Quarantined
Quarantined

By:  Pam (mailto:)

Disclaimer:  The SMK characters in this story are the property of Warner Brothers and Shoot the Moon Productions.  Mbuto, Sweeney, and Hutchins belong to me, as does the plot of this little excursion.  No money is changing hands in transaction, and nothing here is intended to infringe on anyone or anything.   Please do not distribute or reproduce this story without the author's permission.

Timeframe:  mid - August, 1985, before 3rd season.

Summary:  When Lee and Amanda unexpectedly spend a weekend together, Lee realizes his life is due for some changes.

Rating:  PG

Feedback:  Absolutely!  On-list or off.  Please tell me what you think.

Warnings:  None required

Archive:  At this site and at www.geocities.com/blueboxersandbeyond.  Others ask beforehand, please.

Author's notes:  I'd originally planned to use this idea in an ABC challenge, but it had other ideas, refusing to let itself be written in a timely manner.  Hopefully the end product is worth the wait.  Thanks to the queendom of beta readers for keeping me honest and for that occasional kick in the rear to keep me going, and to my readers for letting me indulge in one of my favorite pastimes.

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Friday afternoon

"But Giselle . . ."  Lee Stetson paced across the room, telephone in hand.  "I'm not exactly standing you up."  He pulled the receiver away from his ear and stared at it in frustration as a string of angry words poured forth.  Somehow, at this instant, he found her usually charming French accent anything but.  He sighed heavily and tried again to get through to the irate redhead.  "Just listen, Giselle.  Some unexpected complications came up, and I can't get free until Sunday evening at the earliest."

He listened to her angry voice again -- she had switched from English to French of a sort that he'd never expected to hear from a mouth as lovely as hers -- then tried once more to interrupt.  "I know you have to leave Monday afternoon, and if there's any way I can get free sooner . . . Believe me, I didn't want this to happen.  I was really looking forw--"

He was cut off by the abrupt click of the other phone being slammed down into its cradle.  He glared at the receiver and hung it up, also with more force than was necessary.

"Quarantined!" Lee snarled in disgust.  "I thought quarantines were a thing of the past."  He scowled at the phone once more before turning his back on the offensive instrument.  He stood there, mentally replaying the conversation with Giselle.  Why did things have to go so wrong this weekend?

"The circumstances are so unusual that Dr. Kelford didn't have another choice, Lee.  You heard what he said.  Until they have a better idea of what's wrong with Mr. Mbuto, they can't let us be in close contact with anyone else."  In his irritation, he'd forgotten about Amanda.  He looked up with a start and saw her, standing across the room from him.  She wasn't looking at him, but instead was busily studying the view from the seventh story window while she worried the edge of the curtain with her fingers.

"I understand that," he snapped.  "But I don't have to like it.  I had plans for this weekend."

"Well, you weren't the only one," she countered, turning toward him.  "The boys' Junior Trailblazer troop is doing a demonstration at the annual exhibition this weekend.  Having to tell them and Mother that I was going to miss it was awful."  The regret lingered on her face only briefly.  "But Dr. Kelford said we have to stay in quarantine for at least two or three days.  Hopefully the whole thing will be over then, and we both can go back home . . .." 

Lee was only half-listening to her, his mind still on Giselle and the weekend that he'd planned.  He'd only seen Gisele a handful of times since he'd heard her singing in a Geneva nightclub four years earlier, but he'd found that a weekend in her company was guaranteed to sizzle.  His life had been getting complicated lately.  Unwanted thoughts and feelings were at his heels like hounds after a fox, and he needed a break -- a distraction -- before he could start to get things back under control.  The best way he knew to do that was in the arms of a willing companion.  He hadn't just been looking forward to the weekend with Giselle; he'd been depending on it. 

Amanda's words finally caught his attention again.  "At least Billy was able to get them to let us stay here.  Otherwise, we'd have been cooped up in separate isolation rooms.  This way, we can at least keep each other company."

"I guess that's something," Lee conceded, grudgingly, as he looked around the living area of the hospital's luxury suite, their home for the duration, "but I had other activities in mind for this weekend."  He examined the room as he spoke, as though he were looking for an escape route.  "And my plans didn't include armed guards outside the door.  Hell!  This is just a fancy prison."

"There's nothing we can do about that now, though, so we'll just have to make the best of it."

"Hmmph."  He had started to stalk from one side of the room to the other, suddenly knowing how a surly leopard on a short tether must feel.

He felt her eyes following him.  After a moment, she spoke again.  "Are you hungry?  We could order something for dinner."

Something in the tone of her voice slowed his steps.  "Yeah, I guess we should," he agreed reluctantly, finally coming to a stop and looking at her.  "We haven't had much to eat since we left Rome Wednesday."

"And I'm starving," Amanda agreed with a tired smile as she found the menus that had been left for them and handed him one.  "Now, what do you want?"

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It seemed to take forever for dinner to come, and when it did arrive, the agent who brought it refused to enter the suite until they had moved to the far side of the living room, as far from the door as possible.  From that corner, they watched as the man shoved the trays onto the table and hurried out, glancing over his shoulder as if afraid they'd rush after him.

Lee looked from the closed door to Amanda's widened eyes.  Doc Kelford had told them of the precautions to be taken by anyone coming into the suite, but seeing this fellow agent's evident unease had obviously caught her off guard. 

"It's all right, Amanda.  The guy's a jerk."  He softly cupped her elbow in one hand and guided her to the table.

They ate in silence and remained in their places when they had finished, each lost in private thoughts.  After a while, he roughly shoved his plate away and slammed his fist against the table in front of him.

"So why did all this have to happen on my watch?" he demanded, realizing that there was no answer to such a question.  "This assignment should have been a piece of cake.  We were already in Rome to deliver the security codes for the new communications system, so it was no big deal to escort an informant back to D.C.  It should've been a snap."

"Nobody could have known what would happen, Lee," Amanda reminded him gently.  "He only had a headache and a little fever when we boarded the Air Force transport at Aviano.  Who'd have guessed that he could get so sick, so quickly?  I wasn't even sure that he'd make it all the way to Andrews."

"Neither was I," Lee admitted, digging his fingers into his already tousled hair.  "That's why I had a helicopter waiting for us when we landed."

He fell silent again, his thoughts returning to the trip from Rome.  Mbuto had grown steadily worse, and, when they were still over three hours out from Andrews, he had begun vomiting blood.  It was obvious to everyone that he was a very, very sick man, and Lee had tried everything short of handcuffs to keep Amanda away from him.  It hadn't worked, of course.  In the end, they'd cared for Mbuto together, trying to keep him as comfortable as they could.  Now he felt his stomach knot, just as it had when he'd seen her leaning over the sick man, her clothes and hands liberally spattered with blood.

"Damn!"  His fist once again attacked the table, this time with enough force to make the dishes rattle and Amanda jump.  "Who told you to play Florence Nightingale?  Why did you have to get so close to him?"  His voice rose as his frustrations took control.  "I didn't need your help.  I could've handled it myself!  Now we're both stuck here, and it's all because, once again, you couldn't do what you were told!"  He was on his feet, his chest heaving and anger blazing in his eyes as he leaned forward on tight-fisted hands and glared at her across the table.

Amanda stared at him with widened eyes, dumbstruck.  When she spoke, her voice chilled him with its softness.  "That's right.  I'm sure you could've handled it without me.  And I almost wish that I'd let you.  Then I could've been home with my mother and my boys, and you'd have had the whole weekend to yourself, cooped up in here.  But if I weren't around, who would you find to blame?"  Slowly and deliberately, she put her napkin on the table, pushed her chair back, and walked into her bedroom, firmly closing the door behind her.  The click of the lock echoed in the sudden silence.

Tension crackled in the air like static electricity before a spring thunderstorm.  He stared at the closed door, the muscles in his jaw working furiously.  Then he spun around, kicking the chair out of his way as he stormed across the room to the window.  'How dare she walk out on me like that?'

He took a deep breath and leaned his forehead against the glass, concentrating on the coolness of its surface in his struggle to regain control.  'Because you're a jerk, Stetson,' he finally admitted to himself.  Her eyes had been defiant, but as she turned away from him, he could see that the defiance was tempered by hurt.

Lee's wrath slipped away as suddenly as it had appeared.  Deflated, he righted the chair and slumped into it, holding his head in his hands.  'Why do things always turn out like this between us?'  Yes, he was upset, even angry with her for putting herself at risk.  'She should've stayed away from him.  If only she had listened . . .'  But she hadn't -- she never did -- and now they were here together.

Quarantined.  Locked up.  And with the very person who was the biggest complication in his life. 

A wave of fatigue engulfed him; it had been an extremely long 24 hours, and his plan to spend the weekend with Giselle, to escape from his own thoughts, had been thwarted on a grand scale.  Still cursing his inability to do anything about the current situation, he gave up and headed for his own bedroom.  Maybe he could sleep away some of his frustrations.

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To be continued . . .