Disclaimer: Scarecrow and Mrs. King is the property of Warner Brothers and Shoot-the-Moon Productions. I make no money from the story and no copyright infringement is intended.
Time frame: Post Season 1, Pre Season 2
Referred Episodes: 'There Goes the Neighborhood', 'Service Above & Beyond',
Synopsis: Amanda goes missing.
Author's Notes: Comments & critiques are welcomed. This is completely AU. While this tale remains mostly within the time frame above, it doesn't stay with canon. Thank you very much to my beta, editors, and medical resources. Any mistakes are completely my own, and do not reflect on my excellent sources. While this is intended as a stand alone, it does pick up where Code Name: Seraphim leaves off. It's recommended that you read it first, else you're very likely to be rather lost.
This tale is dedicated to MyKidsMom1963, without your help CN:S never would've been finished. Happy Birthday, my friend.
July 25, 1984, Wednesday 10:45 a.m.
Lee Stetson left the Agency but he wasn't in the Porsche. No, his classic sports car was waiting for a few vital parts to be shipped from Germany; thank you very much, Amanda King. Nor was he using the sedan he'd commandeered before the world had blown up in his face just two days before. Rather, the debonair bachelor drove an ordinary wood-paneled station wagon, owned by the reason reality had taken a sharp turn to the left while he was still traveling to the right. Her perfume scented the air, sweetly accented by the comforting aroma of regularly delivered baked goods. His stomach rumbled at the memory of Monday's cookies.
Monday. His left hand clenched before he consciously made the point of relaxing it. Everything had been exactly as it should've been on Monday. They'd laughed a bit, even joked a little, before life went haywire. He could even point to when things started becoming surreal. It happened after he'd taken her home. After dropping her off, he'd returned to the now destroyed warehouse alone.
On further reflection, he couldn't honestly say for certain that he'd been as alone as he'd thought. Sara... no, the Seraphim, that's what Blue Leader had called her. The Seraphim had been there. According to his mysterious leader, the Seraphim was a high ranking member of the Agency. So who the devil was she? Billy didn't know, that was certain. Lancer had been every bit as surprised by Blue Leader's bombshell as Lee and Francine.
"Mrs. King is a valuable addition to the Agency, and was operating under my directive this week. Scarecrow, you will cease your fruitless search for the Seraphim immediately. She carries a higher security clearance than you do." The man's voice echoed across the irritated Scarecrow's memory.
It all came back to Amanda King and the Seraphim. Apparently they were working together but she'd failed to mention it to him. While it definitely explained some of her odd behavior, there was still no excuse. They were partners, dammit! There, he'd said it! Amanda King, housewife extraordinaire, was his partner. And junior partners did NOT keep secrets from the senior agent. It led to bad precedents. He immediately headed for Arlington to explain this rule in exacting detail, not to mention get the answers to his questions. Blue Leader notwithstanding, Amanda had some explaining to do, by God!
He'd worked himself into a righteous fury by the time he arrived. Unlike some people, he'd not had any sleep since last night's fire and was in no mood for the usual games he employed in this neighborhood. The car rocked in her driveway when he slammed the door before stalking towards the kitchen. His eyes glittered at the fluttering curtains in the neighbor's window. Have fun explaining this one, Amanda! The sneer was cruel. What was the woman's name again? Right, Edna Gilstrap. For a brief moment he considered waving.
Knowing that Dotty and the boys were gone, Lee used the keys in his hand to let himself in. He dropped them on the kitchen counter before bellowing up the stairs, "AMANDA!"
He waited for a few moments, but there was no answer. The muscle in his jaw flexed while he stomped up the short flight. An anxious voice whispered across his rage, pointing out the fact her home felt as deserted as it appeared. He'd know soon enough, there were only so many places she could be.
Familiar scent mixed with her laid-back decorating style collaborated to soothe his raging temper. By the time he'd reached her door at the top of the stairs, taut muscles were starting to loosen. Slumping into the chair in the corner of her room, he buried his face in his hands and let the worry take forefront. Why did she never stay where he left her? It never failed, he left her in the car and he'd turn around to find her behind him. Granted she was learning, but this was a very dangerous business. She could've died in that fire last night. Actually, he could think of at least a dozen different incidents over the past year...
Thoughts chased themselves in his mind. Blue Leader had put Amanda on medical leave, but she wasn't at home. Since he had her car, it stood to reason that she was still wherever she'd vanished after Johnson took her to the garage, which could be just about anywhere. She'd been teamed with the unknown Seraphim to do what? If Seraphim was with the Agency, why had she been shooting at him in the warehouse? Further, if the trap wasn't for him, who were the women capturing? Just how did the missing Vargas figure into the equation?
The events of the last two days finally caught up with him. Conspiring with the relaxing atmosphere of the charming bedroom, it wasn't long before long legs were stretched out while his strong body was comfortably drawn into the seductive embrace of Morpheus. Maybe just rest my eyes a minute... His head tipped back against the wall as soft snores pulsed through the quiet bedroom.
"Amanda, get back! It's a trap!" He surged to his feet, heart pounding, still lost in the nightmare. He froze as the reality of suburban normalcy replaced the smoke-filled warehouse. They'd gotten out. She was safe. Granted she'd disappeared into the night but at least he wouldn't have to explain to another mother about losing her child in the line of duty. After facing Dorothy's parents and his former partner's fiancée, he never wanted to do that again... and he had a sneaking suspicion they would be a walk in the park compared to Dotty.
Like last night, in the dream he'd been caught in the net and Amanda had come out of the smoke to get him out. Unlike the real events, he'd not been alone. For some fool reason, Marci was hiding out of Amanda's sight with a gun. Why his subconscious had placed the woman he'd broken dates with for the past two nights there was beyond anything he could figure out. She had absolutely no reason to try to kill Amanda. He scrubbed his hands across his eyes to shake away the remnants of the dream. "Stetson, you're losing it."
A quick glance to the clock next to her empty bed revealed he'd been there for two hours. He stretched, long fingers almost brushing the white ceiling. His back popped audibly, making him groan. The chair might be comfortable to sit in, but next time he took a nap in Amanda's room it would be in the cozy bed covered with tiny pink flowers. Smirking at the decision, the rogue ran down the steps. After all the times they'd been 'married', Amanda still reacted like a Victorian schoolmarm at the thought of sharing a bed with him. Granted he couldn't guarantee nothing would happen, he was a man after all, but she just didn't appeal in that way. It's not like she was Kathy Ireland, or anything.
Besides, she needed someone who didn't mind mowing the grass or taking out the trash. Someone who coached little league. A guy who was normal, but not boring. Not like Darren or whatever his name had been. He was too staid and set in his ways. Not to mention, his weather forecasts were always wrong. There had to be someone, though.
Musing on the guy who could be the perfect match for his pal, Amanda, he paused before the refrigerator. He knew she wouldn't mind, she'd probably have already fed him if she were here. Opening the door revealed a wealth of culinary goodness which he didn't hesitate in sampling. Mrs. West must've made fried chicken last night.
A chicken leg between his teeth while another balanced on the bowl of potato salad, he turned to settle his bounty on the counter. No one cooked like the West women. He retrieved a glass for the milk he had forgotten. Just once he drank from the gallon. Once and never again. Amanda had almost skewered him with a fork before banning him from 'her' kitchen during the Bouchard case. Considering she was the night's chef, he'd quickly learned to toe the line. Even at home he found himself stretching for a glass like a 'normal person', when he actually had milk.
Something caught his eye just as he was about to turn back to the fridge. Could there be? It was worth checking out; after all, he did pride himself on his reconnaissance skills. Stretching out a long arm, he drew the jar closer for inspection. Success! Two lone cookies remained at the bottom. Guilt never even entered into the equation as they were quickly claimed.
The oddness of his delight never occurred to the man as he devoured purloined lunch. Lee Stetson, who also prided himself on wining and dining some of the most beautiful women in Washington, D.C., in the finest restaurants, was ecstatic over a simple home-cooked meal washed down with a cold glass of milk. Tidying up didn't take long – he'd even rinsed out the glass, Amanda would be amazed – and the satiated agent was out the door, munching on the last cookie with the station wagon keys in hand. He firmly pushed aside the niggling voice in the back of his head, 'Maybe there's something to be said for the suburban life after all.'
He whistled a cheerful tune while backing the car out of the drive. Now to figure out where his happy cookie baker had disappeared to. Giving a courteous nod to a patrolling beat cop, the smug Stetson headed back to the city in search of answers. She shouldn't be too difficult to find.
One Thomas Percival Aquinas, on the other hand, was proving to be particularly elusive. After visiting his favorite haunts and coming up empty handed, Lee went to his beloved library only to be told the man was on vacation. He couldn't remember the last time T.P. had gone on vacation. Certainly not in the last three years at least. Granted the man was grossly overdue, no pun intended, but now was not the time for him to be spelunking, of all things!
Shaking his tawny head at the vagaries of his mature friend, Lee settled back in the station wagon. The woman he'd flirted with on the stairs looked on in astonishment. Her thoughts were apparent to any who cared to read them while she grumbled to her companion, "Figures he's married!"
After a look at the gas gauge, he merged with afternoon traffic headed towards the Russian embassy. Maybe his favorite pump jockey had heard something. Granted her tips were more usually things she heard while gassing up the KGB, but there was a chance. He just couldn't believe he had never heard of the Seraphim before. The woman was damn good, and he'd love to take her to Monk's for a drink. He considered for a moment checking out the scene there too, but decided against it. The last thing he wanted to admit was not knowing something.
He grumbled as he left the service station. What were the odds that both T.P. and Rhonda were both on vacation at the same time? Definitely not a bet he'd have taken, but the strangest things seemed to happen when Amanda was involved. He just couldn't believe he'd struck out twice. This was starting to feel like a conspiracy! A bark of self-deprecating laughter filled the car at the thought, like T.P. and Rhonda had deliberately compared vacation plans? Get real, man, just because you're paranoid doesn't literally mean everyone is out to get you.
He glanced at the heavy rubber coat lying on the seat beside him. Sorry, Chief. Looks like I won't be dropping by just yet. There was only one other possible person who could know about the mysterious Seraphim. Harry Thornton was his best bet, and final hope. Now to find him...
Three hours later, Lee cried uncle. Harry was probably lost in the caves with the other two. It never failed: when you need someone, they're nowhere to be found... once you no longer needed them, you tripped over them at every turn. His lips curved wryly, the same definitely applied to his currently MIA partner as well. Ah well, since he was on this side of town, he may as well drop off Paul's coat. He'd be missing it sooner than later, although it had been nice to let Amanda use it. Was strange though, usually they handed out one of the blankets stored in the pump truck for exactly the reason she'd ended up with the coat.
The trucks were out, brilliant red paint glistening in the afternoon sun. Lee nodded knowingly, Chief must've taken advantage of the sunshine and lack of business by putting his boys to work. He remembered the last time he'd shown up on wash day. Paul had him scrubbing, too; Elisa hadn't been amused when he'd shown up drenched. A roguish leer curved his jaw; it hadn't taken him long to soothe her ruffled feather, even though she'd needed to replace the satin sheets.
Parking off to the side, out of the way, he snagged the heavy jacket and wandered into the mammoth garage. Even if Paul wasn't here, Rudy would take it off his hands. Rudy was Paul's second in command, and served as a good fourth when they played at the station. He was sneaky, though. The man had one of the best poker faces Lee'd ever encountered, and that was saying something!
Jacket hooked on his finger and dangling over his shoulder, he skirted lengths of hose being checked for cracks. The hoses were kept in impeccable condition; they could be a lifeline for the brave men who did what the sane wouldn't... charge fearlessly into the burning building. Clapping a rookie on the back, another member of the brave hero roster strolled back towards the office. Paul might be found there.
A statuesque blonde was leaning against the wall with a steno pad in her hand, just outside the small room labeled "Chief". She was nibbling on her pen, plump rosy lips framing the blue cap perfectly. Her enticing curves filled out a pair of jeans, leaving very little to his appreciative imagination. He barely noted the Nikon dangling from her left shoulder. Pools of aquamarine returned his slow inventory while a playful dimple winked in her left cheek. "My, my, my. Chief Reynolds certainly does deliver. You will do nicely."
His grin showcased his own dimples. Maybe today wasn't such a total waste after all. "Lee Stetson. I don't believe I caught your name."
"Sara Chambers, nice to meet you." She extended her hand, which Lee promptly kissed. "Very nice indeed."
He leaned his shoulder against the wall while they chatted comfortably. He knew Paul and the guys would back him up, so he had no hesitation donning his fire eater persona. The lovely Miss Chambers was a photo journalist. He'd pick her up at 7:00 on Saturday, getting into Mario's shouldn't be a problem. Making the reservations from Paul's phone would complete the plans; he'd better call his cleaning service, though. Amanda hadn't been over in a while.
The pair exchanged numbers then Sara checked her watch. "Listen, I hate to do this, but I have an appointment to keep. Tell your chief I'll be in touch? The Post wants to do a Sunday feature, and I think you'll look great as the centerfold."
Quelling the thought of Billy's reaction to the offer, he just smiled. "We'll see. I can be pretty shy."
"I guess we'll find out on Saturday." She gave him a saucy wink before pressing her perfect lips against his cheek. Her hips swayed as she sauntered away, well aware he was watching. Wolf whistles erupted from the garage.
"We shall indeed," her entranced audience murmured. With a cocky grin, he pushed open Paul's door and walked in on him making what sounded to be final plans as well.
"... Great! I'll meet you there. Seven o'clock at Mario's. I'm looking forward to it, Amanda. I'll see you Saturday." Paul Reynolds sat on the edge of the desk, his blue eyes twinkling while a roguish grin creased his cheeks. "No, I'm off duty that night. Don't you worry about a thing, my dear. Nothing is going to come between me getting to know you better."
His good mood fell away instantly. The vein in his temple started to throb while he contemplated strangling his friend with the phone cord wrapped around his finger. That had better not be who he thought it was!
Paul looked up and nodded towards Lee, still talking, "Hey, I hate to call this short but duty calls. I'll see you in a few days. Before you go though, let me jot down your number. I really would prefer to pick you up from home. Uh huh, got it. I'll see you Saturday. Nah, don't worry about the jacket. I'm pretty sure he'll get it to me. Alright. G'bye."
Turning to hang up the phone, the fire chief jotted down a phone number on his blotter. Standing by the desk, Lee gritted his teeth while knotting his fingers into the thick fabric lining of the coat he still carried. It was a number Stetson knew well. He wasn't exactly sure how this came about, but he'd definitely put a stop to it! There was no way a horndog like Paul Reynolds was going on a date with Amanda King.
"Hey, buddy, I was just talking about you. Speak of the devil and he shall appear. So, why is it you've never mentioned the fair Amanda King?"
"Trust me, Paul. Mrs. King is the last person you want to get mixed up with."
"Missus? Funny, she didn't mention a husband when I asked her out last night."
The lie was tempting, but the truth should be damning enough. "She's divorced. With children and an interfering mother... and a mortgage. Believe me, Chief, even her baggage has baggage."
"With an ass like that, baggage might be worth it," came the leering response.
Knowing if he answered he wouldn't be liable for his actions, Lee instead snagged the phone to dial the restaurant. He barked curtly into the receiver, then waited impatiently for the confirmation. Great, he had a table in one of the privacy alcoves. Now how was he going to keep an eye on her?
First Lowell, now Paul. Was the world going mad? No way are they good enough to date my 'Manda! Lee refused to even consider why 'my 'Manda' sounded so damn achingly right.
July 28, 1984
The sun rose on Saturday like it did every other, steadfastly in the East just where it was supposed to be. Unlike the sun, Amanda King still was not where she was supposed to be. He'd know too, as he'd been planted on her living room couch every night since she vanished into thin air. Having only succumbed to the temptation of her comfortable bed once, he was also well acquainted with exactly how uncomfortable the couch was for his 6'2" frame. She'd have to be home today. She had a date tonight, after all.
Stumbling for the coffee pot, he stretched while rubbing his bleary eyes. Another sin to lie at the housewife's feet, he'd been forced to watch network television last night. The soap operas had been enough to make him contemplate his gun, although that Matt Houston guy didn't seem to be too bad. Crockett and Tubbs showed some promise, at least Crockett had a great car. It was unfortunate they were stuck in Miami, though.
He knew she was OK. Billy was getting daily status reports from the missing Kelford. But they didn't reveal just where the hell she was. Or why. If he didn't know for a fact she'd be coming home today, he'd have to tap her phone, not that it would help. According to the phone company, her calls were being forwarded to an undisclosed number. Bristling with whiskers, his hair tousled from sleep, Lee blearily sipped his morning ambrosia while he justified his actions over the past 3 days. Not that he'd put any special effort into finding her, of course.
Point for him, he'd not decked Reynolds the rat. Walking away after the comment about Amanda's ass had been difficult but he'd done it. She had a lot to answer for, though. She left him with a stack of files as long as his arm. Steno was in an uproar since Marci quit, leaving them shorthanded so he couldn't count on charming one of his girls into doing them for him. He wasn't quite sure how Marci quitting was Amanda's fault, but it made sense to him. Billy was coming down on him for more than late files. It seemed Mrs. 'I type 80 words a minute' King hadn't finished his expense report which had been due on Wednesday, either. It had taken him a good four hours to figure out the mess!
Working himself into another self-righteous sulk, he leaned against the kitchen sink and watched the neighborhood. Hazel eyes focused on the grass as it rippled in the morning breeze, glistening with dew. It was an odd perspective to see the lawn from inside the house, but it felt right. Getting tall, maybe I should- Bloody hell, he was getting comfortable in the suburbs! What was happening to him? How the hell could it feel good to be standing in her kitchen and why would he even contemplate cutting her grass! This was all her fault!
With a sour expression, he jogged the stairs to invade her shower again. His razor was cozily nestled between the cold cream and mouth wash, his shampoo shared space with her floral one on the shelf in the tub. His clothes littered her bedroom floor. In the closet, one of his suit coats intimately draped over a fluffy pink sweater. A sudden chill of foreboding prickled up the length of the bachelor's spine. In fear for his life, the man who vowed to never be caught shoved his belongings into a bag. He had to leave, and he had to do it right now! What would Amanda think if she found him lurking in her home like this? There was no way he could even remotely explain.
Bag packed, he fled like a thief in the night, leaving behind the enticing view of what could be. A tiny voice in his head howled with merriment. He was running away from the housewife, and a future he had a feeling was all too possible, while the huge terrifying word he refused to utter loomed large in his thoughts. That was the last thing he wanted! Right?
Any man who got mixed up with Amanda King's seductive web of domestic tranquility definitely needed to be committed! He really should warn Paul. It was only fair. Scarecrow growled as he parked her station wagon next to the sedan. His hands flexed, maybe he'd beat the message into his loser friend.
He stalked towards the service garage where Leatherneck reigned. If the gods were kind, the Porsche might be ready for his date tonight. There was no way he was showing up at Mario's in a mom'mobile. Although, handing her the keys in front of Paul did have a certain charm. An evil glint lit up his hazel eyes as he plotted.
"What kinda favor, Ace?"
"Nothing that will take a lot of time out of your night. I just need you to deliver something for me. Not a big deal."
Leatherneck eyed Stetson suspiciously. He'd been snarling around the building like a bear with a sore paw all week. His temper had grown progressively shorter the longer Amanda was gone. While it would serve him right if the lady stomped on his hide in stilettos, Lee sure would be easier to deal with if she would just come back and shout at him the way she normally did. Considering the lady in question was still on the AWOL list, Leatherneck had every reason to view Stetson's smirk warily.
"And what exactly is it you want me to do?"
"Just drop the station wagon off at Mario's. You've made a spare key for it, haven't you? If you haven't, you really should considering how often it's a guest in your waiting room." Lee gestured around the garage expansively.
"Yeah, it hangs on the same hook as your punked Porsche's. Now, why am I going to be dropping Amanda's car off at Mario's?"
The evil smile curled into a malicious grin. "Because I'm going to hand-deliver her keys to her while she's having dinner with that bastard, Reynolds."
"And this is a good idea, why?"
"She's too good to be dating a loser like him. Hell, he treats women like they're paper plates. He's always crowing about his latest conquest, you know that!"
Considering Stetson was the other one with disposable playmates, Leatherneck was finding this situation more than a little hilarious. He had it bad, and the fool didn't even realize it. It might almost be worth the contact burn to watch the fireworks sure to explode when he tried this one. Definitely seems he hadn't learned his lesson over the stupid transfer idea. What made it even funnier is the fact that Ace was usually a bit more suave when it came to women. Come to think of it, Amanda was probably the only one who didn't eat out of the palm of his hand. Wednesday's poker game was going to be really interesting.
The playboy sat at the bar, nursing a scotch while he waited for his date to arrive. Normally he would've picked Sara up, immerse her into the complete Stetson package, but his current ride just didn't give the right impression. Not the way the Porsche did. So, he'd invented an emergency at the firehouse and asked her to meet him at the restaurant instead. Maybe he'd get lucky and she'd be running late. Most women, to his experience, weren't very punctual. They liked to make men wait; maybe it was some sort of power play. Regardless, Amanda was certain to be on time. I don't think she even knows how to play games. She's far too innocent for a wolf like Reynolds!
He'd driven past her house; she was definitely home. It didn't have the same desolate abandoned feeling that had been hanging around it for the past few days. Of course, she managed to get there while he was gone so he couldn't see who dropped her off. It really ate at him that he didn't know where she'd been. But then, considering the past year and her aptitude for mayhem, it was rather understandable.
Taking another swallow, he checked his watch. They should arrive at any moment. Breaking off the mild flirtation he'd been having with the redhead at the end of the bar, Lee Stetson picked up his glass before stepping behind the bushy plant just to the left of the cloakroom. He'd have a much better view of the door from there.
He sensed her before he saw the woman in deep blue. The redhead who had slipped her number into his pocket vanished from his memory, as did the blonde with whom he was dining. There was no one but the ravishing brunette who smelled like lilies and moonlight. His sigh of relief was audible; she was there, not ten feet away, and she looked just fine. Because it was inside his head, he shrugged before conceding the 'fine' and upgraded it 'amazing'. Not that he'd say it, though. She was only his partner, after all.
Amanda was wearing a dress he'd not seen before. The soft silk cradled her willowy figure, caressing curves his fingers definitely did not itch to trace. Her hair looked a little shorter, though. Apparently she'd taken the time in her impromptu vacation to visit Mr. Emilio. He frowned as he noticed a slight bulk on her left bicep. She really shouldn't be out and about, but rather staying in to recover from her injury. That burn had looked pretty wicked and it had only been four days since the fire. Worried eyes scanned familiar features, looking for tell-tale signs of stress. He gave a soft harumph; she looked just fine.
Reynolds put his palm on the small of Amanda's back, causing a muscle to twitch in Lee's jaw. His Nordic features looked just wrong with the dark witchery of hers. The ass leaned forward to whisper something to her intimately before they walked towards their table. Yeah, Lee knew what that look in Reynolds' eye meant. It meant Paul's jaw was going to get well acquainted with his fist. The watching man shoved his hands in his pockets, trying to hide his tension. The musical jingle of keys helped a little. Unbidden, her accusation whispered across his memory, "You're acting like a jealous person!"
He was not jealous! What was there he could possibly be jealous about? His poker buddy was on a date with his partner... at his favorite restaurant... with his hands on her, sliding over the soft silk and inhaling her scent... and sitting at the table next to his.
With a curse, he left the safety of the greenery and returned to the bar for a refill. To his surprise, Sara was already there. She was seated at the bar, sipping on a glass of merlot. When did she get there? He slid a well-practiced smile into place as he sidled up beside the elegant blonde in red. It didn't take long for the smile to become real when she turned her own in his direction.
Her tone was playful, but pointed, "You're late. I thought firemen made it a point to always be on time."
Lee lifted his companion's hand and drew it to his lips. "Allow me to spend the rest of the night making it up to you?"
A slim brow climbed. "Let's see what you've got, hotshot."
The rogue gave a wink before leading her in the direction of their table. Fortunately Amanda was reading the menu and didn't see them pass. He seated Sara before taking his own chair. The way the tables were situated, Lee could see them over Sara's shoulder, but they wouldn't be able to see him without physically turning. The Scarecrow masqued behind Lee Stetson's eyes, he settled in to divide his attentions equally between his lovely date and the travesty happening at the next table. He'd wait for his moment, and then drop the coup de grace right in front of Amanda's nose. That should cool Paul's ardor. He'd let Amanda thank him later.
Both tables were well into their second courses when Lee excused himself to check the parking lot. Leatherneck should've dropped off the car by now. Originally the plan was for him to drop off the wagon, but Lee thought better of it. He didn't want to take the chance something could go wrong and Amanda be stranded, so he drove her car instead. He wandered out on a pretext of needing something from his car. Neatly parked on the far side of the wagon sat a brown sedan. Good ol' Leatherneck, he always came through. Whistling a cheerful tune, he made his way back inside to execute phase 2.
Amanda King looked tired. A guilty twinge tugged at him, but he ruthlessly shoved it aside. This was for the best. He walked up to the table and, without a second thought, tossed the keys in front of her. They landed with a solid thunk, sloshing water out of her glass. Her expression was startled when she looked up to meet his eyes. Damn her, she didn't even look guilty! She disappeared for days, was keeping secrets, and had the nerve to give him the death glare?
"Good evening, Mr. Stetson. Was there something you wanted?" Her soft voice was controlled.
For an instant he wanted to run, then her words sank in and his simmering temper erupted. "Good evening? Is that all you can say to me? Good evening?"
Her eyes ignited at the cold words, "I don't believe there is anything left to say, do you?"
"There is a lot left to say, Mrs. King."
Paul stood, "What are you doing, Stetson? Have you lost your ever loving mind?"
"Please sit down, Paul. Lee was just leaving." Amanda reached out her left hand to rest it on her date's arm while continuing to glare at the intruding Stetson. "Weren't you, Mr. Stetson?"
Caught up in a confusing roil of fear, anger, worry, and another emotion he refused to label, Lee was aware he was causing a scene but found he didn't care. She wasn't supposed to be giving that soothing reassurance to Reynolds! Paul wasn't the one who'd been sleeping on her damn lumpy couch for the past few nights, pacing the floors waiting for her to come home! Hell, he didn't even know she was missing.
By this point, Sara had left their table to stand behind the chief. Her arms crossed and eyes narrowed, the woman watched the show with a growing frown. Even to a bystander it was apparent their night wasn't going to end as planned.
"No, as a matter of fact, I am not leaving. But, as you are the one under the direct care of one of the finest physicians in the city, I have no problem escorting you to your car. Allow me," hostility dripped from his words while he moved behind his troublesome partner.
Just as Lee was pulling her chair from the table, Paul reached out and grabbed her arm. Her soft gasp echoed in Lee's brain while the color drained from her face. He saw red. No one hurt Amanda!
Before either man could react, Amanda had tugged her arm away and hugged it close. Lee could see dots of perspiration on her forehead, her subtle cosmetics giving her white face the semblance of a clown. Without a word to anyone, she picked up her bag and headed in the direction of the ladies' room.
Lee glared viciously at the hapless man, visibly controlling his clenching fists. Paul looked stunned after the vanishing Amanda, while Sara continued to frown. Mario, the restaurant owner, must have been alerted by his staff of the threatening brawl because he was hurrying towards the scene as the rest of the dinner crowd looked on in fascination.
Blood thundering in his veins, Lee bit out terse words. "She got burned at the fire, you ass. She's on medical leave for the next week."
Before Paul could say a word, the irate man spun on his heel to chase after the injured woman. All he could think about was getting to her. His dinner date with the delectable journalist was irrelevant. Had those been tears in her big brown eyes? Wishing he'd thrown the punch, he muscled his way into the most forbidden area of the restaurant. After taking one look at his expression the three women chatting on the settee fled, leaving him standing awkwardly at the door of the inner sanctum.
For a second, he contemplated knocking, but knew she wouldn't answer. She'd know it was him, who else could it be? He pressed his ear to the door, hoping to tell if she was in there alone. All he could hear was running water. He took a deep breath and pushed it open. "Amanda?"
Her voice was curt, but laced with pain. "Go away!"
He stepped inside, allowing the door to close with a soft click and turned the lock. "Let me see."
"Haven't you done enough tonight?" She refused to look at him as she dropped the loose sleeve over her left arm. On the counter, he could see the bandage she must've removed already.
Humiliation burned her cheeks, Lee knew how much she hated scenes. The guilty twinge from before jabbed him anew. His anger faded, leaving behind the worry. Shoes clicking on porcelain tiles, he drew closer intending to gently lift the soft blue material concealing her painful bicep. She immediately pulled away, turning to face him instead.
"Why what? Amanda, quit being stubborn. I know it hurts, let me see how much damage has been done." Gentle exasperation tinged his concerned words as he finally lifted her sleeve.
"Why are you here? Why did you have to make a scene? Why did you transfer me to the crypt? Why do you care?" She was bewildered, honest confusion mixed with resignation both in her dark eyes and careful tone. "I just don't understand what you want from me."
Neither did he, but he didn't voice the thought. Careful not to touch the still angry burn, he examined it closely. While he only had basic first aid knowledge, just enough to hopefully keep him alive, he could tell the skin was still painful. It had faded a little since he'd seen it last, but she was still a long way from healed. At least it wasn't oozing this time as the blisters appeared to have dried up. He wondered for a moment what miracle cure Kelford was using on her. It might need to be added to the med kit every agent carried since it obviously worked well.
Allowing her questions to hang in the air, he rummaged through her purse for clean bandages. There was no doubt in his mind there would be some in there somewhere. He was of the firm opinion she carried almost everything she owned in the depths of her bag and a few of his own possessions as well. During his search, he found a small bottle of aloe which he set aside before drawing out a compact roll of gauze. He also discovered the unexpected. Since when did Amanda carry a gun?
She snatched her purse away from his intrusive fingers, laying it on the counter at her back, then expertly flipped the aloe cap with her thumbnail. Turning to face the mirror, she squeezed a small amount of the gel into her palm before applying it carefully to the injury. A small hiss escaped her lips. Apparently it hurt as badly as it looked. He stood helplessly while she studiously ignored him.
A pair of women walked through the door, chattering about the scene they'd witnessed. They drew up short at the sight of a man in the most feminine of sanctuaries. The couple at the mirror, caught up in their continuing drama, paid no attention to their audience. They were well used to having witnesses to their infamous discussions... although there were usually words accompanying the glares.
Amanda struggled with the bandage, trying to hold it in place while wrapping it loosely. His touch gentle, at odds with his expression, Lee brushed her fingers aside to complete the task. It wasn't as neat as she would've done, but her wound was covered. The immediate worry accomplished, now for answers.
Before he had a chance to talk, she'd gathered up her belongings and was sweeping past their intrigued audience. "A-man-da!"
One of the women wagged an admonishing finger under his nose. "You should know better than to drag your poor wife out with such a horrid sunburn. No wonder the poor dear is in tears!"
He gave her a weak grimace before dashing after his disappearing partner. He had been doing a lot of that this week, and the game was beyond old. She would answer him, even if he had to tie her down!
By the time he reached the tables, he saw Paul escorting Sara out the door. Good, he'd deal with the chief later. Amanda was collecting her keys and gesturing in Lee's direction. Mario himself stood before her with the check. Lee dragged his fingers through his hair in frustration while reaching for his wallet. At least the sedan was in the lot. She wouldn't get far.
Where the hell was the sedan? It had been right there, next to her car! How could it be gone? He stood in the middle of the space that had contained a nondescript brown sedan, with a pair of dice on the mirro- None of the Agency sedans had dice. He kicked a stray rock across the pavement, watching it skid across to rest against the tire of a wood-paneled cream station wagon idling in the corner.
He carefully kept his expression blank as he approached. She was staring straight ahead in the passenger seat, fingers laced in her lap. Settling in quietly, he put the car in gear. He didn't know why she had been sitting there, and he wasn't going to ask yet. Right now he was just glad to know where she was. Lost in their own thoughts, they traveled the D.C. Streets headed towards Arlington. Maybe it would be better to get his answers in the privacy of her living room. The silence was comfortable, almost companionable. He stole a glance at her profile. Wherever she had been, she didn't look very relaxed. Maybe her mother would write a letter.
It wasn't long before he was following her through the kitchen door. He winced at the stack of dirty dishes in the sink. Busted! She tossed an enigmatic look in his direction before making for the stairs. He called after her, "I'll make the coffee while you get changed."
Loosening his tie, he kicked his shoes off, before making himself a sandwich. The good thing about Amanda's, unlike his own refrigerator, there was always food. She was homey like that. He carried the plate to the den and settled in to wait. She had some answers to give, and he had some groveling to do.
"Amanda, it was a joke. I never meant for Smithers to take it seriously. It was an idle remark while we were in the elevator. It went too far."
"Yes it did. Not very funny, either. You hurt me, Lee."
"It's been fixed. Matter of fact, Billy has assigned you your own desk. It's the one you usually use, just outside his office."
She nodded, taking a sip of the coffee.
"Care to tell me about the Seraphim?" His tone was careful, although sounds of frustration were there.
"I can't. I can't tell you anything about last week." Her expression was wry, anticipating his reaction to her next words. "It's 'need to know', and you don't. Need to know, that is."
Pacing the floor, he shot her an incredulous look. "Partners don't keep secrets, Amanda. You hid valuable knowledge from me all week. And tonight I found a gun in your purse!"
"Oh that, yeah. I had almost forgotten about the gun. Would you mind getting rid of it for me? I don't want the boys to find it."
"I need answers, Amanda King!"
"I have had just about enough of you yelling at me, Lee Stetson! Blue Leader contacted me, put me on an assignment, and you don't have the clearance to know. End of story. And, if you don't mind, I think it's time you-"
"You disappeared. No one knew where you were. Your family vanished. And all Blue Leader will say is that you were working the case with the Seraphim."
Her small smile was proud. "Yes, yes I was. And saved you in the process."
"You're my partner, not hers!" He stormed out the door, slamming it behind him. Moments later, her car was gone.
She laughed softly, clearly amused by his possessiveness. "Don't worry, Scarecrow. The Seraphim is gone. She won't be back for a long time, if I have anything to say about it."
August 6, 1984
Amanda King smiled at Corporal Johnson as he opened the bullpen door. He winked while tucking away a bag of chocolate chip cookies.
"Welcome back, Mrs. King." Anderson was standing attentively close at hand, reaching for the plate of cookies she was carrying.
"Thank you, Ron." Relieved of her burden, Amanda dropped her purse on her desk before reaching in to settle pictures of the boys next to her phone. Sitting in the middle of her blotter was a small box of business cards. She glanced at it curiously before walking across the room to leave a paper bag on her partner's desk.
By the time she'd returned to her new tiny kingdom, the section chief had placed a stack of files next to her keyboard. The look he gave her was searching, but approving. "Welcome back, Amanda. Could you get these taken care of? Lee's behind in his typing again."
"Thank you, sir. Of course, I'll have them taken care of straight away."
A few hours later, Stetson stumbled in with his tie askew. He'd been chasing after an arms dealer, following one of Auggie's leads. He noticed Amanda right away, and let out a sigh of relief. She was back. Looking at the bag on his desk, he settled into his chair to investigate. Inside he found three different socks, his favorite blue tie which he hadn't been able to find this morning, and a black Ace comb missing two teeth.
He looked up to meet laughing brown eyes. "Care to explain, Scarecrow?"