Title: The Other Woman

Summary: The woman Steve had an affair with comes back into his and Gabrielle's life, and sets her sights on Jack...

Rating: K

Disclaimer: Duh, of course I'm not affiliated with All Saints. (My mate went to WAAPA with Virginia Gay, does that count?) If I was, I'd be writing scripts, not fanfiction.


"Jack, do you have a home or do you secretly live here like that chick from Grey's?"

Jack stuck his tongue out at her cheekily. "Shame on you, Gabby, for watching an awful medical show. I never got how medical staff could do it."

"I need my escapism, don't I?"

"I like it here, thankyouverymuch," he said. His grin faltered. "I'm looking for a new place but for the meantime, I don't really like being around the house when Dan and Ricki are there."

That was understandable. It had to be hard, living with an engaged couple. She felt for him and had gone so far as to let him crash with her in a fit of sympathy, but Jack had turned her down. He really wanted his own place again, and he knew if he ended up boarding again, he'd be there for years.

"Well, make sure you get some sleep." She ruffled s hair the way he liked – at least, he seemed to like it, based on the fact that he wasn't a man who liked to be casually touched and he'd never recoiled from her the way he did others.

She had gotten to know him quite well over the last three months, ever since he'd come back to the ED. He was a compassionate doctor and made an effort to respect the boundaries of the women he worked with – which, she thought, was probably part of the fact she found easy affection with him so, well… easy. She could ruffle his hair and knew he thought nothing of it.

And, having dated two of her predecessors, he appreciated how difficult her job was. As Nursing Unit Manager, the nurses under her command complained about everything and appreciated nothing, and the doctors constantly expected her to perform miracles. (And, of course, it didn't help when doctors slept with her nurses and humiliated them into quitting.) And he was good with rosters. So they'd ended up fairly good friends.

It occurred to neither of them that Frank had noticed their camaraderie and instructed Zoe to put him on day shifts so they'd be together. Gabrielle got him, which was a rare thing with Jack. It also gave him an excuse to keep Gabrielle and Steve Taylor separated, so everything worked out well as far as Frank was concerned.

"How's your agency nurse thing going?" Jack asked.

Gabrielle made a face. Frank's reputation as a boss preceded him and several nursing agencies had blacklisted the All Saints ED. It was near impossible to get staff. "Zoe said she got someone to come in, actually volunteered," Gabrielle said.

"Really? I've never heard of someone volunteering to work here," Jack said. "Except maybe Bart." They both laughed. Bart's devotion to Frank – and Frank's devotion to Bart – was legendary. "I'm interested in meeting her now."

"Just so long as you promise not to sleep with her." Jack poked his tongue out playfully. Gabrielle laughed. She liked the way he owned his mistakes.

"Gabby!" came a voice when Jack and Gabrielle rounded the corner to enter the ED. Jack immediately looked up to the source of the voice, and was met by a stunning woman. Tall (he liked tall women, he was one hundred and ninety centimeters) slim and toned with rich dark brown hair that he could tell was long, even pulled up in a bun. Big green eyes set in a creamy pale complexion. Her agency uniform did nothing to hide her figure.

Wow, he thought. He'd already vowed not to screw around with the staff, but seeing this woman…

"Ashley," Gabrielle said, and if Jack hadn't been too busy checking the girl out, he would have realized how cool her voice was.

Ashley bounded towards Gabrielle, all long legs and creamy complexion and enchanting eyes. She hugged her. "It's sooo good to see you," she gushed. "It's been so long, when I realized you were NUM here I had to volunteer."

"You know each other?" Jack asked.

Ashley laughed tantalizingly. "We've been best friends forever," she said. "Grew up on neighboring farms, went to nursing schools together… then Gabby went up and got all city girl on us."

"So… you guys are pretty close, then?"

Ashley squealed and hugged Gabrielle tighter. "Hell, yeah!" she said. "Oooh, we're going to have such a good time!"


"Ga-beee," Jack sang playfully a few hours later. He had spent the shift with Ashley and, like most of the male staff, was captivated by her. "You want to do me a favour?"

"What is it, Jack?" Gabrielle asked testily, trying to keep her voice neutral when she wanted to cry.

"I, uh… look, I really like your mate Ashley and I'm not exactly ready to date someone one-on-one… so I was hoping you could get Steve to go out the four of us?" he asked hopefully. " I want to get to know her better."

"Sort your private life on your own time, Jack," Gabrielle snapped. "I'm busy."

"No need to get stroppy," Jack said, loudly enough for her to hear as he turned to leave.

Instinct made him turn back around, and he realized she was crying. In a second he was by her side, drawing her into his arms. "What's the matter?" he asked so soothingly she actually felt like someone cared about how she felt.

"Jack, that's her," she said between sobs.

"Who's her?"

"The other woman. The woman Steve – " and she started crying again.

Jack got it. Gabrielle had admitted the reason she and Steve had broken up the first place was because he'd cheated on her with her best friend. He held her tighter and kissed the top of her head. "Poor girl," he whispered sensitively. He'd been cheated on, it kind of came with the territory when you worked as a ED doctor and surgeon, but he had also knew they had been childhood sweethearts, and that kind of betrayal… "I had no idea."

She sniffled. "You had no idea." She made no effort to get out of Jack's arms. It felt nice… safe.

He kissed her again. "I should have put it together, I'm sorry. You don't have to put up with this, you know. You can just tell Frank you're not happy with you. You don't even have to explain why."

Gabrielle sniffled. "I can't turn down a perfectly adequate nurse just because I have a personal beef with her."

"Just say you can't trust her. I mean, you can't, can you? What does it say about a person that she won't respect a personal boundary like fidelity?"

"That she didn't respect our relationship doesn't make her a bad nurse."

Jack pulled away slightly so he could looked her in the eye. He cupped her face gently. "Poor baby," he murmured. "You're the most tolerant, more professional person I know."

His words were salve to her ego. "Thanks," she said quietly. She was suddenly aware, the same way she had often become suddenly aware of Jack's touch in the past, of how pleasantly warm his hands felt. More than just warm – she felt herself becoming flushed. "Jack…" she whispered…

At that moment, Ashley walked in, and Jack jumped away almost guiltily. Ashley assessed the situation with a critical eye. "Gabby, I need to sort out rosters and a locker," she cooed.

"I'll, uh, leave you to it," Jack said in a low voice and fled the room.

"Something going on between you two?" Ashley asked.

Gabrielle blushed. "No," she said.

"Sure looked like it."

"Jack's just a colleague… and a friend. He dated one of my predecessors so he knows how crap this job can be. He's easy to talk to. And he's not interested in a relationship," she added, a little defiantly.

"He wouldn't be the first man who said he wasn't interested in me," Ashley said, her voice loaded with innuendo. Gabrielle had the childish urge to smack her.

"Do what you like, but don't complain when you knocks you down flat," she said. "Let me just see about a locker for you."

She didn't want Ashley to know how rattled she was. It wasn't that she was interested in Jack, it was just… well, Jack was a decent guy, once you overlooked his recent promiscuity… he was a good physician, a good friend… she would hate to see him get involved with someone like Ashley. Someone who didn't respect the boundaries of fidelity.

Ashley frowned behind Gabrielle's back. She had never understood her friend's penchant for attracting good-looking doctors – Steve, now Jack. She wouldn't have Steve on a silver platter – he couldn't take responsibility for his actions (she wondered if he still drank like a fish) and besides, everyone knew that any guy who cheated with you would most likely cheat on you. She hadn't even been the only one, just the only one caught out.

No, she didn't want Steve. Now, Jack – he seemed like the perfect boyfriend material, intelligent, sweet, kind of aloof – she figured if he wasn't a compulsive flirt then he was less likely to be a skirt-chaser like Steve. And since Gabrielle wasn't seeing him, she didn't see anything wrong with pursuing it…

Jack let her down as gently as he could at the end of the day. "Look, I'm sorry if I gave you the wrong impression, but I'm really not interested," he said.

She smiled a friendly, flirtatious smile that always hooked the guy in. "How come?" she asked in a tone that suggested, every so playfully, that her feelings would be forever hurt if he didn't go out with her.

"Because I don't date people I work with."

A silvery laugh. A touch on the arm that made Jack cringe. He didn't like women being this forward. "Oh, come on, Jack, I don't count as a colleague. I may not even be here tomorrow."

"OK, fine then, how about I don't date women who don't respect the boundaries of fidelity?" Jack said, snapping at Ashley's persistence. She was annoying him more with each passing second.

Ashley frowned. "Gabby told you about that, did she?"


"Well… don't believe everything she says. We were drunk."

As if that made it all better. God knew, he'd paid for his drunk mistake with Charlotte too many times to give anyone else any leeway over it. "So, that's what you're going to tell me when you cheat on me, is it?" he asked.

"See, now you're opening up to the idea of a relationship," she said cheerfully, following him.

Christ, had he been that persistant with Terri? No wonder she'd gotten fed up with him. "Ashley, please," he said. "I don't want to start a fight with you. I'm not interested in going out with you. Can't you leave it at that?"

She knew when she'd pushed it too far – actually, she'd pushed it too far thirty seconds ago, but there was no taking it back now. "Sorry," she said. "I just hate temping and you've been so nice and sweet… I won't push it anymore. But look, since Gabby and Steve are on good terms I was hoping you'd like to come out with us? Just as mates?"

Jack breathed a sigh of relief, glad she had given up quickly – although he doubted he was the only iron in her fire. "I can do friends," he said.

Ashley smiled. "Great. Why don't you come to Cougars with us tonight?"

Jack had a feeling he'd just been had, but since he had the night off and nothing better to do, he may as well go along.


"I know that look, Jones. You've got your eye on Quade."

Ashley looked up at Steve, smiling conspirationally. "So what if I do?" she cooed.

Steve frowned. What was it with Jack attracting women's attention – first Gabby, now Ashley. He'd kill to get either of them back in bed, but they were both wrapped up with his younger colleague.

He didn't know exactly what was going on between Jack and Gabrielle, only that they seemed very pally. He had come back to the ED a few months ago to find they were very close, and he hated it. He hated the way Jack touched her – a hand on her arm or back to guide her here, a friendly hug there, nothing inappropriate – but it still galled Steve that someone who slept around as much as Jack did had the audacity to lay his hands on 'his' Gabby.

And now Ashley had an eye on him. It wasn't fair.

"He uses women," Steve said.

Ashley laughed. "And you don't?" she returned.

Steve glowered. Unfortunately, Ashley had him. Despite being Gabrielle's friend, she had been well aware of his various indiscretions while they'd been together – of which she herself had been the last. Ashley had been his partner in crime… and knew all his secrets, more than Gabrielle did. "I've changed," he said sullenly.

"I'm sure you have." There was a smug, disbelieving tone in her voice that made him want to smack her. But then, Ashley Jones had always been one to cause trouble. She was gorgeous and she knew it, and the slightest flirtation on her part could have all the men running.

And now she wanted Jack.

This could work out well for Steve.

He knew whatever Gabrielle said to the contrary, having Ashley around made her uncomfortable. There was just something unnerving about having the other woman in your face – and if that other woman was to go after one of your closest friends… Steve didn't think Gabrielle would look at Jack in quite the same way if he were busted sticking it to Ashley.

Ashley sensed Steve's thoughts. It was where she had wanted them to go. "Of course, if you could help me, maybe Gabby might realize Jack is only a man…" she hinted temptingly.

So Steve drew her in and started dancing with her intimately, hoping that Gabrielle and Jack might see them, and get jealous…

… "I think they're trying to incur jealousy, but who they're trying to make jealous, I don't know," Jack said with a smile, watching Steve and Ashley out of the corner of his eye. They were dancing very provocatively, especially for someone only hours before had been hitting on Jack something chronic.

It amused him. He had zero interest in Ashley, and her childish attempts to make him jealous certainly didn't inspire any respect. He was having much more fun with Gabrielle, talking a enjoying himself over a few drinks.

Gabrielle smiled. She had been thinking the same thing. Strangely enough, being with Jack made her care not the slightest about seeing Steve and Ashley together. She couldn't remember having had this much fun.

"Ooh, I love this song," she said suddenly, jumping up. Without thinking, she grabbed Jack's hand and dragged him towards the dance floor. She'd had a few drinks, or else she wouldn't have been so bold, but underneath the boldness that alcohol gave her was a genuine affection for Jack.

Obligingly – not that it was much of an obligation – he took Gabrielle in his arms. He was surprised at how good she felt there. It had been ages since he felt this good with a woman, let alone just in a platonic sense.

"What are you thinking?" she asked, sensing his tenseness as his mind scanned over the memories of dozens of women he hadn't particularly cared about, none of whom felt as good to be with in the throes of passion as Gabrielle did right now.

"Nothing," he said. "Just thinking that it's nice being here… with you."

She looked up at him and smiled. He loved seeing her smile. "Comfortable," she agreed, and they both knew it was more then just comfortable. There was a familiarity that was like coming home to a hot bath and delicious home-cooked meal after a hard day, and ease of friendship and respect that neither of them had had before.

"Gabby…" Jack said, unsure how to take the sudden switch in the mood. Nothing explosive, more like someone had cranked the burner up a few notches. The extra heat was obvious.

"Jack…" she whispered, and she couldn't hide the huskiness in her voice. She tilted her head, knowing instinctively the angle he needed lean down and…

"Isn't this a great place?" Ashley said, interrupting them at exactly the right – or wrong – moment. She'd seen what was happening from across the dance floor and had made it just in time…

Jack fought the childish urge to smack Ashley. He wondered if she did it deliberately. "God help anyone who doesn't build a bar next to a hospital," he said with a smile. He still had one arm wrapped around Gabrielle's waist, and he didn't fail to notice when she wriggled out of his hold on receiving Steve's look of disapproval. Damn the two of them. He wondered if they were conspiring together; Ashley had made her interest in him perfectly clear, and everyone knew Steve was still sweet on Gabrielle…

The night wore on. Gabrielle felt vaguely unsettled by her interrupted kiss with Jack. She wasn't sure if she was glad or disappointed they hadn't gone through with it. She was confused, especially by the way Steve kept glowering at Jack – what the hell was his problem? It wasn't like she hadn't given him plenty of chances, all of which he'd blown – and to settle her confusion, she drank more than she should have and needed to be taken home.

"Leave you car here," Jack instructed. "I'll drop you home and you can get it in the morning." He wanted to be alone with her. Their near-kiss had rattled him, and he was a big believer that if these kinds of things didn't get sorted soon after they happened, they never did and it became one of those what-could-have-been things.

"I live closer to her, it's less out of my way then it is yours," Steve pointed out, appearing to be gracious when he was actually trying to deprive Jack of any time alone with Gabrielle.

"I could do with a lift home," Ashley piped up, She was perfectly capable of driving but Jack didn't know that.

Jack gritted his teeth. The two of them so were conspiring against him. He'd wanted time alone with Gabrielle and instead he'd been co-opted into driving her sexually aggressive friend home while Steve got the alone time. "Fine," he said, and Ashley beamed. She got up and leaned into Jack just a touch more intimately then she needed to – nothing too improper, but enough that he could feel her body heat, inhale her perfume, get an eyeful of her gorgeous figure…

Gabrielle gritted her teeth watching Ashley. It was all an act, of course, right down to that slight drunken sway when she was perfectly sober, forcing Jack to hold help her stay upright. Ashley was the master of her craft when it came to beguiling men. Even if the fact she couldn't respect the boundaries of fidelity turned him off, she had enough tricks up her sleeve to eventually wear him down…

Suddenly, the image of Jack and Ashley in bed together popped into her head, and she wanted to cry. "You ready?" Steve asked politely, taking note of the fact Gabrielle looked absolutely miserable seeing Jack and Ashley together. Well, Ashley was doing her job very well. She really was a pro at beguiling men – he should know. Jack should be out of his hair in… oh, an hour or so, knowing the way Ashley operated.

Gabrielle nodded and followed Steve out. "You OK?" he asked.

"Fine… just had a bit too much to drink and it caught up with me all of a sudden."

"I see Jack's up to his usual tricks," he said, a touch of smugness to his voice as he started home, going as slowly as possible.

"How do you mean?"

"Put an attractive woman in front of him and he's all over her. Ten bucks says he doesn't make it to his own place tonight."

It was twisting the knife, and Gabrielle wasn't astute enough to know Steve was doing it deliberately. "Ashley's always been like that," she said with a touch of bitterness. "Jack's smart enough not to fall for it."

"I don't see why not," Steve said. "He's only a man. And Ashley could always have whichever one she wanted."

He's more than that, Gabrielle wanted to shoot back. He's got much better taste than that. But she didn't because – well, maybe Steve had a point… maybe she was wasting her time on someone who Ashley had in her sights.

Steve was right. Ashley could always have whichever man she wanted. And now she wanted Jack.

She didn't know why it upset her so much. It wasn't like they had even kissed.


"Thanks for giving me a lift home," Ashley said seductively. "Do you want to come it?"

"No thanks, I have an early start tomorrow," Jack said.

"Not for a quick coffee?" Ashley said, so beguilingly that Jack was tempted to take her up on it, just to be polite. After all, it was bloody hard to turn down an attractive woman, especially when she was being so friendly and eager to please.

Jack shook his head. "Sorry," he said. "But if I don't go to bed now, I'll stay up all night."

Ashley was tempted to say to say something along the lines of he could go to be right now and he could still be up all night…but she didn't think it would go down well with him. Too forward, she thought. Have to be more subtle. Well, she'd grind him down eventually – she'd never had issues getting the man she wanted in the past.

"Suit yourself," she said in a pleasant enough tone to make it clear her feelings weren't hurt – too badly. "I'll see you tomorrow." And the day after, and the day after that. She was always going to be around – Jack couldn't avoid her, and eventually he'd give into her advances.


"You and Ashley have a good time last night?" Gabrielle asked Jack the next day.

"It was OK. She's not my type."

Of course she's your type, Jack, she's gorgeous. Gabrielle bit back the words. "She seems really interested in you," she pressed. She couldn't get the image out of her head of Jack staying the night with Ashley.

Jack shrugged. "I'm not interested in her," he insisted. "Look, I wanted to talk about last night –"

Gabrielle waved him away, signally that subject was over and done with. "Forget about it. I was drunk, I wasn't thinking straight." Ten bucks says he doesn't make it to his own place tonight. Steve might have been out on the exact night, but Gabrielle had no doubt Ashley could grind him down if she wanted – he was, after all, only a man, just like Steve. And what would happen to her if she were to get involved with Jack? Ashley hadn't shown any remorse in breaking Gabrielle's heart once before by going after her man, what would stop her from doing it again?

Jack tried not to look crestfallen. He told himself it was for the best; getting involved with colleagues hadn't exactly worked out for either of them. But still… "So we're cool?" he asked.

Gabrielle barely nodded, she was so engrossed in her paperwork – determined not to let Jack distract her with his smile, his eyes… "We're cool," she said.


"You think Jack knows she's totally into him?" Bart asked later that day. Ashley had bombarded Jack with attention and affection – nothing over the top, just a constant friendly presence, a 'well done', a hand on the arm, a smile. What man wouldn't kill for that kind of attention from an attractive woman?

"Are you kidding?" Dan replied. "I've known him not to leave one of his medical journals when Ricki has mates over – and trust me, they're as good-looking as she is. The only woman who's attention he notices these days is Gabrielle's."

Steve laughed derisively. "Gabby would never get involved with him," he said. He was impressed by Ashley's efforts. She had made herself indispensible to Jack – always there to help out, to congratulate him on a job well done. Neither she or Gabrielle had ever been so quick to help and praise him, and that galled Steve, even as he was impressed by the fine job Ashley was doing of distracting Jack.

Damn that man. He seemed to have a knack for inspiring devotion from women.


"Well, I'm sorry to be such a party pooper, but the work never ends in this job," Zoe said regretfully after one drink at Cougars with Jack, Ashley, Dan and Ricki. That, and watching Dan and Ricki being so coupley and Ashley constantly making it clear to Jack that she was available, Zoe was beginning to feel like a fifth wheel. She wondered if maybe she should see what Mike was up to – the man had taken the time to understand her, which was rare for a woman in her position.

Ten minutes later, Dan and Ricki made their excuses, too. Since becoming engaged, they had turned into quite the homebodies. "You don't have to stay," Jack said pleasantly. "I told Gabby I'd meet her here."

Ashley resisted the urge to frown. It had been a month, and Jack still had shown no interest in her. She had showered him with attention, done all the things that had worked a treat with men before him – by now, he should be feeling like the best man in the world – best doctor, best lover, best boyfriend. But he hadn't taken the bait yet, and it was infuriating.

She had never been shown such disinterest before.

Oh, sure, he let her follow him around – she'd worked damn hard to tread that line between attentive and clingy – but he'd never done anything which could be remotely construed as coming onto her. She was beginning to think that maybe he was serious about not getting involved with a colleague.

At least she could console herself with the fact he wasn't about to get involved with Gabrielle, either. It would be more than her ego could bear to have two hunky doctors pass her over in favour of her plainer friend. "It's OK, I like your company," she said.

Gabrielle was late, which gave Ashley the time she wanted to have Jack to herself. He was very intelligent, very compassionate, very scintillating company, which of course only infuriated her all the more that he wouldn't make a pass at her.

"You know, it's been a month since I got here, and I'm yet to understand how a guy like you managed to stay on the market," she cooed. "You must have women lining up to date you… a very good-looking, very talented surgeon."

"Yeah," Jack admitted, making a face as he thought of all the women who came onto him despite his reputation – it was like the fact he'd been known to use and discard women didn't matter, they were still totally hot to be the ones to snag him. It was what he liked about Ashley, after their initial clash over her wanting to go out with him, she'd accepted his friendship and she was fun to be around. "But I want someone a bit more grounded than the kind of women who pursue me."

Ashley nodded. "I get that," she said. "Not to sound arrogant, but I know I'm good looking. I'm yet to meet a man who cared about more than that – they just see great legs, great ass, great rack…"

Impulsively, Jack grabbed her hand. "If it's worth anything, I see you as more than that," he said.

It was what she'd been waiting for – not quite as forward as she would have liked, but good enough. She leaned in to kiss him.

Jack pulled away immediately. "I thought I made myself clear…" he said.

"You made it clear that you want someone who appreciates you," Ashley said seductively. "What more can you ask for than a friend?" And with that, she climbed into his lap and kissed him hard, wrapping her arms around his neck, trying to get her tongue into his mouth…

… Gabrielle entered Cougars to see Ashley in Jack's lap, kissing him. His hands were all over her, and despite what he'd said in the past about not being interested in her, he looked pretty into it. After a second, she turned heel and left, feeling humiliated that she'd actually believed he might be interested in her, when he was just like any man, interested in a gorgeous woman who would pay him the admiration he felt entitled to…

… Jack placed his hands on Ashley's slim waist and violently pushed her off him – violently enough that her back connected awkwardly with the edge of the table. He scrambled to his feet in an undignified fashion, and wiped his mouth. "Don't touch me!" he said as Ashley got to her feet and moved towards him. "Jesus Christ, how clear do I have to make it that I'm not interested?"

Ashley was furious to see Jack wipe his mouth like she tasted foul. Bastard, she thought, forgetting about the fact she had wanted to snag him. "Are you a fag?" she asked.

It was the singularly most tasteless thing she could ask him, although of course she didn't know why. "No, I'm not," he said through gritted teeth. "I just have better taste than you."

"Bastard," she screamed, and slapped him hard.

She went to slap him again, and he caught her wrist mid-strike. "You touch me again and I'll report you," he said, before stalking away from her, fuming. What the hell had he said or done to give her any idea that he was interested in her? Hadn't he made it clear he wasn't interested in her? That he wasn't going to date someone who was pushy and didn't believe in fidelity, just because she was pretty.

He scowled. He wondered how Gabrielle managed to put up with her all these years. She was a beautiful brat with a child's sense of entitlement. How could they have remained best friends for so long? She was a user with no sense of loyalty.

Gabrielle. Jack wondered how she would take the idea that he and Ashley had shared a kiss.

Then it occurred to him that Ashley might put her own spin on things. He didn't have the best reputation, it wouldn't take much for her to say he'd initiated contact, even that he'd forced himself on her after a few drinks – he made a mental note to talk to Gabrielle in the morning, before Ashley got her claws in.


Jack knocked on the door to the office Gabrielle shared with Frank and Zoe the following day. Gabrielle was alone, and she looked up when she heard the sound. "Jack," she said, spite creeping into her voice, "had a rough night?" He looked like he hadn't had a decent night's sleep – the kind that came from staying up all night having sex.

Jack yawned. "I didn't sleep well last night," he said truthfully. Ashley's kiss had rattled him; even after a shower, he could swear he could taste and smell her on him.

Gabrielle frowned. He'd been up all night, she knew it. The thought of him thrashing around in bed with Ashley was a knife through her heart. She didn't know why she cared so much. "Don't bullshit me, Jack," she snapped. "Say what it is you came here to stay and go away. I have work to do."

Needless to say, Jack was floored by her rudeness. "Excuse me?" he asked coolly.

"I saw you with Ashley last night," she said. "I know you spent the night with her." Even as she was saying it, she knew how whiny she sounded. It wasn't like there was anything going on between her and Jack; he was a free agent to do what he wanted – and sleep with who he liked.

Jack stared at her. "When did you see us together?" he asked.

"At Cougars. You were kissing her."

Jack laughed, and she wanted to throw her pen at him. How dare he laugh at her! What, was he going to deny it After she had seen them with her own two eyes? "You mustn't have stayed for very long," he said wryly.

"Watching you make out with some pretty young thing is not my idea of a good time, Jack," she snapped. "Especially not after you'd agreed to meet me. I left as soon as I saw you with her."

Jack smiled ruefully and sat down in the chair next to Gabrielle. "You must have come in at exactly the wrong moment," he said softly. "She kissed me – after I told her I wasn't interested in her, no less. Then she climbed into my lap. She was all over me, I practically had to throw her off me. That's what I wanted to talk to you about. Girls like her can be kind of vindictive when they've been rejected, and I was hoping I'd be able to talk to you first, before she came to you with something she'd made up. I don't want to get her into trouble, I just want a record that I have an issue with her."

Pressure had been building up in her chest, hurt and disappointment over seeing them together, and it was instantly relieved. "I feel so stupid," she said, hanging her head so Jack wouldn't see how red her cheeks were.

Jack cupped her chin and pried her head up so she was looking him in the eye. "Why does the idea upset you so much?" he asked softly.

"It doesn't," she lied, and she blushed a deeper shade of red.

"Why are you looking like a beetroot, then?" he asked. He took his free hand and brought it around her beck, playing with the loose hair at the base of her neck. He stared into her eyes and saw the truth of her feelings. "I had no idea," he said. "I had hoped – I wanted it – but I didn't seriously think you might have feelings for me."

"The idea of you with Ashley made me so jealous," she admitted.

He chuckled softly. "I don't trust her to be faithful and she's too aggressive… I like my women a little more… passive."

"Not too passive, I hope. I'm not a doormat."

"I've seen the way you handle Frank, I'm well aware of that. I just meant I like setting the pace. Maybe that makes me old-fashioned but it's just the way I am."

She smiled. "I like you the way you are," she said. He leaned in to kiss her and…

"What's going on here?" Frank asked, barging in at perfectly the wrong moment. Jack pulled away from Gabrielle and looked very guilty. "Jaeger, don't you have a department to run?" The way he said it made it clear he wanted to speak to Jack alone. "Well, what the hell did you think you were doing?" he asked.

"I was trying to kiss her," Jack said through gritted teeth. This was unfreakingbelievable. How many times could they be interrupted like this?

"What, two of her predecessors weren't enough?" Frank asked.

Jack flinched. There was no denying his checkered past when it came to the women he worked with. And yet – "I know what I'm doing, Frank. I know I've fucked up in the past, but this is different. I have fun with her. I feel good about myself when I'm with her… and I haven't even gotten around to kissing her yet."

There was a quiet dignity to his words that Frank found oddly touching. He'd never known Jack to be so keen about a woman he hadn't even kissed yet. "Fine," he grumbled. "Do what you want. But don't expect any sympathy when you screw things up, like you always do."

Jack grinned. "Can I go?" he asked. He knew what he had to do. Frank waved him off.

Jack left the office and spotted Gabrielle a few meters away. "Gabrielle," he said, and she turned around to face him. Their eyes locked through the space between them. She seemed to know what he was thinking. "Come here," he said softly, and she quickly closed the distance between them.

He wrapped his arms around her waist and drew her tightly against his body. He brought his hand to the back of her head so he could tilt her head at the angle he needed and brought his mouth down to hers…

He nearly groaned when their mouths connected. She tasted so good, better than in his fantasies… He held her tighter and ran his tongue over her lips, taking his time every millimeter before he flicked his tongue inside her mouth. Their tongues tangled in each other's mouths… he ran his hands up and down her back, resisting the urge to pull her shirt out from her pants… not that he was really all that eager to take things quickly. With Gabrielle, he just wanted to be with her… and kiss her…

Gabrielle felt like she could just melt into Jack's arms, and then she realized she really was leaning in to him. He shifted his feet to rebalance his weight – and hers. She felt so good in his arms, he wanted to hold her forever…

…The ED broke into spontaneous applause. Except for Steve and Ashley, who looked on, glowering at the kissing couple…

… "The two of you, take it somewhere else!" Frank ordered after almost a minute of having to witness their impromptu embrace. Jack pulled away and smiled sheepishly at Frank and the rest of the ED (not failing to notice that both Steve and Ashley looked furious), threading his fingers through Gabrielle's tightly. He saw the consent in Frank's eyes and his nod, and pulled Gabrielle away into the corridor that led up to the ED.

Ashley watched them go, fuming. She couldn't believe things had backfired so badly – not only was Jack not the least bit interested in her, but he was locking lips in the middle of the ED with Gabrielle. What the hell was it with her? She was a pathetic loser but she managed to have guys falling for her left right and centre.

First Steve. Now Jack. It wasn't fair. She wasn't even pretty.

"What the hell is it with her?" she yelled in frustration, completely forgetting how hard she'd tried to ingratiate herself in this ED. "What the fuck does she have that I don't?"

She realized too late what she'd said. Zoe stared at her, seeing for the first time the spoilt brat that Ashley was. "Excuse me?" Zoe asked on behalf of the ED in light of Ashley's new behavior.

Ashley foundered around. "I mean… he came onto me last night… I told him I wasn't interested because I knew she was keen on him but he kept it up, said I'd been coming onto him since I got here…" her voice trailed off into the dead silence of the ED as all eyes were on her. Even the patients were unusually quiet.

"Was this before or after you threw yourself at him?" Dan asked.

Ashley spun around to face him, glowering. "What the hell do you know?" she spat.

"I know he spent half an hour in the shower then an hour and a half bitching about you while he polished off a few hefty bourbon and cokes. Seriously, not a good idea to throw yourself at him. He doesn't like forward women. You scared him."

Ashley glowered. She did not scare men. "You made that up."

"He said you're a lousy kisser and not even Marilyn Monroe has enough sex appeal to pull off that much… uh… channel five, whatever this is."

There were a few titters as the women of the ED realized Dan meant Chanel No 5, the perfume. And it was something Jack would say; Dan lacked the appreciation of history to pronounce the famous scent, let alone connect it to Monroe. And Ashley knew from the expression of people's faces that she had overplayed her hand. "I quit!" she snarled, and stormed towards the locker room, leaving stunned and amused expressions on the faces of her former colleagues…

… "Sorry about that," Jack said huskily in the corridor. He'd backed Gabrielle against the wall and was standing close against her, his hands on her hips, his forehead pressed against hers. He smiled lovingly at her. "I was starting to think that if I didn't just do it, I'd never get to kiss you."

She smiled up at him. He had such beautiful eyes. "I'm glad you did," she said, feeling strangely shy. She had known Jack for ages and yet here they were, so close but like they were schoolkids on a date. "I'm so nervous," she admitted.

"Me too." He kissed her forehead, then tentatively kissed her on the mouth. "Gabby," he whispered huskily. "Sweet."

Soon they were kissing heatedly against the wall, only to be interrupted a few minutes later by Ashley storming past, her things having been stashed haphazard into her bag. She stopped dead in her tracks when she saw Jack and Gabrielle embracing. "I hope you're happy together," she snarled, her tone saying she hoped exactly the opposite.

"What's up with you?" Gabrielle asked. She couldn't help but feel sorry for Ashley; the woman couldn't be happy with all the men who'd kill to date her, she had to have someone she couldn't have. She had thought they were best friends, but she realized now Ashley Jones was no-one's best friend; she was too absorbed in getting what other's had to care about what her actions did to others.

Unconsciously, she rested her head against Jack's chest. She felt so safe and loved with Jack – more than she had with Steve. And secure with him. Secure that Ashley could throw herself at him and he wouldn't be interested in her. Secure that, even in these early moments which hadn't moved beyond kissing, they had something special that couldn't be tampered with by some – some woman with a child's sense of entitlement.

"I quit."

"What a shame," Gabrielle said sweetly. "I'll write you a recommendation."

"Don't bother." And with that, Ashley stormed off.

Gabrielle raised her head to met Jack's eyes. "I'm glad she's gone," she admitted. "We were friends for so long, but…"

"You're too forgiving, sweetheart," he replied. "But I'm crazy about you anyway." He kissed her lightly on the lips. "I want you to know there'll never be anyone else, not while I'm with you. You know how I feel about that."

She hugged him. He was so sweet. "I know," she said. "And I'm crazy about you, too." She grinned cheekily at him. "Why don't you take me home and I'll show you just how much?"

He kissed her. "Deal," he said. He figured Frank didn't expect to see either of them back that day anyway. His arm wrapped around Gabrielle's waist, they walked off together.

And that was the last she ever thought of Ashley Jones, the other woman.