Mother's Arms

By: Beth
Summary:Shows what might have happened between the zap gas and engagement ring in "Nightcrawler"
Disclaimer:These characters are not mine and I do not intend to harm them. They belong to Warner Bros. and I promise to return them intact and no more worse for wear when I finish with them; the story, however, belongs to me...
Author's Notes:Excerpts from this story are based on Scarecrow and Mrs. King, episode "Nightcrawler", written by George Geiger. "One Boy, One Girl" written by Mark Alan Springer and Shaye Smith. Thanks to Mish for being my beta reader and my editor!

Part 1
On the way to Amanda's house, Lee and Amanda were quiet, both lost in thought. Amanda knew Lee was concerned and upset that she didn't allow him into her debriefing. But Amanda knew she had to tell them everything with a clear mind. With Lee there, she would have envisioned again her fantasies about him, causing her emotions to reduce her to tears. She left out any mention of Lee during the whole debriefing, not sure exactly what was real and what was imagined. She knew he had been there at some point, maybe during the rescue. She cringed, remembering the last thing he said to her before she was taken away in the ambulance. She loved him so much, but needed time away from both him and the Agency to process everything that had happened over the past five days. Billy had wanted her to take a week off, but she'd talked him down to two days. After three days in the hands of Addi Birol and two days in the hospital for observation and debriefing, she wanted nothing more than a couple of days of rest and then to get back into the swing of things.

Lee looked over at his partner with concern. His once happy and talkative Amanda hadn't said two words since he picked her up from the Agency infirmary. Although he was hurt that she didn't want him there during her debriefing, he understood. After the zap gas had worn off Amanda had been sedated for almost 24 hours. Between the sleep deprivation and hallucinogens, the doctor felt the best thing for Amanda would be sleep.

Lee stayed with her all night. She had stirred a few times, apparently from nightmares. With his touches and soft words, Amanda's frown would turn into a slight smile and she would slip into peaceful sleep. The next afternoon, finally off of sedation, Amanda's mind was clear enough for the debriefing. Before Amanda had awakened that morning, Lee had gone home to shower and change. When he got back Billy notified him that he was being kept out of the debriefing at Amanda's request. After a long four hour wait, Amanda came out, ready to go home. She slipped her hand into Lee's as they left the building but said nothing. He knew she would talk when she was ready.

He was stirred from his thoughts by Amanda's first words. "What excuse am I going to use this time with Mother? I don't think 'I spent a few days on location' is going to work."

"Would you like me to go in with you?" Lee pulled up in front of Amanda's house and turned off the car. Amanda put her hand on Lee's but didn't meet his eyes.

"I think I'll do better on my own."

"I have some vacation time coming. Maybe we could spend some time together? Talk...?"

Amanda kept her eyes down. "Lee, I just need some time by myself. My mind is still fuzzy with everything that's happened this week. I need some time to process everything."

Now it was Lee's turn to look down. How stupid could he have been, asking for her hand in marriage at such a time? He was hurt, but he understood where Amanda was coming from. She needed space and he respected that. "I tell you what...I'll leave you alone, but you have my number. Call and I can be here at a moments notice."

Amanda looked up into Lee's eyes. She could see the hurt, but she could also see the love. She smiled, her eyes filling with tears. "Thanks...I really appreciate it." She squeezed his hand and gave him a quick peck on the cheek before leaving the car without another word.

Amanda took a deep breath as she unlocked the front door. "Thank God the boys are still in school", she thought. "Mother is more than I can handle right now". She knew she should have insisted being allowed to call Mother from the hospital, but Amanda just couldn't think of what to say.

"Amanda, is that you?" She heard Dotty coming down the stairs. She needed to sit down. Amanda went into the living room and sank down on the couch. All of the drugs were out of her system, but pure and natural exhaustion was setting in. She could barely think. Glancing around the living room, Amanda felt like a stranger in what would have seemed like a normal setting had she not been through such an ordeal. Amanda looked up as her mother walked into the room.

"Amanda! Where have you been? Why didn't you call? I've been worried----" She stopped and studied her daughter. Something was wrong. There was a dazed and slightly haunted look in her eyes. She was wearing the same clothes she had left in almost a week ago. She looked thinner and pale.

"Amanda, what's wrong?" As Amanda's eyes focused on her mother, they filled with tears. Her mother was at her side in a moment. Without a word Dotty encircled her daughter in her arms. As she rocked her daughter back and forth, she felt her start to cry. At first she was silent, but soon her anguished sobs became loud and uncontrollable.

After having held everything in for the last five days to be strong for others, Amanda could not control herself. The safety she felt in her mother's arms opened the door that had been locked for five days. She sobbed in her mother's arms as she emotionally relived everything that had happened.

Dotty held her daughter in silence. She stroked her daughter's hair and the tears streamed down her own face. She had never felt so helpless. She was doing all she could to comfort her daughter, but Amanda's anguished cries scared Dotty. She had never seen these emotions from Amanda, not even during the divorce. She knew that something terrible had happened to her daughter.

Part 2
Dotty sat in a chair in the living room watching her daughter. Amanda had cried herself to sleep in her mother's arms. After Amanda had fallen asleep, Dotty called Joe and had him pick the boys up from school and keep them overnight. Phillip and Jamie had missed their mother while she was gone, but Amanda couldn't handle the questions and the attention needed by them. Fortunately, Joe had agreed to keep the boys with no questions asked.

Patience was never one of Dotty's strong suits. Part of her wanted to wake her daughter and demand answers. She was also concerned about her daughters' current state. Dotty considered calling IFF for these answers, but remembered that Mr. Stetson had thought Amanda was on location. If her boss didn't know what had happened to her, maybe Amanda was the only one with the answers. Dotty had tried to reach Mr. Stetson two days after his initial visit but was told that he was on location as well. She assumed he had joined Amanda.

Mr. Lee Stetson. Dotty had often wondered about this mystery man, especially after Amanda disappeared with him. Whenever Dotty brought up his name, Amanda simply said he was her boss and changed the subject. When Mr. Stetson showed up for a courtesy call, Dotty was surprised. She finally had a face to associate with the name. She just assumed that with Amanda on location, Mr. Stetson would be with her.

She had to admit that Mr. Stetson was very handsome. If he and Amanda weren't dating, she would have to talk to Amanda about that.

While Dotty sat next to Amanda as she slept, she had a lot of time to think. One thing troubled her and it had to do with Lee Stetson. Amanda had been working for this man for a couple of years and Dotty had never met him. The fact that he showed up when he knew Amanda was gone was what troubled her. Did he usually show up unexpectedly to visit with the families of his employees' while they were on location?

Amanda's stirring shook Dotty from her thoughts. She seemed to be having a bad dream. Suddenly, Amanda sat straight up screaming, "I don't know who Nightcrawler is!!! Where is Lee?! Lee, please help me!!!

Dotty got up and went to her daughter, shaking her gently. "Amanda! Wake up, darling. You're having a bad dream."

"Lee!! Lee!! Help me!!" Amanda slowly opened her eyes, clutching her mother's arms. "Wha---what? Mother?" Amanda's eyes were still glazed over from sleep. A small smile crossed her lips as she started to lie back down. "I'm home. I'm safe," she murmured.

"Amanda, wake up. You've been asleep for hours-you need to eat something."

Amanda stirred slightly saying, "I'm so tired." Her eyes closed and she fell asleep once again. Dotty felt her daughter's forehead. She didn't have a fever. She went into the kitchen to fix some soup for her daughter. She was able to wake Amanda long enough to have her eat a bowl of soup. Then Dotty half dragged her to the bedroom, helped her change into her nightgown, and got her into bed.

Dotty didn't sleep well and was wide-awake at 7:00 a.m. She immediately checked on Amanda, who was sleeping soundly. Dotty sat in the kitchen drinking coffee for two hours, her mind on her daughter.

At 9:00 a.m. Joe called. Dotty told him that Amanda had contracted some kind of virus while on location, and didn't want the boys to catch it. Joe accepted this, wished Amanda well, and hung up.

Dotty stood there with the phone in her hand. Mr. Stetson had to know some answers. Amanda had yelled out his name last night. And who was this Nightcrawler? A disgruntled actor?

Part 3
Amanda slowly opened her eyes. It took her mind a few seconds to gather her bearings and realize where she was. She was home. She could hardly believe it. After so many nights at the hands of Addi Birol, Amanda felt the need to pinch herself, to make sure she wasn't imagining things. She could barely remember her mother helping her into bed the night before. Amanda stretched and turned over, glancing at the clock. It was 12:20 p.m. 'Oh my gosh,' Amanda thought, 'was it really that late?' She rolled over onto her back, her mind filling with the memory of her mother. She was so happy her mother was living in the same house. She would not have gotten through the last 24 hours without her. Amanda closed her eyes. Her mother always seemed to know exactly what she needed. Being able to release all of those pent up emotions was better than a week of therapy.

Amanda's mind flitted from her mother to Lee. She could feel herself blush with embarrassment as she allowed her mind to hold onto her last hallucination of him before she was rescued. Her fingers went to her lips as she remembered imagining his lips on hers, him setting her on the cot and kneeling before her. She felt his hands holding hers as he gazed into her eyes and asked her the one question she'd been longing to hear for so very, very long. Sitting on the cot with him, both scared, but complete in each other's arms, she swore she could hear his heartbeat and feel his breath in her hair. It had all seemed so real. Then reality broke in. She was being wheeled to the ambulance, and suddenly, Lee showed up beside her taking her hand. He hadn't been the one to rescue her after all. As she was about to get into the ambulance, he leaned over and whispered, "What happened in there was just two people trying to comfort each other. Right?" He patted her hand as she was lifted into the ambulance. Amanda sighed. She thought that was something the old Lee would say, not this man who had only recently professed his love for her. Maybe some things would never change. Amanda sat up in bed. She would just have to forget about the lovely fantasies and face the fact that she wasn't going to get a long-term commitment out of a man like Lee.

Only one question bothered Amanda. What was she going to tell her mother? How would she explain her state of mind when she got home? Maybe she should have accepted Lee's offer. Amanda shook her head. No, this was something she had to do alone. Now, how to tell her mother why she sobbed in her arms last night?

After a long, hot shower, Amanda dressed and went downstairs. She spied her mother in the garden, weeding. Not wanting to disturb her, Amanda started making herself lunch. She briefly considered Lee's offer again, but decided against it. She just wanted to get this conversation over with.

After lunch Amanda stood at the window, sipping iced tea. She watched her mother, trying to think of any questions her mother may throw at her. Taking a deep breath, she poured another glass of iced tea. She whispered a small prayer as her pulse quickened and she stepped outside.

"How about some iced tea, Mother?"

Dotty jumped, not hearing Amanda come up behind her. "Amanda, you're awake! Yes, some iced tea would be wonderful." She dusted off her pants and followed her daughter to the gazebo.

They sipped tea for a moment before Amanda cleared her throat. Dotty looked at her expectantly. Amanda took a deep breath. "I want to explain to you what happened." She looked out at the garden. Where to begin....

"Mother, this is hard enough to talk about, so please don't interrupt me, because it will only make it harder for me." Dotty nodded, indicating she wouldn't interrupt. "While I was on location last week, I was mistaken for someone and kidnapped." Dotty gasped and opened her mouth to say something. Amanda looked at her is if to say 'you promised,' and Dotty's mouth closed.

"A man held me captive for three days. He wouldn't let me eat or sleep. He kept asking me all sorts of questions that I didn't know the answers to. Finally, the police showed up, and took me to the hospital where I was kept for observation. When I was released they called my boss, Mr. Stetson, who picked me up and brought me home." Amanda shuddered as she finished her story.

Dotty was quiet for a moment, then looked into her daughter's eyes and asked quietly, "Did this man...hurt you in any way?"

Amanda took her mother's hands into her own. "No, Mother, he didn't. He just threatened me."

"Why wasn't I called! Amanda, you know I would have been there as soon as I heard!"

"I was told the hospital couldn't get hold of you. I wanted to get home as soon as possible, so I called Mr. Stetson."

"I'll have to thank him next time I see him." Dotty tilted her head and looked out into the garden. "But Mr. Stetson came to see me the day after you went on location. He didn't mention anything," Dotty insisted.

Amanda quickly looked away. 'Oh no,' she thought. Lee didn't tell her that he had spoken with her mother. What if their stories didn't match? "Mr. Stetson came by here? What did he say?" Amanda asked as calmly as she could. 'Why would he stop at my house if he knew I had been kidnapped?' she wondered.

"He said he was here for a social call and asked if I'd heard from you. Then he got a phone call and left."

Amanda's hand went up to play with her necklace. She felt the gold chain and the cross around her neck. Billy told her that Lee had taken her precious heart necklace to a jeweler to be repaired. She looked out over the same garden where she had spent many an evening talking with Lee. "Mr. Stetson hasn't really discussed that with me. We hardly spoke on the way home. He's probably just waiting until I get back to work to explain everything." Her thoughts reeled back to the previous days and the torture she went through.

"I can't believe that man would have the audacity to misplace my daughter and not tell me," her mother said.

She was his partner. And his girlfriend. Her mind was so cloudy. She had felt so close to him those three days, especially with the hallucinations. And then, amidst all of the horror, he had asked her to marry him. She looked down at the empty place on her left ring finger. If he had asked her to marry him, where was the ring? If only she could be sure of what was real and what wasn't.

"Oh, Mother, I'm sure he had a good reason for not saying anything to you...I don't know, maybe he was told not to."

"That's not good enough...I should have been told right away that you had been kidnapped." Dotty looked up at her daughter, only then realizing her Amanda wasn't listening.

"You know, when he spoke of you, his voice softened and a smile crossed his face. He seems to really care about you."

Amanda looked at her mother and smiled. The eternal matchmaker.

"You've been working for this man for a long time now. I'm sure you two have a good working relationship. Do you think there could be anything else there?"

"You know, Mother? I don't know. Sometimes I think there could be something...but maybe I'm hoping for too much."

"I don't know if I like the idea of you seeing this man personally. First he gets into trouble and you go off with him for several days and I don't know where you are. Then, after you've been kidnapped, he comes over here for a social call. If I didn't know better, I would think he was involved in this whole situation somehow." Almost as an afterthought, she added, "Even if he is awfully handsome. He looks like quite a catch."

Amanda chuckled. "Mo-ther, some people are meant for marriage. Some people aren't. I'm not sure that Stetson is the type to get bogged down like that...especially with a packaged deal like me. I've been married once, and although I think I would like to be married again, I just don't know if it's going to happen."

"Well, I never said anything about marriage, dear, although now that you bring it up..." Dotty responded. Amanda looked at her and sighed. "Well, you must think something of him if you screamed out his name last night."

Amanda looked down and blushed. 'Oh great,' she thought, 'now what have I done?'

"You know, I thought about calling him this morning..." Dotty added.

Amanda's head whipped around to face her mother. "Mother, you didn't!"

"No dear, I didn't. I was just so worried about you and didn't know what you were talking about last night with this Nightcrawler thing. Who is Nightcrawler, anyway?"

"The man thought I was someone named Nightcrawler."

"Nightcrawler? What a strange name." Dotty looked out over her garden, sipping her tea.

"Yes Mother."

Part 4
Lee watched the exchange between mother and daughter. From the bushes on the other side of the fence, he closely listened to the conversation. He felt a little uncomfortable, spying on his fiancée, but he reasoned, that's what he did best. He hadn't heard from Amanda yet and was getting worried about her. He had promised he wouldn't contact her, but he hadn't promised he wouldn't spy on her.

Lee was puzzled by Amanda's reaction to the mention of his visit. He had told her when they were captive that he had gone to see her mother. But, then again, she seemed pretty out of it when he talked to her.

While he listened, Lee was shocked to hear Amanda's apparent uncertainty over their relationship. She had just agreed to marry him, and seemed happy about it. At the mention of "packaged deal" Lee acted like a Jack-in-the-Box, standing up and then realizing that he wasn't supposed to be there and popping back down. 'Packaged deal?' he thought. He'd never, ever thought of her that way. He had known the boys almost as long as he had known Amanda. Although he had yet to be introduced to them, he felt fiercely protective of them. Amanda knew that.

Changing positions to prevent cramping, Lee continued to listen to the conversation. Soon, Amanda walked into the house to call Joe to have him drop off the boys. When Amanda returned, Dotty had returned to her weeding, so she returned to her place at the gazebo.

Lee wanted to go to Amanda, but Dotty was in his way. Sure, he had introduced himself to Amanda's mother, but to show up this way would raise a lot of questions. So he continued his vigil over his fiancée. She looked so sad and still out of sorts. She had gotten some color back in her face, but not all. She still had dark circles under her eyes. But, in his eyes, she looked beautiful nonetheless.

Lee started when he saw Joe drive up the driveway with the boys. He looked around to make sure he wouldn't be seen in his hiding spot. Hearing Joe pull up, Amanda and Dotty made their way into the house. Knowing that they would be in there for a while, Lee decided to get something to eat and decide his next moves.

Lee sat on the steps of Jefferson Memorial, his hotdog untouched. This place held the memories of their first real conversation. Even back then, she had gotten him to open up about things he'd never talked about with anyone. Lee seemed just yesterday he had shrugged her off as a nuisance. How had this divorcee with two kids living in the suburbs managed to steal his heart? He looked around. Then again, it seemed like forever ago he had met Amanda. He couldn't remember life without her, and after the events of the past week, he realized he couldn't live without her in his life.

His mind and heart drifted to the small dark room that Addi Birol had put him in after he was captured. Amanda had been like a frightened mouse, jumping out of bed, her eyes glazed over. He cherished holding her in his arms again, touching her, feeling her lips on his. When Birol had returned, he automatically put Amanda behind him, shielding her from this monster in front of him. He could feel her shaking behind him, hands upon his shoulders. When Birol had fired his gun, Lee was scared. Not for himself, but in the knowledge that he could not protect Amanda in this awful situation. She flinched at each click of the empty gun, as if resigning herself to death.

After Birol had left the second time, Lee quickly made out his list, ignoring Amanda's pleading for him not to. He would give his soul to the devil, just to make sure his Amanda was safe. Lee smiled, remembering how he had kneeled before her, taking her hands in his. If he had doubted his ability to ask Amanda to marry him, it was gone as he searched her lovely brown eyes. There was so much love in there. That love was surrounded by absolute fear, but also by trust. He knew then that if they were meant to die at that moment, his only wish was to die with her in his arms, surrounded by that love. She had hesitated at his proposal, as if she didn't believe he had said those words. But there was no hesitation in her voice when she accepted his proposal. She was right; they were truly the luckiest people in the world.

When Birol entered the final time, everything happened so fast. He tried to shield Amanda as best he could when Birol pointed the gun. Then the smoke from the zap gas came out of nowhere, giving him the perfect chance to unarm Birol. Birol was arrested and his Amanda was safe once more. He sat down next to her, explaining the reaction to the zap gas. Soon, neither could move, but that was more than all right. If he could just hold her like that in his arms forever, he would be happy.

He decided that this was one promise he would have to break. He needed to see Amanda, to find out what she did or didn't remember during her traumatic experience. It was getting dark and Lee knew that Amanda's kids and mother would be asleep soon and he could knock on the window of her kitchen, as he had so many times before. Feeling his hesitation disappear, he discarded the uneaten hotdog into the nearest trash receptacle and walked to his car with a light heart.

Part 5
Lee slipped around the side of the house to the kitchen window. The kitchen light was the only one on in the house. Hoping that everyone but Amanda was asleep, he popped his head up to look in the window. To his horror, Dotty was the one staring straight back at him. He heard a dish break as he ducked down out of sight, and then quickly slipped behind the fence again to the place that had been his look out earlier in the day.

Lee held his breath as he heard the back door open and saw a flashlight slowly dancing across the lawn.

"Who's out there?" He heard Dotty's voice and shrank down even further. After over three years of sneaking around Amanda's backyard, he couldn't believe he'd been caught. He'd always kept a watch out for Dotty and the boys, and well, now that he thought about it, he couldn't believe it took her that long to finally catch him. He watched, frozen, as Dotty started walking his way. Suddenly, she was startled by the sound of her oldest grandson, Phillip. "Grandma! I think someone is at the door!"

Dotty quickly backtracked her way to the kitchen door, keeping an eye out on the bushes by the fence. Lee didn't let out a breath until the kitchen door closed. That was way too close! Lee quickly made his way to the side of the house, to see who had saved him from certain embarrassment. As he reached the corner of the house he watched as Dotty greeted Joe. 'What is he doing here at 9:00 p.m.?' Lee wondered. He also wondered if Amanda had told Joe the real reason for her absence.

"Joe!" Dotty said, a big smile on her face, "Thank God it's only you! You scared me half to death! I was doing..." Joe cut her off.

"When I got home, I realized Jamie had forgotten his backpack. He's finished with his homework, but I know he'll need it for school tomorrow." Joe handed Dotty Jamie's school backpack. As he turned to go, Dotty stopped him.

"If you wanted to drop off Jamie's backpack, why didn't you just come to the front door, instead of going around back?"

Lee's heart thudded loudly in his chest, and he was sure Dotty could hear it from the doorway. 'Now what?' He thought.

"I didn't see any lights on until I walked around the side of the house and saw the kitchen light on. I thought about just leaving the backpack on the front porch, but I wanted to make sure you got it okay. I couldn't imagine someone stealing it, but you never know these days. Is Amanda in bed?"

As usual, Dotty's mind flitted from one subject to another with the ease of years of practice. "Yes, the poor thing. She says she feels much better, but she's still very worn out. She was in bed by 8:30 p.m."

"Well, tell her if she wants me to take the kids until she feels better, I don't mind."

"I'll tell her Joe, but after being gone for so long, she really needed to see the boys and spend some time with them. She was so happy to see them, and it was good to all be together for a nice evening."

Lee could see Joe's head bow at the last sentence. Lee knew how Joe was feeling. He wanted to be in there to share that nice evening too....

Lee watched Joe as he got into his car and drove off. He then looked up and realized he was under Amanda's bedroom window. Putting a hand on the trellis, he considered his next move. He really needed to see Amanda, but she had been through a lot. She needed her sleep. 'Well', he decided, putting a foot on the trellis. 'If she's sleeping, she won't hear me come, but if she's awake, then I can sneak in and talk to her.'

Lee grinned as he climbed the trellis. It seemed much steadier than then when he was on it with Amanda. Joe had fixed it while he and Amanda were off, trying to clear their name after Stemwinder fell apart. Lee silently thanked Joe for allowing him this secret entry into Amanda's room.

The window was open just an inch. 'Amanda and her open windows', Lee thought, holding on to the windowsill for support. He saw Amanda cuddled up in bed sound asleep. The bedside lamp was illuminated and cast a beautiful shadow around Amanda's face. This saddened Lee. He knew Amanda didn't like any light on when she slept. The lamplight meant that Amanda had been afraid to be in the dark...afraid of what was not there and could not be seen. There was no smile on her lips. He had watched Amanda sleep while on different assignments and one thing he remembered was that she always had a smile. It made her look like an angel. The thought that Birol had wiped that smile off her sleeping face angered Lee. He decided right then and there, he would get that smile back. He couldn't wait until they were married. He could watch her every night and make sure that it was always there.

Although part of him wanted to wake Amanda, Lee knew she needed her sleep. He watched her from the trellis for a moment, before he slowly made his way down to the ground. He sighed as he walked to his car. Tomorrow couldn't come soon enough.

Amanda sat in the corner of the bare white room. Birol opened the door and walked towards her with purpose. "This may change your mind about talking," he said, looking at the syringe filled with clear liquid. Amanda shrank back, although she was already squeezed tightly in the corner. Birol knelt down next to her and lovingly traced a finger down her face to her chin. "That Scarecrow is a lucky man to have such a beautiful woman. Too bad he won't live long enough to cherish you." Amanda flinched as she felt the pin prick on her upper arm. She turned her face away, willing him to leave. "I love you Amanda," she heard Lee say. She felt Lee lift her chin. She kept her eyes closed as she felt his loving touch. "I have always loved you." She tilted her head, waiting for his velvet lips to press against hers. His touch was soft and graceful. He kissed her gently and then more forcefully. She felt his arms crushing her mercilessly as his tongue forced her mouth open. Suddenly, she was choking as his hand moved from her arm to her neck. She opened her eyes wide, willing Lee to stop. But they weren't Lee's eyes staring back at her. They were Birol's. She tried to scream and push him away, but she was too weak. He laughed deep in his throat as his mouth covered hers, stealing away her breath.

Amanda awoke with a start, a scream trying to escape her lips. She couldn't breath. She was sitting straight up in bed, her arms out in front of her, as if warding off an invisible monster. Panting, trying to catch her breath, Amanda put her hand to her throat. She was sure she could still feel Birol's hand there, choking the life out of her. Amanda looked around the room and tried to concentrate on the familiar surroundings. Realizing she was home and safe, she sat back against the bed, pulling her covers up to her neck. Still breathing hard, Amanda tried to calm down, but the intense fear still enveloped her. Her eyes flitted around the room, seeking to find the presence that had entered her bedroom through her dreams. She heard a quiet voice. Someone was whispering the same word over and over again. She turned her head, listening. As she willed her heartbeat to slow down and her breathing to calm, Amanda realized the sound was coming from her own lips. "Lee," she kept whispering as though just the mention of his name would quell the demons in the closet and under the bed. She concentrated on the word, bringing up to her consciousness every vision of Lee she'd ever had. Seeing him in her mind's eye, she could almost feel his presence. She felt safe again, as she always did when she was around Lee. She drifted off with Lee's name on her lips.

Part 6
// "Remember, it was just two people seeking comfort in a stressful situation," Lee patted Amanda's hand before stepping away from her line of sight. Amanda tried to sit up and call out for Lee, but she was strapped in on the stretcher. She looked up at the paramedic, about to ask him to undo the straps. Her breath caught. Staring back down at her was Addi Birol. "Remember, it was just two people seeking comfort in a stressful situation," he mocked as he led her down into her own private hell. //

Amanda sat up in bed, surprised that the straps were no longer holding her down. She looked at her surroundings and took a deep breath to calm herself down. 'It was only a dream' she assured herself. She looked at the clock. It was 10:30a.m. Usually an early bird, Amanda was surprised that she had slept in once again. She quickly headed for the shower to wash away the last remnants of her nightmare.

As he always was after a sleepless night, Lee was grumpy. He didn't want to be at work. He wanted to be there for Amanda when she awoke. Since finalizing his decision to go to her, he wanted to do it now, right this minute. He felt as though he needed to assure Amanda of his love. The conversation he had overheard the day before kept repeating itself in his mind. Not the whole conversation; but bits and pieces of what he heard Amanda say. Phrases like "bogged down," "packaged deal," and "I just don't know if it's going to happen."

'How could she think that?' he pondered, as he looked down at the engagement ring he was fingering. He'd had it for two weeks now and was just waiting for the perfect time to give it to her. 'This should convince her,' Lee thought with a smile.

As Amanda started her breakfast, she noticed a note from Dotty on the refrigerator. "Amanda, went to the dentist and then to do some shopping, should be back before the boys get home from school. Love, Mother".

The thought of being alone somehow unnerved Amanda. She felt vulnerable, like someone, such as Addi Birol could come in any moment and whisk her away from her world again. Looking out the window, she realized her mother had taken the Wagoneer, leaving Amanda no choice but to stay put. Amanda finished her breakfast and put the dishes into the dishwasher. Suddenly, she froze. 'What was that?' she thought. She listened for another moment, her heart in her throat. Nothing. 'Amanda', she berated herself 'now is not the time to panic.' Nonetheless, Amanda went about checking doors and windows, making sure everything was locked.

Amanda's breath caught in her throat as she went to the kitchen door. It was ajar. She whipped around, expecting to find an unknown assailant behind her. She heard a noise coming from the dining room. 'You're just imagining things, Amanda' she tried to assure herself. She turned around to close and lock the kitchen door. As the lock engaged, she heard a crash coming from the dining room. Without thinking, she ran to the front door. It was locked. With a quick look behind her, she slipped into the hall closet. She slid down on the floor and covered herself with a coat. She closed her eyes and willed her breathing to slow down. She cocked her head, listening for any sounds. 'Now what?' she thought. Lee. She had to get hold of him. He would help her. Even with all of her uncertainty and teenage-like fantasies, she knew that if she were in trouble, he would be there for her. Without thinking, Amanda jumped out of the closet, ran to the phone in the kitchen, and then ran back to the closet with it dragging behind. She closed the door, got under the coat, and tried dialing the number to the agency in the dark.

Lee jumped slightly at the sound of the phone. He was in the middle of typing a report on the computer, cursing at himself for not having learned how to type.

"Stetson," he barked into the phone.

"Lee?" A very familiar voice whispered into the phone. With that one little word, Lee knew Amanda was in trouble.

"Amanda, what's wrong?"

"Lee, Mother's gone to the dentist and grocery shopping and the boys are in school and I'm all alone in the house-I thought I heard a noise and decided to lock all the doors and windows just to be safe since I was alone and when I went to lock the kitchen door it was open and I tried not to panic but then I heard a crash in the dining room and I just know someone's out there and I'm so scared----"

Lee's mind was reeling, just trying to keep up with the conversation. "Amanda," he interrupted. "Someone's in your house? Did you get out? Where are you?"

Amanda was still whispering, but Lee could hear the panic in her voice. "I tried to get out the front door but it was locked."

'The front door was locked?' Lee realized that Amanda wasn't thinking clearly at all. "Amanda, stay right where you are, I'm on my way." Lee hung up the phone and practically flew out the door, with a hurried message to Mrs. Marsten to tell Billy he'd be out for a while.

Lee parked down the street and quickly made his way to Amanda's house. He slipped around the back. The kitchen door was locked, but he wasn't surprised...that much he had gotten out of Amanda's ramblings. He picked the lock and opened the door, drawing his gun. Amanda said she heard a crash in the dining room, so that's where he headed first. He slowly walked toward the dining room, gun in position. He stayed in position behind the door, counted to three, and ran into the dining room. The would-be "intruder" looked at him curiously and went back to eating the plant that had been knocked to the floor. Lee smiled at the black and white cat that had "broken in", and let him finish his snack while he looked for Amanda.

Lee holstered his gun. "Amanda!" He went into the kitchen and was about to go upstairs when he saw the phone cord. Smiling despite the knowledge Amanda was still in a panic, he followed it to the hall closet. He knocked, so she would know he was there.

"Aman..." was all he was able to say as he opened the door. Amanda was standing, or more like hunching in the closet, phone in hand. She threw the phone at him and shrank back, eyes closed.

Lee dodged the phone and grabbed Amanda by the arms. She just closed her eyes even tighter and tried to shrink away from him. He didn't realize her level of panic until he saw her face. "Amanda, it's me, it's's okay, I'm here."

Amanda slowly opened her eyes. It scared Lee to see so much terror in them, terror he knew that Addi Birol had put there. Recognition slowly crossed her face as she looked at Lee. "Is it really you?" she asked hesitantly. Overcome with the events of the last hour, darkness enveloped her.

Lee caught her as she crumpled to the floor. He cradled her in his arms as he moved one hand up and down her cheek. "Amanda? Amanda? Can you hear me?" She was out cold. Gently, he took Amanda into his arms and carried her to the living room and slowly lowered her down to the couch. He knelt next to her, continuing to stroke her cheek with his hand. Amanda moaned slightly and slowly opened her eyes. When her eyes moved to Lee, she smiled. Then, remembering why he was here, panic filled her once again and she bolted upright.

"Lee, someone's in the house, the door was open, I heard a crash---"

Lee put a finger to Amanda's lips to quiet her. He laid her back down on the couch. "Amanda, it's okay. The crash was a plant that a cat knocked over. The cat probably came through the open back door. If you want, I can go check out the rest of the house." Amanda grabbed his hand "No!" she all but screamed. "Please don't leave me!" Tears welled up in her eyes and her look of fear was more than Lee could bear. He sat Amanda up and encircled her in his arms. She held onto him as if he would disappear any minute. Tears streamed down her face as she cried silently.

"It's okay. Let it all out. It's okay, I'm here now." Lee rubbed her back and kissed her hair, trying to comfort her. Sure he had seen her cry before. He had even been the cause of some of those tears, he regretfully remembered. But seeing his Amanda, shaking uncontrollably, crying and overcome with terror filled him with anger. Seething anger to the one who caused this. Addi Birol.

Part 7
Amanda had finally stopped crying. She had let go of him long enough for him to get them some coffee. Lee set the cups on the table and sat back down next to her. Amanda was wiping her eyes with a tissue. Even with mascara running down her face, and red puffy eyes, Lee thought she was beautiful. He wanted to discuss so many things with her, but wanted her to start. She was the one that had to be ready.

With hands shaking slightly, Amanda reached over and picked up her coffee. She avoided Lee's eyes as she sipped. As with her mother the day before, she couldn't figure out where to begin.

"The nightmares," Amanda said quietly.

"Nightmares?" Lee repeated, not sure if he had heard her correctly.

Amanda started at the sound of Lee's voice. She hadn't realized that she had said that out loud. She quietly set the coffee on the table and sat back, staring into nothingness.

"Between the hallucinations and the nightmares, I'm so confused. I'm trying to separate was is real and what's not." She looked at Lee to see if he understood what she was trying to say. Lee took her hands into his and looked deeply into her eyes. "Tell me about them".

Amanda looked down, blushing. How could she tell Lee that she fantasized about him proposing to her; that she was confusing him with Addi Birol? Could she tell him such personal things?

Seeing her hesitation, Lee lifted her chin and gazed into her eyes. "Amanda, I understand what you're going through, I've been there myself. I learned the hard way, that you've got to talk about your feelings." He smiled. "I think you're the one that taught me that."

Amanda wrapped her arms around him tightly. She knew she wouldn't be able to look at him while she was talking, but needed to feel him close. "The first hallucination was a few hours after he kidnapped me..."

Lee listened silently to her whole story. When she mentioned the proposal, he started to say something, but she stiffened in his arms, so he stayed quiet. He could feel her shudder as she recounted the nightmares. By the time Amanda finished her story, she was openly crying again. Lee just held her close and said nothing, waiting for her to regain her composure. Things made so much more sense to him now.

Finally, Amanda looked up at him, trying to read his eyes. She saw concern and love. She was surprised to see a lone tear trailing down his cheek. She lovingly reached up and brushed it away. She was at a loss for words. She loved him so much. "Thank you" she whispered and gently touched her lips to his.

Overcome with emotion and the tenderness of her kiss, Lee buried his head in Amanda's shoulder. "I'm so sorry you went through all this. I wish I could have been there with you every moment."

Amanda held him tightly, smiling through her tears. "You were...every moment."

"Amanda, I think I can help you with part of your worries. What you thought was a hallucination about my proposal-" He felt Amanda tense up in his arms. As she looked down, he guided her chin back up. "Was real...that part was real." Amanda looked at him with such surprise, he laughed in spite of himself. "Everything else was a hallucination."

Amanda was momentarily speechless. Was it true? Was it really true? "You asked me you?" The last two words came out as a hoarse whisper.

Lee smiled and hugged Amanda tightly. "Yes, I did. And you said yes." They pulled apart reluctantly and he looked into her eyes. "Unless you've changed your mind," he said with a slight smile, his eyes twinkling.

"Not a chance!" she said adamantly. Lee smiled and leaned down to kiss her lips.

As if on cue, Dotty pulled into the driveway. Both smiled at yet another missed kiss. "Mother!" Amanda said. Lee quickly kissed her on the lips. "I know...time to make a hasty departure."

Later that evening

Lee felt a bit guilty, but not really. This was the second night in a row that he was at Amanda's house after dark. She had called him at around 10:00 p.m. to say goodnight. She mentioned her fear of going to sleep, and the nightmares coming back, but quickly turned down Lee's offer to spend the night. She was afraid of being caught by her mother or one of the boys. But, he reasoned, they didn't know that she was having horrible nightmares. They wouldn't understand if she awoke in fear. Having convinced himself that what he was doing was okay, Lee slowly climbed the trellis and sneaked into Amanda's room.

// "Time to go. Scarecrow is too close." Birol grabbed Amanda's arm and pulled her roughly out the door. Amanda was being led down a dark hallway. She stumbled a few times as she was all but dragged behind Birol. A door was opened and she was shoved inside. A dim light filled the room with shadows. "Amanda?" It was Lee's voice. "Lee?" //

Lee awoke to Amanda saying his name. He sat up in the chair next to Amanda's bed. Lee rubbed his eyes and ran a hand through his hair. Glancing at Amanda's clock he realized he had been asleep for twenty minutes. He got up and sat on the bed next to her. She was stirring, as if she was having a nightmare.

"I'm right here," he whispered, stroking her arm gently.

// "Lee? Is that you?" The tall figure in the shadows came forward. "Lee!" Amanda ran to him, throwing herself into his arms. "I knew you'd come for me." She held him tightly. A hand grabbed her hair and roughly pulled her head back. "I knew you would come for me". Birol mocked. "Your Scarecrow isn't coming for you, Mrs. King. I've already killed him!" //

Amanda sat straight up. "No! Lee!" she screamed out. Lee put his arm around her back and tried to lay her down. "Shhh, Amanda, it's okay, I'm here." Amanda, still asleep, continued to sit up. Lee softly shook her shoulders, trying to awaken her.

// Birol's other hand grabbed her shoulder and shook her harshly. Amanda put her hands up to her head, trying to untangle his hand from her hair. "And you are next, Mrs. King!" Amanda was thrown to the ground. As she slowly looked up at Birol, her eyes widened at the sight of his gun. "Your Scarecrow is dead, Mrs. King, and now you will join him!"

No! Please don't!" Amanda whimpered as Birol pointed the gun at her face. //

Amanda's hands went up to her face, as if shielding herself from something. Tears streamed down her cheeks. Lee couldn't seem to awaken her. Not knowing what else to do, he totally engulfed her in his arms, stroking her hair and kissing her head. "I'm here Amanda, I'm here".

// "I'm here Amanda, I'm here". Suddenly, Lee was in the room. He knelt down in front of Amanda and held her in his arms. "'re not dead?" Amanda asked, trembling.

Lee smiled that wonderful charming smile. "No. Everything is okay."

"I wouldn't say that!" Amanda heard the gun cock. "Lee! Watch out!"

"Excuse me just a moment, would you darling?" Lee asked calmly. He was on his feet and in moments had disarmed Birol. With one graceful kick to the face, Birol shattered into a thousand pieces. Lee went to Amanda, lifted her in his arms, gently set her on the cot and sat down beside her.

They held each other for a long moment. Slowly, Amanda drew back, looking into Lee's eyes. "I love you," she whispered, bringing up her hand, and running her fingers down his cheek.

"Amanda?" Lee said in an urgent voice. Amanda placed her finger on his lips with a "Shhh." She then quickly snaked one hand around his neck, her other hand exploring his chest. As Lee tried to say her name once more, Amanda touched her lips to his, first gently and then more forcefully. //

Lee didn't know where Amanda's dream was taking her, but he was enjoying it. As her kiss became more forceful, Lee only hoped she was also kissing him in her dream and not some dark mystery man. Lee forced himself to pull away. Amanda was still asleep and didn't know what she was doing.

Lee grabbed Amanda's arms, trying to disengage himself from her arms. "Amanda? Amanda, you need to wake up." Lee pulled back gently. "Oh, Lee," Amanda whispered, leaning forward towards him. Lee's hands went to Amanda's shoulders. "Amanda, wake up!"

Amanda's eyes slowly opened. She looked at Lee with sleepily and smiled. Her eyes opened wide as she realized that Lee was actually there for real and not just in her dream. "Lee! What are you...?"

Lee put a hand over Amanda's mouth. "Amanda, shhhh! You're mother will wake up, if she's not up already!" Amanda's eyes flitted to the door and she nodded. Lee slowly removed his hand.

"Lee!" Amanda whispered fiercely. "What are you doing here? How did you get in?"

Lee smiled, slightly embarrassed. "Well, you see, I was worried about you and your nightmares. I thought maybe if I was here when you were having one, I could calm you down."

"Lee, if that's not the silliest excuse I have ever..." Amanda stopped, her mind filling with the memory of her dream. "Wait," Amanda cocked her head and looked into Lee's eyes. "How did you do that?" Her brow was furrowed and she looked puzzled.

Lee returned her puzzled look with one of his own. "How did I do what? If you mean how did I get in, I climbed the trellis. I'm going to have to thank Joe one of these days for fixing it."

Amanda put a hand on his shoulder. "No," she said, frowning. "How did you get into my dream?"

"Oh, so you were dreaming about me. Thank goodness," Lee smiled sheepishly, thinking she'd remembered the kiss.

"No" Amanda said, shaking her head. "You came into my dream and killed Birol."

"What?" Lee looked closely at Amanda. "Tell me what happened."

Amanda grabbed the pillow next to her and hugged it. "Birol was moving me to somewhere. He told me he had killed you and was going to kill me next. Then all of a sudden you were there. You were so calm. You got the gun away from him and then kicked him into a thousand pieces. Then you carried me to the cot and..." Lee was starting to blush, which caused Amanda to stop what she was saying. "What are you not telling me?" she asked, suppressing a grin.

"Nothing," Lee said, his hands up in defense. "I came in through the window and sat in the chair so I could watch over you. I dozed off, but awoke when I heard you stirring. You started calling out, so I came over here to calm you down. You got pretty violent and I couldn't wake you, so I just held you and tried to comfort you."

"That is so weird. I could feel you holding me in my dream. You saved me. And then you, you" Amanda playfully slapped Lee's hand. "You kissed me! Lee! You should know better than to kiss a woman who's asleep."

Lee feigned ignorance. "Hey, you're the one who kissed me. You're just lucky it was me sitting beside you and not your mother." Amanda had to laugh.

Lee looked at the door. "I can't believe your mother didn't wake did scream a few times."

Amanda chuckled. "Mother could sleep through a hurricane!" Her face got serious and she took Lee's hands into hers. "Thank you. This is the first night since I've been home, that I haven't been terrified when I awoke during the night." They looked at each other for a long moment before Lee wrapped his arms around her.

Lee pulled away and looked into Amanda's eyes. "You need to get back to sleep. I'll be here if you need me."

"Oh, Lee. I don't want you spending all night in a chair watching me. You need your sleep too."

Lee slowly got off the bed. He didn't want to leave Amanda because he was worried about her. He looked into her eyes one last time. As he was about to say something, Amanda interrupted.

"The least I can do is let you sleep in the bed." She pulled up the covers invitingly. Lee smiled at the trust he had gained from Amanda. "Are you sure?" he asked.

"Lee," she smiled, blushing, "if you're going to watch over me all night, I don't want you to be uncomfortable. Besides, if your sitting in that chair changed my dream so drastically, how much more will happen with you here next to me?"

Lee smiled. He took off his shoes and slipped into bed. He was hesitant at first, but Amanda scooted over and fitted her body snugly against his. He put his arm protectively around her, amazed at the feeling of security he got from holding her. He kissed her forehead and closed his eyes, rubbing her arm with his thumb. He could get used to this.

Part 8
Lee slowly opened his eyes and looked around, momentarily confused at his surroundings. He looked down and smiled. Amanda was curled up in his arms. The first thing he noticed was her smile. He had awakened several times during the night, to check on Amanda, only to find her soundly sleeping. As far as he knew, she hadn't had any more nightmares. Lee yawned and looked over at the clock. It was 4:30 a.m. Lee decided he'd better leave before Amanda's family woke up and found him there. He gently disentangled himself from Amanda's arms and crept out of bed. He quickly put his shoes on. Lee tucked Amanda in, moved a stray hair from her eyes, then sat next to her and watched her for a moment. He couldn't wait until they were married so he could do this every night. He gently kissed her on the forehead and reluctantly moved towards the window. With one last longing look, Lee slipped out of her room.

Amanda awoke to her alarm going off. She looked around as thoughts of last night filled her mind. 'Where's Lee?' she wondered, afraid that the whole thing had been a dream. She looked at the empty space next to her on the bed, and smiled. There was still a dent in the pillow Lee had used. She leaned over and put her head down. She could still smell his aftershave. With a big smile on her face, Amanda got out of bed and headed for the shower.

After greeting Mrs. Marsten, Amanda made her way quickly up to the Q-bureau. She had stopped off at the store before work to pick up bread and milk. With Lee being a bachelor, it was Amanda's responsibility to stock the refrigerator. Dropping her briefcase off at her desk, Amanda went to the mini-fridge to deposit the groceries. Throwing away the paper bag, she walked over to her desk. Sitting down, her eyes fell upon a small blue box with a white ribbon. She held her breath as she slowly untied it. Inside was a small jewelry box. Amanda's heart skipped a beat as she opened it. She let her breath out with a quiet sigh as she gazed upon the beautiful solitaire diamond ring. Amanda carefully took it out of the box. Keeping her eye on the ring, she slowly turned to face Lee's desk. She looked at Lee's empty seat in amazement. How could she have been so lucky to find such a wonderful man? Amanda's thoughts were interrupted by the soft click of the door. She didn't have to look; she knew it was Lee. He came around and sat on the edge of her desk. Their eyes met. Lee carefully took the ring and slipped it onto her finger. Amanda again found herself holding her breath as she watched him. She noticed Lee's eyes were bright with tears. He grasped her hand, looking deep into her eyes. They both smiled and Lee bent down, kissing his fiancée. The end of a song flitted through Amanda's mind as she reveled in her feelings. "And for a moment the whole world, revolved around one boy and one girl."


Two months later...

Amanda's nightmares didn't just disappear the night Lee slept over. They had changed. They were scary, but didn't evoke feelings of terror anymore. Within two months, the nightmares had spanned out to about once a month.

Lee and Amanda agreed to keep their engagement a secret for the time being. Amanda wanted the boys to get to know him first before he became their stepfather. Lee kept Amanda's engagement ring at his apartment so she could wear it freely while she was there.

Two days after Christmas, while the boys were at Joe's, Dotty had a talk with Amanda. Amanda had been in the kitchen, cleaning out the refrigerator when Dotty walked in.

"Amanda?" Can we sit down in the living room and talk for a little while?" Dotty asked, pouring herself a cup of coffee.

Amanda was glad her head was in the refrigerator, so her mother couldn't see her face. Ever since she started working with Lee, whenever her mother wanted ask to talk, Amanda would get nervous. She was afraid of getting caught in a lie.

"Sure, Mother, I was just about finished. Just let me put the vegetables back." Amanda finished wiping down the vegetable drawer and put them back. She poured herself a cup of coffee and joined her mother on the couch.

"You know darling," Dotty started, placing a hand on her daughter's knee. "I've been meaning to talk to you about Lee."

Amanda looked down, blushing. "Mo-ther."

"I'm serious Amanda. As your mother, I have a right to know."

Amanda remained silent.

"How serious are you and Lee?"

Amanda thought about the question for a moment. They had been engaged for a little over two months. Lee had met the family twice yet still felt intimidated. Having never had a family of his own, Lee didn't quite know what to make of hers. They had both been skirting around dates for the wedding; both scared by the idea. After the Khai case, they had both agreed to keep their marriage a secret, so that her family would not become a target. Amanda tried to think of an answer for her mother.

"Mother, we haven't been dating very long, we'd both like to take it slow. I don't think either of us is sure about anything right now. I really care about Lee and he really cares about me and that's all that matters to us right now." Amanda figured she hadn't really lied, since she was describing their relationship before Lee had said, "I love you." She had just left out everything that had happened since then.

Dotty literally beamed at Amanda's words. "Oh, Amanda! I'm so happy for you! You put off dating that man for so long, I thought you two would never get together. Now that you have, you look very happy, darling. I have a feeling that Lee is the one-I've felt it since the day I met him. I can see it in the way you two look at each other. He's such a gentleman, and, Amanda, I really like him."

Amanda laughed, remembering how flustered her mother was when Lee had brought her flowers. Amanda knew that Lee and won Mother over at that moment. "Mother," Amanda interrupted, "I like him too," She giggled.

"Amanda, it's just that I was worried about you for so long. With the kidnapping and everything else, it took awhile for you to bounce back. And now with you dating Lee, I know I don't have to worry."

Amanda hugged her mother, as tears filled her eyes. "Thank you Mother, for everything. I love you." Amanda enjoyed the feeling of safety she had in her mother's arms. She felt she had come full circle. Things had changed so much in the past four months. She was no longer the same person. Amanda knew it was the kidnapping that brought about the change; Mother and Lee were the ones that helped her along the way. It was a long road, but they stayed beside her, each helping out in their different way. Sitting on the couch, in her mother's arms, Amanda finally closed the door on Addi Birol.