The More Things Change…
Friday, April 17, 1987
"Amanda! Amanda!" His urgent voice drifted into her subconscious
"Hmmm? Lee?" She awoke when it hit her who was calling to her. It couldn't be Lee; he'd been missing for almost a year. She couldn't be so lucky as to have him returned to her unharmed. Could she?
"Yeah, it's me. Let me in will 'ya? It's cold out here."
She pulled herself from her warm bed and headed for the window. She quietly opened the window as not to wake her mother and boys. How would she explain the midnight marauder coming through her bedroom window?
"Lee, oh my gosh! You were gone so long! I thought you'd never come back to me. Where have you been? What happened to you?" Her rambling continued until she was silenced with his lips. At that moment, it didn't matter what the answers to her questions were; she had everything she needed right then and there.
"Oh, Amanda!" He whispered in her ear. "Amanda!"
"Amanda, are you listening to me?"
"Hmm? Oh, I'm sorry, Josh." She had thought that after nearly a year, her thoughts would no longer drift to her former partner and best friend or at least not as often as they did. He had been such a huge part of her life over the past four years, even if he wasn't physically a part of the last year. But now, she had a new partner. Joshua Martin was nearly 6'2" with wavy, dark brown hair and eyes to match. A few years younger than herself and fresh out of Station One when she met him, she had to show him the ins and outs of the Agency. It was her turn to be the senior agent and she seemed to enjoy it. No longer was she the one being told to wait in the car. She was the one deciding who should stay and who should go.
"I was just asking if you needed a refill on your coffee. Is something on your mind?" He strode across the room to the coffee maker. Picking up his mug he began pouring, as he noticed the look of anguish on her face.
"I'd love some, thanks. I…I was just thinking."
He walked over to her desk situated near the door and filled her cup. "Anything I can help you with?"
"Thank you, but I need to work this out on my own." She hoped the smile she gave him was enough to let him know she appreciated his offer but didn't want him to press the issue.
A moment later she got up from her desk and walked into the open vault. She began pulling files from her list as she tried to focus on the job at hand and off her lost partner.
Walking out of the vault carrying several files in her hand, she looked expectantly at him. "Yeah, Josh?"
"Have you given any thought to what I asked you earlier?"
She looked down at the files briefly trying to gain strength for the conversation to come. "You mean about going out…on a real date together?"
"Yeah, that." He nervously loosened his tie. "You know, I think you'd like me if you gave me a chance."
"I already like you, Josh." She sat down at her desk and started sorting through the files.
"I know, I just mean…that you know…well, that you may like me in a different way. I mean…besides liking me as your partner." He got up out of his chair and walked over to the window.
"It's just that –." She was cut off before she could continue.
"And I know what you're going to say." He turned to face her. "Yes, I'm a few years younger than you, but age shouldn't matter. Besides, you can't stop living…he wouldn't want that for you." He was now kneeling in front of her with what appeared to be all the hope in the world in his eyes.
She looked up at his last comment and sighed. "I know. Okay."
"Okay? So you'll go?" A huge smile broke out on his face, which caused her to smile in return.
"Yes, I'll go. But neither of us are going to be going anywhere if we don't get these files sorted out." With that she again began sorting through the newly acquired files and Josh headed into the vault for a new stack.
Amanda looked one last time in the mirror before heading downstairs. The house was quiet and would continue to be until her two boys and mother returned from their respective trips in less than two weeks. The boys had left two days prior with their father on Spring Break. They were headed to Joe's parents' cabin just two hours north for an 'all guys vacation getaway'. At least that's what her youngest, Jamie had called it. She had no doubt the boys would have fun fishing, hiking and bonding with their dad. She wasn't sure if Joe was quite prepared for what two weeks with pre-teen boys entailed, but figured what didn't kill him would only made him stronger.
Her mother had decided to visit her sister in Maine while the boys were gone. "It will give you some time alone, dear. Maybe you can meet a nice young man while we're all out of the way. There'll be no one to worry about, so pamper yourself. It's not everyday you get the entire house to your lonesome." Amanda recalled the conversation she had with her mother on the way to dropping her off at the airport. 'Conversation, more like lecture,' she thought dryly.
As she made her way down the stairs, she heard the doorbell. 'Right on time, Josh'. She opened the door and was surprised to see Josh standing there with a dozen white roses.
"Oh my gosh."
"These are for you." He handed them to her shyly.
"Thank you so much. They're lovely." She took them from him and opened the door wider to allow him entrance. "Come on in, let me just put these in water," she said, as she turned and headed into the kitchen.
Looking over her shoulder to make sure he had followed her into the kitchen, she saw him pull out a stool and sit down to watch her.
Taking the vase out of the kitchen cupboard, she filled it with water and placed it on the island counter in front of them. She trimmed the ends of each flower and placed them in the vase.
"So, where are we headed tonight?" She kept her eyes on the flowers in front of her smelling their sweet aroma.
He picked up one of the fallen leaves off the counter and rolled it in between his fingers. "Um, I made reservations at La Caverna in Maryland. I hope you like Italian." He looked at her questioningly.
"I love Italian!" She smiled trying to reassure him.
"Great." He sighed with relief.
"Okay, all set here," she announced, as she moved the flowers in the center of the island. "Shall we go?"
The ride home was quiet. Amanda found herself thinking about the first date that she was denied ever having with Lee. Their timing never was right. Whenever either made a move to further their relationship along, someone or something interrupted them. The cruelest interruption had come just a few short hours after their first real kiss. They had just wrapped up the Martinea case and walked into the Q Bureau when Lee announced that he wanted to get to know her better, just before he kissed her soundly on the lips. Fate had tried to interrupt them, but this time he would have nothing of it. He resolutely walked over to the door and turned the lock before Billy could open it.
She saw the determination on his face and knew that they would finally be able to enjoy the feel of one another without interruption. That was until a few minutes later when the phone rang. It was Billy with a short assignment for Lee. Little did she know that that would be the first and last time she would feel his lips on hers.
She was pulled from her reverie when the car came to a stop in the middle of her driveway. She hadn't meant to be so distant during the ride home. She had to admit she had a great time with Josh. He was easy to talk to and very attentive. After dinner they had gone to a small café for coffee and continued their pleasant conversation. When she noticed how late it had gotten she asked him to take her home.
He came around to the passenger side and opened the door for her, then proceeded to help her out. She took his proffered hand as they made their way to the front door. Amanda turned to say goodnight but was caught off guard when she found his lips descending upon hers. The kiss was gentle and undemanding. It ended almost as quickly as it began. He smiled down at her and she returned it with one of her own.
"I'm sorry, I've been wanting to do that all evening." He looked down at his shoes and then up at her.
"It's okay. I didn't mind it so much." She joked to reassure him she wasn't offended. "I had a really nice time tonight, Josh. Thank you."
"No. Thank you, Amanda. Listen, do you think it'd be alright if I kissed you again?"
She knew that she shouldn't be doing this. She loved Lee whether he was alive or…dead. 'But I need to move on with my life.' She thought. 'And doing that with your much younger partner isn't such a great idea.' She countered.
She leaned up and gave him a peck on the cheek. "Why don't we take things slow, Josh?" She then patted the hand that was still holding hers.
He smirked and nodded as he released her hand. "Goodnight, Amanda. I'll see you on Monday."
"Okay, goodnight." With that she turned and went inside.
Monday, April 20, 1987
"Are we sure it's really him, Billy?" She gave him a quizzical look as she handed him back the file.
"Yes, Francine, it's him alright! I don't see how he could have lasted in that prison without any hope of getting out, but it's him."
"What did the Russians plan on doing with him?" She shuddered at the thought of what being imprisoned in a small, dank hole for months at a time would be like. It was a wonder he came out of it in as good of shape as he had.
"That's just it. They didn't have plans for him except to let him rot in that hole they called a prison, which explains why we never received a ransom."
"So, what do we do now?" Looking at the screen on Billy's wall, she watched as the man paced the small interrogation room. He looked like a caged animal, biding his time before he would be released into the wild. The man within the "would be" cage seemed to have aged more than just the mere year he had been missing.
With the dark circles under his eyes and full beard that now adorned his face he looked ten years older than he really was. It was astonishing that the rookie stationed at Dulles recognized the once forgotten agent at all.
"He's given us the proof that he is who he says he is and even completed his initial debriefing. So, now…we give him what he wants."
"Is she ready for this?"
"I don't think it matters at this point. We couldn't stop him if we wanted to. You saw him in there; he's like a wild animal."
"What can I do?"
"Just continue working on those leads he provided in the debriefing. Get the initial information to Amanda and Joshua. I want them to continue delving into Kafelnikov's overseas operations. From the sound of things, they were on the right track all along. I want those responsible for this! And I want them NOW!" With that he walked out of his office towards the interrogation room where his once best agent restlessly waited.
Upon his arrival, Billy waved the armed guard out of the room and quietly advised him he was relieved of his duty.
Billy sat down and tried to get Lee Stetson to sit as well, gesturing towards the empty metal chair across from him. "Lee, please have a seat."
Lee ran his hand through his hair and down into his beard. "Come on, Billy! I've told you everything you wanted to know. I want to see her now." His eyes pleaded with his superior's.
It had been eleven months, four days and nineteen hours since he had last seen or spoken to his partner and best friend. Enough was enough. Did she even know he was back? Was she still working at the Agency? There were so many questions, yet no one seemed to want to give him the answers. He knew he had to go to her, see her with his own eyes, touch her with his own hands. The time he spent in the Russian prison was only bearable because she was with him in his mind - their last few moments together playing over and over in his head . The feel of her lips when they finally let the barriers down that kept them from becoming more than just partners, more than just best friends continued to linger on his.
They had just finished up the Martinea/Krutiov case. He had told her how he wanted to get to know her better and that they had a lot to talk about.
He recalled the last words they spoke to one another as he left the Q Bureau that fateful afternoon. "Billy has a quick assignment he wants to go over with me. I'll be right back." He said as he hung up the phone. "Wait for me?"
"Of course." She smiled that smile that was reserved only for him.
"How about I pick you up for dinner and dancing tonight? We can celebrate."
"Sounds perfect." He was leaning against the door as she walked towards him. She pushed the files she was carrying against his chest as she edged him out the door. "Now shoo before Billy calls back up here wondering what I've done with you."
"You can do anything you want with me." He winked at her and gave her a quick kiss on the lips before heading down to the bullpen.
Billy pulled him from his warm memories with a touch on his shoulder. Lee flinched not used to human contact for so long. "Sorry, son. I was wondering if you were all right. You seemed to zone out there for a moment."
"Yeah, sorry. Just remembering…" he trailed off not wanting to finish the sentence.
"Perhaps it's best not to remember." His superior obviously thought he was having flashbacks from his recent ordeal. Little did Billy know, he was thinking of his Amanda.
He hadn't had a chance to have flashbacks of the hell he went through. As soon as he escaped, he headed north to Finland's border. He reached the American Embassy there and was given passageway back to the States. Once he made it through Dulles, he was picked up by the Agency and brought to the Georgetown office. He was poked and prodded for most of the morning. He knew they had to be sure he was who he said he was, but it didn't make it any easier.
He only knew he was happy to be home - away from the enemy and all the pain and hunger he experienced. They had just left him there to rot like a dead animal, only feeding him twice a day. On occasion he was given soup, which warmed him for a short time. They never even tried to extract information from him, which confused him, but at the same time, elated him. He wasn't sure how much he could have taken before he broke. He was so weak, so hungry.
"So, where is she? Does she still work here? What's happened to her since I disappeared? Does she know–." He was cut off by Billy who was holding up his hand to ward off any more questions that Lee may have had.
"Whoa, Lee. Please, one question at a time. She still works here, in the Q. She has…" Before he could finish his sentence Lee was up out of his chair and through the door. He was headed, no doubt, to his old office to see Amanda.
Billy raced out of the room intent on heading Lee off before he walked into a situation that neither of his agents was ready for. Being a tad older than Lee, he was unable to keep up with him, even though the younger agent had been out of commission for the past year. 'No stopping a man on a mission,' Billy thought heartily to himself. "Who am I kidding? I couldn't stop him even if I had caught up with him." He walked back through the bullpen and was seized by two of his agents with questions on their assignments.
A file slipped off her desk. Reaching down to pick it up, she heard the door to the office open. "Francine, I'm not through with the Peterson Manufacturing file yet," she strained. "I told you I'd bring it down as soon as I'm through."
"I wasn't looking for any files."
She recognized the deep baritone voice immediately. She was afraid to turn around. Afraid it would merely be a cruel dream, yet again.
When she did finally turn around, she was greeted with a warm, disarming smile - even if it was hidden underneath an overgrown beard. It was a smile she hadn't seen in so long. Well, outside of her dreams anyway.
"Lee?" She managed to squeak out. Tears threatened to fall down her cheeks, but she held them in check.
"Amanda, I've missed you so much." He quickly made his way to her and picked her up out of her chair and swung her around.
"Oh, my gosh, Lee! Where've you been? Are you okay? Are you hurt?" She began a search for any broken bones.
"Same old Amanda, still talking a mile a minute." He set her down but didn't let go of her hands. He kissed the back of each hand, then his hands made their way to her face. He held her head in his hands and stared into her eyes. It was as if he were taking complete inventory of her every feature. Making sure everything he remembered was still there…unharmed.
"I promise I'll answer all of your questions, but first there is one thing I need to do, that I've wanted to do since I disappeared." He pulled her closer and bent his head down to kiss her lips.
She, in turn, closed her eyes, not believing this was going to actually happen.
"What the hell is going on? Who is this guy, Amanda?"
Lee turned to face the man coming out of the vault. "Who the hell are you?"
Both men looked to Amanda for answers. She could only look to the ceiling for help. "Oh, boy."
"Josh Martin this is my partner, Lee Stetson. Lee Stetson this is Josh Martin, also my partner."
She could not have predicted the mayhem that transpired after those few short words. Both men were shouting at each other and looking to her for answers of which she had none. Her head began to pound and her legs felt weak below her. She moved across the room to sit on the sofa. She had two choices; she could let them kill each other or get them to be quiet long enough to talk some sense into them.
As easy as choice number one sounded, she took the more difficult task of finding peace. She jumped off the sofa and yelled loud enough over their voices to get their attention. "Enough!" They both looked at her with an air of surprise. "Now, I suggest you try and act like the professionals I know you are, otherwise we'll get nowhere."
When she seemed to have gotten their attention, she sat back down and quietly asked Josh for some privacy. "Josh, could you give us some time alone? I have a lot of questions that need to be answered that only Mr. Stetson can provide."
He gave her a weak smile and headed out the door, but not before casting an evil look at Lee.
Lee gestured towards Josh, but Amanda grabbed hold of his hand and cast up a look that told him under no uncertain terms was he to move. He acquiesced as she pulled him down to join her on the sofa.
"Amanda." They both said at once.
"You go first."
"No, I insist." He gestured for her to continue.
"I was going to ask you where you've been. What happened to you?" She reached out to touch his face and he grasped her hand tightly. She wasn't sure if he was ever going to let it go. She only knew she didn't want him to.
"Well, I don't know if you remember, but the day I disappeared I was called down to Billy's office to go over a routine assignment, a milk run even."
"I remember every single detail about that day. It plays over and over in my mind. I can't seem to make it stop." She looked up at him when she felt him squeeze her hand keeping her from reliving it all over again.
"I know. I know. If I had any control in the matter I would have never left this office that day…left you."
"What did happen?"
"When I went to the park to meet my contact, I was jumped and felt a prick on the back of my neck. Everything went black after that."
She rubbed the back of his neck as if she could stop all that had happened over the past year with her touch.
"When I came to, I was on a plane. I later found out that it was headed to Russia. They threw me in a cell and left me there for what seemed like days. When someone finally did show up, it was only to bring me some stale food and water."
He got up off the sofa and began pacing the room. She knew it upset him to relive those months he was held captive, if only by the way he ran his hand through his hair and beard.
"I thought I'd be told why I was there, what they wanted from me. But, no one ever came, except Nikolai, the guard. He fed me twice a day and let me shower occasionally. I thought I would die there." With his last statement he looked up at her and she could see all the pain and anguish that he had experienced.
She held out her hand to pull him over to her on the sofa. He slowly walked back to her and took her hand. As he eased back down beside her, she asked the burning question on her mind.
"Why, Lee? Why would someone want to do this to you?"
"I don't know, but I'm sure as hell gonna find out!"
"We're gonna find out," she corrected. She smiled at him as he nodded his head.
She could feel him stiffen. "So, Amanda? Who was your knight in shining armor earlier?"
She knew that was coming. She'd hoped it would come later, much later. But, there it was nonetheless. "You mean Josh? He's my partner."
"I'm your partner," Lee quickly corrected.
She smiled shyly. "His name is Joshua Martin. He graduated from Station One about ten months ago. Billy assigned him to the Q Bureau shortly thereafter. He's been my…" She looked up and caught his glare then quickly amended her statement. "We've been working together ever since."
"I see." He removed his hand from her grasp and stood up to begin pacing again.
"Lee, you know –" She was cut off before she could finish by the light knocking on the door.
She looked up to see Josh pop his head in the door. "Sorry to interrupt, Amanda." He kept his eyes on her as he spoke. "Mr. Melrose wants to see us down in his office."
After promising Lee she'd return as soon as her meeting was over, she headed down to the bullpen with Josh.
"What do you mean you have an assignment with him?" He fell back into what used to be his chair.
"Lee, it's just a simple assignment. We go to the embassy party –" she was interrupted by his outburst.
"As a couple!" He blurted out. Not realizing at the time how utterly juvenile he sounded.
"Yes, as a couple. It's no big deal, Lee. We do it all the time."
"Why can't I go instead of him?" He said the last word with much distaste. "And what do you mean you do it all the time?" She looked contrite. "This is my first night home and I was hoping we could spend it together…talking and getting reacquainted."
"You heard Billy, and I happen to agree with him. You need your rest. You've been stuck in some God forsaken place for nearly a year. This case is very important to me. Besides, I want you to go come home with me, take a hot bath and settle in for the night."
"Home with you?" He questioned with slight lilt to his voice. Perhaps things were looking up.
"Yes, home with me. You realize your apartment is gone now. You only had it paid up until the first of the year. Billy and I packed up all your things and stored them with the hopes that you'd one day return."
"You and Billy, huh?"
"Well, okay. More like me. But the important thing is you haven't lost anything." She smiled reassuringly.
"No, just my apartment, my car and the past eleven months of my life." He felt bad as soon as it left his mouth. He knew she was only trying to help and here he was making her feel bad. "Look, I'm sorry, Amanda. I know you're only trying to help. You're right; a nice hot bath sounds great. But I can't put you and your family out."
"Nonsense. And you won't be putting us out. Besides, the boys are with their father for Spring Break for another week and a half. Mother is in Maine visiting my aunt and won't return until a week from Sunday. So, it's just me, and you won't be putting me out. Besides, I could use the company. The house is so quiet with everyone gone."
He had to laugh when he heard her ramble on. It reminded him how much he had missed her. Quick flashes of nights spent in that cold dark hole with only the memories of his Amanda to keep him warm flooded his conscience. He was brought out of his thoughts when she touched his forearm.
"Lee? Did you hear me?"
"Hmm? I'm sorry. I was just thinking. I would love to stay with you, Amanda. Thank you. But, I promise to start looking for my own place right away."
"There's no rush, Lee. I'm more interested in getting you back to your old self. Now come on. Let's go home." She tugged his arm towards the office door and they headed down the stairs and through the foyer.
Home. That word sounded wonderful to his ears. He wondered when he'd get the opportunity to talk with her about what happened with them right before he disappeared. What her relationship was with her so called new partner. And, what her feelings were towards rekindling their relationship.
To Be Continued…