Out of the Shadows

Disclaimer: The characters from "Scarecrow and Mrs. King" are the property of Warner Brothers and Shoot the Moon Productions. Additional characters, as well as the story itself, belong to me. Several episodes from the series are referred to in this story. A list of those episodes and their writers may be found at the end of the story.

Timeline: Fourth Season, somewhere between "Promises to Keep" and "Bad Timing".

Summary: Lee finds that it's not always easy to put the past behind you. AU Warning: Does not completely follow cannon. On the other hand, it's not too far 'out there'.

Rating: PG-13 Mild language; references to violence and adult situations.

Archive: Please ask before posting elsewhere.

Feedback: Bring it on!

Acknowledgements: Special thanks to Pam for showing me what the mysterious creature known as a beta reader actually does, and for hooking me up with Vikki and Dix. The lessons of these three ladies have been invaluable on my quest to become a better writer. Their own stories serve as terrific examples for me as I struggle to improve. Any remaining errors are mine, not theirs. Additional thanks to Nikki for filling me in on Dr. Pfaff before I had a chance to see WOTSTW, and to Kat for her encouragement.

*** AUTHOR'S NOTE *** This is the final story of a trilogy that spans about a week and a half in the lives of Lee and Amanda shortly before the 'mystery marriage'. While each story was written to stand alone, references to the previous stories, "Wrestling with Demons" and "In a Moment of Insanity" ( and the SMK archive) appear in this story.

Now – Let's get this thing started!

Out of the Shadows

By Mindy Lane

CHAPTER 1

Amanda King leaned back in her chair, rubbing her temples in an attempt to ward off the headache that seemed to be hovering behind her eyes. It was time for this day to come to an end. She and Lee were helping arrange security for Friday's Gala Evening, and they had come to the British Embassy to meet with the British Security Coordinator. Things had started off well enough this morning but the day had quickly deteriorated.

Willing herself to relax, Amanda realized that she had run the emotional gamut over the past week, and she had a feeling that Lee was every bit as stretched as she was, although he, of course, would never admit it. Right now he was off chasing down a new lead on Red February, the terrorist organization that threatened to cast a pall over the gala. She had seen the glint in his eye when he got the call from Billy just after noon today, and she knew what it meant. He would work this case like a dog worrying a bone. That intensity was part of what she loved about him, but it could be frustrating at times.

Amanda wondered if they would ever have a normal relationship. She and Lee had known each other for three and a half years, and had been dating for nearly a year, but almost no one had a clue about the true nature of their relationship. To her family, Lee was her 'new' boyfriend. At work they were partners. Mr. Melrose suspected something deeper between them, but the only other person to know the extent of their relationship was Francine Desmond.

Over dinner last night, Lee had inexplicably told Francine about their secret engagement. Amanda still found it hard to believe. Although their relationship had grown into a tenuous friendship over the past few months, she was still a little wary of Francine. Oh well, Lee was right. She would just have to have faith that their secret was safe.

Right now, she had to focus on insuring that Friday evening's gala went off without a hitch. The party, hosted by British officials at the elegant Hotel Monroe, would bring together numerous high-ranking dignitaries from Western Europe and North America. It would be one of the premier social events of the season. Although they weren't certain that the gala would be targeted, it appeared to be just the type of setting the terrorists might choose.

"Mrs. King?"

Looking up, Amanda saw Darrin Paulson, the British Embassy's coordinator of security for the gala. After touring the hotel facilities, they had returned to the embassy to go over a list of security measures. It was Paulson's office Amanda had usurped for the remainder of the afternoon. Quickly, Amanda gathered her files from the desk and reached for her purse.

"Oh, Mr. Paulson," she began, slightly flustered, "I'm so sorry. Let me get this mess out of your way. Thank you so much for letting me borrow your office."

With a gentle smile, he reassured her. "There's no hurry, Mrs. King. I merely wanted to see if there was anything else I could assist you with this afternoon." A slightly worried look creased his forehead. "Is there a problem with the security? Mr. um, Beaman was it?" At her nod, he continued. "Mr. Beaman seemed a bit upset earlier, and I thought perhaps there might be something wrong."

"No, Mr. Paulson," Amanda assured him, embarrassed, "Everything is in order for the gala. Mr. Beaman's … displeasure had to do with something else entirely. I'm sorry. Here, let me just get out of your way."

"There's no need for apology, Mrs. King," he said sympathetically as she moved to the door. "I suppose we'll be seeing you tomorrow at the Hotel Monroe?"

Mustering a smile, she nodded and extended her hand for him to shake. "Yes. Thank you so much for your cooperation, Mr. Paulson."

As she made her way out of the embassy, Amanda felt her anger rising once again. When Lee had dashed off in pursuit of leads to Red February, he had left Amanda in charge of the security arrangements. Part of those arrangements was to brief Effram Beaman and his class of freshmen agents on their assignment. The fact that Amanda herself was technically not a full agent made the situation awkward. She had already been aware that Beaman resented her non-traditional status at the Agency, but she had been totally unprepared for his outburst that afternoon when he realized that she, not Lee, would be in charge of the briefing.

How dare he! Amanda felt her cheeks flame, remembering her discomfiture when Beaman insisted, in Mr. Paulson's presence, on calling Mr. Melrose to verify that she was to conduct the tour of the hotel facilities and hand out the assignments. After Billy's assurance that Amanda had things well in hand, he had deferred to her with ill will, standing with arms stiffly folded across his chest, lips set in a thin line.

Driving toward Arlington, Amanda remembered telling Lee she could handle Effram Beaman. She had simply never expected it to escalate like this. With a groan, she remembered another twist to this little drama. Lee had insisted on putting Beaman on the guest list to the gala along with Francine and themselves. What a delightful time that was going to be, with Beaman looking daggers at her all evening!

Oh well. There was absolutely nothing to be done about it now, and Amanda was inclined to keep this afternoon's altercation to herself. Lee would be fit to be tied if he found out. He always wanted to be her white knight, charging in to protect her from both the villains of the world and anal-retentive Agency instructors! He had always been protective of her, but in the months since her kidnapping by Addi Birol, she had sensed a new edge to his watchfulness. Francine had once warned her not to depend on Lee to rescue her every time, but Amanda knew that was exactly what he would do if it were within his power.

Arriving home, Amanda made a beeline for the aspirin tucked away in a corner of the kitchen cabinet, intent on stopping her headache in its tracks. Her mother, deep in dinner preparations, raised an inquiring eyebrow.

"Rough day, Amanda?"

"Just a little stressful," she said, downing the tablets with a glass of water. Anything she might have added was quickly squelched by the thundering of footsteps on the stairs. Phillip and two of his friends appeared in the kitchen doorway.

"Hi, Mom!" Phillip greeted her as they trooped to the back door. "I'll be back later."

"Whoa!" Amanda held up a hand, halting his progress. "Phillip, it's nearly dinner time. Where do you think you're going?"

"Aw, Mom! I'm just going over to Mitch's for a little while. I'll be back in time for dinner."

Shaking her head, Amanda stood firm. "Not this time. You'd barely have time to get there before it was time to come home again. And what about homework?" Scowling, Phillip grumbled a goodbye to his friends and reluctantly made his way back upstairs.

With a sigh, Amanda turned back to her mother. "Let me go wash up and I'll lend a hand. Is Jamie upstairs?"

"Yes. He has a lot of homework tonight." Dotty put a lid on the saucepan she had been tending and turned the burner down. "Why don't you go relax for a few minutes? Things are under control here, and the boys can set the table in a bit."

"That would be great, Mother." She leaned over to give the older woman a quick hug.

Relax? Call it a premonition, but she had a feeling it might be awhile before she was truly able to relax.

Six hours! That's how long Lee Stetson had been tied up with what amounted to a wild goose chase, and he was not a happy camper. They had received a tip early this afternoon that members of Red February had been seen at a car rental agency in Alexandria. Billy had suggested sending someone else to follow up the lead, but Lee insisted on going himself since he had the most in-depth knowledge of the group.

Now he wished he had taken Billy's suggestion. After several hours of interviewing people, flashing pictures of the suspects, and tracing license plates, he had determined that the suspicious characters were exactly who they were purported to be: two Greek doctors in town for a medical convention.

As he headed the Corvette back toward Georgetown, Lee wondered if he was getting too old for this. False leads happened all the time, and he was usually able to take them in stride. He remembered, somewhat guiltily, how he had dropped the security detail in Amanda's lap to go dashing off on this latest quest. Maybe that was the difference. If Amanda had been with him, wild goose chase or not, she would have exercised her calming influence on him, and he wouldn't be feeling so frustrated.

There was just something about this particular case, though, that was giving him an uneasy feeling. What should have been a simple, even enjoyable, security assignment had become much more complicated when the threat of Red February was thrown into the mix. The most frustrating part was that all they had so far were rumors.

Lee remembered the last time they had dealt with the terrorist group. A year and a half ago, they had kidnapped Sophia Vessi in an attempt to coerce her half-brother, art restorer Alan Chamberlain, into destroying treasured American documents. The plan was thwarted, the ringleader, Franco Necci, was locked up, and Sophia was released unharmed. Yet Lee knew that organizations like Red February were much more likely to go out with a bang than a whimper.

There had been ample time for the terrorists to regroup and recruit new members. The recent rumors of their activity had been deliberately leaked, Lee was sure. They were too clever to be easily trapped, and were no doubt delighted to see the scrambling that was underway by all the various agencies on the lookout for them. What concerned Lee the most, however, was what he knew from experience in dealing with these sorts. Last time, with a little luck, the good guys had halted them, and ultimately no harm was done. This time, with the element of revenge thrown in, Red February would be more than willing to take it to the next level.

With a grimace, Lee thought of Sophia Vessi. She had been drugged and emotionally traumatized, but not physically harmed. What would happen to the next pawn in the twisted game they played? Unbidden, the image of Amanda as she had been after being held captive for days by Addi Birol flashed across his mind. … Amanda - drugged, sleep deprived, dehydrated, bruised ... Lee felt his chest tighten and his breath quicken at the memory. It could have been much, much worse, he reminded himself, but it had certainly been far worse than he ever wanted her to have to face again.

Forcing himself to relax the death-grip on his steering wheel, Lee realized he had somehow managed to arrive in front of his apartment building. How had that happened? He didn't remember the drive. His heart was still racing at the memory of Amanda at the mercy of Birol.

Part of him wanted to restart the car and head to Arlington to see her. They'd had precious little private time the past few days, and he longed to hold her in his arms and forget about everything else. Letting out a deep sigh, Lee finally roused himself to get out of the car. He had thrown her for a loop last night by telling Francine about their engagement. Dealing with his rotten mood was not something she deserved right now.

"Mom, Lee said we could take the 'Vette to the track sometime to see how fast it could go. Was he for real?" Phillip asked, spearing the last green bean with his fork.

Amanda smiled at the eager boy, pleased that he seemed to get along so well with her secret fiancé. "I'm sure if he said it, he meant it," she assured him. "I've never known Lee Stetson to make idle promises."

"Cool! You know, he plays basketball pretty well for an old guy. Can he come over again soon?"

"Of course he can, Phillip. I'll ask him tomorrow. But he's working on a really big project at work this week," Amanda warned, "and you know how unpredictable our work is sometimes."

"Yeah, I know." Phillip bounded out of his chair. "Hey, Jamie, hurry up and finish and we can play Double Dragon again. Mom, may we be excused?"

"Yes, but make sure the dishes are cleared and your homework is done before you start in on the video games."

Dotty smiled as the boys carried the dishes out to the kitchen. "Lee certainly seems to have won Phillip over. You know, Amanda, I still don't understand why you kept him a secret for so long."

"Well, Mother, he's not a secret anymore." Amanda rose from the table, ready to curtail this conversation. "What time is Captain Kurt picking you up?"

"Oh, I forgot to ask you earlier!" Dotty struck her forehead with the heel of her hand. "There's something wrong with his car - his alternator or carburetor or some kind of 'ator', you know I don't know anything about motors. Anyway, I said I could pick him up, that is, if you don't need the Jeep tonight. Of course if you do, I'll just call a cab and pick him up that way, but if you don't need it, I thought it would be nice if I could pick him up for a change."

Amanda shook her head with a smile. Lee always teased her about her rambling, but surely she wasn't as bad as her mother. "That's fine. You go and have a good time. I need to sit down and pay the bills anyway."

With a sigh, Amanda watched her mother bustling about preparing to leave for her date and thought how nice it would be if she and Lee could be completely open about their relationship. She was a bit surprised she hadn't heard anything from him yet. She had expected him to let her know if the lead had panned out. Oh well, she'd pay the bills and then give him a call if he didn't call her first.

Lee searched the contents of his refrigerator, debating on whether to throw something together or just phone out for a pizza. At least there were a few things in his kitchen that could be deemed edible for a change. Amanda had seen to that. Spying the remnants of a package of sliced turkey, he opted to put together a sandwich. He and Amanda had just been about to break for lunch when Billy called with the tip this afternoon. By all rights he should be starving, but although his stomach was beginning to grumble, he had little appetite for food.

Carrying his sandwich and a soda back into the living room, he plopped down on the couch and loosened his tie. Maybe if he stretched out for a few minutes and relaxed, he could get rid of this peculiar, unsettled feeling. Sleep had been in short supply during the past week; maybe that was his problem. Forcing himself to clear his cluttered mind of worries about the case, he allowed himself instead to dwell on his favorite distraction: Amanda.

Closing his eyes, he could see her smiling lips, feel the soft skin of her hand in his, smell the subtle perfume at the nape of her neck. He fell into a light sleep, dreaming of her long, slender legs, the way her hair escaped in soft curls around her neck when she had it up in a ponytail, her deep, trusting eyes … those eyes filled with confusion and fear when she was held captive by Birol … the bruises that had marred the delicate skin of her arm …

With a gasp, Lee awoke from his brief nap. He took a deep breath, trying to erase the disturbing images from his mind. Food. He reached for his sandwich, thinking that maybe he would feel better if he ate something. Lee consumed half of the sandwich and felt it sitting like lead in his stomach.

Moving to the bedroom, he discarded jacket and tie in favor of jeans and a sweater. His gaze fell on the bed, and he found himself remembering what it had been like to share that bed for the first time with Amanda last weekend.

Never in a million years had he expected to find what he had found with Amanda. He wasn't even sure he had believed in this kind of love before she came along. Certainly he knew there were some happily married people out there; Billy and Jeannie Melrose were a good example. And his shadowy memories of his own parents told him that they had been deeply in love. But the totally overwhelming feelings he had for Amanda were something that continued to surprise him. Most amazing of all was that his love for her continued to grow with each passing day.

No, he corrected himself, what was most amazing was that she returned his love, measure for measure. Last night, when he had tried to explain to Francine the depth of his feelings, he had said that Amanda made him realize that he was worthy of love. The orphan boy and the womanizing man that had been Lee Stetson had finally found acceptance and redemption in the unlikely package of a divorced mother from Arlington.

After Amanda's kidnapping and subsequent rescue, Lee had managed to lock away most of his concerns and concentrate on their happiness together. But his thoughts of Birol this afternoon had once again brought their vulnerability front and center in his mind. At last, Lee acknowledged the knot in the pit of his stomach for what it was: fear.

The ringing of the telephone jarred him out of his contemplation and, moving on automatic pilot, he reached for the bedside phone. "Stetson," he said briskly.

"Hey, handsome. What's a girl gotta do to hear from the man of her dreams?"

Smiling, Lee sank onto the bed and propped his feet up. "Maybe I'm just playing hard to get," he teased.

"Face it, Stetson; I've already got you," Amanda returned, smugly. "So. Did anything pan out with that lead this afternoon?"

"It was a complete waste of time!" he said, frustration evident in his voice. "How 'bout you? Everything go okay at the hotel?"

"Like clockwork."

"Beaman and the freshmen are all taken care of?"

"Um, yeah. You know," she changed the subject hastily, "I was going to surprise you with a visit tonight, but Mother took the car."

"Oh yeah?" Lee noticed the abrupt change, but decided to let it rest for the time being. "Well, are you up for some company?"

"I thought you'd never ask."