Disclaimer: I dont own the characters. I'm just playing.

Rival Love

Mac glanced out the door of her office. She could see the Admiral talking with a civilian woman. However the woman left before she could tell the Admiral that Meredith ran a camp for Shakespeare and she wanted to sign Chloe up for it. The Admiral's next announcement ruffled her feathers.

"Sir, Meredith was here to talk to me about a Shakespeare summer camp that I thought Chloe might be interested in. I would never presume to meddle in your personal life." Mac stated firmly when the Admiral approached her. He looked dumbfounded for a moment.

"I apologize Colonel, I was out of line. It seems Rabb and Turner have put me on the defensive. Will you please extend my apologies to your friend?" he asked considerably more calm.

"Yes sir, I will."

The next day found him face to face with Meredith again.

"I would like to sincerely apologize for my behavior. It was reprehensible and uncalled for. I hope you will forgive me," The Admiral said quietly and calmly. He looked like a guilty little boy.

"If we shadows have offended, think but this and all is mended…" Meredith quoted sarcastically.

"Midsummer Night's Dream and I know it's not that simple." He countered. Mac who had been standing beside Meredith decided that now would be a good time to get Meredith going.

"Meredith, I have a few questions to ask about the camp, would you like to go to lunch or just have a quick chat in my office?" She interjected before things blew up and there was a yelling match in the office.

"Your office is fine." Meredith said as they turned and walked away. The Admiral sighed in relief. He had apologized sincerely and didn't want another confrontation. He turned to enter the elevator but ran into someone.

"Was that Mac? I wanted to say hello while I was here." The someone said. She was about the same height as Mac, maybe an inch shorter. She spoke with a slight accent and her hair was the lightest shade of blonde he had ever seen, her eyes the brightest green, like sea glass. She was gorgeous.

"Yes that was the Colonel. She has a personal meeting at the moment. Is there anything I can help you with ma'am?" He asked politely.

"Actually Admiral, I just have some files to drop off for you from Admiral Boone. There is one he needs an immediate answer on." She said brightly.

"Are you his assistant?"

"No, I'm a friend of his and the Colonel's. Excuse my manners; they seem to have left me at the moment. Retired Colonel Ellen Simitis."

"Retired? You'll excuse me, but you don't look old enough to be retired yet." Ellen grinned.

"I'll take that as a compliment. I enlisted when I was 18 and was in for 30 years. I only retired last month."

"Well let's see what Tom wants. Follow me." The Admiral led the way to his office. "No interruptions Tiner, especially not Lt. Singer. I cannot take the headache."

"Yes Sir." Tiner said crisply. The Admiral closed the door behind them.

"Lt. Singer? I've heard her name before. I think she tried to get on at the Pentagon at some point. Ambitious as I recall. Too power hungry. Her request was denied." Ellen said as she sat down.

"Yes, that's how she ended up here. When She proves to me that she can be a person as well as a lawyer and stops trying to take my job out from under me, I just might let her have a looser leash. Now to the files." Ellen passed them over.

"I believe the bottom on is the one Tom wants a response on." The Admiral nodded and donned his glasses. He opened and scanned the three other files before getting to the one. It was a single sheet of paper that read:

-A.J.

Ellen is a beautiful woman. She's sensible and smart. Above all she's perfect for you. Ask her out to lunch at Triviati's and use my name at the door. I made reservations for you. Let me know how it goes.

Tom

The Admiral peered over his glasses at Ellen, who had moved to study one of his many paintings.

"Do you know what this says?" he asked.

"Not exactly, but I have an idea." She answered. A.J. glanced at his watch.

"Shall we go to lunch?" He asked. Ellen turned around and gave him a hard stare as if she was trying to judge his sincerity.

"Do you really want to go or are you asking because Tom asked you to?"

"I really want to. Lunch with a gorgeous woman sounds wonderful to me. I think you're the one with the raw end of the deal."

"I don't think so. Besides lunch with a handsome man sounds good to me."

"Then lets go. We have reservations for Triviatas."

They had a quiet lunch where thy discussed everything from law to Iraq, to places they had been stationed to the things they liked to eat. When their lunch was over, the Admiral returned them to JAG and walked Ellen to her car, a pearlized white Escalade just like his black one. They exchanged phone numbers.

When AJ returned to his office, he found a note on his desk.

If you really want to make it up to me, take me to lunch tomorrow.

Meredith 977-8293

AJ was surprised but figured the least he could do was buy lunch for her after yelling the way he did. He called and agreed to meet her at Salome's a café that was near the campus. AJ met her, and they discussed literature and music, art and all sorts of cerebral interests they shared.

3 Months Later

"Colonel could I talk to you for a moment in my office." AJ asked as he passed Mac's door.

"Of course sir." She followed him into his office.

"Tiner absolutely no interruptions. Unless its national emergency of course."

"Aye sir." The Admiral sat down at his desk and Mac stood at attention after shutting the door behind her.

"At ease Colonel, take a seat. This is a personal discussion and I need your insight. It's probably against regulations that we be having this conversation regarding my personal life but I need a woman's opinion or point of view or whatever you want to call it and I cant exactly discuss this with my daughter."

"Yes sir."

"As you probably know, I'm seeing Meredith and Ellen."

"Yes, sir I am aware of that."

"Are you aware that they know I'm seeing the other?"

"No sir, I wasn't."

"Well they both seemed content to wait me out until recently. Ellen has been more patient than Meredith."

"Elle always was the patient one."

"Meredith I believe has run out of patience. She has started pressuring me to choose and I need a sounding board."

"I believe I can handle that."

"Thank you." He sat back and appeared to be gathering his thoughts.

"When you're with Meredith or Ellen, do you compare them to people you've has past relationships with?"

"Meredith yes, she reminds me a lot of Laura and Francesca's mother. Ellen, no, she's unique, a contradiction in terms. That's one of the things I love about her."

"Do they have little things, little habits that bother you?"

"Meredith yes and Ellen no. Meredith always wants to try new and dangerous things and she scares me sometimes. Ellen likes to try new things but she is more cautious, more conscious of her limitations, more like me."

"Could you stare at Meredith forever?"

"No, she's never still. With Ellen, she is very energetic but she knows how to be still. She'll take a 10-minute shower then spend an hour fixing her hair. I love watching her brush it."

"When you talk, have conversations do you cover a lot of subjects of just a few?"

"Meredith and I talk about literature and plays. Ellen and I talk about everything."

"It sounds like you've already made up your mind."

"Yes it does. I'm in love with Ellen." He sat back n his chair, as if in awe.

"I believe you made the right choice sir. I never really though Meredith was right for you."

"Thank you Colonel. That will be all." He said with a gentle smile.

"Your welcome sir." She walked out and back to her office.

"Tiner" the Admiral said into the phone. "Hold everything that comes in for the next 10 minutes or so."

"Sir, Lt Singer is here, she would like to speak to you." Tiner tried to interject.

"She can wait a few minutes more. I need to make an important phone call."

"Yes sir." Tiner hung up the phone and turned to tell Singer that she would have to wait but the Lt. had decided that she was allowed to enter and barged in.

"Singer! You were not granted permission to enter this office." The Admiral yelled at her when he looked up to see her entering. "Whatever it was you wanted couldn't wait another 10 minutes?"

"Sir, Tiner was on the phone with you and he didn't say I couldn't come in."

"Did you give him 3 seconds to put down the phone and tell you what I had said?"

"No sir." Singer looked contrite for a moment. The Admiral sighed.

"Next time wait until Tiner tells you what I've said before you barge into my office. Now what did you want?" It took another 20 minutes before the Admiral had a moment to make his call.

"Ellen? Its AJ."

"Hey hon, are we still on for lunch tomorrow?"

"Yes but I wanted to tell you something right away…"

"What is it? Is something wrong?"

"No. I just wanted to say that I love you. I want to be with you and you alone."

"I love you too AJ. How are you going to tell Meredith?''

"Well I'm supposed to take her to dinner tonight so I'll tell her then."

"Good luck. I'll talk to you tomorrow."

When he got off the phone, Singer barged back into his office with another problem or question. He pretended to listen politely but his mind wasn't on what she was saying. After she left, he sighed in his serenity but it only lasted a moment because Meredith called to tell him that she was inviting a visiting professor to their dinner. AJ tried to object but couldn't get a word in around her singing this man's praises. Hopefully he could make it to the dinner without a crisis but there were never any guarantees.

"I hate it when you say that." Meredith had said. He said it every time they had a dinner that he thought might get interrupted. It wasn't a new argument between them. "I don't want to hear that there are no guarantees, I just want you to be there."

"I can't help it, Meredith. Its part of being an officer and being the JAG especially." He had answered. She had just brushed him off and hung up.

As it turned out AJ didn't make it out of the office until 5 minutes before time to be at the restaurant. He tried calling Meredith's cell phone to tell he was running late but that it wasn't a crisis this time, but she didn't answer. He ended up being almost 2 hours late because there was an accident and traffic, which was bad normally, was stopped. Instead of going to the restaurant, he headed straight for her house and knocked on her door. Meredith answered wearing only a robe.

"Did I miss something?" AJ asked.

"Yes you missed me. You never saw me…"

"Mere, who is it?" An accented male voice called from somewhere in the house. AJ pushed it open the rest of the way to see a man in boxer shorts.

"Well then that makes this all the easier. We weren't meant to be together. You never saw me either. To be with me you have to be accepting of the military's constraints on time. You haven't done that. You pressured me to choose between you and Ellen and I chose here. I hope you're happy together." With that AJ left. While he wasn't pleased with his actions as a gentleman, he was happy in his choice. When he got into his car he called Ellen.

"Hello?" came the sleepy reply.

"Hey, it's AJ."

"Hey hon, did something happen? Do you need to go somewhere?"

"No, I was hoping I could drop by tonight and see you."

"Sure, I just dozed off on the couch. Do you want me to make some coffee or anything?"

"Sure darlin', I'll be there in 10." He actually made the drive with 2 minutes to spare.

"Hey weren't you supposed to have dinner with Meredith tonight?"

"She was cheating on me. It's a good thing I was going to break it off."

"Yeah, come into the kitchen, the coffee should be almost done." Ellen picked up a key ring as they walked by the entry table. "I've been meaning to give these to you." She handed him the keys. "The numbers on here are the alarm codes." She passed him a cup of coffee. He took a sip and grinned.

"Do you always make your coffee this strong, or was it just for me?"

"I was a marine, of course I drink my coffee that strong. "

"Thanks." He leaned against he kitchen counter. A moment later he set his cup down and added Ellen's keys onto his key ring, next to his own house key. She moved next to him and he wrapped an arm around her shoulders. "I love you, you know that don't you?"

"I have a good idea." She answered with a grin.

"Good because I don't want to give you any bad ideas."

"You give bad ideas? Never! Naughty ones maybe…" Ellen gave him a sly grin.

"Really? We may have to explore some of those." AJ agreed and Ellen started backing toward her bedroom.

"I like this having you all to myself. I hope you know that I wont ever let you go. You're too special to lose."

"Can I ask you a question El?"

"Always."

"Will you marry me?" AJ looked like a shy little boy for a moment.

"Absolutely."

"Then it's a good thing I have this. It was my mothers. I didn't even give it to Francesca's mother."

I love it AJ. It's beautiful. I'm honored that you would give it to me."

"Good. Now what do you say we continue to the bedroom and finish our discussion there." This time it was AJ who had the sly grin.