Acknowledgement:       Thanks to IamInvisibleToo for beta'ing this in it's infancy.  It's grown quite a bit since then, but she was courageous enough to point out the weaknesses.  Thanks, also, to MarySueStetson for trying to teach me POV.  Any errors or really crappy storytelling are totally my fault.

11:30 PM

Lee sat on the couch trying to read the book he started earlier in the week.  Amanda had fallen asleep in his bed about an hour ago and he wanted to quietly occupy himself until it was time to drive her home.  After his third attempt at reading the same page, he closed the book in frustration.  Images of the day's events wouldn't leave him alone.  He kept seeing Benson gripping Amanda, stroking and kissing her.  His anger grew every time he thought about how much Benson enjoyed it.

"Lee!" he heard her scream and acted immediately.  "Lee!"

He grabbed his gun from the end table and was off the couch before the second scream.  As he swung the bedroom door open and rushed in, he quickly scanned the room but found only Amanda, sitting wide-eyed in the middle of his bed.

Placing his gun on the nightstand, he sat on the edge of the bed and pulled her to him.  "'s all right.  Everything's going to be okay.  It's just a bad dream."

He felt her shudder and tightened his embrace.  "A dream? seemed so real…" she pulled away to look into his eyes.  "He died, didn't he?  I killed him…"

"No," he rubbed her back to calm her.  "No, Amanda...I talked to Billy.  He's going to be okay."

"He's not dead?" she searched his face, needing to believe him and looking for any sign he was hiding the truth.

"No, he's going to be just fine," Lee assured her.  "Then he's going back to jail.  This time they'll keep him in maximum security. He won't hurt you again," he finished with determination.

She released a shaky sigh, then stood and began to pace in front of him.  "Lee, I still can't believe I shot him.  You know how I feel about guns," her pacing stopped and she turned to face him.

"I know," he agreed with her.

"But...I saw him...standing over you.  And your gun was right there by me.  I had to do something," she said the last statement with force, as if she was trying to convince him – or maybe herself.

"Yes, and I'm very glad you did.  C'mere," he extended his right arm to encourage her to sit with him.

As she leaned her head on his shoulder and softly placed her hand on his chest, he continued the back rub that made her relax in his arms.  They stayed that way for a while, neither one saying anything.  He was content just to hold her as her trembling stopped.

"He used me, Lee.  I never even suspected what he had in mind – I was so foolish," her fist lightly hit his shoulder in frustration.

"Hey, you were not foolish.  You said yourself you didn't know what he had in mind."

"No, don't understand," she pulled away from him and shook her head.  "I was surprised to see him in the lobby, but I wasn't afraid of him.  I should have been.  When...when he smiled...and said he was there to see you, I just kept walking.  It wasn't until I passed Mr. Feller that I saw his gun."

"I…" he shrugged his shoulders and shook his head, not sure where she was going with this.  "You're right...I don't understand.  You didn't do anything wrong."

She looked directly into his eyes, as if pleading for him to understand.  "Don't you see?  He knew.  He knew he could get you to come to holding me," she emphasized her point by placing her hand on her chest.  "He used me – to get to you.  I should have run away, but instead I just kept walking until it was too late."  She turned away from him and began to anxiously pluck at the fabric of her jeans.

He grabbed her by the shoulders and turned her to face him.  "Amanda," he dipped his head to get her to look at him.  "Hey, look at me."

When she raised her chin, unshed tears shimmered in her eyes; but Lee also saw a strength there.  She was determined not to cry anymore because of David Benson.

"He had a gun, Amanda, and forced you to go with him.  Depending on how all this turned out, he *may* have shot you no matter what.  But I have no doubt he *would* have shot you if you had run."  He captured both her hands in his, giving them a reassuring squeeze.  "The fact that he could get to me through you, well...that's a weakness of working with a partner," he hoped that explanation sounded truer to her than it did to him.  A voice in the back of his mind whispered, 'It's more than that, and you know it.'

His thumbs gently massaged her fingers as he told that voice to be quiet.  "So he got to me through you, so what?  You'd do the same for me, wouldn't you?"

"That's not the same," she protested.

"Oh, really?" he raised a questioning eyebrow. "How is it not the same?"

"It would never happen that way, Lee.  You have a lot that can be compromised, I don't," she looked down to where he held her hands in his lap.

"I'll have to disagree with that," he reached under her chin and forced her to look back into his eyes.  "There's always your poppy seed cake recipe," he tried to tease her, then felt rewarded when he saw her broad smile.

"Not exactly a State secret, Scarecrow," she joined in the teasing.

His smile turned into a dimpled grin and he reached to smooth a stray lock of hair from her cheek then let his hand remain where it was.  As he lightly caressed her cheek with his thumb, she closed her eyes and leaned into his hand.  Such a simple gesture on her part and it went straight to his heart.

The trust she had in him, and the comfort she drew from him, filled him with desires.  A desire to protect her.  A desire to always see her safe and happy.  A desire... She opened her eyes and he saw longing in their brown depths. Realizing she must see the same reflected in hazel, he withdrew his hand and looked away, fearing she'd already seen too much.  "I, uh...I'd better drive you home," he stood and extended his hand to help her off the bed.

For a moment she didn't move.  What just happened?  She had closed her eyes and rested her cheek against the soothing warmth of his palm.  Hard as she tried, she couldn't stop the questions that whispered in her mind.  How many times had she thanked God and fate for that morning at the train station?  And exactly when had she realized she was falling in love with Lee?

When she had opened her eyes, the look on Lee's face was so tender, and she'd seen a flicker of...something... Just as quickly, his expression became shuttered and he practically jumped off the bed, offering his hand.

"Yeah...I, um...I should get going," she said as she accepted his assistance.  His fingers closed around hers, and she felt the familiar current she'd come to expect whenever they had the slightest physical contact.  He quickly released her hand and reached for his gun on the nightstand.

Headed toward the living room, he called to her over his shoulder, "You know, it's close to midnight.  How are you going to explain to your mother?"

"Oh, I'm not worried.  I don't think she's had time to miss me, yet."

He turned in the doorway, looking totally confused.  "What do you mean she hasn't had time to miss you?  You've been gone all day."

"I know, but she took the boys to Aunt Lillian's yesterday and we already talked this morning.  They won't call again until tomorrow," she swung her purse over her shoulder as she walked toward him.

"Wait...hold it.  You're gonna be home alone?"  He didn't budge, effectively blocking the doorway and keeping her from leaving the bedroom.

She shifted her weight to her left foot and put her fist on her right hip.  "I've been home alone before."

"Yeah, but Amanda...I don't think you should be alone tonight."  He still didn't move from his spot.

"I'll be fine, Lee."

"You're having nightmares," he argued.

"Just that one – and it's not the first time I've had a nightmare."  She couldn't believe he was being so obstinate.  "Look, you told me you spoke with Billy and David's going to be okay.  I'll go home, have a mug of warm milk and go to bed.  If I can't sleep, I'll get up and have another.  I'll be fine."

"No," he said stubbornly.  "You've got two choices here.  Either you stay here and I sleep on my couch, or I take you home and I sleep on your couch.  You're not spending the rest of the night alone."

"Lee, you don't want to be sleeping on a couch."

"Amanda, I will sleep in my car in front of your house if I have to.  Now what's it gonna be?"

She considered him for a moment.  Really, she didn't want to go home to an empty house, but she also didn't want him to think she was afraid.

Her hesitation was her defeat.  She saw a triumphant flash in his eyes and a smug smile.  He walked to the dresser and began opening drawers.  "Look, I have tee-shirts, and I know there's a pair of sweat pants here that are too small for me, if you want them," he threw the clothes on the bed then turned to face her.  "And I even have a new toothbrush that hasn't been opened yet.  Why not just stay here, and I'll drive you home in the morning?"

She sighed, knowing she'd lost.  "Ill stay under one condition."

"What's that?" he asked cautiously.

"Do you have any food?  I haven't eaten since breakfast."

He laughed and immediately relaxed.  "I think I can find something here for us to eat."

She smiled at him, wondering what he would possibly find that was edible.  "Mind if I wash up?"

"Yeah, sure.  Towels are in the closet in there, and the toothbrush is in the cabinet above the sink," he gestured toward the bathroom.  "In the meantime, I'll see if I can find something other than week-old pizza and moldy cheese," he winked and grinned at her.

2:00 AM

Lee snapped awake.  He strained to hear whatever it was that interrupted his sleep, but the apartment was totally quiet.  Knowing something must have disturbed him, he threw the blanket over the back of the couch and rose quietly to go check on Amanda.

He opened the door only to find the bed empty.  For a half second his gut twisted, until her saw her standing at the window staring into the night.  Her head and shoulder leaned against the frame, and her arms were crossed in front of her.  Wearing just his tee-shirt, her long legs were bare and the hem of the shirt fell just below...for one incredible moment he wondered if she wore anything beneath.

He cleared his throat to get her attention – and to be sure he was still capable of speech.  She was startled when she turned to him, then flustered as she realized what she was wearing.  His robe was draped across the end of the bed, and she walked over to grab it.

"Hi," she greeted him quietly as she shrugged into the robe.  "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to wake you."

"I'm not sure that you did, but as long as I was up I thought I'd check on you," he said, still a little distracted.  Seeing her standing there in his robe wasn't much better than before.

"I just couldn't sleep.  Then I found if you stand over here," she walked back to the window, "and lean just so, you can see the river."

"Well, you've discovered the secret to why I took this place – apartment with a view," he said with a smile as he walked to stand behind her.  She pointed to where she could see the Potomac.  He was close enough to catch the mixed fragrances of soap, the perfume in her hair, and Amanda's own scent.  "Well, I'll be damned," he whispered as he leaned to see her discovery.

"You didn't know that?" she turned her head to look at him and her face was just inches from his.  He heard her breath catch in her throat, then felt a pang of disappointment as she stepped away from him and turned to study the street below from her new angle.

Once again he felt the need to clear his throat.  "Can I get you anything?  Maybe that mug of warm milk?"

"No, I'll be okay.  I'm feeling more relaxed, and I think if I go back to bed soon I may actually get some sleep tonight," she smiled her thanks at him.

As he studied her, he struggled over how to say what he was feeling.  "Amanda, I'm sorry," he said unexpectedly.

"For what?" she asked, looking truly confused.  "You haven't done anything to be sorry for."

"Yes, I have...or at least I feel like I have," he ran his hand through his hair in frustration before continuing.  "If it weren't for me, you never would have been involved in any of this.  You never would have met David Benson and you never would have been in a position where he could hurt you."

"Lee, it's not your fault," she said adamantly.  "Did you know this would happen when you introduced me to David?"

"No!  Hell, Amanda...I liked him.  I considered him a friend."

"So, other than introducing me to David – which you didn't know would be dangerous – what have you done wrong?  Huh?" she waited a moment for his answer, but he had none.  "Besides, David had already seen me at the office, he said so himself.  So, the only other way this wouldn't have happened is if I'd never met you and was never at the Agency."

He didn't know what to say to that.  It had been a long time since he'd thought that things might be easier if he'd just given that package to someone else.  She had become such a part of his life that he was no longer sure what he would do without her.

"Anyway, I'm the one who should apologize," she countered.

"All right, this is getting ridiculous," he couldn't believe the direction this conversation was taking.  "What the hell are you apologizing for?

"I gave David the opportunity to get to you."

"Amanda, I thought we'd been all through this…"

"Yes, I know..." she interrupted him, "'weakness of working with a partner.'  But, Lee, I don't want to be your weakness.  I don't want it to be known that 'Scarecrow' is vulnerable because of me."

He really didn't understand where all this was coming from.  He'd always protected her before, why was this so upsetting to her?

She was determined that he know how important this was to her.  If she was ever going to be taken seriously and considered for training as a full agent, she had to gain respect.  She turned away from him and sighed.  Being Lee's Achilles' heel wasn't going to help her cause.

More important than all of that, "I don't ever want you to resent me," she stared at the floor, having put her real fear into words.  He'd come to mean too much to her.  What would she do if he ever decided she was too much of a burden to him?

"Hey...none of this was your fault," he touched her hand, then wrapped his long fingers around hers.  "I could never resent you for something you didn't do."  

When she looked back up at him and saw the intensity in his expressive hazel eyes, she again heard the whispered questions in her mind.

Lee was about to get lost in the brown depths of her eyes.  She stood so near to him.  Just one step and he would be close enough to feel her warm breath on his chest.  One step to be close enough to bow his head and finally taste her.

Instead, he stepped away from the window to the safe distance of the doorway.  He had to get out of this bedroom before he did something he might regret – or might not.  The second thought was the one that scared him.

"Well, now that we've both apologized and, I assume, we're both forgiven . . ." he clasped his hands behind his back and leaned forward slightly to give her his most appealing smile, "I'm going to get some sleep."

She smiled sweetly and nodded her agreement.  He could have sworn he'd seen a look of disappointment briefly cross her face, but he'd come to realize that she was getting good at hiding her feelings – almost as good as he was.

"Good night, Amanda," he spoke softly as he began to pull the door closed behind him.

"Good night, Lee.  I'll see you in the morning."  With one last look into the bedroom, he saw she had resumed her post at the window.

He tried to settle back onto the couch, punching the pillow then pulling the blanket up to his neck.  His thoughts returned to the sight of Amanda standing at the window wearing only his tee-shirt, beautiful in that brief moment before she became aware of his presence in the room.

It was going to be a long night.

–The End–