Disclaimer: Thanks Shoot the Moon and Warner Bros., for giving us such wonderful characters.
Author's Note: This was originally a series of short stories, my first posted fanfics. I decided to go back and explore some plot points that I felt were rushed. Kim D, Sally, and Angela were wonderful beta readers. (Oh, the cliches!) You can thank Kim for the Wizard of Oz joke. Email me if you don't get it. :)
Amanda King was home alone and feeling very much at loose ends. Dotty was out for the evening with friends from her seniors group and the boys were at Joe's, no doubt eating way too much junk food.
She glanced out the kitchen window even though she knew no hazel eyes would be looking back at her. Sighing, she decided popcorn and a movie might be a good distraction.
Unknown to her, those hazel eyes were watching.
Two hours later
The VCR began to automatically rewind the movie and the popcorn was untouched. Amanda had spent the time rethinking the decisions she had made over the last two months.
As she lay in a hospital bed recovering from her experience with Addi Birol, for the first time she really understood the terrible danger she put herself and her family in by working at the Agency. Quitting had been fairly easy when put in that light.
Lee's reaction had almost scared her. Looking into her eyes, he simply said, "I understand, Amanda." Then he had gently kissed her forehead and walked out of the room. In her heart she knew his guilt wouldn't let him approach her unless she approached him first. She also knew they were still very much in love. Their relationship had developed as a result of their partnership. Since they were no longer partners, she wasn't sure what exactly was left.
He would come if she called. They could talk and rebuild. She could help him forgive himself for her kidnapping and he would help her feel safe again. If she called...
Agency regulations stated that if she sought out counseling, she must see the staff psychiatrist, Dr. Pfaff. Left with no other choice, she had spent hours with the man. He was accommodating enough to see her at her house or a quiet restaurant. He never tried to force her to come to the Agency. He did however try to convince her to talk to Lee.
She had refused because she knew it was all her fault. She had dropped her guard at the wrong moment and Birol had been watching. How many times had Lee told her to keep her personal feelings out of the job? How many times had he warned her about the dangers?
She had learned her lesson. With Dr. Pfaff's help she had come so far. There was one final step she had to take.
Same time, Lee's apartment
Lee threw himself on his bed, unconsciously running his fingers through his hair. He had done it again — gone to her house and simply watched her. Two months had passed and he was no closer to letting go than when she first left him.
Deciding he wasn't going to sleep anyway, he headed for his Scotch bottle. During the day, he kept his mind off her by working nonstop. At least that was the theory. The reality was work without Amanda was as empty as the rest of his life without Amanda. That was where the Scotch came in.
He knew she loved him. He also knew he had let her down and he could
never make it up to her. More than anything, he wanted to try. He filled
his glass and then decided to take the bottle to bed with him.
New Year's Day, the Agency
Billy Melrose looked from Dr. Pfaff to Amanda King. "Let me get this straight. Amanda, you're ready to come back the agency?"
Amanda shifted in her seat. "Sir, I realize I won't be working with Lee. I don't know if he would want to work with me again even if it could be arranged. And I know that it's been two months and I have a lot to make up in my training courses. And I realize that you have probably already hired someone to take my place. And I ..."
Holding his hand up, Billy interrupted her. "Amanda, slow down! Now, you have always shown great instincts. Do you feel up to this?"
"Yes, sir. I have to try," Amanda firmly responded.
Billy smiled for the first time. "Then by all means, welcome back! As for working with Scarecrow, that's up to him. I can say this: he has missed you."
Amanda blushed and shifted in her seat again. "Thank you, sir."
"I'll see you first thing in the morning. And Amanda..." Billy said.
"I've missed you too."
January 2, 1987, the Q Bureau
Lee searched his desk for the bottle of Tylenol. Finding it, he wasn't
too surprised to discover it was empty. Yet another thing
Amanda had always taken care of for him. A glance at the clock told him it was time for the staff meeting. Heading out the door, he avoided looking at her desk and thought for the hundredth time that it should be moved somewhere else. He just couldn't force himself to do it.
Lee slipped into the conference room just as Billy was beginning to speak. A familiar tingle ran through him at the sight of a brown-headed woman sitting near Billy. 'It couldn't be...' he thought.
"People, please," Billy began, "I know Mrs. King's return is a cause for celebration but we still have a busy agenda for the day."
Billy kept speaking but Lee didn't hear any of it. His entire being was focused on Amanda. She must have felt the tingle too because she turned and caught his eye. He stopped breathing. Why hadn't anyone warned him? If she had come back to Agency, what did that mean for them?
Amanda had hoped Lee would be out of town on a case. It was hard enough being here at the office without all the hurt of seeing him too. Hindsight being twenty/twenty, she realized she should have asked Billy point blank about Lee. If she had known, she might have rethought her decision to not seek him out. Perhaps a few awkward words in private wouldn't have been as painful as this. Quickly averting her eyes, she tried to listen to Billy but kept peeking at Lee.
"Well, people," Billy finished, "get a move on! We've got a mole to find." With that he headed to his office, Lee following close behind.
Amanda went to her training class but later couldn't even remember the
day's topic. What would Lee say? She spent several minutes in the rest
room after the lecture debating whether to go up to the Q Bureau or wait
until he came to her.
"Why the hell didn't you warn me?" Lee demanded.
Billy rolled his eyes. "Scarecrow, calm down. Yes, Amanda came to me yesterday ready to return to work. She's a good agent. Right now, with a traitor among us, I need every agent I can get my hands on. As for warning you, I left four messages on your machine. I'm assuming you were too drunk to notice."
Lee hung his head. "Point. But, Billy, surely you know.."
"Yes, I do. That's why I want the two of you to grab lunch and talk through this. I'd like my best team back if possible."
Lee simply looked at his boss and walked out the door.
The Q Bureau
Amanda couldn't avoid him forever. Being the gung ho person she was, she went to the Q Bureau the first chance she got. It sounded like a good idea at the time but standing outside the door now, her stomach was churning and she felt like she was going to faint. 'Just get it over with, Amanda,' she told herself and turned the knob.
Lee was staring into nothing, wondering how to approach her, when the door opened. Frowning he turned to give this unwelcome interruption a piece of his mind.
Amanda took the frown as meant for her. This was going to be harder than she thought.
Taking a deep breath, she plunged right in. "Lee, I know how you must be feeling and I can't blame you. I've treated you awful. I understand things can never be the same and I'm not coming back as your partner. I couldn't stand that anyway, you know, being near you all day now that we're not, I mean, I broke up with you. I just realized that quitting meant that Birol had won. I can't let him win. I mean, I know some things can't be undone but I need to be here, well, not exactly here in the Q Bureau, but here at the Agency, where I can make a difference. You know, keep the monsters at bay, and well...I just wanted you to know...umm...that is, I'm...I'm really, really sorry and I'm not expecting forgiveness or anything. I just...umm...I just..."
Lee had sat there quietly. 'She must really be upset to go on like that.' For a moment, he wanted to shout at her, maybe even throw her out of his office. 'But it's not my office, it's ours.'
Clearing his throat, he cut in, "Amanda!"
Startled, she stopped rambling.
Lee cleared his throat again. "Would you like to go out to lunch?"
Amanda's heart began to race. Their eyes met and held. In that moment, they both knew it could all work out. It wouldn't be easy but they both started to hope.
With a small smile, she replied, "Yeah, I would."
Across the bar, Lee Stetson was getting their drinks. His eyes kept going back to his ex-partner, no, make that partner. If he didn't believe they were going to reunite, there was no point in returning to that table. He closed his eyes and desperately tried to think of the perfect thing to say.
"Here you go. White wine," Lee said with a smile as he returned to their table. Catching her eye, he coughed nervously, still unsure which words would bring her back into his life in every way.
"Thanks," Amanda said as she smiled back at him. "I guess I should start. Lee, this is so hard. I mean, I made some pretty big mistakes and they can't be undone."
Lee froze. Was she saying they weren't going to be together? "Uh, Amanda,
listen. This is my fault. I know that. I should have
protected you. I should have..."
"Oh gosh, Lee, NO! He had a video. You know," she prodded, "at the airport. When I called your name, he figured it all out. I knew better. I knew there was a good chance we were being watched. But I couldn't help myself. If that truck had..."
"Amanda, you saved my life—again. Let's face it. Birol was one or two steps ahead of me the whole time. I should have known better." Grimacing, he took a swig of his beer, fighting the guilt raging inside him.
"No, you couldn't have known. He plays games with people." Amanda's memories of Birol swept over her and she drew a deep breath before continuing. "He played games with us. He wanted to hurt us and he did it. That's what I hate the most. He won. We're no longer together. Every night he is in my dreams gloating. Every day I wake up knowing that he won. " Amanda broke down and began crying.
Lee's heart broke. "We don't have to do this here. He hasn't won. He hasn't won by a long shot."
Lee wrapped his arm around her shoulders and helped her to her feet. "Let's go back to my place and finish this, OK?"
Amanda smiled through her tears and let him lead her to his car. Feeling his hand at the small of her back, she looked up into his face. The world was starting to feel safe again.
Neither one spoke until they reached Lee's apartment. Then trying to get their relationship back on track, they both began to speak at once. With that, they laughed and the tension was lessened.
Sitting down on the couch, Amanda started over. "Look, I know I was wrong and I know how hurt you must be. I was the one who said you needed to let people in and now I, oh my gosh, I don't know. I fell apart and shoved you out of my life."
"Why don't you let me get a word in, OK?" Lee was beginning to feel frustrated with this repetitive conversation. He needed to move it forward. He needed Amanda to know how he was feeling now, not just how he had felt in the past. He needed to reconnect with her.
Amanda laughed. "Why start now?"
Lee grinned but quickly became serious. "Simple. I love you. I want to help you. I need to help you."
At that, Amanda's tears began again. "Oh, Lee. Please just hold me."
They sat wrapped in each other's arms for over an hour. Only Amanda's crying broke the silence. Lee's eyes were far from dry but she didn't notice. Her own sobs were overwhelming.
Finally, Amanda spoke. "He didn't touch me. He just kept telling me things, asking me questions. He wouldn't let me eat or sleep. The only thing that kept me sane was thinking of you. Pretty soon those thoughts became hallucinations. I couldn't tell daydream from reality. When you came, even though my mind knew you were really there, my heart couldn't risk believing it. I was so close to cracking. Oh, Lee, I really thought I was going insane."
"Amanda," Lee said carefully, "I am so sorry I ever got you involved in.."
"Don't! We've been through this before. I chose to get involved."
"Right. But you never counted on this." Lee sighed and wondered if this was helping any or if they were just going in the same old circles.
Amanda knew exactly what he was thinking. "Yeah, we've been here before. But this time is different. Look, I love you. I am sorry for everything. I thought I needed to be away from you. I was wrong. Lee, I know we can't go back. I just wanted, oh I don't know, I guess I just wanted to talk to you about this. I mean, I think I needed closure."
When she admitted she still loved him, Lee's heart had lifted. At the word closure, it fell again. "Are you saying..." He couldn't even say the words. Was it over?
Amanda pulled back to look into his face. Unable to read his expression, she replied, "I don't know what I'm saying."
Amanda could feel the tears beginning to resurface. For so long, she had been his emotional rock. She had been able to see through his public image almost from the very start. Raising a hand as if to caress his cheek but letting it fall to her lap instead, she swallowed and searched his eyes for some clue to his thoughts.
Lee abruptly stood up and began to pace. Out of habit, his fingers ran through his hair and massaged the back of his neck. When had they lost their special connection? Several minutes passed before he spoke again. "I don't want to lose you."
His voice was so soft she almost missed it. "Lee?"
He dropped to his knees in front of her and took her hands in his. "Amanda, I know I let you down. But I mean it, I don't want to lose you. Please...let's try to get through this together."
Until this point, Amanda had felt that she had hurt him too much for him to forgive her, let alone want to be with her still. Raising a hand to his cheek, she whispered, "It won't be easy."
Lee flashed her his famous smile. "But it will be worth it."
Six weeks later, Valentine's Day
Amanda's heart was racing. The last few weeks hadn't been easy. Her sessions with Dr. Pfaff left her emotionally drained. The make-up work for her Agency training courses had left her mentally drained. But Lee...
She smiled at herself in the mirror. They had spent so many hours talking and drawing closer together. He had even begun having the occasional dinner with her family. Tonight, however, was strictly dinner for two. Her new dress was red and just a little on the slinky side. It was sure to grab his undivided attention. With a small smile and a final touch to her hair, she headed downstairs to rescue him from her mother.
Lee was discussing the weather and the effect it was going to have on Dotty's flying lesson tomorrow when Amanda made her appearance. One look and his entire body came alive. Amanda knew what was going through his head because seeing him in his tuxedo was having the same effect on her.
Dotty looked from one to the other and left the room. Neither agent noticed.
Lee took Amanda's arm and led her to his car. As he helped her in, she asked, "So where are we going?"
Lee just grinned and went to the driver's side of the car. After pulling out of her driveway, he replied, "Back to the beginning."
Amanda was puzzled until he took the exit to the train station.
Laughing, she said, "Back then, I was underdressed but tonight I'm a little overdressed!"
"No, not for this." Lee led her to what he felt was the exact spot where they first looked into each other's eyes so long ago. Dropping to one knee, he produced a small box from inside his tuxedo jacket.
Amanda's eyes filled with tears of joy and before he could even ask the question, she threw her arms around him and exclaimed, "Yes! Oh, yes, I'll marry you!"
Lee smiled and shook his head. "Are you ever going to let me get a word
in?" Then he lowered his mouth and took action to ensure neither spoke
for several minutes.
Amanda King slowly woke and blinked her eyes. The early summer sun seemed especially bright this morning. It took only moments to realize she wasn't in her own bed. It took a few more to figure out she was in a hospital room.
"Amanda, how are you doing?"
She turned slightly to her right and met her boss's concerned look. "Umm, okay. My head feels like it's going to explode though. What happened, sir?"
"You've got a concussion and some pretty bad bruises. You've been here almost twenty hours. If Francine..."
Memory flooded back. It was supposed to be a safe, secure drop site. The whole assignment was so routine that Lee had even agreed to let her go without him. She and Francine were simply told to order pretzels and the microdot would be in Amanda's napkin. They would return to the Agency and let the guys in crypto take it from there.
It obviously didn't turn out that way. "Is Francine okay? Did we lose the microdot?"
Billy quickly reassured her. "Francine is in much better shape than you. She's already typing up her report."
"And the microdot?"
"You managed to keep it. I don't know how. From what Francine says, two men jumped you from behind as you were getting in the car. By the time Francine got her gun out, they were taking off with your pretzel."
Slowly Amanda nodded. "Yeah, but I had moved the microdot to the inside of my shirt sleeve. The whole thing just felt wrong and I didn't want to take any chances."
Billy laughed. "I think Scarecrow is rubbing off on you."
"Where is he?" She wasn't sure she really wanted to know the answer to that one.
"Taking his frustrations out on innocent informants," Billy grimaced.
Once again their eyes met and they both said a silent prayer for anyone standing in Lee's way right now.
That unfortunate person was Augie Swann. "Look, Lee, I told you. I don't know anything. I would never jeopardize Mrs. King. I like her. Come on, let me go, will ya?"
With a grunt, Lee released the front of Augie's shirt. "If you're not being straight with me..."
"I am, I am. Listen, word on the street is there's a new player. But I have no idea who it is. I'm going to be checking into it myself. You know, this guy might cut into my profits. Speaking of which, for the right price, I'll pass on anything I come across."
Lee grabbed Augie's shirt again and pushed him back up against the wall. "You give me the information and I let you live. That's my best offer—I suggest you take it."
Augie swallowed nervously. As soon as Lee let go, he began walking off. "Best offer I've had all day!"
Lee watched him go and glanced at his watch. It had been over two hours since he had checked on Amanda's condition. He decided to call the hospital again and demand to speak to her doctor...again.
He walked to a pay phone and dialed her room number, hoping to catch Billy before he left for the Agency.
"Amanda! You're awake. Thank God! I'll be right there." He hung up without
giving her a chance to say another word.
Amanda was laughing as she set the phone down. And he thought she was
scatterbrained! Reaching for her purse, she found her compact and a comb.
She carefully examined the bruises on her jaw and even more carefully combed
her hair, avoiding the large bump on the back of her head. There wasn't
much else she could do to try to make herself look more presentable. Lee
was going to be upset regardless.
Twenty minutes later, her fiancé strode into the room. "Are you okay?" he demanded, sitting on the edge of the bed and lifting her chin with his hand.
"Yes, I'll be fine. The doctor even said I can go home. There's just one little problem."
Lee's throat tightened and his hand dropped. "What is it?" he asked, remembering how she had left him after the Birol incident. Surely she wouldn't...? They had worked through all that, hadn't they?
Amanda caught the look in his eye and quickly reassured him. "Lee, I love you and I AM going to marry you!"
Lee relaxed a little and took her hand. "So, what's this little problem?"
"What with the concussion and all, the doctor doesn't want me to be left alone. You know Mother is flying down to New Orleans with Captain Curt and the boys are with Joe at his folks and I guess I could try..."
Lee smiled, "Your place or mine?"
"Mine. I definitely am not up to facing whatever is growing in your
Lee hung up the phone and ran his hand across the back of his neck. Amanda knew there were no new leads in her attack. The microdot contained a rather thorough list of enemy agents currently in D. C.
Any number of people would want to get their hands on it. She walked quietly up behind him and slipped her arms around his waist. Laying her head against his shoulder, she asked, "You hungry? How about some pasta?"
Lee sighed and turned to wrap his arms around her. "One condition. You go rest and let me fix it."
"Deal." Amanda smiled and sat down on the couch in the den. Absently she picked up her family album and began leafing through the pictures. The first few were of her wedding, followed by pictures of the boys with her and Joe. The further she went, the fewer pictures there were of Joe. Pretty soon, he was no longer in any of them. Her mother appeared more and more. Towards the end of the album, Amanda noticed another trend. She was in fewer and fewer of the pictures. Since she had started working at the Agency, she had been less involved in her boys' lives.
"Amanda...Amanda?" Lee called her name two more times before she responded.
"Huh?" Amanda finally noticed Lee standing next to the couch. "Uh, sorry. I was just thinking."
Lee sat down and wrapped his arm around her shoulders. "Want to share?"
Laying her head on his chest, she smiled. "Isn't that my line? I'm missing out on a big chunk of the boys' lives. And they're missing a big chunk of mine. I know there's the whole national security thing and I don't want to endanger them. I know some lies are necessary. But, Lee, our marriage..."
"Amanda, we've been through this. If our marriage was common knowledge, every enemy agent in D.C. would come after the boys. Their safety is far more important than..."
"Lee, you're here several times a week. Only an absurdly bad guy would miss that! I lie to all of them, the boys and mother, so much. I don't want to lie about us. I want to share you with them. I want to share them with you. Our marriage is far too important, too special, to cheapen it with a lie."
Lee stood up and began pacing. For the first time, he really understood
her side of it. If their roles were reversed would he want to hide her?
No, and the idea of being a real husband, stepfather, and son-in-law was
appealing. "I just don't know," he whispered.
Amanda knew he was scared to let himself into her family. She also knew it was exactly where he needed to be. "We don't need to make any changes tonight. Is the pasta ready?"
She had let him off the hook again and he was grateful. "Yeah, I even
set the table. Shall we?"
The next morning, Lee sat on a bench beside T. P. "Heard anything?"
T. P. threw another handful of birdseed and replied, "Thought you'd never ask. New guy's name is James Wallace. I haven't been able to come up with an address yet. If you give me a couple more hours I should have it for you. He's getting his information from someone on the inside."
Hearing his worst fears confirmed, Lee took several deep breaths to remain calm. "Thanks. I'll be at the office. Amanda insisted on coming in today to give her statement and do some filing. I need to keep an eye on her or she'll overdo it." Lee got up to leave.
"She's quite a handful, isn't she?" T. P. smiled. "But you wouldn't have her any other way, now would you, my boy?"
Walking away, Lee chuckled. "No, T. P., I wouldn't."
Back at the Q Bureau, Amanda had finished her report and the small amount of filing Lee had deemed acceptable for her to do in her condition. Shaking her head at his overprotective attitude, she thought back to their ongoing conversation about their marriage. The more she thought, the more determined she was to let her family in on the secret.
Lee came in just as the phone began to ring. Amanda smiled at him as she picked it up. "Amanda King."
"Hey, Mrs. King, this is Augie."
"Hi. What did you find out?"
"Well, the guy's name is James Wallace and he's got something going down today at the marina. Maybe around 3, maybe sooner. There may even be a familiar face in the crowd, if you know what I mean. Uh, be sure to tell Scarecrow I'm the one who told you, okay?" Augie seemed more nervous than usual and Amanda could just imagine the threats Lee had used on him while she was in the hospital.
"Sure, Augie. I'll let him know. Thanks." She hung up and met Lee's look. "Well, we're off to the marina."
Lee's eyebrows shot up. "We? No, I'm off to the marina. You are on your way home."
Shaking her head, she stood up and grabbed her purse. "We can argue about this if you want but I'm going. Besides, you don't even have a name."
Lee grinned triumphantly. "James Wallace."
Amanda rolled her eyes. "Sometimes, T. P. is just too efficient. Look,
I will sit in the car this time. I will! You might need me to
call for backup. Besides if you try to drop me off at my house I'll only follow you. At least this way, you can keep an eye on me, right?"
Lee knew when to give up and this was the time. "You sit in the car. You call for backup if I need it. You do not try to back me up yourself, got it?"
Amanda kissed him lightly on the mouth. "Got it."
Amanda did sit in the car, for about 15 minutes. She called for backup when Lee disappeared onto the boat a fisherman had pointed out to them. Congratulating herself on her remarkable self-control, she got out of the car and headed for the boat. She quietly slipped aboard and walked over to the cabin door.
"Do you think I'm stupid, Scarecrow? I've been on to you from the beginning. I wanted a chance to meet you and knew the best way to get your attention was to attack your lovely partner. The microdot was just a bonus." Amanda could see in the small window that Lee and Wallace were at a standoff, each one's gun pointed at the other.
"Why did you want to meet me? Who's your informant? And what makes you think going after my partner is going to make me willing to listen to you?" Lee snarled.
Wallace smiled. "I know she's also your lover. I wanted to take her from you. Just like you took my lover from me. Judy was my entire life."
Lee looked confused. "I don't know who you're talking about. We've never met."
"No, we haven't," Wallace conceded. "Back in college, I was engaged to the most beautiful woman I've ever known. She took a job with IFF and broke up with me shortly thereafter. She told me she had met someone else, said she was in love with him. I didn't believe it was really over. I knew given the chance I could win her back. I never got that chance. Judy...Dorothy didn't survive her affair with you, Scarecrow. Neither will Mrs. King!"
Amanda didn't know how Wallace knew she was there. Suddenly his gun swung from Lee to the door and he began firing. Lee took him with a single shot and ran to open the door. "Amanda!"
"I'm okay." She was lying on the floor curled in a ball. "I'm okay."
He grabbed her in his arms and held her tightly to him, kissing her
face. "I'm okay. We're both okay," she said returning his
kiss. "Billy's on the way."
As the Agency team went to work, Lee told Billy about his failure to uncover the source of their leak. Both men agreed to keep this latest twist as quiet as possible in order to draw out the mole.
Later that evening they snuggled together on Amanda's couch. Her eyes kept drifting to the photo album and she became even more resolved to bring Lee into the family.
Lee's thoughts were on the album too. He finally admitted to himself that the idea of becoming a family man terrified him. He thought about his relationship with the boys over the last few months, about the baseball games and dinners, goofy golf and picnics. Then he smiled. It had already happened. He was a family man.
Amanda felt Lee's arms tighten around her and looked up into his sparkling eyes. "What?"
Lee flashed her a smile that made her skin tingle. "I was just thinking..."
Leaning in for a kiss, she purred, "Oh yeah?"
"Umm," Lee paused long enough to oblige her, "Your mother is going to have a ball planning our wedding."
The look of delighted surprise on her face was one Lee would cherish the rest of his life.
Lee Stetson had faced down more enemies that he could remember. It took a whole lot more than the KGB to scare the Scarecrow. In fact, for most of his adult life, he wasn't even sure it was possible. He was wrong.
Dotty West approached with IT in her hands and one of America's leading agents wanted to run screaming from the den. IT was a notebook. IT contained pages and pages of STUFF. That STUFF was lists and details about catering, flowers, RSVPs, dresses, tuxedos, shoes, silver, gift registries...IT just went on and on and on. Whenever Dotty pulled IT out, Lee's head began to swim.
From her seat on the couch, Amanda inwardly laughed at Lee's discomfort.
After all, how often did she get a chance to see the
famous Scarecrow really rattled? And it was his idea to let her mother plan the wedding.
The phone rang and Lee jumped to get it. "I, uh, I'm expecting a call from the office," he explained as he fled to the kitchen.
Dotty smirked and looked to Amanda, who merely shook her head. "Mother, why do you do that to him? We both know all the details have been worked out for weeks."
Dotty laughed out loud. "Oh, I know, dear, but he's just so adorable when he squirms!"
Both women were laughing when Lee entered the den. Judging from the guilty expressions on their faces, he decided not to push his luck and ask what they found so amusing. Besides, he and Amanda were officially back on the clock. "I hate to cut this evening short but our newest project has hit a major roadblock, Amanda. We've got to go back to work."
"The hours the two of you keep are dreadful. Isn't there anyone else working there? I mean, really, the boys made some brownies for dessert," Dotty sighed, knowing that her daughter and future son-in-law would probably gone for the rest of the evening, if not the whole night.
"Sorry, Mother," Amanda called from the front door.
Seated in Billy Melrose's office, Lee was much more relaxed. This was something he could handle, unlike IT. He shuddered and then gave his section chief his full attention.
Billy cleared his throat and began, "As you know, Harry Thornton seems unable to sit back and enjoy his retirement. He can't resist meddling in his old cases, especially when it involves Gregory. Our mole has found a very willing ally in Gregory. Because of their previous arrangement, Harry is now the prime suspect. You have 72 hours to find him or her before Dr. Smyth brings the book down on Harry. Head out to his cabin and see what he knows."
Amanda met Lee's eyes and knew how concerned he was about his mentor.
"Yes, sir. We'll get to the bottom of it."
Lee slapped his right hand against the steering wheel as he drove. "Why can't he just stay retired? What makes him think we can't handle Gregory and the rest of the KGB on our own? I mean, he's not getting any younger and if anyone deserves a nice, peaceful retirement, it's Harry."
"Lee," Amanda began, "The Agency is like his child. And you know, you never stop being a parent. It's like when the boys were learning to walk. I knew they were going to fall a few times before they did it. I knew the falling was part of the process. But I still tried to catch them each and every time. Even now, I automatically reach for them when they stumble. I can't completely let go and neither can Harry."
Lee let out a breath as they pulled up to the cabin. "Well, let's go
try to convince 'Daddy' we're not going to fall."
Harry opened the door and held up his hand at the same time. "Don't start, Lee, I know exactly what I'm doing and you're not going to talk me out of it." He then turned to smile at Amanda. "How ya doing, darlin'?"
Amanda hugged him as she replied, "Great, Harry. How are you?"
Lee interrupted, "Harry, we don't have time for this! Smyth is after you and we need to figure a way out of this."
"I know the way out. The question is, are you going to be a help or a hindrance?" Harry moved over to the table and motioned for them to sit down. "All my information says that someone pretty high up sold out. Now, I talked to some friends over at the White House and there aren't any pardons being issued. This isn't like the deal I had going. This is the real thing. You've got a mole and he's digging a very big hole."
"He?" Amanda asked. "Do you know who it is?"
Harry looked from one to the other. "Yes, as a matter of fact, I do. Which makes the whole thing even harder."
For just a moment, Lee thought he might be better off with Dotty and IT. "All right, Harry, go ahead. Who's the traitor?"
Several hours later, after sorting through Harry's information a dozen times, Lee had to admit it all added up. Dr. Smyth was living well beyond his means. Of the last ten operations in which he was directly involved, seven were busts. And most damning of all, his latest mistress was none other than Gregory's niece, Anya Nikolas. They had been together since late November, which corresponded with the beginning of their security problems.
"Even if he's not passing the information himself," Amanda said, "if he's telling her anything at all, it's treason." She shook her head, not quite believing the can of worms they were about to open.
Harry nodded. "If he's aware of her family ties, he shouldn't be anywhere near her."
Lee replied, "He has to know she's Gregory's niece. She's made no attempts to hide it. The big question is, why hasn't he? If he thinks this is true love, shouldn't he be trying to protect himself and her from just this sort of thing?"
"And if it's not love," Amanda asked, "what's left?"
They simply stared at the papers before them. There were no easy answers.
Amanda spent the next morning going through the vault in the Q Bureau and coming up with nothing. With a sigh, she headed down to the bullpen.
Seeing Billy by Francine's desk, she approached him and smiled brightly. "Sir, I was wondering if you'd like to join me for lunch. See, there's this new bistro down the block and Lee has absolutely no interest in going with me. And you know, it can be so depressing to eat alone, so I thought why not ask you. After all these years, I'm finally going to be a full time agent and we should really get to know each other better, don't you think?"
Francine's eyes had glazed over about half way into Amanda's speech. She was deeply relieved not to be included in the invitation. The conversation alone would have ruined her appetite.
Billy knew something was up and so he agreed. "Fine, Amanda. Francine,
we'll be back in an hour."
Meanwhile, Lee had several meetings with his civilian contacts. Apparently his 'family' knew more about Smyth than he did. Every new detail added to the nearly insurmountable pile of evidence against Smyth. He hated the man, he really did, but if this was all true, the Agency was in serious trouble. He pulled into the parking lot of a local ice cream parlor and sought out T. P.
"Lee, my boy, tell me it's not true," the older man began.
Lee dropped into the empty seat at the table. "I was hoping you could tell me that."
"I'm sorry but all my sources indicate you're on the right track." T. P. paused. "Lee, this could shut the Agency down, you realize that?"
Closing his eyes, Lee replied, "I know. I hope it doesn't, but ...I
Seated in a quiet corner booth, two people spoke so softly that even
the passing waiters could not pick up any snitches of conversation.
Billy Melrose just stared at this housewife-turned-agent, as Dr. Smyth referred to her. Dr. Smyth..."Amanda, are you sure? Is there any chance Harry is completely off the mark here?"
Sadly, Amanda shook her head. "We can't find anything to clear him. Lee is still out there looking but he's running out of places to search. I'm so sorry, sir, I don't know what else to say."
Billy got up to leave the restaurant. "Send Scarecrow to me as soon
as he returns."
Lee and Amanda knocked on the door to Billy's office full of apprehension. "Come in."
Billy knew without asking what Lee had to say and merely motioned them to sit down. "I think you should know, Dr. Smyth cannot be located. I've alerted the President. He's meeting with the National Security Council right now. We should know our fate shortly."
For several minutes, no one spoke. Lee broke the silence. "Billy, until we find Smyth, there's no way of knowing the degree to which the Agency has been compromised. This place is still a pretty effective organization."
"Lee, you know as well as I do, national security is at stake. Keeping
us in business at this point is a huge risk. We have no
guarantee that Dr. Smyth is locked out of our secure files."
Amanda looked at both men and, for once, was at a complete loss for
words. The phone rang and the Agency was officially closed, pending a review
by the National Security Council. No one wanted to believe that the NSC
would find the Agency permanently compromised.
Two weeks later, Lee answered the phone in his apartment. "Stetson."
"Hi!" Amanda's voice brought a smile to his face.
Lee teased her. "Don't you have some special event to be getting ready for?"
"Oh, my hair's in curlers, my nails are drying, and my dress is pressed. I was just checking in on you. You know, I meant it when I said we could postpone the wedding." She held her breath waiting for his answer.
"Amanda, forget it. You're stuck with me. Besides, since we're unemployed, we can take a long honeymoon. And I have some very, uh, scintillating plans for the time."
"Amanda, I've lost my job. Yeah, the Agency was a big part of my life.
It's over. I still can't quite believe it but I'm not going to
let it ruin today. I've waited too long for this."
"I know," Amanda relaxed, "I've waited even longer."
"Quit rubbing it in," Lee laughed. "I'll see you at the church in one hour. I love you, Amanda."
"I love you, Lee."
She wanted this. She wanted this more than she'd ever wanted anything in her whole life. So why on earth was she so scared?
Taking another deep breath and glancing at her sons, Amanda King desperately tried keep from fainting. She didn't think it was going to work. The world began to spin.
Several moments later, she opened her eyes and looked into Jamie's concerned face. "Mom, are you okay?"
"Oh gosh," Amanda took still another deep breath. "Yeah, yeah, I'm fine. Where's Philip?"
"He went to get Grandma."
"No! She's already been seated and if Lee sees her leave, he'll..."
"Be right here to check on you," he said from the doorway. "Are you okay?" He quickly crossed the room and attempted to take her in his arms. Dotty followed him and peeked over his shoulder. Satisfied that Lee could handle the situation, she led the boys from the room to give them a moment alone.
His touch snapped Amanda into action. "LEE! You can't be back here. It's bad luck to see the bride before the ceremony. And what with the run of bad luck we've had, we can't afford to take any chances. Please! Just close your eyes and get out of here. NOW! I'll see you at the altar. Oh, and Lee, I love you."
Smiling and trying not to bump into anything, Lee spoke in her general
direction as he left. "I love you, too."
The small group of family and friends gathered in the church had been whispering furiously back and forth over the groom's disappearance.
His reappearance started a fresh stream of whispers, which were quickly cut off by the organ signaling the bride's arrival.
Lee was the one feeling faint as his bride came down the aisle escorted by Philip and Jamie. This was it. He was finally going to be happy, to have a home, to belong. A rather silly grin broke out on his face as he nodded to the boys and took Amanda's hand. Their eyes met. His were sparkling and hers were damp. He couldn't help himself. He raised her hand to his mouth for a lingering kiss.
Amanda bit her lip and nodded her head. This felt so right. She couldn't
recall being scared. Of course, it took them both a few
moments to remember that they were not alone. Blushing, Amanda turned to give her attention to the reverend.
"Dear friends, we have come together today to celebrate the love of Lee Stetson and Amanda King. They are here before us to join their lives, their hearts, and their souls." Lee peeked at Amanda, that silly grin still in place. Amanda was completely focused on the minister's words.
"They do not come here lightly or without due reverence. They solemnly ask the Lord to bless their union. Lee and Amanda have written their own vows and would like to share them now. Lee."
Amanda looked into her groom's eyes and knew she needed no words from him. His soul was committed to her in ways words could never express.
Lee began, "Amanda, I promise you, I will always love you, honor you, and believe in you. I will protect you and I will guard your gift of seeing the good in everyone and everything. I will be yours for the rest of my life."
Tears streaming down her face, in a voice barely above a whisper, she said, "Lee, I love you now and I'll love tomorrow and the next day and the next. You've brought so many things into my life that I can never repay. I promise you that I will honor you and care for you and cherish you always. I will be yours for the rest of my life."
Despite having written the vows together last week, they were both moved to tears. Lee placed his forehead on hers to give them a moment to simply gather their thoughts.
The minister then turned to Lee's best man, Billy. "Do you have the rings?" Billy nodded and handed them over.
"Our heavenly Father, we ask you today to bless this couple and the life they are beginning together. Bless these rings, Lord, that they have brought as symbol of their unending love and devotion. Amen. Lee, please place this ring on Amanda's hand and repeat after me. With this ring, I thee wed."
Her hand was trembling slightly in his as he slid the ring into place.
Raising his eyes to hers, he said, "With this ring, I thee
"Oh," Amanda was really crying now, the beauty of the ceremony was overwhelming her.
The minister then turned to her, "Your bouquet?" It was still in her right hand and she sheepishly handed it off to her maid of honor, her cousin Elaine. Then the minister handed her Lee's ring and said, "Amanda, please place this ring on Lee's hand and repeat after me. With this ring, I thee wed."
Amanda found her voice and just a little too loudly said, "With this ring, I thee wed!"
Lee barely heard the minister pronouncing them man and wife. He was focused on this woman who was now his in every way that mattered. So focused he missed the cue to kiss her. Amanda began to laugh. She raised her veil and wrapped her arms around his neck. Lee finally caught on and met her lips halfway.
The kiss left them both breathless and wondering how on earth they were
going to make it back down the aisle. Somehow they managed and the next
thing either of them knew, they were in the receiving line greeting everyone.
Several hours later, they finally made their getaway in Lee's car. He
was in such a good mood, he didn't even yell at Philip and Jamie for decorating
his car. He did, however, shoot them a look that had intimidated more than
one East German agent. The boys just laughed.
Amanda couldn't contain herself. "Oh, Lee, weren't the flowers just perfect? And the boys looked so handsome. Mother was simply beside herself. You'd have thought it was her wedding. Well, I guess in a way it was. Even Billy seemed to relax and enjoy himself." At this she paused before continuing. "Sorry. I wasn't going to bring that up again today."
Lee chuckled. "You? You weren't going to talk about it? Amanda, you say whatever is on your heart. It's one of the things I love about you." He kissed her hand in much the same way he had at the beginning of the wedding. Amanda's pulse quickened at the thought of all the other places Lee would soon be kissing. It took her by surprise to find he was still talking.
"Besides, I'm not giving up on the Agency yet. The first thing I'm going to do when we get back is to find Dr. Smyth. Right now though, I have much more interesting plans." He pulled the 'vette up to the hotel valet and leaned in for a quick kiss before getting out. At least, it was supposed to be a quick kiss. They were both swept away and shaking by the time their lips parted. Lee flashed that smile and her insides did flip-flops. He got out and came to her side of the car. "Would you care to come upstairs with me, Mrs. Stetson?"
Placing her hand in his, she breathed, "Oh yeah."
"Hey, sleepyhead," she said, leaning over to kiss his neck. "You think we should do some sightseeing today? Maybe pick a couple of T-shirts for the boys?"
"Later," he smiled as he rolled her to her back. "Much, much later."
It was late afternoon before they were finally ready to leave their room. Lee wasn't too thrilled with shopping for souvenirs but Amanda insisted. How could he refuse her, especially after that little episode earlier? And where on earth had she learned to do THAT to a man? Grinning and plotting how to get her to do it again, he grabbed her hand as they left the hotel and headed for the stores down the street.
"Penny for your thoughts, Scarecrow."
Busted, he thought. "Oh, I was just replaying this afternoon in my mind." Amanda began blushing and he couldn't resist teasing her. "You see, I thought I had married a very demure housewife. Only after the fact do I discover she has some very arousing hidden talents."
Amanda cleared her throat and took a deep breath. Her face was getting redder as she too remembered the event, but she decided to goad him a little too. "Well, you know, all that talk around the water cooler at the office got me thinking and I decided I'd better do my homework if I was going to, umm, satisfy the infamous Scarecrow."
His eyebrows shot up. "Homework?"
"Yeah, Leatherneck offers a wide variety of training courses!" She couldn't
hold her laughter in any longer. Lee shook his head and laughed with her.
They bought both boys a T-shirt and found a lovely seashell bracelet for Dotty. Deciding they had played tourists enough for one day, they headed back to their room to order in dinner. The message light was flashing on the phone and Lee briefly debated ignoring it. Afraid it might be one of the boys, he reluctantly checked it.
Amanda came out of the bathroom, took one look at his face, and knew their honeymoon was over. "Billy?"
Running a hand through his hair, Lee met her eyes. "Yes. They found
The National Security Council had painstakingly cleared a few select administrative personnel to reopen the Agency. Those few in turn were in the process of clearing others. It would take several weeks but the Agency was on the mend. Billy Melrose had been one of the first cleared and had given the orders for checks to begin on Lee and Amanda. With all the mess facing the Agency, he knew he needed them to sort through it all.
Francine Desmond had also been cleared and now approached with two folders in her hand. "The security clearances for Lee and Amanda. All clean, of course, and ready to return to work."
"Let Mrs. Marston know. They should be here anytime. Lee's angry and Mrs. Marston doesn't deserve to be on the receiving end of his tirade."
"Can you blame him, Billy? He was on his honeymoon!"
Billy sighed. "I know that, Francine. But in the end, he'll want to
be in on this one. When it's all done, I'll give them both some time off."
Shortly after midnight, Lee and Amanda walked into the bullpen.
Amanda smiled at the few agents assembled and most returned her smile. Lee headed straight to Billy's office and strode in without knocking. Amanda followed him.
"Billy, this had better be good. We were ...."
Billy held up his hand. "Lee, I had a honeymoon myself several years back and I really don't want to hear what you were doing." Turning to the now pink-cheeked Mrs. Stetson, Billy apologized. "Amanda, I know this is lousy timing but it really couldn't wait."
Amanda nodded her head and looked to her husband. "Well, I've learned to expect the interruptions."
Lee smiled faintly before returning his attention to his section chief. "Where did they find Smyth?"
Billy's expression darkened. "At the bottom of the Potomac."
Two hours later, Lee disgustedly threw the report on his desk in the Q Bureau. "It just doesn't make sense. Why go to all the trouble to set him up and then kill him?"
Amanda put her elbows on her desk and began counting off her points on her fingers. "Okay, here's what we know so far. One: Dr. Smyth wasn't our mole. Someone did set him up. Two: Anya Nicholas is dead too. Her body washed up three days before his. Three: whoever did this wanted the Agency shut down. Four..."
"That's it!" Lee exclaimed. Amanda furrowed her brows but before she could ask he continued. "Whoever did this wanted the Agency shut down. Don't you see? Somebody had something going down that they didn't want us poking our noses in. Where's the NSC folder on activities for the past month?"
Amanda quickly caught on and pulled the requested file. "Okay, most
of this is just run of the mill. Wait a minute, look at this." Both agents
were out the door and on the murderer's doorstep within the hour.
As they neared their suspect's elegant home, Amanda radioed Billy for backup. "They're on the way."
Lee nodded without speaking. The last item on the NSC agenda for its July 31st meeting was a report by Dr. Austin Smyth on the hiring practices of senators, particularly those with ties to the intelligence community. Senator Neil Case had been personally invited to attend by Dr. Smyth.
Arriving at the Senator's house, Lee barely waited for Amanda to get out of the car before bounding up to the door. After pushing the doorbell three times in rapid succession, he paced the small porch.
A middle-aged man in a crisp navy suit answered and immediately asked, "Do you have a search warrant, Agent Stetson?"
Lee blinked. "How do you know...?"
The man smiled ruefully. "Gregory told me to expect you. I'm Neil Case
and I do believe I've been hung out to dry, as they say. For the right
deal, I'll provide whatever assistance I can in bringing Gregory to justice."
Billy Melrose looked from one agent to the other. "Senator Case? Of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence? Why would he want to set up Dr. Smyth?"
Lee handed him another file. "He needed to hide some employees who weren't quite what they appeared to be. Including Anya Nicholas. When Dr. Smyth started to get suspicious, Case panicked and asked Gregory for help."
Amanda picked up the narrative. "Anya must have really cared for Dr. Smyth. When she found out what they planned, she tried to warn him. That's what got her killed."
"So, what's the connection between Case and Gregory?" Billy asked.
"Case was hiring Gregory's people and making a small fortune," Lee replied.
Billy shook his head. "A lot of vital information would pass through the office of a senator on the intelligence committee. All those busted operations..."
"Case's doing, not Dr. Smyth's," Amanda finished for him. "Anya met Dr. Smyth at the Capitol and they struck up a conversation. It was all fairly innocent on his part. He was so enamored with her that he didn't even question her background, figuring Case had already done the check and cleared her. It's pretty tragic."
Billy picked up the last page of Lee's report. "How does James Wallace fit into all this?"
Lee sighed. "One of Gregory's cronies in Moscow came across an old case file on Serdeych and the Oz network. He passed the information on to Gregory, who in turn recruited Wallace. Yet another false lead to Smyth. We believed Wallace's informant was on the inside." Lee paused and sank into the chair next to Amanda's. "At least we can finally close this case."
"It's not over yet. It won't be until we get everybody reinstated and
back to work." Billy stood up from behind his desk. "Good job! Now, why
don't the two of you take some time off..." He didn't even get to finish
his sentence before his favorite agents were out the door.