She hurried back towards him, down the corridor littered with the debris of the fight and he stood as she approached and flung his arms around her, holding her tightly as if he would never let her go, almost lifting her off her feet. He stood motionless, his face buried in her hair, overwhelmed by her presence after being apart from her for what seemed like an eternity. With deep shuddering breaths, he clung to her, revelling in simply holding her, being with her, feeling her body against his. It had been too long.

Then he released her and bent to kiss her, tenderly, lovingly. She put her hands on either side of his face, the solitaire diamond shining on her left hand as she met his lips with hers.

Alec appeared, having completed the final security sweep, his heavily blood stained jacket punctured by two neat holes close together in the chest. Ed walked down to meet him, his arm around his fiancée, both of them smiling. Now he had the chance to talk to his closest, most trusted friend. Alec had been too busy in the melee before to even nod hello.

'Alec, glad you're alright. Did I hurt you?' He put his hand on Freeman's shoulder in concern, his eyes saying wordlessly what he could not express.

'Not really Ed, except I didn't think you'd fire twice. The second one caught me by surprise that's all.' He winced as he removed his ruined jacket, pulling out the emptied blood pack purloined from the studio's special effects department earlier, and then removed the bullet proof vest beneath. Carefully he unbuttoned his shirt to see what damage had been done,

'Ouch. That looks sore.' Ed laughed as he saw the bruises already forming on Freeman's chest. 'Still, fair's fair. You did give me two good thumps you know, and these bruises hurt as well. At least my blood is real.' And he touched the swollen and blood stained bruise on his eyebrow in confirmation.

General Henderson walked towards them, stiffly, slowly. 'Ed, Colonel Freeman.' He acknowledged their presence with a nod. 'It's over then?' Henderson looked old. Older than Straker had seen him for some time. The SHADO Commander realised that these past weeks had been hard on others as well. He reached out and grasped Henderson's shoulder in sympathy and understanding. And, yes, with unspoken gratitude as well. He might not always agree with James L. Henderson, but today, at this moment, they were united in a common cause.

'Yes James, it's over. We got them all. Well, all the ones here at any rate. Certainly this faction has been completely annihilated. That's all we were aiming for. One less problem for SHADO to deal with. Just the clean up and removal of any equipment that might give us more information. We should eventually know a great deal more about their cloning procedure, although I don't think we will ever be able to create our own clones. At least I hope not.' Straker looked at the bodies of the alien collaborators with an expression of utter bewilderment. 'Why would anyone want to help the aliens? For power? That's what baffles me. And perhaps that's the question that we will never be able to answer.' He turned away, his arm still around Rachel. 'Shall we go home? Or would you rather not be seen in the company of a drunken traitor who wanders around SHADO talking to himself?'

She laughed, and pulled him closer to kiss him again. He winced as she touched the swollen ridge that Shroeder had stitched all those weeks ago. 'You can have that taken out first.' she laughed. 'I don't want everyone hearing what we say on your own private communicator. It was bad enough the first few days, having to be careful what we said, especially as James was monitoring us, but now the entire security team are listening in.'

He grinned at her, 'But it worked didn't it. If Harlington hadn't suggested using this, I don't know how we would have managed to keep in touch, and I don't care who is listening in, Rachel,' he paused and caressed her face with his hand, holding her close to him, not wanting to spend another second apart from her, 'but I couldn't have gone through the last weeks without being able to talk to you.

'Oh really' she arched an eyebrow at him, 'I thought it was the alcohol that kept you going. You seemed to really enjoy it. Do you want me to stop off and get you a bottle of Alec's favourite whisky for later?'

'I think not.' He looked at the group of officers and security men around them. 'I only had two glasses you know, the first time in my office. I needed to know what it felt like to be drunk. Not pleasant at all. After that I relied on fooling you all with apple juice and iced tea. Regrettably I was forced to use whisky as a mouthwash in order to convince you all I was drinking heavily.' He grinned at their discomfort. 'It obviously worked, although I would be grateful if you would immediately forget watching me wander drunkenly across my bedroom.' He stared at them all, smiling, but there was a serious, and almost grim, undercurrent of truth behind his voice. 'You should have seen their faces Rachel. I wish I'd had a camera. But there again, I bet some of them wish they'd had one as well.' He raised an eyebrow at the security group who had arrested him, then turned to Alec Freeman and Paul Foster, who had come in after completing the clearance of the outer perimeter.

'Alec. Off home with you now. Virginia will have a fit when she sees those bruises, so stay at home for a few days until you are fully recovered. Paul, can you look after HQ for a the next twelve hours? I need to get some sleep if I am going to be able to function with any level of competence. You'd better warn the staff in HQ that I will be in later on tomorrow, and there had better be no coffee cups or any other mess in my control room. I am coming back, bruised and battered thanks to Colonel Freeman, but also sober, clean-shaven and with a vengeance.'

And he bent over to share a long kiss with Rachel, before heading out to freedom, surrounded by his loyal friends.


Again, this story does need considerable re-writing, but I am going to leave it untouched.