Three Points on the Same Line

The sweet and enticing scent of freshly baked cookies drifted down the side stairs and across the air in front of Pratchett's Pet shop, making customers and passersby look up hungrily. Down on the street level, Jack Dalton pushed his officer's cap back and grinned happily.

"Oh man, she's baking--how do I luck out on the right days to drop in?"

"Because you have an innate sense of moocher's timing, Jack," MacGyver groused as he lugged the two bags of groceries. "Anytime, anywhere there's a chance you can get free food, some weird vibe goes off in your head and you zero in on it--"

"Mac, buddy, you're cutting me to the quick--" protested Jack as they climbed the stairs, Dalton leading since his hands were empty. "I don't think of it as mooching--especially if it's cookies." He knocked on the screen door and called out,

"Hey Rose, two of the handsomest men you know are out here!"

"Really? Wow!  I had no idea Pa was bringing Sean Connery over . . ." came the quick reply through the mesh. Jack gave a look of comic chagrin to MacGyver, who responded with a pained shrug of his own. Or tried to, since his arms were full.

Jack tried again. "Oh come on, Rose-- you know who it is--we come bearing food."

"Come on in--" the voice was distracted and Jack swiftly pulled the door open, letting it slam on MacGyver without remembering his friend was laden down. To be fair, there was a distraction that had taken his attention and Jack focused in on the roses immediately. They were impossible to miss in all their pink and red glory, filling the room with their luscious scent as they sat on the coffee table.

"Somebody die?" he asked with soft curiosity.

 A grunt came from behind him."You will if you don't move!" Mac snapped.

Unruffled, Jack stepped out of the way as Rose looked up from the countertop where she set a tray of cookies on the kitchen tile. She sighed, flashing an embarrassed smile at the two men as she wiped her floury hands on her denim shorts.

"Nobody died-- Hey Mac! You're back from Seattle!"

"Got back a day early . . ." he admitted, setting one of the bags down. "Stopped at the farmer's market for you--" There was an awkward pause as they hungrily gazed at each other, wishing Jack wasn't there so they could indulge in some serious welcome home kissing. Their privacy pact made things difficult; while neither Rose nor MacGyver was quite ready to share what they had with the world, it was getting harder to keep their relationship under wraps. Jack broke silence by whistling and fingering one of the flowers.

"My, my--these cost someone a pretty penny."

"An old friend sent them. He wants to have lunch tomorrow, catch up on times," the minute the words left her mouth, Rose flinched, seeing Mac's expression twist a little.

He tried to hide it, giving a casual shrug."Anybody I know?" he asked in the neutral tone that actually meant /Anyone I need to worry about?/ 

 She dusted off her fingers and handed Jack a warm cookie. "It's just Sebastian. He and I were lab partners in the marine organic chemistry course in college and later he spent some time with Newt's band--I haven't seen him in about three years." Her reply was as light and unconcerned as she could make it, and she stepped closer to MacGyver, looking in the bag.

"Goodies for me?' she asked hopefully, trying to change the topic. Jack had wandered into the kitchen muttering something about milk, so MacGyver took a chance, nuzzling Rose's ear while they dug into the bag together, pulling out fresh peaches and bananas.

"An old friend?" came his slightly annoyed whisper.

"Yes Mac, friend," she emphasized softly. "Come on, you have lots of old friends of the opposite sex yourself."

"Yeah, but not many of my college buddies would send me a hundred dollars worth of roses."

"Gosh, maybe if you had helped them pass chemistry instead of playing around with human biology--" she shot back with a grin. MacGyver had the grace to flush a little just as Jack came back into the living room with a huge glass of milk, grinning.

"If I didn't know better, I'd think Mac was jealous of us, Rose. I think he resents that you baked these for me today."

"Sorry to break it to you Jack, but those cookies are actually for Mr. Pratchett downstairs. He uses them to lure the customers in, and knocks twenty bucks off my rent if I bake once a week."

"Oh man! I'm telling you Rose, with these snickerdoodles, you could go into the catering business--"

"Snickerdoodles?" Mac had a slightly dreamy look; the expression of a man with a weakness who hates to admit it. Rose laughed.

"Yes, MacGyver, lucky coincidence. Help yourself, but leave at least a dozen so I can get that rent deduction. Jack, what's up with you these days?

"A little of this, a little of that. It's a good thing I caught Mac on his way to the market, or you two wouldn't have a chance to get in on the ground floor of this great idea I have . . .

            ***                              ***                              ***

Twilight crept over the horizon and Rose smiled when she heard the front door creak closed. A pair of strong arms slid around her as she stood washing dishes at the sink, and Mac pressed a wet kiss to the join of her shoulder and neck. She squealed as he pinned her against the counter.

"He's gone, finally. One more minute, one more word from Jack and I would have duct-taped him to a passing city bus . . ." came the muffled sigh. Rose raised her soapy hand and flicked water at Mac's face, but he refused to stop nibbling on her shoulder.

"Let me get these dishes finished."

"No," he growled, lifting the hair off the back of her neck and kissing his way down her spine. "Don't toy with me Rose, I've had snickerdoodles; you know what that does to my psyche."

"Oh yeah, makes you . . ." she squirmed and shivered as he slid his big hands under her blouse and around her ribcage, warm fingers working their way under her bra.

"The polite word would be amorous--"

"--And the impolite one would be horny," she gasped. "You've only been gone a week, Mac."

"Yeah, but it was a very long, boring, thankless lonely week," he breathed heavily into her ear, pushing her shirt up high and revealing her full breasts. Rose pressed back against him, grinding her bottom along his strong stomach. One of his hands slid down past her navel and into the front of her shorts, lightly cupping the soft fur between her thighs. Rose moaned as his fingers began a slow dance there.

 "Oooohhh Mac, just a minute . . ."

"Nope. Right now, Brat . . .” He muttered determinedly, his warm breath making the goose bumps rise all over her body. She gave a small whimper of assent, her hands joining one of his to pull the shorts down. They dropped to the kitchen floor and Rose kicked them away.

"Right here too?" she asked, looking over her shoulder and licking her lips. MacGyver closed his eyes and sighed; for an answer he flicked his tongue into her ear. They both could see their tousled, aroused reflections in the window over the sink, and Rose was grateful that no one was in the alley beyond it.

"Mmmmm . . . I'll take that as a definite yes . . ." Rose reached behind her with both hands, unzipping his jeans, freeing the straining ridge there. He groaned, thrusting forward as she squirmed against him, arching back with a delighted cry. Mac wrapped his arms around her supportively as they rocked together against the edge of the sink, the rhythm of their lovemaking increasing until Rose tossed her head back and a pleased growl escaped her as she shuddered. Mac thrust harder, the gasp of her name escaping his lips; Rose saw his fierce surrender mirrored in the window in front of them.

For a moment they stood leaning against each other, catching breath and luxuriating in afterglow before Mac stepped back and shakily tugged his jeans up.

"I think I just lost my status as an Eagle Scout," he muttered in astonishment. Rose laughed, pulling her shirt down. She hunted for her shorts as Mac staggered to the sofa and collapsed on it.

"I dunno--you seemed pretty upstanding to me," she teased in a satisfied voice. "A pillar of the community--"

"It was you. You and those cookies are a bad, bad influence," he accused weakly, draping an arm across his eyes. "I never used to do things like that."

"Oh hush--if you didn't do them before, you at least thought about them." she accused, dropping down to drape herself on his chest. He grinned at her and kissed her nose.

"Come on, Rose--I was raised with staunch Minnesota sensibilities and sometimes it's hard to get away from those," came his slow reply. "But when I do--"

They both grinned, and lay quietly for long moments until Mac sighed. The scent of the roses was stronger than ever.

"So you've got a lunch date tomorrow, huh?"

"Yep. Twelve o'clock at the Movable Feast. I bet Sebastian wouldn't mind if you joined us."

"Maybe," came his reluctant reply. "I've got errands to run, and Pete wants me to check out some things . . ." Rose snuggled into his shoulder sleepily.

"Okay, but you're more than welcome, you know," she repeated. Mac made a small affirmative noise as he buried his face in her hair and began to drift off, comforted by her presence.

***   ***   ***

He was waiting at the table on the terrace, pensively looking out over the beach just as Rose knew he would be. After paying off the cab, she took an affectionate moment to study him. Sebastian was dressed impeccably in a white silk shirt and black leather pants, his jacket thrown over the back of the chair. Dark aviator sunglasses shaded his eyes, and he was wearing his hair longer, but it was still as wavy as she remembered. A diamond stud glittered from his left earlobe. He was lounging with his cat-like grace, seemingly lost in thought. Then he turned and saw her; a slow seductive smile crossed his angular face and she was glad she'd worn the lacy pink sundress.

"Briar Rose, my saucy wench, don't you look as delectable as ever," came Sebastian's admiring purr. He stood to embrace her, planting a soft, warm and deliberate kiss on the very corner of her mouth. Rose flushed, dropping her head shyly. When she looked up, they locked gazes for a moment, and he gave a heavy sigh.

"You've gone and done it, haven't you darling--fallen in love with some undeserving clod . . ." the disappointment in his voice was evident, but the weary smile he wore countered it and Rose accepted his teasing as they sat down across from each other.

"Of course I have--why break our cycle now, stud? I'm in love when you're free, and then you're committed when I'm free--we're destined to be out of sync for the rest of our lives, Sebastian. It's fate," She responded, setting her purse down. "There may be a problem this time, though--I think he's really the one."

"This dance with you--It's the price I pay for the life I lead, angel mine," he countered. "If only I'd stuck to clean living . . ." he signaled for the waiter with one graceful motion. Rose frowned.

"Don't give me that--I know you've always played them close to the vest, but honestly, Sebastian, I'm not stupid. I love you dearly, despite the fact that you can be a cold-hearted amoral bastard. Whatever you do for money now--I don't want to know about it."

Sebastian looked at her steadily for a moment and replied mildly, "Fair enough, darling. I'd rather spend the time on more interesting things anyway. For example, this new lover of yours--is he any damn good in bed?"

Rose threw her head back and laughed; the waiter gave her a puzzled look, but Sebastian murmured an order to him and he scurried away.

"Oh man, you always did have a one track mind," Rose let her giggles die down, "Completely dedicated to the pursuit of my--"

"-Well-being, darling," he grinned wickedly. "Frequent orgasms are the key to a long and happy life as we both know, and I'd be delighted to give you a few more  . . . pointers--" he trailed off, peeking at her over the top of his sunglasses, and Rose blushed. She let her hand slide over his on the table, feeling the marble coolness of his fingers.

"I've missed you, Sebastian," she told him simply. He leaned forward and pushed the sunglasses up on his forehead, finally meeting her direct glance. He winked.

"And I you, wild child, despite your continued resistance to my years of erotic overtures. Still caught up in the bewildering study of the briny deep? I thought Shoreline was your raison d’être, but they tell me you've moved on to some grand Foundation now."

"I'm going for my Masters," she responded as the waiter returned with the drink order. "A work study program with some decent pay and a chance to play in the water on a regular basis--got my own dive cage."

"Frankly I feel sorry for the sharks."

"Love you too, darling--" she sniped back, and Sebastian took a swallow of his gimlet and sighed.

"Now that's the Rose I remember--sharp, smart. Don't let a simpering thing like love take the edge off of your wit."

"I won't, not with friends like you. Did you let Newt know you were in town?" Rose sipped her grapefruit juice slowly.

Sebastian sighed, flexing his long fingers. "I left a message for your rowdy brother, but I doubt I'll be here long enough to reach him this time. We'll probably run into each other in New York again. Isn't he due for another album? It's been two years since he released Stellar Crossroads. We both know how fickle musical tastes can be, darling."

"I know--he claims he's working on something with a storyline, but you know Newt--too many offers and not enough business sense."

"The more fool he," Sebastian sighed. With a swift move, he took Rose's hand, playfully lacing his fingers with hers.

"Think you can beat me yet?"

"Yes," she growled back playfully, setting her elbow up on the table to arm-wrestle him. He flashed white teeth at her, dark eyes sparkling as he moved his own arm into position.

"If I win, I want a kiss, darling."

"If I win, I want those sunglasses," she announced firmly. "One, two, three--"

She pushed, pitting her strength of her slender forearm against his, but the lean corded muscle of his arm barely flexed, and he laughed as she strained.

"Dear, dear, Rose--need to work out a bit more," he taunted sweetly. She gritted her teeth, trying not to laugh as he yawned elaborately.

"Ho hum--try not to strain yourself darling--"

"At least wince a little, Sebastian, can't you? I'm, really pushing here!" she groaned playfully. He sighed, and with the swift strike of a cobra, brought his arm down, pinning her wrist to the table in less than two seconds. Rose gasped, her arm twisted under his. Sebastian leaned over; his mouth a mere inch from hers.

"Pay up, Angel."

Someone coughed.

"Hi, mind if I join you?"

MacGyver stood behind Sebastian, his eyes locked on Rose. She flushed. Sebastian looked over his shoulder, and as their eyes met, both men drew in a sharp breath at the same moment.

It was a weird timeless instant, the three of them frozen in an odd tableau with MacGyver glowering over Rose and Sebastian's interlocked hands. For a second it seemed no one even breathed, and then Rose smiled.

"Mac honey, I'm glad you could make it-- MacGyver, this is my dear old friend Sebastian Murdoc."

Sebastian stood and turned away from Rose, grabbing MacGyver's hand to shake it, his grip tight enough to cut off all circulation. In a barely audible hiss he whispered, "Not a word, MacGyver, not a peep-- we've just met, do you understand me?"

Mac locked hard gazes with Murdoc and slowly gave a barely perceptible nod in agreement. The other man flashed a mirthless smile of white teeth and no heart.

"MacGyver is it? So you're the one who's charmed his way into my darling girl's delicate under . . . standing."

"Yeah." Mac managed to grit his teeth in a faint semblance of a smile. He sat down on the other side of Rose, who cast an annoyed look from one man to the other.

"Oh knock it off you two! Stop the macho posturing or I'll take you both down a peg myself. Sebastian, I told you I was seeing someone. Mac, you're going to have to live with the fact that I've been involved with other people. Get over it, gentlemen, and let's order some lunch because I'm starving."

"I don't have much of an appetite right now." Mac muttered, but Murdoc shook his head and purred slyly.

"Better eat, MacGyver--you'll need your strength to keep up with this one."

"Sebastian--" Rose muttered in a low tone, but Mac hitched his chair closer, a slightly reckless look in his dark eyes.

"I already know she's a handful, believe me. So--just how did you two meet? I'd be real interested in hearing that story . . ." He kept his tone seemingly light as he picked up a menu. For a moment, Murdoc looked taken aback, but Rose snorted an unseemly giggle, forcing MacGyver to turn his gaze to her.

"At the University. I ran into him outside an art class . . ." she laughed. "Literally ran into him, which wouldn't have been so bad except he was somewhat underdressed . . ."

"Oh be honest, Rose my angel--I was stark naked at the time," Murdoc grumbled reluctantly. "-And certainly not in any position to avoid your lead-footed, Ellie Mae Clampett charms as you tackled me to the ground."

MacGyver kept a straight face. "Let me get this straight--Rose flattened you while you were--?"

"Au naturale, yes. I'd been given permission to audit the class with the understanding that I would be required to pose as a subject for it at least once. It was just my luck that little Miss Linebacker was late for class. "

"Hey, I was the one with the bruises, not you--"

"Only because I wound up on top . . . as usual," came the smug reply. Rose looked as if she wanted to make some sarcastic reply; the waiter chose that moment to interrupt.

"Hey folks, are we ready?" he asked cheerfully. MacGyver looked at Rose who nodded. Murdoc gave a world-weary shrug.

"Shrimp cerviche for the lady, and oysters on the half shell for myself--although on second thought, perhaps they'd be better reserved for you, MacGyver," came the ever so veiled taunt. Mac shook his head.

"Thanks, but eating dead raw seafood to theoretically increase my virility isn't really one of my current needs," he replied in a low tone. Rose's jaw dropped when she heard the hint of smugness in his voice, but she couldn't quite avoid a grin. Murdoc rolled his eyes.

"Touché, MacGyver," he admitted with a cold smile. Rose broke in quickly, trying to make peace.

"Okay fine, honey, have the salad then--they make a nice Cobb here." The waiter nodded and wrote it down before wandering away. "I'll be back in a moment--" she picked up her purse; Murdoc rose as she started to leave the table.

"Manners, MacGyver?"  Not to be outdone, Mac got up as well and they watched her leave. Murdoc sighed, dropping back into his seat. He didn't meet the other man's eyes for a moment.

"You. Of all the billions of people on this stupid ball of mud and water, she's in love with you. This definitely proves there is no God, MacGyver."

"I wouldn't know, Murdoc--I wouldn't have minded a lot more than six degrees between us either, believe me," Mac muttered. For a long bleak moment the two men stared at each other, and then Murdoc took a deep sip of his gimlet.

"Ironic, isn't it? Out of the three women between us, you've always come out the heroic winner, haven't you? First Penny, then Ashton, now Rose. What is it about your damned luck anyway?"

"It's not luck, it's a moral code and a conscience. It kinda helps to be sane, too."

"Where's the fun in that? And for that matter, you probably have all the sexual imagination of a Kmart shopper!" came the frustrated snarl. Mac pursed his mouth angrily.

"Look, I've dabble in my share of handcuffs and whipped cream, Murdoc--and I've seen enough on my trips through Europe and Asia to know there are more ways to put A and B together than I'm ever going to try."

"Oh bully for you, darling. I suppose you got a merit badge in the Kama Sutra?"

"I've got Rose, and that's a damn sight better."

Sebastian Murdoc turned his lean form to face MacGyver, and his dark eyes glittered. He took a long look at his rival, and the bitterness dissolved, fading back into his eyes, leaving the assassin's face with his usual mocking appearance.

He leaned back with feline grace. "Yes you do. Let me tell you something, MacGyver--in the course of our existences, we all have moments of grace and regret. Rose is both of those for me. She saved my soul once, and like the fool I was, I let her go when I could have had her. For her sake, and hers alone, you and everyone associated with you is off the hook--no hits, no contracts, and no assassinations." Murdoc raised his hands in a placating gesture.  "I'd give you my word, but I know you won't believe it."

"Why should I?" MacGyver snapped back in a low hard voice. "I discover that the woman I love suddenly has this-- past with my worst enemy, and suddenly you want to do the noble thing and fade away? Forgive me, Murdoc, but it's the biggest pile of shit I've ever heard."

"Oh I never said I'd fade away, MacGyver. I'll always be over your shoulder, darling. But as long as you and Rose are together, well--two's company--" he let his voice fade off and cocked his head, looking at MacGyver.

"And if she and I should come to a parting of the ways?"

"Then I'd take her away with me so fast you wouldn't have time to blink. Why kill you when I can leave you with the torment of knowing she's mine? It would be so much more deliciously fitting."

MacGyver looked as if he would say more, but Rose had returned, settling herself down between them again.

"Sebastian, how long are you in town?"

"Not long. I have a few days to kill," he replied lightly. MacGyver winced. Rose toyed with her juice.

"So, the two of you seem happy, darlings--" he ventured as the waiter set the food down in front of them and glided off. "When's the big day?"

"What?" Both Rose and MacGyver stopped eating and stared at him; Murdoc gave a mock-innocent smile before guzzling an oyster.

"Well the wedding of course. Have you picked a date yet?"

"There isn't going to be a wedding, Sebastian, as you damned well know," Rose snapped with amused irritation. Mac looked from one face to the other.

"Gee, aside from some of the little factors like proposing and getting accepted, I'd have to say the date's not really established yet," he offered thoughtfully.

"Don't sweat it, Mac. We're not planning a wedding--Sebastian's just trying to provoke me."

"But Rose, darling, if he's really the one--" Murdoc waved a fork at her with a grin, "--I don't see the problem."

"I do. Just drop it, Sebastian, or I’ll dig out a certain photo I have of you . . ."

Mac looked puzzled. "Wait a minute, why don't you want to get married?"

"Oh she's got her reasons," Murdoc announced blithely. "But I'm sure true love will conquer all--"

"Sebastian, I love you to death, but if you don't jump this train of thought I'm going to garrote you with my napkin!" Rose growled. Murdoc laughed.

"Fine, fine--but I positively demand an invitation once you two have all the logistics worked out."

"Don't hold your breath. I've got a feeling it won't be anytime soon--" Mac was still gazing a Rose with a inquisitive expression that she was pointedly ignoring as she ate her shrimp. Sighing, MacGyver started on his salad and for a moment they all concentrated on their food.

Rose finally set her fork down and managed a weak grin. "Okay Sebastian, I guess I deserved that. Tell you what--if by some miraculous, infinitesimal billion to one chance that MacGyver and I call the planner and the caterers--you're invited."

"Only if it's a real wedding, darling--none of that elopement, sneaking off to the Justice of the Peace nonsense." he insisted. MacGyver gave an annoyed sigh.

"I don't suppose I've got any say in this?"

"Not really, no," Murdoc told him with wicked cheerfulness.

 Rose shot Mac an amused look. "Sure you do--just let Sebastian know that we'll have a wedding the day you give up hockey, Swiss Army knives and environmental causes."

"Oh," Mac accepted this prerequisite with a startled expression. "I guess you mean same day you give up yoga, playing the cello and marine biology?"

"Yeah, that day. The one when Jack gets a corporate job and Pete poses for a beefcake calendar--" Rose nodded with a grin. Murdoc made a face.

"The one, I suppose, when Penny Parker-Penn joins Mensa," he added sourly. "Enough, children--I don't want my ingested oysters to curdle. Just give me your word, Briar Rose, that if you do take this man in some grand matrimonial ceremony you'll let me know."

"I promise. But it's not going to happen, Sebastian, not without a hell of a lot of--well, you know." Rose sighed.

"I do," he admitted gently. Reaching over, he touched her cheek in a gesture both intimate and sad; MacGyver felt his jaw tighten. Murdoc shot him a laser look.

"I leave her to you, MacGyver, but be warned--I have no reluctance about keeping my word. Just keep her happy, and consider yourself a lucky man."

"Not lucky--just better," came his hard reply. Murdoc pursed his mouth but didn't argue the point. He looked at his Rolex and sighed.

"Sorry my dears, but duty calls. Finish up at your leisure, but I must dash. Rose, I'll stay in touch, and if you see Newt before me, let him know New York's our best bet. MacGyver--" Murdoc scooped up his jacket and pulled his sunglasses down over his glittering eyes. He swiftly kissed Rose before Mac could object and slipped out, stopping at the maître’d's stand to pay for the meal.

A long uncomfortable silence built up between Rose and Mac. He looked at her, waiting for her to breach it, but she tightened her lips, refusing to say anything. It stretched on through the rest of the meal, and by the time they left the restaurant and sat on a stone bench that overlooked the beach, Mac took a deep controlled breath.

"We need to talk, Rose."

 "No kidding. Why didn't you tell me you know Sebastian? Why the hell were the two of you playing out that stupid charade?" Furiously, Rose glared at MacGyver, who flinched under her assault.

He glared back. "He asked me not to say anything, but believe me, I wasn't any happier to discover that you've got him in your past! How could you love a killer?"

"Loved, MacGyver--get the damn tense right, Loved! And he wasn't a killer when I met him, so don't lay that on me. Sebastian Murdoc may not be on the side of the angels, but it wasn't always that way." Rose snapped defensively. MacGyver tightened his mouth and looked out over the water, trying to focus his anger.

"He murders people for a living, Rose, and don't think for a minute that all of them are strangers."

"I know," Rose admitted dully. "While I was away from the table I called Helen. She couldn't tell me enough about how Sebastian tried to kill both you and Pete before. I've always suspected what he was, but it was so hard to hear the confirmation."

 She looked at MacGyver, eyes overly bright with unshed tears. "He wasn't always a killer, Mac. That's the hell of it. The Sebastian I knew back in college was wild and funny and full of himself, but he didn't execute people. He was strong and sensitive, and God, if it wasn't for him--" she broke off and the tears fell. Mac pulled her into his arms, feeling her tremble against him. She managed to get herself under control after a minute and pressed close to his ear.

"Mac, my third year at college I got engaged," came the muffled whisper. "Grant O'Keefe. He started out sweet, promised me a big wedding, but he also kept pushing for the sex before then. I kept telling him no, I wasn’t ready, so--one night, he got violent."

 Stunned, MacGyver tightened his grip on her, rocking her gently as he rested his chin on her shoulder. "Rose, oh my God--"

 "It's been years," she raised her head to look at him, eyes red, but a small strong smile on her lips. Rose wiped her eyes with the heel of her hand and continued.

"Anyway, Grant broke my jaw and fractured part of my right eye socket with a video camera. He probably would have raped me too, but Sebastian showed up, and my dear sweet fiancé ran off rather than face the wrath of a man about one half his size. Sebastian got me to the campus infirmary and wouldn't leave. He slept on the floor of my hospital room, Mac. He spoke to my parents, arranged for me to get therapy--all of it. Sebastian was there for me."

MacGyver closed his eyes, trying to reconcile what he knew of Murdoc and what he was hearing now: suddenly the mental overlay wasn't as difficult as it should have been. Rose kissed his chin; startled, Mac opened his eyes again.

"He teased me today about the wedding because he used to do that when I was recovering--it was more than a joke between us, it was always a way to check and see if . . ."

"If you were okay. I understand that. This is a hell of a lot to digest right now, Brat." MacGyver stared down into her eyes.

 She managed a trembley smile. "Yeah, who said life was going to be easy, huh? All I know is that I love you, and Sebastian's going to have to live with that."

"And you don't--love--him?" MacGyver asked hesitantly.

 Rose shook her head. "I can't. At least not the way he’d like. He's not the man he was. Sebastian Murdoc and I have a lot of memories, and I'll always care about him, but I live every day knowing that Grant O'Keefe disappeared and has never been found, Mac."

There was nothing to say to that. MacGyver kept his arms around her and they sat watching the waves roll in. Gradually the breeze picked up, and Rose shook herself out of her reverie, looking up at Mac with a tender gaze.

"Hey, are you going to be okay?"

Mac thought for a moment longer and replied, "Yeah. Let's go home." Slowly they got up from the bench, reluctant to let go of each other. They headed back to Mac's Jeep and climbed in.

 He looked at her with a twinkle in his eye. "Give up hockey, huh?"

She rolled her eyes. "It was the most outrageous demand I could make--with Sebastian you've got to lay on the hyperbole pretty thick."

"Let's just say you drive a hard bargain--but I guess you're serious about not wanting to get married," came his slightly discouraged reply. Rose chuckled.

"I didn't say that."

"Sure you did."

"No, think back carefully, Mac," she encouraged. He concentrated for a moment as they drove, and finally it came to him; he flashed a grin at her.

"I've got it now. You kept saying you didn't want a wedding. It's a semantics thing, isn't it?"

"It's an emotional financial thing. My parents and I lost twenty thousand dollars when Grant sent me to the hospital. I'm never going to do that to any of us again." Rose announced firmly.

They pulled into the parking lot for the wharf, and she looked up towards the houseboat.

"I thought we were going back to my place," she murmured.

 Mac shot her a sheepish look as he turned off the ignition and climbed out. "To be perfectly honest, Brat, I just didn't want to be hanging around a bouquet that another man sent you--particularly Murdoc. Call it a blind spot--"

"Jealousy?" Rose looked astounded; MacGyver flushed a little but said nothing. She climbed out of the jeep herself, trying not to look at him.

 Mac took her hand as they walked to the door. "Yeah, maybe a little," he admitted in a low voice. " Look, neither one of us is without some emotional baggage, right?"

"You’ve got that right."

"So you're dealing with a few girlfriends from my past, and I'm coming to grips with Murdoc in yours--it's one of those gray areas for both of us."

"A few girlfriends?" Rose spluttered, laughing. "A few girlfriends? That's like saying Pete's a tiny bit bald, or Penny's slightly attractive!"

"All right, maybe there have been more than a few," MacGyver allowed reluctantly as he unlocked the door. "But things are different now. I'm not as--restless--as I used to be, I guess. If Harry was here, he'd probably say something about maturity and he'd be right, but it's not just that. There's something more to it, Rose."

Gently, he picked her up and sat her on the kitchen island before gazing at her, his dark brown eyes to her blue ones. He took her hands in his.

"You're the one I have faith in. I trust you more than anyone else on the planet, and it makes me happy. Damned if I really know why or even care, it just does."

"Really?"

"Yeah," he smiled. Rose took his face in her hands and kissed him, a good deep achingly sweet kiss. He pulled her off the counter and up against him, resting his chin on the top of her head and they stood that way for a long moment.

 Rose broke away first, and taking his hand, let him up to the loft, pushing him down on the bed with a determined shove. Swiftly she let her hands move to undo the buttons on his shirt. MacGyver looked down the length of his body, watching her and trying not to laugh.

"Brat, I think you're trying to tell me something."

"Yep," she tugged the shirt open, revealing his chest. He drew in a breath as she climbed up next to him and bent over, kissed her way from nipple to nipple, her warm breath tickling him. MacGyver shivered a little as he pulled her on top on him. He tightened his grip on her hips; the fabric of her lace sundress bunched up under his fingers. Rose wriggled. She pressed hot kisses under his ear as Mac slid his hands up her waist, bringing the dress with it.

"Rose--?" came his breathless inquiry. She smothered a small knowing laugh against his throat.

"I thought you'd like it--"

"Oooohhh . . ." his hands slid over the fine satin of the garter belt, the smooth warmth of Rose's skin under it, the curve of her bare bottom. He closed his eyes tightly.

"I put it on the bathroom of the restaurant, once I knew I'd be going home with you, Mac," she whispered happily. He groaned.

"First snickerdoodles and now this--you're definitely in my will, Brat."

"Oh hush up and love me, will ya?" she replied sweetly, moving to undress him.

They made love slowly, with the timeless unhurried rise of passion that needed no words or hesitation; the soft creak of the bed made a counter rhythm to their hearts.  It was a patient, lovely and gentle intimacy, an enduring progression of kisses and strokes. MacGyver felt Rose's cheekbone rub against his, felt the hot sting of her tears as they trickled onto the side of his face. When she shuddered under him, he kissed her wet mouth without speaking. Rose clung to him tightly, and Mac held her as they both drifted off to sleep, entangled in each other in a lover's knot of intertwined arms and legs.

            END