Exit Stragegy
  by Kathryn Charles

Author's warning: Adult content.

Ares:

Greek god of war. According to mythology, war, battles, and bloodshed were his major pursuits. In certain respects, there is not much more known about Ares other than this connection to war. History of his motivations, his desires is limited as he is portrayed as being one-dimensional in his pursuits.

Or at least history is limited in documentation of his pursuit of his pleasures.

However, there is one other area in which Ares was interested, that is well documented - his relationship with the goddess Aphrodite, that is. He engaged in an ongoing tryst with Aphrodite that is the stuff of legend (and myth), in defiance of that fact that the lovely goddess was already married.

John Steed's friends call him many things. Most of them, though not all, complimentary. His enemies grudgingly compare him to the great's of his occupation.

One particularly irate enemy deemed John Steed to be the modern day equivalent of Ares; albeit a much more gentlemanly version looking to prevent rather than inspire mayhem.

Hate has a reason for everything - it is love that is unreasonable.


Prologue

Eight months. 246 days and nights. It felt more like a lifetime. Eight long months since Emma Peel tearfully told Steed goodbye to return to Peter. Her decision had been a disaster. An unmitigated disaster. Peter Peel was still madly in love with Emma. Or at least he was still madly in love with the woman that he had been married to at the time of the crash. The realization that he returned to a very different woman had come quickly to Peter. Almost from the first when Em told him about Steed, about their partnership, about their relationship. Though he stopped her before she gave him all the details he had heard enough to know that it had been no idle dalliance like those he had partaken of while in the jungle. The woman he married seven years earlier would have never been so open, so brutally honest. Or so unapologetic. Peter wasn't prepared to deal with either the reality of Steed or the consequences of the changes in Emma's personality so he attempted to remold Em into the woman that he remembered.

Peter gave her credit for trying her best to be a good wife. To honor her vows. Em didn't complain about his taking the limelight. In fact she seemed quite pleased that he, rather than she was getting all the attention. Emma remembered and continued to do all the small things that had made him happy when they were first married. They entertained; lived where Peter wanted to; fell back into many of the same patterns that had existed before Peter disappeared. Peter couldn't fly test planes so he prepared for his private pilot's license and took a short term position at Knight Industry, Ltd. doing aeronautical research. Just until he caught up with the changes in the field. Then he planned to make it on his own. Working for his wife's firm grated on his nerves and his pride. Peter enjoyed the work and to be fair was quite good at the creative aspects. However, Peter still cut corners when it came to all the things he considered boring. In many ways he was repeating an old pattern. A rashness and lack of attention to detail that had cost him three and a half years of his life and just possibly the woman he loved.

At Peter's request, Em didn't mention Steed or discuss anything that transpired while he was gone. His mind could not or would not accept the fact that he hadn't been gone, but dead as far as friends and family had been concerned. Peter and Emma's shared friends were either unaware of Emma's true relationship with Steed or knew better than to bring it up. Not a hint of rumor or innuendo reached Peter's ears. Not talking about or dealing with the reality that his wife had moved on and fallen in love with another man didn't help the situation any. It was apparent to Peter that Steed never seemed far from Emma's mind. The longer it was since the last time they discussed the issue, the more she avoided mentioning Steed, the more Emma tried to consciously shut out the memories, the more often Peter awoke to the sound of her moaning Steed's name in her sleep. The more often he awoke to her standing at the window just staring into the night. Peter hated Steed despite the fact that he'd never met the man.

Peter couldn't get the image of Em having enjoyed another man out of his mind. When he made love to her, she was physically responsive, more responsive than when she was younger, but more demanding too. No matter how much passion she displayed, how responsive her body was Peter felt compelled to push for more. Peter never felt his "Em" was really there; as if he never had her full attention when they made love. He worried that she would have preferred it be Steed in her bed. Lovemaking while still enjoyable became but one more battle to evoke every response that he could from her, to blot Steed from her mind and her soul. Peter knew in his heart that no matter how many times they made love, no matter how she responded to his touch that he would never again possess her the way he had before the crash. It did not make him happy.

Slowly both parties were mentally conceding that Peter wasn't the man that Emma wanted - needed really. In the final analysis Emma wasn't the woman that Peter wanted. Peter slowly realized that she had never really been the woman he thought she was. The woman he had dreamt about for almost four years, the one he now wanted to share his life and his bed.

The tragedy of the situation was that Peter and Emma although they recognized that neither of them was perfect, truly liked, loved, and respected each other. They didn't 'fit' anymore. Emma loved Peter. True, she no longer loved him the way she had before he died. She still loved him enough to desperately want him to be happy, just not enough to change who she had become to make him happy. Peter loved Emma enough to want her to be happy, but not enough to accept her for herself. Worse, neither of them could figure out how to break the stalemate of a marriage that was poisoning their relationship.

How do you end a marriage to someone you care deeply about, but can no longer live with? And what do you do when you can't bear the thought of not having them as a part of your life? Neither Peter nor Emma could bring themselves to say the words they knew would break both their hearts. So they continued the charade - pretending that everything was how it should be and both knowing that Emma had made a major mistake when she returned to Peter.

Their salvation came in a very unexpected and unwelcome way. Major John Steed (Retired) was accused of embezzlement and murdering one Lord Anthony Stanton, essentially making him a traitor to the crown. When the charges first came to light, the government quietly locked Steed up in one of the Ministry's more secure locations, but Steed had escaped almost immediately. He seemed to have escaped with little or no effort. Steed was afoot and causing severe problems for the Special Projects section of the Ministry.

It was the end and the beginning.


Chapter 1

Three weeks after Steed's seemingly miraculous disappearing act the Special Project's Section of the Ministry staged a coup. Using the ease with which Steed had escaped and the failure of the Ministry to catch him as pretext, they or rather Mr. André, convinced the crown to place the Special Project's Section in charge of the Ministry until Steed was apprehended. Thus Mother found himself reporting to an agent eight years younger than John Steed who had never served a single day in the field. It did not make Mother happy.

Mother wanted Steed caught with a minimum of fuss and felt that using one of his former partners to track him would give them the best chance to do that. Given Tara's current attitude towards Steed Mother felt that Emma Peel would be the Ministry's best choice. After all she had worked with him longer and knew him better. Mother didn't mention that Steed and Emma's more intimate relationship made it very unlikely that Steed would harm her. Mr. André figuring that they needed bait for a trap agreed that Emma Peel's assistance was the key to capturing Steed. The two men approached her in her office at Knight Industry and explained what they wanted her to do.

Emma adamantly refused, believing Steed to be innocent, but Peter had made a serious error in judgment on one of the Knight Industry projects that he was supervising. A mistake that the government now deemed criminal. After applying no small amount of pressure to Knight Industry and its majority stockholder, they received Emma's help.

The meeting did not go well. After the Ministry resorted to blackmail to secure her cooperation Mother made it quite clear that he didn't approve of the tactics that Special Operation's was using, but told Emma point blank that he had no power to control what was happening.

For the second time in less than a year Emma Peel steeled herself to the thought of betraying John Steed for Peter Peel's sake. It did not make her happy.

 

Chapter 2

Lord Anthony Stanton's Country Residence.

"Em, they aren't going to like it if they find out you are investigating Stanton instead of looking for Steed." Peter Peel wasn't keen on any of this and Emma was enjoying herself too much for his comfort.

"Peter, this will only take a few minutes. I can't find Steed unless I know what is driving him. How he is going to react, what he is going to go after next?" Mrs. Peel assured Peter. She shined her flashlight around the charred remains of the room that Stanton had died in.

"What are you looking for, Em?" Peter asked. Emma tapped a wall.

"I'm guessing there are still secrets hidden here. A lot more information than the Ministry would like us to know about," Mrs. Peel replied. "I wonder how much Lord Stanton knew about what Special Projects has been up. I'm looking for proof that he did and what it is so I can ask André and Mother both some pointed questions." Emma tapped a wall. "And find out exactly why everyone has been lying to me."

"Em, you don't know that anyone has lied to you?" Peter's voice revealed both impatience and anger at finding himself mixed up in the world that Em had occupied while he was in the jungle. Even if Steed was on the other side, Peter didn't enjoy watching Em transformed, taking charge in a world totally alien to him. His displeasure was making itself known in many ways. Constantly criticizing and questioning Emma's actions was the most obvious.

"Em, you could get us killed," Peter exclaimed. Mrs. Peel scowled at him. If he hadn't been so bloody reckless, they wouldn't be involved and Peter was behaving as if the only thing that mattered was his inconvenience and his feelings.

"Since I don't have a choice about looking for Steed, you should let me worry about that Peter," she replied coolly. "As for the lying, believe me they are - Steed wouldn't embezzle money for his own gain and while I have seen him kill, cold blooded murder is not his style." Emma shined her flashlight on a relatively unburned wall. She tapped it firmly. Finally she hit a hidden button that pulled a hidden door back to reveal a well-furnished room. A room that was quite well appointed and that had been undisturbed during the police investigation.

On the wall there were several filing cabinets, the desk held a telephone, papers and several large files. "Lord Stanton's secret office perhaps," Peter suggested.

Mrs. Peel examined the desk. She looked through the papers. "For a retired Ministry official, he seems to have a lot of equipment and information. These papers are all dated recently. Lord Stanton was reputed to be retired, yet these papers all concern Special Operation Projects that have been interfered with in the last year. André seems to be reporting to Stanton despite the fact that Mother took the agency over almost three years ago. Shortly after Steed discovered the Special Operations section existed," Mrs. Peel explained. Peter began looking at the papers.

"These are progress reports on Agents and other projects that the regular Ministry dropped when Lord Stanton was forced to retire."

Peter whistled quietly as Mrs. Peel searched the desk drawers. "Who's Michael Martin?"

"An agent, a friend of Steed's who disappeared a little more than three years ago. Steed found it rather strange. It was one of the things that got him interested in what Special Operations was up to. There was no sign that Michael defected, but one day he was just gone."

"Not gone Em. Special Projects knows where he is." Peter, despite his distrust of the whole situation found himself becoming intrigued. "It's almost as if Special Projects is a shadow government, or at least department. They don't seem to report to anyone but themselves."

Emma nodded quietly. Peter was right. Something was wrong with the entire picture. Emma hated to consider it, but what if the Ministry itself was becoming corrupt. She'd seen it before. Dr. Stone usurping the MOT-NRU program to develop androids for the purpose of replacing world leaders, Project 90 and Broadcast power, and Professor's Rushton's shrinking ray were all projects that had been subverted for personal gain. They had all resulted from individuals wanting power. Could it be possible that the Ministry itself wanted power and had been working towards that end for years. Or at least that a section of the Ministry?

Most of the drawers were filled with folders, files and old photos. In the bottom drawer and found a framed picture of a young man, a woman and a baby. Emma took it out of the frame and read the back.

"William, Margaret, and Patrick Steed - Operation Agent, Redux" she read aloud.

Peter looked at the picture and then at the back. He pointed to the date in the corner. "In 1942, Lord Stanton commanded the Special Operations Unit," Peter whispered.

Emma was intrigued. She knew William Steed. He was Steed's older brother. The one that Steed didn't get along with. Emma could still see the pain in Steed's eyes the night he told her about Margaret, about how she had been engaged to him, but married William while he had been away on a mission. When Steed found out about the marriage his family had been torn apart. When Steed had learned of Margaret's betrayal. He hadn't tried to see Margaret. He hadn't wanted to hear anything that she might have had to say. The only stop he'd made was William's office. Once there; Steed had broken William's jaw telling him that it was a wedding present. Then Steed left London as quickly as he could. Later Steed told her Margaret had died in the blitz. Emma thought that she had met all of Steed's nieces and nephews. She didn't remember a Patrick. Plus Steed had never mentioned William and Margaret having a child when he had revealed what had led him to volunteer for every dangerous assignment he could find.

The picture was a shock, but the file she found under it made Emma as angry as she had ever been in her life. There was another picture of Patrick with different parents and information on his background. Patrick wasn't William's son, he was Steed's and the Ministry knew it. They had for more than twenty years kept the fact that Steed had a son from him. Steed had served his country loyally and faithfully and his country had betrayed him not once or twice, but every day since Margaret had borne John Steed a son. Thinking him uncaring about her condition she had married his brother to save her reputation. And Steed still didn't know the truth. What she read next made her sick, both at heart and physically. Her father who she thought of as so honorable had assisted the Ministry in making sure that Steed never found out. WHY?

It was a question that would haunt and almost destroy her.


Chapter 3

Peter and Emma quickly left Lord Stanton's and returned to Knight Industry's headquarters.

Peter believed that they had found Steed's reason for killing Stanton. Emma had her doubts. "Peter, we don't know for sure who we can trust. Let's keep this information quiet shall we?"

Shortly after they returned, the Ministry's or rather Mother's contribution to Emma's search for Steed, one Jeff Spenser entered her office at Knight Industry. "I got your message," he said. "What's happened?"

Mrs. Peel held up the two photos. "Special Operations is running a covert operation. One that started at least forty years ago." she explained. Spenser looked at the picture. He was so surprised, he was silent a moment. He quickly scanned the file Emma handed him and let out a low whistle.

"Well, where are they? What happened to them?" Spenser asked.

"William is a banker in London, Margaret died in the blitz. Patrick and the second set of parents, we don't know?"

"Mrs. Peel, this doesn't make sense. Why would the Ministry keep Steed's son from him. What would they gain."

"We don't know," Peter replied.

"Wait!" Mrs. Peel exclaimed, snatching the picture. She pointed to a clump of trees and a sign in the faint background. "Spenser, can you blow this up so we could read that sign?" she asked.

"I suppose I could try but," Spenser looked nervous a second. "If anyone figures out you have this information...."

"Just do it!" Mrs. Peel ordered. Spenser took the picture and exited.

Mrs. Peel turned to the boxes she and Peter had brought back from the estate. She looked at list of files. Most of them were marked as Agent. However, one was labeled MSTEED and another EKNIGHT. She opened MSTEED. "THIS FILE WAS DELETED" was the only notation in the file. Mrs. Peel tried the file labeled EKNIGHT. Once she opened the outer box she found a special lock on an inner file "PASSWORD REQUIRED," Mrs. Peel sighed. Last she tried a general Agent file but it also said "ENTER PASSWORD." Emma had seen these locks before. Without the correct password, the files would be destroyed by acid if they tried to open them.


Chapter 4

Mrs. Peel and Peter waited as Spenser tried to clear up the sign in the background of the picture. "Well, this is as clear as I can get it," Spenser said. Mrs. Peel moved closer and stared at the image. Her eyes narrowed.

"Shen..Shenocock...National...Park," she read. "Where is that?"

"That's in Scotland," Peter answered.

"Spenser, check for any English migrations or agents being posted to Scotland during the war. Try both Ministry records and Immigration." Mrs. Peel ordered.

"It was over 25 years ago Em. They won't have records and even if they do they probably won't live in Scotland anymore." Peter added.

"Peter, its someplace to start. Lord Stanton couldn't just forget about them. And Mr. André is not the kind of person to forget anything," Mrs. Peel replied. "Come on Spenser, there might be something more at the Ministry offices."

Spenser turned white, Mrs. Peel was definitely courting danger. Neither Mother nor Special Operations would like it they found out that Mrs. Peel knew about Steed's son. What if she found out about the rest? Where would it stop? Feeling trapped, Spenser took the photo and followed Mrs. Peel. Once they arrived at the Ministry they separately moved in the direction of Andre's office. They entered André office cautiously. Emma headed straight for the file cabinets. "Open Andre's mail," Mrs. Peel ordered. Spenser was about to protest when Mrs. Peel gave him one of those looks that she was famous, or maybe infamous for. The look that always kept men from arguing the point. It was a cold contemptuous look that challenged his very manhood.

The sixth memo that Spenser read was about Steed:

André, everything has been taken care of. All teams are installed and ready for activation. Steed can be neutralized on your command. $50,000 expected for this favor. Falconer

Mrs. Peel frowned when Spenser gave her the note. Neutralized was not a word that she wanted to hear in respect to Steed. No matter what he had or hadn't done.

"The Ministry has begun putting all their information on to computers. Spenser, how good are you at getting into computer files?" Mrs. Peel asked.

"We'll be traced immediately," Spenser replied. Mrs. Peel glared at him. "I could get a status check on all files."

"Do it," Mrs. Peel replied. Spenser loaded the list of files.

Mrs. Peel looked at the files and what was next to them. By MSTEED were the words: DELETED 4/20/42. The date was only a day after Margaret Steed's death. There were several new files including two labeled JSTEED and EPEEL. "What does that mean?" Mrs. Peel asked pointing to the Steed file.

"It's either a password or a path into a hidden file," Spenser answered. "I'll try it as a password." He typed it in as a password.

"This is a file all about Steed. Tracking reports and possible places," Mrs. Peel noticed. "Mr. André and Special Operations have been trying to catch Steed on their own, without Mother's knowledge from the moment he escaped."

Next, they tried Peel as a path. It led to a file about Mrs. Peel. Spenser moved away figuring that anything that might be in the file wouldn't be that important. So Mrs. Peel was the only one to read it over. Mr. André thought it was quite unlikely that Emma would put her heart into attempting to catch Steed. Mother had exhibited poor judgment expecting her to catch Steed. André was using Emma as bait and had developed methods for tracking her, finding it more reliable.

One line stood out in her file: Catching Steed would be much easier if my inside agent didn't have to sneak around Mrs. Peel to avoid her suspicions. Emma had a very sick feeling about whom that agent could be. Was it Peter, Spenser, or was someone else in her office a plant. Suddenly she knew that she had to play a very lone and cautious hand.

Lastly, they checked the Agent Files getting in with the password Falconer. There were 9 agents that were secretly being held in a secret ministry 'retreat'. Michael was one of them. They still didn't know why. What was all this about and why was Steed methodically attempting to destroy Special Projects. How much of what they had found did Steed already know?

There was the sound of movement in the hall. Spenser and Mrs. Peel looked up. That meant there were people about and they could easily be caught. Spenser erased all records of their actions and was about to shut down the computer when Mrs. Peel made him stop.

Spenser had gone to "Old Mail" to place the letter from Falconer back with the new mail. While trying to find the letter they came across a list of mail going to a Marsha Trainer. Several letters had been sent to her in 1942. "Open that letter," Mrs. Peel ordered. Spenser did as he was told.

There was no letter. Just a notation that the file MSTEED had been sent. It had been sent 4/18/42. Two days before Margaret Steed had been killed. They checked an older letter. It was one line that read: Store all information sent.

"Spenser, check your database and the Ministries files on immigration for an address for Marsha Trainer," Mrs. Peel directed.

"Mrs. Peel, I don't have to. She was a deep cover agent that I ran for the last five years before she retired. She posted to Kilbourne, Scotland three weeks after Patrick Steed was born." Spenser answered. Then Spenser finished erasing all record of their actions and shut down the computer.

Mrs. Peel called Peter to tell him that she had a line on Steed and would be out of town for a few days. She then arranged a flight to Scotland for herself. Peter protested, but Emma pointed out that he was due to give a sales presentation in two days and it would look very strange if neither of them were taking care of Knight Industry business.

"Mrs. Peel, what will you do when you get to Scotland?" Spenser asked.

"Lord Stanton sent copies of files to someone. He sent one about Steed's lover. I want to know what was in that file, and what happened to Patrick." Mrs. Peel replied.

It was the beginning of a very hectic six weeks. Between trying to catch Steed and figure out what was so important about Patrick, Emma had little time to herself. Peter, whether because he was concerned, wanted to help, or because he was Andre's inside agent began to accompany Emma whenever she had to follow up on a lead on Steed.

The trip to Scotland had been only slightly productive, as Marsha Trainer had recently died. The only thing that Mrs. Peel was able to discover was that Patrick was now known as Sean Deets. It didn't escape her notice that Deets was Steed spelled backwards and that Sean was the Gaelic form of John. It didn't tell her where he was, but it did give her and Cynthia Wentworth-Howe, top hush secretary to Britain's Prime Minister a place to start. Cynthia had simply showed up at Emma's flat, said she had herd Emma was researching some loose ends and with no further explanation offered her services. Emma wondered how many other unseen allies Steed had working with him in his little rebellion or if just maybe someone in the government was sanctioning the events.

André dropped by and reminded her almost daily that she was failing and that Peter would be made to suffer if she continued to fail. Thus Peter's presence reminded Emma that she needed to catch Steed to keep Peter out of prison, and added a measure of guilt to her already burdened soul. Her only comfort was the knowledge that André and his teams of agents were having even less success that she was.


Chapter 5

At the end of the six weeks of cat and mouse that ensued, John Steed sat outside a small Parisian cafe, sipping coffee and smiling at the picture on the front page of the Paris Match. Across the street he was watching a woman with auburn hair getting into car. A tall slender blond man walked up to her but she just shook her head and got into the car. Steed could hear faint words to the short argument. Finally the woman shouted "NO!" and they drove away. Steed was doubly glad to see that Mrs. Peel hadn't lost her fire and that the rumors about how the relationship between her and her…. Well Peter seemed to be deteriorating rapidly weren't just rumors. How much longer was it going to take Emma to realize that the honorable thing is not always the right thing to do?

Quickly paying his check, Steed moved to get ahead of his pursuers before they reached the Eiffel Tower. He knew, without really knowing how that that was the first place Emma would look for him.

Mrs. Peel stared at the newspaper article in her lap as the limo moved up the street, reading it again and again. 'Mysterious Stranger Saves Tourist!' the headline from Paris trumpeted. 'British Defense Industry Scam Exposed' was the smaller headline below it.

"Mysterious, my ass." Mrs. Peel muttered, looking at the picture accompanying the article. It was little more than a slightly blurred profile of a man stepping into a store, but it was enough. She would recognize that profile from a mile off and it was the reason she was here in Paris. The man in the picture was Steed, her 'knight in tarnished armor' and he was not getting away from her this time. The Ministry's pressure to end this chase was increasing and she suspected that they had multiple teams following her at this point. The limo driver was definitely firmly in Andre's camp. Peter's attitude was far too selfish for her and the whole affair was stretching her admittedly thin patience to the breaking point.

Emma let the paper fall to the floor of the limo, looking out the window for a moment. "Why do they bother to waste paper on such unimportant stories?

Peter Peel, the other passenger in the limo, looked up from his book. "Be happy they do, we wouldn't have know he was here otherwise. We might still be waiting in Cairo."

"No," she corrected him sardonically, "if your pet project hadn't crashed, we wouldn't be out here at all."

Peter should have flinched at the acid in her tone but he didn't. He knew he deserved his wife's anger. She had warned him about taking shortcuts when it came to business many times. You would have thought he would be used to her superior business knowledge by now. Still her warnings had rankled him enough that he had deliberately ignored them. They were both now paying a steep price for his pride.

"Have you thought of what you will do if you catch Steed this time?" The question was innocent, even if the sentiment behind it was not.

"When I catch him, Peter, when I catch him." Mrs. Peel crushed the paper. "When I do have it out with him, get him back into Ministry hands, then I will finally have my life back." She looked out the window into the dark night before speaking again. "And tonight, I will catch him and end this ridiculous chase, once and for all."

"Pride goeth before a fall," Peter said not unkindly, looking back down at his book. He couldn't help but notice that Em had said I will have my life back, not we will have our life back.

Mrs. Peel's response was to utter a thoroughly unladylike phrase as the limo pulled into the area surrounding the Eiffel Tower.

Getting out of the limo, Emma could see Steed, just ahead of her. Just out of reach. It seemed as if that was the primary rule of this game. Close, but no cigar.

Using her anger at the situation, she doubled her speed and ran after Steed, completely oblivious to the late spring ice and snow covering the path in front of her.

Emma and Peter believed that it had been completely by accident that this 'chase' had even begun.

She'd just stepped out of the limo when she'd spotted Steed coming out of a cafe. For a split-second, she'd had the drop on him, she'd had the advantage -- and she'd lost it the moment Peter opened his mouth.

"Steed!"

Steed took one look at the couple and bolted, which was why Emma was now chasing him down an ice-covered sidewalk. Emma sent the limo around the block in an attempt to cut him off and somewhere behind her, Peter was laboring along. Unkindly Emma thought that it would serve Peter right if he dropped dead of a heart attack. Just as Emma rounded the corner, her foot hit a patch of ice and she went down, hard, her gun flying out of her hand and sliding down the sidewalk.

"Damn, damn, damn." she said, trying to ignore the pain in her left ankle. "Steed, you are not getting away this time."

"Oh, I don't know. Do you really think you're in a position to make that kind of statement, Mrs. Peel?" a calm, rather too amused voice came from the shadows.

Emma looked up and there was Steed, standing just out of reach, dangling her gun from one hand. Steed looked tan, rested, and fit. If fact, he looked good enough to eat. Emma felt a momentary flush of desire, before her temper got the best of her. Emma Peel never was at her best when angry. "And I suppose you are in a better position?"

"You really should be more careful on the ice." Ignoring her comment, Steed scolded her as if she were a misbehaving schoolgirl. "Now, isn't this curious?" Steed said, looking down at her with that all knowing grin of his.

Emma stared back up at him with pure, undisguised anger. "You're enjoying this." It wasn't a question.

Steed grinned. "Yes lovely lady, as a matter of fact I am. Didn't anyone ever tell you not to run on ice? You can slip. You could hurt yourself."

Emma groaned.

"Am I boring you?" Steed asked with mock-politeness, his head cocked to one side.

Emma scowled and looked dead at him. "What do you think, Steed?"

Steed smiled again. Even if she didn't want any harm to come to Steed, that annoying, irritating, all-knowing smile was guaranteed to raise Emma's ire. Now, if she could just get up...but her throbbing ankle had other ideas.

Taking a few steps backward, Steed looked down at her gun for a moment. "Very nice. How did you manage to get this into France? Mrs. Peel's look must have spoken volumes, since his smirk widened. "Yes, I guess the Ministry would have arranged that. Would your really shoot me?"

Emma ignored the last question. It really wasn't worth answering. "Since when are you into guns Steed? I thought you were above all that."

The smile vanished as Steed squatted down near her. "I'm an agent. I know more about guns then you or Peter will ever care to learn." He laughed without humor. "The last six weeks have been fun. Watching the two of you, searching for me. Peter's not really very good at all this is he?" Not stopping to hear her reply. He really didn't expect one he continued, "Do you know that I've been dreaming about something like this moment for a very long time?"

"Oh," Emma's eyebrow arched suspiciously."

"No, really. What would I do if I got the advantage on you?" He laughed again, thoroughly enjoying his joke.

Where was Peter and that damn Ministry backup? Team after team haunting her every move and they never came close to being there when Emma needed them. Damned driver probably got lost.

"Of course, I pretty well answered that one when you two found me in Monte Carlo last month." Steed looked serenely down at Emma. "I do hope they weren't too rough on Peter. Casino's have got to be very careful about con-men and the like." Steed laughed heartily at the memory of the elegant Mr. Peel being dragged from the Casino floor after Steed had set him up. The look on Peter's face had been priceless. Steed was rather glad that Mrs. Peel hadn't got a hold of him then. She had looked like she could have killed someone with her bare hands.

Emma hating the entire situation thought, How the hell do I get out of this?

Steed stood and started to pace, just out of reach, waving the gun for emphasis. "I've got another chance now. Just you, no Peter or Ministry flies to concern myself with. What should I do?" He looked down at her again, that saturnine look. "I could kidnap you. But that would be a hassle, even worse than shooting you." Steed gave Emma a long sensual look. "I don't know what to do with you. What do you think?"

Emma stared at Steed in disbelief. Steed was flirting. With her! Somehow that knowledge made her feel a little better. She couldn't have explained why for all the money in Paris. "What?"

"I said, what do you think? Do you think I should just leave you here, or kidnap you? Oh, I've got it. I'll kidnap you, tie you up and make you listen to me sing Rugby songs. That would be really irritating. How about it? Are you game? " Steed smiled again.

It was all too much. It was just simply too much. First, the chase and now Steed turned again from genial flirting to taunting. Emma hadn't asked to be involved in this damn mess. Now that she was it was bringing nothing but failure and frustration. There was so much Emma wanted to say, but couldn't. Mrs. Peel lunged for Steed out of sheer frustration, but her ankle couldn't hold her and she fell sprawling on the sidewalk again.

Steed stepped back and said softly. "Careful my dear, you'll only make it worse."

Was that concern she heard in Steed's voice?

"Like you actually care about anything or anyone but yourself," Emma barked. Steed flinched and Emma smiled rather evilly. It was the first point she'd won, however small it was. "What's the matter, Steed, I hit a nerve? Good."

Emma watched Steed's conflicting emotions as they played across his face. Then, as quickly as they'd come, they were gone and his mask of gentlemanly indifference was back. Emma didn't much like the feeling of being on the other side where Steed was concerned. It seemed unnatural. If she but knew Steed felt even worse about it than she did.

"I'm surprised you haven't asked me what I want from you yet?" Steed spoke softly, finally.

"Steed, you want me to ask that? You have got to be kidding."

"Oh, come on." The bantering had begun again. It wasn't quite like old times, but it did stir memories for both Steed and Emma.

Emma rolled her eyes in mock surrender, "So just what do you want from me?"

Steed grinned. "You can't give me what I want. Neither the Ministry nor your husband will let you."

"Steed you sound like your 9 year-old nephew. So help me God, you sound like Jeffery."

Footsteps sounded in distance abruptly ended the discussion. Squinting into the darkness, Mrs. Peel tried to make out whom they belonged to. Torn between hoping it was the Ministry and hoping, it wouldn't be the Ministry backup Emma couldn't be still.

"I'd leave before my backup comes." she threatened or just maybe Steed thought, she was warning him. "You aren't going to get another chance."

Steed didn't look impressed. "The Ministry? Please, I wager a bottle of Krug; say a '27 that its poor pooped out Peter."

Emma couldn't help it she laughed. Steed was right. Peter really wasn't good at all of this no matter how he tried. She shrugged nonchalantly "Okay Steed, It's your funeral."

"Would you come?" Again with the infuriating smile. Emma couldn't decide if she wanted to kiss or kill him. He really was the most infuriating man, but then he always had been. She had never been able to stay angry with him no matter what he did. And she had loved him for that.

Moments later, Peter trotted up to them, breathing heavily. He stopped and bent over at the waist, trying to catch his breath.

"It's about time you got here," Emma snapped at Peter.

Peter looked down at her, not realizing the situation Emma had found herself in. "Em, my dear you may enjoy this, but even at my best chasing people was never my idea of fun. Since the crash, my running days are long since over." It took a moment for him to realize that Emma was sitting on the sidewalk and that Steed was holding a gun on her. Peter straightened slowly, opened his mouth but closed it without saying a word.

"Hello, Mr. Peel."

Mr. André had made sure that Peter read Steed's file when Emma had finally capitulated. The ministry wanted to make sure that Peter distrusted Steed as much as they could possibly make him. The ploy had worked. Peter knew that Steed could be quite gentle or he could be the most dangerous man alive. This was however, the first time he had seen the man in the flesh. Peter hoped for both his and Em's sake that Steed understood they had no choice.

"Hello, Mr. Steed. Fancy meeting you here. Whose gun is that?"

"Just call me Steed please. Everyone does. The gun? Your wife's. She lost it when she slipped on the ice. It was quite a show." Steed seemed very pleased with the events of the evening.

"You didn't have anything to do...?" Peter asked. Emma's current predicament made up a little for the embarrassment he had suffered in Monte Carlo. Mrs. Peel could hear suppressed laughter in Peter's voice and promised herself she'd make him pay for it later.

"No I was just minding my own business. I do wish I'd had a camera though. The sight was priceless. A half split and then wham. Right to the ground."

"Do you have to discuss my athletic abilities now? This banter is quite out of place!" Mrs. Peel snapped. She was cold, her ankle hurt and her bad mood was rapidly descending into something much worse.

Biting his lip, Steed said, "Sorry, force of habit."

It occurred to Peter that Steed could easily kill him and reclaim Emma. Or at least try to reclaim her. Peter asked cautiously, "What do you plan to do with that gun, Steed?"

"I haven't decided yet."

"If I were you, I'd make up my mind soon. The Ministry is on its way here."

"Yes I believe that they are with your limo. You know, I haven't ridden in a limo recently. It doesn't really seem proper when I am supposed to be on the run, but then again," Steed said, thinking aloud. "I suppose I could take your limo and leave you two here.... No. Actually, Mr. Peel I was just discussing this entire situation with Mrs. Peel."

"He's trying to decide whether to shoot or kidnap me," Emma muttered.

Peter looked disapproving and more than a little worried. "Steed..."

"Oh, please, Mr. Peel. If I'd wanted to shoot her, she'd be dead already. I'm not going to do anything like that. I'd have to break in a new huntress if I did and the next one might not be so beautiful. As for kidnapping her, no I don't think so. At least not tonight."

Looking down the street, Mrs. Peel could see the limo's headlights in the distance. Despite everything she didn't really want the Ministry to catch Steed. "Limo's coming." she said, interrupting.

"I know what I want."

"Pardon?" Peter asked.

"She asked me what I wanted. I know now."

"And that would be...?"

"Why don't you two just leave me the hell alone?" Steed looked over his shoulder and saw the limo's headlights as well.

Peter shook his head slowly. "You know we can't do that."

Steed gave Mrs. Peel one last smirk. "I don't see why not. Up to now Mrs. Peel hasn't seemed to have a problem leaving me……" His voice trailed off. Seeing the limo coming close enough that in a few moments he might have trouble with whoever was in it Steed decided to make his escape. "Oh well; it's been delightful, but I have to leave now. Goodnight." Steed tipped his bowler to them and bowed slightly before turning to walk, not run away. As he walked to the curb he took one more look back. "Oh, one more thing, catch." With one quick toss, he threw the gun in Peter's direction, sauntered across the street and disappeared into the darkness.

Moments later, the limo pulled up to the curb. The driver, one of Andre's plants, got out, looking apologetic. "Sorry, Mrs. Peel there was a detour. I had to go around three other blocks."

"Of course, you did. And the rest of your friends?" Contempt dripped from Emma's voice. "Don't just stand there, help me up."

The driver took in the scene and instantly got the same expression of suppressed hilarity that Peter was wearing. The driver read Mrs. Peel's mood. He knew all about Mrs. Peel's temper and he knew better than to say anything. One slip, Emma swore silently. One slip and she'd brain him.

Between the driver and Peter, they helped Mrs. Peel into the back of the limo.

"Where is my gun?" she snapped at Peter.

"I have it." he answered calmly. "But it won't do you much good. Steed took the clip."

Of course, Steed had taken the clip. Emma made a violent sound of frustration. When I get my hands on him...." she said, just as the limo door shut.

As the limo pulled away, she could swear she could hear faint laughter.

Steed's laughter.

Emma didn't know what hurt her worse, the fall or Steed's comment about her having no problem leaving him. Damn him.

When Emma and Peter returned to the hotel the argument that they had been having earlier blazed anew. Emma didn't want Peter following her, working with her. He resented her insinuation that he was holding her back.

After they retired they gave into the physical sexual urges that often accompany conflict. Watching Emma sleep afterwards, it occurred to Peter that the only real passion left in their marriage was anger. Maybe Em was right. Maybe he should back off the search for Steed. God knows he didn't seem to be helping much and maybe if he told André that Emma had insisted he quit, André would get off his back.


Chapter 6

Later that night Emma got a tip that Steed had been spotted in an abandoned building by the docks. Still angry with Peter and knowing that he would slow her down, she left him sleeping and caught a taxi to the location her contact had specified.

Emma crept through the first floor where Steed had been spotted with as much speed as possible given the state of her ankle, finding the staircase that led to the upper level. At the top, Steed appeared suddenly and he had to grab her to keep from falling backward. Looking over his shoulder to make sure she was alone, he grasped Emma's arm to steady her. Suddenly Emma felt Steed's mouth on hers as he slid his hand up the back of her head, preventing her from pulling away.

Recovering quickly from the shock of the contact, Mrs. Peel responded to the kiss. Desire combined with the fear and excitement she was feeling, heightening her reaction.

But then Steed released her abruptly, and she almost cried out in protest.

Confusion and pain crossed her features as she said, "I don't understand."

"That sensation you just felt?" he whispered.

She nodded mutely, in reply.

"Whatever happens, don't forget it."

Pushing her into a small room, Steed stared at her intently, and then moved out her way to stand next to the door. Steed paused for a moment, then blew out his breath in what seemed to be total exasperation. Emma moved slowly to sit down in the chair he pointed to. "Why are you helping Special Operations? What makes you so sure I am guilty?" he asked pointedly.

"I'm not," Emma protested. I don't believe you did any of it, but Peter..."

"What in God's name does Peter have to do with this?" Steed's rage over Peter's very existence, usually well hidden blazed unchecked.

Emma's voice was quiet, apologetic. "Peter screwed up. Big time. The Ministry is threatening to lock him up if I don't cooperate. They are threatening to destroy my company. I can't let them…"

Steed looked over, enraged by her actions and her attempts to justify them. Then Steed saw the dejected look on Emma's face. Without warning, he realized that just perhaps she was making mistakes on purpose. She certainly hadn't made the kind of mistakes she was now when they had worked together. Just maybe she was hunting him hard enough to keep, the Ministry at bay, but not hard enough to actually catch him. The warnings, some of the information that he had been receiving through George might have been coming from her. Two very angry and deadly sides at war within the Ministry with Mrs. Peel caught squarely in the middle. Steed wondered if it could possibly be true and if it were had Peter Peel caught on to his wife's deception. Wondered too what the consequences of this game were going to be in the end.

"Steed, why are you doing all this. Why interfere in Ministry business? Why are you stealing their money? Why kill Stanton?" Emma was truly puzzled by Steed's action during the last six months.

"Stanton's not dead!" The gray in Steed's eyes was almost the color of gunmetal. Cold, shiny, and hard.

"What? How can you say that? If Stanton isn't dead what the hell is the murder charge all about?" Emma almost shouted the words.

"I thought maybe you could tell me?" Steed lounged serenely against the wall. "You seem to be more in the know than I am. They seem to see me as some what of a problem at the moment."

Emma frowned, she sat with her arms folded the way she did when she was deep in thought, wrestling with the problem. Trying to solve it. Steed couldn't help but remember earlier times when they had been trying to solve the mysteries together. All the times he had come in to find her leaned over a test tube, a book, or just sitting, staring off into space running things over in her mind. He didn't rush her. She seemed to be trying to decide which side of the fence she was on.

"Steed, what do you know about Special Operation?"

"Besides the fact that they are up to no good?" Steed smiled. Emma had already hit on the core of the problem.

"Do you know anything about the "Agent Project", or where Michael Martin is?

The "Agent Project", just vague rumblings although it seems to be behind every corrupt thing that Special Operations is running. Are you saying that you have found Michael?" Steed was surprised. He had decided that Michael was dead.

"Well, not physically, but he and nine other agents or former agents are being held at Knightsbridge under the auspices of the "Agent Project". There seems to be a shadow Ministry running a project that was originally initiated in the early 1900's as an observation only project, then moved to a more active program during the late 30's and 40's and was supposedly terminated in the 50's due to ethical considerations.

Steed smiled broadly. He guessed that he needed to pay a visit to England. Those ten men might provide the key to this whole mess. He really was tired of fighting people he thought of as friends and Steed knew that if he could just get the right proof, the Ministry could be restored to its former honorable state.

"Thanks, Mrs. Peel that helps." Steed started to move away. He had the information he needed and he couldn't be sure that the Ministry wasn't right behind Mrs. Peel.

"Steed!"

Something about Mrs. Peel's voice made him stop. Cold! A tingling sensation as if someone had walked on his grave swept through his body.

"Yes?"

"There's more. The Agent Project made some rather strange moves during the 40's. I haven't told anyone about them, but….."

"Mrs. Peel, as much as I enjoy your company….." Steed again started to leave.

Emma, nervous but needing to tell him blurted out, "You have a son!"

Steed eyed her with an amused expression on his face. "My dear Mrs. Peel. I think that if I had a son, the lady would have mentioned it to me!"

Quietly, with as much care as she could Emma said, "She never got the chance. Margaret was pregnant with your son when she married William."

Steed looked as if he had been struck by lightening. He sagged down the wall with disbelief. Mrs. Peel quickly moved to his side. As she reached out to place her hand on his shoulder, Steed shot up and away from her. An angry wildly confused look on his face replaced the stunned one. Emma feared that he was going to strike her.

"Mrs. Peel," Steed's voice was cold, angry. The kind of voice he used on the dregs of the earth. "That is the cruelest, most despicable thing that you could ever say to me. Why would you be so unkind? What did I ever do to you?"

Emma stood quietly, watching Steed flex his fists, letting him have time to regain his equilibrium. She had expected him to be surprised, she hadn't expected this strong of reaction. Her heart ached but she didn't dare try to comfort him.

Steed stared at Mrs. Peel, watching the expression on her face carefully. It puzzled him that he saw no anger or indeed any cruelty expressed either in her countenance or her eyes. Just a sadness and concern. Doubt began to rise as to her motives. Could what she said actually be true? Steed struggled with his emotions, careening between anger, disbelief, and a growing sensation of? Hope? Finally after five long minutes had passed Steed spoke again. Still cold, but not as angry.

"Explain!" Rapped out as a command. Then realizing how he sounded he continued quietly. "Please?"

Emma took a deep breath. "Steed, please sit down you really are making me quite nervous."

"Intimidating?"

Emma smiled slightly, "Not a term that I would usually associate with you, but yes I am finding you somewhat intimidating at the moment."

Steed sat down across the room. "Better, my dear?"

Emma nodded and started to explain. "This may take awhile and it all ties into the Special Projects Section of the Ministry. Please try to be patient and I will try to make it as clear as I can. When you "escaped" so easily after your arrest, the Special Operations section of the Ministry staged a coup. Mother now reports to a Mr. Andre. He's in charge of Spec. Ops. As they prefer to be called. Do you know him Steed?"

"I have a passing acquaintance with his handiwork, but no we have not been formally introduced. What does he have to do with my supposed son?"

"I know this is difficult, but please try to have patience. They, Mother and Mr. Andre came to my office. They wanted to enlist my help to capture you. Their story was that wanted you to have the chance to defend yourself and wanting a minimum of bloodshed. Mother I believed, but Andre there was something odd about him and I still can't place it. I asked why they didn't use Tara and Mother explained without details that you and she are no longer friends?"

Steed interrupted, " the problem with having an idol is that eventually you find out that they all have feet of clay. Tara and I were 'lovers'…." Steed noticed that Emma winced at the word. "Not like you and I. I was hurt when you left. You broke my heart. Tara was there, attractive, and she thought I was perfect. Eventually I succumbed to her not inconsiderable charms. Unfortunately, she realized that I didn't feel the same way about her as she did about me. I'm afraid finding out one's idol has feet of clay is hard, on both parties. Rather hard to be successful partners without trust. Three months ago, there was a case and Tara was attacked, beaten badly and left to die. I wasn't in place to help her. Couldn't be helped, but she took it personally as someone was feeding her lies about my activities. They made her believe that my failure was deliberate. To eliminate what I saw as an embarrassing situation. She believes quite honestly that I have gone totally renegade."

Emma flinched at the implication that she had hurt Steed so badly. "That explains a lot about her attitude. Anyhow, when I refused to help, they resorted to blackmail. Not what one expects from one's Mother, but very effective. Peter failed to document some of the tests on a new guidance system based on the principle of ALF. The system works, but the missing documentation is a rather large issue. If the War Ministry pressed the issue, Peter could go to prison for five years and Knight Industry debarred from working with the government. It wouldn't kill the company, but it would cripple us. Plus over three hundred people would lose their jobs. I got the feeling that I am being lied to so I went to search Lord Stanton's house. We, Peter and I found information about Special Operations and some of the programs they have been running over the last two years. We also found a picture of Margaret, William, and a baby. His name was Patrick."

"Was?"

Emma shuffled her feet on the floor. She couldn't look at Steed for the next part. "The Ministry spirited him away when Margaret died. He is known as Sean Deets now. My father and Lord Stanton arranged it."

"Oh," Steed understood why Emma seemed so agitated, so guilty. "But what makes you think that the child was mine?"

"There were records including information about the baby's background. I checked, William had been out of the country for the previous six months. He only arrived back in England two days before the marriage. Patrick couldn't have been his. You had been out of the country…"

"Mrs. Peel, these records. Are they trustworthy?"

"Steed, I am not sure who I can trust in this whole mess, but yes the records are completely trustworthy. They are backed up by individual memories. I spoke with William and Elizabeth. Margaret married William to save her reputation. She couldn't find you, didn't know if you were dead or just avoiding her. William married her to save your families reputation. When you showed up a month later you were so angry no one dared explain."

Mrs. Peel stopped. Steed was no longer listening.

Steed rose and moved to the window. He could see Margaret's face as clearly as if she were standing in front of him now. Saw for the first time all the things he had missed in his rage at finding her married. Over twenty years of anger and distrust because he had been too young, too hot headed to see clearly. Lies told out of duty, honor now exposed. Steed felt sick to his stomach. Turning back to Mrs. Peel he said softly, "Continue, please."

Emma wanted to go over to him, to hold him, to soothe the torment she saw, but dared not. She remembered too well the way that comfort had turned to passion between them so many times. "The next time you returned to your family, the war was over. Elizabeth said you had avoided them for years. Margaret and Patrick were dead as far as your family knew. They chose not to open old wounds. It wouldn't have done any one any good."

"You said Lord Stanton and your father spirited Patrick away. When and why?"

"Special Operations wanted to segregate some of the subjects that they had been observing to test whether the traits that they were tracking were innate or a result of nurturing and the home environment. The government thought that you were dead which meant that Patrick wouldn't be missed."

"Mrs. Peel, your father was from all I know a decent and honorable man. Why in God's name would he participate in such an unethical project?"

"Because of me."

"Emma, you were barely a child. How in God's name could you have been responsible?" Steed stopped as he noted the set of Mrs. Peel's jaw. Feelings of anger and guilt were written all over her face.

"My family was also being observed. Even more closely than yours. My mathematical skills and capacity for languages had been noted. The Ministry wanted to separate me from my family. My father agreed to help with Patrick if he and my mother received a written guarantee that I would be excluded from the project forever. I've seen the memo. I'm sorry Steed."

Steed crossed the room and put his arms around Emma. She leaned into his chest. "I can't say that I wouldn't have done the same thing under the circumstances."

"It's not right. It wasn't honorable. He continued with the lie even after he knew you were alive. My family cost you your son."

"Maybe, but what is honorable isn't always right. Haven't the last ten months proven that to you."

Emma broke away from Steed. Damn him. "Steed, you said Stanton is alive. How do you know?"

Realizing that Emma wasn't ready to discuss Peter or their own relationship, Steed backed down. Reaching into his pocket, he threw her a bank statement. Lord Stanton's bank statement. It showed multiple deposits since his 'death'.

"I want to talk to him. I want to know what the hell went on. Steed, I need to know whether or not all this is true. My father actively withheld information from you, he 'enslaved' a child. He spun a lifetime of lies. There had to be another way."

"I'll make you a deal Mrs. Peel. I'll help you arrange that little talk with Stanton if you tell me where my son is."

"Steed, I don't know! I have been trying to track him, but Andre has spies everywhere. He has an 'inside' person to my search for you. I get the feeling that he doesn't really trust me. I can't seem to trust anyone. Not Peter, Mother, or Spenser. And the people who work for me are all suspect. I will keep working on it though. I owe you that much."

"You don't owe me anything. You didn't hide Patrick."

"No, but my father did and I 'left' you.

"A mistake Mrs. Peel?" Steed moved closer to her, hoping she would answer yes, but she backed off again.

"A decision Steed. I will help you find Patrick, but I have to protect Peter and myself. Do you understand?"

Steed smiled jovially. He was in turmoil, but wouldn't show it. "If push comes to shove and you have to choose again? At least I know how you stand. Don't frown. After all I just became a father." Steed reached over and pinched a nerve in Mrs. Peel's neck.

As she was losing consciousness Emma heard him say, "this way if the Ministry is out there it will look as if you were unable to catch me."

When Emma came too twenty minutes later she had a terrible headache and Steed was nowhere to be seen.


Chapter 7

The next skirmish in Steed's little rebellion came very quickly. Mrs. Peel wasn't sure how he had arranged everything so quickly, but the agents that she had identified to Steed as being held captive were soon no longer under Special Operation's control. Less than forty-eight hours later Steed and Michael Martin sat at the corner booth of the café in Paris where Emma had first sighted Steed three days before. Michael's notepad was on the table beside him. After over three years in captivity, he was quite unnerved by the sudden freedom. That Steed had freed all ten of them and found hiding places with old allies amazed him. Both of their plates still had a little food on them but they were much more into talking than eating. Steed asked Michael quite detailed questions about Special Operations, the Agent Project, and his family trying to establish some sort of link. It wasn't until they began discussing Michael's family that everything began to fall into place.

"My mother and I were very close but she died ten years ago in a car accident," Michael explained.

Steed said. "What was your mother's name?"

"Carolyn Howard. Her maiden name was Whitelaw which is my middle name," Michael replied. Steed looked up. The connection he'd been looking for. Mrs. Peel's mother's maiden name had been Whitelaw.

"Did your mother have a sister?" Steed asked.

"No, I don't think..." Michael thought a second. "...Wait! She did have a lot of distant cousins though. I remember one especially because she and my Mum looked so much alike. I last saw her when I was ten. Right before father was posted to North Africa. I called her Aunt Cathy. But that was over 25 years ago. I think she died. She had a daughter but I'm never met her."

"I'd never really noticed before, but you have a cousin that looks a lot like you," Steed explained. It was possible. Mrs. Peel looked like her mother and Michael looked exactly like his mother.. Their families had very strong genetic traits.

"I do?" Michael asked.

"Yes. Her name is Mrs. Peel," Steed answered. "I'm not sure if you ever met her, but she is the one who found out where you were. Steed took a picture out of his pocket. He'd carried it with him since the day Mrs. Peel had left. It was a picture of he and Mrs. Peel on her birthday trip to Paris. He handed the picture to Michael.

"Amazing!" exclaimed Michael. "I have to meet her."

"Not just yet, but perhaps you can help us," Steed replied. "Why did Special Operations have you ten locked up."

Michael stared at the picture a while. "Our families were part of a test group. Some sort of bio-genetic research project. We were being tested?"

"Tested?" Steed replied.

"Checked to see if we had a 'gene' or something. Then psychological tests. All very hush hush. I didn't even realize that I was a prisoner for almost a year. By then it was too late."

"Did they explain what it is all about?" Steed asked.

"Stanton told us what they thought we needed to know," Michael explained. "We had all been trained to obey the Ministry so we did. Life hasn't been bad, just confining." Michael stopped talking. "It's getting late Steed, I'm tired. Can we talk tomorrow?"

"Sure, good night," Steed replied. Michael turned back towards his safe house and Steed headed for a motel.

"Steed, why didn't André stop you from breaking us out?"

"He couldn't Michael," Steed explains. "No one can anticipate everything!"

Chapter 8

A week later, after confirming that all ten agents had ties to the original group of families that Emma said had been being observed and that no one knew anything about Sean Deets, Steed set out to break the stalemate as quickly as he could. Looking down toward the entrance to the stands, Steed thought about Mrs. Peel. Now there was someone who could benefit from her own advice. She should have gone forward with her own life ten months ago. Instead, she continued to pin her hopes and dreams on vows taken before they met on Peter Peel, the man who supposedly held her future best interest at heart.

It frustrated him, knowing that tonight's meeting was in part an extension of that. That she was continuing to protect Peter, at their expense. Steed had spent a great deal of time since their meeting in Paris trying to think of the words, the way, to convince her to let this hopeless quest for a future with Peter go and come back to him. So far, the solution had eluded him, though he refused to give up.

Besides, there were other distractions to worry about now; namely his reputation and his son. Soon he would be one step closer to seeing him. The polo match suprisingly held little interest for Steed. He looked at the scoreboard clock absently. Where was she?

Just then, he saw a familiar form emerge from the entrance to the stands. She wore a navy catsuit with a white wool coat. Her hair was swept back, her face registering no emotion, but her eyes glittered as she looked up at him.

Steed's breath caught as their gaze met, but he forced himself to keep a blank expression on his face as she made her way up to him.

"Hello, Steed."

"Mrs. Peel. Alone I hope?" Steed hadn't been fully confident that she would come alone, would slip out on both Peter and the Ministry.

"Yes." She said simply as she sat down carefully, turning her attention to the polo field.

"How nice of you to drag me here, all the way from London, just to watch a polo game," she said wryly. "Next time, how about meeting in a restaurant or pub?"

He looked at her and cocked an eyebrow. "I thought you liked polo," he said evenly.

"It was a polo player that I liked. But then you didn't choose this venue for me," she replied sharply, giving him a penetrating look. "I think you just wanted to see a match."

He didn't answer, and after a moment she said, "Been doing some soul-searching lately, Steed?"

"A little, since we last spoke," he said, shrugging his shoulders. "But don't worry, I still have my goal clearly in mind."

"So I've heard. The Ministry and the Crown is quite perturbed. You manage to keep interfering with Specials Operation's plans."

Mrs. Peel was being remote, making small talk about the Ministry, and Steed knew it was an effort to keep him at a distance. But he could feel the heat of her body next to his and he guessed she was equally aware of him.

"How are things with the Ministry?" Steed asked.

Emma frowned at the question. "Not good. Mother is very unhappy playing second fiddle and André is riding everyone. The intensity level increases with every operation you stop. I assumed he'd lighten up his pressure on Knight Industries once his master plan for the Ministry was implemented, but that didn't happen."

Steed stared at her thoughtfully. "Master plan?"

"Forget it," she said. "We don't have time to discuss all the details. Needless to say it doesn't bode well for either you or Knight Industry. Steed, I can't be 100 % sure that I wasn't followed,"

"'Knight Industries?' What does André want with Knight Industry" Steed looked confused.

"Never mind, Steed." Emma's patience, never her strong suit, was slipping. "Can we go some place where we can talk? Privately?"

Steed said nothing, watching her closely. Emma seemed tired; Not just tense, but stretched to the limit somehow, and he realized the pressures from the Ministry, her search for Lord Stanton, and her deteriorating relationship with Peter were having a greater effect than he had anticipated. Apparently, their meeting wasn't affording the balm to her soul that he hoped. Even being with him wasn't enough now to offset her inner turmoil.

Standing, he indicated the exit and waited as she rose and proceeded down the stairs. He glanced one last time at the game wistfully, and then followed her out.

"I found him." Emma started.

"You've found out where they've got Lord Stanton?"

They were sitting in her car in the parking lot of the arena. Emma had the engine running with the heat on full blast to ward off the cold outside.

"Yes, Steed I have," Emma replied absently, staring out the windshield. "But what I meant was I think I know where your son is. You either need to come in and let the government sort all this out or we need to get to Stanton soon."

Steed's brain went to full alert when Emma spoke of his son. "Did you bring the information here? Now?"

"No Steed. I didn't think it was wise to carry it around with me," she turned in his direction. "It's hidden. But I do have it."

Emma's eyes drifted up through her lashes to meet Steed's. It was a look that never in the almost five years that they had known each other failed to touch Steed, Deeply! The air suddenly seemed very warm in the small space of the car, and the tempo of his breathing picked up.

Steed still wasn't sure quite how to handle the situation with Emma now. Their parting in Paris had left him uneasy in more ways than one. She had rebuffed his attempt to reach out to her. Emma didn't seem to believe that he understood and forgave her for Peter, for her actions, for anything that her father may have done to protect her. That nothing was more important to him than re-uniting with her. Steed wished for the millionth time that he had protested when Peter returned, that he had fought for her. Honor didn't mean much when he was alone, knowing that she would have stayed if he had but asked.

However, Steed was able to read people as expertly as always, and could feel her pleasure at being here with him. Emma may have been conflicted about Peter, her father, what honor meant, and the future, but she was defiantly not conflicted about their mutual physical attraction.

Steed leaned in to kiss her and Emma paused, closing her eyes for a moment. But just as his lips were about to touch hers, she drew back quickly and looked out the window.

"Steed, we need to get to Lord Stanton as soon as possible," she said curtly. "There is danger brewing from the Ministry. André has some disturbing suspicions about my role in your escape and the continued failure of the Ministry to catch you. With his current state of mind, he's capable of anything. He has convinced Tara to join him. She seems to have found a new idol. What ever his plan is it has her enthusiastic support. To quote; 'Special Operation's is the key to Great Briton's future'. I'm afraid she believes that you betrayed not only her but the country as well."

Glancing back at Steed, Emma's soul was captured by his intent gaze. Her curtness had effected no change on either his desire or his serenity. Emma drew a sharp breath as she read the need burning in his eyes. Being alone with Steed was dangerous. Emma didn't know how long she could continue to deny the return need that burned within her soul. Honor and vows taken a lifetime ago didn't seem important when Steed was beside her, needing her so badly that it hurt to think about.

"You look tired," Steed said then, softly, breaking the electric tension between them.

"I am tired," Emma replied wearily. "It's very taxing living with a split personality. There's the 'Ministry's Mrs. Peel', 'Peter's Mrs. Peel' and 'Steed's Mrs. Peel'. Some days even I have trouble keeping them all straight." Emma stopped talking as Steed moved in close to her again.

Steed touched his forehead to hers and she savored the contact, drawing on his strength. Finally, Emma leaned in until their lips brushed faintly. Steed's hand curved up her neck; fingers threading into her hair as he deepened the kiss.

Desire blazed through her, and the feeling was like a tonic for her spent nerves. Relaxing, Emma made a small, throaty sound as his exploration of her mouth continued.

Finally Steed pulled back and she looked at him.

"Listen for just a minute," Steed said, holding her still with his eyes. "I want you to come with me. Right now. You can leave Peter. Leave all of the fear and frustration of this situation behind. We'll be safe until we can prove what André is up to. How far the corruption goes. I have allies, people we can trust. I can make sure that no harm comes to you …. or Peter.."

"Steed, wait," Emma said, shocked by his assumption that she would just drop everything to follow him and with a denial of their future coloring her voice.

"Please," Steed continued, speaking faster now. "I know we made a deal, but think about this. We can find my son and disappear, and you won't have to worry about André or the Ministry or anything else."

Steed stopped, shocked at the sound of his own vulnerability and the look on Emma's face. If only he could have been so open ten months earlier. Now apparently it was too late. But the words had just been there suddenly; out in the open before he could stop himself.

"No, Steed," Emma replied firmly, holding him at arms length as he tried to move toward her again. "When we became lovers we said no promises, but no lies either. Hell, after our last meeting, I'm surprised you're even speaking to me. Seeing Stanton, finding out exactly what my father had to do with your son's disappearance is something I have to do. I have to know what my parents, or at least my father did and I won't change my mind."

Damn the woman and her stubbornness. Steed leapt from Emma's Lotus and ran, ran as quickly as he could away from her, away from the pain, the feeling that a knife had been plunged again through his heart. Steed's heart pounded as he turned another corner into a dimly lit alley -- he could hear the sound of heels running behind him. He had to slow as he turned the corner and cursed himself for taking it; he might have lost Emma otherwise. Still in one way he was lucky. Emma still cared. She would have let the Ministry follow her if she didn't. She wouldn't still chase him if she didn't. Old habits and desires die-hard.

Steed came to the entry of a large furniture warehouse he remembered from a case he and Emma had worked. The area was dimly lit and the door wasn't padlocked. Steed glanced around the dead end street and back towards the door. Quickly he gave it a shove and it swung open to expose rows of covered furniture. Steed had gotten a few meters inside, but not yet managed to close the door when Emma appeared. She ran through the door, slamming it behind her. The sight of her standing there breathing heavily took Steed's breath away. Her auburn hair was tussled from the chase and her clothes disheveled. As Emma ran her long fingers through her hair to remove it from her face Steed noted that her hair was longer and her body looked softer than he remembered. Emma's face bore an odd mixture of cold satisfaction and naked longing as she beheld Steed.

"I caught you," she crowed yearning and desire evident in her voice.

Steed pushed past her to the door and tried to open it. It was locked firmly. "By jove you did, now just what are you going to do with me?" Steed smiled light-heartedly.

Emma's face fell. "No!!!" She banged her fists against the steel of the door. "Damn!" she shouted.

Steed sat back on one of the plastic covered couches. "Care for a seat?" he asked smoothly.

Emma glared at him coldly. Her eyes were full of emotion, as if she were holding back tears. Finally she sat down on the opposite side of the couch. She squinted to see by the glow of the streetlights leaking in through the tiny glass window.

"Maybe someone will find us." Emma bit her lower lip as she was apt to do when she was nervous, or upset.

"At 11:30 on a Saturday night? Mrs. Peel, I hate to say it but being locked in a factory in Swindon. isn't exactly a social event," Steed smiled again, pleased just to be with Emma.

Emma shook her head in frustration. "I take a chance to meet alone with you and I'm forced to spend the night in an old warehouse. That should make my husband happy. Just perfect! This should help to salvage the small broken fractures remaining of my marriage," Emma's voice fluctuated between a growl and dejection.

Emma turned to face Steed; her eyes reflected her confusion. Seeing his calm, almost serene countenance calmed her nerves and she decided to play along with whatever game he was playing. "Well, I guess I can't leave, now can I?" she sighed. "We might as well make the best of it."

"No." Steed laughed. "Neither of us can go anywhere. But Mrs. Peel, no champagne to celebrate our first night together since your husband's triumphant return? What would Peter think?" Steed knew he was being cruel, but her mention of Peter cut him to the quick.

Emma ignored the gibe and rolled her eyes in mock submission. "Sorry, Steed I forgot to grab the champagne from the boot when you bolted."

"Yes, well I'm glad to see you again too," Steed smiled, pleased to have her to himself in relative safety, regardless of her tone or her confusion.

Emma rewarded him with a bitter laugh. "Well there's irony for you!" Her stomach rumbled. "Dammit, when I got your message I left without eating. Now, I'm hungry," Emma carped in a somewhat puerile tone.

Steed carefully removed a piece of Marzipan from his pocket. "Mrs. Peel?" he asked holding it out to her.

Emma couldn't stop herself as she laughed light-heartedly. "I haven't had one of these since Peter came back!" It was so like Steed to have his favorite treat with him, even when he was supposed to be on the run in fear for his life. She popped it in her mouth and smiled at Steed.

Steed looked down. "Since Peter came back." He said sadly.

Mrs. Peel stopped smiling. "I'm sorry, Steed" she said sincerely.

Steed turned to face her looking shocked. "You're apologizing? Now there's something I never expected to hear."

"Steed. I don't have a choice," she protested.

"Everyone has a choice!" Steed almost shouted.

"Oh? Like what! Stay with you, be your 'mistress'. I don't recall your asking me to then. And now you'd have me do what, destroy my marriage, my company, to do what? Join your little rebellion? Grow up Steed!" Emma shouted.

Steed stopped. Quietly, he asked as gently as he could, "Haven't you found out yet that growing up isn't all that its cracked up to be?"

Emma nodded mutely. Damn, why did Steed always have to be so perceptive? Hot tears began to stream down her cheeks. She remembered crying, when she had told him she was returning to Peter. When he hadn't asked her to stay.

Steed pulled her to him and she didn't protest. She lay her head down on his shoulder and cried, just cried, enjoying a feeling that she hadn't felt in a long time, just being held, safe in his arms. His strong arms embraced her firmly. She enjoyed his touch.

"Steed I didn't feel like I had a choice," she whispered. "I was confused. As unsure as you were about our future. We want such different things. When you didn't ask me to stay, returning to Peter seemed for the best for all concerned at the time."

Steed brushed her hair off her face and closed his eyes, feeling what it was like to be her. Her mind was a jumble of emotions, much like his, full of thoughts, doubts, regrets and fears. Why hadn't he asked her to stay?

Emma sat up enough for their eyes to meet. "Steed, neither of us are free," she said softly "Those doors will open tomorrow, but we won't be free of our pasts, our promises till the day that we die."

Steed nodded, understanding.

Like an unexpected bolt of lightening, Steed was hit by a wave of pure, unthinking emotion. He searched Emma's eyes -- she had felt it too.

"You were my best -- friend and lover." they said in unison.

They both laughed nervously neither knowing where to go from that statement until their eyes met again. Steed placed his hand on Emma's, her skin tingled at his touch and her pulse raced. They moved closer until their lips where almost touching. Steed could feel her breath on his lips. His hand moved up her arm and neck, stroking gently until it reached her head. He ran his fingers though her soft hair. Emma wrapped her arms around his neck and they kissed. Innocently, at first, like childhood sweethearts. They pulled away slowly to take a breath. Emma looked into his eyes. Despite everything the world and fate had put him through Steed's eyes were still full of kindness, wonder, and love. Emma wondered if they mirrored her own.

"Truce?" Emma spoke softly.

"Truce!" Steed smiled her smile and Emma felt that familiar stirring of desire that came so often when he smiled just for her.

They moved in until their lips met again. This time the kiss was passionate and deep. Emma let out a soft moan and they fell back into the couch gently. The love they had hidden from everyone for so long, even refusing to acknowledge it themselves, raged freely. Holding each other, they lapsed into silence, content for the moment to just share each other's company.

Finally, Steed heard Emma say softly, "I'm so tired."

"I'm sure," he replied. "You should try to sleep."

Steed nodded slightly and motioned for Emma to follow him. After a while, they found two display beds farther back in the factory fully appointed and lay down to rest. Without discussing why they lay down on separate beds. Steed listened as Emma took her cloths off in the darkness, under the covers to sleep. His mind's eye could see every curve to her body, remembered the feel of her skin and the passion with which she made love. One thought kept running through Steed's mind, I never told her I loved her, I didn't ask her to stay. The why behind his reluctance made him want to weep. He had been too concerned with appearances and his own pain to reach out to her.

Steed knew that Emma wasn't Margaret and he wasn't William, yet not wanting to wrong another man as he felt he had been wronged had cost him? What? Everything! A twenty-seven year old lie and it was poisoning everything. The reluctance to reveal his feelings out of fear of being hurt and a desire to never betray anyone the way he had believed he had been betrayed was still costing him and her. Or maybe if he took the step now there was still a chance he could salvage the one good pure thing that ever graced his life? Knowing that other's might not consider it honorable, Steed knew that he couldn't let her return to Peter, at least not without telling and showing her how he really felt.

Emma felt safe and accepted for the first time in months. She was just drifting into sleep when she heard a sound. A noise, a soft noise that sounded louder than thunder in the silence of the quiet, empty warehouse. It was the soft noise that is made by a shirt being pulled off naked skin. Emma held her breath, praying that her mind was playing tricks on her. No, that's not 100 percent true, her head hoped that it wasn't happening, but her heart prayed that what she had heard meant what she long for it to mean.

'Please let him come to me, take me, please make me whole again' that corner of her heart was saying. Then she heard another noise, this one louder and unmistakable. It was the sound of a zipper being drawn down. Emma lay there in the silence. Emma's mind and heart were at war with each other, She was still married to Peter. Adultery was against everything she had grown up with, everything she believed in. But then she also believed in Steed. She knew what Steed wanted, needed, and she knew what society said she should do, but was pulling away what she really should do, what she wanted to do? Finally emotion won the battle and Emma lay there quietly, expectantly, waiting to see what Steed would do next. Emma felt the bed dip, as Steed placed his weight on the edge of the mattress. The sheet lifted briefly off of her body as Steed slipped under it. Emma held her breath in anticipation, then released it in a soft sigh as Steed pressed his naked length against her.

As Steed wrapped his am around Emma to pull her close to him, she heard him whisper, "I have wanted, dreamt of this,... of you for so long. Since the moment you left. I lov….."

Emma had ached to hear those words from him for years, but now that he…was saying them, she didn't want to hear them. At least not right now. She wanted to just ..... feel. Emma turned her head slightly and lightly kissed him.

With the kiss Emma whispered against his lips, "Please, don't. Not yet, let's not talk now." Steed returned her kiss, and as he did, she could feel his head nod slightly. Emma sighed, and turned back around in his arms.

They lay together like that; their bare bodies spooned up against each other. Emma was sure it was just moments, but it felt like forever, oh how she wished it could last forever. She had always felt, no she still feels so safe in Steed's arms, Emma feels loved. Loved for herself. Steed loves all of her. Steed still accepts her, and wants her just as she is. Mistakes and all. It is a very liberating and frightening feeling.

Slowly, lightly Steed ran his hand up and down her body. Barely touching Emma, while he softly kissed the back of her neck. Steed curled his fingers and slowly dragged his nails across her skin. Emma moaned as she felt it, it was as if that was what she needed to release all of her pent up feelings.

Emma allowed her deep buried feelings of love, passion, lust, hunger, desire, and raw need to surface. She pressed back against Steed, pressing their bare skin together as tightly as she could. She smiled as she heard him let out a deep growl of passion.

Steed kisses were growing hungrier and hungrier; he felt as if he could no longer contain his desire, his passion for this woman. He used the size of his body to envelop her. His hands were everywhere on Emma's body at once.

Emma could feel the hunger, the passion in Steed, noted that he was barely controlling his strength. Steed's hands were almost bruising on her skin, but after almost a year of wanting him, and being denied him, she welcomed the brief touch of pain. There is such a fine line between pleasure and pain, Emma wanted both, pain to pay for her betrayals, pure pleasure for Steed to atone for her mistakes.

Emma started when Steed suddenly moved away from her. She didn't understand what Steed was doing when she felt his hand on her shoulder, pushing her away from him. Was this Steed's idea of payback for her betrayals? Now that she had given in was Steed going to withdraw what she needed so desperately? Emma was almost lying on her stomach. She wanted to protest the loss of his skin next to hers. Then she felt Steed lay claim to her body, as his, with his mouth, lips, tongue and teeth. Emma had no control over the low, ragged moan that escaped her mouth as Steed scraped his teeth down her spine. Relentlessly moving towards her hips, demanding yet never hurtful as he slowly took possession of her body and soul.

With Peter, Emma needed a sense of control when they had sex, but as Steed took her she felt all control slipping away from her, and was resolutely glad for it. That was the difference, control for sex with Peter, but pure abandonment for making love with Steed. What Steed offered was so much more than just sex for both of them. It was hopefully the beginning of their salvation.

Oh god, the feel of Steed's hands, and mouth on Emma was making her crazy, She wanted him with a fire, and a passion she had never felt with Peter. Emma could feel Steed's teeth on her shoulder blade and knew that in the morning she would bear the mark of his passion. Knowing that made it more pleasurable.

Steed was working Emma into a fevered state, where he knew that if he didn't take her soon, she would end up taking him. Suddenly Steed sat up and turned her over so that Emma was lying there with him kneeling beside her.

The room was so dark; Emma couldn't see him except as a dark outline, much to her disappointment. Steed reached out his hands and softly started over, caressing her body, starting at her neck and shoulders. Working his way down to Emma's breasts, her stomach, her hips.

Emma's body was crying out for him, for more of Steed's touch, for him to take final possession. She could feel his hands slide from her hips onto her thighs. Without much pressure, Steed parted her thighs and moved between them. He ran his hand across her wet lips, testing to see how ready she was for him.

Steed was surprised at just how wet and ready Emma was for him. Emma sensed what Steed was planning next, and as much as she wanted to have him taste her, and make her come with his mouth and tongue, she wanted him inside her more. Steed started to move down her body, and she stopped him, Emma reached down grabbed his head, pulled him up to her and claimed his mouth in a kiss. What started as Emma laying claim to him, quickly turned into him laying claim to her. He deepened the kiss till Emma was lost in it.

Steed reached down, grabbed Emma's wrists, pulled her arms above her head, and pinned her to the bed. Emma moaned into his mouth and wrapped her legs around him. . Emma made clear to Steed that she wanted him deep inside her, pounding into her, making her scream. Steed broke the kiss and pulled his body off of Emma's.

Even though Emma couldn't see his eyes in the darkness she knew Steed was looking her right in the eyes, with that wonderful little smile/smirk on his face. That look that consistently drove her wild with lust for him, even while at the same time it sometimes infuriated her.

They lay there like that, Emma's legs wrapped around his hips, her arms pinned to the bed above her head, while Steed kept his body just barely off of hers. With a low noise, somewhere between a sigh and a moan, Steed lowered his body to Emma's one last time.

Emma felt his hard penis brush against her wet lips, then as Steed slowly started to slide into her she moaned. Right at that moment, she wanted him to just forget about the niceties, and just plunge into her, but as she felt him slowly slide back out of her, she was gratified that Steed remained in control.

It felt so wonderful, the feel of his weight on her, her legs wrapped around his slim hips, his penis sliding oh so gently, yet fully, deeply in and out of her. Emma could feel her orgasm building inside of her as Steed slowly ever so slowly, stroked in and out of her.

Emma wanted to wrap her arms around him. She wanted to dig her nails into his back as Steed made her come. She wanted to scream his name, but the orgasm hit so suddenly and with such a quiet force, all she could do was whisper.

"Steeeeeeeeeeeeed…."

Emma didn't know if it was her whisper of his name, or the force of her orgasm, but one of the two, or a combo of them both, seemed to send Steed over the edge. He released her arms and grabbed her legs and pulled them up higher on his lower back. Emma wrapped her arms around him and dug her nails into his back as he thrust harder and harder into her.

Steed's thrusts were solid now, He was pounding into Emma, harder and harder, faster and faster. Emma could feel his orgasm building when suddenly another one took her, so powerful that this time she screamed his name as it took her. As this wave was starting to subside, suddenly Emma felt Steed's climax start, the feel of him coming so hard inside he it set off another small orgasm in Emma.

Afterwards, they lay there, wrapped in each other's arms, breathing heavily. Emma started to wonder what was going to happen with them now. Emma realized that no matter the consequences she loved Steed, she needed to be with him, nothing could change that. But until she knew what deal her parents had made and dealt with Peter, she was trapped by the fates and nothing could change that.

Steed felt her arms tighten around him as he softly kissed her, then he whispered against her lips, "I love you"

Emma parted her lips to say it back to him . . . . . . . . . . but nothing came out. It had always been so easy to say before, before she had left him for Peter, now……. Steed understanding what held her back even if Emma didn't just held her close, stroking her hair and exhausted they fell into a peaceful slumber.

The light of morning shone brightly thought the small window. Steed looked down at Emma, curled up in his arms. He smiled at her and as if sensing it she opened her eyes and smiled back.

"Morning," she whispered sleepily. Steed was pleasantly surprised that her voice didn't possess even a touch of regret. He'd expected the same reaction that had happened so many times when the first become lovers. Regret at betraying Peter.

They dressed quickly and made plans to stay in contact. Now they just had to wait to be released. The fact that either one of them could have picked the lock at any time was carefully ignored.

"You know Steed," Emma said, "You know that I can't go with you and maybe I'm a bit out of practice, but could you use some more help? I, I'll try to stay out of the way and.."

Steed placed his finger over her lips to silence her. "I thought you'd never ask." Her face shone with joy as she leapt into his arms. The door swung open as they stood entwined and a middle-aged factory worker wandered in. He stopped by the couple and frowned. "Do I even want to know what you two are doing in here?" His hard face cracked into a smile.

Steed quickly disengaged from Mrs. Peel. "Actually, we were just leaving," she answered for him.

They scampered out the door laughing. Hand in hand.

They walked in silence for awhile. Finally Emma turned to Steed. "I guess this is going to change things," she said frowning slightly.

Steed just nodded. He could see the battle resuming within Emma. How would she choose between having a family while remaining by Peter's side doing what she saw herself as honor bound to or making a life with Steed. Steed knew it would take time and Emma was going to have a long hard road ahead, but everything was going to turn out the way he wanted. Eventually!

They walked out of the alley and onto the main street, both their hearts full of hope.

 

Chapter 9

Emma quickly returned to the office where Peter waited anxiously. Tired and feeling guilty about the ease with which she had broken her vows, but knowing that if Steed wanted her she would break them again, over and over again Emma avoided Peter's questioning looks.

"Em, you're finally back," said Peter just as Spenser entered the office.

"Yes. Spenser, what did you want?" Mrs. Peel asked.

"Steed took down another operation and Tara just filed a report for a breech of security at the Ministry," Spenser replied.

Mrs. Peel and Spenser glanced at Peter. "Well, do they have any leads?" Mrs. Peel asked.

"No, not yet anyway," Spenser replied.

"Good." Mrs. Peel was getting ready to leave when a man walked in with a package. Mrs. Peel set it on a desk and opened it. It was filled with marzipan.

"Just thought you might enjoy these, " was written on a note inside.

Mrs. Peel looked at the marzipan, and for a split second, she smiled. Carefully avoiding the fact that she already knew where Sean was she started giving orders. "Spenser, you're with me. We need to verify where Stanton is being held and find Steed's son."

Peter's eyes widened. Emma had deliberately kept Peter in the dark about Stanton possibly being alive. "What makes you think that Stanton is alive Em?"

Throwing Peter a bank statement that Steed had given her in Paris, Emma asked, "Peter, how many times have you seen a company continue to pay a "dead man? He's alive all right and if we are going to 'catch' Steed we need him for bait."


Chapter 10

"Mrs. Peel, I'd just like to mention one last time that I think what we're about to do is really dangerous. Not to mention stupid. We can't keep breaking into Ministry files."

Emma shot Spenser an icy look guaranteed to chill any man's soul and grasped the front of his shirt, pulling him toward her until their faces were inches apart.

"Don't lose your nerve on me now, Spenser."

"But, Mrs. Peel..."

"Spenser. We discussed this." She began to speak slowly and deliberately, both to control her anger and to get her point across clearly. "Just because we think we have found where they're holding Stanton we aren't home free. In order to get to him, I need Steed's help. And to get Steed's help, I need the location of his son. That just happens to be through this door, in Andre's office. Now, you are going into there with me, and get the information. Do I make myself clear?"

"Y-yes," Spenser stammered. "But how will you know where to look? You didn't have any luck the last time, and even I know how difficult it is to find things in there..." he trailed off as her eyes widened at his disclosure.

"And just how would you know that, Spenser?" she asked in the silky purr that he had learned to identify as Mrs. Peel at her most dangerous.

"I had to get some information for Steed in here once," he said faintly. "It was a long time ago."

"I see," she said slowly. "Perhaps you should define a long time ago and why didn't you think to tell me that last time we went on this little adventure?

"There was never a good time to mention it," he replied, somewhat lamely, shrugging his shoulders.

Emma looked to the ceiling, wondering for the millionth time how she managed surrounded by so many people playing parts not really their own. Was Spenser working with Steed or André? "Never mind we don't have time for this. You're going in there with me and break into that stand-alone. And then we're out of here for good."

"But I already told you, André doesn't use the compu-"

"I know that!" Emma snapped, cutting him off. "That's why it will be there! André knows it would be the last place anyone would look. Now let's get going." Smiling, "You know what they say, Spenser," she said, irony coloring her voice. "When it's inevitable, just relax and enjoy it."

Emma opened the door as she spoke and Spenser followed her inside. Two hours later, Emma didn't have confirmation of the location of Steed's son. It seemed the Ministry had "lost" track of him. She did however have a full accounting of Andre's attempts to make Peter betray her. It didn't make her feel any better to know that Peter hadn't betrayed any information to Special Operations, no matter what they had threatened him with. Given her behavior with Steed earlier in the week, she wasn't particularly feeling worthy of his loyalty.

She stopped only to get a message to George Anastophalus and then went home. Peter didn't press her for details and seemed content to just hold her when they went to bed. Peter was changing somehow, but Emma couldn't identify just how or why.

 

Chapter 11

Mrs. Peel strode down the dark corridor, high heels clicking in an angry staccato as she headed toward the parking structure. It had been a long, boring day. They all had, ever since she'd told George to tip Steed that she needed a meeting. That was ten days ago, and she'd heard nothing since.

She stopped at her car, keys jangling as she got ready to open the door.

"Mrs. Peel," she heard a smooth voice say in her ear as she dropped her briefcase in surprise.

Turning slowly, she met Mr. Andre's piercing gaze.

"Working late?" he asked quietly.

"As a matter of fact, yes," she answered, trying to regain her composure. The garage was very dark, and the predatory gleam in Andre's eyes made her vaguely uneasy.

"I noticed there have been a lot of late nights for you lately. Avoiding Peter?"

Emma said nothing, raising her chin and staring directly at him. She backed up until she felt the cold metal of the car door against her bare legs. "Just coincidence, I guess," she began. "What exactly is it you wanted, Mr. André?" she asked, forcing an impatient note into her voice. She couldn't allow him to know how much he unsettled her.

"I want Steed, Mrs. Peel," he said slowly, so close now she could feel the brush of his thighs against hers hip, and the touch of his breath on her face. It took every ounce of control she had not to turn her head and flinch or conversely break his arm in response.

"Well, that's not really my concern anymore. Remember, you decided you didn't want my help oh what ten days ago, remember?" she said, meeting his gaze steadily.

Andre's eyes narrowed. "I remember that we had Steed under control at the Ministry until he mysteriously escaped. I remember hearing about a little jaunt that you took without Peter to Swindon when you were supposed to be in London, and that it was right around the time that Steed was spotted there. And before that, I remember a costly and carefully thought-out operation in Hampshire that was somehow blown from the inside. How's your memory, Mrs. Peel?"

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"Save it," he said, in a clipped voice as he leaned over until his lips brushed her ear.

"I know you've been helping him, Mrs. Peel," he whispered, softly, dangerously. "I can't prove it...yet. But when I can, your prominence won't save you. God help you and your husband."

Mr. André straightened suddenly, as two Emma's employee's stepped through the door into the garage. "Thanks for all the hard work these last few weeks," André said, loud enough for them to hear. "Let's have a drink sometime, shall we?"

Mrs. Peel couldn't find the words to answer. Instead she took advantage of the reprieve to quickly grab her briefcase, unlock the door, and scramble into her Lotus.

She cranked the ignition and leaned back in the seat, trying to calm her breathing. He knew. She didn't know how, but he knew. That meant her time was now severely limited. They needed to get to Stanton. Now.

"Steed, where are you?" she asked herself in disconsolateness, as she put the car in gear and headed toward home.

After Emma's trip to Swindon, without discussing why or even asking what happened Peter had begun spending more and more time at Knight Industry's continental locations, leaving Emma free to stay in London alone! When Emma stepped into her dark apartment, she nearly tripped on a package lying in front of the door.

"Goddamn it," she said in irritation, as she turned on a light.

Bending over, she saw that it was an envelope. She picked it up and noticed the small knight inscribed in the corner. A chess symbol. Her maiden name.

Steed, she thought, tearing it open. Inside was a small key from one of the storage lockers at London's Heathrow airport and a note that said only, "TOMORROW -- 5PM."

"Now what?" she said softly to herself, straightening. This was probably Steed's way of making sure they weren't discovered. And she was glad, in light of the little encounter she'd just had with André. The last remnants of fear she'd been feeling dissipated with the rush of anticipation she felt at seeing Steed.

Emma hadn't talked with him since Swindon, although she'd heard in detail about the trouble he'd been causing with the Special Operation Section of the Ministry's finances. From what she had been able to gather, he'd continued his vigilante missions against some of the field operations, but was focusing more exclusively now on Special Operations finances. Steed seemed determined to gut the institution by appropriating more and more funds. That he had a broken up a few operations was a bonus. The action that had the most impact was the ten agents being held mysteriously disappearing. Special Operation's had no way of searching for them. After all they weren't there to start with. At least not officially. The crown wasn't very happy at the turn the events were taking. There were discussions about putting the entire Ministry back under Mother's control.

Which was probably why André seemed to be walking around in such a murderous rage lately. Even Tara seemed nervous around him. Sighing, Emma put those thoughts away for the moment and headed for the bedroom and the comfort of a long, hot shower. Tomorrow was going to be a big day. She could feel it....


Chapter 12

The silence built between them, brooding and oppressive. Steed knew that they should leave rescuing Stanton to the crown, after André was exposed, but Emma was insisting that she needed to speak with Stanton first. Her very real fear was that if Stanton were in government hands he would never discuss what had gone on between the Ministry and her parents.

"You know," Steed finally spoke. "You said a lot of things then, when we were in Paris. Some of them I needed to hear. Some just hurt me. Now, I feel compelled to do you the same favor."

Emma Peel swallowed, then raised her chin and met his eyes defiantly. "What?"

"You're expecting too much from this meeting. I can already guess at the outcome. And I'm telling you it's foolish to assume that Lord Stanton's going to give you all the answers you want. Nothing he says is going to absolve your father in your mind. Even if hear exactly what you want it won't mean that all our problems will be solved and we can suddenly start living again."

Emma drew back as Steed continued ruthlessly, "You don't even know that your father worked with him before the war."

"Steed, are you finished?" Emma responded coolly.

"Yes, for now."

"Fine. Now let me tell you something. I'm not leaving this mess to the Ministry without the truth from Stanton. Once I have it, they have no more leverage. I can use this information to get out from under them. I will protect my husband and myself. No matter who he is, or what he's done, Peter's also the only husband I've got."

Mrs. Peel purposely emphasized the word 'husband', knowing her words would hurt Steed. She was rewarded with the pain that emerged in Steed's expression.

It disappeared in an instant though and Steed's lips curved up in a dangerous smile. "That won't work Emma," he said her first name deliberately. "You can't use Peter to keep a distance between us. I've seen the look in your eyes too many times when we're at our most intimate. I know how much those moments mean to you. I can assure you, you don't have any secrets anymore. At least from me. I don't know about Peter. Sooner or later you are going to have to choose. Sooner or later."

Emma bit her lip in frustration. Steed was right, and she knew it. By her own choice, she had cast her control aside when they were together. Now she was defenseless.

Steed read her thoughts clearly and felt a deep sense of failure. How he wished she didn't see their love as some sort of weakness, but rather as a source of strength to build on. He despaired now of that ever happening. What good was it to know she loved him and belonged with him if she still wouldn't admit to it? Wouldn't leave Peter?

"Where are they holding Stanton?" he asked shortly, returning to the original subject.

Emma sighed and looked down, relieved to be back on less slippery ground. "Not too far from here, actually. At a safehouse in some place called Shirestone, in Sussex. Spenser tells me it's near Fairfax."

"Give me a few days to do some reconnaissance," Steed suggested, waiting until he had her full attention again.

"Fine," she said. "But remember time is of the essence."

Steed knew that of course, but asserting her control over the situation seemed to make her feel so much better. How well he understood her. And he loved her. Intensely. Hopelessly. He made an abrupt decision. If this confrontation was what she wanted, he wouldn't stand in the way, but she'd better be willing to live with the consequences.

Mrs. Peel stared at him while he was lost in thought, finally dropping her eyes when she saw him glance at her.

Reaching out, he tipped her chin up one last time. "Are you sure you won't reconsider?"

She pressed her lips together firmly and shook her head. "I'm sorry, Steed."

"Well, I won't be asking a second time," he said. Ignoring the regret that welled up inside him, he pulled her close again.

Mrs. Peel gave in as he kissed her thoroughly, until she was breathless, light-headed, incoherent. She knew she would be lost soon, as the familiar ecstasy built from within.

"Steed," she began, when his mouth left hers for a moment. "This isn't...a good...idea," she finally managed to get out as she savored the touch of his lips in the hollow of her throat. He drew back quickly, startling her.

"You're right," Steed said, straightening his tie. He reached down and picked up his bowler, quickly tapping it into place on his head. "There's a lot to be done, and as you've reminded me, no time to waste."

Emma was speechless as Steed prepared to depart the warmth of the car, thinking that this wasn't supposed to happen. She didn't want this to happen. Steed should have overwhelmed her; persuaded her to give in. Instead he had acquiesced easily to her protest.

Steed tried to keep a straight face as he sensed the struggle she was going through. He had found the perfect tactic; he wasn't a top field agent for nothing.

Steed opened the car door and stepped out. For Mrs. Peel, the blast of frigid air was nothing compared to the coldness she felt at his leaving.

"I'll contact you when I'm ready," he said, leaning in, gray eyes boring into her dark ones.

"Right," she said weakly, watching as he closed the door and walked over to the black Jaguar he was driving.

Emma raised icy fingers to her burning cheeks and tried to keep from crying at the black well of disappointment that surged as he drove off, leaving her, as always, alone.


Chapter 13

Two days later, Emma pulled a black Range Rover to the side of a country lane outside Shirestone and clicked off the radio in annoyance. A classic station had been all she could find to tune into and now she would be stuck with Beethoven running through her head for the rest of the day.

Leaning forward, she peered through the windshield. From the landmarks Steed had described, this had to be the place.

Steed watched from the verge 100 feet away as she climbed out and looked vaguely in his direction. He stood and remained still until she saw him. A small smile flitted across her features and she crossed the road, heading in his direction.

Watching her approach, Steed appraised her appearance with frank admiration. She was wearing a dark blue catsuit and a dark alpaca jacket. He noted the stretchy nylon gloves and black shoes with heavy rubber soles as well. The jacket was just loose enough for the shoulder holster he suspected she would be wearing over her zippered suit. Oh how he loved those zippers.

"Lovely outfit," Steed said by way of greeting, breath fogging in the cold English air.

"Oh please, Steed," she snapped back, irritated for a moment at his flippant comment. "I was in the field with you for several years. Don't you trust me to be prepared for an operation like this."

"Maybe," Steed smiled. "Are you carrying a gun?"

Emma raised her eyebrows and looked to the sky, as if she couldn't bear this foolishness.

"Well what then?" he asked.

She drew the zipper of her jacket down and un-holstered one of the largest handguns he had ever seen. Ignoring the look of surprise on his face, she held it out for his inspection.

"What's that, a cannon?" he inquired, sarcastically.

"Not quite, but don't think I didn't consider it. It's a large caliber Wembly. Ideal for home protection, or for taking on multiple Ministry security goons, if you prefer." She re-stowed the gun quickly. "Don't worry, I've had a lot of practice with it. The recoil isn't much worse than your average .45."

"Nice. When did you start carrying that?"

"After Paris," she said quietly. "A .38 isn't always good enough to get the job done. Anyway, I don't usually carry this particular gun. I still prefer my .38 Wembly, but sometimes difficult problems demand difficult solutions."

"Right," he said, knowing exactly what she was referring to and knowing it wasn't their present situation. Changing topics, he asked, "I take it you came by yourself?"

"Of course. I couldn't ask Spenser to take any more chances, and frankly, Peter has been acting rather strange lately."

"Strange how?"

"Like he's severely troubled by something. I don't know. I thought maybe he sensed what happened in Swindon, but it doesn't seem to be that. I think that it may have something to do with the woman he met when I was in Swindon."

"Did you meet her?"

"No, and I don't know who she is; he's never said. But the meeting was quite earth-shaking from what I have been able to gather. The funny thing is, he was fine, if a little moody. When I returned. It's only in the last couple of weeks that he's been so...remote."


Chapter 14

Steed nodded thoughtfully and then glanced in the direction of the verge. "Are you ready to take a look at this place?"

Excitement and a little dread began to mount in the pit of her stomach, and she gave a tiny bob of her head.

"Let's go."

She followed him over the crest of the hill.

They had covered about 500 yards of grassy terrain, when they reached a large rise. Steed crouched down, motioning her to follow as he crawled to the top.

Once there, he paused, lying prone on the grass, and she quickly came up next to him.

Looking down, she could see the compound below them. It was a small manor estate. The house was medium sized and she could see a separate garage with the door open. One of the Ministry's black Mercede's was parked inside.

Father beyond, she spotted another hill with a small shed and helipad at the crest. A duplicate of her Knight Industry chopper rested there, next to a small directional windsock.

"What the hell are they doing with a helicopter here?" she asked, confused.

"I think it's just in case they need to get him out of here quickly," Steed responded.

"Uh-huh," she said, concentrating. "How many Ministry Agents are there down there?"

"They rotate a squad of six. The shift changes once a week, although Charles and Mark seem to be assigned here on a constant basis."

"Have you seen Stanton?" Emma asked anxiously, unable to keep from asking the question any longer.

"No," Steed replied shortly. "Probably too cold for a brisk walk around the grounds. Or they consider it too much of a risk. I can guarantee you that he is in there however. "

Emma didn't ask to think how Steed could be so sure if he hadn't seen Stanton.

Steed waited a moment before continuing. "Actually, the agents are attentive at the beginning of the week; making rounds, that sort of thing. Boredom sets in by Wednesday, so I figure early tomorrow morning ought to be ideal for us to go in."

"Did you ever train here?" Emma asked, shooting Steed a very intent look.

"Well, yes, and we can succeed, but it won't be easy. I know the layout already through training here but you don't, so it's going to take a little preparation to get you ready."

"Fine, Steed. I'll do whatever it takes."

Steed nodded. "Here, take a closer look with these," he said, handing her a set of binoculars. "I'll get the floor plan so you can see what we'll be up against."

Mrs. Peel gripped the binoculars and peered through them, scanning the area below. Stanton was in there right now, she thought. Tomorrow, she would finally see him, talk to him, and find out whether she could ever be comfortable with Peter or Steed again. This search had become something of an obsession for her, ever since she'd seen the memo Stanton signed about Steed's son and the guarantee to her parents of her safety. Her guaranteed exclusion from any part in Phase II of the Agent Project. Emma wanted answers, and she had waited long enough. Perhaps after it was all over, she could finally find peace. Could make plans for the future. Once Steed and Peter were safe, and once Steed had the chance to unite with the son that he never knew he had. Never knew because Lord Stanton and her father had made it so. That thought ate at her soul like acid.

Steed came up next to her again, startling her for a moment. Emma watched as he lowered himself to the ground again and spread the blueprints out in front of them. In her excitement and haste at being so close, she had forgotten how good Steed looked in black. Emma's cheeks flushed with feeling.

Sensing her mood, Steed looked at her, and his eyes darkened in the way she had become so familiar with. Mrs. Peel knew he would take her right then and there if she would let him.

Instead, she took a deep breath and put a rein on her desire. "You know, Steed, once this is all over, we may not see each other for a long time. Depending on the outcome, I mean."

A veil seemed to drop over his expression, and Steed looked away. The temptation was there again, to try and talk some sense to her, but Steed knew the effort would be wasted. Whatever her father had done, Steed understood John Knight had done it out of love for his wife and daughter. Honor always needed to take a back seat to protecting those you love. Steed understood that now. Emma didn't. Some truths she had to discover for herself.

"Let's just concentrate on the matter at hand, shall we?"

"That's fine," Emma replied; a cold, haughty mask slipping over her features.

"They're keeping him up here on the second floor," Steed indicated a place on the diagram. "The agents mainly congregate here, on the first floor."

Emma looked at the spot where he was pointing. Directing her attention back to the house, she raised the binoculars and peered through them to the corner room he had highlighted on the blueprints. Sure enough, she could see a couple of men she didn't recognize moving around inside.

"Now," Steed continued. "The best way for us to proceed is to use wire-cutters on the fence here, and then cut through the glass pane in this door on the south side of the building. Don't worry about the alarm; that's already been taken care of. We'll go in late, when the house is dark, but I have two sets of experimental infrared specs that should take care of any vision problems. Once we get up to his room, you can go inside -- I'll keep a post outside the door to ensure you aren't disturbed."

Steed paused, "Any questions?"

"No."

Steed rolled the prints closed and slid down the rise until it was safe to stand without detection. In silence, Steed turned and headed back towards Emma's vehicle, waiting for her to follow.

When they reached the truck, Emma grabbed Steed's arm, turning him toward her. The wind whipped strands of her auburn-colored hair across her face and she brushed them away absently.

"Steed, thank you for all this."

"Never mind," he replied, gaze roving over her features, finally coming to rest on her eyes. "When are you going to tell me about my son?"

"If you want me to tell you right now, I will. But I'd rather wait till we get out of there alive."

Steed waited a moment, and then nodded. It would be better to remain focused on one thing at a time.

"You're staying in Fairfax?" she asked.

"Uh-huh."

"Well, I guess I'll follow you back," Emma gazed back in the direction of the compound wistfully. "This is going to be one of the longest waits of my life."


Chapter 15

Emma watched Steed's ghostlike movements ahead of her in the greenish glare of the infrared goggles. They had made it through the perimeter fence and were heading stealthily across the property to the south side entrance he had chosen.

The night was crystal clear and cold, but she felt nothing as they moved against the wall of the house to the doorway. She gripped the Wembly; the familiar weight of the gun feeling comfortable in her hand. Concentrating, with instincts on full alert, she prepared for the confrontation ahead. Anything less than success would mean disaster for her, Peter, her company, and Steed. There could be no failure this time

Quickly and silently, Steed cut through the glass pane and opened the door.

Emma entered with a nimble step as Steed gestured for her to precede him. The whole dwelling was dark; closed down for the night, but they could see clearly with the benefit of the night-vision glasses.
Again, Emma wondered at the ease with which Steed seemed to be able to obtain what he needed. Something told her he was once again keeping her in the dark about something important.

Emma and Steed crept through the first floor where the bodyguards were sleeping soundly, drugged it seemed by their dinner with as much speed as possible, finding the staircase that led to the upper level. At the top, Steed paused suddenly and grabbed Emma pulling them into an alcove to let the one on duty pass by them unnoticed. Together, they proceeded down the hallway.

Steed stopped before a door at the end of the long corridor and pulled off the goggles. Emma followed suit and waited for her eyes to adjust to the darkness.

Steed stared at her intently, and then moved out her way to stand next to the door.

Chapter 16

Mrs. Peel padded softly into the room, closing the door behind her. Her gloved fingers fumbled along the wall, next to the door, flicking up the light switch. A small lamp illuminated, filling the room with a soft glow. Her gaze fell to the man sleeping in the bed. His eyes fluttered open at the touch of the light and he sat up slowly, peering in her direction.

"Lord Stanton?"

She watched as he stood, abruptly awake. He pulled on a robe from a nearby chair and belted it rapidly.

"Emma Peel. Is it really you?" he asked in voice still hoarse from sleep.

"Yes,"

He pulled back then, to grasp her shoulders. "What are you doing here?"

Emma's senses keyed instantly to the faint rebuke in the question, but she ignored her inner warning.

"I came to help you, Lord Stanton," she began. "I came to get you out of here."

Stanton paused for a moment, then blew out his breath in what seemed to be anger. He moved slowly to sit down in the chair. "What makes you so sure I want to leave?" he asked pointedly.

Confusion and a sense of what was not quite kosher crossed Emma's features as she realized that Stanton had to be a part of Special Operations. Why would the Ministry be paying him if he was an unwilling captive? She said, "I don't understand."

"No, I'm sure you don't," he replied sarcastically. "Your being here now is going to cause some real problems."

Emma kept her distance, unmoving, a few feet away. "Lord Stanton, you aren't making any sense. I came here because you've been missing, without a word, for almost three months. Steed is a suspect in your 'death'. The Ministry is in turmoil. What was I supposed to do? What was I supposed to think?"

"You were supposed to help the Ministry," Stanton responded harshly. "If you had done so, rather than poking into matters beyond your concern, I would be home already."

"What?!" Mrs. Peel couldn't help the outrage in her voice.

"That's right," he said. "Shortly after you left Steed, he went renegade. Sleeping with Tara, being out of control, poking into matters that shouldn't concern him, putting a Ministry project that has been active since before World War One at risk. It's a very important project that is just now bearing great results. André summoned me to a meeting where he spelled out Steed's behavior. Special Operation's was ready to move on him, but needed a reason. My "death" gave him that reason. I merely agreed to the suggestion that I take a sabbatical at one of the Ministry's retreats so that the Ministry could apply pressure to Steed to keep his nose out of matters that don't concern him. Later, after Steed escaped, André documented the fact that you and Peter had become possible security risks. He was especially concerned about you. You always backed Steed's plans. Now that he has gone renegade, we had no reason to expect that you wouldn't continue to help him. Hence, the "problem" with Peter to keep you in line."

"I don't believe this," Emma remained standing. Grasping her forehead with her free hand, she finally moved to set the gun down on an end table. "If you knew what I went through to get here..." Her voice trailed off.

"You should have put that effort into finding Steed," Lord Stanton said coolly. "Mother would never have backed the continuation of the Agent Project if he knew all about it. Steed was going to reveal it. They would have thought it immoral. I was ready to come back once Steed was under Ministry control and André permanently installed as my successor. Instead, I find there's a suspicion that you helped Steed escape. And that you continue to help him. Hardly a good way to protect your husband and your company?"

Emma started to draw back at the reprimand, but then a strange thing happened. A strength she didn't know she still possessed seemed to rise up from nowhere. In that instant, Mrs. Peel thought of all the reasons that had compelled her to seek this meeting. Stanton's memo about her father's actions; the search for Steed's son; Andre's rise to preeminence at the Ministry; countless other things. Most importantly though Steed. Protecting Steed.

No matter what he said, no matter what rules he was determined to force her to obey, Emma knew she deserved answers. Stanton wasn't happy to see her there, that was obvious, but she would be damned if she just left meekly with her tail between her legs.

"No, Lord Stanton," she began. "I had several reasons for coming here. If you won't leave voluntarily with me, then you'll at least answer some questions before I go."

Stanton opened his mouth to speak, but she cut him off.

"I've seen the memo you wrote to the Ministry concerning Steed's son." She said the words quickly and calmly, keeping a neutral expression on her face. "You know, the one where you gave the authorization to arrange for his disappearance?"

Lord Stanton stared at her in surprise, at a loss for words. But he recovered almost immediately.

"More of Steed's lies?" he asked sharply. "I'm beginning to wish we had never involved you in catching Steed."

"Really?" she asked, irony in her voice. "Let's cut the nonsense here, Lord Stanton. You and Mr. André involved me because you knew about the bond Steed and I shared. Both of you counted on that to make it an obsession on my part to effect Steed's return, to give him a chance to clear his name and to protect Peter." The last point was added reluctantly, almost as an afterthought.

Stanton leaned forward, ready to argue, but Emma continued quickly.

"No, you two were right. More than you know," she said dispassionately. "It did turn into a compulsive desire to see Steed. But not for the Ministry's sake."

She moved back to the door as she spoke, opening it and gesturing out into the hallway. Lord Stanton's eyes widened again in shock as Steed walked into the room.

"Now you know, Lord Stanton," she said in a low, firm voice. "I've chosen my side. I'm with Steed on this one. What you are doing is immoral and stopping it more important that Peter or I. Steed's the one who helped me find you. He arranged this meeting tonight."

"This is ridiculous," Lord Stanton ground out. "It's your duty to bring in this traitor to the Ministry. What happened to the sense of loyalty your father raised you to have?"

"Let's just say it disappeared into the maelstrom when I saw that memo. My parents made a deal with the devil in return for my safety and Steed paid for it."

Lord Stanton clamped his mouth shut at her words, glaring at Steed, who merely returned his former boss's look with faint amusement.

Emma stepped forward to the chair where Stanton sat, leaning down until their faces were inches apart. "I want to know just who the traitors really are; Steed or your gang? Now you're going to tell us what this is all about, Lord Stanton," she said dangerously.

Stanton closed his eyes for a moment and turned away from her angry gaze to focus on the floor.

"Is the memo real?" Emma asked, voice trembling with the force of her feelings.

"Yes," he finally said in a tortured whisper.

He looked up and met her eyes, making a decision. "It's a very long, complicated story, whose roots go back to before both or you were born. What's happening today is a direct result of the origins of the Special Projects section of the Ministry and the mystery surrounding Steed's son."

Mrs. Peel raised her chin, stress clearly visible in her clenched jaw. She suddenly looked back at Steed to see if he heard. Evidently he had, for she could see him leaning forward slightly, almost against his will, like a moth drawn to a flame.

"Well, Lord Stanton," she said, turning to face him again. "You have a very attentive audience tonight, I assure you. Why don't you just start at the beginning?"

Stanton took a deep breath and started speaking slowly. "It began back before World War One, during early German and British medical studies concerning evolutionary development. You see, both countries had been searching for family lines that produced consistent behavior patterns. Skills, intelligence, character. They believed that these people are the result of a particular type of inherited material. They believed that if you could isolate it you would have the potential to produce people who have special abilities. Almost sixth senses. They were particularly interested in the warrior and creative minds. The project started by simply observing such families to see if there was an identifiable link. One that could be used to develop individuals with the traits that we needed in good agents."

Dawn broke in the eastern sky, and Mrs. Peel leaned her head back wearily against the wall as the room began to brighten with the first rays of the morning sun. Steed sat next to her on the floor, eyes still intent on Lord Stanton, who had finally fallen silent. He had been speaking for hours; relaying with a cold, clinical voice the beginnings of the Agent Project and the covert Ministry's involvement. The facts he gave them were so disturbing that neither had bothered to interrupt the narrative. All they could do was listen.

Mrs. Peel welcomed the sudden quiet and struggled to organize the myriad of facts that whirled around in her brain: About the German discovery of what they thought was a biological basis for the consistency of behavior during World War II. How the British government had stumbled upon the findings at the end of the war and quickly appropriated the research with the intention of carrying on the program. How the Special Project's section of the Ministry had developed a system outside normal channels to monitor the project. About the subjects that had been tracked as part of the project; her mother's father and Steed's parents among them.

Then, how Steed's parents had along with others of the small experimental test community refused to cooperate further. And how they had all kept close ties to one another when they left the program. How Steed's father and mother had met through the relationships that were maintained over the years; and that they had married shortly after his father had returned from the war. With the benefit of government access to all government records, it had made it very convenient for the Ministry to keep track of them.

And the children they bred. Then, Stanton began relaying Emma's mother's history...

Because of Sara Whitelaw, her mother's family hadn't been as closely interwoven with the community as the other families. So Kathryn Whitelaw's history and medical records had been something of a mystery to the Ministry. It was John Knight as a part of the Agent project who was dispatched to recover that information. That was how her parents had met. Mrs. Peel was shocked to learn that her mother's father and the legend of the "Whitelaw Women" lay behind the reason her father had originally pursued Kathryn.

"Unfortunately, Knight fell in love with Kathryn. On the plus side once they were married, she saw Ministry doctors and we were able to obtain a complete history," Stanton continued. "It was an important acquisition for the Ministry. On the down side, after their marriage he was less committed to the program. The following year, I was given the position of heading Special Operations in the Ministry. Knight eventually reunited a great number of the second generation members of the families that we had been observing under Hermes during World War II."

"Kathryn carried the original traits," Stanton continued not looking at either of them. "But its purity was diluted by the introduction of your father's and grandmother's profile. You have some of the original material the scientist's identified in your make-up as well Emma."

"Both Steed's parents were a part of the original test group. So the strain present in Steed, is as potent, if not more so than the first individuals that were discovered."

Emma glanced at Steed. Like her, he too had remained silent through Lord Stanton's monologue, carefully trying to digest all the facts he was receiving. Lord Stanton went on, "With further evidence of German discoveries, we made the decision to start bringing in some of the descendants of the original project for training and research. During World War II, when Steed was on a mission and Margaret realized she was pregnant, Steed's older brother married her. Then later everyone thought that Steed had died. At her death it was easy to spirit Patrick away. He made the ideal subject to test the nature versus nurture theory of the behaviors we had observed. William believed us when we said that he died with his mother and Steed never knew that he had a son. When Steed turned back up alive it didn't matter. All he knew was that Margaret had married William. It was fascinating to see how he reacted to what he saw as the ultimate betrayal. Steed became the perfect control to judge against." Stanton didn't notice Steed's sudden agitation he was so intent on clearing up what he felt was Emma's misunderstanding of his role in her life.

"Emma, with your early intellectual development and our lack of a complete understanding of your background," Lord Stanton continued, looking intently at Emma. "Some of the researchers suggested you be sequestered for study, but your parent's refused. In spite of myself, I had grown very fond of both your mother and father. I was afraid they were putting themselves in danger. And being in a position of power at that point, I was able to quash the idea. I was furious when it was brought to my attention. They were much too public of a couple for it to have worked. So I made the deal that you saw, Steed's son for your safety. It seemed harmless enough at the time. We really did think Steed was dead at that point. Then Steed returned. John couldn't reveal anything about Patrick to Steed or the deal was off. Kathryn died and your father did everything within his power to make sure that you never came into contact with the Ministry. He was quite ruthless about it, and completely successful. Eventually, the idea was dropped. No one wanted to risk your father revealing everything he knew. Not when the remainder of the project was going so well. I know you must think harshly of us, but we really did want what was best."

Stanton stopped for a moment, gripped by the memories. "After you were widowed, I tried to stop Steed. The whole idea of making you his partner was ill advised. Then, you started working with Steed. The two of you were so successful together, the whole subject of your history and getting you involved directly in the project was reopened. Your partnership was fascinating in its completeness. It was only after you left him, that Steed began to look into some of the less savory aspects of Ministry activities. That is when the present difficulties started. Steed has become too honorable for his own good."

At that point, a look of utter weariness settled on Lord Stanton's face. "I had thought when André had Tara attacked that it might be enough to get Steed to stop, but that only seemed to make him more driven. And in the meantime, André recognized Steed as the one person who could bring the entire project to its knees. He began setting Steed up. Distorting Steed's actions for the purpose of destroying him within the Ministry."

"I did everything I could to protect Steed, in spite of his sometimes erratic behavior," Stanton stopped again, pressing a finger to his mouth in frustration at the memories.

Mrs. Peel broke in then, bitterly, "How noble."

"Oh I know what you both must think of me," Stanton replied. "But you haven't lived with the facts as I know them. This project could save millions in the future. It still can."

Emma fell silent again, and waited for him to go on to the next depressing chapter.

"André finally came to the house one night to issue an ultimatum to me. The Special Projects section of the Ministry was ready to take definitive action against Steed. I could resist, and join his fate, leaving you to the powers at the Agent Project. Or I could step aside, not interfere, and live."

He'd met her eyes before saying; "I chose the latter. By that point I knew things were going wrong, but it's too late to go back. Once Steed stops interfering we can regain control of the project." Lord Stanton had ceased speaking then, looking at the two of them sitting across the room. That was the point they were now at. Mrs. Peel rose slowly to her feet and Steed followed. She stopped, standing before him.

"How could you, Lord Stanton? How could you do any of this?"

He snorted softly in reply and refused to answer.

She heard Steed speak calmly then, at her side, "Who is Mr. André, exactly?"

Emma glanced up, meeting Steed's eyes. "You're worried about him aren't you?"

Steed didn't reply.

"You should be," Lord Stanton went on. "He's another project subject, trained after you. After the Special Operation's section of the Ministry learned from their mistakes. A sense of honor is not necessarily a good thing. In essence, he is the perfect agent. Steed, You were the only person who could derail his plan to take over the Ministry. He set you up so easily. He possesses all the finely honed abilities that you have, without that bothersome well-developed sense of right and wrong."

"A sociopath," said Mrs. Peel.

"Yes, but without the psychopathic characteristics that others who were segregated have tended towards." Lord Stanton nodded. "When the time came and he was considered ready, the Special Operations Section insured that he was installed at the highest level of the Ministry."

Mrs. Peel knit her brow in confusion. André had never seemed that 'capable' to her. She, Spenser and Peter had been able to thwart him on every occasion. Unless...

An ugly awareness began to dawn on her. Spenser!

"What's his real agenda?" Steed asked, tension thrumming in his voice.

Lord Stanton opened his mouth to speak again, but was interrupted when the door flew open.

Steed and Mrs. Peel spun around to see Tara and another agent explode into the room with guns drawn, followed by André.

The male agent, grabbed Steed and pulled him back toward the wall; pressing the barrel of his Glock 9mm to his jaw.

Tara stepped up and covered Mrs. Peel, arm outstretched, a gun pointing at her chest.

André cocked his eyebrows in amusement. "My agenda Steed is power, pure unlimited power for the British government. Everyone who might have stood in my way is here or they will be. But, isn't this a pretty picture?" he drawled. He stepped carefully around Mrs. Peel and Tara to stand by Lord Stanton's chair.

"And we also have another guest..." André indicated the door.

Mark and Charles walked in, quickly taking up posts behind Mr. Peel.

Mrs. Peel gasped then as Peter and a gun wielding Spenser entered the room.

"You know, Tara and I were headed here, and we just happened to run into Mr. Peel and Mr. Spenser on the way," André continued in his mocking, jovial manner. "Funny how coincidence works, isn't it?"

Mrs. Peel glared at him, hatred burning in her expression.

"What? Speechless, Mrs. Peel? I'm shocked," he finished sarcastically. He looked then at Steed, eyes ablaze with malice. "You two thought you were so clever," he spat. "Funny, I always heard you were a genus at chess. Too bad you never figured out that there was a trap during the end play that I engineered from the very beginning."

André gave a menacing laugh when he noticed Mrs. Peel's expression. "Did you really think I was that stupid?"

Emma shrank back as he reached out to coil a strand of her hair around his finger. "You did everything exactly the way I expected you to, my dear Mrs. Peel. I think you have even been sleeping with Steed. Of course, had we caught you two earlier, that would have been better. But it doesn't matter. You ended up exactly where I intended you to."

Steed looked over at Peter and Spenser, seeing desperation and pain in Emma's husband's eyes. Andre's comment about Emma sleeping with Steed had hit home. Apperently Peter hadn't suspected anything. Spenser looked agitated as if he couldn't quite make up his mind about everything that was occurring. Steed knew it was unlikely that he would get much help from either man. Turning his attention to the impassive faces of the agents in the room, he searched for an opening; even the tiniest break in their concentration would do.

Meanwhile, André continued his verbal torment of Mrs. Peel. "You couldn't leave it alone, could you?" he asked. "You should have just let the Ministry take care of Steed when we brought him in and gone off on your merry way like Stanton intended." His voice turned venomous, "Instead, you had to let him go. That decision has cost me millions. Well, now it's time to pay the piper."

"André," Lord Stanton started. "I'm certain there's some way we can work this out. If you'd just--"

"Shut up," André interrupted. "You've caused me enough inconvenience as it is, with all your storytelling."

André signaled to Tara and she raised the gun, pushing the cold steel into Mrs. Peel's cheek.

"I'm sure you feel much better now that Lord Stanton's told you all our dirty secrets," he said to Mrs. Peel. "He certainly left no skeleton unturned."

"Do you always mix up your metaphors?" Emma asked mockingly.

Andre's face contorted with rage for an instant at her taunting, and then he regained control. "Good one," he smirked, turning to Lord Stanton again. "But now I'm afraid you'll have to learn the cost of telling tales out of school. We are going to show you how we deal with traitors."

At that, Tara smiled, eyes glinting malevolently in anticipation of what was to come. Steed began to struggle, alarmed at Andre's words. They would kill Emma without a second thought. Steed was sure of it. The man holding Steed responded by giving him a sharp blow to the midsection. But before Steed could double over, he jammed the gun brutally in Steed's face.

"Now, Steed," André warned. "Be a good boy and behave yourself."

He glanced over at Peter and chuckled again, evilly. "Too bad your wife's actions and revelations caused you to obey your conscience. If you had just reported to me the way I told you too you wouldn't have had to be here for this" André sneered, turning back to Steed. "You don't have to have one you know. It's a lot easier when one isn't bothered by adolescent morality."

Features hardening suddenly, André looked back at Mrs. Peel. "Unfortunately, Lord Stanton got an attack of the guilt's and spilled the beans. Now you know everything. And in my position, I simply can't allow that."

He nodded finally at Tara, while Steed, Peter, and Spenser all closed their eyes, waiting. Mrs. Peel looked in the younger woman's eyes defiantly, flinching as the shattering noise of the gunshot filled the room.

Steed's eyes flew open, then widened in amazement at the sight of Mrs. Peel still standing.

"Lord Stanton!" he heard her cry out, and he realized that Tara had been aiming at Emma's godfather when she'd pulled the trigger.

An eerie silence arose for an instant as Charles and Mark both knelt at Lord Stanton's side, checking for some sign of life. "It's over, you two," Andre's voice broke into the quiet.

"Sir, you had no authorization from the Ministry for this," Charles rasped, looking at him in anger.

"Quiet," André snapped. "You aren't paid to think about these things. And if you insist on doing so, then remember: there's plenty more bullets in Tara's gu --"

He broke off as Mrs. Peel began to sob softly, sinking to the floor. "Oh my god...."

Tara moved back, looking disgusted at what she perceived as an unexpected display of weakness on Emma's part. And Steed could only watch, feeling Emma's seemingly unbearable anguish as his own fury mounted. Then, he saw her eyes flick up to his for an instant, in mid-wail, and he read the determination that flared in her expression. He understood then what she was going to do.

Just as her fingers touched the floor, Mrs. Peel knew it was time to act. She'd seen the flash of comprehension on Steed's face, and trusted that he would follow her lead. Without warning, she lunged toward Tara, knocking the smaller woman off balance. All she needed now was to get to her gun that rested on the small table at Stanton's side. As Tara began to fall, the agent who was guarding Steed instinctively moved forward. The tiny opening was all he required.

Steed whirled, striking the man in the face with the heel of his hand. The agent dropped to the floor like a stone and Steed turned, grabbing the arm of the woman agent guarding Peter; the same hand that held the gun. He twisted around until she was behind him, her arm tucked under his as she fought to retain control of the weapon.

Mrs. Peel heard the scuffle as if from far away as she scrambled toward the table... She felt, rather than saw Tara regain her equilibrium, and she spun, pushing the woman again, grabbing for the Glock in the younger agent's hand.

Peter had only watched up to that point, frozen in shock, and he finally shook himself free. Elbowing Spenser in the ribs, he turned on him as he began to struggle with one of the remaining agents.

The room dissolved into chaos. André watched with a calm detachment, waiting for some clue, some hint of the outcome.

Steed finally wrenched the gun from the female agent, shoving her back into the wall with enough force to knock the wind from her. Armed now, he stepped toward Mrs. Peel and Tara.

Emma had struck the woman in the mouth and Tara lurched backwards, arms flailing in an effort to regain her balance. Turning for an instant, Mrs. Peel could see that Steed was free. "Run!" she screamed, seeing him hesitate. "Get out of here! Get to the chopper! You're the only one who can stop them. The only one the crown will believe. We're going to need to make a quick escape, goddamn it!"

Steed froze for a second, knowing her logic was sound but not wanting to leave them.

"Steed -- go!" she shouted again.

Steed turned, confident that Mrs. Peel would be all right, he left the fight.

André chose that moment to mobilize into action. "Tara, get him back here. Now!" he thundered as Tara stumbled from the room, chasing after Steed. Just then, the agent that Steed had stolen the gun from grabbed Mrs. Peel from behind.

As the two fought, Mrs. Peel glanced at Charles and Mark, who had not moved a muscle since the conflict began. For a split second, she wondered why. Putting the thought out of her mind, she concentrated on the agent and her Wembly, lying on the table so tantalizingly out of reach.

André followed her gaze and moved toward the table for the gun, shouting at Mark and Charles as he did so, "Move you two, or I'll sign your death warrants today as well!"

Both stared at him. Neither moved. By then, Peter and had overwhelmed the last man, disarming him. Peter held them at gunpoint while Mark advanced on Mrs. Peel and the woman whom she was struggling with.

The two agents glanced at each other, making a decision. Mark drew his gun suddenly, pointing at the two women. Peter jumped back at the loud report of the automatic, watching as the female agent fell, blood seeping from a wound in her side.

"You sons of bitches," André began, in a maniacal rage, as he raised the gun toward Mark.

Another shot rang out, and André looked at Charles, surprise and disbelief blooming on his features as his eyes dropped down to the dark stain spreading across his midsection. He fell back then, letting go of the gun and trying to compress the gunshot wound in his gut. Gasping in pain, André made a final, desperate lunge for Mrs. Peel.

Charles fired again, this time hitting him in the head. André sank to the floor, motionless.

Mrs. Peel gave herself a quick shake, trying to regain her bearings now that the multiple threats seemed to be over. One traitor was unconscious; the other dead. Peter was covering the other one, and they seemed to have no need to fear Charles and Mark.

"Em," she heard Peter say suddenly, urgently. "Go after Steed! He needs your help; We have control of the situation here!"

His words snapped her to attention. The last she had seen, Tara had been following after Steed. He was unarmed.

And Tara had her gun.

Emma grabbed the Wembly, lying on the floor next to the still form of André and darted from the room without giving the others another glance. Steed was in mortal danger -- she needed to save him before it was too late.

Silence descended upon the room at her departure, save the rasp of Peter's breathing. He took several deep breaths, trying to calm his inner turmoil. He wanted to stop Emma, but he knew in his heart that Steed was the man she belonged with.

"Jesus." He heard Spenser say, dazed.

Peter stepped over to Stanton and felt for a pulse. He gave up after a moment, realizing that the man was dead.

He turned to Charles. "Why did you two help us?" he asked, disbelief evident in his voice.

"You'll have to ask Steed about that," Charles responded.

"Wait a minute," Peter said incredulously. "You're telling me that Steed knew about André? That he planned all this?"

Charles shrugged; clearly indicating that Peter was on his own in figuring this out.

Then Mark spoke, "Mr. Peel, let's just say that we owed Steed a favor. And he's a man who likes to hedge his bets. André made the mistake of underestimating him one time too many."

"Unbelievable," Peter muttered, his head jerked up at the sound of another gunshot from outside.

"My god. Emma,..." he trailed off, meeting Spenser' eyes, then using the gun but to knock Spenser unconscious. Peter then moved quickly to the door.

Mrs. Peel sped down the main stairs, bursting through the front door and pausing on the porch, trying to remember the direction of the helipad. She heard the explosion of a gun somewhere behind the back of the house and she vaulted over the side railing, landing heavily on the ground. Taking a deep breath, she headed swiftly in the direction of the noise.

The sun had fully risen long before, and the terrain ahead was lit in a bright glare as the frost on the ground sparkled and winked at her. She could see Steed, far ahead, running in an erratic path toward the helipad. Tara was about 500 feet behind him and gaining rapidly. The younger woman had evidently discarded her high-heeled boots in an effort to make pursuit easier.

Running and gasping for breath, Mrs. Peel shouted as she saw Tara stop and take careful aim with the Glock at the fleeing figure of Steed in front of her.

"Steed, LOOK OUT!"

He glanced over his shoulder, slowing for a moment at the sound of her voice.

Tara chose that instant to fire, and Mrs. Peel felt her gut wrench at the sight of Steed stumbling and falling to the ground.

"NO!" Emma screamed, raising her gun. She focused on the familiar feel of the revolver, gripping it in both hands, one braced beneath the other, steadying it.

She readied herself and sighted down the barrel, as she had on the range so many times in the past. The inner fear and rage she felt at seeing Steed go down seemed to flow down her arm into the gun like a physical thing. Concentrating, she pulled off two rapid shots in succession, paused, then fired two more.

Mrs. Peel watched with detachment as Tara was knocked forward, a red blot splashing across her back where the bullets had entered and then made a quick exit through her chest. Covering the remaining distance between herself and Steed's former partner, Emma didn't stop, didn't give her a second glance. Whether Tara was dead or alive didn't matter to her, the only thing that mattered was Steed. Running to him as fast as she could Emma dropped down next to him, noticing the dark stain of blood pooling on the frozen ground. An intense fear gripped her.

"Steed?" she asked sharply and she turned him over, hands reaching out to grasp his face. "Are you still with me, Steed?"

Steed's eyes fluttered open at the tension in her voice, and he tried to focus on her. He felt light-headed, cold, and realized that he must have been hit.

"Emma?" he whispered.

"Steed," she bit out frantically, fingers fumbling at his shoulder to inspect the wound that pumped there. "Be still for a second and try not to talk. We have to try and stop the bleeding."

She unzipped her jacket and covered him, ripping at her catsuit to try and get some material to press against the gaping hole from the bullet. Steed's eyes closed again, and she was afraid he was going into shock.

"Steed!" she cried out. 'Listen to me, hold on! Come on, Steed! Look at me!"

Emma pressed the cloth to his chest and he winced at the pain of the pressure.

His eyes opened again, glassy from the throbbing ache of the gunshot and the loss of blood. The ground was so cold, and he knew instinctively that the warmth he felt spreading beneath him was his own lifeblood. He looked up, meeting the torment in her eyes.

"Oh damn, Steed," she cried. "You have to hold on! You have to stay with me or you'll go into shock. Come on Steed." She pressed harder, trying to staunch the terrible flow of blood.

"Emma," he said faintly again, reaching up with his good arm to fumble at his throat.

"Don't talk, Steed," she said again. "And don't move either. You need to conserve your strength."

She glanced down and saw the blood soaking the cloth of her shirt; swelling beneath her fingertips. "Oh god," she said, voice trembling. "Oh please Steed, stay with me here. You're going to be all right."

He smiled faintly at the brave lie, noticing the quiver of her lips and the tears that had broken free to run down her cheeks. She was so beautiful....

Mrs. Peel increased her pressure on the wound, trying by sheer force to stop the bleeding. "Come on Steed, hang on. I know you can do it. For god's sake, you can do anything. So hang on."

Steed heard her words from far away. The pain in his chest was lessening, and he could feel a seductive lassitude spreading throughout his body. He knew it wouldn't be much longer before he lost consciousness.

"Take this," he said, gesturing with an OBE medal. "Find my son and give him this. Tell them about me. About us..." Steed quieted suddenly, staring at her, eyes losing focus.

"No, Steed!" she cried, tears flowing now in torrents from her eyes. "You can tell him yourself. You will tell him yourself. Oh god..."

He heard the anguish in her voice as it faded, and he closed his eyes.

"Steed, wait!" Emma sobbed as panic seized her. "Don't go, please! Goddamn it Steed, listen!"

She bent over, pressing the warmth of her lips against his cold ones, her teardrops moistening his cheeks. "Oh no," she wept in desperation, gathering him to her.

"I love you," she whispered. "You can't leave me here alone. Oh god, Steed. I love you."

Oh Steed, she thought, she felt him dying in her arms there on the ground at Buckinghamshire. Despite herself, the tears began again. The pain and confusion of the feeling was overwhelming.

Suddenly, she'd felt at the touch of Peter's hand on her shoulder and the sound of his calm voice saying, "Em, listen to me. We need to keep him warm now and get on that chopper to a hospital as quickly as possible. I know a man at Manbury who'll help us..."

 

Chapter 17

Peter knew what he had to do. The chase, Emma's reluctance to betray Steed, the look on her face in Paris had all combined to make him wonder if keeping her, making her honor her vows was really right. Meeting an old flame while Emma had been in Swindon had made Peter realize that he wanted a woman who put him first, who looked up to him the way that Em had when they were first married, a way that the woman that he returned to never would. It was funny because he knew he loved Emma as much as he ever had, in some ways more because he found himself respecting her for who she was. He just didn't want to be married to the woman she had become. That final night when she'd found Stanton, when he saw the look on her face when Steed was shot he knew the truth was that he was the wrong man. He tried to be kind, but he knew that it hadn't really helped.

Emma stood at the bedroom window, looking out at the moonlit landscape below. Her thoughts were scattered and confusing, and she took a deep breath, trying to rearrange them into some coherent order. The events of the past two weeks seemed unreal, and her heart ached with the pain of the memories.

Steed had known what they faced and kept her in the dark. So many times he had kept her in the dark, but this time it had mattered, oh how it had mattered. If she had known she wouldn't have insisted that they see Stanton, Steed wouldn't have been shot.

Emma's marriage to Peter was finally over, and the advice he had imparted with his decision had done nothing but intensify her troubled spirit. He'd said that he wanted out. That he was in love with someone else. Peter was trying in the only way he could to protect her, but Emma recognized the lie for what it was. She was so like him in some ways. For as long as she could remember, Peter had acted selfishly; pushing aside the welfare of others for his own personal gain. Like her since meeting Steed he had changed. Peter was being noble, for her sake. Knowing the real truth didn't make her feel any better. And now that her marriage was officially dead Peter was free from the consequences of her newfound awareness. Steed and she still had to live with what her parents had done to protect her, what she'd done to Steed when Peter had returned. How her stubborn insistence on learning the truth from Stanton had almost gotten Steed killed!

A light knock on the door startled her and she opened it to see George standing outside.

"Steed's showing more signs of consciousness," he said gently, looking at her with concern. "I thought you might like to know."

"Thanks, George," she replied quietly. "I'll head down there in a little while."

He nodded and left her alone then.

By the grace of god, somehow, Steed had pulled through, and now it looked like he was going to be all right.

Emma swiped at her eyes, and looked at herself in the mirror. It was time.

After two weeks of reflection, she had made a decision. She was going to leave; take some time to sort everything out, give Steed the chance to get to know his son, to regain some of what her family had cost him. The moment had come for her to move on. Her company would continue to thrive without her, her husband was gone. Peter had recognized the futility of their marriage long before Emma had been willing to admit that she should have never left Steed. But she had and no matter how many times Steed forgave her, she couldn't seem to forgive herself. If there was one thing she had learned from Peter's return it was that one couldn't make the people one loved happy, if you weren't happy yourself. Emma couldn't imagine how she could ever make Steed happy when she disliked herself so much. She also knew that if she didn't leave before Steed could try and stop her, she never would. Leaving made perfect sense. Except that she wanted and needed Steed. A line from one of her Mother's letter's came back to her. Hate has a reason for everything, it is love that is unreasonable.

Emma gave herself one last glance, ran her fingers through her hair, and headed toward the door.

Mrs. Peel opened the door to Steed's room gently and entered the softly lit room. Peter rose from the chair beside the bed and walked toward her. It was funny, but since Peter told her he was leaving her, things between them had gotten better. It was as if they had reached a place where they were both comfortable, if not happy.

Peter paused and gently reached up to touch her cheek. "It really is going to be all right, Em," he reassured her. "I guess I'll leave you two alone." Peter looked back before he left. Knowing that Emma belonged with Steed still hurt, but now that he'd admitted it he felt like he was seeing Emma, the real Emma for the first time in his life. She was so much more, more woman, more exciting, more amazing than he had ever imagined. It was exciting and frightening. But she wasn't his and even if Steed had died she never would have been.

Emma heard the door click shut and turned back to the still form lying on the bed.

Steed.

Concentrating, Emma picked up the steady sound of Steed's breathing, and she closed her eyes, losing herself in the feel of his presence. Such an amazing man. Steed had been betrayed not only by his country but by her and yet he still behaved honorably. Still forgave them. Still loved them both. Still loved her and wanted a future with her.

After a while, she lowered herself to the chair that Peter had vacated and stared at Steed.

He looked so weak; nothing like the vigorous, powerful, playful man she loved. But she knew with a little time, the Steed she remembered would return. She just wouldn't be there to see it. At least not for the time being. Mrs. Peel felt the urge to cry assail her, but she fought it. It would do no good to get upset again, especially not here with Steed. She couldn't let him pick up on her anguish. He would know and he would try to stop her. She had come to say good-bye, and that was what she would do.

Thinking back, Emma savored all the intimate moments they had shared over the years. Remembering the beginning of their friendship, then their partnership, then their more intimate relationship. She could still feel his hands on her body. The first time he had made love to her was imprinted on her soul. The look on his face when she had shown up alone at the polo match in Swindon. His phone calls to her at Knight Industry's from her apartment when he wanted her so badly that he couldn't stand to be apart any longer when she was working. And the sight of him in her bathroom shaving, after their marathons of intense sex. As if being there had been the most normal thing in the world.

André had been right about the one thing he hadn't been able to prove - she had been helping Steed from the first. Steed's shock when she'd kissed him in his cell at the Ministry, before releasing him was one of the few times she could remember his totally losing his composure.

Emma knew that there would never again be a man in her life like Steed. No one could know her like he did; no one could love her the way he did. Yet at the same time, she believed that a real relationship between them was still impossible. She was convinced that there hadn't been a ghost of a chance at such a thing in the first place. They wanted such different things out of life. Adding in the cold, dark shadow of Peter and her betrayal of Steed to return to Peter made it hard. Her insistence on seeing Stanton and thereby getting Steed shot and almost killed sealed her fate.

Mrs. Peel realized that she had been a prisoner of her past the whole time she'd known Steed. Driven by expectations about whom she was and how she was supposed to be behave. First her father's, then Peter's, societies. Her OWN. With Steed's help she had begun to move away from those expectations, to grow, but the one set of expectations she didn't seem to be able to escape was her own. She certainly hadn't lived up to them in the last year. Emma could hear Steed's voice saying, "I'm telling you it's foolish to assume that this is going to give you all the answers you want. Even if you get them, it won't mean that all your problems will be solved and you can start living as you wish again."

Well, he was wrong about one thing. She was ready to start living her own life. Even if her problems hadn't been solved, she could walk away and sort everything out. Which was exactly what she was going to do. By herself. She had earned that right. And Steed deserved this as well, she thought. The chance to go on without the weight of what she had done hanging around his neck. Knowing it was the honorable thing didn't make her feel any better, but she would not be deterred. All that was left was the final farewell, but she couldn't yet bring herself to do it.

Suddenly, Steed stirred and she sat up, leaning towards him. His eyes opened sluggishly.

Emma slid off the chair, onto her knees by the side of the bed. Reaching up, she grasped his hand.

"Hello, Steed."

Steed smiled weakly, his eyes brightening at the sight of her. "Where are we? What happened?" he asked in a faint voice.

"We're at George's, in Athens," she responded quickly. "You've been in and out of consciousness for close to fourteen days now."

"How...?" he began, falling silent when she shook her head slightly.

"Don't talk yet, Steed," she said. "I'll tell you everything. Peter and I lifted you out of Shirestone in the helicopter and flew you to Manbury. There was a doctor there that Peter knew who was able to help us. You had lost a great deal of blood and it was pretty touch and go for a while..."

Steed gripped her hand tightly as her voice broke when she remembered the time in the hospital. She laughed at herself suddenly. As weak as he was now, she was still drawing on his strength.

"Anyway," Emma continued, drawing a sharp breath. "He got you patched up, and as soon as your condition was stable we brought you up here. George was more than willing to help us out, and I knew we wouldn't be disturbed. Mother is back in charge for the moment so dealing with the Ministry can wait until your better."

Emma stopped, and heard Steed whisper, "André? Your husband?"

"Peter's fine - we're finished. He's asked for a divorce." she answered quietly. "André is dead. At least I assume so. Tara too, I think although I'm not sure. We were only concerned with getting you out of there. It all happened so fast, and Mark warned us that there were reinforcements on the way to Shirestone. We weren't sure whose side they would be on. There was no way to tell the players without a program. Neither the crown's side or the group who were effectively usurping the Ministry for their own purposes wore their allegiances on their sleeves and many still weren't sure what side they should take.. We haven't been in touch with anyone since we arrived in Greece. You are going to have a lot of clean up to do when you return to London."

Steed smiled again, and lay still, content just to have her with him. Raising her hand to his mouth, he moved his lips over her palm and felt her shiver.

Mrs. Peel leaned in close and spoke again, "Now I have to ask you something: Did you know that André was going to ambush us?"

Steed's eyes glinted at her, and he said, "Yes, I'm a professional. Don't ever doubt my abilities again, right?"

"Damn it Steed," she began to cry again. "You should have told me."

"You wanted the confrontation with Stanton so badly I couldn't. I didn't know they would start shooting," he answered. "You have to believe that. I thought they would try to bring you into their system, to corrupt you. Charles and Mark were prepared to prevent them from taking you. Spenser's grabbing Peter caused the situation to deteriorate beyond my ability to control it."

"And so you've ended up here, another scar to your credit," Emma spoke slowly. "That's a big price to pay."

"It was worth it. But I think we're going to Paris after this."

"You're going to be all right, Steed. It'll just take some time and rest, and you'll be back to your old, infuriating self."

"What about you?" Steed asked.

"Me?" Emma stood and turned away, wiping her eyes. "Well, you were right, I guess. Finding out the truth didn't make me feel any better. I understand that my Father thought what he did was right, but…."

Emma glanced back at Steed and heard him say, "It isn't always fun to be right."

"I know, Steed. I'll be fine. I always am."

If Steed had been stronger he would have recognized the lie in her voice, but he didn't. Emma smiled and felt the tears begin anew. Tenderly, she drew her fingers across Steed's brow and kissed him lightly on the mouth. He sighed with pleasure and she lay her head on his good shoulder until she could tell by the rhythmic sound of his breathing that he was asleep again.

Looking up, she kissed him one last time, whispering against his mouth. "Good-bye, Steed."

Rising, she headed back to the door and into the hallway where Peter waited impatiently.

"He woke up," she told him. "I told him what happened. He seems to be pretty cognizant of everything, but he's sleeping again."

"Fine," Peter replied suspicious at Emma's calm countenance. "I'll go sit with him. Em, how are you?"

"I'll live," she said shortly, turning to head back to the double doors of her room.

Once there, she gazed at the suitcase tucked in the corner and tried to ignore the hollow feeling in the pit of her stomach. Emma had to do one last thing before leaving. Making her way over to the small writing desk, she sat down, pulling a pen and paper toward her....

Mrs. Peel stopped at the foot of the stairs and set down the suitcase. Taking a deep breath, she entered the sunroom where Peter now sat before the fire with George.

The two had obviously been discussing something significant, for they lapsed into silence at her approach.

"Is something wrong with Steed, Peter?" she questioned.

"No," he replied shortly. "George and I were just talking about a personal issue that I have to resolve."

"I see," she said when he didn't elaborate. "Well, I'll let you two be. I just stopped here to say good-bye. I'm leaving."

Both men looked at her in shocked surprise, and Peter opened his mouth to speak.

"Don't start, Peter," she said, cutting him off. "I've decided it's time to leave. You know, take some time for myself, be on my own, sort things out?" When neither responded, she went on, "There's nothing here for me now, and it's time I sorted out who I really am. What I want?"

"But Steed," Peter broke in.

"Steed will be fine," she said, hoping her voice sounded stronger than she felt. "He has you two here to help him, and then it'll be time for him to reunite with his son and retake his place at the Ministry."

Emma glanced over at George, and saw that he was regarding her with a sorrowful expression. No doubt he was thinking about the fates and the impossible situation Emma faced. Emma knew George would watch over Steed and was wise enough to recognize that she needed to find herself before she could deal with Steed and their destiny, whether it was apart or as one.

"Em, you love..." Peter began again, sounding as though he wanted to argue with her.

"Please, Peter -- try to understand. It's not enough. This is something I have to do."

George put a calming hand on Peter's arm and Peter clamped his mouth shut, disapproval blazing in his eyes, but Emma knew he would let her leave.

Emma held out two envelopes to Peter. "Please give these to Steed," she said. "One contains proof of Andre's treachery and the location of Steed's son. The other is a letter; explaining."

Peter took them and then both men rose. She gave each a hug, and then headed quickly back to the hallway.

Mrs. Peel looked at them one last time. "Good-bye," she said softly, turning and walking out the front door.

Stopping on the front porch for a moment, she sucked the icy winter air into her lungs and suppressed the tears that threatened once again. Then she headed toward her car and the world that was waiting out there for her.

George and Peter watched quietly as she left. George, wiser by years said quietly. "This is not over Peter. It's just beginning. She'll be back. Someday. You and I may not understand, but Steed will.


Chapter 18

Steed sat in the chair by the window, grasping the letter that Peter had just given him. But it seemed almost meaningless to him now that he knew for sure that she was gone again. Swallowing past the tightness that felt like a rock in his throat, he opened the letter and began to read...

Dearest Steed,

You're reading this, so you already know that I've left. I'm sorry that Peter is the one breaking the news to you, but I couldn't ask George.

I know that you're feeling hurt and confused, but I hope you can understand that this is the right conclusion for what's gone on between us. My husband is not the man I want, but I can't just move from him to you. I don't deserve you after the things I've done. I want you to know that my leaving doesn't have anything to do with you. It's something that I need to do, and I've put it off for far too long. It's something that I can only do alone. I have to come to terms with my actions; this 'Mrs. Peel', whose flesh and blood I'm walking around in. I've made conscious choices that hurt the people I love most terribly and I now regret a lot of my decisions. I don't know if I can ever come back to you, but that's due to my own actions. I trust that you, of all people will understand.

As for you Steed, there's one last thing I'd like you to know. You should understand that you aren't responsible for all the things that happened to other people because of the war. Terrible things went on then, but they were beyond your control. I realize that you have felt you have a tremendous debt to pay. You've spent the last twenty or more years paying it. I think at some point, you need to forgive yourself. See your son. I hope your greatest expectations are fulfilled. You have earned the right to be happy.

I will love you always.

Forever,
Emma

Steed closed his eyes, and thought about the words she had written. His heart ached with the pain of losing her again, but a tiny part of him acknowledged the wisdom in what she had said.

It was the right solution. For now.

There was a knock on the door, and Peter opened it, leaning his head in. Steed seemed oblivious to his presence.

Steed looked out the window again, but the spectacular view went unnoticed. Instead, he seemed to see the future for a moment. "This isn't over," he spoke aloud. "We will meet again, Emma. And the next time, things will be very different." His voice trembled with the intensity of his feelings, and then he folded the letter carefully, clutching it like a lifeline.

Peter looked at the man he had hated because Emma loved him and knew that Steed was a good man, the right man. Peter cleared his throat quietly.

"Come in, Peter," Steed said, waiting until the other man stood next to him.

"Steed, I know Em. She loves you, is in love with you. She will come back to you - when she can…. She just needs time to sort this all out…." Peter hurt, for himself, for Steed, but mostly for Emma. It had taken extreme times, but Peter finally understood. Emma loved them. Both of them. Emma just loved Steed much more than Peter in part because Emma got something from Steed that Peter had never and knew that he would never be able to give. Total acceptance. Emma needed Steed, his easy acceptance of all her strengths and weaknesses. Steed understood and forgave Emma when she couldn't understand or forgive herself. This past year, Emma had loved two men, she had tried to do what she saw as the honorable thing and failed. The effort had torn her apart.

Steed looked at the man he had hated so much for taking Emma away and realized that Emma had been right. Peter was a good man. Just not the right man for Emma. Smiling slightly, Steed ignored Peter's words. Instead asking, "So how long will it be until I can be up and around, and start getting back to normal?" he asked. "I have a pressing engagement in London, and I'd like to get there as soon as possible."


Chapter 19

Mrs. Peel opened her bag in her small bedroom and absently pulled out the picture frame that she carried with her always. Behind the picture of Peter and her was one of she and Steed. In Paris during her birthday trip last year. Emma hadn't opened it since before she and Steed reconnected. As she unfolded it, a small piece of paper fluttered to the floor.

Frowning, she picked it up, recognizing Steed's familiar writing:

Dearest Emma,

I hope you find the answers you're looking for.
When you do come back to me. I will be waiting.
If you can't, relish your life and remember us fondly.
I know I will.

Love always,
John

Emma sank down on the bed, crumpling the note. Steed knew. Steed had known all along that she'd have to leave him again. She couldn't decide whether she loved or hated him for understanding her so well.

"Goddamn it, Steed."

Mrs. Peel buried her face in her hands, and wept.

 

Epilogue - 6 Months Later

Upon her return to England two days earlier Emma and Peter made their final peace. The intervening six months had brought many changes for everyone involved in this theater of the absurd. Their divorce had been handled via post and had been amicable. Peter had moved on, finding a less independent woman who didn't excite him the way Emma did, but who made him feel complete. He found it very easy to tell Emma all about Julie and wondered why.

In the end, Peter and Emma decided that a firm and lasting friendship between the two of them was possible, though it would be difficult and take lots of time to redevelop the trust they had once shared. Peter thought that Emma seemed more at peace with the decisions she had made. Peter didn't ask about Emma and Steed's future. Over the last six months, Steed and he had developed a rather strange friendship as they had conspired to keep an eye on Emma, tracking her progress, both physical and emotional. Peter had his own ideas about how Emma should make her peace with Steed. Peter wondered if it would be gauche of him to ask if he could give the bride away if everything worked out the way he thought it would. If nothing else it would set society on its ear.

Emma's former husband was now out of town on Knight Industry business so Emma was alone on a chilly early autumn evening, secluded in she and Peter's country estate miles outside of town. Emma roused up from what seemed to be an incredibly vivid dream, still caught somewhere between the world of dreams and the physical one.

There was a full moon that night, and her bedroom was partly illuminated by the shafts of moonlight that penetrated the blinds. Still semi-conscious, Emma felt an overwhelming, palpable presence of someone in the hallway beyond the closed bedroom door, but she wasn't at all frightened by this mysterious sense. In fact, she was experiencing strangely erotic, deeply sexual feelings approaching those that she had known during she and Steed's relationship. She felt such a powerful attraction to this alien presence and an irresistible urge to approach it, though she couldn't quite understand why. She could almost hear a voice calling her name, beckoning her forth. It was a silky, sensuous voice that she simply could not refuse.

Almost without effort or conscious deliberation whatsoever, Emma rose from her bed, wearing only one of her ex-husband's dress shirts that covered her down to the middle of her thighs. Emma could think of nothing else but identifying this strange entity in the hallway beyond the door. She slowly made her way across the floor without even being fully aware of her movement, as if she were sleepwalking, and slowly opened the door. The hallway was partly lit by the soft moonlight that shone through a large window. She could see that the French doors in the living room had been opened, and she could hear the rustling of leaves outside on this brisk autumn night. But instead of fear, she still felt only the urge to approach this mysterious presence.

Down the hallway, Emma could discern the dark silhouette of a person. As she approached, she became aware of a pair of eyes, two pools of almost glowing pale gray that were illuminated by a lone shaft of moonlight that streaked across a face. They seemed to be the source of the seductive power that drew her onward. She could hear that sensual voice again, calling her name, summoning her forth, like a siren's song luring a helpless sailor. Emma could feel eyes that seemed to reach into the depth of her very soul warming her as she moved closer.

Standing in the dim moonlight, the mysterious figure stood about 6"2" tall, making Emma feel positively petite. He had a strikingly handsome face, and a long, sleek masculine figure. Steed was dressed entirely in black. He wore a mischievous, seductive smirk, as if he were amused by the power he held over his mesmerized former lover even after everything they had been through in the last year and a half.

"Come here lovely lady," Emma could hear him clearly, though not a sound was made.

"How?" Emma couldn't imagine how Steed knew she was here, alone.

"That's it lovely lady," the voice teased, laughing almost. Emma continued, and soon found herself standing just a few feet in front of this most unexpected, but very welcome intruder, transfixed by glowing gray pools, slack jawed, utterly unable to say all the things she wanted to tell him.

In the soft light, Steed could distinguish her small rounded breasts, her slim waist, the gentle curves of her hips, her long, graceful legs. But it was her deep expressive eyes that shone with love that held him in thrall. "Let me look at you lovely lady," the voice said.

As Emma stared, transfixed, Steed slowly circled her, taking her in, admiring her. Steed took in the vision before him, like a wine connoisseur savoring a rare vintage. He started at Emma's bare feet. With a complimentary grin, he briefly glanced up at Emma's face perfectly sculpted, with high, beautifully rounded eyebrows and then back down to her ankles, her taut calves, and her firm thighs.

"You have such beautiful legs, lovely lady," the entranced woman could barely believe what she was hearing.

Steed then ran his hand along the curves of Emma's hips, then her tight stomach, reaching between the buttons of her shirt, Emma giggled quietly as he playfully tickled her belly around the navel.

"I see you're still ticklish," the voice teased. Emma stood motionless.

Steed then turned his eyes to Emma's soft, rounded breasts, where they remained for a few seconds, and then back to her face - her expressive brown eyes, her full, bowed lips.

"You are so beautiful, so very beautiful," Emma heard, as the Steed ran his fingers through her long auburn hair. "Oh, yes. You are lovely indeed." Steed took a step back and slowly circled Emma once again, as if sizing her up for some unknown task. Steed knew that the next few moments were crucial.

"Emma, forgive yourself for returning to Peter. More importantly, please forgive me for letting you go. There isn't anything we can't overcome, can't work out. I love you, Emma. I give you all of me, Emma. I want you to have all of me. I want to have all of you. No games, no doubts, just us, now and forever. Emma, my one and true love, marry me!" Steed's voice gently commanded her acquiesce.

Steed took Emma's hand and turned towards the open French doors in the living room. Steed led her towards the door, praying that Peter's earlier call was right. That Emma had come to terms with what she viewed as her sins and weaknesses and that she was ready to accept both Steed's love and forgiveness.

"That's it lovely lady." Emma could hear Steed's voice softly seducing her as she was led towards the door. Emma only half-realizing that she had nodded yes and that she was moving. The chilly breeze began blowing her hair as they approached the door. Steed was still holding Emma's hand and smiling at her with that rakish grin, his piercing eyes still holding sway over her.

Steed began leading Emma out the door, but then suddenly stopped just as she was about to step outside, as if he'd forgotten something. He stepped back from the door and pulled Emma close towards him. The tall dark vision stroked her hair again, and Emma again heard his playful, teasing voice -

"We don't want to get your feet dirty now do we? Hmmm?" Emma stood by the door as the Steed slipped his arm around her waist, and traced the contour of her hips. He smiled at Emma, pausing briefly, and then bent down, reaching his arm behind Emma's bare thighs. Emma's arm slipped easily around her man's shoulder. Steed then swept Emma up into his arms, as a groom would his bride, about to cross the threshold. After holding her for a few moments, he jostled Emma's body up again to hold her more securely. Steed chuckled gently as he cradled Emma in his arms.

"Now isn't that better lovely lady," the voice teased, as Emma's bare feet and legs were exposed to the cool night air. "My bride."

Finally finding her voice, Emma said the only thing she could;

"All of me Steed. My Love ….. Forever!"

Steed then stepped out the door and carried destiny off into the night.

 
©  Kathryn Charles 2002
No aspect of this story may be used elsewhere without the expressed prior written consent of the author. These stories may not be altered in any way or sold; all copyright information must appear with this work at all times. Please read disclaimers and warnings on top of each story. Feel free to send constructive comments to the author.. :o)  

 
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