A big cheer rang out around the restaurant as the team arrived smiling. Abby and Connor released each others hands as Connor high fived some of the staff and Abby was chatting to others. Jess
and Becker smiled at each other as they followed them in, Becker's arm casually slung around her shoulders. Even Matt looked less serious and was enjoying himself as he and Emily mingled with
the others and made his way to the bar.
An even bigger cheer and round of applause greeted Lester as he came in accompanied by a woman no-one recognized.
Abby went over and gave him a hug, "Glad you joined us"
"My wife seemed to think it was a good idea" Lester indicated with his head the woman beside him. "I can't imagine why. But as she is driving me home, I had no choice"
Abby smiled at his attempt to display indifference and turned to the woman. "Abby Maitland" She introduced herself holding out her hand.
"Elizabeth Lester" The woman smiled as she shook it.
"Heeeey, Lester." Connor appeared and hugged him before he had a chance to object. "Knew you couldn't stay away from the party"
They were joined by the others who handed round champagne.
"I had to check what kind of debauchery my money was being wasted on" Lester said flatly, shaking hands with Becker and Matt and receiving more hugs from Jess and Emily.
"Oh, you're a bit early. The debauchery doesn't start for another half hour" Jess smiled at him innocently, causing Becker to choke on his champagne as he laughed.
"Seriously though, you have all earned tonight" Lester said.
"Speech! Speech!" Connor called out, taken up by the rest of the staff.
Lester relented and gently tapped the top of his cane against his glass to quieten the room. "Tonight is a celebration. We faced a challenge and together, as a team, we over came it. Each and
everyone of you have gone above and beyond the call of duty for this job and I want you to know that your efforts are appreciated."
"Knew you loved us really!" Connor called out.
"Except maybe you Temple" He continued. "I want you to know that I am proud of what we have achieved and to work with each of you. Over the years we have lost a lot of good people. " The
room fell silent "People have died to protect others and in the last twenty four hours we have lost many. " Becker dropped his head and Jess squeezed his hand as Lester continued. "They were
brave individuals enlisted to do a tough job that only you people could deal with and their sacrifice will be remembered. We will mourn them. Then we will continue the job and we will live for
the moment as they would have done." Lester caught Becker's eye and raised his glass "To the ARC" Everyone raised their glasses and echoed the toast. "Now before this evening degenerates
any further I am going to take my leave, but I do expect you all in work bright and early tomorrow" A groan was followed by a round of applause for Lester.
Connor grabbed Abby's hand and dragged her towards Lester to address the crowd. "We know you act like you don't care, but we know what you do to keep us doing what we do. And
without it none of us would be here. So just to let you know really that well, you might moan at us, me especially, but we know how important you are to the ARC and ..."
"Connor" Abby stopped his ramblings.
He looked at her and stopped.
"Lester, if it was up to us, you'd get your knighthood" A huge cheer rang out.
"To Sir James Lester" Connor raised his glass.
"Please" Lester outwardly grumbled as the toast subsided. "None of you are getting a pay rise, for being nice to me. I am going before the hugging starts again."
"Before you go, I have one last thing to say" Connor grinned.
"Get on with it, man." Lester sighed.
"I know I've been an idiot lately and I would understand if none of you ever wanted to speak to me again. Although I seriously hope that don't happen. But I was there when Cutter started all this
and I just wanted to do him justice. Abby and I have been through it all together and I was nearly stupid enough to loose that. But earlier today she asked me to marry her and I said yes." The
room erupted. "We're getting married!" He yelled above the noise as they were swamped by people squealing and hugging and patting them on the back.
Abby caught Lester as he was leaving."You take care of yourself Lester" she said squeezing his shoulder.
Lester nodded "And congratulations. Good luck." He looked over at Connor "Heaven knows you're going to need it!"
Abby smiled and left him. Lester glanced around the room taking in the scene and the people before him.
"These people really care about you" Elizabeth said softly.
"Nonsense, what ever gave you that idea?" He said turning away, but giving a little self satisfied smile.
His wife smiled as she followed him out.
Connor faced Becker with a big grin on his face.
"It's about time" Becker said seriously, but couldn't hide the smile any longer. He held up his hand and Connor gave him a high five, before they hugged each other. "Congratulations, but weren't
you supposed to ask her?"
"Yeah, but I was kinda being a bit wimpy, you know."
Becker shook his head and grinned "Yes, I know. Just make sure that from now on you take care of her."
"Oh I fully intend to." Connor grinned looking at Abby as she chatted to Jess and Emily.
Becker stopped smiling, "Just don't hurt her" He said sternly.
Connor took the friendly warning, soberly. "I won't. The same goes for you" He indicated with his head towards Jess.
Becker gazed at Jess and she smiled at him before he turned back to Connor and held out his hand "Deal."
Connor shook it and they made their way across the room to the rest of the team, laughing and joking.