All characters created and developed by CA, just using my imagination to fabricate other plot lines.

Chapter 1 : The Gift

Back in apt after return from Venezuela. Annie has showered and is on her computer doing mundane things like checking her email and setting up accounts when she hears some noise at door, then two knocks. She looks and sees the package left at her door.

Amused by the package she discovered at her door that arrived in an envelope from McQuaid Security, Annie wondered how McQuaid located her residence. It's a little unsettling. She examined the package cautiously before opening it. Once she saw that it was a hand gun, a Beretta Px4 Storm to be specific, she lifted it out of the case and felt the weight of it in her hands. Annie smiled as she took aim with it, then paused as if she realized the implication of accepting the gift. She doesn't trust McQuaid at all, he offered to team up and help her capture Borz, but when she refused, he left her cuffed on the sidewalk. Of course, she didn't need him to get out of her predicament, but the fact that he made that move was disappointing and petty. Annie did not like McQuaid or any PMC she had come across as a covert operative for the CIA. They were all in the same bucket, brash, trigger happy, adrenalin junkies.

Annie kept thinking about what made McQuaid tick and what he was after with Borz. Clearly he was hiding something. But he did prove himself trustworthy when he helped her after she collapsed fighting Borz. She had successfully neutralized Borz, but collapsed as a result of the chase and fight. It was unfortunate that McQuaid had to learn of her condition, but if he had not come along when he did, she wasn't sure where she'd be now. Certainly if her agency found out, she'd be out of a job already. But McQuaid said it was none of the agency's business and his doctor helped her get the meds she needed to recover. She wasn't quite sure how long she could keep the agency from learning her secret and she hated being indebted to someone like McQuaid. She wasn't sure if he would use it against her like Eyal had warned. Her myocarditis was something that could be exploited.

Annie placed the beauty back in the case. She ran her fingers over the piece one last time before closing the case and putting it back in the envelope. She had made up her mind.

Knowing to not take risks on her own computer, Annie always used various hotel business centers to log on for cover. She goes to a big DC hotel, blending in as if she were a hotel guest, she logs online in the business center. Annie writes a message to Lisa Morton's doctor describing her recent collapse and asking if further tests need to be done. She also asks for a refill of her nitrate medication. While online she also writes a message to her old friend Eyal Levin, events unfurled so quickly upon her return that she had no chance to make contact with him. She left a message on a secure board they set up to let him know she was okay. She promised to check in with you periodically after saying good-bye in Jerusalem.

Back home before turning in with her chef's knife on her bedstand, Annie thinks to herself before falling asleep, that she better get herself a gun tomorrow.

The next morning, Annie is up early and ready to return to Langley to tackle a mountain of reports, debriefs about Venezuela and Columbia. All this meant working professionally with Auggie again. She both looked forward to it and had had pangs of guilt. She would have to continue to lie to him, someone she trusted, but she had no choice. He would be duty bound to report her condition and as her friend, he wouldn't want her to risk working in the field with her condition. But before work, she stops off at McQuaid Security with the package.

As soon as Annie walks into the building a very professionally dressed fresh faced young man greets her with a warm welcome. Annie ascertains that he is not just a receptionist, he is probably also some sort of security guard and probably recently discharged from one of the armed forces.

With a bright smile, he says, "Welcome to McQuaid Security, how may I help you?"

Right away Annie sees the numerous hidden cameras trained on the reception area. There were cameras outside, but the sheer number of cameras inside as well was telling to Annie. McQuaid was definitely into security.

Annie smiles at the receptionist and says, "I have something that belongs to Mr. McQuaid," while she places the package on the counter. As soon as Annie utters those words, two armed guards approach confiscating the package to put through security screening. Simultaneously, another suited guard politely, yet firmly asks Annie to follow him while leading her toward an unmarked door. Just then, Arthur Campbell walks into work flashing his recently issued ID. Arthur had not seen Annie since her return and is obviously surprised and happy to see her.

"What seems to be the problem here?" queries Arthur to the suited guard with his hand on Annie's elbow.

Annie is also glad to see Arthur and says, "I thought I heard a rumor about you working for McQuaid Securities, I wouldn't have believed it if I didn't see it for myself."

The security guard says, "Mr. Campbell, sir, do you know this woman?"

"Yes, is there a problem?"

"Sir, she came with a suspicious package for Mr. McQuaid and upon inspection it contained a fire arm."

"I just wanted to return it to McQuaid, it belongs to him." says Annie.

Arthur knowing that Annie doesn't play games or have any nefarious motives, says, "Gentlemen, she's cleared and she's with me. Annie, it's so wonderful to see you back and well, come up to my office, I'm sure Joan can spare you for a few minutes (said with raised eyebrow).

Annie looks at Arthur and thinks of everything they had gone through because of Henry Wilcox and everything he had lost. She wished she had been able to help Teo. She would have liked to work with him more. His dedication though fueled by revenge and retribution gave him a drive that she not only admired, but drew from during her months in the dark. She told herself and if he could sacrifice family, a loving father, a chance at a real life, than she had nothing to complain about. He went years without any real connection or relationship except to the very terrorists he was trying to bring to justice. She above all understood loss, but she hadn't lost or given up nearly as much as Teo had. Back to Arthur's voice, telling her about how he knew McQuaid and why he took the job, she could sense that while he was happy, he still had sadness in his eyes.

Annie says to Arthur, "It's barely seven, you're up and out early for a new dad. Congratulations by the way!"

"Oh, you have to meet MacKenzie soon. He's been such a joy in our lives, makes everything worth it you know. Take it from an old geezer, don't wait too long to start your own family. He's been keeping me young, but the night wakings certainly don't do much to stave off aging."

Annie chuckles, but inside she knows that family of her own isn't in her future.

Meanwhile McQuaid, already in briefings and on international calls since 5:30 in the morning was alerted to the arrival of a blond woman dressed in the requisite CIA black pant suit stating she had something to return to him. Before even reviewing the security footage, his lips curled into his mischievous grin. He knew exactly who it was, and while he was disappointed, he wasn't surprised. He sent a text to his guards to show the blond to his office until he finished his conference call. The guards returned his text saying, the woman was now the guest of Arthur Campbell and was in his office.

Back at Arthur's office, Arthur looks at Annie shaking his head. He says, "So, you're back after, what was it, eight months away? How are you? I don't know first hand, but I've seen what being on your own, totally untethered can do to an operative. . ."

Annie responds, "You're referring to Helen?"

"Yes, Helen, Ben, Teo, and a couple of others still out there off book. I have no way to help them now that I am not with the agency, but you, I can help. Are you getting counseling through the agency? I know Joan has told you it's available."

Annie smiles, "Thank you Arthur, but I'm fine. I took a much needed vacation and decompressed." She didn't want to mention Henry's name, his name didn't deserve to be uttered in the presence of Arthur.

Arthur sighs and looks down, no one notices McQuaid as he stands near Arthur's doorway.

"Annie, you were, and are more than just one of my former operatives. Listen, why don't you come over for dinner tonight? You still haven't met MacKenzie and I know Joan would love to see you socially. How's seven tonight sound?"

"Seven sounds good to me Arthur! I'd love to meet your boy too," says McQuaid as he makes his entrance.

Annie turns around to see a smiling McQuaid.

Arthur, "Well, the more the merrier! I know the both of you have met under some stressful circumstances, tonight will be a chance to forget about all of that business."

" Uh, Arthur, thanks for the invitation, but shouldn't you check with Joan first?"

"Nonsense, she wanted you to meet MacKenzie ever since he was born, and she's so thrilled you are back, besides I'll probably be the one cooking, have been doing a lot of it recently with the new addition."

Annie pauses a bit, "Okay, Arthur, I'll be there at seven."

McQuaid addresses Arthur, "See you in the Alpha conference room in five minutes."

Then McQuaid turns to face Annie while flashing a grin and says, "You see, we're getting that dinner together after all." Annie rolls her eyes as she walks with McQuaid towards the elevators. She says, "I came to return this and remind you that I don't mix business and pleasure. Thank you, but I can procure my own gun."

McQuaid looks hurt and surprised, "Come on, consider it a thank you for getting me out of a hairy situation in Venezuela. You needed one and I thought this would look good on you. It's my personal favorite, I have one myself."

Annie holds out the gun case to McQuaid, "Yeah, I noticed you carry a Beretta Px4 Storm, but we got out together, no one owes anyone anything."

"Okay, have it your way, but one way or another you'll shoot this gun one day. Maybe when you see the light and come to work for me. I'm setting it aside for you," says McQuaid confidently.

"Don't hold your breath."

Annie walks away as McQuaid shouts towards her back, "I'm an ex-Seal, I can hold my breath a long time".

Annie holds up her hand making an okay sign as she continues to walk towards the elevators to head toward Langley.