TITLE: WHEN I AM WITH YOU

AUTHOR: Gail Delaney - RmceWrtr@hotmail.com

RATING: PG-13

SUMMARY: Lee and Amanda have finally given in to what they both feel. But after almost three weeks apart, was it real or just a dream?

DISCLAIMER: Lee Stetson, Amanda King, and any other prominent character related to the television series Scarecrow and Mrs. King do not belong to me. I only wish I could create such chemistry on my own - and try every day. The concept of the story is mine, but I make no profit (except for the personal one) by writing it

GENRE: AU - kind of. Barely.

TIMELINE: Summer between season 3 and season 4.

NOTES: In answer to Nightwings contest challenge at

FEEDBACK: Absolutely

IFF - 8:30 am

Amanda parked her car along the curb outside IFF and reached for her purse in the passenger seat. She glanced at the brick face building, and her eyes immediately traveled up to the second floor - one set of windows in particular. Her stomach flipped.

She took a deep breath. Lee was coming back today. He had been gone for almost three weeks on an assignment in London. The last time they spoke was by phone just before he left - the morning after the most incredible kiss Amanda had ever shared with him. The first kiss that wasn't part of the job, or out of friendship, or for any other reason than that they both wanted it. Wanted it very much. Just the memory of it made her cheeks warm and her skin tingle.

Amanda took a deep breath and pushed it out through clenched teeth. She had relived that kiss many, many times in the last nineteen days. But now that his return was eminent, Amanda wondered if she remembered with more intensity than Lee. Having not seen him since the night he snuck out her back door, with a wink and a soft kiss blown in her direction, she wondered what would happen when she saw him today.

It had been a tumultuous month, to say the least. Things had happened that Amanda had never imagined, and in some cases, had never dared hope for. Lee had been set up by one of his contacts to be lured into an empty warehouse. Once there, Anthony Mancini - a man who wanted Lee out of the way of his weapons smuggling business, jumped him. Before it was done, Mancini had gotten away and Amanda had taken a bullet - from Lee's gun.

It had torn Lee apart to know he had been the one to shoot Amanda. It hadn't been his fault. Amanda would never blame him. He blamed himself enough for both of them. But that event had brought to a head some changes that had been taking place in their relationship for many, many months. When Lee brought her home from the hospital, standing in her living room, he had finally admitted to the one thing she always wanted to hear.

He couldn't lose her. And he wanted her.

But that had been almost three weeks ago, and immediately after a very traumatic experience. The kiss had shaken Amanda to her core, and she thought it had the same effect on Lee, but things were different now. Time had passed. Time they didn't spend together.

Taking a fortifying breath, Amanda opened her door and slipped out. She did her best to quell the tremble in her hand when she took her ID badge from Mrs. Marston in the Georgetown foyer.

"Good morning, Mrs. Marston," Amanda said, hoping the older woman didn't notice the quiver in her voice. "How are you today?"

"Just fine, Mrs. King," she answered with disinterest.

"Oh, that's nice. Um, Mrs. Marston, do you know if --."

"No, Mr. Stetson has not returned yet." Mrs. Marston's voice was flat and emotionless as she looked at Amanda over the top of her bifocals.

"Oh. Yes. Well, thank you!" Amanda said with a quick nod and headed for the closet elevator.

Once behind the closed doors, she took a deep breath and leaned back against the elevator wall. All too quickly, the elevator reached the floor she wanted and Amanda stepped out into the hall. Business seemed to be proceeding as usual, nothing out of the ordinary. Amanda did her best to put on a calm face and headed toward the bullpen. She nodded to the two MP officers standing guard as they opened the doors for her.

Mr. Melrose and Francine stood near the coffee machine, and Amanda smiled as she approached them.

"Good morning, sir. Good morning, Francine," she said as she approached. She only hoped neither of them would notice the burning color in her cheeks or her nervousness. All she needed was Francine to hone in on her anxiety and use it to blackmail her later.

"Good morning, Amanda," Mr. Melrose greeted. "You're here early today."

Amanda motioned outward with her hands, palm out, then brought them together in a death grip in front of her. If she didn't find something to do soon, she'd fidget herself to death. "Oh, well, I had some reports I wanted to finish typing, sir. And I find it so much easier to make it through Georgetown if I can hit it right before morning rush hour really hits. Five minutes one way or another can make all the difference in the world. You know me, sir. I'd rather be early than be late."

"An, of course, we wouldn't want to miss Lee's return after such a long assignment, would we Amanda?" Francine mumbled as she lifted a styrofoam cup of coffee to her red painted lips.

Billy shot Francine a look, and Amanda did her best to appear nonplussed. "Oh? Is Lee back today?"

Francine smiled, but it was more of a smirk, and laughed sardonically. "Working in that play did nothing for your acting skills, Amanda."

"Can it, Francine," Billy snapped.

"I'm just going to go sit at my desk and get to work," Amanda said as she pointed across the bullpen to the small cubicle allocated her.

The next few hours passed at an excruciatingly slow pace. Every time the glass doors to the bullpen opened, Amanda's head shot up seemingly out of its own free will. Each time her heart leaped into her throat and her chest restricted, and each time she had to force her breathing to return to a normal pace when she realized it wasn't him.

Lunchtime came, and Amanda reluctantly stood from her desk and headed out of the bullpen. She hadn't brought anything to eat with her, and wondered now if she could really eat, but decided a walk might be what she needed to calm her nerves. Amanda took her time walking to the local farmer's market, picked herself up an apple, and took her time walking by the nearby park on the way back to IFF.

At the end of the hour, Amanda ended up back at her desk and sank down into her chair to finish the final report Mr. Melrose wanted. Just as she was about to open the file, she heard Mr. Melrose call her name across the bullpen. She looked up.

"Yes, sir?"

"Could you come in my office, please?"

Amanda closed the file on her desk and made her way to Mr. Melrose's door, weaving in and out of the other cubicles. Mr. Melrose had already retreated into his office and partially closed the door. When Amanda reached it, she swung the door open and stepped inside.

"Yes, sir," she said, but the words caught in her throat.

4Lee sat with his back to the door, and as she came in, he turned slowly to look at her over his shoulder. A small smile, almost not there at all, bowed his lips and created just a hint of a dimple in his cheek.

"Oh, hello Lee," she managed to say. "I see you made it back from London. Did you have a nice trip?"

Before Lee could answer, Mr. Melrose motioned Amanda inside. "Come on in, Amanda. Shut the door and sit down. I was just going over a quick assignment with Lee, and we thought you might be able to help him out on it."

"Oh! Well, certainly!" Amanda said and moved into the room. She slid between the two chairs in front of Mr. Melrose's desk to sit down, and her hip brushed Lee's shoulder as she moved past him. Once again, Amanda felt the heat rush to her cheeks.

"This is going to be easy and simple," Mr. Melrose explained. "One of our people at the Yugoslavian Embassy has some information to pass on to us, and I want the two of you to take care of it. Nothing dangerous, but it'll get you out of the office for the afternoon."

Amanda thought she detected a slight smirk in Billy's smile as he glanced between them. She wanted to look to Lee, to see what his reaction was to being stuck on what appeared to be a milk run, but wasn't sure she could trust her expression so she kept her gaze intently on Mr. Melrose.

"Where is it, Billy?" Lee asked, and Amanda's skin warmed at the smooth baritone of his voice.

"There's an antiques road show in Arlington, and our contact will meet you there. You are to go to the booth marked Maritime Ghost and you'll receive further instructions from there. Here are the recognition and response codes."

Mr. Melrose slid a piece of paper across the desk and Lee leaned forward to retrieve it, immediately slipping it into his pocket. "We'll take care of it, Billy," he assured.

Billy smiled. "I know you will. The meet is set for two-thirty this afternoon, so you've got some time yet."

Lee stood, and Amanda followed suit. She was doing her best to avoid speaking or looking directly at Lee. There was something different. Something strange about the way he was acting. A tension she didn't like. Was he uncomfortable because of what happened between them before he left? Amanda flexed her fingers at her side, never realizing at that moment how much she had become accustomed to Lee's hand being offered to her whenever she stood from a chair. Small things like that.

"Do you need us to check in after the pick-up?" Lee asked.

"Look the information over. If you feel it's something we need to act on ASAP, bring it back in. If not, it can wait until morning."

"Fine," Lee said and walked around his chair to head for the door. "Amanda, why don't you come up to the Q Bureau with me? I've got to write up a report for the London trip and maybe you can help me sort it out."

"Sure," Amanda said with a strangled voice. Back to business, so it seemed.

They left Billy's office and walked through the bullpen side by side. Lee strolled with his hands held behind his back, nodding hello to several people as they went. Amanda fought the urge to cross her arms over her body to stop the clenching. The silence sat between them like a wall, and Amanda found herself embarrassed at all the thoughts that had haunted her the last several days. Obviously, things weren't as she had imagined.

The ride up in the elevator was just as silent. Lee stood on one side of the cramped space with his hands folded in front of him and Amanda stared down at her shoes as the motion of the elevator made her stomach tumble. As the doors opened again, Amanda decided she wasn't going to let him know how much it bothered her. Save them both the embarrassment.

"So, you didn't say how your trip was," she said as they walked up the stairs and down the hall to the Q Bureau.

"Long and boring," Lee said as they reached the office door. He pulled a set of keys from his pocket to unlock the door and looked at her over his shoulder. "I would have had more fun here, believe me."

He opened the door for her and she brushed past him. The smell of his cologne wrapped around her and Amanda felt woozy from the intense effect it had on her. She moved away quickly to stand near his desk, her nervous fingers pulling a pen from his pencil holder to twirl on the desktop.

"Oh, I have a hard time believing that!"

"It's true," Lee said, walking slowly toward her, his hands pushed into the pockets of his slacks. The memory of the last time they were in his office, and he walked towards her like that, came back to Amanda and she had to look away. "London just wasn't the same this time."

"This time?"

"Well, last time I was in London I was with you."

The slow, husky tone of his voice forced Amanda to look up, and the warm heat of his hazel stare hit her square in the chest. Amanda turned enough to lean her hips against his desk, and her fingers curled around the edge.

"Oh," was the only sound that would escape her throat. Her pulse fluttered madly at the base of her throat.

Lee closed the space between them; standing so close their bodies brushed each other. Amanda's chest burned as she held her breath and looked up into the most beautiful eyes she had ever seen. He lifted his hands and laid his palm against her cheeks, his thumbs rubbing across her skin.

"I missed you," he said in a whisper, his breath warming her skin.

"I missed you, too," Amanda managed to say before his lips covered hers.

The intensity shocked her, and seemed to pull any strength she had from her limbs to the point that she needed to curl her fingers into the front of his jacket to stay standing. One of them made a small sound of pleasure, something between a groan and a cry, but Amanda wasn't sure whom it was. She didn't really care. Lee's fingers pushed back into the hair around her ears and his fingertips pressed into her scalp as he deepened the kiss and they shifted back against the desk.

After an eternity, yet all too soon, Lee pulled back and they both fought to pull air into burning lungs. But Lee didn't move far, still holding Amanda close. She thought that he must be able to feel her heart pounding against her chest. Lee's eyelids hung heavily over his eyes as he looked down at her.

"Wow," Amanda whispered.

Lee smiled, his thumb running across her lower lip. "Yah. Wow."

Amanda slipped her hands up his chest and linked her fingers behind his neck, urging him to come back down to her. "Welcome home, Lee."

*** SMK ~~~ SMK *** SMK ~~~ SMK ***

Lee and Amanda walked hand in hand through the variety of vendor booths at the Arlington Antiques Road show, slowly casting glances from table to table as they searched for the Maritime Ghost booth. They were about fifteen minutes early, so there was no hurry.

The sun was bright and not a cloud in the sky. Every time Lee looked to Amanda, he found himself mesmerized by the way the sunlight played off her hair. It was like copper licks of fire dancing over her brunette curls.

He had never missed anyone the way he missed Amanda. The nineteen days, sixteen hours and thirty-four minutes he went without seeing her face seemed like an eternity. The timing couldn't have been worse for the trip to London. Finally, after three years of being too damn stupid to see what was right in front of him, Lee had finally wised up and taken the chance.

Kissing Amanda was amazing. He knew it would be, just from the few brief kisses they had shared for one reason or another. Usually for a cover. Two or three were steps in the right direction, a kiss on the cheek, a brief touch in good-bye, but not the real thing. The deep down, soul wrenching, heart stopping kind of kiss that left you in a cold sweat and a burning fever at the same time.

Then after that kiss he found himself outside her house later that night, watching her make dinner through the window. The screen was open and he could smell the pot roast and potatoes as they simmered. But nothing was more delicious or appetizing as watching Amanda King when she didn't know she was being watched. So graceful. So beautiful. So Amanda.

Holding her in the dark, sharing several more passionate kisses, before finally saying goodnight was a sweet way to close the day. But the next morning turned everything upside down. He got a call at four in the morning from Emily Farnsworth telling him she needed him in London, Zulu Blue. Lee never had the chance to say good-bye. Not the way he wanted to, anyway.

But, now he was back in DC and Amanda's hand was back in his own. The warm wind caught her perfume. It drifted around him and he took a deep breath in through his nose.

Amanda stopped at a table draped with black velvet with an assortment of jewelry spread across it. Lee stepped to her side and looked over her shoulder. Most of the jewelry was necklaces and pendants, with a small variety of rings and broaches. All looked old.

Amanda fingered a gold locket on a tarnished chain. Without releasing his hand she held, she lifted the necklace and held it up to look at the carving on the front.

"Pretty locket for a pretty lady," the vendor said.

"It is lovely," Amanda answered politely.

"Do you like it?" Lee asked, switching the hands he held so he could lay his other hand on her shoulder.

"Oh, I suppose," Amanda said, laying the locket back down on the velvet. "It just reminded me of something."

"Oh? What? Something I'd know about?"

Amanda smiled when she looked up at him. "I don't know if you would remember or not. I don't think you liked me very much back then."

A stab of guilt hit Lee. Looking back, he knew he had been pretty unforgiving and downright nasty to Amanda when she first came to the Agency - even though he had been the one responsible for bringing her in. What bothered him most was that Amanda thought he didn't like her. Nothing could have been farther from the truth.

Lee squeezed her shoulder. "I didn't ever not like you, Amanda," he said in a low voice close to her ear and kissed her hair.

Deep pink stained Amanda's cheeks and she looked up at him through dark lashes. "You say that now."

Lee laughed. "So, what does it remind you of?"

"I had a locket that I hid a microdot in for safekeeping. Do you remember?"

He nodded. "I remember. You were supposed to do a simple switch at a Laundromat, and ended up being kidnapped by a white-slavery ring."

Amanda shrugged and chuckled. "You've always said I had a nose for trouble."

"Come on," Lee said and guided her away from the table. "We should find the booth and get Billy's information."

Amanda seemed too quiet to Lee. He had expected her to be going on and on about what happened the weeks he was gone, and almost missed it. Lee hoped this little errand of Billy's didn't take long. Taking Amanda to dinner, and spending some time alone with her making up for lost time, would do him a world of good.

"I think I see the booth," Amanda said, pointing down the row of vendor's tables.

Lee looked and saw a wooden stall with an assortment of marine and naval items on display. Painted in rough letters, with a folk mermaid beneath, were the words Maritime Ghost. They made their way through the crowd of people; Lee's hand pressed firmly against the small of Amanda's back, and reached the table.

A middle-aged woman, with gray hair that seemed to spike out from beneath a knit skullcap and a worn sweater, sat behind the table on a tall stool. She had a copy of Earnest Hemingway's The Old Man and The Sea spread open in her hands and read through tiny half-circle glasses.

"'Ello," she said. "See something you like? Or do you have something specific you're looking for?" she asked in a voice that sounded as old as dried up leaves.

"We're looking for a painting of a waterfall to hang in our den," Lee said, giving the first part of the recognition code. "Do you have anything like that?"

She stood off her chair and leaned into the backside of the booth. "Well, now can't say as I do. Got a nice watercolor of a fishing boat out in the middle of a lake. Would that be of interest?"

Okay, there was the response code. "No, I'm sorry. We would really prefer a waterfall."

She nodded and seemed to work her tongue against the back of her teeth. "Well, then, I can't help yah. Might know a feller who can. Round the corner here you'll see a store called Tammy's Treasures. Ask for Tammy herself, tell her Ole' Mary sent you, and she'll help ya out."

"Thank you very much, Amanda said with her usual cheerful spark as they walked away.

As soon as they rounded the corner, Lee caught the change in Amanda's expression. The smile didn't disappear, but it did fade. Lee ran his hand down her harm and linked fingers with her. She squeezed his hand, but didn't look in his direction.

"Mr. Melrose seemed to think we would get the information here at the road show, didn't he?" she asked. "I wonder why we're being send somewhere else."

Lee shook his head. "I don't know. Maybe for safety. Whatever this information is, it might be worth more than we originally thought." They left the cluster of booths and started down a side street in the direction Ole' Mary had indicated. "Amanda --," he began.

"Oh, I think I see it. Tammy's Treasures. Oh, Lee! It's a used bookstore. I'll have to remember where it is. Mother just loves old bookstores."

Lee smiled and chuckled. "Maybe we can find an extra copy of Skychief Rides Again?"

"Oh, stop it!" Amanda scoffed and nudged his ribs gently with her elbow. "I can't believe you remember that, too!"

Seeing her smile made Lee feel good. He wanted to always make her smile, and never give her reason to frown. That realization wrapped around his heart like a warm embrace and Lee took a deep, gratifying breath.

"Amanda, I remember everything about you."

They stopped just short of the storefront entrance, and Amanda turned to look up at him when he spoke. Her beautiful brown eyes met his, and Lee never wanted to look away again. He leaned over and pressed an all-too- brief kiss to her lips.

"Let's get this done and over with. Then we can go back to my place and I'll cook you a delicious dinner."

Amanda smiled, the slight teasing making her eyes sparkle. "You're the one who just flew back from England. Shouldn't I be cooking for you?"

Lee shrugged. "OK, I'll let you cook."

She shook her head. "I think I just got suckered."

He laughed as he snaked his arm behind her and they headed into the shop. Once inside, they were met with the unique and somewhat comforting smell of old books and pipe tobacco. The first momentary breath caught Lee up in a brief, and quickly faded memory of sitting at his father's knee while Matthew Stetson read and smoked his pipe in the evening. The flash caught Lee by surprise, as there hadn't been anything in a very long time that brought back such a vivid memory.

Amanda walked to the well-worn and antique looking register counter and leaned her hands into the edge. A young girl, maybe sixteen or seventeen, with wildly teased blonde hair and bright blue eye shadow, stood behind the counter and smacked her gum.

"Hello!" she said with her familiar enthusiasm. "I'm looking for Tammy. A woman named Mary at the antique show said she might have something we're looking for."

"What is it you need? I know pretty much everything we carry," she said with a shrug.

Lee joined Amanda, his hand immediately moving to her arm in an action as subconscious as breathing. It just happened. Automatically.

"Well, Ole' Mary was quite adamant we speak directly with Tammy about this," Lee said. He didn't like the set-up in the store. The front windows were huge and hid nothing from anyone looking in from the street. And if this was a trade of top-secret information, Lee didn't like the idea of some teenage girl being in the mix.

"Okay. I'll go get her. She's doing some inventory in the back. Feel free to look around while I'm gone," the girl said as she lifted the small partition that closed off her space from the store and headed down a row of shelves.

Amanda slipped from between him and the counter and took several slow steps down another shelf of books. Lee watched as she ran her finger along the old, worn bindings with her head tilted so she could read the titles. He looked to the calligraphy sign over her head that read POETRY. With a slender, graceful finger Amanda tipped a thin book from amongst the others and pulled it out.

"What have you got there?" Lee asked.

"It's a book of Shakespeare Sonnets. I've always loved Shakespeare. I read it a lot in college. Being a lit major and all," she rambled. "Although I really enjoyed Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Her poetry was just beautiful. I used to sit outside the sorority house at night,"

"The Kappa house?" Lee teased, and was rewarded with her sidelong glance and smile.

"Yes, the Kappa house, and I'd read Elizabeth Barrett Browning under the stars."

Lee smiled and reached out to touch a soft curl along her cheek. "I think I would have liked to have seen that."

Amanda's cheeks flushed and she slipped the book back onto its shelf. Lee leaned his shoulder into the cabinetry, waiting for Tammy to come out from wherever she was, and slipped a book out without really looking at the title. He liked the smell of books. Always had. As Amanda scanned the books again, Lee flipped through the one in his hand. The pages fell open, probably from years of being opened to that particular place, and Lee's eyes fell on the fancy scripted words there.

Love

I love you,

Not only for what you are,

But for what I am

When I am with you. I love you,

Not only for what

You have made of yourself,

But for what

You are making of me.

I love you

For the part of me

That you bring out;

I love you

For putting your hand

Into my heaped-up heart

And passing over

All the foolish, weak things

That you can't help

Dimly seeing there,

And for drawing out

Into the light

All the beautiful belongings

That no one else had looked

Quite far enough to find. I love you because you

Are helping me to make

Of the lumber of my life

Not a tavern

But a temple;

Out of the works

Of my every day

Not a reproach

But a song. I love you

Because you have done

More than any creed

Could have done

To make me good

And more than any fate

Could have done

To make me happy.

You have done it

Without a touch,

Without a word,

Without a sign.

You have done it

By being yourself.

Perhaps that is what

Being a friend means,

After all.

Roy Croft

A strange, fluttering sensation invaded Lee's chest and he quickly glanced up at Amanda. The short poem had an instant and intense effect on Lee, but even as he read it he didn't know all the reasons why. But for whatever reason, the poem was Amanda.

"Lee, I need to ask you something."

"What?" he said with a start, and slapped the book closed. "Okay."

"Now, I'm probably just being silly, but I've been thinking about this ever since I saw you in Mr. Melrose's office. And you've certainly acted glad to see me since then, but I'm very confused." Her hand moved through the air as she seemed to try and make her point clear, her head shaking side to side at the adorable little slant she kept it at.

"Confused about what?" Lee asked, cutting through her long diatribe.

Amanda wrapped her fingers around the book in her hand and looked up to meet his stare. Lee suddenly felt devoured by the sheer depth of her brown eyes, and the open beauty of them. He was drawn forward, wanting to just be closer to her, and laid his hands on her upper arms.

"Amanda, what?"

"When we were in Mr. Melrose's office, I just felt like - I mean - you just seemed -," Lee could see the frustration in her face, but didn't interrupt her. "You didn't touch me," she finally blurted.

"I didn't touch you?"

Amanda tossed her hands in frustration, her knuckles brushing across his chest. "Never mind. Forget I said anything." She tried to turn away, pressing her fingers against her cheeks.

Lee stopped her and made her turn back. He took her hands in his and held them together between them. "No, I won't forget it. Amanda, tell me what I did."

Before she could say anything, a woman rounded the corner and stepped up to them. Lee put her in her late thirties, but she looked like she had never given up the hippie fashion of her youth. What he noticed most of all was the panicked look in her eyes.

"Are you Scarecrow?" she asked in a rushed whisper.

Lee nodded. "Yes," he answered, his eyes darting around the bookstore. The hairs on the back of his head bristled.

She shot a look over her shoulder to the large windows that looked out onto the street outside. The woman Lee assumed was 'Tammy' snatched the thin book he still held out of his hand. She opened it and shoved a folded piece of paper into the sewn binding.

"It's not safe here. I'm being watched. You need to leave now. Everything you need is here."

She pushed the book against Lee's chest and he took it, slipping it into his inside breast pocket. Before he could ask her how he could reach her again, a motion outside the shop caught his eye. He turned to see a dark blue sedan driving by, and the passenger leaning out his door with a semi- automatic rifle aimed at the shop.

"Get down!" Lee shouted before lunging at Amanda and their contact and tackling them both to the floor.

Shots rang out and the large storefront windows shattered. Broken glass rained down onto Lee's back and shoulders as he pulled Amanda to his chest and covered his head with his arms. The wooden shelves splintered and books flew apart as bullets assaulted them. The customers throughout the bookstore screamed.

Lee heard the squealing of tires as the car sped off. He looked cautiously over his shoulder and verified their attackers were gone before rolling off Amanda.

"Are you all right?" he asked, giving her a quick once over and brushing broken glass from her thigh.

"Yes. Yes, I'm fine. You?"

Lee nodded and stood, offering Amanda his hand to pull her to her feet. Their informant lay still on the floor, a crimson pool forming beneath her body. Pushing Amanda behind him, Lee crouched down and pressed his fingers to her throat. Nothing. She was gone.

He looked up at Amanda, whose pallor was now ashen. "She'd dead," he said and stood, taking a quick glance around the store. Tammy seemed to be the only casualty. Lee stepped to Amanda and laid his hands at her elbows. "Are you sure you're okay?"

She nodded quickly. "Yes, I'm sure."

Lee patted the front of his jacket, the book making a small thud beneath his hands. "I think we should get this right back to Billy. It would seem it's more important than we originally thought."

*** SMK ~~~ SMK *** SMK ~~~ SMK ***

"Have you heard yet what it was that woman passed to me?" Lee asked as he sank into the chair across from Billy's desk.

He had a headache, and the long flight back from England was finally starting to hit him, and he just wanted to get out of the office and back to his apartment. After all, he had been promised a home-cooked meal and he was looking forward to an evening with Amanda - uninterrupted. Besides, there was the matter of that unanswered question between them.

"Not yet," Billy answered. "Crypto knew enough when they looked at it to know is a chemical formula. It's in the lab now, being analyzed."

Lee slouched down in his chair far enough that the back of is head rested on the upholstered back. He pressed the bridge of his nose between his fingers and closed his eyes. The door to Billy's office opened, but he didn't look.

"Nap time, Lee?" came Francine's grating voice.

Lee opened one eye and looked at her. "I don't need your sarcasm tonight, Francine. I'm exhausted."

"Well, I've got the results from the lab on that formula you brought back."

Lee immediately sat up, his full attention on Francine. He wanted to know what was so damn important it nearly got him, and Amanda, killed.

"Yah, well?"

"Poison. Very potent. Very fast working. No taste. No smell. Nothing like anything the chem guys have seen before. Oh, and here's the nasty part," Francine explained, handing a chemical breakdown printout to both Lee and Billy.

"It gets worse?" Billy said, his brows furrowing deeply as he stared at the sheet.

"Sure does. It is made out of a handful of basic, every day compounds. Nothing fancy. Anyone with a junior chemistry set could whip this up. In large quantities."

"So how do we fight something like this?" Lee asked, already feeling frustrated.

"We dig. We find out who created it. Who paid for its creation. Who they're selling it to. And how did a book store owner in Arlington get involved?"

Lee ran his fingers through his hair and leaned forward. "Sounds like fun."

"Fun that we'll hit first thing in the morning. You've had a long day, Scarecrow. Go home. Get some sleep. You'll think clearer in the morning."

Lee wasn't about to argue. He stood up and opened the door, letting Francine walk out before him.

"Oh, and Lee?" Billy called after him.

"Yah?" Lee said, turning back.

"Tell Amanda I'll see her in the morning, too."

Lee opened his mouth to throw back a denial, but the smirk on Billy's face and the flash in his eyes told Lee it would do no good. Billy wouldn't believe him.

*** SMK ~~~ SMK *** SMK ~~~ SMK ***

Amanda reached Lee's apartment with two bags of groceries balanced precariously in the circle of her arms. She juggled them both into one arm and knocked on the door. After several moments there was no response. She knocked again.

"Lee?" she called through the door. "Lee, are you home?"

Still no response. Amanda assumed he might not have been able to get away from the Agency yet, as he wanted to wait and get an answer on the information slipped to them at the bookstore. With a sigh, she set the groceries down and took a glance up and down the hall. When she was sure no one was looking, she tipped the potted palm that sat beside Lee's door and retrieved the spare key so 'expertly' hidden there. She unlocked the door, returned the key, and crouched down to retrieve the bags.

"Let me help you with those, pretty lady," said Lee's husky voice from behind her, and he bent down to take one of the bags.

Amanda's cheeks warmed at his endearment, and as she stood, her shoulder brushed along his chest. Lee smiled and winked at her, peeking into the paper bag.

"What have we got in here? Something good, I hope."

Amanda walked into his apartment and headed for the kitchen. "Not yet. Give me half an hour."

Lee followed her into the kitchen, and Amanda found herself oddly nervous. She had been in his apartment dozens of times over the years, but tonight was different. Tonight was the first evening they would spend together - alone - here - with no mothers, children, or co-workers to interrupt them - since things had changed in their relationship. Amanda was acutely aware of Lee. Where he stood. How he stood. How close he stood. His tie was loosened and slightly askew. The scent of his cologne still clung to him and filled her senses. Trying to keep her mind from skittering all over the place, Amanda set the grocery bag down and started pulling out the ingredients for dinner.

Lee stepped up behind her and set his bag down. Amanda's breath caught in her throat as Lee's arms came on either side of her to rest on the edge of the counter. His chest pressed against her back and his chin nuzzled against the side of her neck, brushing her hair aside. His lips pressed against her skin, and his hum vibrated through her.

"Have I mentioned how much I missed you in England?" he whispered against her ear.

"I think you might have," she answered, fighting the desire to let her head fall back on his shoulder and forget about dinner.

His hands shifted to rest on her arms, then moved slowly up to her shoulders where he squeezed gently. Amanda did her best to hide the small wince the pressure caused. Lee caught it and his hand came up off the healing bullet wound.

"Amanda, I'm sorry!"

Amanda turned in the small space between him and the counter to face him. She looked up into his face and saw the regret resurface that she had seen so vividly before his trip.

"It's okay, Lee."

His fingertips gently brushed her blouse, the soft material shifting over her shoulder. Her memories of the moments after the bullet hit her were vague at best, but she remembered how he had ripped open her blouse and tried to staunch the wound with his own shirt.

Lee shook his head slowly and she could almost sense him pulling away, not physically but in every other way. She immediately put her hands up to cup his face and gently forced him to meet her stare.

"Lee. It's okay. I'm fine."

Lee leaned forward to cover her lips with his own, and Amanda wrapped her arms around his neck, holding him close. He broke the kiss to press his face into the curve of her neck; his hands along her spine pulled her even closer.

"I really did miss you," he said against her hair.

Amanda laughed, and when Lee pulled back, deep dimples marked his cheeks. "You've said that a couple of times. I think I get the point."

Lee reached down to take both her hands in his, holding them at chest level between them. His thumbs ran across her knuckles, sending shivers and shock waves through her.

"Amanda, I've been thinking about something."

"Oh? What's that?"

"What you were trying to tell me in the book store. You wanted to ask me something."

Amanda looked away, embarrassment heating her skin. "Oh. Don't worry about that Lee."

His finger beneath her chin made her look up again into his beautiful hazel eyes. Lee's expression was soft and familiar and put her at ease immediately.

"I do worry, Amanda. This is new -," he paused, and Amanda smiled encouragingly as he seemed to fight for his words. "This is new territory for us. You and me. And I don't want to do anything wrong."

"You didn't do anything wrong, Lee."

He touched his finger to her lips, and Amanda had the urge to purse her lips and kiss it. Instead, she just looked up at him and let him continue.

"I thought about it on the way home, and I realized what you meant. Amanda, I never realized how second nature it was to hold your hand." He lifted her hand and kissed her knuckles. "Or put my arm behind you when we walk. Or to see your smile when our eyes meet across the room. Until I realized that every touch meant something. Until I kissed you. Really kissed you."

Lee's eyes darkened, and Amanda could see the honesty and intensity in them as he spoke.

"I think I was afraid to touch you earlier."

"Afraid?"

Lee chuckled. "Yah, afraid. I hadn't seen you in days. Weeks. And I missed you so much. I was afraid that if I looked at you too long, or touched you as we walked through the bullpen, I wouldn't be able to control the need to kiss you again. As it was, I nearly didn't make it up to the Q Bureau. Any more temptation than that, and tongues would have been wagging throughout the Agency in five minutes flat."

"Really?" Amanda said in a small voice, her words cracking with the emotion his confession created in her.

"Absolutely," he whispered in a husky baritone that whispered over Amanda's skin like a breeze. Her heart pounded as he slowly leaned over.

Lee rubbed his thumb across her cheeks and kissed her again. At first, the touch was gentle and sweet, but within moments, it deepened to a burning intensity and Amanda opened herself up for the assault on her senses.

Everything faded away but Lee's arms around her and his kiss. But eventually, inevitably, the annoying peal of Lee's phone ringing pierced Amanda's euphoria. Lee reluctantly broke contact with her lips, but kept her in the circle of his arms and he leaned over and picked up the phone off the wall.

"Yah! Stetson," he answered.

Amanda watched his expression, and knew it was probably Billy. Lee pressed his eyes closed and nodded. "Okay, Billy. I'll be right there."

Amanda looked away and turned to start putting some of the perishable groceries in the refrigerator. As she tried to step away, Lee grabbed her arm and pulled her back against him. She smiled up at him as he leaned over to kiss her temple, the phone still against his ear.

"Yah, sure, Billy. I'll see if I can get a hold of her," he said with a smile and hung up the phone.

"Mr. Melrose needs you?" Amanda asked.

Lee wrapped his arms around her and clasped his hands behind her back. "Yah, they think they have a lead on the source of the poison."

"Poison?"

"Yah, in all the excitement I forgot to tell you," he said with a smirk. "The lab boys determined we were slipped a formula for a very quick, very deadly poison. I guess Billy has a lead he wants us to follow up on."

"Us?"

"Yep, us." He stepped back and offered his hand. She took it and they walked out of the kitchen. "Come on, Partner."