Disclaimer: I don't own it, not even a little bit. That privilege belongs to Warner Brothers and Shoot the Moon Productions.
Author's Note: Second Season, just before the tag of "Odds on a Dead Pigeon".
Summary: Lee Stetson confronts his greatest fear and discovers his worst enemy.
Acknowledgments: A heaping load of thanks to Ghetto Outlaw, my beta reader, my inspiration, and without whom, literally, this story could not have been completed. But all the flaws are mine.
Caught in the Spider's Web
Lee Stetson was shackled to a chair under a bright light in an otherwise dark room with no memory of how he got there, but he was sure of one thing, he'd been with Amanda when whatever happened— happened. There was an empty chair in front of him. Lee tried looking past the circle of light.
"Amanda! Can you hear me?" he shouted, and then stopped. That was dumb. Really dumb. Never give them a lever to use.
He didn't know what to expect, but he certainly did not expect to hear Amanda's voice, low and calm say, "Yes, Scarecrow, I can hear you."
"Amanda?" He strained his eyes. "Where are you?"
"Right here," she replied in the same soft voice, as she stepped into the light. At least he thought it was Amanda, but she looked very different from how he'd ever seen her before. She was dressed in a sleek black trench coat, tightly belted, which came just above her knees and a pair of high-heeled black shoes. His eyes were drawn to a curious silver necklace with a large spider charm. Her hair was tightly pulled back and her make-up more dramatic than usual. She seemed the very image of a femme fatale from an old movie thriller.
Lee looked her up and down in confusion; she looked dangerous and positively feline. "Amanda, what are you wearing?"
She walked forward and slowly settled down in the chair in front of him. "Scarecrow," her voice was close to a purr, "why do you care?"
He shook his head. This was all too confusing. "Amanda, what is going on? Get me loose."
Amanda's eyes seemed particularly catlike as she leaned back in the chair and crossed her legs, revealing more than a flash of thigh. What did she have on under that coat?
"I don't think so, Scarecrow," she said, calmly. "After all, I went through so much trouble getting you here. Welcome to the Spider's Web."
"What?" Lee yanked at the cuffs holding him. "Amanda, this is not funny. Not funny at all."
She smiled, a slight predatory smile. "Actually, it is funny— very funny, Scarecrow. Even now, you haven't caught on."
"On to what? Is someone making you do this? Where are they? Just tell me, Amanda," he pleaded.
She laughed, and it chilled him. "Oh, really, Scarecrow, and to think I'd thought you'd started to suspect; after all, I slipped up more than once." She stood up and walked around him. "This really is very rich indeed." She stopped behind him and leaned down to whisper in his ear, her voice husky. "I am a double agent, Scarecrow."
Lee suppressed a shiver; her voice and her breath in his ear were very distracting, in the worst possible way. "I don't believe it," he said flatly, determined not to react. "It's not possible."
"Why?" she said, still whispering in his ear, one hand resting on his shoulder. Lee noticed that the coat wasn't pure black— it had a faint web pattern just visible when the light hit it right. "Because I'm 'just a housewife from Arlington'? Or because I'm not technically an agent." She straightened up and circled around to the front, staring down at him with a sardonic expression which was not Amandaish at all.
Lee found it difficult to look at her, but forced himself to stare directly into her eyes. "No, but you're not Amanda, are you?" That was it, wasn't it? But those eyes, those were hers; weren't they? He'd know, wouldn't he? It didn't matter; he was just going to question everything until he got the answers he needed.
For a moment, Amanda didn't move, just looked at him and then with a swift change of countenance, knelt at his side, "Oh my gosh, Lee, I can't believe you'd say that— you must be hurt; let me look at you," she stroked his cheek in a motherly fashion, while staring into his eyes with all the warmth she would usually give him. "Have you been drugged? Is that it? Let me help you."
He sat frozen, confused. It was Amanda, so very much Amanda, but then he saw the hint of laughter behind her eyes. "Nice try, but I don't buy it," he finally said.
She rose from the floor and went back to sit in her chair. She smiled again, a warm smile this time, the kind only Amanda ever gave him. "Well, well, well," she said, "I did do the job right after all. It was such a taxing one. Never able to give away too much, always having to be competent and clumsy in just the right proportions." She sighed dramatically. "And then the greatest challenge was getting under your guard. To exhibit just the right amount of infatuation and hero worship combined with the proper amount of diffidence so as to keep you from feeling either smothered or invited to try a seduction. After all, my job was to gain your complete trust, not simply be another Eva."
His eyes widened. This was not real, he told himself. This couldn't be real. Not Amanda. Never Amanda. Lee stared at her, trying desperately to see the flaws in this double. Strangely, the fact that she wasn't dressed as Amanda would usually dress or acting as she would normally act made it so much more difficult. It was like Amanda was playing dress-up, not like someone trying to be Amanda. What if it really were Amanda after all? She would have to been coerced into this role. Maybe brainwashed, or hypnotized. After all, Amanda was so uncomfortable with lying, even under threat she couldn't have sounded so genuinely— malignant. And it wasn't so long ago that he'd found out what an easy subject for hypnosis she was. That could be it. But why would anyone do this to her? What could they hope to accomplish? Why would they try to make him believe that she was a traitor? It couldn't possibly be true.
As if she could read his thoughts, she said, "Oh, but it is true, Scarecrow. From the day you met me in the train station, I've had but one job and that was to get to you. Make you trust me, let me get under your skin. And I've known all about you— about Dorothy, about your partner, about Eva, about your parents. About everything. We knew that you'd never fall for a traditional approach. You'd become a bit too cynical, too much of a lone wolf. However, you do have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility and a bit of a knight in shining armor complex. If a simple civilian wormed her way into the Agency through you and just kept being determined to help no matter what; well, you'd just have to keep her safe, wouldn't you? Keep her safe and keep her close."
"Meeting Aman... you... it... was an accident," Lee said, trying to keep his cool. He knew this was a trick— a really elaborate trick— and he just needed to find where it broke down. "It couldn't have been arranged."
"Really." She leaned forward, eyes glittering. "Do you remember how long you were running that night? And how close your pursuers were until you met a woman in a nightgown and an overcoat. What happened to them while you were talking to me? You lost them for just the right amount of time, didn't you?"
"No," Lee said with forced calm. "You can't convince me with that. What about your Mother and Philip and Jamie? Are they supposed to be part of it too?"
"Of course not, Scarecrow," she replied. "I'd never involve them in this business, and my mother has had a long history of being able to ignore what doesn't fit in. It keeps her safe, and by extension my boys as well."
"But why, Amanda? It doesn't make sense."
She stood up suddenly and paced around the back of the circle of light before coming back to stand in front of him, looking down, hands in her coat pockets. She looked very like Amanda then, almost vulnerable. "I am my father's daughter," she said, simply. "I learned from him."
"What? No. Amanda, we checked your background out thoroughly. Your father..."
"Was never caught, Scarecrow. How do you think my mother got so good at ignoring the obvious? But I knew. And when my marriage failed, well, I needed the extra money. Daddy's old employers contacted me." She shrugged her shoulders. "I didn't need much training for the job. Just enough. You were surprisingly easy to fool."
"No. You helped expose Mrs. Welch's network. You saved my life. Why would you do that?"
"Scarecrow, you are being deliberately obtuse. Mrs. Welch had run about as far as she could go. Her usefulness had expired, and you were my assignment. I couldn't let anything bad happen to you, and I had to impress Mr. Melrose. After all, we knew that only with his help and support could I get into the Agency and work with you." She started pacing again. "Didn't it ever once strike you as strange how despite apparently never having flown a helicopter before I still managed to keep above them and even trick them into going off the road?" She stopped in front of him. "Oh, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. You always seemed to accept it as dumb luck or just a bizarre homemaking skill. Taking out bad guys with hair spray and whipped cream? Breaking through a conditioned response with pleading words and a duck? Disabling a car by sugaring the tank or pulling wires? Using a belt prong to pick locks? And really, disarming a nuclear weapon? You actually bought my dishwasher story there? Scarecrow, for such an intelligent agent you took so much for granted."
Lee closed his eyes for a moment, then stared at the floor. This was all too bizarre and unbelievable. Amanda stepped in close and pulled his face upward so that he was looking in her eyes. Her fingernails bit into his flesh. He held still, not wanting to give her the satisfaction of seeing him flinch.
She leaned closer to him. "It is a pity that we don't have much more time. It's been a privilege to fool the great Scarecrow. However, my partner should be here soon, and well..."
"Partner! What partner?" Lee blurted before he could control himself.
"Oh, Scarecrow," she said, "you didn't think I was working alone, did you? Unlike you, I am not a loner. My partner, well, he's been a very important part of this job from the beginning."
"Wait," Lee said, with disbelief, "you're not going to tell me that your partner is that weather guy you were dating when we met, are you? Because that is really ridiculous."
Amanda laughed. "Good heavens, no. Dean was window-dressing. I needed a nice, boring boyfriend, the exact kind of man you'd be expecting me to be dating. You'd have no problem understanding why I'd be more interested in pursuing espionage than my relationship with him. Once I was firmly established in your life, he was no longer necessary and so I could ditch him. No, my partner has always stayed out of sight. It would have been too dangerous to meet in the open."
Lee forced himself to speak levelly. "And why is that?"
Amanda smiled, but before she could speak another voice broke in. "I think I can answer that."
The voice seemed strangely familiar. Lee struggled out of Amanda's grip to look behind her. A man stepped into the light. Lee blinked trying to comprehend what he saw. It— it— it was him. He was wearing an identical suit and had a smug smile on his face. It was like looking into a mirror.
The other man spoke to Amanda. "Darling, have you finished playing with your pet yet?"
Amanda took a step back and looked from one man to the other, before focusing her eyes on Lee. "Oh, yes, Sweetheart, I think so," she said, almost absently.
The double walked behind her and wrapped his arms possessively around her waist. She leaned back against him as he placed a kiss on her neck. "Do I really have to explain the plan?" he said.
Lee narrowed his eyes and tried working his arms loose. He was getting desperate, but he outwardly maintained calm. "I guess, you're supposed to replace me. I don't care how well you've been coached, there's a lot of information that I have that you don't. Amanda couldn't have access to it. The substitution couldn't last a week."
His double chuckled and tightened his grip on Amanda. "Darling, do you want to tell him about it? Or can I?"
She twisted to look in the double's eyes. "Oh, you do it, sweetheart. I know you're dying to."
He would be dying if Lee could get his hands on him.
"Scarecrow, have you even noticed how many evenings you show up in Amanda's back yard?" the double asked. "And you always seemed to sleep better when you got home, don't you? Amanda has such a comforting personality, don't you think? Almost hypnotic at times."
"That's ridiculous," Lee said. "There's no way she could do that. She's..."
"Very good at what she does," his duplicate finished, looking down at Amanda with a sly expression. "And I get to reap the benefits of those talents. Don't worry, Scarecrow. I'll make sure you're not missed."
Lee snapped. "Stop with the games. I don't know what you've done to Amanda, but you're not going to make me believe she's been playing me all this time."
The double laughed and walked over to Lee, staring at him with obvious contempt. "Still?" He glanced back at Amanda appreciatively. "Darling, you are terribly underpaid." He got very close to Lee. "Think about it, man. Amanda has taken your temper, your attempts to get rid of her, and even your contempt all in stride. She was more loyal and patient than you have had any right to expect. What did you think she was getting out of the relationship? It certainly wasn't your usual brand of charm."
Lee tightened his expression. He tried to sound indifferent. "It was... the work; she's always been... so enthusiastic about it. I never... we didn't... we aren't...," he was choking on his words.
The double grinned. "I think the phrase 'not emotionally involved' is the one you're trying for— and not too convincingly at that." He walked back to Amanda and took one of her hands in his, then kissed it, while watching Lee out of the corner of his eye. Lee could feel his jaw muscle twitching. The double kept hold of Amanda's hand as he wrapped his other arm around her waist. "I'm sure you're this tactile with all of your business associates. Although I must admit, I can certainly understand wanting to keep close to Amanda. I've always found it very hard to keep away myself." He planted a lingering kiss on Amanda's lips. She smiled at the double, and Lee thought he would be sick. "I can't tell you just how much I'm going to enjoy taking your place."
Lee jerked against his restraints. If he could only get his hands on him. "We're... just... friends," he managed to growl. "You'd better remember that if you think you're going to fool anyone for more than two seconds."
The double kept his eyes on Amanda. "Oh, don't worry. We're much more discreet in public. But do you honestly think anyone other than Francine would be the least bit surprised to find out you were involved with your partner? Have you even noticed how jealous you are of her attention? Hell, every male at the Agency already knows better than to approach her for fear of what you'll do to them. And don't even bother trying to tell me you're just being protective. I've been studying you for well over a year, and I won't buy it."
"Then, I guess, I won't try." Lee had gotten himself back under control. He forced himself to focus on Amanda, trying to figure out what was going on with her. At the moment she was resting her head against his double, but her half-closed eyes were on Lee, her expression unreadable. "Amanda..." Lee's voice was low. "I don't know what has been done to you— how you've been forced into this. This isn't you. I know you."
Amanda pushed herself back from the double and turned to face Lee. Her face was cold. "No. You think you know me since I've been stroking your ego since the day we met. And I don't mean the way the little girls you date do. That is for amateurs. My job was to get under your guard and help my partner get ready to replace you. It wasn't easy in the beginning, having to put up with your condescension and your arrogance, and some days I swear the only joy I'd get was knowing that you had no idea what was really happening." She paused, her gaze flicked back towards the double before going back to Lee. "Well, that and the fact that my partner is quite good at soothing frazzled nerves. It helped that you were so similar to begin with." She looked at Lee reflectively, and her expression softened. She approached him and put a gentle hand on his cheek. "I will admit that recently it's been harder to separate my feelings from the job. You've grown on me, and sometimes the lines started to blur. Luckily," she said with a touch of a sardonic smile, "whenever I felt myself wavering, I always had you to remind me that we weren't emotionally involved. And that made it easier."
Lee sat stunned; he felt as if someone had punched him in the gut. He struggled to say something, but couldn't. Amanda leaned in and placed a light kiss on his lips, before straightening his tie. The familiar gesture was painful to him.
"Are we done now?" the double asked with a hint of jealousy in his voice.
Lee kept his eyes focused on Amanda.
"Yes— we are. Goodbye, Scarecrow," she said, the name almost sounding like a caress.
"Amanda," Lee whispered. "Don't..."
"It's too late," she replied, turning away.
"Amanda!" Lee yelled. He pulled desperately on his restraints as the pair walked out of sight arm-in-arm. "Amanda!" Finally, his arms pulled loose and he fell forward...
And found himself on his living room floor. He lay there for a moment, heart racing, trying to pull himself together. Dreaming, he'd been dreaming. Hadn't he been dreaming? Slowly, he got to his feet and looked around, half-expecting to see Amanda or his double. But everything seemed normal. He sat on the couch, head in his hands, trying to shake off the dream. There was no double. Well, not of him. There had been of Amanda. Cold and calculating. Very professional. Definitely not Amanda. He felt queasy, remembering her pulling the gun on him. He'd known something was off, but until that moment he hadn't really realized what it was. But she was dead. Redding was back in jail. And Amanda was safe and on her way home with her mother and boys. Everything was fine.
He'd just been exhausted when he'd gotten back and fallen asleep on his couch, and his brain went into overdrive. That's all there was to it. Amanda was Amanda. She was not manipulative or conniving or a femme fatale of any kind. She was loyal and honest and could never under any circumstances be a double agent. Was it only a month ago that he'd been insisting that to Mitch Larner? He'd never doubted her then. Well, maybe for just a split second he'd considered it, until he came to his senses. He went to the bathroom and splashed water on his face. The nightmare still clung to him like wisps of fog. It was insane. Of course, this whole case had been crazy. An assassin who looked like Amanda took out two of the Agency's best men and almost got him. Insane didn't begin to cover it. He needed some air, to get out of his apartment. He headed out the door.
He'd been driving for about ten minutes when he realized he was on his way to Amanda's house. Well, naturally, she'd be upset too. After all, she'd seen a double of herself fall off a building. And she was still a civilian. Things had to be rough. He just needed to reassure himself that she was all right. He parked around the corner from her house and made his way to her back yard and knocked lightly on the door.
He was relieved to see her. She looked better than when he'd seen her earlier, but he had to ask. "How you feeling?"
She reassured him and he told her about Redding. It was as good a reason as any for why he'd driven there. She thanked him and then started rambling about the weirdness of seeing a double and how she'd wanted a twin. He didn't really follow everything she was saying; he just enjoyed hearing the sound of her voice. He finally focused back in when she was saying:
"... to really look at somebody who looks exactly like you who could just walk right into your life and take you place..."
Reminded a bit too starkly of his nightmare, Lee broke in. "Amanda, I don't think anyone could pull that off."
One of the boys called out from inside. "Hey, Mom, don't forget the marshmallows!"
Amanda turned to listen and then looked back to Lee. "You're right. And you know why?"
"Because nobody knows where I hide the marshmallows," she said with a laugh.
Lee couldn't help but laugh too. He felt better. She always made him feel better. He realized he was staring at her.
Amanda cleared her throat. "Well, I guess I better get back inside. They'll be wondering where the hot chocolate is."
"Um, yeah," he said, not really wanting to leave. "I'd better go."
"OK," Amanda said, hesitatingly. She turned to go back inside, but stopped. "Thanks, Lee. For saving me."
Lee took her hands in his for a moment, then released them. "You're welcome."
"Amanda?" Dotty called from somewhere inside.
"I better get back," Amanda said, just above a whisper.
"Yeah. I'd better go, too." Lee slipped into the shadows and watched Amanda go back inside. For a moment, he lingered, just watching her be Amanda. "No, Amanda. Thank you for saving me."