The silence was so thick it could have been cut with a knife. The only sounds in the room were their breaths.. A single drop of sweat made its way on Lee Stetson's face, he could feel it caressing his jaw line. He clenched his fists so hard that his knuckles became white.
Addi Birol was behind him, and Lee thought he couldn't look again at him, without recalling Amanda's face when he had found her. He couldn't be in the same room with that monster, without recalling how close he had been this time to lose her for good.
He took a deep breath, trying to tell to himself that Amanda was safe now. She was still weak and very tired. She hadn't eaten or slept for days. Lee Stetson had watched her for hours, while she was asleep, reassuring himself that she still breathed, placing a hand on her chest to make sure her heart, her beautiful, caring heart was still beating.
He had almost let out that sigh of relief he'd been holding since he'd seen her, when Amanda had moaned in her sleep. His heart had skipped a beat when he'd got closer to her, the smile she'd when she'd fallen asleep, had faded in a grimace of fear, tears were slowly caressing her cheeks.
"No..." she'd moaned, again. "please...don't ..." she had mumbled. Suddenly that room had become too small, too hot. That sigh had become a lump in his throat which had forbidden him to breathe. He'd gotten out from Amanda's room and had come in the chamber where Addi Birol had been held since his capture.
Francine had been there when he'd entered the room. She was questioning him. she wasn't using her usual skills though. When he'd entered, her hand had been in his hair... not because she was trying to seduce him, but because she'd forced him to raise his head to meet her glare. Her face had been close to his mouth, but there hadn't been soft whispers, just hissed requests.
Lee knew when Francine was pissed off, and in that moment she'd been beyond pissed. She had been furious.
She had let go of him, when Lee had entered. Again, Lee had almost smiled when taking a seat he'd softly said, "Please go on..."
Birol had smiled then, and looking at him had asked, "How is Amanda?"
"Fine. She's fine Birol." Lee had calmly said. Only Francine, who'd known him for years, had been able to see the anger in his eyes. She'd taken him again by his hair and had hissed, "Just tell us what we want to know..."
"Just fuck off, bitch!" Birol had said. Francine had shook her head and looking at Lee had said, "I think the bitch here, is going to take a long cup of coffee" she'd reached the door and purred, "have fun"
She'd left the room, leaving the two of them alone. Lee had watched Birol for minutes, calmly studying his features, Birol had uncomfortably shifted on his chair, trying to avoid Lee's piercing glare, then finally turning toward him had snapped, "What the fuck are you staring at, Scarecrow? You know I won't talk!"
Lee had gotten up and smiling had said, "Oh, I know Birol. I was just thinking that you're so good with women," he had paused then shaking his head had added, "And you wonder why your mole was a woman?"
He had begun pacing the room and looking at him had said, "Face it Birol, you're a pathetic loser! The Karbala is destroyed, your 'friends' have gone away...and look! You're here now..."
"I won't be here too long. I can promise you" Birol had said
Again Lee had smiled, though goose bumps had covered his arms at the man's words, he'd stopped on his tracks and nodding had said, "Birol, do you realize that a housewife has been able to beat you? You haven't been able to make her talk...I'm looking forward to letting this information slip in your entourage: miss Suburbia has fooled Addi Birol..."
"You just want me to talk ...but I won't" Birol had coldly said
Lee had flashed his best smile to him and had said, "Talk? Who say I'm here to make you talk?"
He had knelt next to Birol, who had lightly squirmed and had hissed against his ear, "You don't get it, don't you? I'm here to kill you"
"You won't kill me here...I know they're watching on us" Birol had said pointing toward the fake mirror.
Lee had gotten up and had rested his back against a wall, "You forget I'm in the Agency, you forget you've kidnapped one of us...they wouldn't press charges against me...they'd probably give me a medal"
Birol had swallowed, then looking at him had asked, "So, what are you waiting for? I'm sure you've a gun...just pull the trigger "
Again, Lee had smiled, while he had gotten close to him, he'd rested his hands on Birol's shoulders, he hated just the presence of that man, let alone touching him. He had fought against a sudden urge to vomit, then he had hissed against Birol's jaw, "You don't understand, you asshole! I'll decide when and where to kill you and I can promise you I won't use a gun" he'd strengthened his grip on Birol's shoulders and had added, "I'll do it with my bare hands...and I swear it to you, you little weasel...when I'm done with you, you'll beg me to use a gun. So I'm kindly suggesting you to talk to whomever enter this room. If they ask you to jump your only answer has got to be, 'how high?' if they ask you for names , you'll give them names..."
He'd strengthened once more his grip, Birol had weakly moaned, Lee had nodded and asked, "Have I made myself clear? Trust me Birol, you're going to be safer in a prison..." he'd smiled and added, "and besides, I'm sure your inmates will be glad to get to know you, I've heard some of them prefer exotic flesh... "
He'd let go of Birol's shoulders and had took some steps toward the door when Birol's voice had made him stop on his tracks.
"We're not that different, Scarecrow. I wonder whether *your* Amanda realizes that"
Lee felt that single drop of sweat gently tickle his neck. His hands hurt , he opened them slowly. He Focused on them, shutting out of his mind what Birol had just told him. focusing on his hands instead than his pounding heart.
"Does she know you're a monster, Scarecrow? Does she know how similar we are?" asked Birol, he laughed then added, "How long it will take to miss. Suburbia to realize that? She thinks you're her knight in shining armor, doesn't she? But what do you think is going to happen when she realizes you're a killer, just like me? Think about it, Scarecrow. After all we both kill for what we think is right...you see me as a monster and you consider yourself a patriot don't you? But how many men have you killed for what you believed was right? I bet the numbers are quite similar. I tortured and threatened men and women...I tortured and threatened *your* Amanda, but how would you call what you just did to me? Oh, I'm sure about what you told me. I know you'd gladly kill me with your bare hands, Scarecrow..." he stopped talking for a second then added in a low voice, "just like me. And I know something else Scarecrow, you'd enjoy every moment of it"
Lee closed his eyes, trying to ignore what Birol had just said. He thought about Amanda, about the trust, the devotion, the love he'd always seen in her eyes, except...
Except when he'd hit her. He'd clearly seen something cracking within her that day. Though she'd understood and she'd forgiven him, he hadn't been able to do the same. Truth be told he still didn't know why he'd hit her. He'd done to protect his cover, or that was he still kept telling to himself, but what if there was something else? What if Birol was right and he was a monster, just like him?
He'd always been proud about his job, he'd always believed in what he did, he'd always believed he was a decent person, trying to make the world a better place to live in. He was beginning to doubt that. Lee Stetson opened his eyes, whatever his feeling were in that moment, he'd to make sure Birol didn't hurt Amanda or anyone, ever again.
"So Scarecrow, what happened? Cat ate your tongue?" asked Birol. Lee turned toward the man, he was smiling, yet his glare was as cold as steel when he said taking some steps forward, "Perhaps you're right, so look out Birol, because I'm not just like you, I'm worse...because I'm free and I'm powerful"
Lee smiled when Birol swallowed and laughed while he left the chamber.
He felt dirty when he entered Amanda's room. The room was lit only by a small lamp on Amanda's nightstand. The woman was asleep, the blanket which had covered her had fallen on the floor, Lee frowned, probably she'd had a nightmare while he'd been away. He got close to her and knelt picking up form the floor the blanket and covered her with it.
He grazed her pale cheeks with a finger. She was so beautiful, inside and out. She was really the best, the bravest, the smartest, most beautiful woman he'd ever known, just like he'd told her before proposing. He closed his eyes. He wondered whether she'd been so happy to accept his proposal if she'd known what kind of monster he really was.
A monster, that's who I am. He thought. For an instant he was sure he saw dirt on Amanda's face, just where he'd touched her. He shook his head and that image disappeared. Lee realized goose bumps had covered his arms. He turned and headed toward the door when Amanda's voice made him start.
"Lee, is that you?"
Lee swallowed hard and nodded, saying in a nasal voice, "yeah...". He tried to take deep breaths, tried to calm down the frantic beating of his heart, but he realized he couldn't help trembling.
"Lee?" Amanda's concerned voice, made his eyes burn with unshed tears. He heard her getting out of the bed and approaching him. he stiffened, cursing himself for his selfishness. He'd just forced a woman who had been held prisoner for days, to get up from her hospital bed, to get close to him.
Amanda touched his arm, and for an instant he was tempted to shout, "Don't stain yourself Amanda...get away from me, I'm a monster!", but he just whispered, "Don't touch me, please..."
Amanda didn't listen to him, though. She placed her hand on his back and began caressing it whispering, "Why did you go to him, Lee?"
Lee winked, he turned around and met for the first time her concerned look, "Francine told you that?"
Amanda shook her head and said, "No...I just knew. I heard you getting out from the room, and I assumed you wanted to see him." she paused then added, "Why?"
Lee lowered his head, unable to meet Amanda's eyes and said, "I wanted to..."
"Make him pay for what he did to me?" she finished.
Lee, raised his head and shook it, he took a deep breath and said, "I wanted to kill him, for what he did to you" he paused then he quickly added, "but I didn't do that...I didn't kill him"
"I know you wouldn't have been able to do that" she simply said. She lengthened a hand to caress his cheek but Lee took a step backwards and said, "please..."
Lee could see hurt in Amanda's eyes, he shook his head and turned toward the door. Again, Amanda's voice stopped him when she said, "Don't leave, Lee. Please, don't..."
Lee rested his head against the door and sighed, again he felt Amanda's hand on his back. He took a deep breath then turning toward her he said, "Don't you understand Amanda? I *wanted* to kill him, I wanted to hurt him. I'm..." he lowered his head and whispered, "I'm a monster...just like him."
"WHAT?" Amanda's incredulous voice made him raise his head. She was looking at him with her brows raised.
"I'm not that different from him, Amanda." He said, feeling suddenly very tired. He couldn't stop the tears which were clouding his sight.
"Lee Stetson are you out of your mind? " she asked raising her voice.
"You don't understand..." he said in a nasal voice, the lump in his throat was making difficult for him to breathe.
"No, you don't understand! Addi Birol is a crazy, heartless terrorist. He kills people..."
"He kills people for what he believes is right...doesn't it sound familiar?"
She shook her head and said, "No, Lee! He kills people just because he *likes* to. He threatens and torture people because it makes him feel powerful, and please trust me on this!"
Lee didn't talk, Amanda shook her head and said, "I want you to tell me something ."
"That would be?" asked Lee.
"If you're a monster, if you're so similar to him, why didn't you kill him? You know the Agency would have covered for you"
Lee stared at the woman for a moment, then he just shrugged and said, "I don't know..."
"Let's consider this then, if there had been Birol in your position, he'd have killed you in a second, without even thinking about it, and do you want to know why? Because he doesn't have scruples. Because he doesn't care whether a person lives or die. Can you honestly say the same?"
"I guess you're right" he said, though he didn't seem sure about Amanda's explanation. The woman rolled her eyes to the ceiling and said, "Lee, Addi Birol, loves messing with people's head. Do you want to know what I think happened?"
"I'm almost afraid to hear.." he said in a teasing tone.
"I see you haven't lost your sense of humor, Scarecrow." She teased back, then her face became serious when she said, "I think Addi Birol knows he doesn't have a way out so he wanted to be a terrorist for the last time. A terrorist's goal is to instill fear in people and he saw you: a tired, hurt and angry man so he decided to set a bomb in you. He instilled fear and doubts in you..." she caressed his cheeks and whispered, "you're not a monster Lee...you're just a human being...who makes mistakes, but you have a caring, noble heart. I know that heart Lee, I know it as my own"
Lee opened his mouth to speak, to say something, to make Amanda understand what he was really feeling, but he couldn't utter a word at the beginning. A noise made him start, he winked when he realized it had been his mouth to make it and it seemed a sob. He realized his cheeks were damp from the tears which were flowing on them, Amanda pulled him closer. For an instant Lee was tempted to push her away, but he didn't have the strength to. He needed her. He needed her so much.
All the sorrow, the fear, which he'd endured up to that moment dispersed in an instant when, unable to withstand the temptation, he put his arm around her shoulders and he held her. Amanda caressed his shoulders with her free hand, whispering against his chest, "you're a good man, Stetson...don't ever let someone make you doubt that...never"
Lee closed his eyes, letting the last tears fall. He felt cleaner, lighter than he could remember. He buried his face in her hair inhaling her scent and whispered, "I love you Amanda King...and I won't let anyone hurt you again, I promise."
Amanda, pulled lightly away and looking at him said, "You know this can't happen, Lee, and I'm not just talking about our job. We can't prevent bad things from happen" she smiled and added, "just promise me you'll be by my side when I'm hurt..."
"Always, Amanda. For better and for worse" he whispered looking at her in the eyes
"Always, Lee. For better and for worse " she repeated
"Until my last breath" he said kissing her forehead
"Until my last breath" she repeated raising her head to meet his hazel eyes.
They looked at each other for an instant, then Lee smiling said, "So, Mrs. King, I think we've got a deal..."
"It looks like" she said shrugging, she suffocated a yawn and said, "Now, why don't you get some sleep?"
Lee nodded and said, "Only if you let me tuck you up in bed, first."
She nodded and said, "I think, we've got another deal, agent Stetson."