Disclaimer: I own what you don't recognize.
A/N: Series 1 universe now, though the ending's a little more open-ended. Oh, and there's hinted Stephen/Ryan, sorry if you don't like slash (not usually an issue in this fandom).
Epilogue 4 – Housewarming: "You know," Claudia said as she watched Connor stumble, one of her boxes in his hands, "I'm not sure enlisting the team's help in moving me to your place was the best idea."
"Relax," Nick said with a chuckle, wrapping his arm around her waist. "Everyone knows to keep him away from fragile objects, and the others aren't nearly so clumsy."
Claudia smiled, relaxing into his hold. "Maybe, but I'm entitled to worry a little."
"True, but we've got enough to worry about just now," he said with a frown. Last month, they'd learned that the Helen who died in the warehouse had been a clone. That meant that the real Helen was still out there somewhere. Claudia, guessing his thoughts, sighed.
"Let's not talk about that. You're right, and I'll try to relax."
She watched Stephen and Ryan carrying boxes out together, talking about something that, judging from the gleam in Ryan's eyes and Stephen's wicked smile, she didn't want to know about. The two men were usually pretty discreet at work, but clearly they felt more comfortable here. Abby was sitting on the curb, Claudia saw, teasing Connor for his clumsiness. As for Ashley…
"Love the shoe collection," Ashley joked from behind them. Claudia turned to face the younger woman.
"Do you have a problem with that?"
"Not really, I have an extensive jewelry collection."
Nick shook his head. "Typical," he said mock-sadly. "Women and collections."
"Excuse me?" said Ashley acidly.
"Says the man with a collection of old animal bones," Claudia snapped.
"Good Lord, I was only joking!" he said, holding up his hands.
"All right then," Claudia relented. "But watch those jokes of yours."
"Understood, ma'am," Nick quipped. Claudia rolled her eyes.
Ashley's mobile rang, and she stepped aside to answer it, but Claudia and Nick could still hear what she said.
"What? I though you said it'd be at least a few more weeks."
"Oh, lovely. So I assume I'm to meet you there?"
"No, I already took care of that. Good thing I like to do things early, or we'd be screwed."
"All right, I'll head over." She hung up and gave the couple watching an apologetic smile.
"Is everything all right?" Nick asked, a slight frown creasing his brow.
"Yeah, I just have to go take care of something." But she looked a little tense.
"You look like something's wrong," Claudia observed.
"Not really," Ashley said lightly. "Just take my advice and try to avoid owing favors to American agents." Then with a careless wave of farewell, she was gone.
"That was odd," Nick said.
"Yeah, it – " Claudia broke off abruptly to call out, "I'll get that one, Connor!" She gave Nick an eloquent look.
"Abby said she'd watch him, it's not my fault!"
Ashley stopped by her flat on the way to the hospital, needing to grab the paperwork. She'd never set anyone up with a fake identity before, except for a few short-term undercover ops. But the theory had turned out to be essentially the same.
It could have been worse. Paula was a top-level DESI agent, and her favor could have wreaked havoc on Ashley's liaison position, a job that was already a juggling act between two occasionally conflicting loyalties. She just hoped that no one found out about the 'dead woman walking', because that would be one hell of a problem for all concerned.
A/N: So, Ripple Effect is finished, but our characters' adventures are not over, thanks to pesky favors and Helen apparently being the human version of a cockroach. To find out what happens next, check out my new fic Off the Grid, available in my profile.