Author's Notes: Sorry for the delay - my son has been having some serious asthma problems which has really limited my writing time. This is my first SMK story and all constructive comments are welcome.
The brightness in the room forced him to consciousness. Stetson groaned in protest, shifting uncomfortably in the bed. As he moved, waves of pain radiated through his battered body.
His struggle was brief. Unwilling to grapple with the pain, the fight drained out of Lee's body and a deep sigh escaped from his lips. Stetson's eyes slowly opened. They flickered around the room, once again taking in the unfamiliar surroundings around him.
Stetson took a deep breath as memories of the past three days flooded his mind, chasing away the last remnants of sleep.
There was no denying that he was trapped . . . trapped in a prison. But even the chintz wallpaper and Victorian furnishings that cluttered room couldn't hide the fact that Lee Stetson, code name Scarecrow, was trapped with no hope of escape.
His eyes came to rest on the thick, plaster cast that encased his right leg.
Stetson grunted in frustration. His captor hadn't even bothered to restrain him in any way, knowing that his physical condition made escape impossible.
Lee listened for a moment to the birds chirping outside of his window.
**Stupid birds . . .**Stetson grumbled as he listened to
their melodic song. If it hadn't been for those birds, he wouldn't be in the position he was in now, out of commission with a broken leg.
Stetson let out a ragged breath. He couldn't blame his current predicament entirely on the creatures outside that were trumpeting the change in season. Grudgingly, he admitted to himself that his pride was just as much responsible for what happened as the birds were.
The smell of brewing coffee and frying bacon filled the air. Lee frowned. For a moment, while it was just him and those damn birds, he could pretend that he was alone – but he wasn't.
The aroma of the cooking food meant that his tormentor would soon be in to poke and prod at him and demand information from Lee that he couldn't – - no wouldn't - - give. The interrogations had been brief so far but, as his strength returned, Stetson expected that would change.
Not that it mattered. Nothing mattered except keeping any information
about his current condition from the outside world and
Amanda King, in particular. Lee prided himself on being the best operative that The Agency had to offer. He'd make it through whatever interrogations his jailer had to offer in true Scarecrow fashion.
The sound of footsteps echoed down the corridor, coming towards him.
He took a deep breath and steeled his nerve. It didn't matter what
they threw at him -he'd never crack. Distracted by the tantalizing smell
of the food, Lee's resolved weakened. The things he longed
for were within his grasp, a decent meal and uninterrupted sleep – all
that and more would be his if he'd just give his jailer the answers to
some questions . . .
"And how is the patient today?" The door creaked as it opened the rest of the way.
"Better," Lee growled curtly. He knew that the breakfast, the plush surroundings, all of it was a ruse to break down his resistance to the questions.
**She's trying to kill me with kindness . . .** Stetson thought grimly. **Well it won't work . . . she won't break me down . . .**
The blond haired woman let out a heavy sigh as she walked across the room.
"Chatty today, aren't we?" Francine Desmond continued, setting the tray in front of Stetson. "Your leg might be better but I can see your mood hasn't improved any."
"Thanks to you," Stetson shot back. Under normal circumstances, he enjoyed a good verbal sparring match with Desmond but his current situation was far from normal. "If you'd just leave me alone and stop questioning me . . ."
The elegantly coiffed woman gave Stetson a look of disgust. "And miss an opportunity to find out what is going on between you and that . . . that HOUSEWIFE?"
Lee felt his hackles rise. It angered him when Francine made the word housewife sound like some kind of fatal disease. There was much more to Amanda than just being a housewife . . . much, much more.
"You owe me, Lee, remember? Remember how I came to your rescue? So you could remain the dashing secret agent in Amanda's eyes and not have your masculine ego bruised?"
Stetson felt his patience wearing thin. "You're not going to let me forget that, are you, Francine."
Her mood lightened. "Not a chance, Lee. " She smiled at
him. "Billy covered for you and told Amanda you were away on a
special assignment. I'm sure she'd like to know where you really are and how you broke your leg."
Francine nodded slowly. "Of course I would – today in fact, unless you tell me exactly WHAT is going on between the two of you. And I mean everything!"
"There's nothing to tell . . ."
"Oh, really? Then why are you and Amanda the topic of every conversation at the water cooler?" She shook her head. "Drop the act, Lee. We've all seen those sly little looks the two of you exchange and how protective you are of her. Look at what happened to you the other day – Lee Stetson, a confirmed ladies man, up on a ladder, trimming trees at Amanda's house? I never would have believed it if I hadn't seen you laying on the ground, tangled up in all those branches!"
"I was trying to avoid a nest of birds!" Lee interjected loudly.
There was a truth to Francine's words that no amount of protest on his part could erase. The past few days had given him a lot of time to think about Amanda and just when their relationship had changed from being just partners to something more. Stetson had tried for so long to get rid of Amanda and now – now he couldn't see anyone but her at his side. The little black books he kept, the stable of dates, none of that mattered anymore.
But he'd never admit that. He wasn't even sure if Amanda felt the same way he did. Lee couldn't say anything to Francine or anyone else – not until the time was right. Not until he and Amanda could get together and figure out where these new feelings were going to take them.
His emotions firmly under control, Stetson finally spoke. "You're wasting your time, Francine. There's nothing going on between Amanda and I." He took a deep breath and began to eye the breakfast in front of him warily. Francine's cooking was nowhere near as good as what he knew Amanda could create. "So thanks for the breakfast and we'll just leave it at that."
Desmond's jaw tightened. Fury blazed in her eyes. "All right, have it your way, Lee." She glanced at her watch. "If I leave now, I can probably catch Amanda before the briefing that Billy has scheduled for 9:00 o'clock."
She turned on her heels and left the room. A few minutes later, Stetson heard the front door slam shut.
**Ticking Francine off was a dumb move . . .** Lee thought grimly.
**Once Amanda finds out what happened, that's the end of any chance I might
have had to get closer to her . . .**
**I really blew it . . .** he muttered under his breath.
The breakfast was cold. Lee pushed the tray away. After maneuvering the heavy cast into a comfortable position, he settled back against the pillows.
He wasn't aware of the passage of time, until the soft click of the front door invaded his sleep. The sun had shifted position and was now making shadows on the wall.
"Must be afternoon . . .," Lee mumbled, groggily. He heard the sound of footsteps coming toward him. "Francine must have come home early . . .**
His leg was aching again. The last thing he needed was to go another round with Francine and her questions.
He heard the footsteps stop outside the door.
Lee's eyes closed again. **Maybe Francine will go away if I pretend to be asleep. . .**
The door creaked and then he heard someone gasp in surprise.
"Oh, Lee . . ."
Stetson felt a sinking feeling in his stomach. It wasn't Francine – it was Amanda. He tried to keep his breathing even as he listened for the sound of reproach that he was certain would follow.
For the second time in less than five minutes, Lee Stetson was wrong. The woman moved to his beside.
"Oh, Lee," she whispered. "Look at what those stupid trees have done to you. I could have hired someone to take care of that. But partners and friends, good friends, well they can't be replaced . . ."
Amanda moved closer and, for a moment, Lee felt the touch of her soft lips against his. Stetson savored the moment, wishing that it could go on indefinitely. He'd have to remember to thank Francine for letting the cat out of the bag later. After all, if it wasn't for her, he'd never have found out that for the first time in his life, he'd found someone like Amanda, someone who'd care about him even though he'd messed up.
Good friends . . . he hoped for that, and so much more, for the two of them.