Show: The Agency

Title: The American Family: Chapter 25

Disclaimer: See Chapter 1

A/N: Thanks so much for all your remarkable comments for last chapter and for all your support in 2004. Here's to hoping 2005 will be just as great! Thanks to all who have left me insightful suggestions – your ideas are such an inspiration and encourage me to think beyond the norm. I hope you enjoy this chapter and here, even ¼ of the year is gone already, is to a happy, prosperous 2005.

X-X-X-X-X

He looks so peaceful when he sleeps….

Terri sighed inwardly as the first rays of dawn stole their way across the sky, riding high on Apollo's chariot, soft beams of light streaming across Stiles' face as he lay on his stomach in deep slumber. In respite, he looked so young. She noticed, not for the first time as she propped on her elbow, that his eyelashes were blonde at their tips and so sinfully long as they lay in a crescent on the tops of his cheeks. The corners of his mouth tipped down ever so slightly at the corners and he almost seemed as though he were pouting – in invitation….

How could she refuse?

Gathering the sheets more securely about her, Terri leaned over and brushed her lips, with the merest pressure, against his. She inhaled his next puff of breath and, pressing forward, deepened the kiss.

Stiles was aware of a delicious scent wafting in his nostrils. Man, woman and the unique, musky scent of lovemaking. He took a deeper breath and, as sleep loosened its tangled hold on him, he became further aware that he was being kissed. His mind connected with his drowsy state and he instantly realised who was kissing him and why.

Basking in the pleasure of such knowledge, he allowed Terri to maintain control, even as he shifted his body to his side and held her in his arms.

Slowly, Terri pulled away and looked down into his cerulean eyes, a gaze that had been hidden from her even as she had marvelled at him in his sleep.

Stiles gently tucked an errant strand of hair behind Terri's ear and cupped her cheek in the palm of his hand as she continued to look down at him.

Did she have any idea of how beautiful she looked now, with her tousled hair and still drowsy gaze, gripping the sheets of the bed he'd slept in alone for so many nights? Did she have any idea of what this image of her was doing to him?

"Good mornin'," he said softly, his voice still husky with sleep.

"Mornin'," Terri replied, with a soft smile.

Stiles revelled in the sweetness of her smile, relished how it made her appear softer and younger as it crinkled the corners of her eyes. His heart sang – he never thought he would be afforded the opportunity of seeing her wake up in his arms again. Indeed, it had happened only once, on the night they had conceived their son. That had been a night of many firsts.

"What?" asked Terri, a small frown marring her brow as Stiles studied her intently.

"Nothing," Stiles replied, leaning in for a kiss. He took her lips gently, yet possessively, nipping her bottom lip as he pulled away. "I've missed you," he said softly, amazed that he was able to get the words out. Previously, those words would have been a sign of weakness but, after last night, he knew she deserved to hear the words behind his actions.

"I've missed you, too, Stiles," Terri admitted, propping on her elbow as she returned his intent gaze.

Stiles sighed and rolled onto his back. "I really messed things up between us, didn't I?" he asked, rolling his head to look at her.

Terri instantly knew what he was talking about. "We both did."

"But I was the chief offender. I pushed you away every time you tried to get closer. I wasn't worth the pain you put yourself through."

"Let me be the judge of that."

Stiles smiled and stroked her cheek. "You're an amazing woman, you know that, right, Terri?"

"And don't you forget it," she cheekily replied, snuggling into his arms and basking in this blissful interlude they had managed to carve for themselves in the midst of all the chaos.

X-X-X-X-X

Bangor, Ireland

Kit watched from the doorway of the tiny cottage as John-boy and the kids strolled along the rocky cliff edge. Niall and Gwen's delighted shrieks of laughter floated to her ears on the winds of the salty sea breeze as they cavorted with their father, revelling in the spray from the constant crash of the waves against the cliff walls.

Rather than filled with joy, her heart was heavy, for she knew within a few hours, sadness would descend over their tiny home when John-boy headed back to Belfast and probably to America. The children would practically ignore their mother for all the time John-boy was there and, when he left, she would again be left to pick up the pieces.

It was a job she never relished, but one she'd gotten used to.

She sighed and remembered what she'd poked her head out to do. "Oy, kiddies! Lunchtime!"

"Comin', Mam!" she vaguely heard Niall reply.

Kit shook her head. He and his sister were notorious for saying that, and five minutes later, they still wouldn't have come. "None o' that, t'day, young Master O'Brien! Both of ye, inside, now!"

Kit waited, arms across her chest, as the two children raced toward her, their father ambling behind them. "Wash up quickly, now," she instructed, as the twins barrelled inside. "Yer food's on th' table."

"Did ye no' want t' come out an' play, eh, Kit?" John-boy asked, when he reached his wife.

She looked up, meeting John-boy's blue-eyed gaze as he towered over her. "I think we're playin' enough games b'tween us two, already, John," was her quiet reply.

Kit remained relatively quiet as they ate lunch – roast beef sandwiches and fried tatties (potatoes, tomatoes and onions) – but listened to John-boy's tales. He was a wonderful storyteller and the kids adored him, hanging onto his every word. At the end of lunch, Kit sent them off for their naps and John-boy stayed behind to help her clear the table.

"I've got it, thanks," said Kit, taking the plate from John-boy's hand.

"I'd like t'help," he replied, taking up the cups instead.

"Don't ye have some place t'be?" she asked pointedly, setting the plates in the sink.

"I'm headin' back after dinner," he answered, setting the cups down beside the plates.

Kit said nothing, instead turned her attention to cleaning the dishes.

John-boy sighed heavily and dragged a hand through his stiff blonde hair. "I wish you could understan', Kit…."

Kit's jaw clenched and, turning off the faucet, she turned to her husband, her dark eyes flashing. "How can I understan' if you don't?" She shook her head fiercely and abandoned all pretences of dishwashing. "God… I wish ye'd never come back, John…."

John-boy sighed heavily as she left the kitchen. He heard the front door open and close and he waited five minutes before he followed her outside. He spotted her standing on the edge of the cliff wall, the weak sunlight strong enough to make the sea spray shine like diamonds in her hair. Her arms were across her chest, hugging her body as she stared out to sea. He knew she knew he was behind her, but she did not acknowledge his presence.

He placed his hands on her shoulders, feeling her body tremble through the soft grey wool of her sweater. "I don't want t'leave with things like this b'tween us, Kit," he announced softly.

"Then don't leave, John," she replied equally as softly.

"I have to."

For the first time since he'd come looking for her, Kit turned and met her husband's eyes. What she said next would kill her but, for her peace of mind and the safety of their children, it had to be said. There was a thread of steel in her voice, despite the fact that her eyes were bright with unshed tears. "If you leave this place, Jonathan O'Brien, don't come back. There will be nothin' waiting fer ye here if ye do."

"Don't do this, Kit," he beseeched her.

"I have to."

X-X-X-X-X

Virginia

"That was strange," Stiles announced, driving his truck along the freeway as they headed for the office. They had just dropped Alex off at day-care. He had sensed that something good was different between his parents and the little tyke had been ecstatic.

"What was?" Terri asked, looking sideways at Stiles as she took a sip of coffee from her thermos.

"Dropping A.B.2 off, us two… I like it," he continued with a smile.

Terri's smile echoed his. "So did I." The desire for this morning's journey to be the first of many more was left unsaid.

Stiles turned his attention back to the road and they fell into silence as they went further and further toward the real world. The peace of this morning was slowly coming to an end, and they both knew any hope for future mornings was waning.

These thoughts were on her Terri's mind as she stopped off the elevator and headed for OTS. She met Joshua on her way in and he flashed her a smile.

"Good morning, Ms. Lowell," he greeted. "I trust you're feeling much better today," he continued, his grey eyes shrewdly looking over her face.

"I am, thanks," she replied to her mentor.

"Good," he concluded brusquely. "Back to work, now," he continued, walking away briskly in the opposite direction.

"Of course," Terri replied, not offended by his abrupt dismissal. Her heart was warmed by his concern.

"Hey, Terri," Lex greeted from his desk as she entered the room.

"Hi, Lex."

"How was the mini-vacation?" he asked, spinning to face her in his chair.

"It was fine," she replied to her fellow tech-head as she settled in at her own workstation.

"Great. Now you're back, you can help me with all this junk," he continued, spinning back to his desk and rapidly typing in a series of commands. "The operatives in Ireland have been going insane."

"How so?" Terri asked with a frown, as the info on Lex's computer was transferred to hers.

"Speculation." He turned to her, his green eyes curious. "Hey, Terri? Have you ever heard of St. Michael's Army?"

X-X-X-X-X

Three hours later…

"Who are they?"

It was Gage who asked the question, looking directly at Quinn. Terri and Stiles exchanged looks, but said nothing, curious to see what Quinn's reply would be.

"I have no idea."

Needless to say, everyone, with the exception of Stiles and Terri, were surprised.

"What do you mean, you-"

"Exactly what I said," Quinn interrupted Gage with a cold reply.

Gage clenched his jaw and turned to Joshua and Lex instead. "What about you two? Do you know anything?"

"Not much," Lex replied, typing furiously. "There's been a lot of speculation over time, but nothing concrete."

"Well, what do you know?" Reese asked impatiently.

"In less than twenty-four hours, a lot of info has been bouncing around on the grapevine. Apparently, they're not your typical Pro-Protestant terrorist group and they're so cloaked in secret, only a select few know of them."

Terri and Stiles exchanged looks again. This time, both Quinn and Joshua noted it and filed it away for future reference.

"What's important, then? Why all the talk?" Jackson asked Lex quietly.

For the first time since Gage asked the question, Terri spoke. "The talk is the same – worry over the election but, it's not so important what they do, Jackson, but who does it for them."

"There in lies the next question, Ms. Lowell," Director Gage said, waiting expectantly.

"There are no operatives like other groups, instead, they rely on known assassins with various loyalties and specialties. But the list of their ruling council, rumoured to be called The Triumvirate, is most important."

"Why?"

"Because the name Martin Archer tops the list."

X-X-X-X-X

Stiles shut the door to his office and turned to Terri.

"We have our proof," she announced, meeting his eyes.

"That we do," he replied lamely, walking past her to sit on the edge of his desk.

"This could work to our advantage," Terri said, moving to stand in front of him.

"How?" he asked curiously, looking up at her. "We still have no concrete proof, Terri."

"We don't need proof. Look at it, Stiles. Here is our opening, our excuse. The information about Archer is bouncing around the grapevine. Someone is bound to get pissed, and try to eliminate him."

"Us."

"And someone else takes the blame," she finished.

Stiles' blue eyes were strangely sad. "I don't like the way John-boy is making you think," he said softly.

Terri sobered and her eyes were unwavering as she spoke. "Nothing and no one will prevent me from protecting my family, Stiles, least of all guilt."

"I know."

X-X-X-X-X

Despite her warning, he had left as he said he would, directly after dinner. It was seven o'clock then and he had helped bathe the children and put them to bed in their cots, reading them a story and kissing their downy cheeks after they fell asleep.

"I love ye, both," he said softly, his eyes drinking in his children as they slept on in their innocence.

Kit watched this all with tears in her eyes, looking away hastily when he stood up to leave the room.

He closed the door quietly and stood before her, his eyes never leaving her beautiful face. "Take back what ye said," he asked softly, plaintively.

"No," her voice cracked.

John-boy clenched his jaw and looked away, feeling despair squeezing his heart.

"Stay," her pride was nonexistent as she practically begged him.

He shook his head sadly. "I can't."

A sob broke through and she hugged herself tightly. John-boy scrubbed at his face and stepped forward. She refused to let him take her in his arms, turning her back to him instead.

"I love ye, Kit," he said softly, inhaling the scent of wildflowers and rain that was her hair. "Remember that."

And then, he was gone.

After the sound of his car careening down the rocky path had faded into the night, Kit wiped her tears and squared her shoulders. Generations of Rom and Celtic blood flowed within her veins. She was strong. She would not allow him to break her, nor would she allow him to break himself.

If he didn't listen to reason, she would have to stop him herself.

The initial groundwork had been laid. It would be up to her to finish the job.

TBC…

A/N: I hope you guys are intrigued. Once again, I've taken the story in an entirely different direction than expected. I hope you enjoyed. Took me long enough to write, lol. Drop me a line and tell me if it was worth the effort.

Cara