as I heard anything. The trouble is, I don't know what to tell them because I don't have a clue where to begin."
"Well," Billy said thoughtfully. "What were you two working on?"
"Nothing!" Lee said, exasperated. "We weren't working on anything. Remember? You gave us some time off."
"Well, is there anyone out there who might have a vendetta against you two?"
Lee looked ruefully at him. "How much time do you have?"
Billy shook his head. "I mean who's out of prison, or who escaped-"
They both stared at each other. "That's it!" Lee exclaimed. "That has to be it! I'll be right back."
Lee sprang up and fled the office before Billy could even comment on the revelation. It did make sense, Billy thought to himself as he remembered the details of the case. Lee did lock the man up, and Amanda did help. The man had broken out of prison about three months ago, giving him plenty of time to plot.
Shaking the sleep out of his system, Billy walked out of the office and towards the coffee machine. It was going to be a long night. He hoped Lee's assumption was correct. They had less than forty-eight hours to get Amanda back, before all hell *really* broke loose.
Lee ran up to the Q-Bureau, flinging papers everywhere as he searched for the list that Billy had given him. The list containing the names of prison escapees that still hadn't been caught yet.
Number three on that list...
That had to be it, Lee thought, the sweat trickling down his forehead as he continued his search. It made so much sense. He had the time, he had nothing else to do but plan his revenge. The only true questions left in Lee's mind were the next steps the man was planning to take against Lee and Amanda.
He found the list, his fingers turning white as he squeezed it harder, thinking about Amanda and whatever might be happening to her. Shaking the black thoughts from his head, he fought to regain his professionalism. While he was terrified for her safety, he also knew that Amanda could take care of herself. He tried desperately to cling to that train of thought.
He went into the vault and found the file on his suspect.
The case had been closed over three years ago. He shivered with the other memories that the case had brought up, that churning fear that he had almost lost Amanda forever. During that case he had almost lost her, and at the time he didn't even know what he would have missed.
Sighing, he shook folder in his hand. This better be it, he said to himself, wishing, not for the first time that night, that he and Amanda could have a normal wedding.
He ran back down to Billy's office. "Here's the folder on the case," he said, opening it.
"It's a good lead, Lee," Billy started, "but there might be other people out there-"
"I know it's him, Billy," Lee said adamantly. "I know it."
"I'm still have people working on it," Billy sighed.
"That's good," Lee didn't even look up from the file. He turned the page and stopped suddenly. "Oh, my God."
"What?" Billy walked over and looked over Lee's shoulder. "Well, I'll be damned."
"I can't believe it," Lee picked up the picture and stared at it. "It never even occurred to me."
"Me neither," Billy agreed. "I take it, it also never occurred to Amanda."
Lee looked up at him for the first time. "She never mentioned it, not even when she was working on the case with me. Not even when..." he trailed off. "Never."
"OK, Scarecrow," Billy straightened his back. "Call Joe King right now."
Amanda rushed over to her ex-husband, worry etched on her face. "Joe!" she repeated. "Oh my gosh, are you all right?"
"Yeah, Amanda, I'm fine," he replied, scanning her over. "Are you OK?"
"Just a little foggy, but I'll be fine," she responded, going behind him, visually examining his bonds. "How long have you been here?"
"I have no idea," he admitted. "I think weeks."
"Weeks!?" she exclaimed, going around to face him again. "They grabbed you when you were going to Estoccia?" If possible, he looked even more puzzled. "I never went to Estoccia!"
"You went three weeks ago and said that you were going to miss my wedding," she explained, starting to figure out the pieces.
"No, Amanda," he insisted. "I had no plans to go to Estoccia. I wasn't going to miss your wedding."
"But you told me yourself," she said. "We had lunch about three weeks ago."
"It was him then," Joe concluded.
"Me," a third voice came from behind them. Amanda spun around and for the second time that night, felt her mouth drop open. Standing before her was Joe's double. His exact double. A memory came to her of facing her own double years ago. The effect of seeing her ex-husband's `twin' was almost as unnerving.
"You look shocked, Mrs. King," the man said with laughter that didn't reach his eyes. "Don't you recognize me?"
She couldn't do anything but stare at him. He walked menacingly close to her, but she refused to back away.
"It's been three years. I'm not surprised that you don't remember me, seeing how busy you and Stetson seem to have been during the interim," he started, still standing too close to her. "Think hard, Mrs. King."
"Leave her alone," Joe growled.
"Now, who said anything to you?" the man snarled before turning his attention back to Amanda. "How has Jordan Securities faired since Byron's unfortunate demise and my rather unpleasantly embarrassing termination?"
Amanda gasped, finally recognizing the man. "Glen Tucker."
He laughed again, leaning even closer to her. "Very good, Mrs. King."
"Let's just say that the federal prison is not without its `advantages'," he shrugged his shoulders. "A couple of guards are most likely living very comfortably right now in some warm place." He walked away from her and started to pace the room "You and Stetson put me away; it's only time for a pay back. It has been a long time in planning. I had Vince and Karl watch you for a while. You remember Vince and Karl, don't you, Mrs. King?"
"The mugging," she said slowly, the pieces coming together. "You staged it all."
"Yes," he answered. "I wanted to see how you handled things without Stetson around. I must say that I was pleasantly surprised that you can take care of yourself. It makes this part so much more fun. Anyway, they watched you, and when I was `released' from prison, they informed me of your latest developments. Congratulations, I must add, to the happy couple. Too bad neither of you will make it to your own wedding."
Amanda shivered. "You're insane," she whispered, instantly wishing she hadn't said it.
"Maybe," he considered, "but I wouldn't be insulting the man who might kill you sooner rather than later." He turned from her and went to squat next to Joe.
"It's amazing, isn't it, Mrs. King?" he asked her, looking at the other man. "No surgery needed. It's almost as if it was meant to be."
"Leave him out of this," she insisted. "He's got nothing to do with it."
"It's too late for that, isn't it? Oh, he's been more than cooperative," Tucker said, patting Joe's cheek in a condescending gesture. "But I just had to get away from that wife of yours. She could have gotten too suspicious."
"My gosh, Carrie-" Amanda started, immediately worried.
"I would be more concerned about yourself, Mrs. King," Tucker hissed. "Carrie King and your family mean nothing to me. I just want you and Stetson dead."
Amanda considered stating his inability to get away with his plan but thought better of it. Instead, she watched him walk to the door and thought frantically about some means of escaping.
"Almost everyone is here," he turned and stared at her. "We just need Stetson."
Amanda's head fully cleared at the threat to Lee. "No!" Tucker laughed again, sending chills down her spine. "You know, Mrs. King, I wonder which will be more fun: you watching your ex-husband and your lover being killed, or Stetson watching me slowly murder you." He turned and left them.
Amanda sighed in dread and relief. She was scared beyond words but relieved that at least now she knew exactly who she was up against. She looked at the door, feeling the momentary shock of seeing Glen Tucker, as if for the first time, rise up again. Why had it never occurred to her before? No, it must have, she insisted. He looked exactly like Joe. She thought back to his case. She had been asked by his partner, Byron Jordan, to be his assistant. It had meant leaving the Agency, but she had really needed the money at the time. It had been a purely pragmatic decision, she remembered; she'd had no desire to leave the Agency, or Lee. Even back then, she had felt such an attachment to Lee, that the thought of never seeing him again had almost made her decide against resigning from the Agency. She was glad that things worked out the way they did, save the horrible tragedy of Byron's death. He was a wonderful man. But why did it never dawn on me that Tucker looked exactly like Joe? she thought to herself again.
"Amanda?" Joe's voice forced her back to their situation. "Are you OK?"
"Yeah, I'm sorry, Joe," she turned and smiled at him. "It was just a shock, that's all. I can't believe that I never saw it when we were working on that case."
"What do we do now?" he asked. "Do we wait for Lee?" She shook her head. "Absolutely not," she insisted, forcing the agent in her to take control. "We have to get out of here before Tucker gets him, too."
She looked around. "Well," she started, kneeling behind him. "First thing, we need to be free of our bonds. Can you reach in my collar and grab a little piece of metal in there?"
He moved his hands, which were more than a little numb after being constricted for so long. He searched blindly for whatever it was that she was talking about and pulled it out of her collar. "OK, now what?"
She turned around and took the half rake from him. "I'm going to get out of these cuffs, and then I'm going to untie you. You haven't been like this all this time, have you?"
"No, just recently. They haven't been mean to me," he admitted. "They just kept me locked up, with no answers to my questions."
"That's good," she said absently, as she worked on freeing herself. "That must have been a shock, seeing your double like that."
"Tell me about it," Joe would have laughed if their situation wasn't so grim. "But you sound like you know what it's like."
"You could say that," she answered, smiling triumphantly as she successfully freed her hands. "There we are. Now, let me get you out."
"Amanda," Joe sounded serious, "was he lying about Carrie and the boys?"
"No, Joe," she stopped and patted his shoulder. "It seems like he's just after Lee and me. It wouldn't be the first time."
"I thought you said your jobs weren't that dangerous," he observed.
"They only get dangerous when they get personal. And this isn't personal."
"A vendetta sounds personal to me."
"It could've been anyone who put him away," she shrugged her shoulders. "There, you're out."
"You sound like it's been personal before," he observed, touching her face.
"Yeah, and we pulled through," she said as they helped each other up. She resumed her search of the room for a means of escape other than the door. Hearing the distant sound of water washing against a shore, she smiled and said, "Let's get out of here."
"She'll live," Billy shrugged. "So far, everyone else has come up empty. Your theory is the only one we've got going. Any ideas where Tucker could be?"
"Not a clue. I've contacted Auggie, and he said he'll look around," Lee ran his hand through his hair. "I called her family. They're all still up, scared to death."
"Maybe you should go over there," Billy offered. "I've already got people watching the house."
"No. I can't just sit there, acting like I don't know what's going on. I told them that I was going to be out, trying to find her with my `government friends'."
"I wish we had more to go on," Billy sighed and sat down. There was a knock on the door, and Francine poked her head in. "There's a phone call for you, Lee. He says he's Joe King."
Lee and Billy stared at each other. "Tucker."
Lee picked up the phone as Billy picked up the other, silently listening. "Stetson here. How are you, Joe?"
"You know better than that," the voice said evenly. "Come to the warehouse next to Fort Mc Nair. Alone."
"Let me talk to Amanda," Lee didn't waste time playing.
"Come alone in one hour." The line went dead.
Lee looked at Billy. "I don't know if it was Glen Tucker or Joe King."
"This is an odd one," Billy agreed. "Well, you heard the man; go alone. We've got some planning to do. Francine, get Arnold's team ready."
Francine, who had neglected to leave the room after relaying her message, perked up and nodded. "Then Tucker is behind this?"
Lee shrugged his shoulders. "I have no idea, Francine. No idea at all. Whoever was on that phone sounded like Joe King, and you've seen that picture in the Tucker file."
"Spooky, isn't it?" she commented.
"Francine," Billy gave her a look. "You're still here."
"I'm leaving," she said hurriedly and vanished.
"I don't like this, Billy," Lee admitted. "This could be anything. My bet is that Tucker has been impersonating Joe King. Amanda said that Joe had been acting strangely lately. Who knows how long he's been doing that? He could have killed Joe to do it, or he could have captured him, and we have two hostages to worry about. Or it is Joe, and he's being used in all of this."
"Let's just go there and find out, Lee," Billy said and put his hand on Lee's shoulder. "We'll get her back. And if Joe King is there, we'll get him back too. You know what to do."
"Yeah," Lee sighed, rolling his eyes and looking at the ceiling. "I wish we could have a normal life, that's all. I'm sick of all this espionage. I want normalcy."
For the first time that night, Billy laughed. "I never thought I'd hear you say that. Well then, let's go get her so we can get you that normal life."
Billy walked out the door, leaving Lee alone for a moment.
Lee knew that he should leave and start to plan their course of action, but for some reason, he couldn't get up. He was by no means physically tired, but he was tired of these games. He meant it just then, wanting to be done with the "spy business." He had more important things to worry about than which terrorist was posing a particular threat that day.
He just hoped his only chance at normalcy hadn't ended before it got a chance to begin.
Amanda walked over to a wall, and started to feel for air. Joe gave her a strange look, and she smiled at him, trying to be more convincing than she felt. The fact that she had to get herself out of trouble didn't bother her, a fact which was unnerving in itself. Also, the fact that she was responsible for someone other than herself didn't scare her; she had helped Mother and Zirnoff escape from police impersonators a couple of years earlier. What frightened her was that they might not be able to escape before Tucker succeeded in luring Lee to wherever they were.
"Amanda," Joe started, "I don't mean to question your tactics, but what are you doing?"
She looked over at him again, realizing that she had to share her small discoveries. "Do you know where we are?"
He paused and listened to his surroundings. "I never really thought about it."
"All this time?" she looked up at him, arching her eyebrows. "It could help us. Listen."
He was silent for a second as he observed. When he heard it, he smiled at her.
"Water," Amanda nodded. "We're near the river."
"We're not on a boat; we would have felt it," Joe stated. Amanda nodded. "The question is, which side are we on?"
"Or if we're even near the Potomac," Joe said, doubt edging into his voice.
"No," Amanda shook her head. "We're in the city. Tucker said that he had to go and `get' Lee. That must mean that we're close."
"Do you think Tucker will capture Lee, too?" Joe asked, concerned.
Amanda sighed. She knew Lee would keep his professionalism in this situation. She couldn't, however, shake the fears of being used as bait to make Scarecrow do something risky. "I'm hoping to avoid that," she said as she continued to feel the wall.
"Aha!" she exclaimed quietly. "This is it."
She walked over and pulled Joe's chair over to the corner of the room, where she had felt a slight breeze of air coming from the ceiling. Standing on the chair, she motioned for Joe to come over and steady her.
"Just a slight push," she grunted. "Guess we're not in a basement."
"Yeah, they didn't think of everything," Joe agreed as he held the chair in place. "Are you sure you don't want me to try?"
"Almost got it," she answered, feeling the old tiles give. "I just hope this leads to a way out, and not-"
The tiles finally gave way, and she almost fell forward off of the chair. Joe quickly reacted and caught her. They looked up, staring at their means of escape.
"I wish we had a flashlight," she murmured. She tugged on the tiles still intact. "It's our only way, Joe. I think it'll hold. What do you say?"
He grinned at her. "I say, let's get out of here."
They switched places and Joe hoisted himself up. "It's not the best, but I don't think we'll be staying in this spot for long," he commented, careful to not put too much weight in one area. "Give me your hand."
Amanda complied, and he pulled her up. Once she was next to him, they looked around and discovered they were in an air duct. Amanda quickly replaced the tiles to conceal their whereabouts. At least for the time being, she thought into the darkness.
"Does this happen to you often?" Joe asked wryly.
"I think this is my first time in one of these," she replied in kind. "I think the sound of the water is coming from that way. Let's go."
"Karl, Vince!" he yelled for his help. The two men walked to him. "Go and bring our guest."
"The woman?" Vince asked.
Tucker turned and smirked at him. "Of course, the woman. I don't think it will mean as much to Stetson if I shoot Joe King in front of him."
Lee's palm clenched his gun a little tighter as he entered the warehouse. He was fully alert, and would have felt better if he knew exactly where the agents watching his back were positioned. He knew they were there, but he didn't like not knowing precisely where everyone involved was. Also biting at his nerves was the fact that he didn't know just how many people he was up against. He knew Tucker was there, waiting, but he didn't know how many thugs he had with him. During their last encounter, there were three with him. It would make sense for Tucker to keep his help to a minimum, and Lee knew that Tucker could not have executed his plan thus far alone. At the moment, Lee didn't like whatever odds he was facing, but he would feel better if he knew exactly what those odds were.
He stopped his search when he reached a storage room filled with crates. Frowning, he wondered if he should keep walking, but thought the better of it. He was in no mood to be a sitting duck.
"Tucker!" he shouted. "Show yourself!"
"Where the hell have you been?" Tucker snapped as the two men returned. He immediately noticed they were alone. "Where is she?" Karl shifted his feet nervously. "She's gone. They're both gone," he stated simply.
Tucker's eyes widened. "Didn't you tie her up?"
"She didn't look like she could escape," Vince explained
"Did you forget the fact that she's an agent?" Tucker seethed. "Or did her resistance to your `scare' today knock the sense out of your heads?"
They looked at each other. "We'll go look for them."
"Yes, why don't you?" Tucker shook his head in annoyance and pushed past them. "I'm going to meet with Stetson. Find them now."
Amanda and Joe crawled out of the air duct and crouched near the wall, dusting themselves off and coughing.
"I hope that was my first and last encounter with an air duct," Amanda whispered as she surveyed the cut on her hand she had received during their journey. It didn't look deep, and had stopped bleeding, but she was worried about the risk of infection.
Joe ran his hand through his hair and sighed. "Where do you think we are?"
"The same floor as the room," Amanda answered, wiping her face. She looked around, trying to gauge their whereabouts. Suddenly, she heard a voice.
"Tucker! Show yourself!"
She gasped. "Lee," she said softly.
They looked at each other and reached a silent agreement. "We have to get to him before things get out of hand," Amanda instructed.
Joe nodded. "Yeah, and he doesn't sound too far."
Taking a deep breath, they looked around for the least conspicuous route. Then they heard another voice.
"Good to see you again, Stetson."
"Damn," Joe whispered. "Now what?"
Amanda closed her eyes and thought about what Lee and her training taught her. "Surprise," she said, turning to look at Joe. "We have to surprise them."
"What an excellent idea," a new, harsh, and horribly close voice said in agreement. They both whipped around to find themselves face to face with Tucker's two helpers. Amanda jumped back, determined to escape. The taller of the two grabbed her arm and pulled her close to him.
"I don't think so, sweetheart," he said calmly, staring into her eyes. She tried struggling, but he simply held her tighter, bruising her arm. The other man held out a gun aimed directly at Joe.
"I won't hesitate to shoot him, Mrs. King," he said. "Do you really want me to kill the father of your children simply because you couldn't stand still?"
Amanda instantly stopped moving and allowed the two men to escort them down to Lee and Tucker. At least this way, she thought, I'd be near Lee and he could help me on whatever our next move is.
Lee and Tucker stared at each other, both men trying to figure out the other's move. Lee glanced around, looking for Amanda.
"Where is she?" he asked.
"Your little wife, Stetson?" Tucker sneered. "Oh, Amanda's around. She's quite the little vixen, you know; she gave my friends quite the struggle this morning. She's certainly come a long way since you messed up my assassination plans three years ago."
Lee said nothing, trying to see any weakness in the man before him. He knew better than to look around again, knowing that he might see some of the agents he knew were awaiting for the moment to strike.
Tucker turned his head and grinned as Karl walked towards him with Amanda King in tow. Vince led Joe to the side, his gun trained on him and not wavering.
"Ah, look what we have here," he laughed and took Amanda's other arm, pulling her close. Karl went to his partner's side. Tucker placed a gun to Amanda's head and made sure Lee heard it cock. Lee's jaw tightened when he saw the gun pressed against Amanda's temple. She stared into his eyes, calmly awaiting his visual instructions. Lee held her gaze for a few moments, telling her that everything would be all right.
"Get rid of the gun, Scarecrow," Tucker instructed. Lee gave no hesitation as he threw his weapon to the ground. Tucker walked slowly to Lee, keeping his eyes glued on him. He paused when they were inches apart and smiled with malice. "Am I the only one who's feeling a sense of deja-vu?"
Lee returned the smile. "And do you remember how that played out last time?"
The other laughed and shoved the gun harder against Amanda's head. She bit her lower lip to keep a soft cry from escaping. "Not this time, Scarecrow," Tucker said. "I'm in the mood to crash a wedding."
"Let her go, Tucker," Lee tried the obvious in vain, desperately trying not to look at Amanda's face. She was calm, but her eyes betrayed her fear. "She had nothing to do with your arrest three years ago. You know that."
"Oh, but you're wrong, Stetson," Tucker shook his head. "I think she had everything to do with my arrest three years ago. So, as the saying goes, turnabout is fair play..."
He was about to pull the trigger, when suddenly, a noise from above started all of them. Tucker's head shot up in surprise.
Amanda reacted quickly, shoving her elbow into his gut. He bent over in shock and pain, and Lee wasted to time in running into him, pushing him away from Amanda. Lee punched Tucker squarely in the jaw, the momentum of the punch throwing Tucker backwards. The other recovered quickly, punched Lee in the stomach, and ran from the room. Lee straightened up and ran after him.
Amanda, for her part, dashed for Lee's gun and turned around, trying to get a clear shot at Tucker. Joe, taking advantage of Vince and Karl's confusion, whirled around and punched Vince in the face.
The man dropped his gun, and Joe ran towards Amanda. Karl, recovering from his surprise, quickly bent over and snatched up Vince's gun. He fired blindly a few times, the last shot having the luck to hit Joe King in the shoulder before he could safely get to Amanda.
"Joe!" she exclaimed, rushing over to him. Kneeling by his side, she quickly realized that it was just a flesh wound. She shot her head back up to look at Lee and Tucker, shocked to not see either of them. "Lee!" she shouted into the room.
She then felt the thundering of running footsteps from behind her and turned her head to see Billy and several other agents coming towards her.
"Federal agents! Freeze!" Billy shouted. Vince and Karl, too scared to do anything else, quickly threw their arms in the air. Agents were at their sides instantly, cuffing them and leading them away. Billy looked down to Amanda. "Are you all right?"
She nodded. "Yes, sir," she answered. "But Joe is hurt, and I don't know where Lee went." She quickly rose and started to run in the directed she thought she saw her husband run off to.
Billy grabbed her arm. "Amanda, stay put," he insisted.
"But, sir," she shook her arm free of his grasp. "He needs me."
Before Billy could say another word, she ran off. He shook his head. "Not one of Scarecrow's better traits to pick up," he muttered as he waved his hand for two agents to follow her.
Lee caught up with Tucker on the loading dock. He reached for his gun and quickly cursed himself for not thinking to reclaim it after the `distraction' Billy and the others had so conveniently supplied.
"Tucker, freeze!" he shouted, knowing that the man would do no such thing.
To his surprise, however, Tucker stopped and turned to face him. Lee halted just in time to see the knife in his hand. "You were saying, Stetson?"
"Just give it up," Lee tried to reason. "The place is surrounded. You don't have anything to bargain with. You'd be better off to walk out of here."
"And go back to prison?" Tucker laughed. "I don't think so."
Amanda had caught up with them by now, and she ducked behind a large crate. She tried to keep her breathing as quiet as she could, but the sight of a knife-wielding man standing that close to her husband more than slightly unnerved her. She looked around for a distraction, and smiled to herself as she picked up an obliging piece of pipe. Not wasting any time, she slammed it against the crate, making a loud cracking noise.
Lee would have smiled to himself at the obvious creator of such a noise, if he had the time. He kicked the knife out of Tucker's hand and punched him in the face. Not waiting for the other to regain his composure, he swung again, hitting him on the opposite side of his face, successfully knocking Joe King's double to the ground, unconscious.
Lee sighed heavily and leaned forward, shaking the adrenaline rush out of his head. He sensed Amanda approaching quietly and he straightened up, smiling at her. "Hey, Mrs. Stetson."
She returned his smile and hugged him tightly. "Hey, yourself."
They embraced like that for a time, while the agents that had followed her whisked past them and cuffed Tucker. When they were gone, Lee released her and searched her face. "Are you all right?"
She nodded and rubbed his shoulders. "Oh, yeah, I'm fine.
Are you OK?"
"I'm better now that you're in my arms," he admitted, kissing her forehead. "I was so scared. When he put that gun to your head-"
"I'm fine, Lee," she assured him quickly. "It's my fault we got caught again-"
He arched his eyebrow. "Again?"
"Yeah, well," she shrugged her shoulders. "They failed to tie me to a chair when they brought me in with Joe. So, we escaped and crawled through an air duct, and I cut my hand a little, but we made it out OK. We were sitting outside the exit of the air duct when we heard your voices, and we were planning our next move when those two guys came up from behind us, and- Oh! Lee! Those two guys! They were the same two guys from the mugging this morning. Tucker had set the whole thing up, and-"
Lee, unable to resist the urge any longer, kissed her. It was a kiss filled with relief and joy. She moved her arms from his shoulders to around his neck, caressing in a soft, reassuring manner. When they parted, she smiled brightly up at him.
"I'm glad you're OK," he finally said. Amanda could only nod as she hugged him again.
"Lee," she started. "It never even occurred to me. Glen Tucker and Joe. They could be twins."
He nodded and pulled away from her. "When I saw the picture in Tucker's file, I nearly did a double-take. It was almost as unnerving as the Karen Brinkman incident."
She shivered. "Yeah, I thought about that too. It's scary.
Poor Joe! They captured him three weeks ago. They had him here all this time, and he didn't even know why."
"Is he OK?" he asked.
"I think he'll be fine," she answered. "One of Tucker's men grazed him with a bullet. I am a little more concerned with his mental shape. It isn't easy seeing your double."
Lee hugged her again, smoothing her hair. "I'm sure he'll be OK. Your family must be worried sick, though."
"My family!" she exclaimed. "Lee! I have to call them. What did you tell them?"
"Don't worry," he put his finger on her lips and smiled gently. "That should be the easy part."
She laughed softly. "Yeah, I'm sure I can think of something to tell them. Come on, let's get out of here."
"I couldn't have said it better myself, Mrs. Stetson," he agreed, offering his arm and leading her away.
She returned his warm smile. His left arm was in a sling, and he looked paler than usual. However, there was no mistaking the rested and peaceful look on his face.
He smirked as Amanda looked at him with mock suspicion. "It's really me, Amanda," he stated jokingly. "And I can prove it: Jamie's first word was `why'."
She laughed aloud at his good spirits and sat on the chair next to his bed. "Oh, Joe, I am so sorry about all this," she apologized. "You got caught up in this mess for no reason, other than you look just like Glen Tucker."
"Amanda," Joe began, "I know that this isn't a common occurrence for you and Lee. You don't have to apologize."
She looked at him, puzzled. "Joe, this is the exact thing you warned me about when you learned that I work for the Agency. You're right, this doesn't happen very often, but often enough and-"
"Amanda," Joe stopped her. "You don't have anything to be sorry about. I don't blame you, or Lee. I know what you do is dangerous, and I know that it's not your fault that men like Tucker do the things they do. It's their fault. Believe me, I know."
She looked away from him. "How was your debriefing?"
He took her hand. "It was fine, Amanda. You don't have to worry about me. I'm not going to use this experience against you. I must admit, this situation has made me re-think my doubts about the boys' safety," he stopped and Amanda tensed. "But I trust you. I know that you would do anything in your power to protect them. Just like Lee would do anything for them."
She turned to look at him again. "Actaully, this whole thing has started me thinking," she confessed.
Joe raised his eyebrows. "Oh? About what?"
"About the boys, about our future, about my job," she sighed and pulled her hand from his, wrapping her arms around her chest. "It's getting more and more difficult to pretend, to hide."
"They know you're married," Joe started. "Do you really want to tell them that you're spies, too?"
She laughed without humor and bowed her head, thinking.
"You know," Joe said, patting her knee. "I'm not the one to be talking about this with."
She looked up at him and returned his smile. "Yeah, you're right."
"Go and talk to your husband, Amanda," Joe winked. "I'll be OK."
She breathed deeply. "Are you staying overnight? What about Carrie?"
Joe shrugged. "Carrie thinks I'm in Estoccia, right? I don't seem any harm in staying here for a night to rest."
"What will you tell her about your shoulder?"
Joe smirked. "I was in Estoccia; I think that should be enough!"
Amanda laughed. "You're going to be as good a liar as I am."
"See you Saturday, sweetheart," Joe said. Amanda leaned over and kissed him on the cheek.
"I'm glad you're safe," she said as she rose. "Get some rest."
Lee found his wife sitting in the hospital waiting room, deep in thought. She didn't look tired or stressed, just in another place. He walked over to her and sat on the adjacent chair.
Realizing that she would start talking when she was ready, he simply picked up her hand and caressed it softly, waiting.
After a few minutes, she breathed deeply and turned to him.
They looked at each other for a long moment. Reading her thoughts, he took her other hand and held them both firmly in his own.
"You want to leave the field, don't you." It was more of a statement than a question.
She held his gaze. "I don't know, Lee," she said, sighing. "After tonight, I think it would be a good idea. Tucker could have taken the boys, Lee, and-"
"Amanda, Tucker is from a case in our past." Lee didn't know why he was trying to convince her to stay in the field; he was overjoyed that she was seriously considering leaving it. All he wanted, he thought, was for her to be happy. "You can't stop our past from coming back to haunt us."
"I know, but we can stop adding to our list of enemies," she said.
"Amanda, this decision will affect all of us. I don't want you to make any choices out of fear. You know that you'll have my support no matter what you decide, and I know you'll chose what's best for you," he paused."I know you won't stay in the field forever-"
She cocked her head. "What makes you so sure?"
"Even the great ones need to know when to let go."
She smiled tiredly at him. "I wish I could come up with an answer right now and be happy with it. I think leaving the field will put all of us at ease, but I'm not sure I want to leave it right now. It won't be the same without you, but I want to try."
"On the other hand," Lee pressed, sensing she had more to say.
"On the other hand, look at tonight. Look at Birol; look at Alexi." She removed her hands from his and waved them around in an exasperated gesture. "The list goes on and on. I don't want to add to it anymore. Today, it touched our family. This time, it was Joe. It could be the boys or Mother, or maybe even our child if we have one-"
Lee brightened but knew he dare not touch that subject right then. Amanda noticed it and touched his face. "Yes, maybe our child one day, Lee. Isn't this why you're leaving the field? For our family? Isn't this why we got married in secret? Is it worth it?"
"Amanda," Lee began and reclaimed her hands. "This isn't easy. We've gone over it hundreds of times. Yes, part of the reason I am leaving the field is to have a better chance of coming home every day. Yes, we eloped because we thought it would protect our family if we kept our relationship a secret. Look what that got us: hurt and confusion. Amanda, we can't protect them from everything. All we can do is our best. And it is worth it. I don't want to speak for you, but *my* life is a hell of a lot better with you and your family in it. We will make the right decision when it's time to make it."
"It just seems like so much is going on."
"Then let's not worry about it right now," Lee offered, putting his arm around her and pulling her close. "For right now, let's just get re-married and concentrate on that, huh?"
She drew strength from his embrace. "You're right. It's just too much for now. Too much," she trailed off as she yawned.
Still hugging her close, he caressed her cheek. "Let's just do this first. We need this; we've earned it. Let's relax like normal people for once. As far as any of those decisions go, we'll-"
"Jump off that bridge when we come to it," she finished for him, and they both laughed in reassuring, but weary unison.
Dotty and Captain Curt were enjoying a quiet moment by the punch bowl, perhaps discussing her flight lessons. No, Amanda thought as she studied her mother's expression more carefully. I doubt they're talking about anything involving airplanes. Her gaze wondered to Billy and Jeannie, also dancing and having a good time. Amanda was glad Beaman was behaving himself. Francine had been aghast when she'd learned that he had been invited, but she seemed to be managing quite fine with Jonathan by her side. Amanda watched the blonde woman scan the are with a critical eye, making her think another wedding was being planned. Jonathan had best propose first, she thought wryly. Amanda had been thrilled beyond words to learn that Emily was able to attend. She smiled as she watched her friend talk with T.P. Aquanis. The elder woman caught her gaze, winked, and smiled warmly at her.
Everyone Amanda loved was near, and she had never felt such peace.
"Penny for you thoughts, Mrs. Stetson," she heard a voice from behind her say.
She felt her face light up in a silly grin as she turned to face her husband and hugged him tightly. "Oh, it feels good to hear you say that in public," she whispered in his ear.
He hugged her tighter. "I know. I love saying it," he said and pulled back, looking at her from head to toe for the thousandth time that day. "You look absolutely gorgeous. Did I tell you that yet?"
"Not in the last five minutes," she responded, smiling radiantly.
"Shame on me," he scolded himself. "What were you thinking just now?"
"Oh," she said, looking around at the scene before them again. "Just everyone. Our family. Our friends."
Lee smiled and kissed her forehead. "It's going to be a great future."
She returned the smile and wrapped her arms around his neck. "Oh, I know it is," she murmured as they leaned in for a passionate kiss.
"Hey!" Billy shouted from across the lawn. "Save it for the honeymoon!"
Lee and Amanda ignored the comment and proceeded to forget about everyone else around them as they deepened their embrace, holding on tightly to each other. They felt themselves give completely to the other, as the only sensations they became aware of were the other's hands, breath, taste, and being. When they parted, they blushed at the applause from the guests.
"Run out of air?" Francine quipped as she sipped her punch and raised a mock-serious eyebrow at them.
"You could say that, Francine," Amanda responded, her hands still around Lee's neck.
Her husband broke away and led her to the center of the lawn, nodding at Leatherneck to put on a song. Looking at his bride, Lee leaned in close to her ear. "Just dance with me?"
Amanda beamed at the altered reference to his first words to her. "I certainly will."
Putting one arm around her waist and the other hand in her's, he swayed to the music, making her laugh as he dramatically dipped and swirled her. The guests stopped their activities and watched as the two moved around the makeshift dance space, once again completely oblivious to anyone around them.
Listening to the words, Amanda leaned closer to her husband. "You know, you really are too good to be true." Returning her smile, Lee held her closer and looked directly into her eyes. "And I never could take my eyes off of you."
"Oh, we're getting sappy," she laughed.
"No, we don't want that," Lee agreed and spun her around again.
They danced through that song, and a couple more, not thinking of the decisions or issues that lay ahead. For the moment, they were content with living in the moment and would worry about their future as it happened. With their family and friends around them, they knew they had everything they needed or wanted. Both were ready to face their future, knowing that they were facing it together.
More author's notes: This story contains references to the episode Murder Between Friends, witten by Mark Lisson and Bill Froelich. I hope you understand why I saved this part of the disclaimer for the end. I realized, as I was posting this, that I neglected to show the thoughts of the characters in some way. In my original version, the thoughts are in italics, but it didn't copy that way. Half way through posting this part, I realized that I should have put something there to show that it's a thought. Oh well... I'll know that for next time.
To those of you who said they had an idea as to what was going on, I would love to know if you were right!