~~ Aftermath… ~~

by TJ

RATING – R – for implied sexual situations



SERIES - Rome Wasn't Built in a Day

SUMMARY – Having spent over two years growing close to a colleague and confidante, Larabee and his lady friend finally take their relationship to the next level. They've been good friends for so long, and she knows ALL about his demons, yet, she has some of her own, too. The two get together with explosive results, but can they survive beyond their first unexpected night of passion?

SIZE Approx 160K


DISCLAIMER – If only wishes did come true… Reality is harsh

John Watson and CBS own The Magnificent Seven and all of its characters.
I seek, nor shall receive, profit from this narrative.

I claim All Original Characters as my own.
Please, DO NOT use them without my express permission.


WRITER’S NOTES – Back in September, Sunni, as list-sib and friend, wrote a wonderful birthday fic for me. At the end of her gift she wrote: Finis - unless TJ wants to take it further!

Well… what can I say? I was so inspired by the passion of her tale, that I met her challenge and my words just seemed to flow.

I'd like to present both stories to you here. Sunni's birthday gift to me, Back from the Edge, and the story that it begat, Aftermath…

As you might have guessed, both stories were originally created using my name as the other female character, and although some small parts of 'her' resemble 'me', this is still, very much a work of fiction. Hence, the name change you'll see here. I believe we all have the same mutual dislike for 'Mary Sues', therefore, as is my custom with original characters, I've worked hard to create an interesting and complex personality for Kate.

One other note, if I may… The 'incident' that surrounds Kate's 'demons', is an actual historical event that some may remember. I apologize if it brings up any bad memories for anyone, but rest assured, the facts, as I've presented them, are accurate in every detail.

I'd like to thank my friend, Barb, for allowing my musings in her 'Wind & Rain' ATF AU.

For those interested, there is an ADULT version of this story located on the BlackRaptor Adult pages.

I also want to say thank you to Antoinette for her continued friendship, beta skills, and helpful advice. Thanks also, to Marnie, who gave the story one last beta after it had been sitting for a while.



Disclaimer: Neither Chris nor Kate belong to me...I am just borrowing them to give TJ a birthday present <grin>

TJ, I hope your birthday brings you all you wish for and you have a wonderful year ahead (and post lots of stories to the list!) <giggle>Â Happy birthday, Pard!

A Birthday Story for TJ

Kate sighed with relief as she walked through the front door of her apartment. All she could think of was getting out of her shoes and settling into a warm bath. Her fingertips rubbed her temples to alleviate the headache that had been brewing since her 'other' boss first came in to work this morning.

"Maybe I'll get lucky and draw his name for Christmas so I can present him with his very own dictionary. I swear the man has no idea of the meaning of the word patience," she said to herself as she walked into her bathroom and ran a tub of hot water. Feeling like treating herself to something nice, she added some bubble bath for good measure.

Kate finished undressing and put on her robe; noticing the tub was full, she turned the water off. Reaching into the medicine cabinet she grabbed a bottle of aspirin and went to the kitchen to get a glass of water. She shook out two little pills and placed them in her mouth, grimacing at the taste as she quickly washed them down with the clear liquid. Shaking her head to the remaining aftertaste, she made her way back to the bathroom and within minutes was closing her eyes as she settled back against the tub.

The aggravations of the day began to fade away as she felt her body relax. She decided to think only of things that would make her smile. However, the first thought to come to mind was also the one who had made her day so aggravating... a certain man who consistently dressed in black. Kate could feel the blush come into her cheeks as she allowed her mind to wonder about the man. He was handsome and smart. She chuckled as she thought about his quick wit and smiled at the memory of his moments of kindness. How she wished that he would notice her as more than just "Kate, the Assistant" but had long ago given up on that possibility. With a sigh, she resigned herself to the knowledge that, like herself, Chris Larabee was married to the job.

Not liking the way her thoughts had turned, Kate went about finishing her bath. She stepped out of the tub and was relieved to notice that her headache had gone away. Drying off and slipping back into her robe, she decided to put on a pot of water for some tea, and then return to her room to change into her pajamas.

Hearing the teapot whistle several minutes later, she went about preparing a cup of the relaxing brew. That done, she returned to her living room and, grabbing her laptop from the counter, she settled down at the end of her couch. Kate sank back against the soft cushions and pulled her legs up under her as she opened the mini computer. She took a sip of her tea as she typed in her screen name and waited for her system to connect.

"You've got mail," was the first thing she heard as the system came online. A smile crossed her face as she checked her mail. Most of it was from a fiction list that she had subscribed to. The list gave her an opportunity to let her other side shine through. She settled back to read the stories posted that day.


Chris was bored. He was standing at the railing looking out at his land and feeling very much alone. Shaking his head to the sad memories that kept popping in, he decided to try and focus on something happier instead. Suddenly his thoughts were filled with the picture of a pretty blond. She was more than pretty, Chris thought with a smile. Kate was beautiful inside and out. His attention was drawn to the stars as he wondered what she was doing tonight. There had been many a time that he had wanted to ask her out but decided at the last minute against it. What could she ever possibly see in him? He could offer her no future, no family. Not that he was even sure of what she wanted in her future. For all he knew and could tell, she was too engrossed in her career to think of anything beyond that. But, could he accept that? He knew they could have something special, if they both wanted it.

Coming to a decision, Chris headed for his car and Kate's place.


Kate had spent a pleasant evening reading and chatting with her Internet friends and was just about ready to turn in to bed when she heard a knock at the door. Looking out the peephole she was surprised to see Chris standing there, and quickly opened the door.

"Chris, is there something wrong?"

"I was in the neighborhood and thought I'd stop by for some coffee."

"Really? Why? Are they all out on your end of town?"

Sighing, Chris mumbled to himself, "I knew this was a bad idea."

"Excuse me?"

"Um, nothing. Would you mind if I came in? I'm beginning to get some strange looks, standing outside your door like this."

She giggled. "Yeah, sure. I probably can't make coffee as well as the shop down the street, but I'll try."

"I'd like that."

"Good. Have a seat and I'll be right back."

Chris removed his coat and settled himself on the couch. He could smell the aroma of fresh brewing coffee coming from the kitchen. Getting up, he followed the smell. She was climbing a stepping stool to reach for something and fell backwards. He reached out and caught her.

"Easy there. What are you after? I can get it for you," Chris said, steadying her.

"The creamer on the back shelf," she answered, feeling her cheeks blushing from the feel of his hands around her waist.

Chris reached up and grabbed the creamer with ease. Kate poured the coffee and after asking how he liked his, went about preparing the two cups. She handed him his as they made their way back to the living room, each taking a seat on the sofa. Neither one said a word as they silently sipped the hot brew.

He set his coffee cup down and turned toward Kate staring at her intently, and something in the gaze made her feel uneasy.

"Kate," he said softly, "I know you get lonely sometimes. Don't you want to spend some time with someone?"

Kate frowned; not quite understanding what he was getting at. "In what way?" she asked slowly.

"A lover," Chris said directly.

Kate shook her head. "There's no chance of that."

"Don't close your mind to the possibility, Kate. You and I make a great pair. We've laughed together, and we've been shoulders for each other to cry on. We would be good together, you and I."

Kate struggled to express her doubts. "I couldn't just sleep with you. It would be against the rules. Besides, what would the others think of me?"

"Those traditional rules no longer apply. We've become much more adult when it comes to relationships in the ATF. And don't worry about what they'd think; most of them have already dealt with this problem."

Kate's jaw dropped at the news. She wanted to ask a million questions. Who? When? She had had no idea. If the others had -- then -- well -- Kate chewed on her lip as she stared at Chris.

Chris stroked Kate's cheek with his thumb as he brought his lips near her ear. "I don't want to pressure you into anything. If it feels wrong, then tell me..."

Kate trembled slightly at the closeness. No, it didn't feel wrong at all. It felt somehow natural. But still anxiety gnawed at her. "I don't want to lose your friendship, or my job. What if it doesn't work out?"

Chris chuckled softly, the sound sending little chills down Kate's back. "It's not just women who can feel not only the physical aspect, but the emotional bond as well. I love you, Kate. Our physical love will only strengthen our relationship, bringing us closer together. And no matter what happens, yes or no, your job is safe."

Kate's eyes slid closed as she felt a powerful yearning overtake her. How long had it been since she'd been touched, since she'd been in touch with her feminine sexuality? Far too long, as Chris had realized. How could it hurt to lean on him and take the comfort that he offered? Her heart was pounding as she parted her lips and waited breathlessly.

The touch on her lips was light as a butterfly's wings. Kate marveled at the softness of his lips as the pressure increased. Hesitantly, she responded, feeling electric sparks spread in her belly as their lips moved, taking and giving pleasure in turn. This was not a normal kiss; it was gentler and more erotic. Kate opened her mouth and kissed harder, relishing the texture. Her hands began to caress Chris's head.

Smiling inwardly at the response, Chris traced a line down her neck with his thumb. A moan tore from Kate's throat and he stopped, ending the kiss. "Too much?" He asked.

Kate shook her head. Every nerve seemed to be crying out for attention. "I've never felt this sensitive before, just from a kiss."

Chris took her cue and resumed the kiss. His hands wandered over her back and Kate followed his lead, touching Chris's shoulders and upper back, getting a feel for what would come next.

Chris inched his hands up to Kate's breasts, not wanting to go too fast yet wanting to explore further. Kate hesitated, her hands ceasing movement, and then she relaxed. "Please," she whispered. "I want more."


Later on, as they cuddled on the couch, Chris heard Kate giggling.

"What's so funny?"

"Nothing," she said mischievously. "I was just wondering how I should address you at the office?"

Chris groaned as he tried to keep from laughing. "How about just Chris, and I'll call you Kate?"

"Chris and Kate," she repeated after him, as if savoring the sound of their names together on her lips. "I love it."

"I hoped you would," he said, pulling her close and kissing her. She smiled at him, then, rising, pulled him up and along with her toward the bedroom.


She awoke with a languid sigh, her backside pressed against the solid wall of Chris's body. With a near feline grace, she stretched each limb, bringing her skin into glorious contact with his heated warmth. It was early, the sun still slumbering within her own dreams, but already, Kate was wide-awake and wanting. The night before had done little but whet her appetite for his love. His whispered words of longing and love had kept her emotions at a fevered pitch for hours, carrying her own awakening desires into the deep hours of the night.

She could scarcely believe that she would awaken, still humming with need of his touch. Kate closed her eyes, savoring the feel of her skin against the cool press of the sheets beneath her body and the smooth surfaces of his skin touching her own. Her teeth pressed tightly into her bottom lip, its flesh quivering with words unspoken and ardent whispers to come.

His arm circled her body, a pleasant weight on her side. The heat of his touch told its own story. Hidden for hours under the soft hand-woven blanket that he'd draped over them, his arm had escaped its warmth to reach out to her.

The smile that touched her lips was a woman's smile, confident in her skin ... confident with her lover's touch. His fingers stroked the soft flesh of her belly, each tapered length gently caressing the milky expanse of skin with infinite care. She didn't have to look to know that he was awake and enjoying the torture he was exacting on her.

"Chris..." She sighed his name as his hand dipped lower beneath the sheet to trace the gentle slope where her leg melted into her hip. There was little she could will herself to do. Little she could offer in resistance when her whole body cried out for his touch. Tiny pricks of heat shivered across her skin, enflaming her thoughts and imagination. There was so much she wanted to experience in his arms ... so little she would not do for his touch.

The gentle press of his lips against her neck released the sigh caught in her throat. "Oh..."


Her eyelids lifted away from her cheek, letting in the light of the encroaching dawn and the faint reflection in the window glass. Her own body, flushed with desire, was visible in the pane.


She knew what he asked; it was there in the myriad tones of his voice. He asked and she gave without question only to revel in the reward.

Finis - unless TJ wants to take it further!


And so… I give you

~~ Aftermath… ~~

"Okay… spill it!"

Startled, Kate looked up into the curious eyes of her colleagues. She sighed heavily as they sat down in her quiet corner of the lunchroom.

Lori, Sharon, and Bonnie were part of her staff but more than that… they were her friends. Kate Lansky managed the administration pool for the Federal Building and somehow, these three always managed to find themselves at the top of her list when Team Seven was in need of clerical assistance. Even more amazing was the fact that they always managed to get themselves into some sort of trouble when working on the seventh floor. More often than not, Kate was normally called upon to 'protect' them from the 'clutches of fate'.

Kate smiled at the thought.

In most people's mind, the petite blonde was 'hell on wheels', and as far as Team Seven was concerned, she was 'untouchable'. Particularly because she had the dubious honor of being the lady well known for 'handling' the man in black when he got into one of his little 'tizzies'. One of the benefits, as far as the other ladies were concerned, was that Kate could put the rest of the Team in their place just as easily as Larabee did.

"Well?" Lori spoke again. "You going to tell us what's wrong with you today?"

"Umm," Kate blinked at the three ladies.

Lori glanced at the others and frowned. "Come on, Kate," she pestered. "You've been quiet all morning. What's wrong?"

Swallowing down a sip of tea, the woman shook her head gently. "Oh, nothing."

"You still have that head-ache from yesterday?" Bonnie asked, always concerned for her friends.

Thinking quickly, Lansky nodded. "I guess." She wasn't about to let the group know what was really on her mind right now.

"Kate," Sharon said cautiously, "If there's something else… you can tell us, you know that!" Carefully, she slid her palm across the table and patted her friend's hand reassuringly.

Forcing herself out of the 'haze', she was currently enveloped in, Lansky straightened in her chair and smiled at her three companions. "No, nothing else," she lied. "Just… need to get rid of this brain pain, is all."

Lori giggled. "That's our Kate… faces down 'the Federal Building', whether she's up to it, or not."

"Well, just be thankful Larabee has been quiet today, too," Bonnie added. "Hardly poked his head out of his office all morning."

The words 'poked', 'head', and 'morning', hit Kate like a ton of bricks, and she choked on her tea. Coughing and spluttering all over the table, and her friends, the lady fought to control the fit while chasing the mornings 'romp' with Chris out of her mind as fast as possible.

"Are you okay? " Bonnie patted her friend on the back several times.

Lori eyed her boss mischievously. "No… she's not," she concluded as Kate calmed herself. "I mean, look at her," she indicated the blonde to the other girls. "She's still got that dye in her hair. She's sitting here in a turtleneck sweater in September, and worst of all… she's been quiet!"

Bonnie and Sharon looked over at their friend before refocusing on Lori. All three women looked at Kate questioningly; clearly, they were waiting for an explanation.

Kate did her best to conceal her state. Using her 'recovery' as a convenient ruse, she tried desperately to act normal. "Nothing's wrong with me," she stuttered over a cough. Running a hand across her head, she smiled. "Yeah, I know… this dye hasn't come out yet," she fluffed her hair. "Remind me to 'kill' Amy when I see her again."

Sharon giggled. "Not like you get to go to Las Vegas every weekend," she teased.

"And do you remember the look on Chris' face when you came back last Monday?" she snickered.

"Oh, yeah!" Bonnie grinned. "That was priceless."

"Well, I still shouldn't have agreed to let that girl mess with me."

"Seems to me, she messes with you all the time," Lori smirked. "One of these days we're gonna have to meet this friend of yours."

"Oh, no, you don't," Kate frowned mockingly. "Look what she did to me!" she mused, trying to lighten the conversation. "You think I'm letting her near you guys?"

The ladies all laughed.

Bonnie looked at Kate questioningly, "But it will rinse out eventually, right?"

"Was supposed to come out the first time I washed my hair," the natural blond replied with a huff.

"Okay, that explains the hair," Lori eyed her friend and crossed her arms. "But, what's with the turtleneck. It must be eighty degrees outside."

Kate coughed again as her recollection quickly drifted to the view in her mirror that morning.

Chris had hit the shower first. Readying to leave, he leered mischievously and gave her permission to be late for work. She'd pursed her lips after their goodbye kiss, telling him she was NEVER late and she wasn't about to start now. His, 'that's my girl' comment as he left, made her scowl. The smile came as the door closed.

Toweling off in front of the mirror, Kate's smirk disappear very quickly… 'Oh, that man!' she'd growled at her image, his teeth marks staring back at her. She was just glad the 'nips' on her neck weren't as deep as the 'love bite' on her back.

'God!' A shiver ran down her spine as she recalled the passion with which he'd taken her that morning.

She'd had lovers before.

Chris was right, though. It had been a while.

His question last night about 'taking him as her lover' had caught her by surprise. Although, if she were honest with herself, not completely… Just enough for her reaction to his 'asking' to be a little… out of character.

She had always wondered what it would be like to have a 'normal' conversation with her 'other' boss, both in and out of the office. At work, they were cordial, businesslike or challenging each other's authority. Elsewhere, their talks normally involved his anger and pain… or even the emotions they both kept so tightly in check behind strong 'walls'.

Looking in the mirror, Kate shook her head, eyes wide. 'Boy!' She didn't need to wonder about much any more. She knew a lot more than she had bargained for, of that, she was certain.

She knew how intricate his touch could be. Those first few exploratory 'touches' on the couch had shown her that…

She knew how consuming her lust could be… Chalk that one up to the sofa, too.

Closing her eyes, she remembered the bedroom door closing… and the 'fire' that had blazed for hours inside.

'Damn!' A deep sigh escaped her lips.

Then the morning had come. Well, the pre-dawn glimmers, anyway.

What grew in that fading starlight was … 'Carnal' Kate thought.

There wasn't another word to describe what had passed between them.

She'd still been drenched in the desires from mere hours before.

He'd done it again. Made her whimper under his touch and she 'hated' him for that.

Kate smiled… How could the word 'hate' describe, so accurately, the overwhelming 'love' she had for him? Wasn't any kind of 'regular' love, that's for damn sure!

As easily as Chris had said those three little words, last night. Kate felt she would never be able to say them back. She hadn't before! She wasn't about to now.

''Hate' is a much better word' she agreed with herself.

Smiling again, she remembered the second her 'irritation' had kicked in that morning.

Chris had said 'don't'.

Didn't he know better than THAT! Larabee wasn't allowed to say THAT! Not to her…

She was completely overwhelmed by his reaction when she'd pushed that 'envelope' of his. He'd been so forceful. So rough, so strong… and so powerful!

'God!' That shiver ran down her spine again as she viewed the mark on her back. 'Son-of-a-…' The thought just trailed off as her hand traced over the nips on her neck.

A sly smirk curled the corner of her lips as she remember searching her dresser drawer for anything to 'conceal' the 'something' she would always remember…


"Earth to Kate," Lori waved a hand in front of her boss' face.

Lansky frowned.

Lori, Bonnie, and Sharon all looked at each other, eyebrows raised in confusion.

"Maybe that brain ache of hers is affecting her hearing," Sharon mused.

"Well, it certainly affecting her concentration today," Bonnie added as she got to her feet.

The other ladies did the same.

"Lunch is over, Kate," Sharon motioned to the elevator. "You coming?"

Watching her friends as they pushed in their chairs, the natural blonde still reacted sluggishly. "Oh… yeah. Be there in a minute… You girls go ahead." she prompted.

Exchanging puzzled shrugs and expressions, the three women left, headed for the elevator.

"We'll have to corner her after work," Lori mumbled as they walked away.

~~~~~~~ 7 ~~~~~~~ 7 ~~~~~~~ 7 ~~~~~~~

Eyeing the empty desk outside Larabee's office, Wilmington rapped his knuckles on the door before entering. 'Afternoon, Stud," he grinned

The rogue always used that 'nickname' to describe his oldest friend, but for a fleeting second, Larabee thought the man might know what had happened between him and his assistant, last night. 'And this morning' he mused. Forcing the thought from his mind, Larabee looked up from his paperwork. "What do you need, Buck? I'm busy."

"Got that report you wanted."

Setting down his pen, the team leader looked at his agent suspiciously. "Am I gonna be able to read it this time?" he asked sarcastically.

Clearly, Wilmington wasn't impressed. "Yeah," he shot back. "I had JD show me where that spell checker thingy is, and I stopped using that thesaurus whatchamacallit, too. Last time I listen ta Standish," he mumbled.

"That word in the computer, too, Buck?" Vin asked as he waltzed in the open door.

Chris frowned. Having Kate permanently stationed outside his door meant she was good at preventing another of his men from interrupting the first.

The scowl wasn't hard to miss and Tanner skillfully interpreted his boss' thoughts, "She ain't back from lunch yet."

The blonde glanced at his watch.

"Yeah, strange ain't it?" the ladies' man was addressing the sharpshooter. "JD was talking to Lori earlier… Seems everyone's noticed Kate ain't herself today."

Reaching a hand out towards Buck, the man in black motioned for the report his oldest friend was holding. "Something you want?" he asked of the Texan as his gaze shifted.

"Nope!" Vin shook his head, a small grin curling his lips. He'd just come to 'Hi'. He liked to do that… especially when he knew it drove Chris nuts.

Larabee rolled his eyes, hoping his assistant would materialize soon. "Out!" he glared at the men. "And, if either of you two see my wayward secretary in the next hour… You tell her to get her…"

The blonde didn't finish his outburst and the sudden silence was deafening.

Tanner and Wilmington frowned as they looked at each other. The sentence would normally be continued, '… ass in here when she decides to show up', or words to that affect. Each man wondered why Chris had chosen not to complete it today.

After all, the combative nature of this particular boss/assistant relationship was almost legendary in the Federal Building.

Everyone remembered the day a notorious hard-ass named Chris Larabee had met his match in a five-foot two, blue-eyed blonde dynamo named Kate Lansky.

It hadn't taken long for the woman's reputation to spread around the Federal Building. She'd cut her teeth in the Army. No one really knew how long she'd been in the military before coming to Denver, just that she'd done at least her twenty years. She'd attained the rank of sergeant and was clearly a damned good one, at that.

It was common knowledge that Travis' had hired her. Apparently, Kate's name came from a close, personal friend, and the first time they'd met, AD Travis had known instinctively who she'd be 'looking after'… Her 'won't take crap from anybody' speech had convinced him of that… scared him a little too, or so the rumors said.

Officially, Kate ran the administrative pool that staffed the Federal Building. She just happened to do it from outside the office of a certain 'hard-to-get-along-with' Team Leader. She managed the staff and offices just like she'd run every other post before… tight, efficient, and friendly. No one griped about Lansky's style, mainly because each of the many clerical assistants was given enough latitude to make this a great place to work. Kate never hung over anyone's shoulder and if someone worked better in certain offices, then she'd be sure to send them back. She left them alone to do their jobs in their own way… as long as it produced results, of course.

As far as her staff was concerned, if they had a work related dilemma, Kate was the easiest person in the world to talk to. On the flip side, if there was a performance problem, you knew she'd treat you firmly, but always fairly.

The assistants did their jobs well because they, most importantly, were happy.

Now people who work together long enough always tend to develop working, and sometimes, personal relationships. Truth be told, Lansky had the tendency to scare new people, although her 'regular' staff loved her attitude and her methods. She was always their boss first, but a friend, too.

Then of course, there was that certain 'hard-to-get-along-with' Team Leader that most of her staff steered clear of. The first few times Kate and Chris had gone head to head, work came to a standstill on the floor. Closed doors didn't mean a thing to the 'volume' emanating from the senior agent's private room.

Their 'discussions' were never very long, but they were often loud and most regular occupants of Team Seven's bullpen didn't take notice now when the door slammed shut. It was inevitable after Larabee's voice had bellowed her name.

Lansky NEVER responded well to that.

"Don't think you should let Kate hear ya call her a 'secretary'," Wilmington chuckled.

Tanner's face lit up. "Aah, but ain't it fun when they fight," he teased.

"OUT!" Chris growled.

"Yeah," Buck agreed. "The day them two stop fightin' and start lovin'… Lordy, can you just see the fireworks."

"OUT!" the man in black hollered again. As the two men left his office, snickering and joking to each other, Larabee scowled. "And, shut the door behind you," he added for good measure.

As the portal closed, Chris shook himself out of the mood he'd instantly been driven into. 'Kate is right' he mused. 'My mood swings will get the best of me one day'. That thought brought a smile to his face. When it came to him, she was most often right. He called her 'his' personal assistant and he thought of her that way, too. He'd often wondered what he'd do without her to 'bring him down' when his little 'fits' got out of hand. He had noticed that, over time, they'd lessened and, were considerably more playful than they used to be.

The blond smiled again.

Playful… That word said so much around this building. Kate had made it that way.

She'd proved to him, and to Travis for that matter, that you can run a tight 'ship' and still have it be a place where you 'wanted to be'. Everyone in the building had rough cases and rough days. Kate and her staff made things bearable. Chris knew that he wanted to be here everyday… wanted to be with Kate everyday. She kept him in check when he needed it. Gave him a sounding board and contributed whenever it was asked of her... and, she had become his friend, too.

When 'that' fateful anniversary had neared, Kate knew something was 'up'. She'd heard about Larabee's wife and child, and made it her business to let him know she was there for him… for whatever he wanted.

He wanted nothing to do with her offer at first. At Buck's insistence though, Chris slowly took advantage of her keen ear, and eventually her strong shoulder.

It developed after that… this 'friendship' they had. Sometimes he hated her, but more often than not, Chris had come to realize that he 'loved her'… well, in his own special way, of course.

Not in the 'soul-searing' way he loved Sarah…

Chris knew he would never love that way again.

Yet, as time passed, the blond understood just as clearly, that Kate was a part of his life now… one he never wanted to live without.

'Especially now!'

The team leader smiled as recollections of last night drifted into his mind.

~~~~~~~ 7 ~~~~~~~ 7 ~~~~~~~ 7 ~~~~~~~

It was almost 2:30 when Kate came off the elevator and entered Team Seven's bullpen. She stood for a moment and watched the people moving about. Margaret was the first person visible. The woman was busy at the filing cabinets, probably filling in for Leslie, who was most likely down in accounting again. Lori was busy typing away on something.

Thinking of Lori immediately sent Kate looking for JD. Her eyes found him glued to a computer screen, as usual. It looked as though he was trying to explain something to Sharon, who appeared to be hanging on every word the young man spoke.

That was, until the longhaired Texan walked by.

Kate's eyebrows rose as she watched the twinkle in Sharon's eye.

It was common knowledge that Tanner was seeing the 'temp', Desiree. Didn't appear to be anything serious, yet, the same couldn't necessarily be said about Vin and Sharon. Oh, they snuggled and teased the way good friends do… but Kate has other suspicions. She was curious to see what happened when Des eventually went home.

The sharpshooter grinned at Sharon as he passed by and was quickly assaulted by pursed lips and the swipe of a hand as he settled at Desiree's desk, presumably to ask something about the paper he was holding.

Kate smiled. 'Yep' she thought…

Wilmington's 'chuckle' caused Lansky's gaze to stray to the other side of the room. Buck was 'hung' over Bonnie's shoulder, apparently in full 'honey-mode', as she called it. The rogue seemed quite smitten with Miss Bonnie, and she, always the quieter one of her crew, was rather taken with the handsome ladies' man. They were still getting to know each other, but Kate was sure Buck was going to 'miss the stuffing out of her' when she left on her vacation soon.

Smiling again at the room's occupants, Lansky quickly flicked the lights on and off several times. The 'attention getting' technique always worked so well when everyone was busy.

It appeared to work this time, too.

The room grew quiet and the occupants of the coffee room joined the rest of their team. "What seems to be the problem?" Jackson asked. He knew, just like everyone else, that when Kate did this, it usually meant something was 'up'.

"Finish what you're doing," Lansky announced as she glanced at her watch. "I need to brief Mr. Larabee before I let you know what's going on," she glanced back at the attentive eyes. "Let's meet in the conference room at three thirty. After that, we can call it a day."

With frowns and nods, everyone slow went back to their work and Kate headed back to her desk.

"Brief me on what?" Chris hung in his open doorway. "Where have you been?"

Looking at the man in black, Kate held up a finger, telling him to wait a minute. She quickly logged into her computer and checked to see if there was anything that needed her immediate attention. Seeing nothing, she picked her notebook back up and motioned Chris to return to his desk.

The leader replied with a smile.

He didn't get one in return and that made him frown. "What's wrong?" he asked as she closed the door and moved to sit in one of the two big chairs positioned in front of his desk.

Larabee sat, waiting for an answer.

Flipping open her pad, Kate pulled the pen from her breast pocket. Searching the paper for a starting point, she unconsciously chewed the end of the instrument.

"One of these days, that thing is gonna burst and you're gonna have ink all over you mouth," Larabee teased.

The glared he received wasn't worth the bother.

"You seem upset."

A shrug…

"Where have you been all afternoon?" The team leader had seen Lansky come in that morning and noted her very shapely turtleneck. He'd wondered briefly, why, but the reason quickly became evident as Kate gave him a quick view of her neck to silence the frown on his face. His eyes had grown wide, not having realized what he'd done in the heat of passion.

Chris never questioned the fact that they'd both enjoyed it immensely, though.

Until now…

"Up on thirteen," came the woman's reply.

Eyebrows rose. "Ooh?" Larabee knew that Travis didn't need a good reason to call Kate up there without telling him about it first. "What… he fire you?" the blond tried to ease the tension that seemed to be building.

Kate looked up into the soft green eyes. "Not exactly," she replied. "More like… wants to steal me."

Larabee smirked. "That's nothing new."

Kate sat forward in her chair and set her notepad on the desk. "Yeah, but he's serious this time. He fired his secretary, Chris. He finally got pissed with her… something about over-booking appointments and making them with people he doesn't want to meet… I don't know," she cocked her head. "Like I said, he was serious."

The two looked into each other's eyes. They both knew Travis well enough to interpret between the lines.

"What else?" the blond inquired. He could see the lengthy notes splayed out in Lansky's book.

Pursing her lips, the woman sighed. "Well… other than having to find a new secretary for 'the boss'," she huffed, "he also gave me a list of things she was supposed to be taking care of… but, obviously, won't be able to." The natural blonde shifted in her chair. "Looks like we're gonna be a little short handed around here for a while. He let me know that Masters is shipping out soon. Her boss is returning from his leave of absence earlier than expected and wants 'his assistant' back."

"She'll be happier at home," Larabee threw in a comment, knowing full well that, as nice a girl as Desiree was, she'd never quite fit in around here.

Kate shot her boss a quick smirk before continuing. "Bonnie's vacation is coming up in the next few weeks, too, and Travis has been told to send someone to a…" Grabbing her notebook, Kate read the word, "an 'intra-net' seminar," she raised her eyebrows.

"Sounds dangerous," Chris grinned.

Lansky smiled again. "Maybe," she played on his words.

There was another moment of silence as their eyes did all the talking.

"I take it you're gonna send Sharon?"

His words brought Kate out of the slight trance she had dropped into. With a nod, she continued. "She's our Content Editor for the Website as well as the IT specialist. Only seems a logical choice to send her."

"How long?"

"A week."


"Same day Bonnie and Masters are scheduled to leave," the blonde replied. "That's why we're gonna be short on staff."

Larabee's eyebrows rose again as he sat back in his chair and sighed. His lips pursed tightly and Kate knew he was thinking. She watched him, always amazed at how truly expressive his façade was… if you took the time to watch him.

So few people actually did.

"You got a plan already, I take it?"

The woman nodded. "Thought you should know before I let everyone in on the news. Not sure if Sharon is gonna like it, but she had to know that other things would come up with the added responsibility of the position."

"She's smart."


"You gonna bring in extra girls to cover the work?"

"Nah," Lansky shook her head. "Everyone else has their assignments for the two weeks. I'll leave them alone and just double up here if I have to. Lori can handle Sharon's regular stuff, what with Ezra still being undercover." Curious about the southerner, the woman glanced back at Chris; "He's been 'under' for a while. Everything going okay?"

The man in black seemed suddenly anxious. He was usually that way when one of his men was in this position… deep undercover with very little contact. "Last I heard," he took in a big breath, "which was days ago."

Sensing the blond's agitation, Kate tried to lighten the mood. "He's okay, Chris," she smiled. "You know that man can take care of himself, better than most."

Larabee returned the smile and nodded. "Yeah!" he tried to reassure himself. Consciously snapping himself back to reality, the blond spied his lady. "Sounds like you got everything covered."

"Hope so," Kate bit her lip.

The ATF leader frowned. It was highly unusual to see Lansky even come close to questioning herself. "You all right?"

She nodded, gathering her pad and pen.

"You sure?" his voice dropped low, allowing the concern to show through his façade. The tone hinted at the tenderness that he'd always felt, but never really shown before last night.

Like pressing a button, the atmosphere in the small office changed that quickly. "Don't do that here," Kate suddenly glared.

Abruptly aware of the change in mood, Larabee got to his feet and ventured around the desk until Lansky sat directly in front of him. "What was that?"

Gaining her feet, the young woman looked up into his eyes. "Don't show yourself here, Chris," she spoke quietly. "I can't be your assistant if I'm constantly thinking about…"

Time stood frozen in the silence that enveloped them.

Finally, the man spoke. "Thinking about what, Kate?" he prompted, a hand rising to the chin that had dropped with the temperature. "Thinking about me… us… about what's happened in the last twenty four hours?"

The woman pulled away and headed for the door. "I have to conduct this briefing," she changed the subject.

Glancing at the clock, Chris followed her to the door. Pushing it closed when she attempted to open it, the blond took her shoulders and turned her in his arms. "Look at me, will you?" he finally demanded when she refused to meet his eyes.

Taking a deep breath, Kate complied.

"You have more than an hour," he urged. "Talk to me."

"Not here," she pulled away from his hand. "It isn't appropriate."

"Appropriate?" Chris repeated derisively. "Since when has anything we've ever done in this office, been appropriate," he chuckled, trying desperately to lighten the mood.

Lansky's jaw locked. "You mocking me, Larabee?" she snarled.

A tongue ran slowly along his bottom lip before a finger rose quickly to crease its surface. The digit continued, rising triumphantly in the air, marking an invisible 'score one point' for HIS team. Chris grinned that incredibly devastating Larabee smile.

Totally unimpressed with the juvenile display, Kate huffed. "Is THAT supposed to mean something significant?" she practically spat out the words.

"Only that I can get your back up without even trying."

The emotions she'd been battling with the entire day suddenly sprang to the surface. Without realizing what she was doing or saying, Lansky pushed Chris backwards.

His surprised look didn't deter her either. She just kept on coming, pushing him again and again until he was backed up against the filing cabinet at the rear wall of his office. "Get my back up," she repeated his words sternly. "You think you can throw any words out at me and expect me to give in anytime, anywhere."

Chris tried to interrupt; yet, as he stuttered out the 'buts', he was cut off.

"Let me finish," she glared. Seeing no further signs of objection, the blonde dynamo continued. "When you came over last night, you… you…" she pursed her lips tightly, trying desperately to force out the words. "Don't…" she finally spat out. "Don't you ever… tell me you love me."

The surprised look on Larabee's face grew, eventually forming a deep frown.

The couple stared into one another's eyes; his begging for an explanation... hers wanting him desperately to hear her words.

"Kate," Chris whispered. "I meant what…"

"I don't care what you meant," she cut him off again.

At that moment, the door swung open and Wilmington waltzed in, totally oblivious to the fact that he might be interrupting something. He stopped dead in his tracks, his mouth slowly opened in awe. His oldest friend was practically pinned to his filing cabinet by an angry looking woman. The image of a magnetic 'Lansky' hanging the flat representation of one, Chris Larabee to the fridge door, dashed into his mind and the rogue announced his intrusion with a snort. "Oh… Oh, I'll come back," he blurted out in a hurry. The door slammed shut as he departed.

Any other moment in time, and one or the other of them would have thrown out a 'can you hear the gossip now' or maybe a 'there's gonna be more rumors' out to break the tension that had just settled. Right now though, neither Kate nor Chris was thinking jovially.

Their normal relationship had suddenly been thrown away. Not with the happening of their lovemaking or with the knowledge that their friendship would never been the same again.

All of that was different now… yet, nothing had changed.

Nothing… except three little words…

Kate slowly backed off, but the set of her jaw line didn't waiver. She held Larabee in her sights, letting him know, in no uncertain terms, that he was 'in shit' and drowning fast.

Chris had no idea what he should say. Clearly, he'd said too much. He tried desperately to think of the exact words he'd said to Kate last night, and a small part of his brain registered the fact that it had taken her this long to react to those words.


'It's not just women who can feel not only the physical aspect, but the emotional bond as well. I love you, Kate. Our physical love will only strengthen our relationship, bringing us closer together. No matter what happens, yes or no, your job is safe."

The man in black frowned. "I was only being honest when I told you…"

"Don't," Kate growled again.

"Why are you mad at me?" the blond wanted to know. He was confused. "Was it too much? Did I hurt you?"

"What?" total astonishment was etched over the woman's face. "Hurt me… God! No… Why would you think…" Slowly her mouth gapped open and all of her anger disappeared. "No, Chris," her voice softened. "Last night," lost for words, she looked away.

There was a moment… no one moved…

"Last night… was the most extraordinary experience of my life," she finally whispered. Looking back into his wonderful green eyes, she smiled. "This morning was the most incredibly erotic encounter I have EVER had," the accent was clearly forced on the appropriate word. "God, Chris… you could never hurt me."

Relaxing with that knowledge secure in his heart, Larabee took a step closer. He searched her eyes and slowly, raised his hands to her shoulder. "I don't understand," he frowned. "You want to… love with me… but, not be loved BY me?"

Kate turned away again.

Confused and concerned, Chris watched her body language for any sign that she was confused, too. He saw none. What he read in the set of her shoulders was clear conviction. What he heard when she looked him square in the eyes was adamant certainty.

"Physical love, Chris… That's all I want. That's… I can handle that… can you?"

She didn't wait for an answer.

Reaching behind her body, Lansky turned the handle and pulled open the door. Slowly edging around it as it swung open, she left him standing there, quietly closing the portal as she departed.

~~~~~~~ 7 ~~~~~~~ 7 ~~~~~~~ 7 ~~~~~~~

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