Title: Here We Go Again|
Fandom: Scarecrow & Mrs King
Summary: Some important papers are stolen from the Agency concerning their civilian employees, and Amanda and Lee have to rush to Florida to get them back before they fall into Russian hands.
Disclaimer: These characters do not belong to me, nor do most stories that have been written about them. However, this story, in pieces and in it's entirety (whenever that circumstance may come about) do belong to me and I would appreciate no one using it without my prior permission. (Though permission, as long as I'm getting credit for having written it, is usually easily granted.) I'm not writing this for money, and would not accept any if it were offered to me. That said, sit back and watch the story unfold.
"Amanda! Are you sure you don't want to change your mind about going with the boys and I to the cabin? You really do need to take some time away from your job." Dotty was busy finishing her last minute packing as she called to her daughter down stairs.
Amanda didn't look up from the box of foodstuffs she was getting together for her family's trip. "Mother, I'd love to change my mind, but I can't. IFF has put a lot of trust in me in this assignment, and I have to work on it this weekend. Mother, did you already pack the cans of tuna?"
Dotty walked into the kitchen, setting her suitcase down at the end of the island. "The boys made sure that was the first thing that got packed. You really are working far to hard for this company. It seems like they always ask you at the last minute, and then you have to change your plans."
Amanda sighed. "Yes, Mother. But they really are a good company to work for. I have great benefits, they pay is good. and, if emergencies come up, well, that's just part of the job."
Dotty didn't look convinced. "You still would think that they could find someone else to transcribe the script changes in the documentary this weekend; someone who hadn't been planning for a month to go to a quiet cabin with her family. " Outside, the horn from the waiting taxi beeped, alerting them that it was time to go. Amanda called upstairs, "Boys, its time to go. Hurry up."
Dotty shook her head as she picked up her suitcase and the box of food she and Amanda had packed. "I still think you should have told them you had plans."
Amanda kissed her mother on the cheek as she opened the door. "But I couldn't, Mother. It's my job. Now you have a good time, and if I get done with it early, I'll try to come up." Philip and Jaime burst down the stairs at that instant, each carrying their packs, filled to bursting. "Now you boys have a good time. I'll miss you both."
"We'll miss you, too, Mom." Philip said as he hugged his mother.
She reached over to hug Jaime before both boys bolted out the door to the waiting cab.
Dotty held back for a second to hug her daughter good-bye again. "We'll be there until Tuesday. Maybe they'll give you a couple days off for the weekend you're missing out on."
Amanda hugged her back. "Maybe, Mother. I'll try. Enjoy the mountains. I'll be fine here."
The cab horn honked as a reminder. "Well, I better go. See you on Tuesday evening."
Amanda waved as her mother walked up the sidewalk to join her waiting boys in the cab. She didn't go back inside until the cab rounded the corner and was gone. When it did, she walked back inside, closed the door, and leaned against it, thinking, "Here we go again."
Amanda's mind wandered back to earlier that morning. She had been in the middle of packing the food for the trip when the phone rang. "Hello", she answered, as she took down the boxes of macaroni and cheese she knew the boys couldn't live without.
"Amanda, it's Lee." Just hearing the sound of his voice sent a shiver through her body. It seemed to be doing that more and more every time she talked to him. Of course, Amanda thought, he has a very sexy voice. That's all there is to it. She got her mind back on what she was doing.
"Lee, you know you aren't supposed to call me here. What if Mother had answered?"
She heard Lee chuckle. "Then I would have been one of the errand boys making a phone call to you from IFF, asking that you come in to work this weekend on some very important script changes."
Amanda couldn't help but sigh. "Lee, you know I'm planning on going up to the cabin that Mother rented for us this weekend. I told Mr Melrose incase there was anything special that he needed me to do before this afternoon."
"Amanda, I know," Lee's voice turned apologetic, "But this is."
"Don't tell me, a matter of national security."
Lee chuckled again. "Am I getting that predictable?"
Amanda continued placing boxes and cans in the box of food. "A little. But, Lee, why me? I'm sure there are plenty of other people in the agency that can do the job."
Lee didn't speak for a moment. Amanda wondered what he was thinking. "Not this time. Everyone else is already on another assignment. I really hate to ruin your weekend."
"I know, Lee. I WAS really looking forward to getting away for a little while with Mother and the boys."
"I promise I'll make it up to you, Amanda. What time are your mother and the boys leaving for the trip?"
Amanda moved to the time table that she had posted on the bulletin board near the phone. "Well, the train leaves at 5, they'll probably leave here about 4, 4:15."
"Good. I'll be there at 4:30 to pick you up. This assignment isn't in DC, so you'll have to pack for a couple of days away. I'll tell you about the assignment when I pick you up." Amanda agreed and started to hang up the phone when Lee made one last comment. "And don't forget to bring your bathing suit."
Lee pulled up to the curb in front of Amanda's house in his fairly new 'Vette. He still shuddered to think about what had happened to his beloved Porsche a few months earlier, but so far, the 'Vette was treating him just as well as his old friend had. Sometimes new friends aren't as bad as you think, Lee thought as he closed the door to his car and walked around to let himself through the gate around Amanda's house. He stepped quickly up the walk and knocked lightly on Amanda's front door. From the quickness of her answer, he knew that she must have been waiting for him.
"Hi Lee. I'll be ready in just another minute." Amanda stepped aside to let him in the front door. He noticed her suitcase waiting at the bottom of the stairs as Amanda walked into the family room. He followed her and stood in the doorway, watching her pick up a few odds and ends the boys had left lying around the room. "So when do I find out what the assignment is?" she asked as she picked up a book from the middle of the floor and placed it on the coffee table.
"I promise I'll tell you all about it once we're on our way." Lee stepped back to let her by as she ran upstairs with a few of the boys' things. He swore he heard her mumble under her breath "That's so I can't back out." He chuckled at the thought. It might be underhanded, but he knew if he told her beforehand, she MIGHT back out, and he really wanted her... no, NEEDED her, on this assignment with him.
"Well, I guess if I want to find out what's going on, we better get going." Amanda said as she jogged down the stairs. Lee reached down to pick up her suitcase as Amanda grabbed her purse. She locked the door behind them and followed him down the walk to the 'Vette. After he put her suitcase in the trunk, he opened her door and made sure she was comfortable in the passenger seat before going around the car to slip behind the wheel himself.
The drove for some time in silence before Amanda finally asked, "Lee, where are we going?"
"Well, right now, we're going to the airport. I already have our tickets waiting. The flight leaves in 20 minutes."
"And from there?" Amanda asked, trying to be patient but getting the feeling that Lee was trying to string her along.
"Well, after we get off the plane, we'll probably go straight to the hotel."
By now, Amanda was sure Lee was hiding something. "And where IS this hotel, Lee?"
"In Florida. St Petersburg, to be exact."
Amanda looked at him with incredulation. "We're going to Florida? And you didn't tell me? Lee, I can't go to Florida, Mother and the boys think I'll be home working on script changes...."
"Amanda, just tell her that the company decided they wanted you on sight to do the script changes, and the documentary is about manatees, so they flew you to Florida. I know how you feel about lying to your mother. This way you won't be lying... really."
Lee was very serious when he looked at Amanda, "Amanda, I really need you on this assignment. I knew if I told you before we left that you might have a problem with going. But this is really important. Some important Agency documents were stolen. Before we realized it, the documents were on their way to Florida. We've gotten reliable information that there's going to be a meeting between the person who took the documents and some high level Russian agents at an event down in St Petersburg in 2 days. If I don't get these documents back... and find out what happened to our contact... well, it could mean a lot of trouble for everyone."
Amanda turned in her seat. "But why me, Lee? Why not Francine, or someone else from the Agency? I'm glad you have faith in me, bringing me into this, but why me?"
Lee sighed as he turned into the airport parking area. "Well, Amanda... because the documents are, in part, about you."
Amanda was quiet as Lee got their bags from the trunk of the car and they walked inside to the gate. Lee was a looked sideways at her as they walked from the parking garage into the terminal. He knew this had to come as a shock to her, and he'd expected lots of questions. Not this silence. "Amanda?", he asked as he held open the elevator door for her.
"Why are the documents about me?" Her voice was very quiet.
"Well, they're a list of all the civilians we have working for us, the projects they've worked on, things like that."
"Why would they want a list of civilians?" The shock was starting wear off and Amanda was sounding more like herself. She stopped a moment as the elevator opened and they entered the terminal. "I don't have any really special knowledge."
Lee stepped closer to her for a moment as they dodged people coming the opposite direction. "We think... and this is only a guess, Amanda, until we get to Florida and find out more... that they want to get ahold of some of the civilians we use as bartering chips. Agents have been trained for the possibility of capture. You haven't."
"Oh my God, Lee... what about Mother and the boys? Do they have that kind of information on me?"
Lee sighed as he stepped in line at the check in and put their bags down. "Unfortunately, they do. That's why its so important that we get these documents back. It isn't Agency policy to let anything happen to the civilians on our payroll." Lee smiled at Amanda, and she flushed with a combination of embarrassment and pleasure.
"I know that, Lee. I'm just a little worried, that's all."
Lee put his hand on the small of her back. "I know. But that's why I thought you might want to help me out with this. After all, it really DOES concern you." He smiled again as he stepped up to the counter to give the clerk their tickets. Amanda stood to the side, thinking over what Lee had told her. She WAS glad Lee had thought to include her in this, especially since it hit so close to home. And she wasn't as worried for herself as she was for Mother and the boys. But Lee was on this one. She knew he would do everything in his power to get the documents back and make her world mostly safe again.
She was startled out of her reverie when she heard the clerk hand Lee their boarding passes and say, "I hope you and Mrs Samson have a nice flight, Mr Samson." She heard Lee's murmered, "Thank you" and as he turned to let the next person in line come to check in, he looked at her sheepishly.
"That's the other thing I hadn't told you yet. We're married again."
Lee and Amanda got off the plane at Tampa International Airport and headed to pick up the rental car. As they walked, Amanda nervously fidgeted with the ring Lee had put on her finger before they boarded the plane. "Let me see if I have our covers straight. You're Lee Stanton, an English professor. I'm your wife, Amanda. I'm an interior decorator. You've been offered a job by Eckerd College and we've come down for your interview and to see if we like the area. Does that cover it?"
Lee nodded his head. "That's about it. Now, according to our informant, the trade is supposed to happen to two days from now, at a place called Williams Park, the heart of Downtown St Petersburg. We have to see if we can find the messenger before he has a chance to meet with the Russians."
"I understand." Amanda said as they got near the rental window. She waited while Lee arranged for the car, smiling back at the woman who glanced at her from behind the counter. Once Lee had the keys to the sporty Camaro they would be using for their time in Florida, they headed out to the parking lot. Lee helped Amanda into the car and placed their bags in the trunk. When he got into the car, Amanda asked him, "Lee, why are we married again? I mean... for our cover? Couldn't I have been a secretary or something?"
Lee chuckled. "Why? Don't you like being married to me?"
Amanda flushed. The problem is, she thought, sometimes I think I may like it too much. "No, Lee, of course not... I just..."
Lee laughed outloud at her obvious fluster. "Don't worry, Amanda. I understand. It just seemed the most convenient cover when we were getting them together. Gives us an excuse to be together in public, as well as apart in public. Plus, we've done it before."
"That's true." Amanda commented. "But... Lee, what about sleeping arrangements? Will we have to..."
Lee smiled as he turned on to I-275 and started over the Howard Franklin bridge to St Petersburg. "Don't worry, Amanda. I've taken care of it. We do have one room, but double beds. I told them that my wife knocks me out of bed with her tossing and turning every night, so we'd better have two beds so I can get some sleep."
Amanda gasped, "You DIDN'T!!!!"
"What's the problem, Amanda? Did you want one bed after all?" Lee loved to tease her. He loved to watch the way her cheeks flushed when he joked with her like this. He knew she could take a joke, and he would never say anything that would hurt her. He could amost feel the warmth radiating from her... Best not to think about that, Lee dismissed the thought before they went further than he'd intended. She's attractive, but she's just my friend. A civilian at that. No, I don't feel that way about Amanda, Lee told himself.
Amanda's blush darkened her cheeks even more. "No, I don't want just one bed. But I don't want everyone thinking we... I mean, I..."
Lee's laugh reverberated through the car. "Don't worry. I didn't really tell them a reason for two beds. But we do have double beds in the hotel we're staying in. It's the Hilton, right downtown, near the Park where the drop is supposed to take place. I expect the messenger to be staying somewhere near by, so if we stay around the area, we may be able to catch him before the drop."
Amanda looked out at the calm water passing of the bay as they sped over the bridge. Like glass, she thought. "Lee, who is the messenger? Is it someone I know from the Agency?", Amanda voiced the question that had been in the back of her mind.
As he expertly maneuvered through the traffic heading south on the bridge, Lee answered her. "Well, you may have seen him. He hadn't been with the agency long, about 6 months. I think he'd been in the bullpen a couple times you'd come in. His name is Frank Walker."
Amanda turned her head in shock. "Frank Walker? Lee, Are you sure?"
Lee nodded his head as they exited the bridge and continued down the Interstate toward their hotel. "Completely. He disappeared a few days ago, and the files with him."
"Lee, Frank is the one that set Mother and the boys and I with the cabin."
Lee pulled into the parking lot of the St Petersburg Hilton and quicly found a parking space near the front door. He and Amanda got out of the Camaro and Lee took their bags from the trunk. The bellboy must have been close by because as Lee was shutting the trunk, he appeared with a cart on which to place their bags. "May I help you with those, sir?", the young man asked politely.
Lee nodded in agreement and the bellboy placed both of their bags on the cart and started into the hotel. Lee took Amanda's arm as they followed the young man into the hotel lobby and up to the front desk. Lee approached the smiling young woman behind the desk as she said, "Welcome to the St Petersburg Hilton. How may I help you?"
Lee flashed a bright smile. "My wife and I have a reservation for a couple of nights. Mr and Mrs Samson."
The young woman looked through her reservation book for a moment and then shook her head. "I'm sorry, sir, but I don't see a reservation for tonight. When did you make the reservation?"
"Last night. It was supposed to be for a room with double beds." Lee leaned on the counter, "I was told there wouldn't be a problem."
The young woman looked up at him. "I am terribly sorry, sir. The reservation is not listed for you. Let me see what I can do." She again looked through the reservation book to see if she could arrange accomidations for them. After a few moments of checking, she again turned to Lee. "Well, sir, I do have a room available, but it doesn't have double beds. Instead, it has a king size bed. Unfortunately, we're having a convention in the hotel this weekend, and most of our rooms are taken by those attending the convention. Will the king size bed be alright?"
Lee looked at Amanda. "Sweetheart, will that be ok? I know you wanted the seperate bed so you wouldn't disturb me when you got up in the middle of the night, but it does look like it's all that they have."
Oh my goodness, Amanda thought. I am actually going to have to sleep in the same bed as Lee. This is not what I had in mind. Amanda nodded her head. "I guess that will be fine. Maybe you can take one of those extra strength sleeping pills so I won't disturb you."
"Ok," Lee said, turning back to the clerk. "We'll take it." While Lee was finishing the transaction with the clerk, Amanda let her thoughts wander. I wonder what he'll wear to bed. Maybe he usually sleeps in the nude and doesn't have... Amanda, get your thoughts out of the gutter! I'm sure we can find some kind of solution. I mean, a king size bed is pretty big. He can sleep far on one side of the bed, and I can sleep far on the other. Thank goodness I don't usually toss and turn!
Lee touched her elbow and snapped her out of her thoughts. "Sweetheart, are you ready to go upstairs?" Amanda nodded her head and let him lead her to the bank of elevators that took them to their room on the 10th floor.
When they reached the door to their room, the bellboy took the key from Lee and let them into the room. He followed, placing their bags by the dresser. It was a nice sized room, not quite a suite, but with more than enough room for the bed, dresser, TV, and a table. A small bathroom with a tub was off the small hall leading into the main part of the room. As Lee was tipping the bellboy, Amanda walked out on the small balcony attached to the room to admire the view of Tampa Bay. It was already dark by now, and the lights twinkled from across the bay in Tampa. It was a very clear night and the air was crisp. I can certainly think of worse places to have to go on assignment, Amanda thought.
She heard Lee come up behind her. "Breathtaking, isn't it? Wait until you see it during they day. Especially on a windless day. The water is clear as glass. You can see the sailboats coming into the bay to dock. It's really gorgeous."
"Makes you kinda forget about the spy business for a minute, doesn't it?" Amanda commented. She felt so content being here for the moment. Thoughts of the missing documents, of the Russians, even of her mother and the boys faded away as she took in the scene before her.
Suddenly she felt Lee's hand touch her waist. She wasn't expecting it, so she jumped. Lee pulled away self-conciously, didn't speak for a moment, and then cleared his throat. "Amanda, about the room... I really am sorry. I did make the arrangements last night but..."
Amanda turned to look at him. The thought Why did I have to jump when he touched me? flitted through Amanda's mind. "Lee, don't worry about it. I was thinking about it, and a king size bed is actually a pretty big bed. As long as you stay to one side of the bed, and I stay to the other, we should be fine. We'll just pretend like they ARE two seperate beds."
Lee let out a nervous chuckle. "Sounds like a good idea to me. Now, are you hungry? I noticed a restaurant downstairs when we came in and... well, after all, it has been a long day."
"I'm starved!" Amanda said, "Do you think they still serve dinner at 9:00 at night?"
Amanda and Lee were in luck. The restaurant in the lobby was open until 10, so they were able to go downstairs and have dinner. They talked small talk over their meal, mostly just enjoying each other's company. After their desserts had been served, Lee decided it was time to talk again about the reason they were in Florida. "Amanda," Lee began as she looked up at him over a forkful of strawberry cheesecake, "You said that Frank Walker was the one that told you about the cabin that your mother arranged for for this weekend."
"Mmhmmm," Amanda nodded as she swallowed her bite of dessert.
"Well," Lee cupped his hands around his coffee cup and leaned toward her a little, "How did it come about? I mean, why did Frank tell you about this cabin?"
Amanda thought for a moment while taking another bite of cheesecake. "I think I was mentioning how Mother had been wanting us to get away for a family weekend, but that she was having a hard time finding a place. Frank mentioned this cabin he would go to sometimes when he wanted some time away. He gave me the name and the phone number for the place, then Mother called and made the reservations for one of the cabins this weekend. Why?" Amanda put her fork down and grasped the edge of the table. "Do you think I should call Mother and the boys and have them come home?"
Lee could see the worry fill her eyes. Why did I have to involve her with the Agency in the first place, he thought, not for the first time. He reached across the table to hold her hand, to comfort her. "No, Amanda. I don't think you should call your mother and the boys. They'll be fine there. We're going to catch Frank before he has a chance to hand the information off the the Russians. You're mother and the boys will be fine. I promise. It's just safer to know everything we can." He squeezed her hand just as she looked up into his eyes. For a moment, they both froze, unable to break the gaze that was holding them. When they're gazes locked, Amanda's heart began to race. She felt as though she was being pulled into the deep, brown pools that were Lee's eyes, pulled somewhere safe that nothing would ever happen to her because Lee wouldn't let it. This is how love begins crept into her conciousness.
Lee knew he couldn't look away either. I need to protect her, he thought as his world became nothing but Amanda. No, his heart corrected, I WANT to protect her. This is how love begins.
They both brushed away the thought at the same moment, Amanda looking away quickly, and Lee quickly letting go of Amanda's hand. She picked up her fork and finished the last piece of cheesecake on her plate as Lee cleared his throat. "Well, we should probably get an early start tomorrow. There's no telling where Frank might be, and we want to get to him before he gets to the Russians. Are you finished?" he asked, as he signaled for the waiter.
Amanda nodded her head as she reached for her purse on the chair behind her. Lee paid the waiter and then pulled the chair out for Amanda to rise. They both were very careful not to touch each other as they walked out of the restaurant to take the elevator to their room on the tenth floor.
Lee let them into the hotel room. Neither had spoken a word in the elevator on the way up. The look that had passed between them still hung in the air. This could be an uncomfortable night, Lee thought as he closed the door behind them.
They both laughed nervously at themselves.
"You go first," Amanda said as she sat on the end of the bed.
"Well, I was thinking... if it would make you more comfortable, I could sleep in one of the chairs tonight. I know how uncomfortable you were last year when we had to share that room at the resort when we were trying to protect Tuck. And I honestly did try to get a room with double beds." He sat in one of the chairs and leaned toward Amanda as he talked.
Amanda leaned toward him as well. "Lee, we both need a good night's sleep if we're going to get up early to try and find Frank. A king-size bed is large enough for both of us to sleep in without... disturbing each other. I'm sure we can each manage to stay on our own side of the bed." Amanda let out a little laugh, trying to lighten the conversation.
Lee still looked dubious. "It would be more comfortable... But Amanda..."
Amanda interrupted him. "Lee, it'll be fine. Unless you don't trust me?" There was a twinkle in her eyes when she said that, and Lee immediately thought, No, it's me I don't trust.
Lee chuckled, partly to hide his own thoughts and partly to keep Amanda at ease. "Of course I trust you, Amanda. No offense, but you really don't seem like the 'take advantage of a man while he sleeps' type of woman. If you're ok with the sleeping arrangements, so am I." Lee stood up and headed to the bathroom. "I'll just be a minute in here, and then I'll let you have it to get ready." Lee grabbed his bag on his way by the dresser and closed the bathroom door behind him.
In the room alone, Amanda sat back in quiet contemplation. What am I getting myself into? She thought as her hand absently played with the comforter on the bed. Why didn't I let him sleep in the chair like he suggested? Then I wouldn't have to be so close... in my nightgown... sharing a bed with Lee. She shuddered with pleasure at the thought. Oh my! She stood up and started unpacking her suitcase into one side of the dresser. With the practicle movements came practicle thoughts. Well, I honestly couldn't let him sleep in that chair. It looks fine for sitting in, but terribly uncomfortable for sleeping in. We both do need a good night's sleep. Besides, we're both adults. We can control ourselves. We're co-workers, for goodness sake. What WOULD happen between us, anyway?
As she put away the last item from her suitcase, leaving out only her nightgown and toiletries, Lee came out of the bathroom. She turned to face him and couldn't help admiring how GOOD he looked in the sweatpants and sweatshirt he had chosen to wear to bed. A smile smile played on his lips as he entered the main part of the room. "I see you've started getting comfortable in here." He pointed toward the drawer she was closing and the empty suitcase lying on the top of the dresser. "It's all yours."
Amanda nodded a small thanks to him as she passed him and entered the bathroom. Lee watched her walk by him, clutching her nightgown and bath items. As the bathroom door closed behind her, the smile left Lee's lips. She's more nervous about the sleeping arrangements than she tried to pretend, he deduced. I'm glad I'm not the only one. Lee closed Amanda's suitcase and set it on the floor next to the dresser, then placed his own bag where hers had just been. As he put his clothes into the empty half of the dresser, his thoughts mirrored Amanda's from moments earlier. Sleeping in a bed with Amanda King is going to be one of the most difficult things I've done in a long time, Lee thought as he mechanically took the clothes from the bag and put them in the dresser drawer. I mean, she's a beautiful woman. Single. Funny. Hell yes, I'm attracted to her. He tried to get his mind on the practical. Come on, Lee, he told himself, She may be beautiful, but you're working together on assignment. You're both a
Behind him, the bathroom door opened, and Amanda stepped out. Lee marveled at how beautiful she looked, even in her flannel nightgown. She had brushed her hair out, so it wasn't as full as it was when she had it curled and sprayed to keep it's shape. And she had washed all traces of make-up from her face. Lee swallowed hard. This could be more difficult than he thought!
Amanda had a shy smile on her face as she walked into the bedroom. "Thank you for putting my suitcase away. I forgot it in my rush to get to the bathroom."
Lee turned back to his own bag and took out the last few items before zipping it closed and putting it next to Amanda's. He certainly didn't want her to see what he'd been thinking, or he'd be sleeping in the chair for sure! "Not a problem, Amanda. It's not that hard to close a suitcase and lay it on the floor." He busied himself putting the last items in the dresser and used those few moments to get his mind back on the practical and away from Amanda King's body.
"Lee..." Amanda said from near the bed.
"Uh huh?" he turned toward her and asked. She was starting to turn down one side of the bed.
"I didn't even think to ask. Do you have a side of the bed you prefer to sleep on?" She looked concerned that maybe she was getting into the wrong side of the bed.
Lee smiled at the look on her face. "No, Amanda, either side is fine. You go ahead and get comfortable. I've got to put these last few things away and then I'll turn out the light. You don't mind if I leave the drapes and the door to the balcony open though, do you? I like having a little fresh sea breeze coming in when I sleep."
Amanda shook her head. "No, that's fine." and she slipped beneath the covers, turning off the bedside light on her side of the bed. She kept her eyes closed, waiting for sleep to over-take her. About 15 minutes later, she felt Lee slip into the other side of the bed. As she felt him trying to get comfortable, she thought, this is going to be a long night.
Amanda was having a wonderful dream. In it, she and Lee had decided to run away to Florida so they could be together away from the Agency. They had rented a motel room, making love long into the night, and just enjoying being in each others arms as they enjoyed the fresh sea breezes coming in from their window. Amanda smiled to herself as she started toward conciousness, thinking that the bare chest that she snuggled against was still part of her dream. "Mmm" she sighed as she moved closer to the warm body that held her. She moved her head to look at Lee's face and saw Lee's eyes open slowly as she opened hers. Wait a minute, she thought, I don't think this is part of my dream.
Now that she was awake, she could feel Lee's strong arms holding her close to him. Their legs were entwined underneath the covers, and Amanda's fingers were splayed across Lee's chest. She could feel he was still wearing his sweatpants, and her nightgown was still completely covering her, but sometime in the night, Lee had lost his sweatshirt, so he was naked from the waist up. That much of my dream wasn't true, she thought, but she wasn't sure if she was relieved or disappointed.
I should let her get up, Lee thought, but neither one could look away from each other. As had happened the night before in the restaurant, their gazes were locked. Neither one could move, or even think. It was as though time was standing still for the both of them.
Almost without thinking about it, Lee started to bend his head toward Amanda. They knew at that moment that the kiss that was about to happen was inevitable. Amanda's eyes began to close as Lee's lips softly touched hers. He pulled away for a moment and Amanda was disappointed when she thought that was all there was. But a moment later, his lips came back to hers a little more forcefully. She parted her lips ever so slightly as he did the same, his tongue coming out to taste her lips. She let her tongue meet his hesitantly, and then with more force as the kiss became more insistant. Amanda moved her hands around to hold Lee as he pulled her even closer to him. The kiss became more powerful and they both could tell that this was just the beginning.. For the moment, there was no Scarecrow and Mrs King, no co-workers at the Agency, no other girlfriends for him, no Mother and the boys for her. Just Lee and Amanda in the moment of now.
They broke apart for breath for a moment, looking at each other in a mix of emotions; wonderment, fear, confusion, and desire. As Lee started to bend his head to kiss her again, the phone at the bedside table rang. "Damn," Lee muttered as he rolled over to answer it.
At that moment, fear and confusion won out for Amanda. She slipped out of bed and into the bathroom, closing the door behind her. She needed a moment to think. Kissing Lee was... Wow! She'd imagined what it would be like over the past year and a half of them working together, she couldn't help it! But this blew away every thought she had imagined. But, she couldn't help but think, it never should have happened. He was probably still thinking he was dreaming, probably didn't even know it was me at first. Maybe he thought it was Randi. Amanda splashed some water on her face and then leaned back against the counter. We're on assignment. This really shouldn't have happened. I know Lee won't make a big deal out of it, so I can't either. I just have to pretend like it didn't happen. Besides, it was just a kiss. Nothing more than a kiss. Amanda stood up and started to reach for the bathroom door when the stray thought, Yeah right. Came to her mind.
As she opened the door, she saw Lee standing there, his hand raised as though he was ready to knock. The looked concerned as he said, "Amanda, is everything ok?"
She hurried by him to pick out an outfit to wear that day. "Of course everything is ok, Lee. Why wouldn't it be?"
Lee walked to stand at the end of the dresser. He looked slightly uncomfortable. "Amanda..."
Amanda busily looked through the clothes before her in the drawer and raised a hand in dismissal. "It was nothing, Lee. We both were just waking up from a dream. It must have been cold last night with the balcony doors open so we naturally went to where there was the warmest source of heat. This kiss was just that, a kiss. Probably just both thought we were still sleeping." She laughed a little at her comment, and put her clothes in a neat pile on the dresser. "Why don't you head into the bathroom first, while I straighten up in here a little?" She turned away from him to start making the bed.
Lee watched her expertly begin to make the bed. He had thought the kiss that he and Amanda had shared meant something, even coming upon waking and finding her in his arms as he had. He had never felt the rightness in a kiss as he had when he kissed Amanda this morning. But aparrently, it was different for Amanda. Maybe she'd been dreaming about another man and Lee was just a handy body. Maybe someone on the PTA board, for all he knew. The thought of Amanda with another man filled him with jealousy, and he didn't think it had anything to do with the kiss they had just shared. Rather than take the time to figure it out, he pulled open a drawer and took out some clothes to wear that day. He grabbed a suit from the small closet across from the bathroom where he'd put them the night before and hurried in the bathroom. Before he closed the door, he yelled to Amanda, "You know, that's the maid's job."
Amanda faltered in her rush to make the bed. I never should have brought up the kiss, she thought. She was convinced by his actions in getting out his clothing that he wished she hadn't said anything, that he wanted to forget that anything had ever happened. Well, she thought determinedly as she plumped the pillows, from this point on, it's forgotten.
Amanda tidied the hotel room as she listened to the sounds of Lee taking his shower. It didn't take her long, but then again, it didn't take him long to get ready, either. Not long after the shower had stopped, Lee opened the bathroom door and stepped out, looking very handsome in the dark suit and thinly stripped tied he had chosen for that day. Amanda didn't say anything as she quickly picked up the pile of clothing she'd laid out earlier and headed into the bathroom to get ready for the day.
Lee walked out to the balcony and rested his hands on the railing as he took in the sight of Tampa Bay. Before him, he watched sailboats gliding effortlessly across the sparkling blue waters. The sounds of traffic below him were muted; it was still early, only 7:30, and a Saturday to boot. The sight was refreshing, calming. It helped center him back on the assignment that he and Amanda were here to complete. He had spent some of the time in the shower trying to put the devistating kiss behind him, and looking out at Tampa Bay helped him complete his task.
When he heard the bathroom door open behind him, he walked back into the room. Amanda looked very pretty in a pair of white slacks and a lavendar short-sleeved summer sweater. She looked more relaxed after her shower as well and smiled at him as he walked into the room. "I'd meant to ask you," she said as she placed her nightgown, folded, on the top of the dresser, "who had called earlier. I didn't remember you asking for a wake-up call."
"No," Lee said while he crossed to the chair and sat down, "It was Billy. It seems like they've gotten a little more information. Like the name of the Russian that Walker is supposed to meet. Yuri Balkankov. I've had some dealings with him before, a real tough cookie. It could make our job even harder. Balkankov probably already knows we're here, and he's done this sort of thing before. He's a big planner, plans for every contingency." Lee sighed. "We're just going to have to think of something out of the ordanary."
Amanda turned to look at him and smiled. "Now I know why you brought me along."
Lee and Amanda had spent most of the day checking out local hotels in search of either Walker or Balkankov. They came up empty on both searches. It appeared that neither man was staying at any of the local hotels in the downtown area. That wasn't completely surprising. There were hotels all through out St Petersburg in which they could have been staying, and it would have taken far too long to check them all. Lee looked across the table at Amanda, who was staring blankly into the tea she was stirring. They had stopped for a late lunch at a little cafe' on 4th St and 1st Ave N. He could tell that their lack of success was getting to her a little, especially since her name was in those documents, and Frank Walker had managed to get her family away from the suburbs and into the quiet solitude of an empty cabin -- a place where no one would hear a gun shot. He had watched her glance toward numerous pay phones through-out their search for the renegade agent and the Russian spy, and he knew she was thinking that she should call her mother and think of some excuse to get them out of the cabin. Lee's heart went out to her. He knew how important her family was to her, and thinking that they could be in some kind of danger was tearing her apart.
"Amanda," he said softly, trying to get her attention. Even at the low volume, the mention of her name startled Amanda so much that she almost knocked over her glass of tea. Lee gently placed his hand over hers, trying to calm her with his touch. "It's ok. I just had an idea. I need to call Billy to check in. He should have any messages from any of my contacts this way, so we might get a lead on them yet. In the meantime, why don't you call your mother and the boys and have them head for home. I really think we're going to catch Walker before he reaches Balkankov, or the both of them together. But it's better to be safe than sorry. And I know how much having them there, and knowing that the guy we're after is the one that essentially put them there, is getting to you."
Amanda smiled gratefully at her partner. She'd tried to hide her worry from him, because she really did have faith that they would find Walker before he had a chance to pass of the documents. But she couldn't help but think about the consequences if something DID go wrong. The thought of her mother and the boys up in that cabin, all alone, and Frank Walker thinking she was with them, letting Balkankov know, possibly coming to kidnap her to use against the Agency. She shuddered with the thought. But she hadn't called to get them out of there, even though she'd thought about it with every phone she'd seen. In part, it was because she couldn't think of a good excuse to get them out of the house. But another part of her was hoping she wouldn't have to ruin the vacation her mother and the boys were having. They deserved some time away, also. So she was torn between wanting to make sure her family was safe, and not wanting to ruin their enjoyment because in all likelihood, she and Lee would find Walker and Balkankov before they had a chance to trade the documents.
With Lee's suggestion, it made it a little easier to do what she had wanted to do all day. "Thank you, Lee. I've thought about it all day, but the meeting between the two of them isn't until tomorrow, and I kept thinking that maybe, if we find them, I wouldn't have to ruin Mother and the boys' vacation." She started to get up and head for the payphones next to the door. Lee moved his hand self-consciously when she moved, as though he had forgotten it was resting there. Neither said anything for a moment, both remembering the scene in their shared room that morning. Amanda was the first to recover, putting an overly cheerful smile on her face. "Well, I better go make that phone call. I just hope I can think of an excuse that Mother will believe."
Lee stood also, placing enough money on the table to cover the check that the waitress had left there before he and Amanda had started this conversation, as well as a sizeable tip. "Why don't you tell her that Frank had given you some bad information about the cabin... maybe that they had problems with animals in the area. Tell her that you'd feel safer if she and the boys came home."
Amanda thought for a moment before shaking her head. "That might work. I just have to remember to tell her that I'm here in Florida so she doesn't worry about me not being home when she gets there." She then turned and headed to the payphone.
Lee followed her so he could make his phone call as well. As he dialed the number to the Agency and waited for Billy to pick up, he overheard Amanda's conversation with her mother. It included a lot of "Yes, Mother"'s and "No, Mother"'s. He knew she'd be in for an interesting conversation to say the least. He smiled as Billy picked up the phone and he began to get some very interesting information.
Next to him, Amanda sighed with frustration. She had managed to get ahold of her mother, but getting her to leave the cabin was proving very difficult.
"Now Amanda, the boys and I haven't had one problem since we got here last night. We slept well, didn't even hear one sound. I think that co-worker of yours is just trying to make you feel better because you can't be up here either."
Amanda rested her head against the top of the payphone. If only that had been the real reason. "No, Mother. He even showed me an article from a local paper that told about the problems that the area was having with the animals. There were some very surly bears that almost got into one of the cabins and could have hurt the tenants there badly. It's not as peaceful a place as I was first lead to believe." Amanda finally resorted to pleading. She didn't care what she had to do, as long as she got her mother and the boys out of the cabin and to a place of relative safety. "Please, Mother. I'd feel much safer if you were home. Or, even if you decided to rent another cabin, or a motel room, or anything else somewhere else. Because of the stories that I was told, I would feel much more comfortable if you were anywhere but there."
Her mother finally conceded. "Alright, Amanda. If that's what you want, we'll find somewhere else to go. I hate to go back home, and this cabin is rented until Tuesday, but we certainly don't want surly bears coming after us, do we?" Dotty paused for a moment, and her voice became more concerned with the next question. "Amanda, I'd meant to ask you earlier, but this cabin thing had gotten you in such a fit. Where were you last night? I tried to call you to let you know we'd gotten here safely, and there was no answer at home. Is everything ok? There's a lot of noise behind you."
Amanda knew this was going to come up, but knowing didn't make the telling any easier. "No, Mother. Everything is fine. IFF just decided that it would be easier for me to make the script changes they needed if I was on location... in Florida. We're doing a documentary on Manatees." She made a mental note to ask Lee if they could at least LOOK at a Manatee before they left the state, so she wouldn't feel like she was lying quite as much to her mother.
Amanda could hear the surprise in Dotty's voice. "Manatees? Why would anyone want to do a documentary on Manatees? And why would they want you to come to Florida to do the revisions?"
"Manatees are becoming an endangered species. And I don't know why they want me here, Mother. All I know is they asked me to come to Florida, they're paying for everything. I should only be gone for the weekend. But Mother, about the cabin..."
Dotty interrupted. "Yes, Amanda, we'll leave the cabin. We'll probably come straight home. Maybe the boys will want to camp out in the backyard or something."
"Ok, Mother. I'll take care of the money that we paid to the cabin when I get home. I'll call you later tonight and give you the number for the hotel. I'm on location right now, and I don't have it with me."
"Ok, Amanda. Have a good time there, and don't work too hard. I love you."
"I love you, too, Mother. Tell the boys I love them, too."
"I will, Amanda. Now make sure you call us tonight."
"Yes, Mother. Good-bye."
Amanda hung up the phone and turned around to see Lee watching her, an excited gleam in his eyes. She cocked her head questioningly. Lee guided her toward the door without saying anything. As they got into the rental car, Lee told her, "One of my contacts knows where Walker is staying."
Amanda adjusted the air conditioning vents in the car to blow more directly on her. She'd always thought of herself as a rugged person, one that could take anything the outdoors wanted to throw at her. But this Florida sun was HOT. She hadn't noticed it much last night, because they arrived in the evening, but between the walking she and Lee had done today, and the sun beating through the glass into the car... well, now she knew why they said air conditioning was a requirement of living in Florida!
She noticed Lee smile at her out of the corner of her eye as she settled back into the blast of air. "What's so funny?" She asked, a shadow of a smile playing on her lips.
Lee shook his head, the grin remaining firmly in place. "Nothing... just hoping you're comfortable."
"I am now," she retorted. "So where are we going to, anyway?"
Lee manuvered around a car traveling at about 25 mph in the left lane. "From what my contact told me, Walker is hiding out in a little hole-in-the-wall hotel up 4th St and around 54th Avenue. A place called The Hotel le Florida. Did I ever mention how much I love going to a city in which the streets make sense? Makes it really easy to find what you're looking for." The grin got even wider with his last comment.
Amanda just shook her head and looked at the street sign they passed. 38th Avenue. Only 16 more blocks.
"Amanda," Lee's tone had turned serious. "When we get there, I want you to stay in the car until I size things up with Walker. I don't want to have something happen to you. Walker's turned, who knows what he'll do."
Amanda shook her head. "No, I'm going..."
Lee interrputed her. "Amanda, I'm just going into the office. I want to make sure that Walker is here. And, if he is, and he sees us coming, I want you to be safe. You can help me as much in the car as you can in the office."
Amanda sighed in resignation; she'd been expecting this, but hoped to change Lee's mind. "I understand, Lee. Stay in the car. Just... be careful, ok?"
Lee smiled at her. "I will. You don't have to worry about that." He turned his attention back toward the road and noticed a grimy sign proclaiming "The Hotel le Florida. Daily/Weekly Rates. Free cable TV." A neon "Vacancy" sign let off a soft glow below the window of the office, highlighting several years worth of dirt that had never been washed off of the once white paint.
"This is it." Lee turned on the street bordering the hotel and made a quick turn into the driveway that ran in front of long, one story building. He swung the car into an empty parking space in front of the tiny office and quickly got out of the car. As he let himself into the rental office, Amanda scanned the parking lot. The "vacancy" sign had been an understatment. Of the 20 visable rooms, only two had cars parked in front of them. She understood that summer was the slow season for Florida businesses, but she got the feeling that this hotel would have the same lack of clientel no matter what time of year she had been here. That must be why Walker chose this hotel.
Amanda watched one of the hotel room doors open and, as if he'd been beckoned by her thoughts, the man she and Lee had been searching for walked out the door, pulling it closed behind him and headed for the car in front of him. Amanda knew she didn't have any time to waste.
"Lee!" she screamed, as she released her seatbelt and darted from the car toward the startled man. His head whipped around toward her with her cry and, recognizing her, pulled out his gun from beneath his jacket and ran toward the car. Lee bounded out of the hotel office, gun at the ready.
"Stop right there, Walker!" he called out, followed quickly by, "Amanda, get down!" Amanda had reached the other car in the parking lot and ducked behind it as a gunshot rang out above her head. She heard an answering shot from behind her as Lee took aim at Walker. She glanced toward him and noticed that he had taken up position behind their rental car. She stayed low behind the car she was using as cover, trying not to distract Lee or get Walker's attention.
"You're too late, Scarecrow." she heard Walker crow. "Balkankov already has the papers." He let loose another volley of fire, and Amanda instinctively ducked lower behind the car. Behind her, she heard Lee swear.
"I'm still bringing you in, Walker. How much was it worth, Walker? How much money did you get to betray Agency trust?" Amanda heard shots once more, coming from Lee this time, who seemed to be getting closer. She turned to see him dive behind the car next to her. While he changed out his clip, he whispered to her, "Are you alright?"
She nodded her head. "I'm fine."
"You should have stayed in the car."
Amanda knew he was right. It probably wasn't the smartest thing she'd done, taking off after a dangerous man without any protection, but she knew she couldn't just sit there while Walker may have gotten away.
"Well, Walker?" Lee goaded the other man as he readied himself for another shot. "How much made you turn traitor?"
"More than I'd ever see from working at the Agency, Scarecrow. Sometimes you just have to take care of yourself first." Lee took a furtitive glance over the hood of the car and ducked quickly back when a shot rang out. The sound of a police siren cut through the air, still distant, but getting closer.
"Come on, Walker. You know what those sirens mean. They're on their way here for you. Give yourself up."
"I don't think so, Stetson." Lee looked over the hood of the car to see Walker rolling over the hood of his rental car. He quickly took aim and shot while the rogue agent couldn't fire back. He scored a hit in the man's arm, and Walker hit the ground with a thud, laying unmoving for a moment. Lee quickly made his way around the car, gun trained on the prone man.
"Get up nice and easy, Walker. Throw your gun over there," he indicated with a nod of his head an area to Lee's right, "and keep your hands where I can see them." Walker complied, sitting up and holding his damaged arm after throwing his gun away.
"I told you it's too late, Stetson. Balkankov already has the documents. I gave them to him an hour ago." He turned to look at Amanda, standing up behind the car she had used moments before as cover. "It wasn't anything personal, Mrs King. I hope you believe that."
Amanda didn't answer him, instead she watched two police cars pull into the parking lots, followed by an unmarked car that she guessed to be Agency. Lee none-to-gently pulled Walker to his feet and pushed him toward the waiting cars, holding out his badge for the officers to see. One of the agents ran to take Walker from Lee, and, as he was lead to the waiting car, Walker turned to Lee and said, "He's on his way to the cabin. I told him about it. I.... I thought you should know. I don't want anyone in Mrs King's family to get hurt."
Lee gave him a hard stare. "You should have thought about that before you set this all up, Walker." Lee spun around and headed back toward Amanda. He grasped her by the elbow and lead her back to their rental car. "We're heading back to Virginia."
Lee and Amanda caught the first available flight back to National Airport. After a quick stop at the hotel to pick-up their things, they made it back to Tampa International Airport with about an hour to spare until their flight left. Upon arriving at the gate, Amanda dropped her carry-on bag on a seat beside Lee and started to walk away.
"Amanda?" Lee called, puzzled. "Where are you going?"
Without stopping, she called over her shoulder, "I'm going to try to call mother again." Earlier, while Lee had been checking out of the hotel, Amanda had tried to call her mother at both the cabin and the house. She hadn't gotten an answer at either place. Lee knew from the silence in the car on their way to the airport that Amanda was worried that Balkankov may have gotten to the cabin before Dotty and the boys had gotten the chance to leave. He had tried to reassure her by telling her that they were probably on their way back home now. Though she outwardly agreed with him that this was probably the case, he could still see the fear in the back of her eyes, and knew it would not be erased until she spoke with her mother.
Amanda made her way quickly to the payphone across the terminal. Her emotions were a jumbled mishmash -- fear that Balkankov had managed to arrive at the cabin and had hurt her mother and the boys; hope that her mother and the boys were on their way home, maybe going to the eatery down the street from the train station for dinner; but mostly, anger at herself for getting her family involved in this situation. If she had never taken the package from Lee at the train station. If she had never continued to help the Agency with the little assignments they asked of her. If she had never been so eager to learn new clandestine, covert... spyish things, well, then her family would never have to face this possible danger.
She picked up the phone and absently dialed the number at the cabin. She counted each ring, repeating the mantra "Please let them be ok. Please don't let Balkankov have reached them." Finally, after 10 unanswered rings, she held down the switch long enough to clear the line, and dialed the home number. Maybe I should get out of this line of work, she thought as the phone continued to ring in the background. I'm barely an apprentice agent, and already my family is in danger. Just think what could happen to them if I become a full fledged agent like Lee. It's not fair to them. They don't deserve to be put in this kind of danger. Tears began to stream down her face and she rested her head against the top of the payphone. She knew she loved the work she was doing for the Agency, even if it did get a little scary sometimes. But her family...
Amanda started when she felt a hand touch her shoulder. "Any answer?" Lee asked, keeping his hand comfortingly on her arm. Amanda hung the receiver back on the hook, shaking her head no and trying to wipe the tears from her eyes before Lee noticed them.
It was no use. Lee could tell the longer that she couldn't get in touch with her family, the more it was tearing Amanda apart. He pulled Amanda into his arms, offering her the comfort of a hug from a friend. "Shhh.... It's ok, Amanda. I know you're worried. But they're really probably are on their way home now. It's a long train ride, right? I'm sure they'll be home long before we land in Virginia. You can try them when we land. And then we'll catch Balkankov at the cabin. He won't be a threat anymore." Lee lifted her chin to look in her eyes, trying to show the sincerity in them.
Instead, their gazes locked. Being in Lee's arms again had had a double effect on Amanda. It had comforted her, as Lee had intended, but at the same time, it brought what had happened between her and Lee that more back to the forefront of her mind. And she could tell by the look in Lee's eyes that his impulsive jesture had brought the same memories into his mind as well.
They stayed frozen in the embrace, time seeming to stand still. Neither could think of anything, becoming lost in the gaze of the other. Then, almost of its own volition, Amanda's hand reached up to caress his cheek. She felt Lee's thumb trace her lower lip. She watched as his mouth began to lower toward hers, and she tilted her head in unexpected anticipation.
Before their lips could touch in a repeat performance of that morning's symphony, a gentleman, more concerned with what he was reading in the Wall Street Journal than in the path he was taking, stumbled into Lee. He and Amanda broke apart quickly while the preoccupied reader mumbled an apology and continued on his way.
Lee and Amanda stood in awkward silence for several moments. Finally, Amanda cleared her throat. "Yes... well... I'm sure you're right about Mother and the boys. They're probably on the train now, and I'll have done all this worrying for nothing. But you know me," she laughed nervously, "I worry about everything. Good old worrying Amanda. Over reacting again."
"Better an ounce of caution than getting caught with our... " Lee flushed bright red at what he had almost said. Half a second behind him, Amanda's cheeks grew warm when she realized what his unfinished sentence would have been.
Now it was Lee's turn to clear his throat. "Ummm... Anyway. Since I'm over here, I should... umm..."
"Call Billy." Amanda finished for him. "And I should probably be over there... um... watching our..."
"Watching our stuff." Lee wished he knew what it was about Amanda that made him feel like a sixteen year old boy with his first crush. He'd never had this problem with women before. Even ones he'd almost kissed. Or had kissed.
"Well, I better get to this phone call."
"And I'll be over here."
They stood awkwardly watching each other for another moment before Amanda turned quickly and walked back to the seats being currently occupied by their two bags.
Lee turned to the payphone and began dialing the Agency's phone number. He certainly hoped that Billy had some good news that could get his thoughts off of Mrs Amanda King.