MAINTAINING HIS COVER – THE TEA ROOM CAPER

Disclaimer: Scarecrow and Mrs. King and its characters belong to WB and Shoot the Moon Productions. No infringement is intended. This is written for entertainment purposes only. Please do not redistribute or reproduce this story without my permission.

(You might want to read the first 4 stories in the Maintaining His Cover series so that this one makes more sense)

Timeline - end of the second season, maybe a bit AU

Rating -Teen

Genre - Fluff/Humour

Author - Charlie

Maintaining His Cover - One month after the 'Biker Gang' case...

Lee sat at the bar nursing both his bruises and his drink while contemplating the day's events. He was tired but it was a good tired; the kind you had after a successful day of work, and it had been successful, despite a few anxious moments. The events at the Russian Tea room had managed to save the security codes for Project Source and in the end that was all that mattered.

He turned on his bar stool, casually leaning back so he could observe his fellow agents. Many were gathered at a booth near the back, congratulating Amanda on her latest success. She was stirring her drink and shyly accepting praise from all of her coworkers. Well, at least most of them. Francine was sulking in the corner though she had no right. The day would have been a complete bust if it hadn't been for Amanda stepping up to the plate when Francine dropped the proverbial ball.

The plan had been simple enough, supposedly fool proof, but the best laid plans never went smoothly, or so it seemed. Lee had been posing as a waiter and was in place to intercept stolen intelligence that was being passed onto a Russian agent from a middle level government employee named Henry Robson. Once the information was intercepted, Lee was going to pass it off to Francine who would then take it to the Agency to be analysed. If it was indeed the codes to Operation Source, then Robson would be arrested for treason.

An informant had told them that the codes would be hidden in what looked like a common painkiller capsule. A Russian agent was going to feign a headache, ask Robson, who would be seated at the next table if he had any Tylenol and thus receive the codes without anyone being the wiser. It was a clever plan and would likely have worked if not for the fact that the Agency had eyes and ears secreted throughout all the government offices. When Robson developed a sudden liking for Russian Tea, suspicions had been raised and a bit of digging had uncovered his plan.

Everything had been set in place. Lee had worn a white waiter's jacket and had bogus codes cleverly hidden in a pill like container. Francine was sitting at a table near the doorway, impeccably dressed in a silk blouse and skirt – designer original, of course. And Amanda ... Well, she hath been there meeting an old school friend, completely unaware of what was going on.

Lee sipped his drink and reflected back on the day, reliving the entire incident in his mind.

*****

Spending the morning as a waiter wasn't particularly glamourous but that was what he was doing. Wiping tables and taking orders for tea didn't exactly tax his spy skills, but waiting was all part of the game. He carefully observed the patrons of the Tea Room, making mental notes of who was talking to whom. You never knew when something interesting might be said over a cup of tea, or you would see something that might be useful later.

Glancing towards the doorway, he noted that Francine was reading a magazine and sipping tea, waiting for him to hand the information off to her. He frowned slightly as he noticed a fellow waiter delivering yet another cup of tea to her table. Billy wouldn't be pleased with the tab Francine was racking up. The plate of cookies in front of her was also being replenished. Chuckling to himself, he wondered if she knew how many calories were in each of those. No doubt he'd hear about it next time she bought a gown. Mind you, the fault would all be with the designers changing their sizing practices; Francine would never admit that she'd gone up a dress size!

The morning dragged by with customers coming and going but there was no sign of their man. It was one o'clock when something finally happened. The bell over the door rang, signalling the entrance of more patrons. Casually, Lee glanced that way and stiffened imperceptibly. A man entered. He was medium build, reddish blonde hair, blue eyes... Yes, it was Robson. The man made his way to a table and sat down. Lee strolled over and handed him a menu, explaining the day's specials in an appropriately bored voice, then left, promising to bring some water, while 'sir' made his selections.

As he filled the glass, the bell jingled again and another man entered. This fellow scanned the room, pausing when he saw Robson and then deliberately made his way over to the next table making no effort to disguise his interest. Lee suppressed a grin. This was it.

Adrenaline coursed through his body and Lee took a deep breath to steady himself before moving. It was always like this. No matter how simple the case, a chance to pull one over on the bad guys always gave him the same rush. His senses seemed to heighten, reflexes quickened and his thinking became sharper than ever. This was what he lived for, what made him feel alive. Not the boring paper work or endless hours of survelliance, but the excitement of being in the middle of the action. Nothing could compare to the feelings he had at moments like these.

Once he was sure he was in no danger of blowing his cover, Lee strolled over, his face as bland as ever. He handed the Russian a menu, gave Robson his water and then stepped to a nearby table, pulling out and impeccable white cloth and ostensibly wiping the surface and rearranging the cutlery in preparation for the next customer.

The Russian shifted in his seat and began rubbing his temple and wincing theatrically. He then leaned over towards Robson.

"Excuse me, do you have any pain killers? I have suddenly developed a terrible headache."

Robson looked up from the menu he was studying. "But of course." He reached into his suit coat pocket, extracted a small container, and tipped a capsule into his hand. "Here you go."

As Robson extended his hand, Lee made his move. Suddenly he was walking between the two men, bumping into Robson's arm and knocking the capsule onto the floor.

"You clumsy idiot!" The Russian shouted.

"Look what you made me do!" Robson growled while he dove to the floor, anxiously searching for the small object.

"I'm so sorry, sir. I wasn't watching. Let me help you." Lee apologized as he bent over, knocking Robson over and blocking the Russian's view. Quickly palming the pill containing the codes, he dropped the fake one onto the floor and gently nudged it with his toe so that it rolled away from him.

The Russian noticed it and pounced. "Ah-ha! I've got it!"

All three men got to their feet, Robson and the Russian blustering and brushing dust from their knees. Still maintaining his cover, Lee offered apologies. "I'm so sorry, sir. Can I get you anything? Water? A new Tylenol? That one must be dirty from being on the ground."

"No. It is fine. Just... just ... go away." The Russian grumbled. "I am feeling better already."

Inwardly Lee rolled his eyes. Stupid Russian agents. No headache disappeared that quickly. The man was obviously a rookie and had no idea of how to keep his cover intact.

The Tea Room manager arrived and began to question what the fuss was about. Lee took the opportunity to slip away heading for the table where Francine was sitting. All he had to do was slip the capsule to her and the job was done except... Francine wasn't there. He looked around and caught a glimpse of her skirt as she disappeared into the ladies room.

Lee knew his mouth must be hanging open in surprise. Damn! Why would she pick that moment to go to the bathroom? Clenching his jaw in frustration, he began to make his way back towards the washrooms when he noticed Robson staring at him suspiciously. Lee tried to look busy as he hovered near the back of the Tea Room, rearranging glasses and folding napkins. Minutes ticked by. Surely, Francine would be out any second. After all, how long did it take to go to the bathroom and wash your hands? With a feeling of dread, Lee recalled how long some of his girlfriends could spend in the ladies room. This was not good.

Glancing back at Robson, Lee saw that the man was starting to walk towards him. His hand was in his pocket and there was a suspicious bulge was ruining the drape of Robson's trousers. Unless Robson was extremely happy to see him, Lee suspected the man was carrying a gun. So much for the assumption that Robson was just a mild mannered government clerk!

Casting one last frustrated look at the washroom door, Lee abandoned his post and began to make his way to the door. He'd have to leave and deliver the codes himself. Damn but this white waiter's uniform would be like a bulls eye, making it all too easy for Robson to follow him. Lee began to unbutton the jacket in preparation for ditching it as soon as he got outside.

Just as he was approaching the doorway, a familiar face appeared. Brown hair, big brown eyes, a friendly smile....Amanda was entering. Why she was here, he didn't know but Lee wasn't one to look a gift horse in the mouth. He only hesitated for a split second before making his decision. He'd pass the capsule to her and she could deliver it to the Agency. There was only one problem; it was so small.

She'd be surprised when he handed it to her and might drop it. An idea popped into his head and he couldn't suppress a fleeting grin. He'd wanted to do this for quite a while, and now the perfect opportunity was presenting itself and he had the perfect alibi!

*****

"Need a refill?" Lee gave a start as the bartender's voice interrupted his reverie.

Glancing at his drink, Lee waved the man off then readjusted himself so he could see Amanda again. Brunette curls were falling gently about her face and her deep brown eyes were sparkling as she laughed at someone's joke. Lee felt his own lips curving into a smile in response and gave a quick self-deprecating laugh. Who would ever have thought that he'd find an Arlington housewife so fascinating? Sure, he'd always realized on some level Amanda looked nice but it was more of a surface awareness like acknowledging that grass was green and the sky was blue. You knew it, but never really thought about it.

That had all changed about a month ago while he was undercover as part of a motorcycle gang. Through no fault of her own, Amanda had ended up needing rescue from two gang members and the only way Lee could think of to save her had been to 'claim' her for himself. By the time the incident was over she had ended up half naked underneath him on a lumpy mattress, their lips locked and hands groping as they feigned a passionate encounter.

It had all been part of the job. The encounter had meant nothing, or so Lee had told Amanda and himself, but for some reason, the incident refused to stay buried in his memory. A the most inappropriate times, he'd find himself staring at her, reliving the moment and recalling the taste of her lips, the feel of her body pressed against him, the scent of her arousal wafting around him.

Lee wasn't being vain, but he knew the effect he had on women. Amanda had been aroused by his attentions. The secret was that at the same time, he too had been responding to her presence in his arms. At first he'd thought it was a fluke, the result of being undercover for so long, but even a month later the memory could still stir him. If he'd been unsure, a case of mistaken identity at the end of his first week back from that particular mission, had confirmed his feelings for her.

Shaking his head, Lee recalled the incident. Amanda has been wearing the same shade of red as his date and he'd snuck up behind, kissing her passionately before realising he had the wrong woman in his arms. Well, his mind had told him it was the wrong woman. His body told him something entirely different. Poor Amanda had been shocked and embarrassed, bemoaning the teasing she'd endure if anyone found out what had happened.

Apparently she'd been the butt of several jokes when the report for the biker gang case was written up. Amanda, being Amanda, had told Billy and Francine more than they really needed to know about how Lee had managed to maintain his cover while rescuing her. As a result, Francine had made sure that everyone knew Amanda had returned to the Agency looking thoroughly ravished; clothes askew, whisker burns on her face and neck, lips swollen and red...

It had all blown over eventually, disappearing into the realms of gossip history when the next scandal presented itself but there was one lasting effect that no one knew about. Lee now had a new appreciation for his sometimes partner. Oh, he never let on to anyone and was scrupulously careful to treat Amanda with the same mixture of disdain and begrudging tolerance that he always used but inside, he was constantly on alert, finding opportunities to brush against her or, guide her across the street.

That was why today's mission had turned out so perfectly, or at least it had from his point of view. There he'd been with a tiny pill like object that he had to hand over to an unsuspecting Amanda. Once he realized she'd have to be his courier, he'd quickly made his move.

*****

Popping the fake pill into his mouth, he tucked it by his cheek, walked up to Amanda, and pulled her into his arms.

"Amanda! Was last night so special that you couldn't wait at my apartment for me?" He gave her no time to respond. "How about a little sample, to hold you over?" And with that, he kissed her.

Lee noticed Amanda's surprised expression when he first grabbed her. It hadn't changed much during his short spiel but he thought there might have been a glimmer of understanding dawning in her eyes, just before his lips clamped down on hers.

The feeling was exactly as he'd remembered. Sweet and spicy, causing electric jolts to course throughout his body, her mouth soft and yielding under his. Running his tongue along the seam of her lips, he sought and gained entrance to her mouth and wasted precious seconds exploring before finally pulling himself together and working the capsule into her mouth from his.

She gave a jolt as she realized that something was in her mouth beside his tongue and as they ended the kiss, he softly whispered into her ear. "Get that to Billy, fast." Standing back, Lee slid his hands down her arms and held her by the waist. He gave her a roguish smile and a wink, as he spoke out loud. "There'll be more of that tonight, darling but for now you have to leave. I'm still working."

Amanda blinked once, then cleared her throat. "Uh...yeah. I'll be waiting." Her voice was a little huskier than usual but Lee wasn't sure if that was because of his kiss or due to the capsule now in her mouth. He kissed the tip of her nose, then nodded encouragingly and she stepped backwards, almost knocking over a patron who was coming in the door. Turning around, she scurried down the street and out of sight.

Lee smiled. That had gone well except... He felt a gun jab his back. Robson spoke from behind him. "Don't do anything stupid. We need to talk outside." With that Lee was forced out of the Tea Room and into the alley.

Once out of sight of the public, Robson spun him around and punched him in the jaw. That had signalled the beginning of a very satisfactory fight. In the end, Robson was unconscious on the ground, Lee called for someone to come pick up the 'trash' and he headed back to the Tea Room to see what had become of Francine.

She was standing on the sidewalk, looking extremely miffed and launched into a verbal attack as soon as she caught sight of him. "Lee Stetson! How dare you just run off and leave me. Don't you realize that the Russian could be here at any mome—?"

"Can it, Francine." Lee cut her off and glared. "Where the hell were you? The Russian came. Robson came. I did the switch but you were nowhere around to make the pass to."

"What?" Francine sputtered and looked totally taken aback. "But... but... I just stepped into the washroom for a minute! I'd been drinking tea all morning and..."

"A minute? No way. It was more like five or ten..."

"Well, I had to go!"

Lee shook his head and gave her a withering look. "Francine. You're the professional. You should know better than to make a rookie mistake like that."

"Well, I had to do something with all that tea, the waiter kept bringing me." He cheeks were slightly flushed now as she tried to defend her actions.

"And you couldn't have poured it on a plant when no one was looking?"

Francine's mouth opened and closed and then she huffed. "All right. Fine. Yes, I could have done that, but I didn't. However, now I'm back. " She held out her hand. "Give the capsule and I'll take it to Billy."

"Too late. It's gone."

"Gone! You mean you lost it?"

Lee took a moment to enjoy watching the expressions flit over Francine's face, before delivering the coup de grace. "No. It isn't lost. It's safely on its way to the Agency. Amanda has it."

"Amanda? But she wasn't part of the plan! What was she doing here?"

Shrugging Lee began to walk towards his car. Francine hurried after him as fast as possible given the height of her heels and the tightness of her skirt. "I don't know why Amanda was there. Maybe she was supposed to meet someone for lunch. All I know it that I needed someone to hand off to and there she was."

"Well, I hope she didn't blow your cover. Your job as a 'waiter' comes in handy.

"Don't worry, Francine. I maintained my cover."

"But what if Amanda dropped the capsule or something foolish like that. It was awfully small."

"Oh, she didn't drop it." Lee chuckled. "I made sure it was safely tucked away."

****

Setting his glass down on the bar, Lee stood up and stretched. It was getting late. He should be heading home. The party was over; the agents that had been crowded around Amanda having mostly dispersed. Only Beaman and Fielder remained... Oh, and Francine. She was still sulking in the corner. Lee felt a trace of sympathy for her—he'd been on the receiving end of Billy's wrath a few times himself and it wasn't exactly fun.

The section chief had ripped a strip out of the blonde agent, when he discovered why Amanda had ended up with the Source codes. Francine would be pulling extra duty and running in circles for the next little while, trying to get back in the man's good graces. Their section chief was tough but fair. It had been a rookie mistake and had necessitated the use of unprepared civilians to successfully complete the assignment. As Billy had pointed out, they were just lucky that Amanda was able to quickly adapt when a new situation was thrust upon her. In Billy's eyes, Francine hadn't taken the assignment serious enough. She'd been sloppy, dropped her guard, and needed some incentives to remind her to be a little more cautious next time she was on mission, no matter how simple it appeared.

Personally Lee thought that being shown up by Amanda was probably a bigger punishment for Francine than the extra work. For some reason, Francine had never taken a liking to the little housewife and never missed an opportunity to take a jab at her...

Uh oh! Speak of the devil. Francine was getting up and strolling over to Amanda and from the looks of it, she was filled with more than a little Dutch courage. Lee felt his muscles instinctively tighten, ready to walk over and defend Amanda if needed. For some reason, he felt rather protective of her, though the exact reason why still eluded him...

Francine was leaning against the table now. Beaman and Fielder were just sitting there with their mouths open. Amanda's eyes were wide and seemed a bit shiny, almost as if she was holding back tears. Damn! He'd waited too long. Lee pushed off from the bar and strode across the room arriving just in time to hear some of Francine's poisonous invective.

"And don't go getting on a high horse now, Ms. Boringly Ordinary. Sure he might have kissed you, but it was only in the line of duty. There's no way Lee Stetson's lips would ever end up on yours if he had any other choice..."

Lee saw red. Francine was attacking his Amanda, almost making her cry. His fists clenched and for all that he'd love to give Francine exactly what she deserved, he didn't hit women. No, Francine needed to be put in her place once and for. She'd made fun of Amanda for the last time.

Smoothly, Lee slid into the booth beside Amanda and put his arm around her shoulders, completely ignoring the bullying blonde.

"Hey, Amanda. Sorry I didn't make it over here sooner, but I thought I shouldn't monopolize all your time. Did I tell you that you were fantastic today?" Lee gently took her chin and leaned over, tenderly placing a kiss on her lips, then brushing his thumb over her cheek. Amanda blinked at him and before she could open her mouth to speak, he placed his finger on her lips, giving her a quick wink. Turning, he checked out the other three agents. Beaman and Fielder just looked confused but Francine... Well, stunned would be a good word.

Chuckling inwardly, Lee kept his voice even. "You wouldn't mind if I stole Amanda away from you guys, would you?" Without waiting for an answer, he stood, took Amanda by the hand, and gently drew her to her feet. Placing his hand in the small of her back, he led her out of the bar, explaining his plans in a voice loud enough for the others to hear. "I thought we could go for a little drive; maybe take a walk around the reflecting pool..."

As he opened the door and ushered her outside, Lee glanced down into Amanda's bemused face. His heart beat quickened, his senses heightened. It was just like the adrenaline rush he got when on a mission. Warning lights flashed in his mind ... 'What the hell do you think you're doing, Stetson? Why do you care what happens to Amanda? You aren't on a mission. You don't have a cover to maintain. Arlington housewives have never been your type before. You're the Scarecrow, a dashing spy, a ladies' man, love'em and leave 'em Lee!'

He gave his head an imperceptible shake, ridding his brain of those thoughts. 'Yes, all of that was true but maybe... just maybe... he was finished maintaining that that cover.'

And as the door jingled shut behind them, Lee kept Amanda tucked close to his side. Somehow, he just knew that this was more than a walk to the car. He was heading towards a new life; one where there would be no need to maintain a cover around his bruised and tender heart. A life that would be filled with this wonderful rush that only Amanda could give him.