8:02am Wednesday Day 7

"Lee, Lee? Lee, you have to wake up now. They'll be here in an hour. Lee!"

He felt Amanda's hand on his face—warm and soft—he took her hand and pulled her close—yes, this is how it should be with his Amanda. He nuzzled her ear…

"Lee! What are you doing?!?"

She wasn't responding to him—she was squirming—this wasn't how it should be…

"Lee, WAKE UP!" He felt a sharp shake—he opened his eyes. Amanda was beside him on the bed fully dressed.

"What?" He was disoriented. "A-man-da!"

"You sure were sleeping hard. I've been trying to wake you for a few minutes. You kept mumbling so I thought you were waking up but I guess you weren't really awake and you grabbed me and that was sure strange and I didn't want to hurt you but I really had to get you to wake up so I shook you and I hope I didn't hurt you or anything…" Her ramble died off.

He realized he still held her hand and had his other arm around her. "Oh, sorry." He let her go and she jumped off his bed like a shot.

"So, are you really awake yet?"

He ran his hand through his hair. Boy, was this one for the 'observers'. He was at a loss as to how he could divert them. "Yeah." He thought furiously how to recover. "I guess I was dreaming…"

"Nice dreams?" She smiled at him and glanced upward and he could have sworn she was offering him a lead—just like they did in the field.

"…Yeah, there was this ambassador's daughter…" He smirked at her and winked as he got out of bed and into his robe.

She gave him a playful hit on the arm. "Oh you… I've already had breakfast. There's coffee for you out there. I made sure there's a lot, to make up for all the mornings you've gone without it."

"Thanks, I'll be out in a bit." He showered and changed quickly, then went straight to the coffee. He had almost forgotten how good it tasted—how it seemed to spread energy and vitality into his veins as he drank it down. "God, that's good," he said as he lowered his half-full cup.

She shook her head. "God forbid you ever develop an allergy to coffee or anything."

"Hey! I can do without it, I've proved that the past week." She gave him a look. He continued gamely, "But its sure better if I do have my morning coffee. A man gets used to certain things in the morning…"

She rolled her eyes at him, "Whatever you say, Scarecrow. I'm going to read until they get here, OK? They brought us a morning paper—the sports section is over there."

"Thanks, Amanda." He read the sports page while he drank a couple more cups of coffee.

8:50am Wednesday Day 7

Dr. Pfaff and Dr. Kelford met in the hallway outside the isolation suite.

"Good morning, doctor," Dr. Pfaff greeted his colleague.

"Good morning. Unless something unusual comes up, I anticipate releasing Mrs. King."

"Yes, I thought you'd say that. Could you do me a favor?"

"What do you want?"

Dr. Pfaff looked conspiratorially at her, "Could you keep Amanda busy for at least an hour—90 minutes preferably?"

"Why?"

"I want to talk to Scarecrow, but he won't stay with me unless his partner is unavailable. So if I could count on you taking at least an hour…"

"I get you." Dr. Kelford shook her head. "The things we go through to get Scarecrow in and cooperating…"

"It's easier now that she will help. I've found if I talk to her first—then give her a chance to talk to him—she can get him in better than anyone."

"Really. She has dragged him into my office once or twice. I was surprised, but it always proved necessary. She seems to know when he really needs help. Maybe I'll just tell her we need to stay 90 minutes so you can get your time in with him."

"Good idea. She should be quite cooperative." He chuckled, "Things have certainly changed with Scarecrow since Mrs. King came along."

"Yes. Hopefully she'll stay around for a long time to come. Shall we go in?"

They entered the isolation suite together.

Dr. Kelford took Amanda into her bedroom for another medical exam. Dr. Pfaff approached Lee.

"Well, Scarecrow—seeing as how your partner is busy, why don't we have a little chat in your bedroom?"

"Aw doc! Like I said yesterday, Amanda is the one who needs the sessions—I was just along for the ride."

"I'll just remind you Mr. Melrose made it an order—and I'll be seeing Mrs. King later in the week."

"Fine—by all means—lets both waste our time with this." Lee went into his bedroom.

Dr. Pfaff followed and closed the door. "So Scarecrow, it's been a hectic few days. How did it all start?"

"I've been debriefed about it already."

"But I haven't read the debriefing—I've been busy here monitoring your partner. Just give me a shortened version."

"Yeah sure. Last Thursday—" Lee looked surprised. "It's been almost a full week already. Somehow it doesn't seem that long…"

"Why is that?"

"I guess I've been so focused on Amanda I haven't thought about much of anything else."

"You've been worried about her?"

"You sure were," Lee accused. Then he ran his hand through his hair. "You weren't there when she went through that drug cycle."

"Tell me about that."

"I've been through the interrogation training—had some of the drugs—developed my mantra and the rest. Amanda's had nothing. Well, she's been questioned by the bad guys a few times—she's been debriefed a lot—she's even seen other people interrogated using drugs. But she's never been through that herself—until now."

"Until now. What happened with her?" Dr. Pfaff prompted.

"She was all over the place. That's what worried me the most. They said the drug cycled one hour up for questioning then one hour down, unresponsive. But no two up times were the same. They tell me that usually a subject will react consistently—I didn't know whether it was Amanda or the drug—or the combination—but she was all over the map. I knew it was hallucinogenic, so I was expecting some wacky responses, but a couple of times I was really worried."

"Was that when she went into shock?"

"Yeah, that too. But a couple of 'sessions' were just … frightening. I was worried she wouldn't recover. I know how some hallucinogenics can mess you up permanently—and she was so … different. Not my Amanda." Lee didn't notice his slip.

"Tell me about those times."

"One time she just cried. It was almost like I wasn't there. I really hate it when she cries and she cried for almost 90 minutes straight. Oh yeah—the cycles were longer than one hour up and one hour down. That made it tougher—expecting one thing and getting something else entirely. But when she cried it was like everything was hopeless and nothing would be good ever again. Nothing I did seemed to help her. She wouldn't eat or drink, either. I felt so helpless …"

"What about the other time…"

"The one after that she was terrified. She talked to me so that was better, but she was so scared—I knew it was the drug—I tried telling her that—she would be scared then calm down—then terrified again. At least she talked to me. But then she went into shock again. I was really worried but I got her warmed up and she was OK. It took a while, though."

"You did well. She survived with no additional physical injuries. So your actions were effective, even though it seemed different at the time."

"I know. I'm just not used to taking care of her like that. I can do first aid and bandage up a wound, splint a broken bone—but treating shock is a bit out of my league."

"You did well—so you should be pleased with your actions there." Dr. Pfaff sounded authoritative.

Lee sighed. "Then she 'came to' but she was just out of it. Her eyes were open. She even ate a little."

"By herself?"

"I had to feed her, but she did eat and drink a bit, and then she just quit responding—it was really weird. It was worse than the crying or terrors because, well, I was worried she'd stay that way. Amanda's so … active … so animated … seeing her so out of it like that was really frightening to me. If she ended up like that permanently … it would have been worse than if she had died." He was silent for a few moments remembering. He spoke as if to himself, "I kept talking to her. I don't know if she heard or it registered but I hoped so. All I could do was hope it helped…"

"Was that all?"

"The last time. There was a seventh drug cycle—more unexpected crap—she thought she was dying. She said she could feel death creeping up her legs—she said she felt cold. I held her—tried to get her to warm up—she felt warm to me—not like when she went into shock—but it didn't seem to help her. She made me promise to take care of her mother and her boys." Lee fell silent.

"Did that bother you?"

"Hell yes! I hated it that she thought she was dying. The drug was torturing her and I couldn't do a damn thing to help."

"So you were resentful that you had to make that promise?"

"What? No! We're partners—partners watch out for each other—it was just so frustrating watching her go through all that and not being able to do anything about it."

"Did she seem comforted by your promise?"

"Yeah. She was so worried about her family—she knows if anything happens to her, I'll make sure they're well looked after. I'll protect them for her—she's my partner, it's the least I can do"

"You did protect her—you found her, you stayed with her through the drug cycles, you cared for her, you got her out the next morning and back to D.C. you got her medical care, you've been here ever since helping her. And now she's recovered fully."

"Yeah. Hey doc, is she really recovered?"

"Yes, I believe so."

"What about flashbacks, spontaneous reoccurrences down the road?" Lee looked worried.

"Of course we can't say for certain, this is a new drug to us. Amanda is the first person we know of to go through its effects. But seeing how well she has recovered, and how quickly the drug passed out of her system, I think this is the end of it. Usually if there will be lasting effects the subject has more trouble recovering from the initial exposure."

"I see. Thanks for the information, doc."

"Are you ready to go back in the field with Mrs. King?"

"Of course—well, Billy gave us both time off until Monday. Amanda needs it and I guess she won't rest unless I'm off too."

"Do you think she will be ready to go back in the field on Monday?"

"It depends on how that bruise on her side heals… I know she doesn't have broken ribs, but that can still be pretty painful and make you stiff."

"Well, once she's healed, do you think she'll be OK in the field?"

"Of course. It's amazing how she bounces back from almost anything." Lee thought for a moment. "I'm still amazed she managed to keep it together and not give them anything. She continually surprises me. I guess I'm lucky to have her as my partner." He grinned.

"That is a change from how you felt about working with her in the beginning."

"Yeah, she reminded me of that, too. But she's changed since then. Hell, I've changed. I'm glad she stuck around."

"So where do you think your partnership is going?"

Lee was instantly wary. "What kind of a question is that?"

"Just a simple question. Where do you think your partnership is going?"

"Amanda and I are partners—and good friends. I anticipate working with her for the foreseeable future."

"Anything more?"

"Exactly what are you getting at, doc?"

"You two seem awfully close. I'm just wondering whether you are more than just partners at work."

Lee gave Dr. Pfaff a measured stare. "No. Amanda King and I are just partners, just friends and nothing more." 'Right now. But hopefully that's going to change real soon,' He thought.

"You had a nightmare last night." Dr. Pfaff changed tactics.

"You've seen the tapes, I'm sure. I don't have anything more to say about it."

"I have a question for you." Dr. Pfaff asked amiably.

"What?" Lee was guarded.

"Do you think that dream could have been a delayed stress reaction to all that happened in the previous week?"

"You're the shrink. You tell me."

"Amanda wasn't the only one who went through a lot. You had to face possibly losing your partner—first to the kidnapping—then to a reaction to a drug—then to possible side-effects from that drug. You care about your partner—how did all that make you feel?"

"Yeah, I care about Amanda—she's my partner and best friend. I really wasn't focusing on me doc, I was worried about her—what would happen to her family if she died or was unable to recover. I've worked solo before, and if I had to I'd do it again. All I thought about was doing whatever it took to help Amanda and get her back to normal. Right now, I'm just glad and grateful that she's OK and it all turned out well."

"I see."

"One thing—I did realize that Amanda's a lot tougher and better at the job than any of us give her credit for. She may be 'just' a civilian auxiliary, but she's the equal of any other agent out there. And better than many, if it comes to that. I'm going to do my best to not underestimate her from now on out."

"That's quite admirable, Scarecrow."

"Are we done yet? Is Amanda finished with Doc Kelford?"

"I have a few more questions for you if you don't mind."

"I do mind. This is a complete waste of time and we both know it."

"Perhaps. But you were ordered to be here so why don't you just go along with it?"

"Fine." Lee sat in the chair and crossed his arms over his chest.

"What are you planning to do with your time off?"

"Huh?" Lee was surprised at the unusual question.

"You are off until Monday. That's four days after today. Do you have any plans?"

"I really hadn't thought about it."

"Think about it now. What will you do?"

"I don't know. What's the big deal anyhow?"

"Just curious…"

"You shrinks…"

"What do you plan to do when you get home this afternoon?"

"I'm gonna make sure Amanda gets home safe first. After that—I don't know. Maybe find a game on TV or something."

"Do you have any dates lined up for the weekend?"

"I didn't know I'd be off—what's with the twenty questions? I haven't made any plans for the weekend. Satisfied?" Lee was getting frustrated. He hoped he could take Amanda out to dinner Friday or Saturday—maybe both evenings. Now he had sorted out his feelings about her he wanted to put his plan into action. Get Amanda used to being around him outside work. Get to know her better. Work up to a romantic relationship. But he was damned if he'd let on to Pfaff about any of his ideas. The Agency's official policy was that partners shouldn't be involved emotionally. That's why there were so few male-female agent teams. But it happened, and even turned out well on occasion. Lee suspected Billy wouldn't have a problem with it. Sometimes it seemed Billy was pushing him toward Amanda. But the rest of the Agency powers-that-be were not going to be as benevolent as Billy. Which is why Lee had to tread carefully around Dr. Pfaff. One suspect report from the man could end a career—he had seen it happen. Maybe a little diversion was needed.

"Y'know, doc—that's a good idea. Maybe I'll look through my black books and make a few calls. I've been so busy lately—it would be nice to get back out into the social scene."

"Glad to hear it, Scarecrow. All work and no play makes Lee a dull boy."

Lee smiled—when he really wanted to throttle the man. 'These shrinks can't help but meddle in people's lives. He thinks he can steer me away from Amanda. He'll probably say something about it to her as well—to let her know I'm unavailable. I know Amanda trusts me. I'll explain once we're out of here and no longer under surveillance. But if we do start dating, we'll have to be really careful.'

"That should do it, Scarecrow." Pfaff looked at his watch. "I'll see you Friday at 10?"

"Aw doc, isn't this enough?"

"Orders, Scarecrow. Friday at 10. See you then."

"Yeah, OK."

Dr. Pfaff left.

Lee sat thinking for a few minutes.'It's been a while since I dated anyone—Leslie—boy was that a mistake. Have I really been that busy? I guess I just wasn't that interested in dating anymore. It was all the same anyway—dinner—maybe dancing or music at a club—then home and hop into bed. No conversation, most of my dates couldn't really be called intelligent or interesting. I couldn't talk to them like I can talk to Amanda. We can talk about anything. Stakeouts are a lot less boring since she started coming along. I guess everything is less boring when Amanda is around. Funny how it happened that way. They're right—I remember when I couldn't get rid of her fast enough. Now I want her in my life—my whole life—as much as possible. Maybe even permanently. Of course to Amanda, that means marriage. I'm not sure I'm ready for all that yet. But I know I don't want to lose her—I need her in my life. We'll take it slowly and see what develops. I'm in love with Amanda. I can hardly believe it—and I'm certainly not going to say it—not yet.'

Lee went out into the main area of the suite. Dr. Pfaff had already left. He grabbed his book and read, waiting for Amanda to appear.

10:42am Wednesday Day 7

Finally the door to Amanda's bedroom opened and Amanda and Dr. Kelford came into the main room.

Lee got out of the chair where he had been reading, "Hey, everything OK with you, Amanda?"

"Oh yeah. Dr. Kelford says I can go home after lunch."

"That's great!"

"Amanda," Dr. Kelford spoke to her, "I think you'll be fine, but if anything happens, please call me."

"Thank you doctor, I will." She smiled at Dr. Kelford.

Dr. Kelford left the suite.

"Well, we're here through lunch, how do you want to pass the time?" Lee asked.

"There's not enough time for me to beat you again at Monopoly, so let's just play cards."

"Whatever madame wants." Lee bowed to her.

They played cards until lunch, and ate their last lunch in the isolation suite.

1:10pm Wednesday Day 7

Billy and Dr. Pfaff entered the suite just as Lee and Amanda were finishing their lunch.

"Well Amanda, I'm told you're ready to go home." Billy smiled.

"Thank you, sir. I feel ready. It's sure been a long week. I'm glad it's all over."

"Yes," Dr. Pfaff spoke in an authoritative manner, "You've been through a lot, but you've recovered well. I do want to see you tomorrow and Friday, say 9am both days?"

"Of course, I'll be there." She looked pointedly at Lee.

"And I'll see you Scarecrow, Friday at 10." Dr. Pfaff stated.

Lee grumbled, "Yeah doc. I'll be there."

Billy spoke up, "You're both off the roster until Monday. Other than your appointments with Dr. Pfaff, I don't want to see either of you until then. Get some rest and have a good weekend."

"Thank you, sir." "Yeah, thanks Billy."

"You're both free to go, unless you want to stay here another day…" Billy chided.

"No thanks. Amanda, I'll take you home if you'd like."

Amanda turned to Billy, "What about my car?"

Billy replied, "We had it delivered back at your house last Thursday afternoon. We told your mother you'd been called out of town on an emergency shoot, so an IFF employee brought your car back for her to use while you were gone."

"Oh gosh—thanks. I hadn't thought about that at all. It would have been tough for mother without a car for a whole week." She turned to her partner, "So I guess I'll take you up on that ride, Scarecrow."

"Glad to oblige, ma'am." Lee tipped his imaginary hat to her.

Billy and Dr. Pfaff bid them goodbye and left the suite.

Lee went to his bedroom and packed his clothes. Amanda sat on the bed and watched.

"I feel a little strange, Lee. I've been gone a week, but I have no clothes or anything to take back with me."

"You can keep what you're wearing. The clothes you had when you were brought here were cut off."

"Yeah. I know it's necessary but it's such a waste…"

"Hey, all that matters is that you're better. Your face is almost healed. How's your side doing?"

"Oh it's colorful, but it's healing too."

"Good, I'm glad." He was finished packing. "Let's get you home."

They left the suite. Lee's car had been brought to the hospital entrance.

Lee offered her his mobile phone, "You want to call ahead—let your mother know you'll be home?"

"She won't be there. Wednesday afternoon she plays cards with her club."

"Then the coast is clear. Let's go."

Once in the car Lee was anxious to make a few things clear.

"Amanda—this past week—I'm so sorry you had to go through all that—but I'm really glad I was there for you. I was worried—and being there—well, it's better if I can see firsthand how things are going. They don't always tell me everything."

She nodded, "You don't trust doctors, I know."

"I care about you, Amanda—a lot." She smiled at him. He continued, "You're my partner, and my best friend and, well, maybe…" He fumbled for the words but they wouldn't come so he changed tactics. "Would you like to go out to dinner? To celebrate your full recovery?"

She looked at him for some clue as to the nature of the invitation. "Dinner would be nice," she answered in a friendly but neutral tone.

"An elegant dinner—maybe go dancing afterwards? If you're up to it, of course."

"Oh—yes! I do like to dance with you, Lee."

"Good—Friday at 7 OK with you?"

"Yeah Friday at 7 sounds great." She grinned at him.

He took her hand and kissed her fingers. Then he remembered his 'diversion' with Dr. Pfaff.

"Ah … Amanda. You know we were under surveillance the entire time we were in the hospital."

"Yeah, I figured that out," she said dryly.

"Well, Dr. Pfaff was getting a bit too nosey about … us."

"Us?"

"Yeah, asking if we were more than partners—that sort of thing."

"Oh." She sounded surprised and chagrined.

"Look, I told him I'd look through my black books this weekend—maybe hit the social scene."

"Well, if that's what you want … " Amanda sounded wary.

Lee interrupted, "Amanda, I just said that to get him off my case. I don't like having him poking around in my private life. I'm only planning on going to dinner with you."

"Oh!" She sounded a bit surprised.

"So please, if he says anything about it—well—you know the real story. And don't mention we're going out to dinner."

"Lee, I don't want to lie to him. He's a professional—he probably could tell."

"You'd be surprised," Lee said darkly. "But you don't have to lie—just don't mention it."

"I don't see what harm there is in two friends going out to dinner. But if you say I should keep it quiet—then I will."

"Yeah, the less they know, the better."

They had arrived at her house.

"Here we are—you're home." He turned to her and took her hands, "Amanda, I'm so glad you're OK. And I know I learned a few things this week—like how tough you really are and how much you've learned in the past three years and how incredible you are at the job and as my partner. I'm really lucky to have you in my life. And I really hope we can stay partners and friends for a long time to come." He kissed her fingers.

"I hope for that, too."

"That and…" He couldn't say it—not yet. "We'll see what the future brings." He kissed her on the cheek. "See you on Friday," he said in a low tone.

"Yeah, Friday." She replied a bit breathlessly.

He started to get out of the car, but she pulled him back.

"I'll go by myself. It's daytime and one of the neighbors might see us."

"OK, I'll wait until you're inside." He handed her her purse, "Here, I got this for you."

"Thanks, Lee—for everything." She kissed him on the cheek. "See you Friday," she said in a low tone. She got out of the car and went into her house.

Lee watched her go in and waited a few minutes more. Then he drove towards his apartment. He felt good about having finally made the decision after the months of uncertainty—the back-and-forth—the almost kisses and missed opportunities. Now he knew it was right. He wanted them to be more than 'just' partners.

'Amanda, you're one in a million—and I'm going to do whatever it takes to make you mine.'