Amanda King sat at her desk in Q-Bureau. There was nothing going on, and things were getting a little boring. Lee stared unseeing at his computer, drumming his fingers on his desk. It was grating on Amanda's nerves.
"Lee, could you please stop that?" Amanda said with an edge in her voice. Lee was a good friend, her best friend. But boy when he was bored, he drove her insane.
Lee looked over at her, exasperated. "By all means, Your Highness," he smirked.
Amanda rolled her eyes. Just then, Billy entered the office. "Okay, kids, I've got an assignment for you."
"It's about time!"
Lee and Amanda replied at once. Billy smiled. "You may not be so excited when I tell you what it is."
"Well, then tell us, Billy. We'll be happy with anything." Lee said.
"Good, I'm glad to hear it," Billy rubbed his hands together. "Because everyone is being assigned to spring cleaning!"
"Spring cleaning, come on Billy, you can't be serious!" Lee laughed. Billy didn't join him.
"You are serious," Lee realized.
"Clean out your desks, go through old files and case notes, if anything is important enough to keep, take it down to the archives, if not, to the incinerator. Get on it."
Billy left the office, leaving Lee and Amanda staring at each other in disbelief.
They both started half-heartedly going through their desks, looking at scraps of paper and phone numbers that had been hastily written on the back of gum wrappers.
Neither of them spoke for about an hour, and then Amanda looked at Lee. "I can't take much more of this, Stetson."
Lee laughed. "I know, me neither!" he agreed. "Let's go get some lunch."
"Sounds good to me," Amanda grinned.
"Oh, Amanda - this is your handwriting, but it was in my desk. A number for a guy named Robert Lawson?" He held it out to her.
She took it and stuffed it in a pocket. "Just a guy who gave me his number in a bar!" she laughed. "I wonder how it got in your drawer?"
"Beats me," Lee shrugged. "Did you call him?" he asked casually.
"Oh, please," Amanda laughed again. "Me? Call some barfly? That's rich!"
Lee laughed too, and choked down the feeling of relief he felt. Weird, what did he care if a strange man gave Amanda his number? Because she's my partner, that's why, and I worry about her.
They had lunch in a deli, and talked about everything and nothing. Neither knew when they had come to be so comfortable with each other, it had come about so gradually.
Lee listened as Amanda related Phillip and Jamie's latest exploits. She has the most amazing eyes, he thought, but immediately put the thought out of his head.
When they finished lunch, they decided to walk for a while rather than go back to the Agency for more spring cleaning. They wandered around window-shopping, hand-in-hand.
When did I take her hand? Lee asked himself. It just happens so naturally. Well, we're together so much, and sometimes we're posing as a married couple, so I guess that's why. Nonchalantly, he let her hand go to fix his collar, and didn't grab it again.
Amanda didn't even think about it when Lee let her hand go. For her too, it was just a natural gesture of friendship and companionship. Amanda had long resigned herself to the fact that nothing romantic would ever come of their relationship. And when she really thought about it, it made sense. It would never work out; they were too different.
Finally, they headed back to the office and worked companionably for a while longer. Before they knew it, it was time to go home.
They both gathered their jackets and keys, and walked out together. When they parted for the evening, unthinkingly Amanda kissed Lee on the cheek.
"Goodnight, Lee," she said cheerfully and turned to get into her car. "See you tomorrow."
Lee unconsciously put a hand up to his cheek. "Yeah, goodnight," he said. After she drove away, Lee stood there for a moment. Why had her simple kiss, an act of friendship, affected him so much?
Shrugging it off, Lee drove home and called an old friend, Nancy. He eagerly prepared for the date, and picked her up at seven. But he was bored all night, and ended the evening early.
As he lay in bed that night, he wondered wht had happened. I used to love taking Nancy out. She was always so entertaining and funny. Tonight she seemed vapid and pathetic. Had she changed? No, not really. Lee fell asleep, and dreamed about being at a crossroads. He awoke with a sense of dissatisfaction and malcontent.
Amanda went home, fixed dinner, did the laundry, and watched a movie with her mother. The phone rang, and she reached over to answer it. "Hello," she greeted.
Dottie watched her daughter's face register recognition and a small smile tugged at her mouth. "Of course I'm glad to hear from you, Dean!" she said.
After a brief conversation, she hung up. "That was Dean, Mother."
"I heard that!" Dottie told her. "What did he want?"
"He wants to have lunch with me tomorrow," Amanda said. "He's meeting me at that little fifties diner on 9th street."
"How wonderful, dear!" Dottie was clearly delighted.
The next morning, Lee and Amanda arrived at the same time and started working on files.
"How was your evening?" Amanda asked.
"Fine, just fine," Lee said. "Yours?"
"Great," she replied, smiling. "Guess who called me?"
Lee groaned inwardly. "Amanda, you broke up with him."
"Yeah, I know I did," she conceded. "But he just wants to meet for lunch. I'm sure it's just for old times' sake."
"And if it's not?" Lee watched her.
"Then, I'll take it from there," she shrugged.
"But wouldn't you still have the same barrier with a relationship with Dean that you had last time?" he asked reasonably.
Amanda smiled a crooked smile. "No, actually. That barrier is long gone."
"Oh," Lee replied, clearly confused. After a moment, he cleared his throat and said, "I, uh, met up with a friend of mine last night, too," he informed her, not wanting to be outdone. "Nancy."
Amanda smiled. "That's nice!"
Lee had not gotten the response he was hoping for. "Yeah, she was real glad to see me, it'd been a while."
"Umm-hmmm," was her only response, as she was more involved in the case file on her desk.
Lee let the subject drop. A couple years ago, she would have lectured him on seeing too many women, or acted jealous, even though she didn't realize she was showing jealously. He kind of missed it.
Now why would you miss that, Stetson? He asked himself. That's ridiculous.
Still, he got up and went over to her desk, and placed a file on it. "Amanda," he said, leaning down close over her shoulder, "I can't read this word. Can you?"
Amanda noted the close proximity of Lee. She could smell his aftershave. Nevermind, she told herself firmly. "Franchise," she interpreted.
"Are you sure?" he asked her, remaining where he was.
"Quite," she laughed, turning her head toward his slightly.
For an instant, their eyes met and held. Amanda was the first to break contact. "Well," she said, proud of her steady voice. "I should be going, it's almost noon."
"Yeah," I think I'll grab a bite of lunch myself.
After Amanda left, Lee took a moment to chastise himself.
What are you thinking, Stetson? That's the problem, you're NOT. Lee grabbed
his keys, and ran out to surreptitiously follow Amanda to her rendezvous
Amanda met Dean at Moe's Diner. They hugged briefly, and were lead to a table by the window.
This was most convenient for Lee, who had followed Amanda, grabbed a couple of hot dogs from a vendor, and was now in the park across the street, watching Amanda intently.
As he munched, he rationalized his actions. Amanda doesn't know what she's doing. They broke up before, and no matter what she says, if she didn't love him before, she won't love him now! And what 'barrier' was there before that isn't now?
He smiled. Amanda would kill him if she knew what he was doing. She would call it spying. It wasn't spying, per say, it was more like...concern for one's partner. He needed her in good emotional condition if she was going to do a good job. It was like...protection. Like a big brother watching over his sister. No! His inner mind screamed. Not like a sister, not Amanda...
Why not? He thought about that for a minute: if I have no romantic inclination towards Amanda, then why shouldn't I think of her as a sister? I consider her my friend...my best friend. Best friend. Yes! That's it. He was feeling concern for his best friend.
Ahhh, it felt good to have a rationalization. He noticed that Dean had reached across the table and taken Amanda's hands in his. Sneering, Lee finished off the last of his hot dog.
The waitress brought their lunches, and they had to release hands. "Ha!" Lee exclaimed aloud. A woman on a park bench gave him a look, and stood up to leave. You never knew about men who talked to themselves.
When they stood up, Lee raced back to the office to be there when Amanda returned. But she didn't come back for another half hour. It was driving Lee nuts. I should have followed them again, but I didn't want Amanda to see me.
Just then, Amanda came into the office. "Hi," she greeted him with a smile. "How was your lunch?"
"Good, and yours?" he smiled back.
"Great. That little diner is pretty good, actually."
"And what did you do after that?" he asked, and then almost cursed aloud. He knew better than that, he was a trained agent, for Pete's sake!
"After that?" Amanda looked at him quizically.
"Yeah, well, you've been gone..." Lee glanced at his watch, "Well over an hour and a half. You didn't stay at the diner the whole time, did you?" Lame, he thought. Lame, lame, lame!
Amanda shook off the weird vibes he was sending. "As a matter of fact, no. We just took a walk, and talked."
"Oh," Lee nodded, and became immediately absorbed in his file.
Amanda went back to work, too. Her phone rang. "Amanda King," she said, picking it up. "Oh, hi Dean."
Lee looked up sharply. The guy just left her, and here he was calling her already. Obsessed - the guy was obsessed!
"This weekend?" Amanda was saying. "That's awfully soon...well, I know that," she blushed for some reason Lee couldn't fathom.
"I don't know. That's only three days away," she was stalling. "Let me think about it. Yeah, I know. Yeah. Okay, bye."
Lee watched her as she replaced the receiver. She looked up to find him looking at her questioningly.
Well, I'm not going to tell Lee that Dean just invited me to go away with him for the weekend, she thought, and went back to her case notes.
Lee was more than a little disappointed. What was up with her? He kept working, but kept taking several peeks at her while she worked. She seemed distracted.
Now she absently fiddled with the telephone cord. "Anything wrong?" Lee asked solicitously.
"Oh, no. Just thinking," she replied.
"About..." Lee prompted.
Amanda looked up. He's not usually this nosy, she thought. I wonder what he thinks is going on here, anyway. But...he is my friend. Maybe I should get some advice.
"Well," she began, having made up her mind. "Dean wants me to go away with him for the weekend. He wants to talk about what went wrong, and try to make a clean start. But I don't know if I'm ready to do that. We went through this before, and it didn't work out, and Mother and even the boys were disappointed. I'd hate to put all of us through that again, you know?"
"Oh, yeah," Lee agreed. "Bad idea."
"On the other hand," Amanda continued, "like I said before, last time there were...extenuating circumstances, on my part, which no longer exist. So I have to wonder how things would have turned out if that...barrier hadn't been there before."
Lee said, "Well...maybe if we talk about that barrier..."
"No way," Amanda said firmly. "I am not talking about the barrier with you!"
Lee was taken aback. "Sorry, just trying to help," he said.
"Sorry," Amanda told him. "I just know for a fact that discussing the barrier with you would not help me," she said wryly.
"Fair enough," Lee replied, but inside, for reasons unknown
to himself, his stomach was churning and he felt like he was drowning.
Before they left for the day, Lee asked Amanda, "So...what are you going to do?"
Lee was the last person she felt like discussing this with. She didn't know why, at least not on the surface. But she felt like a wrench was twisting her insides.
She placed a hand on her stomach. "I really don't know. I feel so... apprehensive. I have a lot of doubts. It's just that I let Dean go once, and now in a way, I kind of regret it. It's like, I almost can imagine what it would be like now if we'd married, and it wouldn't be bad, you know?"
"Wouldn't be bad?" Lee looked at his partner incredulously. "Amanda, you deserve a lot better than 'not bad'! Listen to what you're saying."
Amanda thought, what irony! I seem to remember similar conversations in the past. To Lee she said, "Lee, please. Don't lecture me about finding someone I can have passion and romance with, because maybe it's time I faced the fact that it won't come along. I have the boys to think about. I mean if something happened to me and they were alone it would be nice if they had a father. And they like Dean. No, I need to focus on his stability and the fact that he does love me, and I think we'd be happy together."
"Well, I guess I'm not one to lecture you on finding your soul-mate or anything. I just want you to be happy. You're...you're my best friend." And soul-mate, he added to himself, then shoved the thought to the back of his mind.
"I appreciate it, Lee. I really do. But..." she shook her head. She grabbed the phone and dialed Dean's number.
Lee hastily got up from his desk and grabbed her hand. Taking the phone from her, he said, "Sorry. I, uhhh...do you really think you've given this enough thought?"
"Lee," Amanda groaned. "Maybe I've given it too much thought. Maybe I think too much. That's gotten me into a lot of trouble in the past. Maybe I need to just go, have a nice time, and talk things over."
Lee couldn't stand the idea of Amanda going away for a romantic weekend with Dean, but he couldn't bring himself to say so. Instead, he let go of her hand and said, "Well, whatever you think is best."
He tried to ignore the sound of Amanda's voice as she told Dean she would go with him. He mentally kicked his feelings aside, not facing them.
Later that night, Amanda was packing for the weekend. Dottie had taken the boys to see the latest space flick, and Amanda had the house to herself. She went downstairs for some wine.
As she turned out the kitchen light to head back upstairs, she heard a rapping at her window. Lee, she thought with a smile.
She went to the door and opened it. Instead of seeing Lee, she saw a man with a ski mask come at her, and a cloth of chloroform covered her face.
She woke up in a dark room. This was really getting old, she thought to herself with a moan.
"Amanda?" Lee's voice came to her through the darkness.
"Lee!" They crawled toward each other in the dark. Finding Amanda, Lee wrapped his arms around her tightly. "Are you okay?"
"Except for a pounding headache," she told him. "What's going on?"
"I'm not sure. There was a knock at my door and when I opened it, I was attacked. I blacked out, and woke up here. Nobody has been here."
"Someone knocked at my back door, and I thought it was you! Some guy in a ski mask."
"Let's try to get out of here," Lee said.
They walked around, feeling for a door or window. After a couple of minutes, they heard a door creak open.
"Scarecrow, Mrs. King. How nice of you to join me."
Lee took Amanda's hand. "Who are you?" he asked.
A light switched on. "You killed my brother, Addi Birol. Now I am going to avenge him by killing you."
Amanda almost fainted. The memories that experience brought to her mind filled her with dread. Lee caught her and supported her.
"I didn't 'kill' your brother," Lee told him.
"He died in prison last month. You put him there. You killed him," his voice was quiet as he spoke, but he had a glint in his eyes. "Which one of you wants to watch the other die?"
Neither of them spoke. They stood, clinging to each other, staring at this crazed man.
"I think..." he narrowed his eyes, watching Lee. "I think you'll be first," he said as he grabbed Amanda.
He pushed Amanda against the wall and pulled out a 12-inch knife. He held it up to her neck, and said, "Do you want to die slowly? Or shall I just cut off your head?" He placed his lips on Amanda's and kissed her roughly. She couldn't fight him, because the knife would slice her throat if she moved at all.
Anger surged through Lee. Stealthily, he came up behind Birol and grabbed his arms, yanking him back. Surprised, Birol spun around and jabbed, barely missing Lee's arm.
Lee socked him, and he reached up to his face in pain. Blood began to trickle out of his mouth. Fury shone in his eyes, and he ran at Lee, the knife poised. Lee ducked and punched him hard in the stomach. Birol reeled, clutching his stomach.
Battered for the moment, he headed toward the door. "I will be back soon. I will not be alone. For what you have done, I will slice the woman piece by piece while you watch. You will not have the opportunity to best me again."
He went out, turning the light out and slamming the door. They heard the sound of several deadbolts locking, one after the other. Amanda slid down the wall, shaking uncontrollably. Lee went to her. he put his arms around her, and she grabbed his shirt sleeve.
"I'm going to die..." she said helplessly.
"No!" Lee looked around desperately. There were no windows, no other exits. "I won't let him touch you, Amanda."
"You heard him. He's bringing others with him. You can't stop him, Lee." Amanda's face was white as a sheet. "I'm so scared."
Lee hugged her tightly. "We have to get out of here."
"There's no way," Amanda cried. She buried her face in his chest.
Lee held her close. "Amanda...This is a horrible time to tell you this, but in case...I love you."
A huge weight was lifted from Lee. As he said the words, the realization dawned on him. I do, he affirmed to himself. I love her so much, and I've wasted all this time denying it.
Amanda looked into his eyes. "I didn't know...," she said, her own eyes filling with tears. "I love you, too."
They huddled together, both thinking of the last time they had been in this situation together, with Addi Birol. I loved her even then, Lee acknowledged to himself. I can't believe I never told her, or admitted it myself.
Hours passed, and they fell asleep. Finally, the door opened slowly, and they both jolted awake, holding on to each other.
Footsteps sounded on the cement floor, and Amanda began to shake again as Lee held her protectively.
A voice whispered in the darkness. "Where's the damn light switch?" It was Francine!
"Francine!" Lee's voice exclaimed.
"Lee? What are you doing here?" Francine asked as she switched on the light.
"What do you mean? We were brought here by Addi Birol's brother. He means to kill us," Lee said.
"Not anymore," Francine said, watching Lee and Amanda stand up together and Lee take Amanda's hand in his. "We got an anonymous tip that something was going on in this vacant house. We captured Birol and his men. I was just finishing up checking this place out. I'm glad I checked the cellar!"
Later that night...
Amanda had only seen Lee once after their seperate debriefings. Before going into Billy's office, he had come over to her. They had stood awkwardly, not knowing what to say. Then he had said, "Why don't you, ah...go on home, and I'll give you a call later. I'll be here for a while."
"Okay," she had agreed, noting his discomfiture with her. He had opened his mouth to say something, but then turned and gone into Billy's office.
He hadn't called. Dottie and the boys had gone to bed, but Amanda didn't feel like she could sleep. She sat in the den with the television on for a couple hours. It would be the same as it always had. Lee was avoiding her now, and if he mentioned the words between them at all, it would be to excuse them as of no import.
After a couple of hours, she went upstairs and laid down on the bed in her jeans and t-shirt. Within minutes, she fell asleep, exhausted.
Lee crept up the trellis outside Amanda's bedroom. He had tried to sleep, and couldn't. He had gone over and over in his mind what had passed between them. He had thought of a thousand rationalizations, but realized that even he wasn't buying them. He loved Amanda King, and now he had hurt her by staying away, not even calling.
He tapped on her window. He could see her, sound asleep and fully clothed, on her bed. She didn't stir. He tried the window; it wasn't locked. Slipping into her room, he gently said her name. Still, she didn't wake up.
He sat on the edge of her bed, and brushed the hair off her face. "Amanda," he said a little louder.
She rolled onto her back and stretched. When she opened her eyes, she gasped. "Lee!" she whispered, wide awake now. "You scared me to death!"
"I'm sorry," he said.
"What are you doing here?" she asked him as she scooted away from him and leaned against the headboard.
"I came to talk to you," he spoke quietly. He scooted closer to face her. "I think we need to talk about what happened, don't you?"
"I talked about it enough at the debriefing, Lee, I don't want to talk about it anymore," she deliberately avoided what she knew he was referring to.
"Not that, Amanda," Lee took her hand in his. "What we said to each other."
"Oh," she said, thinking, here it comes.
"I don't want you going away with Dean this weekend, or ever. It would kill me. Please don't go." He looked at her to see her reaction.
"Why not?" she asked evenly.
Lee looked at her longingly for a long moment. Then he leaned over slowly, staring into her eyes. She could feel his breath, smell his cologne. "Because I'm in love with you, and I want you for myself," he confessed in a low whisper. He kissed her, a slow lingering kiss. When he pulled away, she was staring at him with wide eyes.
"What?" he asked, and cleared his throat. What that single kiss had done to him...
"You kissed me," Amanda said, barely breathing.
Lee smiled. "Yes, I did. I'm going to do it again, too," he whispered as he leaned in again. This time, the kiss was more fervent, deeper.
Amanda could not believe what was happening to her. She felt like she was dreaming.
Lee had never had this happen to him before. By simply kissing Amanda, he was experiencing a world of feelings he'd never felt before in his most intimate moments.
They broke apart to look at each other. Their desire and love was evident in their eyes.
"Tell me," Lee said huskily.
"Tell you what?" Amanda breathed.
"Tell me you'll belong to me forever. Tell me you won't go away with Dean. Please, Amanda. Just tell me." Lee's last words were muffled in Amanda's neck.
"Who's Dean?" Amanda asked, and her laugh was smothered by Lee's kiss.
In the morning, Amanda woke up with Lee's arms around her. She didn't remember falling asleep.
She turned to face him, propping herself up on one elbow. She could not believe she had Lee Stetson here in her bed. She idly toyed with the buttons on his shirt, and undid the second one down from his collar. A small smile on Lee's lips told her he was awake.
She unbuttoned his shirt a little more, and slid her hand inside. Suddenly, he opened his eyes, grabbed her and turned her onto her back. "Just what do you think you're doing, Mrs. King?"
"Just seeing what you're stuffed with, Scarecrow," she teased.
Lee rested his hand on her side and kissed her. "I love you," he said, his eyes serious and sincere.
"I love you, too," she smiled, and wrapped her arms around his neck. "We'd better get you out of here before-"
"Amanda?" Dottie called. "Who are you talking to, dear?"
"I'm not talking to anyone, Mother," Amanda called, just
before Lee's lips met hers again.