Will You Be There?

by Nix
(crimsonquills AT gmail DOT com)


Author's Notes: This had been betaed by no one but me - I was too impatient to get it up on the Net! An interesting tidbit to go with the story - there is nothing quite so nerve wracking as writing a slash sex scene with your mother sitting behind you! Oh, sure, she had her back turned, but I still glanced over my shoulder at every sound. But I had to write - the Muse was calling. Still, even the Muse couldn't keep me going when my Dad walked in! :-) Fortunately, he left soon and I got the story finished. Whew!

Timeline : This story takes place directly after the episode with all Vic's cop buddies (I forget the title), but after that it takes off into a alternate universe. I mean AU only to say that I haven't seen the following eps, so I ignored them. Otherwise, I kept the story within canon.


Vic sat in his apartment, the lights turned down low, and studied the badge his former partner, Stan, had given him. He allowed the tears he'd been holding back to flow down his cheeks. A slight sound rang out behind him and he was instantly on his feet, gun in hand.

"Relax, Vic, it's Mac," his partner said. "I wasn't sure you should be alone right now."

The other man dashed away the tears hurriedly, turning away from Mac and setting his gun down. Vic sat down heavily in the couch again, rubbing his thumb over the cool metal of Stan's badge. "All I ever wanted to be was a cop," he said, voice husky with unshed tears. "It was my whole life. Now...now I've got nothing..."

"Vic," Mac said gently, "I understand how you feel-"

"Do you?" Vic asked harshly.

"Yeah, I do," Mac insisted. "The Tangs were my family just like the police were yours. And when your family betrays you, it hurts like nothing else in the world. I know how that feels, Vic, I know it hurts. But you'll live through it."

"I don't know what the point of living through it would be," Vic answered morosely. "Don't you see? I haven't got anything left. I haven't got my life as a cop, I haven't got my freedom, I haven't got Li Ann... Hell, I don't have any family around at all." Vic couldn't hold the tears back anymore, and they began pouring down his cheeks as Mac sat down on the couch beside him. "I don't think there's anyone left who loves me..." he trailed off into a sob.

Not knowing what else to do, Mac opened his arms and held Vic as he cried. "Hey," he said, trying to sound comforting, "life can be a lot of fun, if you loosen up a bit. Bend the rules a little, make space in them for your life."

"I don't want to be alone, Mac," Vic murmured into the ex-thief's damp shirtfront. "I've been with the Agency for years. Much longer than you have. They take and take and take. I thought I'd at least get Li Ann out of the deal, but," he sobbed again, "she doesn't want me anymore."

"You're not alone," Mac said, stroking the back of Vic's neck soothingly. "Li Ann and I, we're your family now. We take care of each other, we're partners. Weren't we there for you today?"

"Yeah," Vic acknowlegded, but he didn't sound comforted.

"It's late," Mac said after a long pause, "I guess I should go home."

"Mac?" Vic said into Mac's shirt front.

"Yeah?"

"Would you...stay here tonight? I just, I just don't want to be alone here tonight." Vic sounded like he was on the edge of tears again.

"Sure, Vic. I'll stay here, on the couch," Mac agreed hesitently. Vic nodded and stood, wiping at his eyes. He turned and went to the bedroom, pausing at the door to thank his partner. Mac just smiled a little and settled down to sleep on the couch.

Later that night, a muffled sound woke Mac. He listened intently for a moment eventually tracking the sound to the bedroom. Mac stood and went to the bedroom door. Inside, he could hear Victor talking in his sleep. "No! Don't leave...please! Stan? Li Ann? Where are you? Mac! No..."

When Mac heard his partner call his name, he sprand into action. In a moment he'd gathered Vic into his arms, waking his from the nightmare in the process. "It's okay, Vic," he murmured comfortingly, "I'm here." Vic broke down sobbing, then. Great, wracking sobs that shook his whole body. Mac, vaguely uncomfortable, just laid back and held him. He still held Vic in his arms when the two of them eventually dropped into sleep.

In the morning, Vic woke to the soothing sensation of being held. Even before he and Li Ann broke up, he'd always been a cuddler and she hadn't. So it had been more than a year since Vic had been held as he wanted to be.

Then he realised it was Mac holding him, and was surprised to find that the realisation didn't dim his pleasure at all. In fact, he almost felt better... Then he remembered the night - and day - before. His cop friends' betrayal, crying in Mac's arms.

Vic wondered how Mac would handle what had passed between them the night before. He always acted like all he wanted was a good time, like he didn't take life seriously, but Vic had seen how much loyalty meant to the other man. He'd seen that Mac wanted to be loved as much as Victor did.

Sighing, Vic carefully drew himself out of Mac's embrace and went to the bathroom to get ready for work. By the time he stepped out of the shower, wrapped in a towel, Mac had woken and left. Vic just shook his head - he'd half expected as much.

When the ex-cop arrived at The Agency he was late, but Mac was later. Vic figured the Director knew why - he'd had to go home to change - but she didn't say anything. Life went on, business as usual. The Director gave them a case, and they checked it out. Vic traded insults with Mac, noticing for the first time the relaxed, joking tone to them.

Business as usual, except that when Vic got back to his apartment he opened the door and stared at the living area for a moment. It was very empty. He could almost see himself and Stan there, pointing guns at each other...

Vic turned and shut the door forcefully. He wandered for awhile, eventually finding himself in the strip club that Vivien Vixen had said Mac was a regular at. Vic settled himself in a corner as far from the stage as he could get and ordered a beer.

The beer was halfway finished when Vivien herself showed up at the table. "Don't I know you from somewhere?" she asked playfully.

"If I didn't know you," Vic said, summoning a little smile, "I'd that'd be a pick up line."

"How do you know it's not anyway?" Vivien asked.

"Because I'd be pretty terrible company right now, and it's obvious."

"Hey, maybe I'm a sucker for a sob story," Vivien pressed. "C'mon, you look like you need to talk. Either that, or have a little fun. Mac's good for that." Vic snorted. "He is! Mac is great to be around, and you know it."

"We're constantly fighting," Vic pointed out, sipping his beer.

"Yeah, but you both know it's all in good fun. A game. Who do you talk to after most of your cases, hmmm?" Vivien asked, cocking an eyebrow. Vic shrugged his surrender and didn't speak. Vivien was about to continue the conversation when Mac abruptly slid onto the bench next to her and across from Vic.

"Look who saw the light," he crowed. "Liked what you saw the last time I dragged out, huh?"

"Nah, just the company - although there's recently been a severe drop in the quality of that," Vic jabbed, with a little smile.

"Vic, you wound me!" Mac exclaimed, clutching his chest dramatically.

Vivien grinned a little and stepped into the exchange, "Oh, poor Mac. I can make it better..." she trailed off and leaned over to kiss Mac, who kissed back lazily. Vic watched them over the rim of his glass, heart aching for as he wished for a moment that he shared that casual intimacy with someone.

"Someone at this table is definitely not having fun," Vivien pouted as she broke out of Mac's kiss. "C'mon, Mac! Go show your friend how to lighten up a little."

Unable to pass up a challenge, Mac slid out of the booth and pulled Vic after him by one arm. "Enough moping, Vic! You heard the lady. Let's go!" Vic reluctantly allowed Mac to draw him out of the club, unable to suppress a little laugh.

Vivien watched them go, a mischevous smile playing on her lips. //Those two are totally clueless,// she thought. //Fortunatly, I love playing matchmaker.//

***

It ended up being a good thing that Vic had walked to the strip club where Vivien worked, because by the time he and Mac arrived back at his apartment, he was thoroughly drunk. Mac wasn't quite so drunk, having a higher tolerance, and had to half-carry his partner to his apartment.

"Hey, Mac," Vic managed, as the ex-thief dumped him on his bed. "Thanks."

"See if you still thank me in the morning," Mac chuckled, thinking of the hangover the ex-cop was going to have. He went into the living room and called himself a cab, knowing better than to drive.

When Mac arrived at the Agency the next morning, Vic and Li Ann were already there. Vic looked a little green around the gills, but he managed a smile. "I still thank you," he said.

"You remember last night?" Mac asked incredulously, not seeing Li Ann's puzzled glance. "Hell, the last time I-" he cut himself off as The Director entered the briefing room.

"Hello, boys and girls," she greeted them, sliding a folder across the table to each member of the team. "Recently, several successful businessmen have been killed in the Vancouver area. One from Hong Kong, two from the States, four from the Middle East, another from Spain. We suspect they've been assassinated by a very specialized team."

"What makes this team so unusual?" Victor asked, focusing on business.

"They give their targets a chance. As far as we can tell, there are five of them, each with a weapons specialty. The target must duel with each of them. If the target wins all five duels, they live."

"What's the point of all that, for a group of assassins?" Li Ann asked. "Why would anyone hire an assassin that doesn't guarantee results?"

"Appearently," The Director went on, looking skeptical, "these assassins appeal to those whose consciences don't approve of 'unfair' fights, sneak attacks. In any case, I want Victor to go undercover with the group."

"How do we work that?" Mac asked.

"One of their recent targets was a little too good, and managed to kill the team's knives specialist before the swordsman gutted him. So the team is on the lookout for a new knife artist, and Vic's going to be it."

"If you're far enough into this team that you can drop me into their midst," Vic began, "why don't we just take them out?"

"Unfortunately," The Director frowned to herself, "we haven't got any witnesses against them. And the evidence is mostly circumstantial. We need you to build a solid case against them."

"So what do Li Ann and I do?" Mac asked, closing the folder he'd been browsing through.

"Li Ann is Victor's back up. She'll follow him discreetly, to make sure the assassins don't break his cover. You are going to bodyguard the woman we're nearly certain is their next target," she motioned for Mac to reopen the file. "That's her - the blonde."

"Please tell me she doesn't have any connections with the Agency." Mac said, raising an eyebrow at the beauty in the picture before him.

"No, she doesn't," The Director commented, "but I'd be careful, Mac. She might be able to stump you herself. Now, shoo! Go! Everything else is in the file - including where you can find the team, Victor."

The three of them obidiently rose and left the room, walking together through the empty halls of the Agency. "So, Vic," Li Ann began, "how are you supposed to contact the team of assassins?"

"In a martial arts studio," Vic replied, reading the file as he walked. "According to this, the team usually consists of specialists in swords, staves, knives, martial arts and," his eyebrows rose in surprise, "whips."

"These guys do believe in anything conventional, do they?" Li Ann asked rhetorically.

"You know, conventionality is highly overrated," Mac quipped. "You can have a lot of fun breaking the rules."

"You would know," Vic snorted.

"Yeah, and so would you, as of last night," Mac replied.

"What is that all about, anyway?" Li Ann asked, a little irritated.

"Mac took me clubbing last night," Vic confessed, ducking his head in embarrassment, "and I had a little too much to drink."

"A little!" Mac lightly punched Vic in the shoulder. "Li Ann, you should see this guy dance when he loosens up a little."

"I didn't see you holding back," Victor replied, punching his partner back playfully.

"Hell, no! Do I ever?" Mac grinned at Vic.

Li Ann watched this exchange with a raised eyebrow, eventually recalling them to business by slapping her file against her leg. "Guys. We've got work to do. C'mon, Vic, we need to get you wired up."

"Hmmm. I don't think that's a good idea, Li Ann," Vic said. "This team is very thorough, and I expect to be tested. If I get a little cut up, a wire is going to be very obvious."

"So how am I supposed to back you up?" Li Ann asked, throwing her hands up in exasperation. The three of them stepped out of the Agency and into the bright sunlight of early afternoon.

"Follow me. Keep a close eye on me. And be ready to jump in at any moment. I'm not sure I'll survive long if they find out I'm a spy." When Li Ann looked doubtful, he put a hand on her shoulder and said, looking into her eyes, "I trust you, Li Ann."

***

Victor stepped into the reception area of the studio, cautiously proceeding into the excercise area. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught a flash of silver. One of his knives jumped out of it's belt sheath and into his hand as if of it's own volition, sliding the approaching sword blade along it's length and away from Vic, who'd dropped to one knee.

"Very good," said the woman who wielded the sword, with a bloodthirsty grin.

"Please excuse Sasha's enthusiasm," said a man, walking towards Victor. He held a wooden staff in one hand. "But you did respond very well. In any case, your trial won't be against Sasha, or myself." At this point, Sasha withdrew her sword, sheathing it on her back.

"Then who do I fight my trial against?" Victor asked, rising carefully to his feet and sheathing his own knife. He'd worn black jeans, black runners and a tight black t-shirt for ease of motion. Over the t-shirt he wore his customary leather jacket.

"You will be fighting Thomas," the man answered, gesturing to a man in a tank top who'd just left the office at the back of the studio. He was a little older than Vic, a little shorter and a lot more muscular. "Thomas has defeated the other...applicants we've had. If you can beat him, you're in."

"What are the terms of the fight?" Vic asked, appraising his opponent as he did so. Thomas wore two long, curved knives at his waist, in plain view. Vic could see a third, which appearently was supposed to be concealed, in a boot sheath. He was scarred above one eye and along one shoulder.

"The team doesn't require a fight to the death in our trials," the unnamed man said, appearently feeling this was generous. "The trial will end when one of you can no longer hold your weapon."

"Fine with me," Vic said, though his opinin hadn't been sought, and kept an eye on Thomas.

"Very well," the man said.

These words seemed to define the beginning of the trial, because they'd no sooner left his lips than Thomas was coming after Victor with two knives. His attack was met by Vic's own set of knives, and the metal clashed noisily. Vic twisted one of his wrists, occupying both of Thomas's blades, and cut at his stomach with the other. Thomas bent away from the motion a slid one of his blades along Victor's, going for a cut at Vic's fingers.

Vic let go of one of his knives, and it dropped out from under Thomas's blade, causing the other man to overextend that arm. Vic caught the falling blade before it hit the floor and, in one smooth motion, brought it back up to sever the tendons in Thomas's forearm.

Thomas grimaced in pain, but managed to disengage his left hand blade from Victor's and to force Vic's left blade from his hand. Thomas brought the blade around in a forceful strike that knocked Victor's other blade to the floor.

As Thomas brought his knife down to cut at Vic's arms, Vic triggered the arm sheaths he wore on each forearm. A small knife sprang into each hand; Vic used one to deflect Thomas's strike and drove the other through his opponent's wrist.

Seeing that he'd lost, Thomas backed off. He glared at Vic for a moment before sprinting to the bathroom, supposedly to banaged his wounds. The unnamed man smiled and began clapping. Sasha joined him, as did two other men who emerged from the office. Keeping a wary eye on his applauding audience, Vic collected his belt knives and reloaded the spring sheaths on his arms.

"My name is Mark," the unnamed man said. "You know Sasha. These are Eric and Chris. And you are?"

"Victor," Vic said shortly.

"Well, Victor, you're in. By the way, how many knives do you actually have on you?" Mark seemed amused.

"Why should I tell you?" Vic asked, still wary of his new teammates.

"We have to trust each other," the man Mark had called Eric said.

"If it'll make you feel better," Mark continued, "we'll show you our weapons." Vic nodded, feeling this was expected. "Come with me. We'll disarm in the office."

The five of them proceeded to the office, where Sasha silently drew her sword and laid it on the desk. Mark placed his staff next to it. Eric unclipped a pair of whips from his belt and laid them alongside the other weapons. "Chris," Mark explained, "is our marital arts expert. His body is his weapon. Unfortunately, he is also mute." Mark regarded Vic steadily. "Your turn."

Vic nodded, drew the two knives at his belt and placed them on the table. He then leaned down and drew a knife from a boot sheath, which joined the others on the table. Then he hesitated, but eventually took off his leather jacket. Under it, Mark and the others could see he was wearing the two arm sheaths, plus three throwing knives strapped to his abdomen. All joined the weapons on the table.

"A grand total of eight knives," Mark said, seeming impressed. "I approve."

"Just in time, too," Sasha commented. Victor quirked an enquiring eyebow.

"We have a mark to take out," Mark explained. "We usually investigate the target for a couple of days before making our move. We received a contract today, but didn't want to begin investigating until we'd recruited a fifth team member. Come, Victor. We have work to do."

***

"Hi, I'm Mac Ramsey," Mac greeted the woman who'd shown up at his door. "You must be Jennifer Lara."

The bleach blond lowered her sunglasses a little to look him up and down. "I take it you're going to be my bodyguard." She sounded disapproving.

"Yeah," Mac confirmed. Before he could get any farther, Jennifer strode into his apartment and looked around, sighing in appearent disappointment.

"I guess it'll have to do, for now," she muttered.

"Come on in," Mac said under his breath, irritated.

"Let's get one thing straight here," Jennifer said forcefully, "I'm in charge here. You are my employee, and as far as I'm concerned, I'll do what I like and you'll make sure I don't get killed. Got it?"

"I don't know where you get off treating people like that, lady," Mac responded. He was cut off when Jennifer planted a four inch heel in his stomach. Mac fell back agains the wall, gasping.

"I can take care of myself," Jennifer said. "Understand? I only accepted your protection because my regular security insisted. So shut up and do your job."

//I'm in hell,// Mac thought.

***

Vic returned to his apartment and wearily stripped off all the knives he'd been wearing. When the team he'd joined said 'investigate', they meant it. To him had fallen the job of discreetly following their target - whom Mac was protecting - all over town. Vic had been hoping Mac would be able to sit on her and keep her in one place, but the power suit she wore and the grimace that Mac wore said she had an attitude. Which meant that she dragged Vic, and Mac, all over town while she conducted business as usual.

A slight sound in Vic's darkened apartment caught his attention, and he flipped one of his discarded knives into one hand, flicking the light on with the other. "Relax," Li Ann said, sitting on his couch, "it's just me."

"What are you doing here, Li Ann?" Vic asked, puttig the knife down.

"You contacted the team three days ago, but you haven't checked in since then. I wanted to make sure you were okay," Li Ann explained.

"Li Ann," Victor said, sighing, "these guys mean business. I didn't want to risk breaking my cover by contacting you. They're good at what they do. That's why I didn't want to wear a wire, remember?"

"Yeah, I know," Li Ann replied. "By the way, when did you get so good with knives? I had no idea you could use them like that."

"When Dobrinski was training me for the Agency I noticed I had a real affinity for them," Vic explained. "Ever since then, I've been practicing with them. The skill seemed to come naturally."

"Oh. I just hadn't noticed before, that's all. Anyway, the team ran a background check on you. They were pretty thorough, but you checked out."

"Well, that's good," Vic lay down on his bed. "You'd better go, just in case. Get some sleep, while you can. We're going to take out the target tomorrow."

Li Ann rose and went to the door, where she stopped self-consciously. "Victor, I'm sorry," she said.

"What for?" Vic asked, surprised. He propped himself up on one elbow so he could look at her.

"A few days ago, after your friends turned on you...I wasn't there for you. I'm sorry," Li Ann looked at the floor, appearently ashamed at her actions.

"It's okay."

"No, it isn't. You were hurting, and I wasn't there-"

"No, really, it's okay," Vic insisted. "I was hurting, yeah, but Mac was there. It's all right, I wasn't alone." Vic smiled a little, remembering the feeling he'd had upon waking the next morning.

"Oh. Okay," Li Ann said uneasily, and left.

The next day, Vic woke early and left to meet the team. They gathered at the martial arts studio where he'd passed his trial. The plan had been worked out the night before, and the five of them reviewed their parts quickly. They were soon ready, and climbed into a van which Mark drove to a local track.

In the preceeding three days, the team had established that Jennifer came every moring at 8:00 to this track to run. She was unaccompanied by all except her bodyguard, who had to run with her. It would be Chris's job engage the bodyguard while Mark challenged Jennifer. If she defeated Mark, Victor was supposed to confront her next.

When they arrived at the track, Jennifer and Mac were already jogging around the track. Vic wordlessly wished Mac luck as Chris silently made his way down to the track and waited for the running pair to pass by him. Jennifer passed Chris without incident, but Mac, two steps behind, was jumped by Chris. He rolled nimbly, coming to his feet and delivering a punch to Chris's abdomen in a fluid movement that Vic had to admire.

Mark attempted to close in on Jennifer, but Mac saw him out of the corner of his eye and manuvered his fight so that it interfered with Mark's approach. Sasha stood beside Vic and watched, a disconcerting gleam in her eyes. "It's all very sexual, isn't it?" she purred into Vic's ear, running one hand up his leg. "The fight, I mean."

Shifting sublty away from her touch, Vic said nothing, but agreed silently. While he didn't take the same bloodthirsty pleasure in the fight that Sasha did, the grace with which Mac moved and the energy in the duel did give it a strangely sexual tone. Vic realised with some surprise that he was checking out his partner - and that he liked what he saw.

Just then, Eric called out, "Look what I found!" Vic turned to see Eric dragging Li Ann after him. They must have fought, because a whip welt was rising on Li Ann's cheek. She had the whip wrapped around her torso, effectivly pinning her arms to her body.

In an instant, Vic found a sword at his throat. "No one else knew we were going to be here," Sasha said coldly, "and you're the only one in this group I don't trust."

"Hey!" Vic said, trying to smile and back away from the sword edge, "I don't know who the hell that is! I'm here to do a job, just like the rest of you." Sasha followed him with the sword, but he managed to lead her down to the edge of the track, where he'd have more room to move. Mac held Mark and Chris off of Jennifer a few steps away.

"I don't believe you," Sasha hissed, bringing the sword around for a killing shot. Vic ducked and drew his knives, fending off the next strike with both blades. Blow after blow slid off the knives, each impact jarring Vic's arms right to the shoulder. He could see, behind Sasha, that Li Ann had downed Eric - presumably with a kick - and had managed to struggle out of the whip's hold. Then Vic's attention was consumed by his defense, as he deflected sword strokes with his knives.

Sasha's attack quickened as she noticed him tiring, trying to break through his defense. Vic cried out as she slipped through his defense and managed to slice him along one shoulder. He had to drop to one knee to avoid her next blow. At his cry, Mac managed to glance up from his own fight. He saw Vic, down on one knee, barely managing to avoid one blow after another.

"Vic!" Mac yelled as Sasha knocked the ex-cop down, bringing up her sword for a killing strike. Mac abandoned Jennifer, running to Vic's defense. He tackled Sasha just as she brought the sword down, rolling across the track with her. An instant later Mac had one knee planted firmly on her chest and a gun pointed directly at her head. "Don't. Move," he demanded.

A that moment two gun shots rang out. Mac glanced up, keeping up the pressure on Sasha's chest, to see Mark and Chris go down. He looked back at the bleachers to see that Li Ann had knocked Eric unconscious, and had put a bullet in one of both Mark and Chris's legs. Jennifer looked disheveled and was cluching one arm painfully. Mac quickly handcuffed Sasha to a nearby railing and went to help Victor up.

***

"What the hell do you think you were doing!?!" The Director yelled angrily at Mac. "You abandoned your assignment! You were supposed to protect Jennifer Lara! She could have been killed!" Vic didn't think he'd ever seen The Director angrier, but Mac lifted his chin and met her glare.

"Vic could have been killed!" he yelled back.

"Vic is an agent! He knows his life is at risk. Jennifer was a client, whom you were ordered to protect! But, no, it was Li Ann who saved her life - put at risk by you!" The Director was furious. "I ought to give you a week with Dobrinski! No, that's not enough. Hell, I can't think of a severe enough punishment. Get the hell out of here while I think of one."

Mac turned and strode from the room, anger written in every line of his body. After a moment, Vic turned and followed him, ignoring The Director's angry demand for him to stay. "Hey!" he called, running to catch up with Mac, "wait up."

"She's not pissed at you, Vic," Mac said tightly, "if you go back now, you'll be fine."

Vic stopped Mac with a hand on his arm and looked his partner in the eye. "Yeah, I know. C'mon. Let's get out of here." Mac couldn't help grinning at his partner, and the two of them broke into a run.

A half hour later, the two of them were back at the club where Vivien worked and Mac was just starting to cool down. "Hey guys," Vivien greeted them, sliding onto the bench next to Mac. This time he didn't lean over to kiss her, just knocked back the last of his drink. "What happened, now? This time it's Mac that's in entirely the wrong mood."

Shaking his head and smiling a little, Vic related the story to Vivien. As he got to the end of it, he realised something. "Hey, Mac. I never thanked you for saving my life." He reached across the table and clasped one of Mac's hands, "Thanks, partner."

Mac looked up and could see he meant it, so he returned the grip and smiled a little. They gazed at each other for a long moment, neither seeming to notice that their hands remained clasped far past the point of friendly thanks. Vivien finally had to break the moment to tell them her act was next. Their hands parted, but they didn't seem self-conscious about the long grip.

Once up on stage, Vivien danced her show with her usual flair, but kept an eye on the two men in the booth. They watched her perform, grinning, but she noticed that they both kept sneaking glances at each other when the other wasn't watching. As the dance heated up, Vivien caught Victor watching Mac, more than a little flushed. Mac seemed to be returning the attention, but neither man was aware of the other's interest.

Vivien smiled mischevously to herself as she left the stage. //If I can get those two dancing,// she thought to herself, //there will definitely be some fireworks.// Off stage, she changed into a pair of jeans and a blouse and returned to the boys' table. "You guys wanna go dancing?" she asked hopefully.

"Not tonight, Vivien," Vic declined good-naturedly. "I'm going to head home. Mac," he caught his partner's eye, "thanks for being there." Mac nodded seriously, and Vivien could see that phrase had particular meaning for the two of them. As Vic turned and left the club, Vivien and Mac both watched his exit.

"Mmmm. He certainly is worth saving," Vivien commented, glancing sideways at Mac.

Mac glanced away quickly, "I guess."

"Oh, don't play coy with me!" Vivien exclaimed. "You think he's as hot as I do. You've been checking him out all night."

"He's irritating as hell, he's got the worst taste in music and we're constantly arguing," Mac retorted.

"Foreplay," Vivien stated. Mac snorted his beer. "Give me a break, Mac, I know you better than to go for this obilivious act. As a matter of fact," she went on thoughtfully, "I've never seen you do this before. Could it be this goes a little deeper than the purely physical?"

"It's nothing like that," Mac said, studying his drink intently. "It's just that he's always been there to back me up...well, except for once. But, hell, I did that to him once too. Like we were testing each other. After that, whenever I needed him, he was there. He's honourable to a fault and loyal beyond belief..." Mac trailed off.

"You really are in love with him, aren't you?" Vivien asked gently.

"I think I am," Mac acknowledged sadly.

"Why so sad, Mac?" Vivien asked. "Love is a good thing! The best of things."

"Only when it's returned, Viv, only when it's returned."

"How do you know it isn't?" Vivien challenged.

"He's still in love with Li Ann, Viv! He was going to marry her, you know." Mac polished off his drink and sat back glumly.

"Yeah, well, he isn't married, is he? Who did he spend tonight with, hmmm? Where did he go the other night when he was really depressed? He came here, your favourite haunt, even though he's never been here before. Maybe he was hoping to run into you."

"I don't want to get my hopes up, Viv," Mac said, rising. "I've had enough heartache."

"You know what your problem is, Mac?" she asked gently. "You pretend all you want is some fun, but you're really looking for a lifetime commitment. So you end up with girls who won't put down roots, and end up hurting you instead."

"You say I'm interested in Vic," Mac pointed out, "and he's a committing kind of guy."

"That's why I'm trying to tell you to put a little effort into getting him, Mac," Vivien said. "I think you could be happy with him." Mac just shook his head and left the club.

***

When Vic got back to his apartment, he found Li Ann waiting for him again. "I just want to go to bed, Li Ann," he said tiredly.

"Victor, how could you just walk out on The Director and I like that?" Li Ann asked, sounding a little angry. "She was really pissed, you know."

"Li Ann, Mac saved my life! I don't care that he went against orders to do it, I don't care that our client nearly got killed! I care that he was there for me when I needed him. And when he needed someone on his side against The Director, I was there for him. That's what partners do." Victor realised he was yelling and stopped to take a breath.

"Are you trying to tell me something?" Li Ann asked. "Vic, I was following orders. I was carrying out our assignment!"

"Nice to know you value your orders above my life!" Vic snapped. "Once we meant something to each other. But you seem to have put all that firmly in the past."

"Vic," Li Ann said, hurt, "I only said I wanted to postpone the engagement..."

"How do you postpone an engagement, Li Ann?" Vic asked incredulously. "You might as well have told me you had no intention of marrying me. Mac certainly knew that long before I did."

"Vic, I just wanted more time!" Li Ann tried to defend herself.

"You took a little too much time," Vic said baldly. "You're my closest friend, Li Ann, but I don't want to marry you anymore."

"That was harsh, Vic," Li Ann said, tears in her eyes.

"I'm sorry, but so were you." Li Ann knew he meant the time, months before, when she'd asked to 'postpone' the engagement. She turned and left his apartment quickly, and Vic wearily settled down to try to sleep. He didn't have much success.

The next day Vic found out from Nathan, the archivist, that The Director had settled for giving Mac duty with Dobrinski after all. She'd suspended Vic and, for once, he didn't mind. He wasn't sure he wanted to face Li Ann, and he knew he'd miss Mac. So he read for most of the day and then went to Mac's apartment around when he figured Dobrinski would let his partner go.

Mac wasn't home yet, so Vic settled himself on the couch to wait. A little under an hour later Mac came in and greeted Vic with some surprise. "Hey," Vic responded, "you up to taking Vivien up on last night's offer?"

"Dancing? Sure, just let me shower and change."

When Mac had freshened up, the two of them took Vic's truck and drove down to the strip club. They were in luck when they got there, for Vivien was just coming off her last performance for the night. "Hey, Viv," Mac greeted her, "are you up to dancing tonight?"

"Absolutely," Vivien grinned. "Looking good, Vic," she commented appreciatively. The ex-cop was dressed in tight black jeans, a soft blue dress shirt and he wore his earring. Vic expressed his thanks, and the three of them left the strip club to go looking for a dance club. Vivien insisted on choosing the place, eventually leading them to a club with a lot of lights and a wide selection of music. Vic was happy to find most of it palatable, if not exactly to his taste.br> As the three of them moved onto the dance floor, Mac noted with some suspicion that there were as many same sex couples as mixed dancing. He glanced at Vivien, but she was dancing face to face with Vic. The two of them moved well together, hips moving with the beat of the music. After a moment, Vivien turned so that her back was to Vic's front. The ex-cop went with the move, placing his hands on her hips. Mac danced on his own until he noticed Vivien beckoning him. He hesitated, but she cocked her eyebrow in obvious challenge. So he moved forward, sliding her arms around his neck and placing his hands atop Vic's on her hips. Vic looked a little surprised when he noticed Mac had joined the dance, but he went with it.

While they danced, bodies swaying to the beat, Vivien moved one of Vic's hands from her hip to her stomach. Mac was dancing close enough to her that the back of Vic's hand brushed his stomach as well. The contact made him gasp a little. He gasped more when she moved his hand down onto her ass - and into direct contact with Vic's groin. The music had taken on a grinding beat, and their dancing began to reflect that. Vic danced closer to Vivien, pressing Mac's hand more firmly against his groin. Mac met Victor's eyes over Viven's shoulder and couldn't restrain a moan at what he saw there - heat.

Mac moved as if to kiss Vivien, but she ducked her head aside at the last moment and he ended up kissing Victor right on the mouth. The contact of their lips was electric, and Mac forgot the kiss had ever been intended for Vivien. He and Vic melted into it, hardly noticing when Vivien slipped out from between them. Their bodies molded to each other, still moving with the beat of the music, as they devoured each other. Mac's hands now cupped Vic's ass, Vic's hands rested on Mac's hips. Breathless, they broke the kiss and looked into each other's eyes for a long moment.

The music slowed at that point, and their movements became intensely sensual. They moved sinuously together, the dance a mutual full body caress. They moved into another kiss, this one just as hungry and passionate as the one before. Vic and Mac could feel each other's arousal in the close contact of the dance, and the friction between them lit their skin on fire.

"I want you," Victor moaned into Mac's ear, flicking out his tongue to touch the lobe gently.

"I want you," Mac replied huskily, grinding their groins together. Vic nodded and took Mac's hand, leading him from the dance floor. They noticed Vivien on the way out, but she just winked and motioned them on their way.

Somehow, they made it back to Mac's apartment. They shed their clothes on the way to the bedroom and came together, skin against skin, at the foot of the bed. They kissed passionately, hands exploring each other's bodies eagerly. Vic rubbed his palms against Mac's nipple causing the other man to arch into the touch with a groan.

Mac gripped Vic by the waist and pushed him backwards onto the bed, following a moment later. The ex-thief covered his partner's body with his own, running fingertips teasingly up and down Vic's thighs, stomach and chest. Vic writhed under him, reaching up to pull Mac down for another kiss. Mac melted into the kiss, and Vic flipped him onto his back. The ex-cop then went to work on Mac's nipples with his mouth, teasing them to hardness with his tongue, then blowing cool air across them. Mac arched uncontrollably into the touch, moaning deeply.

"Vic..." he moaned, drawing his partner up for a kiss. "Want you. So much."

"Want you, too," Vic responded, nibbling on Mac's neck.

"I mean," Mac gasped as Vic sucked the lobe of his ear into his mouth, "I want to...ah! I want to make love...to you."

Vic paused, and Mac wondered for an instant if he'd made a mistake. "Do you have something?" Vic asked, rubbing his body against Mac's.

Mac sighed his relief. "Yeah, in the nightstand." Vic reached over and opened the drawer, pulling out a tube of lube and a condom.

"How do you want me?" he asked, his voice a low growl.

Mac moaned at the phrasing, "I want to see you. I want to kiss you." Vic nodded and rolled them so that he lay on his back, and handed the lube to Mac. Mac kissed Vic deeply, then flipped open the lube and squeezed a bit onto his fingers. He prepared his partner carefully, making sure Vic was totally relaxed before adding each successive finger.

"Mac! Please...I'm ready," Vic gasped, pushing down on Mac's fingers. Mac could only nod, and quickly rolled the condom on. He carefully placed the head at the entrance to Vic's body, and leaned up to kiss Vic before he pushed in. The ex-cop gasped at the initial entry, but was soon moaning for more. Mac pushed in gently until he was entirely buried in Vic's body.

"More," Vic groaned, rolling his hips and kissing Mac fiercely. Mac kissed him back and began thrusting gently. He hit Vic's prostate on the downstroke and Vic yelled Mac's name and pushed down onto the motion. Their bodies moved together in a fast, passionate rhyhtm. Mac thrust deeply one last time before Vic came, screaming his name in ecstasy. Vic's muscles clenching around him triggered Mac's own orgasm, and he cried out Vic's name.

They collapsed into each other's arms, still joined for the moment, in perfect satisfaction. Finally Mac had to withdraw, dicarding the condom. Vic whimpered at the loss, but Mac stilled the sound with a tender kiss. Soon they cradled each other sleepily, arms and legs tangled together.

In the morning, Vic once again woke to the pleasent sensation of being held. He smiled tenderly as he remembered the night before, and savoured the aches that were in all the right places. "I would have made breakfast," Mac said into his ear, "but I liked holding you too much."

"Hmmmmm. Thank you. For letting me wake up in your arms," Vic replied. "Although I do believe a shower is in order."

"Mind if I shower with you?" Mac asked.

"Please do," Vic grinned as he rolled out of bed, "Although it's going to take a lot longer..."

"Indeed," Mac followed his lover into the bathroom. A while later, they made breakfast and ate quickly, as Mac had to report to Dobrinski. Vic was still suspended, so he drove Mac to his destination before returning to his own apartment to change into fresh clothes.

Inside his home, Victor found Li Ann waiting for him. She must have been there the whole night, because she had fallen asleep on the couch. "Li Ann," he called, "Li Ann, wake up." She blinked a couple of times and moved to stretch, wincing at the sore spots she'd acquired by sleeping in such a position. "Li Ann, what are you doing here?"

"Where were you last night?" she demanded. "I came here to talk to you, to apologise for some of the things I said the other night. You never came home."

"I was with a friend," Vic said, taking off his jacket and throwing it onto a nearby chair. The good mood he'd been in was quickly evaporating.

"A close friend?" Li Ann asked, looking him up and down to make it clear she saw he was wearing the same clothes as he had the day before.

"Yeah, not that it's any of your business," Vic replied challengingly.

"Look, Vic, I'm not here to argue with you. I just wanted to tell you, I'm sorry I didn't back you up the other day..." Li Ann trailed off and moved as if to leave.

"No, Li Ann, I should be apologising," Vic said reluctantly, stopping her from leaving with a hand on her arm. "I said some pretty harsh things, and I didn't mean most of them. I'm sorry."

"You didn't mean most of them?" Li Ann asked gently.

"I don't want to lie to you, Li Ann, and I don't want to hurt you either. You are my closest friend, but I don't want to marry you anymore," Vic said, looking apologetic.

"I suppose that's my own fault," Li Ann murmured. "It's okay, Vic. We're okay, right?"

"Yeah, we're okay."

***

"Welcome back, Mr.Mansfield," The Director said coolly. "I trust you enjoyed your suspension?"

"Actually, yes I did," Victor replied, grinning. "You know, I really needed some time off-"

"God help me, I've got two of you now," The Director sighed, looking from Vic to Mac and back again. "Down to business, boys and girls. I feel the trust level in this team needs to be built up again, so for now the three of you are handling surveillance duty. Meet Paul Winters," she gestured to the screen. On it was a man, over fifty, with graying hair. "All we need on Mr.Winters is a regular report on his activities. Do you understand me, Mac?"

"What?" Mac asked defensively. The Director just sighed and shook her head.

"I know this is a piece of cake for you, but please play by the rules. Now go to work," The Director waved an impatient hand at them.

"She's been shooing us out of there a lot lately," Mac commented as they left the briefing room. "You think it's the other team again?"

"There is no other team!" The Director called after them. Mac, Li Ann, and Victor just grinned at each other.

The surveillance was definitely routine. Mr.Winters had a regular schedule, and between the three of them they had no trouble keeping track of him. Three days after they began the watch, Mac came back to Vic's apartment with his partner.

In the ten days since they'd first become lovers, the two of them had spent nearly every night together. Most nights they made love, but others they just held each other. This night, it'd been three days since they'd been able to be together. Once they were inside the door, Vic pushed Mac up against the door and kissed him tenderly.

"I missed you," he murmured.

Mac chuckled a little, "I missed you, too." They made their way, whispering and shedding clothing, to the bedroom. Vic grinned and pulled Mac down onto the bed with him, kissing his lover with all the intensity of their first coming together. The ex-cop drew his fingernails lightly up Mac's thighs and back, raising goosebumps. He was rewarded with a little growl and a possessive kiss.

A quick twist had Mac on his back, and Vic slid his hands up his lover's arms until he was holding Mac's arms above his head by the wrists. Vic twisted his hips in a tight circle, rubbing his cock against Mac's and eliciting a moan of pleasure. They fell quickly into a rhythm, hands stroking and touching, lips kissing and biting. The heat of their bodies and the slick friction of skin against skin quickly brought them to their peak, calling out each other's names as they came together.

Afterwards, they delayed sated slumber long enough to clean up. Mac returned from the bathroom and found Victor waiting for him under the covers of the bed. The ex-cop smiled up at his lover sleepily, but raised the sheets long enough for Mac to slid in next to him. Mac spooned up against Vic and, resting his head on his lover's shoulder, quickly slipped into peaceful sleep.

The next morning, Li Ann knocked on Vic's door, but got no response. "Vic?" she called through the door. //This is strange,// she mused, //it's 9:30am and he's not up yet. I know my shift wasn't supposed to end until 11:00, but Vic never sleeps this late.// "Vic! she called again. Still no response.

Shrugging, Li Ann pulled out the key that Vic had given her when he'd moved into this apartment. He'd said he wanted her to feel welcome. The key still worked in the lock, and she opened the door quietly. The apartment was dark, so she flipped on the light as she came in. "Vic?" she called, making her way to the bedroom. Li Ann frowned down at the clothes scattered on the floor. Vic wasn't usually this messy...

The bedroom door was open, so she looked in, "Vic what..." the words died in her throat at the scene she'd stumbled onto. Vic was just coming awake, and had turned on the bedside lamp. Wrapped, spoon style, around him was Mac. The bed covers had been thrown back a little during the night, and it was obvious that both men were naked - to the waist at the very least.

Vic finally registered that Li Ann was seeing him and Mac in bed together. "Uh, Mac, wake up," he said, reaching behind him to shake his lover. Mac murmured protestingly and pressed his lips against Vic's shoulder. "Mac!" Vic hissed, "Li Ann's here."

That woke him up. "What?! Oh, no," he opened his eyes and, startled, sat up sharply. With an exclamation, Vic grabbed at the covers to keep himself decent. "Not good," Mac said.

"Oh. My. God." Li Ann said, stepping into the bedroom. "What is this?" she asked, shocked. Mac and Vic just looked at each other sheepishly and back at Li Ann nervously. "How...how long has this been going on?" she asked.

Victor ran a hand through his hair and ducked his head. "You remember that night when you waited up for me and I didn't come home?" he asked. "That was the first night."

"Man," Li Ann said, sitting heavily in a chair that sat conveniently in one corner of the bedroom. "The, uh, The Director said we've watched Mr.Winters long enough. That's why I came here. Vic didn't answer the door, so I just came in..." she trailed off. "Is this...serious?" she asked awkwardly.

"You mean, are we in love?" Vic clarified. Li Ann nodded. Vic turned to look at Mac and took a deep breath, "I am." He held his breath nervously, and Li Ann realised they'd never said the words before.

"I love you, too," Mac said, his face lighting up with a grin. Vic released the breath he'd been holding and leaned forward to kiss Mac on the lips. Li Ann felt a twinge of jealousy at the easiness with which Mac declared his love for Victor.

"I'll just...go, now," she said self-consciously.

"Li Ann!" Vic called as she turned to leave. "Are you going to be okay with this?" He looked genuinely worried.

"Yeah, Vic, I'll be okay. I'm happy for you," she dug a smile out of somewhere and said over her shoulder as she left, "We've got a meeting with The Director at 11:00, guys. Don't be late."

***

This time Mac and Vic entered the briefing room together - and a little late. The Director watched them with one raised eyebrow as they seated themselves. "Well," she said, "it seems we've got some of the original group dynamic back. Although with a certain," she gave the guys a meaningful glance, "twist."

Mac and Vic glanced at each other and grinned.

--End--