*DISCLAIMER** Scarecrow & Mrs. King is copyrighted to Warner Brothers and Shoot The Moon Production Company. The original portions of this story, however, are copyrighted to the author. This story is for entertainment purposes only and can not be redistributed without the permission of the author. It is a labor of love. If you want to put it on your site, please email me, I would like to thank you for the high compliment.

Timeline—somewhere in the time span after Over the Limit but before Utopia Now.

Rating K+ for a bit of innuendo.

A Boy's Best Friend is His Mother

by Ermintrude

I like my bike, I like my room, I even like my brother.

But most of all, in all the world, I really like my mother.

Jamie King—Saved by the Bells

The room was warm and stuffy. Even with the window and door open, it was uncomfortable. But if Amanda was warm—she knew Lee was dangerously hot. A fever had set in and he was sweating and restless. She had managed to get the door open by pulling the hinges off. It took a while and she had a couple of broken fingernails—but the door was off.

She thought back to what had transpired. She and Lee had been doing routine surveillance, an overnight stakeout. Nothing dangerous, but somehow they had been spotted by some Middle-Eastern terrorists with ties to several groups. They had decided to capture Lee and Amanda and get what they could before they killed them.

The terrorists had surrounded their car, and bundled them into a van. Once inside they had been blindfolded and tied up. The whole operation had taken less than five minutes.

After a drive of several hours, while the sun came up—they landed at a remote house in a rural area. Their blindfolds had been removed, and their legs untied. They had been taken from the car, tied up again and left in a back bedroom. Shortly thereafter, one of the terrorists had injected Lee with a truth drug. They decided to save Amanda 'for later' with many leers and suggestive looks. Lee had strained at his bonds—but he hadn't gotten free. The drug had been old—and not properly stored—and wasn't necessarily totally reliable—but it was all they had. Apparently this was a poorly-funded group of terrorists. Then—while she and Lee were tied up and they were waiting for the drug to take effect—the terrorists got into a big argument. They yelled and fought, and ended up back at the van—the only car on site.

Amanda wasn't quite sure exactly what had transpired, but they were yelling and fighting, the van started up, and then a big explosion shook the house. She couldn't see anything—but she saw the reflection of flickering flames from the burning car and smelled the acrid smell of burnt tires and overcooked meat. She didn't want to think about the latter.

She started to get herself free, and at first Lee helped, but soon he was unconscious from the drug. She freed herself and her partner and then got Lee onto the bed. The window was barred, so she couldn't escape that way. After that she had gotten the door off—it had been locked, but with the hinges off, it swung away and she could get out.

She cautiously checked out the house. She went outside, and sure enough, the van was totally destroyed, and she counted the correct number of bodies. She didn't want to look too closely—but she made sure nobody else had been left alive. She tried to feel sorry for the terrorists—but after their ideas of what they wanted to do to her—she couldn't muster much sympathy. 'Good thing the van didn't blow up with us in it. I guess we're lucky. But we're still stuck out here—and Lee's gonna be out of it for a while.'

She took a deep breath and determined to make the most of their predicament. She took a tour of the house and made an inventory of what was available. There was plenty of food and beverages. She couldn't see any other houses from the porch or yard. And she wouldn't leave Lee alone in any case. There was no telling what that drug would do to him. So she decided she would wait—and keep Lee comfortable and wait for someone to come by—hopefully it would be Billy, or someone else from the Agency. She had Lee's gun, and the terrorists had weapons also—but she really didn't want to have a shootout, if any other terrorists showed up. 'I guess I'll just wait and hope Billy will look for us when we miss our check-in and our relief finds we're gone. That explosion and fire had to be noticed by someone! All I can do is wait.'

She ate some toast and fruit, made coffee for herself, and went in to check on Lee. He was lying on the bed motionless—but a sheen of sweat covered his skin, and when she felt his forehead he was burning up with fever. There was no aspirin or anything, and she doubted that would be a good idea with whatever drug he had in his system. The bottle's directions were in Arabic—she presumed. It certainly wasn't English. At any rate—she couldn't figure out what it was.

'So it's up to me and the old-fashioned remedies for a fever. Good thing I listened to mother when she talked about this stuff. And the junior trailblazers survival guides help also.' She went to the bathroom and gathered a few towels and a washcloth. In the kitchen she found a basin, and filled it with cool water. She took all the ice from the tiny freezer, and divided it into two bunches, and wrapped them in two towels. She took several small containers and filled them with water, and placed them in the freezer to make more ice.

Carrying her supplies, she entered the bedroom. She quickly removed Lee's shoes and socks, and then his shirt and jacket. It was a bit of a struggle—but she got them off. She debated for a moment—then decided to remove Lee's jeans as well. They came off more easily than his shirt had—and he was left in only his blue boxers. 'Bare skin is cooler than any clothing—and this is better if he will have to ride out this fever. He's drugged and sick—and in no shape for anything to happen. I'll just think of him like I would one of my boys—he's sick and needs me to take care of him. I guess it's all up to me now.'

Her resolve set, she moved to help him as much as she could. Once his clothes were off—she saw Lee was still sweating a lot. 'Sweating is good. And as long as I can keep liquid in him it will help him ride out the fever. It's when he stops sweating that things get dangerous.'

She placed the towels with ice under his armpits, against his ribs. She took the washcloth, and wetted it from the basin, and sponged his damp skin down as best as she could. As she had undressed him and fussed around, he had become somewhat restless. Once he was sponged off, and the ice was in place, he quieted and settled down.

'Hopefully he'll rest quietly. All I need to do is keep him cool.' She searched the house again, but there was nothing like any electric fan. She found a hand-fan. 'If it gets bad, I can use this. That's all there is.'

She changed the water in the basin and rinsed out the wash cloth, in preparation for the next round. 'As long as he's quiet, and resting comfortably—it shouldn't be too bad.' She found a stack of old National Geographics in a closet—she chose several and took them into the bedroom with a chair. She sat by the bed and read while she watched over her partner.

The weather was warm and sticky, but there was little breeze. She got a glass of water into Lee—he drank but didn't wake. Some was spilled, but she figured more water on his skin wouldn't be a bad thing.

She wandered around the house looking for anything that might help them. There was no phone—no radio or TV. There was electricity—but the pole outside had a single ratty-looking wire—so she doubted they would have any reliable service if a storm came. Suddenly, she heard a moan and a crash—back in the bedroom Lee was thrashing around on the bed, and he had knocked the basin off the bedstand. Amanda sighed and picked it up, then mopped the spilled water from the floor. She refilled the basin—putting it out of reach on the dresser.

"Lee—Lee!" She spoke louder and more sharply than she liked but he was really out of it. She took his hand and tried to calm him. "Lee—just relax. Rest. If you thrash around you'll be too hot."

He didn't seem to have heard her, so she got the washcloth and started sponging him down again. When she was done, she smoothed the damp hair from his forehead. "Poor Lee. You're sick. I'll take care of you—don't worry."

"Mum?" Lee's voice was hoarse. His eyes opened, but he seemed to have difficulty focusing on Amanda.

"I'm here, Lee. It's me—Amanda."

"Mum, I'm sorry I dug up the garden—but I had to find out where that rabbit hole went…"

Amanda laughed at the picture of little Lee digging furiously, trying to get to the end of the rabbit hole and doubtless covered in mud from head to toe. "Oh Lee. You must've been a handful for your poor mother." She stroked his face tenderly.

"I'll put the dirt back, mum. I promise."

She shook her head. "It would've been better if you hadn't dug it up in the first place. Didn't you have a sandbox?"

"The sandbox is boring." Lee whined petulantly.

"Here—drink some more water." She held his head and helped him drain the glass.

"Can I have some milk? And cookies?" He smiled engagingly at her.

Amanda imagined that smile on a five-year-old Lee and found a wave of sadness wash over her. Little Lee had been a normal, happy boy. Then his parents had died in a car crash and his happiness had abruptly ended.

"We don't have any milk here. Maybe I can find some cookies. You stay in bed, OK? Just lie still and don't try to get up."

"OK mum. I feel sick. It's hot. Can you make it cooler?" He looked forlorn and pitiful.

"I'm doing my best, Lee. You just rest quietly, OK?"

Amanda found some granola bars and soda. 'We'll try this. The sugar should give him some energy.' She poured the soda into a glass and broke the bars up into smaller bits.

She brought the snack back into the bedroom. Lee brightened when he saw her glass and plate.

"Oh boy! Treats!" He clapped his hands in delight.

"Settle down there, buster." She helped him sit up, and then handed him the glass. "Here—drink this slowly—don't gulp."

He took a healthy swallow, and then under her stern gaze sipped the rest between bites of granola bar. When the snack was done, she took the empty glass and plate to the kitchen and rinsed them out and set them aside to dry. When she got back into the bedroom, Lee was lying quietly with his eyes open.

"You doin' OK there, Lee?"

"I'm still hot, mum." He squirmed uncomfortably.

She felt his forehead. He was still hot and starting to sweat again. "Yes, you are. Let me sponge you off again—it will feel good and help you cool off." She sponged his face and neck, his chest and arms and then his legs. He was quiet and let her sponge his sweaty flesh.

"That feels good." He smiled shyly at her.

"Good. Don't move around so much and you'll be cooler."

"OK. I don't feel like moving around much anyhow."

Amanda smiled at him and caressed his cheek. "Can you try to sleep for me? Rest will help you get better."

"OK, mum." He closed his eyes, and soon his breathing was even and quiet.

Amanda got up and rinsed out the basin and washcloth. She retrieved the towels—the ice had melted, and she rinsed them out and set them to dry. She checked the freezer—but the ice wasn't fully frozen yet. Nothing to do but wait.

She stepped out to the porch. The day was hot and sunny with puffy clouds building in the west. 'Maybe we'll get rain later—that would cool things off a bit.' She returned to the bedroom, and sat in her chair and read the magazines, while she watched over her partner.

She must have dozed off. The sunshine was slanting through the window and Lee was thrashing around in the bed. She jumped up and tried to hold him still.

"Lee shhh! Lie still."

His skin was slicked with sweat. He calmed at the sound of her voice, and she started sponging him off again. She talked as she worked—more to calm him than anything else. "Poor Lee—you're so hot and feverish. The cool water will help. Please try to lie still."

His eyes opened but he didn't focus on anything. He croaked trying to speak. She brought him water and he drank two glasses. Then he fell back onto the pillow and closed his eyes. Amanda smoothed his forehead—he was still hot to her touch.

He moaned and opened his eyes again. "I feel awful. I'm so hot…"

"I know. Lie still." She began sponging him off again.

He sighed. "That's cool, mum. I like that."

"Good. I'll just keep it up then. OK?"

"Mum?"

"Hmmm?" Amanda figured of he wanted to talk it was OK, as long as he stayed still and kept drinking water.

"I think I have a girlfriend." He sounded shy.

"That's nice Lee." She smiled reassuringly.

"She's so sweet and nice—she smells really nice, too. I love to smell her hair."

"Oh?"

"Yeah. She's pretty, too." He sighed. "You'd like her. She's a mum too. Just like you."

"Huh?" Her head shot up and she met his eyes. 'A mother? Lee's girlfriend is a mother…who?' She wracked her mind—none of Lee's girlfriends had children that she knew of. Leslie had been single—never married—no children…

"I love to watch her at her house. I sit in the backyard and watch through the windows. Usually she doesn't know but sometimes I tap on the window and we talk."

"Oh my gosh…"

"I want to make sure she's safe. Her family is safe. She's my responsibility. I gave her that package. She was such a nuisance in the beginning…" He trailed off with a smile.

'Well, that answers a few questions,' Amanda thought. 'I always figured he was around more than he let on…'

"Lee—ummm…"

"She's amazing, mum. She's smart—she's got great instincts—and she makes me mad faster than anyone else…" He chuckled. "And then there are the times she just can't shut up. She drives me crazy."

'I can too shut up—I don't know why he says that…'

"Oh mum. I don't know what to do."

"Why is that, Lee?"

"I know she likes me. She's a good friend. My best friend. Don't feel bad, mum…I'll always like you but… but you've been…gone…so long… I don't always remember a lot about you and dad…" His expression became shadowed. Amanda could imagine the hurt and loss that he was dwelling on.

"That was a long time ago. You're all grown up now." She tried to sound reassuring.

"Mum? Why did you go away? Was I a bad boy? Tell me how to make it better. I miss you. I miss dad, too. I even miss grandma…"

"Oh Lee." Amanda's vision blurred with unshed tears. She longed to hold him and comfort his like a mother would. She wiped her eyes, and began sponging him off again.

"I'm too hot. Make it better, mum." He sounded hurt and petulant.

"I'm doing my best, Lee."

"I'm hot. I hurt. I want it to stop."

"It will, Lee. Soon. Just rest. Would you like more soda? Another cookie?"

"I don't want a dumb cookie. That wasn't a very good cookie. No chocolate chips." He stuck out his lower lip.

"I'll get you some soda, then." She hid her smile at his petulant behavior. She went and filled another glass with soda.

When she returned to the bedroom, he looked at her with suspicion. "Why are you giving me soda? My stomach feels fine. I haven't been sick at all. You told me soda rots my teeth."

Amanda tried to sound patient. "It's all we have here, Lee. Don't you like it?"

"You said I shouldn't be drinking fizzy drinks."

She sat on the edge of the bed and offered him the glass. "Well it's either soda or water. Which do you want?"

He looked guilty—then sat up and took the glass. "I'll drink soda, then." He chugged it down quickly.

"Hey, ease up there, big fella. Drink it slowly."

He watched her warily as he sipped the remainder of his drink. He handed her the empty glass. He got a mischievous look on his face, and then he let out a long belch.

"Lee!"

"I can't help it—the bubbles make me belch." He didn't look at all apologetic.

Amanda shook her head. 'What is it about small boys and bodily noises? I guess I'm just glad he hasn't eaten beans or onions.' She replied in her 'mom' voice. "You need to learn some manners, young man." She tousled his hair.

"When I grow up I'll be a famous cowboy and I'll ride horses and herd cows. Cowboys don't need good manners."

"If the cowboy wants a girlfriend, he does." Amanda shot back.

"Oh mum, if you only knew my Amanda…"

"Lee, maybe you should try to rest again…" She really shouldn't be hearing this…

"She's so beautiful."

Now Amanda was riveted—she couldn't have moved if the room were on fire.

"She's beautiful when she dresses up. She's not like Francine. Francine tries really hard to be beautiful. Amanda doesn't have to try—she's always beautiful. Even when she sleeps—she's beautiful."

"Oh Lee—that's so sweet…"

"Mum, she's so much like you. She has two boys. They're nice boys. They're lucky boys. She's their mum." His face clouded. "Their dad went away—he's really stupid to leave those boys—and my Amanda. Joe blew his chance. Now it's my turn."

She opened her mouth to defend Joe—and Lee went on.

"I could never leave Amanda. I tried to push her away at first. She's so stubborn! Sometimes she drives me nuts. And she never stays in the car…"

"I do too…"

"But I'm so glad she didn't let me push her away. I'm lucky. Not like her boys—but lucky that for some reason she decided to stick around. Oh mum, she's everything to me."

Amanda blinked back tears again. "Oh Lee—you're everything to me, too." She whispered in reply.

"It's so hot in here—I'm hot!" His eyes closed and he shifted uncomfortably on the bed.

She got more ice, and wrapped it in the towels and placed it against his ribs again. Then she took a third towel and put ice inside and placed it between his thighs. 'Hopefully that will help cool him off.' She checked his forehead, and then sponged him off again. He was sweating profusely. The air in the room was oppressive—even with the window and door open there was no breeze.

After he was sponged off—she got the fan and began desultorily fanning his body. As the afternoon wore on, the shadows lengthened and she alternately sponged and fanned her partner. He was restless on and off—but not too active, for which Amanda was grateful. She tried to get him to keep drinking water—and he did, but he didn't talk any more.

She had no thermometer so she couldn't know how high his fever was. She figured as long as he was still sweating and drinking water—he'd be OK.

She awoke with a start. She had dozed off again. Something had disturbed her sleep—there—a low rumbling. She looked out the window. The sun was low—Lee was sleeping peacefully. She left the bedroom and stepped out on the porch. In the south-west clouds were building. The sun wouldn't last much longer and the clouds were getting pretty dark. Maybe it would rain. The air was so still and hot, it was almost difficult to breathe.

She went back in and after checking her partner, got herself a glass of soda, a granola bar and some fruit. She prepared another snack for Lee. She heard a groan and took it back to the bedroom.

Lee was awake and looking unhappy. "Amanda?" He sounded a bit groggy. "What the hell is going on?"

"Lee! How are you feeling?" She put her hand on his forehead. "You're cooler, for sure. Do you want me to sponge you off again?"

He looked taken aback. "Where are those guys who grabbed us? Are we safe here?"

She sighed. "They weren't very smart. They grabbed us and brought us here," he nodded in confirmation and she continued, "they tied us up, and then they injected you with some drug and then locked us up in this bedroom. Then they got into a big argument and went back out to the car and then somehow they blew the car and themselves up. I don't know what it was about. They weren't speaking English." She looked apologetic.

"Are you OK?"

"Oh yeah—I didn't see it—we were locked in here—but I heard the explosion and saw the flash. By the time I got us untied and the hinges off the door it was all burned out. It smelled awful."

Lee looked around and seemed to finally notice he was only clad in his boxers. He pulled the sheet up and covered himself a bit self-consciously. "What has been going on? How did I end up in my shorts?"

She smiled. "You had a reaction to the drug they gave you. You got a high fever and I had to cool you off. I took your clothes off and then sponged and fanned you. It helped. You drank quite a bit and you did eat a granola bar. I guess whatever it was has flushed through your system. Your fever has broken, though you are still a bit warm. But you seem to be a whole lot better than you were…"

Lee watched her closely as she related the events of their day. "I still feel like I've been run over by a truck."

"I'm not surprised. You weren't doing well at all. I put ice in your armpits."

"Ugh." Lee remembered some weird dreams. "Did I say anything?"

"You didn't give away any secrets, if that's what you're worried about. The terrorists never even questioned you. They blew themselves up before the drug really took effect."

"That's a relief. Did I say anything?" He was still remembering some strange dreams.

Amanda smiled. "You thought I was your mother. You wanted milk and cookies but all I had was soda and granola bars. You were suspicious of the soda. I guess your mom didn't want you to have fizzy drinks. You said she told you they rot your teeth."

Lee nodded. "I only got soda when I had an upset stomach. She said the bubbles soothed the upset. But otherwise soda was forbidden. I had forgotten that," he said almost as if to himself.

"And after you drank the soda you belched—loud!" She smiled smugly.

"A—man—da!"

"You have must have been a handful for your poor mother."

"What else did I say?" Lee asked suspiciously.

"You apologized for digging up the yard. But you explained you wanted to see where the rabbit hole went." Her eyes sparkled with suppressed mirth.

"OK, OK. I get the idea. I have the feeling you'll never let me live this down."

"Maybe—but it'll cost you."

"What?" He looked her in the eye daring her to demand a payment.

She looked coy. "I haven't made my mind up yet."

"I'll just bet you haven't." He met her gaze and they felt the sparks between them. Then he changed the subject. "Where exactly are we?"

"I don't know. They blindfolded, us, remember?" It took a few hours to get here. It's rural—maybe we're in the foothills somewhere. I can't see any other houses or cars—but I haven't gone too far from the house. I was a bit busy. I haven't looked around a whole lot."

Lee decided to let her statement stand. She looked apologetic but concerned. He guessed he had been pretty badly off if she had felt the need to undress him and sponge him off. The sheets and pillow were damp. He noticed the basin, washcloth and damp towels on the dresser. If he had talked about the rabbit hole he had been delirious which meant a pretty high fever. He was lucky Amanda had been with him to keep him cool and make him drink water.

"So how do we get out of here?" He asked.

She shrugged. "The only car blew up with the terrorists. I figure we wait until someone tracks us down."

"That could be a long wait."

"You're in no shape to walk yet. Maybe if you sleep through the night we can try it in the morning. But it's going to be dark soon, and a storm is coming. So you just rest—and we'll see where we are in the morning, OK?"

He considered arguing with her, but after a quick assessment of his condition, he realized he didn't have the energy. She was right. So he nodded.

She grabbed the towels and basin. "I'll just go rinse these out. Then I'll make some soup and toast. Are you up for that?"

"Yeah—soup and toast sound OK. Is there any coffee?"

She smiled. "I'll see what I can rustle up. You just rest quietly. You're still not out of the woods, buster—and I don't want to have to go through all of that again."

Two hours later, they had some supper, Lee had managed to take a tepid shower, and Amanda had changed the sheets on the bed. Lee was resting comfortably again under the clean sheet.

"Will you be OK while I take a quick shower?" Amanda sat on the edge of the bed as she talked to her partner.

"Yeah. I'm still warm—but I'll be OK."

She nodded. "OK then." There was a sharp rumble of thunder. "Looks like we're gonna have a storm." Amanda went to close the window. She left to take her shower.

She was back in a few minutes just as the rain began to lash the house. The thunder was louder, and the lightning flashed frequently.

There was a loud thunderclap and a sharp snap—and the electricity went out.

"Oh!" Amanda exclaimed. "Don't move—wait here." She felt her way back to the kitchen where she had left a couple candles and matches. She lit a candle and carried it and the other back into the bedroom.

"You have been busy, Amanda." Lee said in acknowledgment of her preparedness.

She shrugged. "It was a long day. I saw the clouds and the electrical wire looked pretty frail. I figured it might go out. So I found these and got ready." She set the candle in a holder on the dresser. It gave the room a soft glow.

They sat and listened to the storm for a while.

"Amanda…"

"What?" She turned to look at him.

"Thanks for watching out for me. I guess it was pretty bad if I was delirious…"

She smiled and took his hand. "We're partners—we watch out for each other. That's what partners do. I'm just glad you're feeling better."

"Me too. Hopefully I'll be OK by morning and we can walk out of here and find something so we can get back to DC."

"Mr. Melrose will be upset that we've been missing for so long."

"We were kidnapped—it's not like we had a choice in the matter."

"Mother will be worried—I told her I'd be home to get the boys off to school…"

"Billy will cover for you. He always does."

She nodded, and played with his fingers in her grasp. Her thoughts strayed back to what he had said while he was delirious. She smiled softly at the memory.

"A penny for your thoughts." Lee's voice sounded soft and beguiling.

"Oh—nothing important."

He pulled her hand to his lips. "Why am I inclined to not believe you?" His eyes twinkled.

She smiled at him. "Your mother must have been pretty busy—watching out for you and keeping you out of mischief, as well as doing all the cooking and cleaning."

"Hey! I wasn't that bad."

"Mm-hmmm. Whatever you say, Lee." Her tone told him she didn't believe a word.

He started to object—then realized she had two boys of her own and so probably understood better than he what he had been like as a boy. "Yeah well—whatever." He figured he'd best leave it alone. "So what time is it anyway?"

Amanda checked her watch. "Gosh—it's almost 11." She yawned.

"Why don't you come to bed and sleep? You must be worn out after the day you've had. I know I could do with some sleep." He patted the bed next to him.

She eyed the double bed warily.

"C'mon—you need your rest if we're gonna walk out of here tomorrow." He tried to look innocent and pleading.

She sighed. "OK, I guess."

He lifted the sheet, and she shook her head. "It's still pretty warm in here." She got another sheet from the closet. She took off her shoes and socks. Then she lay down on top of the sheet covering him, and pulled the other one over herself. "I think this will be OK." She smiled at him.

He shook his head. "Whatever makes you comfortable." He settled down and she turned toward him.

"Good night Lee."

"Good night, Amanda. Sleep well."

"You too." She closed her eyes and was soon asleep.

Lee watched her for a few minutes in the candlelight. Then he closed his eyes and slept.

QQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQ

The next morning, Amanda was up before Lee woke. He heard her moving around in the kitchen. The electricity hadn't been restored, but the daylight gave enough light to see in the house. He smelled coffee, and decided to get up and start the day.

After he had washed up and gotten dressed, he made his way into the kitchen. Amanda offered him coffee and a granola bar. He took the coffee and declined the bar.

"Sorry—but there's no milk or anything." She apologized as he drank the coffee.

"I've had worse—just so I have my coffee."

"How are you feeling this morning?"

"I've been better—but I can walk out of here—no sweat."

"That's good. It's cooler today—the storm brought cooler weather. It looks clear and bright."

He sipped his coffee. "We'll follow the road and see where it takes us. Is there anything we can carry some supplies in? We might be walking for a while."

Amanda held up an old rucksack. "We're all packed. Our jackets are in there, as well as your gun, and some sodas and granola bars. I made sandwiches as well. They're only PBJ, but they'll do."

Lee looked through the bag. He saw fruit as well. "You're the best, Amanda. I can always count on you to make sure we're well fed."

He finished his coffee, and checked around the cabin. He found the bottle of whatever it was they had injected him with. He wrapped it in a towel, and put that in the bag also. "Better bring that along—just in case."

"Yeah—good catch. Here," she handed him some flyers in Arabic, "we might add these as well." She paused looking uncomfortable. "You aren't gonna bring any burnt body parts, are you?"

"The crispy terrorists? Nah. Let the forensics boys deal with that when they come out here to mop up. Besides, they were outside in the rain all night. Probably aren't in very good condition after all that."

Amanda shuddered. "I don't think I want to go back and look. It was bad enough the first time."

Lee put his arm around her shoulders and hugged. "You did a great job. I appreciate you checking to make sure they were all dead—that took guts."

She smiled at him. "Thank you, Lee. I appreciate that."

"Why don't you make a last check of the house? I'll look around outside, to see if there's anything else we need to bring along with us."

Lee went outside, and went to the burnt-out car to check out the bodies of the terrorists. There were two burnt corpses in the van, and three more partially burnt blasted bodies on the ground nearby. It was indeed a gruesome sight, but all five terrorists were accounted for. He nudged the bodies on the ground with his foot. Using a stick, he managed to extract two ID's from the bodies not in the car. He took a pillowcase, and wrapped them inside, shoving it all in his jacket pocket. 'This will disturb the crime scene—but after the rain and with all the wildlife out here—I doubt things will stay undisturbed for long. And maybe this will help identify these clowns.' He looked inside the car. 'Nothing really visible from here—and I'm not planning on digging around.'

He walked the perimeter of the house. There was nothing that would help identify their captors, and nothing they might use on their trek back to civilization. There also were no other houses in sight. He went back into the house. Amanda was sitting in the living room, looking at a magazine.

"You all done out there?" She asked casually.

"Yeah. You were right—it's pretty gruesome."

She just nodded. "What are we going to do about their guns and stuff?"

He thought a moment. "Let's hide it all in a closet or something. Just in case some locals come by and see the wreckage."

They gathered all the weapons and ammunition and put it in the linen closet under a pile of sheets.

Amanda held out two knives. "Here—a good scout is always prepared."

Lee smiled and put one on his belt. Amanda put the other in her jacket pocket.

He took a breath. "Let's go then—we're off to see where the road leads."

They each made a last pit stop, and after making a final check of the house, they made off down the road. Lee was a bit wobbly at first, but soon found his stride. They followed the road in the direction of the electrical wires. The terrorists' house had been at the end of the line.

After a few miles, they rounded a bend, and saw another house, with a barn and outbuildings. People were walking around, doing chores. Soon thereafter Lee and Amanda were sitting in the kitchen, with coffee and warm rolls, waiting for Billy and a crew to come and pick them up.

QQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQ

Back in DC, Lee was checked out by the Agency doctor as Amanda waited patiently. She has insisted he get checked out, and Billy had made it an order. After drawing blood and giving a urine sample, they convened back in Billy's office for their debriefing.

Once the formal debriefing was over, they chatted.

"That is an unusual way to end a stakeout of a Russian smuggler." Billy commented.

"Yeah—getting kidnapped by middle-eastern terrorists isn't at the top of my list, either. You find out anything about who they were?" Lee was testy after his medical adventure.

"From the ID you brought back, and the flyers, we've determined they're a small splinter group of a splinter group. They weren't even on our radar. I guess they just got lucky—stumbling across you two."

"I wouldn't call it lucky for us, sir." Amanda replied.

"Actually we were lucky Amanda. They blew themselves up before they could do anything, and we got out of there alive and relatively unharmed."

"Lee—I didn't feel lucky yesterday when you were delirious with fever from that drug they gave you. I was really worried."

Lee took her hand. "Everything came out OK—so there's no need to worry anymore."

"Take the rest of the day off, you two. Rest up and I'll see you back here tomorrow morning."

"Thanks Billy." "Thank you sir."

Lee escorted Amanda to her car. He leaned in the window as she fastened her seat belt. "Thank you for taking care of me yesterday. The doctor said I had a bad reaction to the drug—I could have died."

She shrugged. "I was just watching your back like I always do. We're partners." She smiled at him.

"Yeah—partners." He kissed her knuckles. "Well, partner—you'd better get home and smooth it over with your mother."

"Yeah—she'll be pretty worried. But I'll just tell her the deer started mating—and we needed to stay to get the footage."

"The deer started mating? That sounds like a code phrase."

"Mr. Melrose told her we were filming a wildlife documentary in the foothills on the mating habits of the Eastern White-tailed deer. She bought it, too." Amanda sounded surprised.

"Really." Lee said dryly. "I'll stop by later after the boys are in bed—just to make sure everything is OK on the home front."

She smiled at him—remembering his statement that he watched her and her family from her backyard. "Yeah—I'd like that. You go home and get some rest—you still need to recover from that drug. See you tonight, OK?"

"See you tonight." He kissed her hand once more, and she left for home.

As Amanda drove home she thought back to what he had told her—what he thought he was telling his mother. 'He does think of me as a woman—I guess I was wrong about that. When he started dating Leslie—I was so mad. None of his other girlfriends made me mad—but I guess Leslie was so normal—I was jealous. Now maybe he'll finally ask me out on a real date—no case, no cover.'

She thought further. 'We work together—he watches me from the backyard—he thinks I'm beautiful.' She blushed to remember that. 'There certainly is hope for me. But just because he told his mother—that doesn't mean he will ever tell me or actually do anything about it. After all, he was delirious at the time—and he doesn't remember any of it.' She sighed. 'So I guess I'll just bide my time and be patient. It's taken two years for him to get this far—I can wait a few years longer, I guess. With Lee its two steps forward and one step back. But things are progressing. Yes—there's certainly hope for me after all.'

End