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TIME: Late Season 3. Takes place immediately after Dead Men Leave No Trails

As he stepped out of the corvette, Lee realized that he didn't even remember the drive home. His thoughts were too preoccupied with the kiss he had just shared with Amanda. Granted, the kiss was light, tender-nothing like the passionate kiss he so longed to give her, but it was a kiss. It was a step in the right direction. Once again, they were supposed to have an uninterrupted evening at Amanda's house. The two of them had just wrapped up the Stephen Sallee case and were enjoying a meal and some time together like "a couple of normal people." As they sat on the couch and their eyes locked; it was obvious that they both wanted the same thing. Amanda placed her hand on his cheek and moved in for the kiss. Lee wanted their first kiss to be meaningful, slow and passionate, thus the reason he hesitated slightly. Then, true to form, they were interrupted-again. As Lee snuck out the kitchen door, he told himself that he would not leave this time without kissing Amanda. Amanda quickly followed Lee out to the back patio before being seen by Dotty or the boys. Lee grabbed her and pulled her to him, looking deeply into her soft brown eyes. A quick and tender kiss was all they had time to share, but it was enough for the moment. Lee dashed away back to his car, his heart feeling as if it would pound right out of his chest. The entire ride home, he thought of nothing else other than Amanda. That small kiss confirmed that they both shared feelings for each other. It also meant things would never be the same between them again.

Lee fiddled for his apartment key, still tasting Amanda's kiss upon his lips. He was floating on air, with happiness and hope for their future. As he began to place the key into the lock, Lee noticed the light streaming out from under his apartment door. Someone was in his apartment. Lee's agent instincts quickly took over and he drew his weapon. As carefully as he could, he checked the door to see if it was locked. The knob turned easily indicating that it was no longer secure as he had left it that morning. Lee silently counted to three in his head, burst through the door and ducked down behind the couch.

"Well….that was quite an entrance!" Lee heard a familiar voice say. Slowly, Lee rose up from behind the couch, weapon still drawn and ready to fire upon the intruder. "Seriously, Scarecrow, aren't you going to say hello to an old friend?"

Lee stood up completely and stared at his guest.

"Paul? What the HELL are you doing here?" Lee questioned, gun still at the ready.

"Well, I will be happy to tell you all about it, but could you put the gun away first?"

Lee lowered his gun and let out a chuckle.

"You know, I was ready to shoot who ever I found in here. You're just lucky I didn't shoot first, ask questions later." Lee remarked.

"That would have made some interesting headlines at the agency, wouldn't it? 'Scarecrow Shoots the Wizard'! Old Dr. Smyth wouldn't know what to do with himself!" Paul replied as he patted Lee on the shoulder with his right hand, glass of Scotch in his left. "I hope you don't mind, but I took the liberty of helping myself to a drink. Where do you hide the good stuff?"

"That IS the good stuff these days. Guess I ran out of the top shelf stuff a while ago and never replaced it." Lee sat down on the couch as Paul plopped himself into the chair. "Seriously, what are you doing here? Last I knew, you were headed into retirement. I was having a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that the great legend, Paul Barnes, was retiring. And now you're back in D.C. Weren't you going to Australia or Europe or something?"

"Well, I did retire, Lee-or at least I tried to. But it's hard turning off the spy instincts when you have been in the business as long as I have. I was over in Vienna when a blast from the past crossed my path. Take a look at this." Paul said as the handed Lee a manila folder.

Lee took the folder and looked at Paul with an inquisitive look. "What is this?"

"Just open it and take a look."

Lee opened the folder and found a black and white photo of a very attractive woman staring back at him.

"Hanna Mahler?" Lee said in shock and surprise.

" Yup…that's her." Paul said as he took a long gulp of his drink.

"Where did you find her? She disappeared….gosh, it has to be 6-7 years ago. We were supposed to meet for dinner at a little café in Paris. She never showed. The agent that had been helping me tail her was left for dead. Part of me thought she was dead, too."

"Well, I can assure you Lee, she is very much alive. I ran into her at an American Embassy party in Vienna of all places. She was there trying to pass herself off as an American citizen and doing a pretty good job of it, too. No one suspected that she was a dangerous murderer and weapons dealer."

"Did she recognize you?"

"No. I never had any direct contact with her. That was your job, remember Lee? Or should I say Robert? And if I remember correctly, Robert had some VERY direct contact with her. Am I right?"

Lee began to blush slightly as a smirk graced his lips.

"Well, Paul….sometimes and agent has to do what an agent has to do in order to get the job done."

"Yes, well I seem to remember that you rather enjoyed that assignment, even if the job wasn't exactly completed, which is why I am here now. I need you resume the role of Robert Stevenson and get back involved with Hanna."

Lee was taken aback by Paul's request and began shifting uncomfortably in his seat. "What? Why?"

"Lee, she's involved with Max Kahn, the BIGGEST weapons dealer in Eastern Europe. Something big is going down, I can feel it! We need a man on the inside and that man is you."

Lee stood up from the couch and let out a heavy sigh. He angrily began to run his hand through his hair as he paced back and forth.

"Let me get this straight, you want me to go to Vienna and just "bump" into her and see what info I can get?"

"No, Lee. It's even easier than that! She is coming HERE to Washington. I overheard her talking that she was going to Senator Johnston's charity ball. Dignitaries from all over the world will be there. Something is going down there, and we need to be there when it does."

"Paul, we are already all over that party. Francine has been working on it for weeks and Billy has at least 4 teams helping out Francine. Why do you need me?"

"Because you already have the connection with her, Scarecrow. Besides, I already cleared it with Billy and he agrees that it is a good idea to send you in as Robert Stevenson again."

"You what? Why did you even bother asking me then if you have already spoken to Billy about it?"

"Courtesy.….I don't get what the problem is. You never minded being Hanna's assignment before."

Lee crossed his arms in front of him as he turned away from Paul. His mind immediately thought back to tonight's kiss with Amanda and how they were finally moving in the right direction. Hanna Mahler was trouble no matter which way you looked at it. The last time he was assigned to her, things got very involved in every sense of the word. If he were assigned to her again, there would be very little doubt that things might need to go there again. In the old days, Lee wouldn't have thought twice about jumping into bed with someone all in the "line of duty", especially not someone as attractive as Hanna. But now, things were different. He only had eyes for Amanda. This assignment could screw everything up that he has worked so hard to achieve with her.

"Besides, Scarecrow…..it's not like you are going in there alone. I'll be there. And so will Amanda."

Lee spun around quickly where he stood staring down the Wizard.

"AMANDA? What do you mean Amanda will be there? Why the hell would she be involved with this?"

"Relax, Lee. I already cleared it with Billy just a little while ago. Amanda is going to be part of my cover. She will be coming with me as my wife. You yourself have talked about what a good agent she is becoming and I think she will be useful on this case. And not to mention, she is very easy on the eyes. I am going to enjoy having her as my wife!"

Lee clenched his teeth so hard together that he thought his molars were going to break. It was all he could do from launching himself at Paul and beating him senseless. Amanda was HIS-or at least he hoped that she soon would be. Lee felt his heart sink. How could this be happening? If he let Paul see how upset he was over this, his true feelings for Amanda might be revealed and the agency might never let them work together again. If he didn't say something and Amanda went on this assignment…..what he might have to do with Hanna would surely drive a wedge into the heart of their personal relationship.

"No…..Amanda is not to be part of this. Find someone else. Francine can pose as your wife, not Amanda."

"Lee, seriously…what has gotten into you? Amanda has already been approved by Billy and has agreed to it. We pick her up tomorrow morning."

Lee's eyes began to bug out of his head.

"WHAT? What do you mean she has already agreed to this? I just left her and she didn't say a word about this."

"I know. Billy called over there looking for you and spoke to Amanda. You just had just left. She is very excited about going."

"Does she know what her cover is?"

"No, not yet. We can brief her tomorrow. Speaking of, it's late. I am going to head over to my hotel. Pack a bag and I'll pick you up tomorrow morning about 9. Don't forget to bring your tux."

"I thought we were going to the charity ball. Why do I need to pack a bag?"

"Well the ball isn't until the day after tomorrow, Scarecrow. It is a weekend type of event. Lots of people are staying over at the estate, including Hanna, you and me."

"And Amanda…"Lee quickly added.

"Yes, and Amanda." Paul said with a suggestive smirk.

"And where is Amanda staying? In a room with you? She'll never go for that, Paul. She's NOT that kind of agent." Lee's tone was that of a man on the edge. The thought of Amanda having to share a room with Paul was almost more than he could bear right now.

"Lee-calm down. Amanda's virtue is quite safe. I assure you of that. It will be fine. Why don't you get some rest. I think it will do you good. See you tomorrow." Paul turned to leave Lee's apartment. As he reached for the door, he turned back around. "Before I forget, I left you your file on Robert Stevenson so you can review who you 'are' and what you've been up to these last few years."

Lee bent down and snatched up the file in one swift yet deliberate motion.

"Fine…GREAT!" he yelled after Paul as the door to the apartment clicked shut.

Lee practically threw himself down on the couch and let out a very heavy and agitated sigh. He placed his face in his hands and did his best to try and breathe and calm down. He was having little success when the phone began to ring. Figuring it was Billy, Lee snatched the phone and barked into the receiver.

"Yea-Stetson…"

"Uh…Lee?"

Not Billy…..Amanda's sweet voice caused his heart to flip-flop.

"Amanda? Oh I'm sorry…I…I thought you were Billy."

"Lee are you OK? You sound, well you sound upset."

"Well, yeah, I am a little upset. Paul Barnes was just here and informed me of my assignment….our assignment. He told me that Billy already talked to you."

"Yes, he called here about 5 minutes after we ki….well after you left."

Lee smiled on the other end of the phone as he recalled the kiss they had shared.

"Amanda, I am sorry you are getting dragged into this assignment. I tried to convince Paul to take Francine instead but he wanted you to come."

Amanda got quiet for a moment as she tried to digest what Lee had just said to her.

"Amanda? Are you there?"

"Yeah, I'm here. Lee, do you not think I can do this assignment? Is that why you wanted Paul to take Francine?"

"What? No, Amanda! No, not at all. It's just that…..well"

"Just what?"

"It's just that you are going to be acting as Paul's wife on this assignment and I am going to be stepping back into a role that I played about 7 years ago in order to get close to a woman weapons dealer that I had dealings with a number of years ago."

"Oh….I didn't know…."

Lee could hear the disappointment, boarding on hurt in Amanda's voice. It began to pull at his heart.

"I'm sorry, Amanda. I am sure that if I spoke to Billy, he could reassign…"

"NO! No, it's ok, Lee", Amanda interrupted. "I am a professional and I can deal with being Paul's fake wife for a day."

"Weekend."

"Weekend?"

"Yeah, weekend."

"Oh…Well…..you know. No big deal….. What are the sleeping arrangements?"

"I'm not sure yet, but I already told him that he had better figure something out that works for you….Amanda, I am really not happy about this."

"It's not your fault. We got an assignment and we need to do it the best we can. I wish I was working more closely with you for sure but…we'll get the job done. We always do. I have already told Mother that I need to be away for a few days and the boys are with Joe this weekend so the timing couldn't be better."

Lee gritted his teeth together at Amanda saying that the timing couldn't be better. Of course it would work out that she had no obligations at home when she was to be assigned to play Paul's wife, but the timing was NEVER right when it was to be just Lee and Amanda.

"Lee? Lee are you still there?"

"What? Yeah, sorry. I was just thinking. Why don't you get some sleep and we'll come pick you up in the morning, ok?"

"OK. Listen, Mother is leaving early tomorrow to go to some flea market thing with Edna Gilstrap, so when you get here, just come in."

Lee smiled on the other end of the phone.

"Will do. Sleep well."

"You, too, Lee."

"Uh, Amanda?"

"Yeah?"

"I had…I'm glad we…..thanks for dinner tonight."

"Oh…You're welcome. I hope we can do it again soon."

"Me, too. Good night."

"Sweet dreams, Lee"

Lee's smile remained for a few moments more after he hung up the phone. He then spied the dossier that Paul had left him on the coffee table. Once again, he began to clench his jaw as he thought about tomorrow's assignment.

"Better get packed." He said flatly as he grabbed the folder and headed to his bedroom.

To be continued...