by Toto (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Disclaimer: The characters here belong to Warner Brother & Shoot the Moon Production; this story is copyrighted by the author. Please do not distribute without permission. No infringement is intended, and this story is not for commercial gain but rather for entertainment only.
Summary: Married just over four months, Lee and Amanda find their family threatened from an enemy they've danced with before. This time it will take more than the Agency to insure survival.
Author's Notes: I could not have done this without my wonderful Beta readers. Thanks, also, to GW who made me focus when things began to spiral out of control, and to Emily Ann for helping me add back in some of the details that got cut out along the way.
The medical information described below reflects technology and procedures currently available, but not available in the summer of 1987. The policies described are excerpted from current programs and protocols, and information on the specific medical procedure mentioned in the story is available at the end.
Late July, 1987
Amanda Stetson stood looking out the waiting room window down onto the street below. Crowds hurried past, caught up in the feel of the city. She looked out at the sky: blue with a few wispy clouds. Later there might be thunderstorms; she remembered hearing the report earlier. The only other time she had been in Chicago it had been winter. Grey, windy and frigid, she remembered being unable to get warm. Despite the sun that now shone, she again felt the cold. Arms wrapped around herself, she turned to look at the other people in the room.
Small groups of families were scattered throughout. Despite the attempt at cheerful decor, the overall atmosphere was solemn. Amanda's gaze wandered to her own family. Her mother, Jamie, Joe and Carrie sat talking quietly in a corner. Dotty kept folding and unfolding her hands, the only outward sign of her turmoil, as she somehow maintained a cheerful banter with those around her.
Amanda played with the rings on her left hand and thought over the events of the last month. 'Had it really only been a month?' she wondered. So much had happened, so much was still to be determined.
Mid June, 1987
Lee Stetson pulled his car up to the curb in front of the white picket fence and smiled. 'White picket fence,' he thought to himself with a small laugh, 'I never, in a million years, would have thought how much happiness lay beyond a white picket fence.' So engrossed was he in thoughts of the evening ahead, that he failed to notice the large black car with diplomatic plates parked across the street.
Lee exited the Corvette, taking with him the videotapes that Phillip and Jamie had mentioned on the phone the night before, and began making his way up the front walk. His progress was stopped short by the blur leaving the house.
"Hi, Lee," Phillip yelled as he ran out of the house. "Bye, Lee. See you later!"
Lee watched as Phillip ran across the street without checking for oncoming traffic, as only a teenager could forget to do, and got into the back seat of the black car. As Lee watched, the car pulled away from the curb and drove down the street. Shaking his head, Lee entered the house.
"Hi, there." Amanda greeted her husband with a kiss. "You're late."
"Traffic was bad and I didn't want to forget these," Lee responded as he held up the bag with the tapes. "Just released and we have them for two nights."
"Well, you just missed Phillip," she told him.
"Literally," Lee laughed. "As in inches. I think it's genetic," he teased.
"Hurricane Phillip heading out of the house. I seem to remember your mother calling you 'Hurricane Amanda' a time or two."
"He was excited," Amanda explained. "He had a date."
"A date?" Lee led her back into the family room, slightly surprised at the disappointment he felt. It was his first night back and he had wanted to spend it with Amanda *and* the boys.
"Her name's Lise," Jamie chimed in, coming down the stairs. "She's Hungarian."
"Lise?" Lee asked in surprise. "What happened to Kimberly? Beth?"
Jamie shook his head. "He's been busy and you've been gone too long." He smiled at Lee to show he was teasing. Jamie was getting more comfortable around Lee, Amanda realized happily.
"I was only out of town for two weeks!" He caught Amanda's eye and wondered how much he'd missed due to his latest assignment.
"Her name is Lise Varga," Amanda explained. "She moved in the last week of school and turned Phillip into a pile of mush."
"Pile of mush?" Lee asked, chuckling. "That doesn't sound like Phillip."
"You should see him," Jamie contributed. "It's disgusting."
"How so?" Lee questioned. Amanda's eldest son had been trying to perfect a cool 'ladies' man' persona all spring. Lee laughed as he thought of the fourteen-year-old being brought to his knees so soon.
"He jumps for the phone whenever he thinks she's going to call. He takes forever in the bathroom, and it stinks in there when he's done." Jamie made a face as he thought of the cologne Phillip had been using recently. "He's constantly mentioning her name. It's . . . it's . . . gross!"
As Jamie ranted on about his brother's crush, Lee took Amanda in his arms and began to softly kiss her neck. Her laughter caused her youngest son to make a face.
"That's going to stop once you're married, right?" he asked them. "I mean, I can kind of handle it now because Grandma said that's how engaged people act . . . but all that kissing and stuff - it's going to stop . . . right?"
Lee and Amanda looked at Jamie, then each other, and then burst into laughter. "Um . . . " they each began. Amanda was tongue-tied and Lee wasn't doing much better. Finally, Amanda untangled herself from Lee's arms. She looked at her son, trying to figure out how serious this issue was or might become. "We missed each other." She realized it sounded lame, even to her own ears.
"Relax, Mom," Jamie finally spoke. "I'm only teasing you two." He looked at Lee, meeting his gaze and holding it. "So when are you marrying her, anyway?"
Lee and Amanda exchanged glances. As far as Amanda's family was concerned, they had been dating since early winter and only recently engaged. As far as the Agency was concerned, they were partners and nothing more.
Dotty had made some very insightful guesses about the nature of their "vacations" while talking with Lee at the hospital in California. While they were able to put her off for a bit, they both finally decided that Dotty with an answer was better than Dotty with a question. Billy Melrose, too, had his own ideas about the same trip. But unlike Amanda's mother, he had thus far kept them to himself.
"We're still working that out, Jamie," Amanda answered. Noticing that Lee was beginning to look uncomfortable, she tried to explain. "We've got some issues to deal with at work, and we wanted to give you and Phillip time to get used to all of this."
"Dad just eloped when he and Carrie got married," Jamie reminded them, not understanding the look they shared.
"You don't live with your Dad and Carrie," Lee told him. "I don't think it would be fair for me to just show up one day with suitcases in hand and move in." He glanced at Amanda before continuing. "No matter how good it sounds."
"Just don't take too long. You're not getting any younger." With that remark Jamie picked up the videos that Lee had brought over and began to look through them.
Amanda smiled at Lee. She knew what Jamie was trying to say, even if he hadn't done it very well. Her youngest son didn't like transition, and now that he had finally accepted Lee as a member of the family he didn't want anything to come up that might change that.
"Don't worry," Lee laughed. "We won't."
Late July, 1987
Amanda jumped and turned toward the doors at the sound of her name. "Yes?" 'Is it over already,' she wondered to herself.
"I'm Doctor McDougal," the young man held out his now ungloved hand. "I just wanted to fill you in on the surgeries." He paused to look at the woman in front of him. "The team is getting set to close your husband up and he should be into the recovery room within the hour."
"His team's just getting into gear now. It will still be a while, but he's doing fine." She reminded him of his mother, not in age but how she held herself. Tall, strong, unbending. He wondered when she'd break down. He knew it wouldn't be soon, not while she was needed. "Someone will be out to take you to recovery once Mr. Stetson is set there."
"Thank you," Amanda whispered. 'He's going to be all right.' She sighed, and felt a small bit of tension leave her body. 'He's going to be all right,' she told herself a second time. 'When did it all start getting so complicated?'
Mid June, 1987
"I've been through the listing of all current U.S. visas issued to Hungarians, and I can't find anything in the computer on a Lise Varga," Amanda sighed in frustration.
"Maybe she doesn't have a Hungarian passport," Lee told her. It was a slow Thursday morning in an otherwise busy week and Amanda had been using the time to check up on the object of her son's affections. Lee laughed as he watched his wife in "mama-bear" mode.
"But Phillip said she was Hungarian!"
"And she could be . . . . Have you tried to run the diplomatic plates of the car?"
"Yeah, it's just one of the motor pool cars assigned to the embassy."
"Then why are you worried?"
"Because something doesn't feel right," Amanda admitted. "I know it's silly, but there are things that don't add up. Like why would she live in Arlington but always be driven around in that embassy car? Then there's her age. She comes across as a sweet girl, very shy and polite and all, but fifteen? Have you looked at her? Really looked at her?" Amanda shook her head. "Not fifteen."
"What about that aunt of hers?" Lee asked curiously.
"Mother's met her twice. She said she's young, rather cold, but efficient. The perfect chaperone." Amanda made a face. "That's another thing - Mother couldn't remember her first name! I knew I should have been there to meet her."
"That might have been hard since you were tied up," Lee reminded her.
"Yeah, literally," Amanda sighed ruefully as she continued to work the computer. Lee had been gone for two weeks, and in his absence she realized that her status as a field agent was secure. Too secure, she reminded herself. She'd hardly spent any time in the office as she and Francine began and finished three exhausting cases, the last of which had found her trapped for several hours in a gym locker at one of the posh downtown health clubs. Who knew just how strong those little Eastern-Bloc tennis players really were? "One of these days I'm gonna let something slip at home, you know."
"Is that your way of telling me you need some time off?" Lee knew Amanda had been exhausted lately. They had been working long hours ever since the doctor had declared her officially recovered from her gunshot wound. The last few months were a blur, even to him. He'd also read over the paperwork from her cases during his absence. Lee realized that his trip was probably far more relaxing than her time in D.C. had been, and he wisely refrained from commenting on just how smoothly his whole case had gone.
"Do you think I can swing the whole week of the Fourth off?" Amanda knew she'd accrued more than enough vacation time; she just didn't know if things would slow down enough for her to be able to take it.
"Why don't you just tell Billy tomorrow that you're taking that week off?" Lee knew the only way she'd get the time was to be more assertive. "Besides, I'd like to take a few days then, too."
"Oh, that'll go over well." Amanda remembered the teasing they had endured as they tried to take their 'vacations' back in February.
"Amanda," Lee began, "maybe it's time to stop some of this pretending." He looked at his wife's expression: her eyebrow was raised skeptically. "We're certainly not fooling Billy."
Amanda nodded in agreement. Mr. Melrose had actually sent her to pick Lee up from the airport when his flight got in. Paid time off for picking up her partner / best friend / lover / husband. "How upset do you think he'll be?"
"That depends on what we tell him," Lee replied thoughtfully. "If we go for low key . . . you wear your engagement ring on Monday morning . . . we tell him the date once we square something with the boys and your mother . . . . He might not kill us."
"How long have you been thinking about this?" Amanda had the feeling this wasn't a new plan.
Lee looked sheepish. "About a month or so." He walked over to her and gave her his best wide-eyed innocent look.
"It would make things easier," she admitted. "But I have one condition of my own."
"What's that?" Lee was curious.
"We set a date this weekend. That will get you out of the dog house with the boys!"
"I don't think I've been in there alone," Lee reminded her. "But, okay, sounds like a plan."
"Good. Now you need to get back to work while I try to figure this out."
"You're still obsessed on this whole Lise thing, aren't you?" Lee had to admit he found it all a bit humorous. He walked back over to the desk and began to try to get some paperwork of his own done.
"I just wish I knew more. Mother did say that Lise's aunt decided that she can come with us on the Fourth without an escort."
"Well, gee, isn't that nice." Lee rolled his eyes. "Do you think we can keep her safe?"
"Now, now," Amanda reminded him, "she thinks we work for a film company. I'm sure she's just worried about her niece being involved with anyone with ties to the entertainment industry."
"What about ties to the spy industry?" Lee teased.
Amanda just shook her head. "Watch it, Stetson. Just be on your best behavior on the Fourth, or I might have to get rough with you."
"Oh?" Lee got up from his seat and walked behind his wife. He began to massage her neck, and bent down to place a kiss on the outer edge of her ear. "Just how rough do you plan on getting?" It was barely more than a whisper.
Amanda closed her eyes and leaned back into Lee's embrace. Neither heard the door open.
"Get a room!" Francine exclaimed in annoyance as she came into the Q-Bureau.
"Haven't you heard of knocking, Francine?" Lee asked innocently.
"Haven't you heard of discretion?" she countered.
"Touche," Lee relented. "What brings you up here, anyway?"
"News from Siberia." She put a file folder down on the desk in front of Amanda. 'What's with these two, anyway?' she wondered to herself. 'They're getting careless. If I had been Doctor Smyth . . . .' Francine shook her head and brought herself back to her reason for the trip upstairs. "The Soviets have confirmed that Alexi Makarov has died in prison."
"As of when?" Amanda wanted to know. "What proof did they offer?" Relief was tempered by suspicion. This enemy of Lee's, both of theirs really, had spent years plotting the revenge that last fall had nearly cost them their jobs and their freedom. She wanted to believe he was dead and gone, but she also wanted proof.
"One of our undercover operatives assigned there was present at the autopsy, so we're pretty comfortable with it as fact. And the when was April 30th." Francine's voice interrupted Amanda's thoughts.
"That was two months ago!" Lee wondered why they hadn't heard sooner. Makarov should have still been a subject for U.S. intelligence, even if he was in a Siberian prison camp.
"Yeah, well, Johnson's been busy since then, and his report was filed a bit late." Francine shook her head. "But we've got it now, and I thought you two would like to know."
"What about Sonja?" Amanda had to ask.
Francine shook her head. "Still in Moscow, as far as we know. She's very good at making friends in high places, even as the winds continually shift."
Late July, 1987
They'd thought things were going well then. Both were feeling bolder, happier . . . trying to find the time to end all the secrecy.
Amanda shook her head, and walked over to where her mother and Jamie sat. "Where'd your dad go?"
"He and Carrie went for a walk," Jamie answered. "I think the quiet in here was getting to them."
Dotty sighed. "This is hard on him, on both of them." She looked at her daughter. "How are you holding up?"
"Okay, I guess," Amanda said with a half smile. "They're almost done with Lee. He'll be in recovery soon and they'll probably let me go back then." She looked at Jamie. "We'll hear something about your brother soon; I promise."
"I know, Mom. I'm just glad they let me in here to wait with you guys."
"Me too, sweetheart, me too." Amanda hugged her youngest son. This wasn't the way the family was supposed to be spending the summer. They were supposed to have had a wedding, a celebration . . . .
Late June, 1987
It was a week later than originally planned, but at last they both had a free evening. Amanda was putting the final preparations on dinner when she heard Lee's car pull up out front. She smiled to herself and wondered if the neighbors around the corner ever wondered why the silver sports car that used to park by their house had moved its location over the past year.
"Hey, fellas," she called into the family room, "Lee's here and dinner's ready."
"We're coming, Mom," Phillip told her. He stopped short as he entered the dining room. "The good china?" he asked in surprise. "Something's up."
"Well . . . ," Amanda began, only to be interrupted by a pair of strong arms encircling her waist from behind her and a very sensitive pair of lips trailing down her neck.
"Very nice," Lee told her as he looked around the room.
Dotty entered and looked at her daughter and Lee, the table, and her grandson's face. "Are you going to tell us what all this is for?"
"I need to get the food. Where's Jamie?" Amanda asked as she made her way out of her husband's arms and back into the kitchen.
"Right here, Mom," her youngest son answered as he came in the front door. "I was just getting the dessert from Lee's car."
"Dessert?" Dotty echoed. "Something's up."
Amanda returned and placed the last of the serving dishes on the table. "Is there anything wrong with wanting to spend a relaxing Friday evening with my family?"
"And?" Phillip prompted as he watched Lee intently.
"And," Lee responded, "we thought we could use your help." Lee sat and the boys did the same, Jamie on his left and Phillip across the table.
"To do what?" Jamie asked while Phillip began to smile.
"Oh, I don't know," Amanda said with a teasing lilt in her voice. "How about plan a wedding?" She began to pass the serving dishes around the table.
"It's about time!" Jamie said with a smile.
"I agree completely," Dotty told them.
"You know your mother's in heaven," Lee told Amanda as they sat outside on the gazebo bench after dinner.
"Yeah," she agreed. "Did you hear her comment about eloping? That she'd have hunted us down and made us pay if we had done that?"
Lee nodded. "I guess we'll just keep that as our own little secret."
"Along with a few thousand others," Amanda added. "But I do feel like a weight's been lifted off my chest."
"Who'd have thought this would keep them so occupied on a Friday night?" Lee mused.
"Mother even cancelled her date!" Amanda laughed. She could hear the hum inside the kitchen as her mother and the boys cleaned up and discussed the wedding preparations. "What kind of music do you think they'll subject us to?"
Lee shook his head and laughed. "I don't know," he admitted. "But we did pretty much give them carte blanche. Besides, I'm sure Dotty will overrule the boys if they go too far."
"I don't know if I worry more about their choices or hers," Amanda sighed, relaxing back into her husband's arms. "This is a very nice way to spend a Friday evening. Do you think anyone would mind if we snuck out a little later?"
"Are you propositioning me, Mrs. Stetson?" Lee asked softly, as he kissed the ear his wife had so conveniently placed against his mouth.
"Oh, most definitely," she laughed.
Late July, 1987
"Do you think Phillip will really be okay?"
"Yeah, I do, sweetheart. He has some of the best doctors anywhere working on him." She looked at Jamie. "I thought you did a lot of research on liver transplants before we came."
"I did," Jamie admitted. "But it's different when . . . when it's . . . well, when it's Phillip."
Amanda nodded. The relationship between her two sons had been strained these past several months as Phillip matured and Jamie seemed to lag behind on the emotional and social scale. Still, Jamie loved his older brother. "He'll be okay. In a few months the two of you will be back doing stuff together again."
Jamie shook his head. "I don't think so. Not in the same way, at least." He sighed. "I never liked her, you know," Jamie told his mother. "I never trusted her."
Amanda looked at her son, second-guessing himself as she had been doing. 'If only we hadn't accepted Lise so easily,' she thought ruefully as she put her arms around Jamie.
The National Mall, July Fourth
Lee sat watching while Amanda unpacked their food with great force. Slam went the salad container. Wham went the rolls. He approached her slowly and put his hands on her shoulders. "Calm," he whispered. "Remember, he's a teenager."
A low growl was her only response. Lee waited as she unpacked their drinks with slightly more care. "I wanted today to be a nice family holiday," Amanda finally admitted.
"Well, it is," he told her.
"Yeah, sure," was the muttered reply.
"Hey, don't you remember wanting to spend more time with your friends than your family?" Lee remembered hating anything his uncle suggested. Of course, his uncle hadn't made many suggestions when he was growing up, and he admitted to himself that his reaction probably hastened the end of the offers.
"Friends? Girlfriend, you mean," she corrected bitterly.
"At least they grabbed a couple of sandwiches before they went left," Dotty gently told her daughter. "Last year both Phillip and Jamie went exploring on the mall for quite a while."
"I know; you're both probably right." Amanda looked over to where Jamie sat, engrossed in the book he had brought. She wondered if he even noticed that his brother had walked off. She remembered with a bit of nostalgia when each was the other's best friend. Now, the two years that separated them seemed to be an uncrossable chasm at times.
Amanda then turned to Lee. It was still a good day, she conceded, and it was the end of a very good week. She had gotten three days off, one less than she wanted but one more than she had hoped for, and Lee had taken off two.
"It's all coming together." Lee's voice interrupted Amanda's reverie. "Come on, have a sandwich."
Amanda smiled and leaned back against his chest. It was, after all, their first official family holiday with their relationship almost completely out in the open. Phillip and Lise would be back soon and then they would all enjoy the fireworks that the Nation's Capital was known for.
"The sun's going down, Lee," Amanda whispered as she lay against his legs.
"Mmmm," was the soft reply.
"Phillip's not back yet."
"What?" Lee shook himself awake. He'd eaten too much, he realized, and had fallen asleep waiting for the air to cool off.
"I said, Phillip's not back yet."
Lee looked at his watch, and looked around. "Jamie, have you seen your brother?"
"Not since he said that he was going to see some of the exhibits with Lise. That was a couple of hours ago."
"He knows where we are," Dotty told them. "He and Jamie roamed several hours on their own last year. It's fine. I'm sure he just got distracted."
"Yeah," Amanda agreed with a scowl on her face. "And I'm pretty sure by what."
"Amanda," Lee chided softly, "you still don't like her?"
"There's something about her that bothers me," she admitted. "I wish I could put my finger on it but I just don't trust her. I don't like what I see in her eyes."
"She's cold," Jamie agreed softly. "It's like she's faking it all the time."
"Why didn't you say anything sooner?" Lee looked at his younger stepson. He knew he'd been brushing off Amanda's concerns, but now Jamie was agreeing with her. "Was there anything in particular you noticed?"
"No, but it's like she really doesn't like any of us."
"She's done a pretty good job of hiding that," Dotty said. "I think it's just cultural. Europeans are different . . . not as warm."
"Mother!" Amanda shook her head. "She's plenty warm with my son," she muttered under her breath.
Lee heard his wife and realized the truth of that statement. He also had the sinking feeling that Phillip was likely to be getting himself into something that Lee, new in his role, felt totally unprepared to deal with. "Um, Amanda," he began hesitantly.
"Yes, we've had that talk," she interrupted, rolling her eyes. "Several times. Including recently for all of the good it's apparently done." She shook her head. Hormones. Teenage boys and hormones. She was going to kill him. It was that simple. She was going to kill him. Or maybe just ground him until he finished high school.
The foursome on the Mall did not enjoy the fireworks that evening. Amanda barely noticed the display, other than to use its intermittent brightness to help her scan the crowd in search of Phillip. As the display came to an end her anger had turned to worry.
"Maybe we should call in someone," she said softly to Lee. In a louder voice she continued. "Mother, why don't you and Jamie try to find the car and go home? Lee and I will wait here and look for Phillip a little more."
"Maybe you should check with the police," Dotty suggested worriedly.
Amanda gave her a tense smile and nodded. "Jamie, you and your grandmother go home. We'll find your brother. I may kill him, but we'll find him."
She and Lee stood watching as her mother and Jamie slowly made their way through the crowd to the car. They looked at each other and went to make the call neither of them wanted to make.
They waited in line for the pay phone, Amanda breathing deeply - trying to calm down and put on her professional persona. Lee scanned the crowd while they waited, doubting that he'd see anything but feeling obligated to look nonetheless. As Amanda finally took her turn at the telephone, Lee caught sight of a limousine passing slowly down the street. As it made its way directly in front of where he stood, the rear window opened and a woman smiled smugly at him. Lee felt his blood run cold. "Sonja," he whispered.
Amanda hung up the phone and turned to Lee. When he saw the look on her face he wondered if she too had seen the car. "It's bad," she told him. "Billy's sending a car to get us."
"I just saw someone," Lee began as they walked to the curb to await their ride. "I don't know if it's related or not, but it might be."
"Sonja Chenko," Amanda said to him and saw the confirmation in his eyes. "The Agency just received a tape from her, and we need to listen to it." She wrapped her arms around herself, trying to stop the shivering that had begun during the phone call.
"What's on it?" Lee pulled her to his side as he tried without success to ward off the feelings of guilt and fear coursing through him.
Amanda shook her head. "I don't know. Billy didn't say, but he sounded worried. It's bad, I just know it."
"We'll find him, Amanda," he told her. "We'll find him and bring him home."
Late July, 1987
They did find him. It took almost two days, calling in more favors than Amanda realized they were owed, and in the end: luck. They had learned that Lise was Alexi Makarov's illegitimate daughter, that she really was Hungarian, and that she had only met him once, shortly before he made his way to the United States to destroy Lee Stetson. Sonja had contacted her after his death and used the young woman in an attempt to finish Alexi's planned revenge. Amanda had to wonder how much of that revenge was actually Sonja's idea.
They didn't bring him home. What had started out as a short trip to the hospital once Phillip had been released had turned into an ordeal that now had Amanda sitting, waiting, and remembering. She remembered Lee, grabbing Phillip from the rescue team at the Embassy gate and bringing him to her. She remembered the ride to the hospital, telling Phillip not to worry, that it was just routine, and he needed to be checked out. She remembered Phillip's face as he realized the scope of the situation, and how he tried to joke that, aside from some slightly rancid orange juice, it hadn't been that bad.
Phillip had felt awful for the unwitting role he had played. He was horrified when he learned that Lise wasn't fifteen but seventeen, and was embarrassed as he explained to his mother just how she had lured him off the mall that night.
July Fourth, 1987
"So you will still live with your mother once she remarries?" Lise asked Phillip.
"Yeah," he replied, puzzled. "Why wouldn't I?" 'And why,' he wondered, 'does she want to know?'
"My mother sent me away to school when she remarried."
"What about your father? I mean, I don't think I'd exactly choose to live with my dad even though we get along real well and all, but I know he'd be there if anything ever happened."
"You are lucky, then." She shook her head to chase away what looked like sadness to the boy. "I am sorry. I just wish my father had wanted me."
Phillip held both her hands. "When was the last time you talked to him?" He wondered what type of man wouldn't want this beautiful girl in front of him.
"I only met him about a year ago. He visited briefly, but it was like talking to a stranger. And now it's too late. He is dead."
"Gosh, I'm sorry, Lise." Phillip forgot his annoyance at her questions, wanting to erase her pain.
As if reading his mind, she spoke softly. "It's okay. I just need to not think about it. And I know just how to do that." She smiled mischievously as she took two keys from the pocket of her shorts.
"What are those for?" Phillip asked curiously.
"The side gate of the Embassy, and the building's back security door. Come on. We can be back in a couple of hours. They won't miss us."
Phillip was intrigued, looking into her eyes and seeing the mischievous glint that made him forget all logic and common sense. He remembered her "private viewing" of the limousine the past weekend and wondered just what she had in mind this time around.
"Let me just run and tell my Mom that we're going to check out some of the exhibits, and that we'll be back before the fireworks start. Okay?"
Lise smiled and nodded. "I need to find a restroom - I'll meet you in front of the Natural History building."
"Lise?" Phillip looked around the darkened room and found a clock. "Oh, no," he said aloud. "They're going to kill me. They're going to figure it all out, and they're going to kill me." He got up and retrieved his shoes. "Lise? Where are you?" As he walked to the door, he was startled to find it locked from the outside. "Lise?" He began to wonder what he'd just gotten himself into.
Late July, 1987
Jamie shook his head as his mother relayed Phillip's story. She wasn't surprise that her oldest son hadn't filled his younger brother in; Phillip had barely been able to tell Amanda the story.
"Man," Jamie sighed, "and I thought Phillip had girls all figured out."
Amanda gave her son a half smile. "I don't think Lise fits the category of 'normal girl', sweetheart," she reminded him. "He was so caught up in being with her that he was willing to believe anything she told him."
"Mom?" He was nervous about asking the question.
"Well, it's just that . . . maybe if you had told us about what you did then maybe Phillip wouldn't have been . . . well . . . ."
Amanda nodded. "Yeah, I wonder that myself." She sighed. "Maybe we should have told you more. Maybe we should have sheltered you both better." She shook her head. "I don't know. But I do know that I love you and your brother very much."
Jamie gave his mother a hug. He wasn't surprised, really, that she was as worried as he was. He suspected it was much harder for her, having to be brave for him. He didn't want to make her also second-guess herself on top of everything else. Besides, he really did want to hear the rest of the story.
"What did Phillip think was going on?" Jamie asked.
"I don't know. He said that Lise's aunt showed up later and told him that there had been a security problem at the Embassy. They were locked down for the evening, and Lise had gone to her room. Once the problem was solved, the aunt had told him, she'd call me." Amanda shook her head at the memory of Phillip telling her that. 'Oh, yeah,' she remembered, 'Sonja had called all right.'
Early Morning, July 5th
Amanda and Lee sat on the couch in Billy's office. Francine stood against the door, holding all of the information she had been able to find on Sonja Chenko's activities over the past year. Billy sat behind his desk, leaning back in his chair with his eyes closed. Slowly, as if the movement of his hand generated physical pain, he pressed the play button on the cassette deck for the third time.
"Hello, Lee. It's been a while," the voice purred. "I just wanted to let you and your, um, partner know that I'm here to return a favor. I believe you know that my grandfather died while in Siberia. Now it is your family's turn." There was a soft laugh, and a pause. "Oh, and tell Amanda that she has slightly misunderstood my relationship to Lise."
When the tape finished, Francine cleared her throat and began to speak. "Lise Vargas was born in Budapest seventeen years ago. Her mother was a dancer with the Budapest State Opera Ballet. Her father . . . ." Francine paused and took a breath. "Her mother met her father during a tour of the Soviet Union. He followed the company for several stops but then broke off contact. As far as we know, he didn't know she had become pregnant until a few years ago."
Amanda's mouth began to silently form the name as Francine turned the page in the file she was looking at. "Her father was Alexi Makarov. Lise is, by being Makarov's daughter, technically Sonja's aunt."
"Why the hell didn't any of this turn up when Amanda was checking her out a few weeks ago?" Lee demanded, standing up and beginning to pace. 'This wasn't some little "oh, sorry, we didn't know who she was." How could this have slipped through their intelligence gathering?'
Billy looked at Francine as he, too, waited for the answer to Lee's question.
She shook her head. "I don't know. I put in the information Amanda gave me and this came out. I looked over the printouts she received after her request and, yes, they have considerably less detail."
"Could someone have tapped into our system?" Amanda asked anxiously.
"It's doubtful," Francine replied. "But they could have planted someone here on site. Data processing's hired almost one hundred new people in the last six months as we've expanded our computer systems. There's always the chance that something, someone, slipped by. I've got them running a level alpha review right now."
"I'm sure they're thrilled to be called in tonight to be doing that." Lee said sarcastically. He caught the look that Amanda gave him and sighed. "I'm sorry. . . ." His voice trailed off as he resumed his pacing. Worry and guilt were intermingling with the adrenaline in his system. Sonja had known, undoubtedly, what she was doing. Not only was Phillip in danger, but his relationship with Amanda was likely to suffer as a result of this case. His wife had been oddly detached since their arrival at the Agency. She hadn't touched him physically since the car had picked them up. Her eyes, except when they delivered a warning glare or two, were unreadable.
Billy cleared his throat. "Listen, you two, why don't you head back to Amanda's? She might try to make contact there. We've got a team at the address you gave us for Lise and we're making inquiries at the Hungarian Embassy."
Amanda nodded and stood up. "We'll be back later in the morning, sir." She paused. "Is there anyone watching my house? I guess so, I mean, it's standard procedure." She walked to the door and spoke softly, as if to herself. "How am I going to explain all of this to Mother and Jamie?"
Lee followed her. "We'll explain it, Amanda." He frowned as she didn't respond, but walked out the door and through the bullpen to the hallway and the elevator. Turning to Billy, he shrugged his shoulders and then left. Amanda had, Lee reflected, learned an awful lot from him in the past few years - including how to shut off her emotions. It hadn't been something he wanted her to pick up from him.
Late July, 1987
A hand touched Amanda's shoulder and she jumped. "Joe!" she exclaimed as she stood up.
"Sorry," he apologized. "I just wanted to know if you'd heard anything yet."
Amanda nodded and pointed at Jamie, who had fallen asleep in his chair. She began to walk a bit away from the seating area, so as not to wake him with her conversation. "They're almost done with Lee and I'll be able to go into the recovery room soon. They're just getting going on Phillip, but the doctor who came out said everything was looking good."
"I wish there was more I could have done," he said as he shook his head.
"I know," Amanda told him as she held his arm. "I feel the same way. I guess it was always a possibility . . . that if something happened, neither of us would be compatible donors for him."
Joe nodded. "Yeah, I've learned more about blood typing and stuff recently than I ever wanted to know." He touched her left hand and her rings. "I can't believe he did that."
Amanda felt the tears come into her eyes. "I know. I can't either. Part of me . . . part of me didn't want him to. I kept thinking: what if I lost them both? But he was so determined."
"It makes it kind of hard for me to be angry that his job brought all of this on," Joe admitted. "I remember hating when I found out about what he did - what you did." He looked at Amanda, so different from the woman he had married long ago. "When you told me about Phillip, I wanted to hurt Lee, badly, so he'd know what I was feeling." He paused. "But he did know. He proved it in that hospital room, didn't he?"
"Yeah, he did," Amanda told him as she remembered. She remembered sitting there, wondering why they wouldn't discharge Phillip. It should have been just a routine check, a quick trip to the hospital once they had gotten him back, except that the doctors found something. A little irregularity in his liver tests, they originally said. But the next day it was worse, and the day after worse again, until they had determined that his liver was failing. Acetaminophen poisoning. So simple, really. Sonja had apparently ground it into his juice while he was at the Embassy. In massive quantities. And Phillip had drunk all of it, and eaten little.
July 8th, Afternoon, Phillip's Room, Arlington Hospital
"I'm type A," Joe said softly as the doctor finished describing the possibilities of live donor transplantation of the liver. "I don't match."
Amanda felt the tears coming to her eyes. "I'm type A as well, and so is Jamie."
"We don't use siblings," the doctor informed her. "Only parents."
"What about step-parents?" Lee had to know.
"We haven't really dealt with that issue yet. Parent - child transplantation is fairly new, and it's been very successful because of the genetic component." Lee caught Amanda's eye as the doctor continued. "But the other, not unimportant, component is psychological."
"I'm O positive," Lee said quietly, as the information sank in. He looked around the room and saw the raised eyebrows. "You've got him on the donor list already and that would be from a stranger."
"You're not his biological parent," the doctor said.
"You're not even his step-father yet," Joe added quietly, amazed in fact that Lee would consider this at all.
Lee looked at Amanda and took a deep breath. "Yes, I am. We've been married since February." He turned to look at the doctor. "Can I be considered?"
"Excuse me," came the voice from the bed. Phillip looked around impatiently. "Can I say something here?" Four pairs of eyes turned to the boy on the bed.
"Of course, sweetheart," replied Amanda tenderly.
"What is the risk to the donor?" Phillip asked. "I think Lee's taken enough risks for me lately." He looked up at the older man whom he had come to care for so much. He was still trying to absorb all he had learned about what his mother and Lee did for a living, and how he'd inadvertently gotten mixed up in it. "I think it'd be better to wait."
Lee sat down on the bed and looked at Phillip. "Don't you know that I couldn't not do anything? I deal with risk every day, all for lesser reasons than this." He turned to the doctor. "It can't be that risky, can it? You wouldn't want to be orphaning your patients, after all."
"While it's not without risk to the donor," the doctor replied to Phillip, "it isn't anything compared to what you are facing right now. In live donor transplantation, we use about half of the donor's liver for transplantation. It takes about three to four weeks for both parts to grow to full size, and the donor is usually doing pretty well by that point in time." He looked at the family in front of him and made a decision. "We'll add you to the list, Mr. Stetson, and begin the testing. If the initial profiles and tissue typing are a go, you can expect to be heading to one of the transplant centers next week. There are only a few places doing this right now; my recommendation would be the University of Chicago."
As the doctor left the room, Phillip shook his head. "You know, I was really only kidding about being poisoned by orange juice. I should have known something wasn't right with it."
Amanda went to the bed, sitting between Lee and her son, and took Phillip's hand. "You had no way of knowing, of suspecting, she'd do anything like that."
"Mom," Phillip hated to see her so upset. "It'll be okay." Time to change the subject. "Do you two want to explain that marriage comment now?"
Amanda exchanged glances with Lee and nodded. "Yeah, I guess it's about time we came clean on that one too, huh?"
Late July, 1987
"Mrs. Stetson?" The doctor's voice brought Amanda back to the present.
"Your husband is in the recovery room," he told her with a smile. "You can go sit with him if you'd like."
"Do you have any news on my son?" She had to ask.
"Not really," the doctor said. He saw her face, and added, "except that it's all going fine. Really. We don't want to hear any news at this point."
Amanda gave him a half smile, threw a glance over to where her mother sat with Jamie, who was still asleep, and followed the doctor to the recovery area.
Amanda sat next to the bed and sighed. "I do this entirely too often, Stetson," she told the man lying there. "I really hate it when you're unconscious. You know that, don't you?" She had been told that he might be able to sense her presence. She hoped so. She knew that he didn't hear her, but she felt better talking to him . . . unburdening herself.
"I can't believe you thought I was mad at you for all of this," she began softly as she held the hand without the I.V. line. "I know you blamed yourself, but that wasn't the right thing to do. I blamed myself too, you know? I thought if I'd had the courage to tell them the truth about what I did . . . what we did . . . that Phillip might have learned to be more careful. I thought I should have figured out who Lise was . . . paid more attention somehow." She shook her head. "In the end, though, it's all just a crap shoot." She laughed at what she just said. "You've been a bad influence on me, you know that, Scarecrow? But you saved Phillip's life without a thought. And mine, and Jamie's indirectly. Do you have any idea how much I love you?"
Amanda stroked his palm and his fingers. "Jamie told me about your little conversation at the hospital. Did you know that? You're quite a guy." She leaned over and kissed him softly.
July 8th, Morning, Arlington Hospital
As Lee and Amanda paced, waiting for visiting hours to begin, Lee glanced over to the pair sitting against the wall. While Dotty appeared to be holding it together, Lee noticed that his youngest stepson was more noticeably upset. Giving Amanda a kiss on the forehead, he released her and walked over to sit by Jamie.
"Hey, there," Lee began cautiously, "how are you holding up?"
Jamie shook his head, afraid to answer. After a minute, he took a deep breath and spoke softly. "Can we go for a walk?"
Lee nodded, caught Amanda's eye, and the two walked out of the waiting room together. As they walked along the sidewalk outside of the hospital, Lee waited for Jamie to speak.
"I'm scared," Jamie finally admitted in a low voice.
Lee nodded. "We're all worried and anxious to hear something. You know," he stopped to look Jamie in the eye, "it's hard when you don't know anything, and someone you care about is hurting and there's nothing you can do." Jamie looked doubtful and Lee continued. "I've been there a time or two." He paused. "Actually, it's usually been your mom doing the waiting on me."
Jamie looked at the older man and decided to plunge ahead. "What do you really do, Lee?" he asked, breathlessly. "Doesn't seem to me that film producers would be in trouble that often, or know how to deal with what happened to Phillip the way you and Mom did."
Lee ran his hand through his hair, unsure if he should be the one telling Jamie the answers he needed to hear. Amanda had expressed the desire to come clean to the boys. They had already told Dotty just about everything, but the time hadn't seemed right for Phillip and Jamie. Both had wanted Phillip to be doing better first. But as Lee looked at Jamie's expression and saw both the questions and the fear for his brother, he decided to plunge ahead.
"I work for the government," Lee began. "And so does your Mom."
"So you do work together?"
"She's my partner," Lee answered. "We're federal agents."
"My mother's a Fed?" Jamie looked more stunned at the thought of his mother in that line of work than of Lee.
"Yeah. We've worked together for about four years now." 'Let's just get it all out,' Lee thought to himself.
"Wow! I kind of figured that you met when Dad came back from Africa," Jamie admitted. "Some of that stuff . . . the fighting in the gym . . . . Guess I got a few things a little mixed up."
"It's a little scary how much you got right," Lee said with a nervous laugh. "Yeah, I helped out when your dad came back. Your mom and I weren't supposed to know each other then."
"I don't think Dad bought it," Jamie told him. "He grilled us about Mom's job quite a bit."
"He figured it out pretty quickly," Lee responded, remembering the afternoon at Amanda's when he had walked in on Joe in the family room.
"Were you guys dating then?"
"Not exactly. Just very good friends. We were both a little slow at figuring it all out." He remembered those months of dancing around each other, innocent dinners with emotions just barely hidden under the surface. He remembered the anticipation, knowing something was eventually going to happen but honesty not knowing when. Lee smiled and realized that things worked out a lot better than he had thought they would.
He put an arm around Jamie's shoulders. "Come on, I'm sure they've heard something by now."
Jamie nodded, and they walked back into the hospital to see Amanda hanging up the telephone in the hallway, tears running down her face. She turned to Lee and Jamie and held out her arms. They came to her and she held them while they waited to hear what was wrong.
"I just called Joe," Amanda said between sniffles. "Phillip's liver is failing. They want to talk about . . . about a transplant."
Late July, 1987
"I called Billy a little while ago," Amanda told him as he lay sleeping. "He wanted to see how you were doing . . . let you know he and Jeannie were thinking of us. Even Francine sends her best." She chuckled ruefully at the last statement. So much had changed in the last four years. So much was still going to change.
Amanda remembered when they told Billy about Phillip . . . about everything.
July 10th, 1987
Billy knocked on the door to the Q Bureau, and waited for Lee or Amanda to open it. He knew it wasn't good when they called and asked to meet him here. He'd heard the strain in Lee's voice on the phone the night before, even though Lee refused to discuss anything until today.
"Come on in," Lee said as he opened the door.
Billy entered the office and noticed Amanda sitting on the couch. Lee went and sat on the arm, beside her, his hand placed gently on her shoulder. She nodded slightly, and he began to speak.
"I guess you know that Phillip's been in the hospital for the last few days, since we got him back," Lee stated. Billy nodded and Lee continued. "Well, apparently they missed something in the initial tox screen, because he's suffering from liver failure." Lee felt Amanda's hand grip his leg tightly. "What we think happened is Sonja managed to poison the orange juice he had during his stay at the Embassy."
"With what?" Billy was curious and concerned. "Shouldn't something like that have shown up?"
Amanda shook her head. "It was acetaminophen." Seeing the confusion on Billy's face, she clarified. "Tylenol. Large doses with relatively little food or liquid, or with high doses of alcohol can cause liver failure. The doctor's say it's rare and usually accidental." She closed her eyes tightly and Lee picked up the rest of the story.
"Unfortunately, the damage is pretty extensive, and the doctors are looking at a transplant. The University of Chicago does a lot of pediatric cases, and the lead surgeon there happens to be in the Air Force Reserves, with the appropriate security clearance. We're going to need some time to head out there."
"They've found a donor?" Billy was surprised at how quickly everything had happened.
"They've started a new program using living donors, Billy," Lee said softly.
"Amanda?" Billy asked.
She shook her head. "Neither Joe nor I were a match. Phillip is O positive. Joe, Jamie and I are all type A. It's unusual, they say, but it can happen."
"Me," Lee told him.
"They're only using parents," Amanda said softly. She looked at Lee and then at Billy before continuing. "There's still more tissue typing to be done, as well as a series of psych interviews. That's why it's restricted to family. The transplant coordinator has agreed to have an Agency psychiatrist present, but it will still be done by program personnel."
"Who has to be interviewed?" Billy asked.
"Lee, Joe and myself," Amanda replied. "As our boss, you'll have to complete a signed statement that just sort of verifies our employment, insurance coverage . . . stuff like that."
"Anything," Billy told them. "You should know that." He noticed that they were wearing their wedding rings. "Had to 'fess up?" he asked as he pointed to their hands.
"You knew?" Lee asked in surprise.
"I've known since February," Billy told them both, "when the hospital sent me a copy of Amanda's medical records and you were listed as next of kin. I figured at some point you two would have to let the secret out, and in the meantime I could work in the background so that when it did become public knowledge your jobs wouldn't be affected."
"And?" Amanda had to ask.
"We pushed through new regulations late last month," Billy smiled at being able to impart just a bit of good news in the midst of so much that was dark. "Got it all finished up just before you decided to start wearing that ring around here," he told Amanda. "While we would never hire a spouse, or partner an agent with a relative, your relationship evolved after your partnership and is therefore exempt from the restrictions." He watched small smiles appear on both of their faces. "Any decisions the two of you might make about your future career paths are up to you."
Lee nodded. "Thanks, Billy, but neither of us is really thinking in those terms right now. And as far as telling the family goes, we didn't really see any choice. As soon as the doc mentioned what Phillip's blood type was, I knew I was a possible. When he said parents only, I figured that the only way they'd consider me was as his step-father." He shook his head at the memory. "So I just sort of, well, blurted it out."
"How did everyone take it?" Billy asked.
"Pretty good, considering," Amanda answered quietly. "They seemed rather relieved."
Lee smiled. "Yeah, they just got out of planning a wedding."
"Joe took it the hardest." Amanda noted. "But he's determined to do whatever he can. One of the lawyers he works with has a rental apartment near the hospital in Chicago and it's vacant right now. Joe, Jamie and Mother will stay there while Phillip's in the hospital."
Billy shook his head in awe at their composure. "Sounds like you both have it all planned out." They nodded, and he noticed the glance between them. Of course, he realized, if they kept it planned out just so, then everything would have to work out. He said a silent prayer for them and got to his feet.
"I'll call Francine and fill her in. Then we'll work on rerouting your case work for now." Billy and Lee shook hands. "Call me if there is anything at all I can do."
Amanda leaned over and gave him a kiss on the cheek. "Thank you, sir," she told him and he shook it off and made a quiet getaway.
Late July, 1987
Lee stirred as the doctor was leaving the recovery room. "Hey there," Amanda grinned as she bent over to give him a small kiss. "I love you," she whispered. Nope, not quite lucid, she thought to herself. "I'm going to leave you for a little while, but you're in good hands. Phillip's out of surgery, and it went well." She paused and smoothed back his hair tenderly. "There's still a lot we won't know for a while, and rejection is always a possibility, but right now everything looks good."
Lee groaned, and a nurse came over and adjusted the medication in the I.V. "He won't be awake for quite a while," she told Amanda. "Go on, don't worry about him. We'll take good care of this one." She smiled, and Amanda smiled back.
"Thank you," she told the nurse. "He's very special to me. To all of us."
"I kind of figured," the nurse laughed. "Go check on your boy."
Amanda smiled again and left to see Phillip. It was going to be a long hard road, but they were also very fortunate to have so much support. She realized she was breathing easier than she had in days. Hope. It felt good.
Epilogue: Lee's Apartment, Late August 1987
He watched her as she busied herself in the kitchen. The past week, since Phillip's return, had been hectic, to say the least. Dotty had commandeered the kitchen and their meal time had begun to resemble that of a small tribe as Joe, Carrie and even Curt were constantly around. Lee was finally feeling better and he knew that Amanda needed a break. He also knew that at some point they needed to come back here. He suggested a quiet dinner at the apartment. Dotty had looked at her daughter, agreed, and pushed them both out of the house earlier in the afternoon.
But this, Lee thought to himself, wasn't what he had in mind. He had planned takeout from the little Thai restaurant a few blocks away, some soft music and his wife. A romantic evening, and then tomorrow . . . well, tomorrow they'd pack up what remained of his things and head home.
Instead she was in the kitchen, cooking who knew what, making a huge mess, and to top it off the radio was blaring some god-awful pop music that she must have started listening to with the boys. He walked in and took away her coffee mug. She jumped when he brushed her arm, which reaffirmed his feeling that she had been drinking way too much caffeine lately.
"You need to relax," Lee told Amanda gently. "I told you we could get some takeout."
"I know, but this is relaxing me." Amanda looked up at him and smiled. "Really."
"I'm not buying it," he told her. "But I don't want to argue either."
"I'm glad," she told him. "I know it's not what you had planned, but I find I have a bit of excess energy."
"There are other ways to burn that off, you know?" Lee grinned.
"Yeah, I know, but you haven't been cleared yet." She looked around the kitchen. "I'm going to miss this place."
"Me too," Lee told her. "So many changes."
Amanda nodded. They still hadn't figured out what they would do with respect to the Agency; both were still on personal and medical leave. Lee knew he was done with field work, that they both were, but they hadn't yet sat down and worked through the details. He suspected Billy knew it too; he'd hinted on the phone recently about some management positions.
Lee gave his wife a kiss on her nose. "How can I help?"
"I'm almost done here, but you can clean up later."
"Clean up?" Lee backed off in mock horror. "The cleaning lady was in earlier. My kitchen was spotless before you got here! You want me to clean your mess?"
"Isn't that what husbands are for?" Amanda took a step closer to him and caressed his cheek with a slightly floured hand.
"I think I'm better suited for other tasks," he answered slowly as he took her hand, dusted it off, and kissed the palm. "How much time before it's ready?"
"Lee! I'm a mess. You're not supposed to be doing that," she told him as his tongue caressed her hand.
"I'm fine," he whispered as he worked his way up her arm.
"You're not cleared," she tried again, feeling her resolve weaken. He had found her neck and was working his way to her ear.
"I'm fine," he whispered again, and felt her shiver.
"Enough," she laughed. "I give up!" Amanda wiped the remaining flour off her hands, turned to the stove and shut off the burners. Then, taking his hands in hers, she led him out of the kitchen and toward the bedroom.
Additional Notes: Pediatric live donor liver transplant (LDLT) was first performed in 1989 at the University of Chicago. Since then, adult and "stranger-to-stranger" donations have been performed. More information on live donor liver transplantation can be found on the web. The following are only a few of the sites out there on this subject: