Set towards the end of The Spy Who Really Liked Me; Diane's in the lab late one afternoon, while Jake's off to ensure Angela's release.

Please note: I took some liberties with character here; but it was a) convenient for what I wanted to write and for some things that will follow, and ultimately, for how it ends and b) I really wanted to write about hockey for some reason. I'd be interested in people's thoughts on this; it's an experiment of sorts, too.

Please: Read, enjoy, review if you're so inclined; I do appreciate them and try to respond to each one. Oh, and I don't own anything, no profit, yada, yada, yada ... Clearly, I miss hockey, though … ;)

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Diane sighed, and looked at the clock again, but knowing how much time was passing wasn't helping her focus. More annoying than the inability to focus was the fact that, once again, despite her best attempts to the contrary, the source of her distraction was Jake.

She sighed heavily, impatiently setting her glasses down on the lab table, and rubbed her eyes, running through the litany of rationalization she'd given herself to try and focus again.

So what if he slept with her? It's not like he owes you an explanation – you're his doctor, you're his friend, and nothing more. Repeat after me, Diane Hughes, NOTHING MORE. Besides, she was blond, and you're never going to compete with that, and furthermore, you NEVER WANTED TO.

Diane took a couple of deep, relaxing breaths, and tried to calm her mind, but it was no use: finally, she would have to realize that all of her efforts to get past this would be moot unless she acknowledged the one thought that had been there all along.

He's having more of a life than you are.

She sighed again; the thought was finally out there. Jake Foley was having more of a life than she was.

Oddly, she realized she felt better now that she had allowed the thought to exist: now she could address it, do something about it and resolve it. She knew exactly what would cure this, and she hadn't done it in some time. She grabbed her cell phone, and pushed the speed dial.

"Hey you; what's up?" the jovial young man's voice answered. Diane could hear the sound of practice behind him; a familiar, welcoming sound.

"Hey, what are you guys doing after the game tonight?"

"The usual – why, you wanna go?"

"Yeah, count me in."

"Cool; we'll have some fun."

"Can I ride with you?"

"Sure, no problem."

Diane smiled into the phone, relieved – that's what siblings were for, she thought.

"Thanks, Jeff."

"Hey, bring along some of your hot doctor pals, if there are any," he teased.

Diane looked across the lab; where Fran Yoshida was feeding the mice.

"Yeah, maybe I will," she said absently.

Jeff Hughes stared into his cell phone; that joke usually elicited snorts of disgust, righteous indignation and general annoyance from his sister; must be really bad this time, he thought. Hope the jerk knows who he's dealing with, his brain added.

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Jake peered into the dark lab. For once, she had left on time; now he would have to wait to see if things were okay between them.

It irritated him that he was having these thoughts; Diane was his friend, his doctor, his co-worker –

your lifesaver … in more ways than one … the voice reminded him.

And he didn't owe her any explanation for a one night stand on a mission – and she hadn't asked for one. Still, he felt an odd sense of obligation and ... guilt.

He wanted to explain, but maybe it was better that he didn't. She might not understand, even though she would try.

You just want to know that you don't suck as a human being and Diane always manages to convince you of that the annoying voice in his head told him.

She would tell him that he shouldn't stop trusting people –

she's the only one you CAN trustthe voice interjected

just because he'd been led astray by his hormones –

AGAIN …the voice, now dripping with disgust, told him.

Jake sighed, putting his hands on his hips and dropping his head. He stood like that for a minute, then he decided to go home and catch the last of the hockey game on television. Clearly, his need for personal reassurance would have to wait.

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As the tall, attractive winger from the visiting team sauntered over to the bar, Diane was pretty sure her heart skipped a beat. He smiled at her; it skipped another beat.

Jeff peered at Diane, turning to see what had caught her attention.

"Hey, Ales," Jeff said, as he extended his hand. "How are ya?" he asked, as the two young men exchanged the typical shoulders only sportsman hug common among professional athletes.

"Jeff, good to see you again. You played a good game," Ales said, with sincerity, even though the Sabres had handily beaten the Capitals that evening. Diane liked that about hockey players; they could see past the flaws in a game to recognize a player's individual talents.

Jeff laughed. "Thanks – you played way better, obviously." He turned to Diane, and motioned at Ales.

"Diane, this is Ales Kotalik – we got to play together when I went over to Czechoslovakia during the lockout. Ales, this is my sister Diane."

"Nice to meet you, Diane," he said.

"Nice to meet you, too," she replied, managing a friendly smile, hoping that she didn't sound too nervous or squeaky.

The stool next to hers at the bar was suddenly vacant, as the occupant picked up his jacket and left, his arm around the shoulders of the girl who'd been standing next to him.

"Is that seat taken?" Ales asked

"No, please, have a seat," she said, grateful she could remember how to speak.

Jeff watched the interchange between them, and smiled to himself. Now, he would just extricate himself and let nature take its course. He knew Ales was a good guy, and Diane would trust anyone he trusted.

"Excuse me a minute, kids; I wanted to say hi to the defense twins over there," he said, nodding his head at the two tall blond men who'd just entered. He moved away; Ales turned to look at Diane.

"So, Jeff's sister Diane, what do you do?" Ales asked, grinning at her, a twinkle in his dark eyes.

Diane giggled at his playful words.

"I'm a doctor."

Ales laughed heartily.

"You are not a doctor," he snorted.

Diane sat up straight, irritated. "Yes, I am," she said tersely, pulling her AMA membership card out of her wallet and flashing it at him. "What makes you think I'm not?"

He glanced at the card as she flipped it at him – he didn't really see it, but then, he had no reason to doubt her. He looked at her, a slow, sly smile crossing his countenance, as he thought about how to respond.

"Because you are beautiful, and doctors aren't beautiful," he said, grinning, proud of himself for this thoughtful response.

Diane wasn't sure if it was the slightly silly line he used, or the Czechoslovakian accent, combined with his sly grin; whatever it was made her tingle all over.

She giggled again and looked down, suddenly shy, not sure if she could keep looking into his dark, sparkling eyes, situated beneath his equally dark, slicked back hair. The straight, hard angles of his face gave him an imposing air, mitigated by his easy smile – a thoroughly enticing combination, Diane realized.

"Thank you," she said quietly.

"Hey, hey," he said, reaching over and gently tipping her face back up. "Beautiful women should always look up." He smiled at her again. "It makes it much easier to look into your eyes, beautiful doctor Diane."

Diane couldn't refrain from giggling again; the tingling was unstoppable now, and the touch of his hand under her chin was electrifying.

"Oh, please," she said, rolling her eyes slightly, with a hint of disbelief in her voice.

"May I buy you another drink, beautiful doctor Diane?" he asked, grinning at her.

"Okay, you can just call me Diane," she said.

"But I like calling you beautiful doctor Diane," he said. "It suits you." He was still grinning at her.

Diane felt another unrestrainable giggle. She was feeling saucy thanks to the two glasses of wine she'd already downed since they came in.

"Okay, rocket shot winger Ales; another glass of wine would be nice."

Ales chuckled, a slightly surprised look on his face, and signaled the bartender. His shirt was well fitted, and Diane couldn't help but notice the definition of his muscles underneath; the tingling continued.

"Rocket shot – so you really watch the game," he said; a note of intrigue in his voice.

"Yeah, I really watch the game," she said. "And you really have one howitzer of a shot, my friend," she said admiringly.

The conversation continued easily and pleasantly between them; Diane was intrigued at how intelligent he was, and he had an endearing sense of humor, goofy and earnest, trying with limited success to make sly jokes based on the differences between English and his native Slavic language. She couldn't help but notice that he seemed equally intrigued with how much she knew about and appreciated hockey, and other matters of the world – it was an empowering feeling, kindling a fire inside her that she hadn't felt in a very long time.

When the lights flickered, indicating last call, she saw the time on his watch, surprised at the hours that had passed.

"Oh, my; it's getting late," she said with a twinge of regret. "I should probably go." She began to look around for her brother; Fran had already left, waving goodbye as she exited the bar arm in arm with a redheaded defenseman from the visiting team.

Ales got up with her. "Please, may I see you home?"

Diane looked up sharply, but he wasn't kidding around.

"Please, it's the right thing for a gentleman to do, to walk a beautiful lady home. Besides," he said with another sly grin. "I'm afraid of the dark, and I'd feel safer walking with a doctor at my side."

Diane chuckled.

"But then, how would you get back to your hotel? It would still be dark."

"Oh, yeah. Maybe I should stay with you, just to be on the safe side," he said playfully.

As he noticed her somewhat shocked reaction, his face took on a more serious cast, a slightly hesitant look in his eyes.

"I'm sorry; I didn't mean to be so forward. I do like you and I would like to see you home safely, though."

Diane smiled shyly; pondering his words – being forward was what this whole night had been about, she reminded herself.

It had been a very long time since she had done anything like this – it was absolutely not her style. But hockey players were a tight bunch, and she always felt safe with them. No doubt Charlie, Bill and Jeff had something to do with that, she thought.

Mustering her courage, reminding herself that this was about getting a life, that she was an adult, and Ales was a friend of her brother, who had never led her astray, she slid her fingers into his; electricity coursing through her entire body as his big strong hand closed over her own.

"I like you, too. Maybe you should stay, just to be on the safe side," she said; the sultry tone of her own voice surprised her.

Ales smiled at her, and gave her hand a quick squeeze, then he kissed the back of it lightly, as he looked deeply into her eyes; she felt the electricity coursing again.

"Yes, just to be on the safe side.'

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She opened the door to her apartment; he followed her inside. She turned on a few lights; he was still standing in the doorway. She smiled warmly at him and reached for his jacket.

"Here, let me take that for you," she said.

"Thanks," he said quietly, as she efficiently hung the expensive leather jacket next to her own in the hall closet near the door.

She turned around. "You know, you can actually come in," she said in a teasing voice, gesturing with her hand to the rest of the neat apartment.

He smiled, the sly grin she'd noticed in the bar; she was pretty sure every cell she had lit up at the sight.

He stepped towards her, slowly; she felt her pulse quicken. He was close to her now, closer than they had been in the bar, even closer than he'd been when they'd walked to her apartment hand in hand.

Gently, almost hesitantly, he touched her hair, then her face; he was staring into her eyes.

"I'd like to kiss you, beautiful doctor," he said, in a low, sexy voice; he was mere centimeters away from her now.

Diane reached up and kissed him first; he seemed surprised, then he slid his arms around her, pulling her tight against him, deepening the kiss.

She felt herself melt into his embrace; he was an amazing kisser and her most primal instincts took over as she ran her hands through his thick, black hair, then over his finely honed physique. She tugged gently at his shirt; he obliged by quickly removing it; the feel of his bare skin and taut muscles beneath her fingertips fueled the already raging demands of her body.

Like a pair of dancers new to the steps, they moved together towards her bed, shedding clothing along the way, exploring each other with a sense of urgency and anticipation.

He was sensitive, respectful, and Diane wasn't sure what was more incredible – the passion or just the sheer pleasure they gave and shared with each other; Ales certainly had some interesting things to show her that night, and she thoroughly enjoyed returning those sensational feelings, reveling in the way he reacted to her caresses, her kisses, her movements.

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"How on earth did you know how to do that?" she asked, gasping for breath.

"I might ask you the same," he said, trying to catch his breath, kissing her intermittently between the words.

She chuckled softly, as they exchanged light kisses; she wrapped her arms around him, drawing lazy circles on his back with her fingertips.

"I'm a doctor," she said, in a matter of fact tone. "And I studied VERY, very hard in Anatomy class."

He grinned at her.

"For me, it's like hockey," he said, still a bit breathless. "It's not enough to know how to use the stick, you have to know how to put the puck in the net."

Diane chuckled at his silly joke, a low, sexy sound, and Ales kissed her gently, as he relaxed on top of her; they were both sound asleep within a few minutes.

The insistent sound of the cell phone woke her; groggy and disoriented, she wriggled out of Ales' arms and searched the pile of discarded garments until she found it. She frowned, not recognizing the number or the name.

"This is Dr. Hughes."

A man's deep voice chuckled on the other end. "Uh, hello, Dr. Hughes," the slightly accented voice said. "Is Ales available?"

"Is that mine?" the equally groggy voice called from the bed.

"So it would appear," Diane said, slightly embarrassed, as she handed it to him.

"Thank you," he said, smiling at her, taking the cell phone and reaching for her with his other arm and pulling her gently back down to the bed, close against him.

"Yeah?" he said into the small unit.

"A doctor – your Mother will be so proud," the smooth, calm voice of the assistant team captain intoned in a teasing manner.

Ales laughed gently. "Yeah, yeah. What's going on?"

"There's been a change in plans – the plane is departing in an hour and a half."

"What? What time is it?"

"It's early," Teppo said, looking at his watch. "5:00 am. I got your stuff out of the hotel room; you just need to get to the airport by 6:30."

Ales sat up, and sighed heavily, uttering a barely perceptible curse word; it would not go well if he missed this flight. Diane stirred and looked over at him.

"Okay, thanks man."

"You'll make it, Ales; I have confidence in you," his team mate said. Ales could almost hear him smiling into the phone; the older man always said that and to date, he'd always been right.

"Thanks; I'll see you then." He sighed again as he clicked off the phone.

Diane sat up. "What's the matter?"

"I have to go; the team's plane is leaving at 6:30."

Diane looked over at her clock, then jumped out of bed, and began getting dressed. Ales took a minute to admire her again, memories of the previous few hours flooding back before her loveliness was back under clothing.

"We'll have to hurry; from here it may take about 45 minutes to get to that part of the airport, although the traffic will be lighter right now."

As her words sank in, Ales furrowed his brows when he realized what she was saying.

"Oh, you don't have to drive me there, Diane; I can get car service or something like that."

Diane laughed. "Oh, I don't think so; not in this area, anyway. Besides," she said lightly. "I'd like to."

Ales was touched by her kindness; other women he had known would not have been so generous.

"Really?"

"Yeah, really," she said, as she quickly ran a comb through the brown curls. Although she had just thrown on the tight fitting black pants and tailored button down blouse, Ales still thought she looked beautiful.

She looked up at him now.

"If that's okay with you."

He smiled at her, and put his arms around her; Diane's senses began tingling all over again, as he pulled her close against himself – he still hadn't dressed yet.

"Yeah, that'd be okay with me. Thank you," he said softly, tipping her face up and looking deeply into her eyes. He leaned down and kissed her; the electricity began coursing through her once again. She could feel the roughness of the night's stubble just around his lips; a wonderful feeling, she decided, but before she could get too caught up, she broke off the kiss, chuckling.

"Oh, now, don't start that again, or you'll miss the plane for sure."

"It would be worth it," he said, in a low, sexy tone. He still had his arms wrapped around her.

She tapped his arm lightly. "Well, I'm not sure the coach would agree with you; and it was good of your teammate to let you know what was happening."

Ales sighed. "Yeah, you're right." He quickly dressed; they were out the door within a matter of minutes.

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Diane decided they had enough time to get coffee in the local drive through, and they pulled up to the gates where the private jet was waiting with about 15 minutes to spare. The rest of the team was suited up and ready to fly, milling around on the tarmac with their bags.

She smiled at the relieved look on his face.

"See? This was a good idea. Besides, it's still dark, and it's a good thing you had a doctor to ride with you," she said playfully.

Ales chuckled, as she threw the gear shift into park and jumped out of the car, running around to his side to let him out, Diane made yet another mental note to get the door fixed that day. Some of the other players watched, curious, chuckling at the sight.

Ales got out of the car.

"I think you should know something, Diane."

Diane's blood ran cold – what was he going to tell her? That he was married, or had a girlfriend, circumstances which he had vehemently disavowed the night before? Little of this information would matter now, and she really didn't want to sully the wonderful memories of the previous night with such knowledge.

He put his arms around her, looking into her eyes; she waited for him to speak, trying not to stiffen in anticipation of some dreadful piece of personal information.

"I always wanted to meet you, Diane – Jeff had a picture of you when he came to play in Czechoslovakia, and I always thought you were beautiful. Now, I know just how beautiful you really are," he said softly, leaning over and kissing her forehead.

Diane stood there in his arms, silently absorbing his words. Realizing this was an opportunity she would not likely allow herself again any time soon, she threw caution to the wind, letting her most primal instincts drive. She reached up, kissing him for all she was worth, pressing her body tightly against his one last time; Ales enthusiastically responded.

The team openly cheered and applauded.

"Thank you for the best night of my life," he said emphatically, pulling her tight, lifting her off the ground in a body pressing bear hug.

"Ales, get your sorry Czech ass over here and on the damn plane!" coach Ruff yelled, though there was a playful tone in his words.

"I have to go," he said, as he gently set her back down. Still holding one of her hands; he lifted it to his lips and kissed it. "Goodbye, beautiful doctor Diane."

She squeezed his fingers gently. "Goodbye, Rocket Shot."

He chuckled and returned the squeeze, smiling at her, as he turned and jogged over to join the rest of the team.

Diane watched him as he went, watched as the team boarded the plane; he looked over and smiled at her one last time, waving as he disappeared through the door of the plane. She watched until the plane took off. The first rays of early December sunshine were coming up over the horizon now; she got back in her car and headed downtown to the NSA building.

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As Jake passed the lab, he looked over; there she was, already hard at work. He felt an odd sense of relief; all was as it should be again, he thought.

He opened the door, and was surprised when she seemed startled; as she looked up, he could see she was exhausted. He furrowed his brows.

"Hey – are you okay?" he asked, concern evident in his voice.

She smiled, touched at the thought that he cared about her well being.

"Yeah, yeah; I just didn't … sleep much last night," she said offhandedly, with one of her quirky smiles.

"Well, maybe it would be a good night for a round of Boggle – I might actually beat you," he said with a grin.

The earnest note in his voice charmed her, though she wasn't exactly sure what it meant. But she was too tired to think about it, and she really wanted to take a few days to savor the feelings of her "get a life" venture.

"Sounds good, but I think it would be best if I just went home and slept – besides, it would be a little like shooting fish in a barrel, as tired as I am right now," she said, with another of her quirky grins.

"Raincheck, then?" he pressed slightly.

She smiled at him again; the earnestness was something she would have to consider at some point, but not today.

"Yeah, raincheck for sure."

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Exhausted as she was when she got home that night, she lit up when she saw the lovely bouquet in front of her door. Carefully, she brought the flowers in, setting everything down so she could open the card.

"Beautiful flowers for a beautiful doctor – thanks for making my dreams come true – Rocket Shot."

She chuckled to herself at the silly note, smiling as remembered tingles flooded her senses. It felt good to know she could have a life – any life she wanted, if she really put her mind to it.

The sound of her cell phone interrupted this last thought. She turned away from the flowers; it was Jake.

"Hi, what's wrong?"

"Nothing, I just wanted to make sure you got home okay. You looked really tired today."

She sighed, as she looked at the flowers once again.

"Thanks; I made it," she said. "Now, what's really on your mind?"

The line was quiet for a second; she could hear the low noise of his television in the background.

"Are you sure single syndrome isn't fatal?"

Diane smiled into the small handset.

"Pretty sure, although no long term studies have been conducted as of yet. Things not work out with Angela as you had hoped?" she asked with a light tone; she knew the answer.

"It's hard to start at the beginning when you've sort of jumped in the middle. Besides, she really only did it so I wouldn't shoot her."

"Well, while I don't think lying is ever a great way to proceed in a relationship, self preservation does sometimes trump those rules," Diane joked gently. She shifted the phone.

"You helped her tremendously, Jake; you saved her life. Everything else is just … details," she finished softly.

"Is lifesaving the only way to meet people these days?" he lamented.

"Well, it certainly does give you a place to start," she replied. The unspoken details behind her statement – that she had saved his life many times over; that he had saved hers on at least one occasion – lay in the air between them. There was another pause; she was pretty sure he was thinking about this, too.

"True. I should let you go and get some sleep."

"Good night, Jake."

"Good night, Diane."

As she clicked off the phone, she yawned and looked over at the flowers one more time. Any life I want, she thought to herself, but this is the one I'm choosing.