Title: Familiar Faces

Author: Lisa

Email: lisacheerio_85@yahoo.com

Disclaimer: I do not own stingers and am writing for pleasure, not profit – the characters are not mine.

Colette opened the door to her house eagerly, knowing who it was. However she was shocked that it not be Pete, so late at night. The face was familiar but Colette couldn't place her.

"Hi, Colette..." The woman obviously knew her though, a friendly expression over her face.

"Do I know you?"

"Probably only by name. I'm on duty, uh, Detective Senior Sergeant Ellen Mackenzie. Can I come in? I need to talk to you." Colette realised Mac looked sad, and immediately her heart jumped in her chest. She nodded quickly.

"Yeah, sure, come in. It's Pete, isn't it?"

"If I could just come in, we can talk."

*

"Church never told you about this?"

"No, I, I don't know why but he didn't. I had no idea. How long?" Mac sighed, trying to maintain her gaze.

"Forever."

*

"What's the matter? Look I know this probably isn't the best arrangement in the world but I thought-"

"No, Bill, it's okay. It's lovely, really. I, I just wonder, if we're doing the right thing here."

"Why would it be wrong?" Mac thought earnestly while Bill watched.

"I...hhum, you know, I don't know." They smiled at each other.

"That's settled then. Drink?"

"Yeah, sure."

"It's all part of the job Mac. You have to get over it and move on."

"Yeah, I know."

*

"Danni what's the matter?" Mac sat, amazed, as Danni burst into tears in her office. She composed herself quickly and sniffled, blinking back tears. "Come on Dan, we all, we just all have to deal with it."

"I know but Mac, well, I- oh, don't worry."

"Do you want to tell me something?"

"No, no, I'll be fine. Look, I'm sorry."

"Hey, it's okay. If you want to talk though-"

"Thanks, I'll be right." Danni stood and moved out as Mac looked on, now confused. She hadn't thought Danni would take it so

badly. Mac put her head in her hands. The replacement would arrive tomorrow. But that wasn't the worst of it; it was who the replacement was.

*

Danni and Angie raised eyebrows as Pete's replacement strode in like she owned the place.

"I thought Mac said his, I mean her, name was Brett," Danni mumbled. Angie nodded as Oscar came up behind them, his arm still in a sling, back on temporary duties only. 'Brett' bounced up Mac's stairs and knocked, letting herself in. Oscar put a hand on Danni's shoulder for balance and leant over closer to them so he could whisper.

"You know I think there's a bit of a sex-balance problem in this unit. One against four? No way."

"Looks it," Angie replied. "Wonder if she's just temporary until they can get another guy in...Because if Oscar's all we've got in that department...well..." Danni laughed quietly as Oscar scowled.

"Angie I can still get you on that floor so I'd be careful if I was you."

"Yeah, yeah, sure!"

*

Mac sat at her desk later that night, waiting. Brett had just left and at the moment, she was up to six seconds. Seven, eight, nine, ten...Strange, she thought, you'd think they'd be in to comment by now. She stood and opened her door to three whispered voices.

"You talk first."

"Okay but only if-"

"I'll knock but I'm not saying anything."

"You've gotta say something! Otherwise-"

"Oh come on guys we gotta get in there now!" Mac smiled to herself and cleared her throat. Angie, Danni and Oscar stopped and looked at her.

"Oh, hi Mac!" Danni greeted. "We were just discussing the day."

"I bet you are. So, in my office, shall we?" They nodded sheepishly, knowing they'd been found out, and followed her in.

*

"Time to play honest opinions," Mac began.

"Did you guys do this to me?" Danni asked suspiciously, eyes narrowed.

"Of course not!" Angie replied. "We love you Dan!"

"Mm-hmm."

"Mac, you know this means I'm the only guy around here?" Mac nodded to Oscar's comment and looked briefly at her hands.

"I'm trying to change that. I know it sounds sexist and unfeminine but we need men here and Oscar, you're not back to full health. It's stupid for them to think they can fill this unit with the rookies-"

"Hey I was not a rookie!" Danni exclaimed. Mac sighed.

"I know you weren't Danni. But I have a, well, a friend, and they've handed me the uncut list of possible replacements the unit could've been handed. Eight-five percent women and all straight out of training."

"How many on the list?" Oscar asked.

"Fully uncut, about twenty-five, maybe thirty."

"So where are all the guys going?"

"Well they did their research."

"Huh?" The ring of the phone, which Mac snapped up quickly, interrupted them.

"Mackenzie...Yeah, still here. I'll be home soon. Really? Sounds fabulous! Look, I can't wait. I'm really sorry..." She paused, listening to the conversation while she watched the others, who were busy trying to pretend they weren't listening to the conversation. "Look, uh, Bill, how much you made?...Enough for an extra few? No, we can pick up drinks on the way over...Yeah, I'll ask." She looked up, covering the mouthpiece. "You guys want to come over for dinner?"

"I thought we weren't supposed to really uh, socialise-"

"Under my jurisdiction that is. Come on, we can talk then."

"Who's Bill?" Danni whispered. Angie nudged her and she leant close.

"Hollister," she replied. Danni's face contorted in an expression resemblant of horror, then quiet amusement, the smirk settling across her lips, right at home. Mac flashed her eyes and Danni shook her head, trying desperately not to break into a laugh.

"We'd like that Mac," Oscar replied for all of them, giving Danni a 'look.' Mac got back on the phone.

"You there?...Yeah, so no problem?...Great. See you soon. Mm, you to. Bye."

"Bill's got a key to your place?" Angie asked. Mac nodded.

"Yes...Okay who wants to come and pick up some grog with me?"

"Me, I do!" Danni exclaimed, standing. "Let's move!" Angie laughed.

"We'll give you a ten, fifteen minute headstart," Angie said as Mac grabbed her things.

*

By eleven-thirty that night, the team and Bill were well and truly in need of a coffee or two. Mac was allowing them to be very free in speech towards Brett, very unprofessional, but she wasn't saying anything against the girl, so she couldn't really be bothered to shut them up.

"How confident is she anyway? Has she ever been undercover?" Oscar asked.

"No," Mac replied, leaning comfortably into Bill as he held her around the waist. "Never."

"Hmm, wait until she gets shot and kills her first perp – that's a whole bundle of laughs."

"Danni did I ever congratulate you on that?" Angie asked. She shook her head. "Well, I shoulda because that was really something!"

"We'll break her in, don't you worry about that Mac!" Danni laughed.

"Hey, be nice," Mac warned. "You know what it was like!"

"Yeah, I do. I remember perfectly. It's really quite funny, now I know all about Pete, but at the time I was shittin myself!" They all laughed, eventually drifting off into silence. They'd gone the whole night so far without mentioning Pete, or missing him. At least not that they'd publicised. Now his presence, lack thereof, settled among them like a heavy fog. "Is that how we all end up Mac?" Mac looked at Danni, not comprehending.

"How?"

"As nobodies." Angie scoffed.

"We're already nobodies." Bill looked on thoughtfully.

"I don't think you're all nobodies. You all have names and-"

"Not our real names though. People who knew us when we were young, we're only a face that looks familiar but it can't be us because of the name. The people who we know now don't know the past, because we can't discuss it. No matter what happened, whether it hurt us or not, we can't talk about it. Not even if we want to share it with someone close, because technically we're not close. You can't fall in love, one night stands, surface friendships, and physical relationships are all that are allowed." She realised what she'd implied and blushed. "No offence Mac, and Bill." Mac shrugged, leaning away from Bill and picking up her glass.

"You guys want another?" she asked. Some nodded, some shook their heads. Mac collected their glasses and retreated to the kitchen. She'd broken that rule, she realised, with Bill. They had more than a physical relationship going, but thinking about it, he didn't know much about her past, her previous life or even the one she had now, but they knew about each other, the important things, at least.

Upon her return Mac saw everyone sitting around and just watched for a moment. Oscar was on the single lounge chair and Angie was sitting on the floor in front of him, leaning against his legs, hers extended under the coffee table. Danni was on her back lying across the three-seater, and Bill was sitting on the floor amongst a pile of cushions. As she walked closer she realised the atmosphere had further declined into depression. She sighed, handing Danni and Bill their requested drinks. She herself had a glass of water and sat back down, this time next Bill, so that she was looking straight at Danni. No one said a word. Oscar leant forward, resting on his knees as he reached out with his good hand and ran his hand through Angie's hair. She leant back and closed her eyes.

"How's Colette?" Angie asked quietly. Mac shrugged.

"Dealing with it, I hope."

"Come on, we're not dealing with it, Mac," Oscar exclaimed. "How can you expect a lay person to? His girlfriend, for Chrissakes!"

"I don't know what I'd do if I woke up only to find someone I cared so much about just gone, never to return." Mac ducked her head.

"We don't know that he'll never return." Danni scoffed.

"Oh, it's a safe bet, I think. Now we're stuck in a bitchy workplace because the only man around is Oscar – no offence – and, well, oh God it's only been so many days and I already miss him so Goddamn much!" They listened as Danni started to cry. Mac looked up at her – why did she keep doing that? Danni was not an overly emotional person, maybe she wasn't coping as Mac had thought she was.

"What's the matter Dan?" Oscar asked. Danni sat up, wiping her eyes.

"It's nothing." Angie smiled.

"It's not nothing. Come on."

"Mac's here." Mac sat forward. I'm here? She thought. Interesting.

"Just because I'm here Dan, what-"

"Look I don't need a lecture if I do tell you." Uh-oh, Mac thought. There were only a couple of lectures Mac could give in a situation like this.

"You'll get nothing from me," she promised.

"Pete and I, we, we were sleeping together." Wonderful, Mac thought dryly. Absolutely wonderful.

"What?" Angie asked, sitting up and backing further into Oscar's legs. "How long was that going on?" Danni shrugged.

"About a month. Mac, I'm sorry, it just happened. I know the rule and I just, I-" Mac bit her bottom lip, almost scared to ask the next question.

"How did it start? Just tell me that."

"Um...I asked him if he ever got scared, and he said yes. And we started talking about everything, and well, I guess we kissed and then-"

"Did he kiss you or did you kiss him?"

"Mac why does that matter?" Angie exclaimed. Mac shrugged.

"I, uh, no, yeah, oh I think I kissed him first but I don't remember, really I don't!"

"No, no, it's okay. Look Danni, you're going to have to move past the relationship, okay? Just pretend that it was nothing."

"But it wasn't nothing!"

"Did you love each other?"

"I, I think so."

"You ever tell each other?"

"Sometimes, but that was forbidden."

"Yeah, yeah it was."

*

Mac awoke to Bill gently kissing her cheek. She smiled to herself, trying to forget the awful headache forming at the back of her eyes.

"Morning," she mumbled, reaching out blindly and pulling him to her as their lips met repeatedly. "What's all this attention for?" She opened her eyes to stare into his, earnest and smiling.

"I was thinking, what Angie was saying last night, about not being able to have more than physical relationships."

"Oh, yeah..."

"And I realised that it's pretty great that we do, have more. I love you Ellen – did I ever tell you that?" Mac let her arms rest over his shoulders and nodded.

"Many times. I, I love you too. Why?"

"I've got a proposition-"

"No, I'm not paying you for sex!" Bill laughed at her remark and caressed her cheek. Mac inhaled deeply, completely content.

"I would never ask you to! But Mac, I do want to ask you, to be my wife. Will you marry me?"

"Oh Bill," Mac started.

"I know it hasn't been that long but I-"

"Yes."

"Yeah? Really?"

"Don't look so surprised!" Bill shook his head.

"I, I, you just don't know how happy you've made me now." Mac smirked.

"I can imagine." She leant up and pecked his lips, pulling him down to her.

*

"Danni, can I see you in here please?" Mac asked from her door as Danni spoke to Brett at the desks. She nodded and climbed the stairs, closing the door behind her.

"What's up?" she asked.

"Where's Jeff?"

"Off with Oscar somewhere – I think they went the gym or something."

"Angie?"

"She just called. Still sick. I rang Oscar and he's going over to see her as soon as he can. They're getting close Mac, not that I can judge but- "

"I know," Mac sighed. "But they're not romantically close, as far as I can see or work out, they're just being friends. It's good to have a few of those, you know."

"Mm, how are yours going?"

"I don't have any."

"Yes you do."

"Who?"

"Bill. Set a date yet?"

"No."

"You've been engaged for three months, Mac."

"I know-"

"Are you having second thoughts?" Mac shrugged.

"I wanted to talk to you though."

"Mm."

"I think the reason I'm taking things slowly, is that I don't want to get hurt again."

"Know what you mean."

"Do you? You know that if you and Church had continued I would've found out."

"Yeah."

"And I would've been hard on you."

"How hard?"

"If my judgement hadn't been clouded, as it was, I would've transferred you, but I think if it came to that, I would've just made sure you broke up properly."

"Your judgement's clouded?"

"I've been on the receiving end of an irate boss for that matter before." Danni's eyes widened.

"Really? Do I know him?" She smirked. Mac shrugged.

"That's not important. It's just, I wanted to tell you that it might be hard now, but-"

"What happened to him?"

"Huh?"

"Well you don't work together any more. Did you get transferred because of it? Did you stay together? Did you love him?"

"You're not going to leave until I tell you something, are you?"

"Of course not! And why is this, if it was so long ago and you're over it, why is it making you put off setting a date with Bill?"

"When we were, uh, together, I didn't love him, I loved his company. But then the boss split us, we became better friends and I learnt more about him, I think if we'd gotten back together – but that was impossible. I just wanted you to know that you can talk about things, I don't mind."

"Yeah, no Mac, thanks. You heard anything about his case?" Mac shook her head.

"No, I haven't."

*

Mac knocked gently on the hospital door and pushed it open. Angie was sitting up, looking pale, Oscar and Jeff beside her. They were talking and looked up as she entered.

"Hi," she whispered. "Can you fit another body in here?" The boys stood.

"Yeah, we're off anyway."

"You're not!" Angie exclaimed. Oscar smiled, leaning over and hugging her tightly.

"I'll be back. Take care."

Mac sat in Oscar's spot as they left.

"How you feeling?" Mac asked, reaching out and taking Angie's hand in hers. She'd been admitted to hospital a week ago with what the doctors believed was a strand of pneumonia. Angie shrugged.

"Not too bad. I get to go home soon, to bed of course."

"Yeah, I'm sure Oscar'll take good care of you though."

"Is this visit about that? Danni told me what you said last week – you were talking about Pete, weren't you?" Mac smiled.

"Can't get anything past you, can I!" Angie shook her head.

"Not really."

"Then yeah, I guess I was."

"It's good of you to offer Danni support, anyone would think you'd be slightly pissed off by it."

"What, that after me there was Colette who he then proceeded to cheat on with Danni at the same time trivialising what we'd had by sleeping around in the unit? Not at all!" They laughed, Angie starting to cough and Mac settled her down quickly. "How are you and Oscar going?"

"Can I lie?"

"No." Mac watched as Angie bit her bottom lip, her expression dissolving into tears as she started to cry. Mac got off her chair and sat on the edge of the bed, concerned. "Ange, hey, what is it? You girls keep crying on me! Ange? Stay calm, eh?"

"Um..."

"Yeah?"

"The, we've, we uh, well we've gone a bit further than you and Pete went, I'd say."

"Oh, would you now!"

"I'm pregnant," Angie blurted out quickly, avoiding Mac's eyes and looking the other way. Mac didn't reply, shocked and amazed that something could be going on right under her nose! Pete and Danni, Angie and Oscar, yeah, she had her eye on the ball!

"Is everything okay?" she asked, knowing now that that was probably the main reason she'd been hospitalised in the first place. Angie nodded, wiping tears from her eyes.

"I, I think so."

"And what does Oscar think about this?" Angie smiled, finally turning back to Mac.

"He's stoked. He's been dying to tell someone, but I wouldn't let him until, until you knew." Mac nodded understandingly.

"What do you think?" Angie shrugged, grinning as she broke down again.

"I can't believe it," she cried as Mac reached out and hugged her tightly. "I, I'm going to hand in my resignation once I get the chance to write it." Mac nodded, helping Angie lie back down in the bed and sitting with her a while longer before she drifted into sleep.

*

"How's Angie?" Bill asked as Mac came home that night.

"Pregnant." He stuck his head around the corner of the hallway.

"Excuse me? Pregnant? To whom?"

"Stone."

"Oh, so you're down a member then?"

"Yeah, well Brett's leaving and now Angie, just Danni and I, Oscar and Jeff. And Oscar knows he's got other career options, safer ones. I'll have to talk to him."

"Talk him into staying?"

"No, talk him into leaving." Bill's brow creased as Mac collapsed on a nearby sofa and he approached her slowly.

"You want him to leave?" Mac shrugged.

"Hell Bill, I want to leave!"

"You do?" She nodded quickly.

"I can't do it any more. Everyone's moved on, and now Pete's gone I've got no one I can really talk to about it and-"

"Talk to about what?"

"The job."

"You can talk to me. I thought Church was involved with Colette-"

"He was, a little preoccupied. But if it wasn't for Colette I wouldn't be with you, so I wouldn't complain if I were you."

"I, Mac, I don't understand."

"What?"

"You only called me that night because you were jealous of Peter and Colette?" Mac didn't reply, not moving. "Maybe I should go tonight, eh?" Mac felt herself start to shake.

"Don't go, please!"

"I think you've got some things to think through. So do I."

"I love you Bill."

"Yeah, what a coincidence. I'll call you." He left quietly and Mac didn't shift from her couch. She felt more alone than ever. No one to call. Oscar was with Angie, Danni was probably out with friends, so was Jeff, Pete wasn't around, if he was he would've been with Colette. No one to talk to. She curled up on the couch and did something she hadn't done in a long time, picked up the remote control and began flicking through the channels, looking to see what was on.

*

Mac sat in her car later that night, in the middle of the deserted car park. She didn't know what she was doing out in the middle of a shopping centre car park at this hour, but for some reason she felt comforted, listening to the radio playing softly and watching the stars in the sky out the window.

She cast a glace over as another car pulled up at the gas station just beside her. She'd parked behind a large pillar at the side of the building, so hopefully the car was well hidden. She slid down in her seat, her eyes looking just out over the bottom of the window. The employee at the garage walked out as the driver emerged from his car, and they spoke. Mac watched as the lights from the station illuminated their angry faces. She jumped as a gun went off and the employee slumped to the ground. The driver got into his car and retreated quickly, tyres screeching on the deserted bitumen. Mac released the breath she'd been holding the whole time and blinked back tears as she found her mobile amongst her things and called the police. Another attendant who'd probably been in the back room was already outside as Mac emerged tentatively from her car, police ID in her hand.

*

Oscar sat watching Angie sleep beside him in the bed. She was home, finally, and doing considerably better – the pneumonia clearing. His phone rang and he fetched it from his jacket quickly as Angie woke to the tune, shifting in the bed and sighing as her eyelids fluttered open and she watched him.

"Quick, Stone, what's your email."

"What?"

"What is it?"

"Mac?"

"Stone!"

"Okay, okay..." He told her his email while Angie sat up, concerned with his expression. Something was the matter for him to be giving his private email to Mac at this hour in the morning.

"Don't change it, okay? Not until you hear from me."

"Mac what the hell are you talking-" He looked over at Angie, the phone hanging loosely from his hand. "She hung up."

"Is everything okay?" Angie asked. Oscar moved to her and sat beside her, holding her tightly and kissing her forehead.

"I'm sure everything's fine, Ange."

"I hope so Stoney."

*

Mac looked around the empty looking house in awe – not quite believing she was here – as she was given the guided tour. She was handed her new wallet, filled with everything from driver's license to a blockbuster video card.

"Is it all appropriate?" Mac nodded silently.

"When is the trial again?"

"Two years." Tears came to Mac's eyes but she held them in.

"And after, I can go back?"

"If you want to. Most of the time, they don't. You've got all the comforts here, things you need. The shops are right around the corner, walking distance. You'll be safe."

"I know of people not being safe – we've dealt with it before, as I'm sure you have."

"I'm sorry about this Natasha."

"Yeah, I bet you are."

*

Danni sat in Oscar's lounge room opposite Angie.

"Did you say anything to Mac at the hospital about Church?"

"Yeah, why?"

"Colette came and spoke to me yesterday. She told me she knew and that she didn't blame me, she's just glad she found out the way she did – she said, before things got too serious, and when Pete was already gone."

"Oh Danni, so she wasn't angry?"

"I don't know. She said that if Pete ever resurfaced, to tell him she's moved back to Sydney."

"She's from Sydney?"

"Apparently."

*

Mac sat on her computer, months later, typing quickly and efficiently. Her job as assistant to the head at a local hi-tech business allowed her plenty of practise.

=====

How was work?

Crap. You?



Same



Ever tried working in the rain?



Depends on the work



What?



Well if you're talking work as in professional footballer in the rain, no. I've worked in the rain before though



Outside in the rain



Yeah!



Doin what? Thought U had office job?



I do. Just work



What work?



Do I have to tell you?



Not if you don't want, but it makes me think you might be someone a little off



Off?



Yeah, I prefer em turned on



Charming



Always



I just don't wanna get in trouble



If you tell me what you do?



Did



Yeah ...Was it dangerous?



You'll never know



I bet it was. Hmm...let me see you were a spy for Britain living in France amongst a group of Russian spies also pretending to be French.



Working with the French?



Britain is France's ally – of course.



Sorry don't know much about the wars



Never mentioned any wars – you're bluffing about not knowing Pretty smart, I reckon you are



Guess so but what can you do?



Anything

=====

Mac rubbed her eyes as she took another sip of her hot chocolate, the rain falling on the windows around her. She sat at the computer, in her pyjamas and warm, fluffy robe, music on in the background.

=====

You still there?

Course



Ever tried voice mail?



No why



Dunno. Neither have I. Thought it might be cool.



Cool? What if you don't like my voice



Like I care!



Good point – how do you do it?



Dunno. Give me a day or so – I'll work it out. So what's the news?



News?



Yeah, you're typing really quickly tonight.



Am I?



Yes! I can barely keep up. Must be excited about something!



Oh, I'm waiting for an email – that's why I'm on here so late



Not cos you're talking to me?



Course not! Narr, it's pretty important.



Wanna share?



One of my friends might've gone into premature labour, I'm just waiting to see if she's okay



Cool.



You think it's cool?



No, that I hope she's okay. Why not telephone?



Huh?



You said you were waiting for an email?



I can't phone them



Why not?



I just can't...You there still?



Yeah



What is it? Am I sounding strange again? You there?



Yeah



Everything okay?



Yeah



Talk to me



Okay. So you got any kids?



No. You?



Nup. Want em though. You?



I don't know. Bit of a handful, not really a children person.



Still young



Whatever you say.



Okay I just found the site. Here, I'll email it to you. Should be there soon...Got it?



Uh...yeah, yeah, click on the link?



I think so – then type in the code we're talking through and they'll hook us up. Do you have a microphone?



Yeah You're good with computers



Thankyou – you got that button on your screen?



Yeah



Click on it



You first



We'll do it together in, three four time? Is that right?



Yeah, third beat?



Yep. Go.



=====

Mac clicked on the button at the count of a quick three and the window disappeared from the screen, the microphone clicking softly as background noise reverberated over the speaker.

"Hello?" A distant voice echoed into the room and Mac sat up straighter at the intonation. She put on an accent, not thinking.

"Hi. Uh...so it worked."

"Guess so. You never told me you were, uh, French?"

"After all that time as a spy you know-"

"Can I hear your real voice?"

"Why?"

"Is it that bad? Sounds quite nice to me."

"Thanks, okay, give me a second to prepare." There was laughter over the other end.

"Prepare?" Mac slipped into her normal voice easily once she was challenged.

"Yeah, prepare."

"Ahh, so what's so bad about this voice?"

"You don't recognise it?" There was silence over the other end of the phone.

"Should I?" was the eventual reply.

"I don't know. I never thought I'd hear that voice again though – it might not be you, you, but it's your voice."

"This uh, dangerous job you did that you can't use telephones and...what if I told you all of that applies to me as well. Does that make sense to you?"

"Yes," Mac whispered, not sure if he would've heard her at all.

"Yeah, I recognise your voice."

"How do I know you do?"

"What?"

"How do I know for sure?"

"Because you're Ellen Mackenzie, aren't you?"

"What's your name?"

"Then or now?"

"Then."

"Church. Mac, I know it's you."

"Yeah, I know too."

"How about we pick up a phone, eh? Instead of this." Mac didn't reply. "Mac?" Pete asked. Yet he was quickly met with the dial tone as she hung up on him. "Damn," he whispered to himself, his heart still beating miles per hour at the familiar voice – he'd recognised it even with the accent – they'd had enough practice with the wires and transcribing to do that.

*

Pete arrived in Melbourne the following morning, and in his motel, got his hands on the trust local phone directory. H for hospitals, he told himself as he flicked through the pages. It didn't take long to find Angie listed – he had guessed Angie anyway – she was the most likely between herself and Danni. He grabbed the keys to his rental car and locked the door, going to find his friends.

*

Colette's mouth hung slightly open as she saw Pete grace the hospital corridor. She hadn't stuck around in Sydney very long. Things hadn't worked out like she'd planned, and it made more sense to stay in Melbourne, where things were going well. Until now, that was. Pete noticed her immediately and grinned, almost running to her.

"Hi," Colette began, finding herself out of breath in anticipation. "You're back."

"I'm not supposed to be, and I can't stay. How are you? Jesse? I've missed you so much!"

"I, we're fine, we missed you too. You've been gone a long time though."

"I know, I'm sorry. Who told you?"

"Ellen."

"She did?" Colette nodded. "She wasn't supposed to do that!"

"She said she wanted to, be the one to tell me. I don't know why." Pete nodded, looking at the ring on her finger.

"Engaged?" he asked. She nodded.

"Yes, Joe, he's a podiatrist."

"Good for those foot rubs then, eh?" Colette laughed.

"Guess so."

"Listen, uh, by any chance would one of my friends be in here?"

"Angie Piper?" Colette smirked, he was playing it very cool, but that wasn't anything different.

"Yes is she okay? Can I see her? How is she?"

"She's fine, Peter. Yes, you can see her. Room 204, round the corner, she's doing well and her husband hasn't left her side." She watched Pete's face change.

"Husband?"

"Mm, why don't you go on and see her. I'm sure they've missed you a lot."

*

"Is she on?" Danni asked quietly as Oscar let his fingers run over the keys of the laptop. He nodded, typing away.

"She knows I'm here."

"What's she doing on at this time of day?"

"It's the weekend!"

"Oh, right."

Pete watched as Danni and Oscar spoke quietly in the corner of the room, not paying attention to him standing in the door. Angie was sleeping on her side, turned from him, by the looks of things. She looked fine, just like Colette had said. He stepped into the room and closed the door behind him. Danni looked up and grabbed Oscar's hand. She jumped up and ran to him, hugging him tightly and bursting into tears as Pete laughed, hugging her back.

"Mate," Oscar exclaimed as they embraced.

"I hear you're hitched? That right?" Oscar grinned.

"Oh to the woman over in the bed who we've just woken up? You bet!" They laughed as Danni moved over to Angie, who had woken with all the noise.

"You right, Ange?" she asked, concerned, as Angie nodded, stretching.

"Oscar here? What's going on?"

"Why don't you sit up and have a look then?" Angie looked at Danni curiously but she simply shrugged, smirking.

"Bloody hell Danni," she mumbled as she pushed herself up and looked out. "Oh shit Pete!" she exclaimed as he moved forward and sat on the edge of her bed, hugging her tightly. "What are you doing here?"

"First, are you all right?" She nodded.

"I think so. Still two more months, although the doctors think it might be sooner, judging by how things were going the other day." Pete nodded as she leant back into the pillows. "Have you seen Colette?"

"Yeah, she looks good. Engaged."

"Mm, oh Pete!" Angie exclaimed suddenly. "Pete, it's Mac, she-"

"She's in witness protection, I know."

"What?" Danni asked. Pete nodded.

"I spoke to her last night and was on a plane out here as soon as possible."

"You spoke to her? How?"

"You were on-line to her, right?" Oscar nodded, gesturing to the laptop on the corner chair. "May I?"

"Sure." Pete moved over and started fiddling around the programs until he found what he wanted.

"Since when did you get so good?" Danni asked. Pete shrugged.

"I guess I evolved...Got it."

*

Mac sat at home, waiting for Oscar and Danni to get back on line. It was terrific that everything was going to be okay for Angie – Mac couldn't wait. She hoped she would be back in time, if not she was going to just escape – they couldn't hold her down. Even if she was the primary witness in a major drug and blackmail related murder trial. She gasped as the familiar window appeared on her screen. Who'd messaged it to her? Oscar? That's what it said but he couldn't have. Why would he? She shrugged, clicking on the button.

"Oscar, Dan, that you?" she asked aloud over the microphone.

*

Pete gestured over at Oscar knowingly in his I-know-something-you- don't-know glace.

"Oscar, Danni, who is this?" Oscar shook his head and leant closer to Pete.

"Right here Mac, can you hear me?" Mac's soft laughter settled around the room.

"Is Angie there? How is she? Danni?"

"We're all here, Mac," Angie put in. "Where are you really this time?"

"We have to see you now, you know."

"I know, but guys I have to go now. I'm going out to lunch with a friend. I'm so sorry-"

"Hey, that's not a problem. We'll talk to you later, okay? Have fun!"

"I miss you."

"You too!"

Pete clicked off the phone conversation.

"How come you said nothing?" Oscar asked him.

"Because I set this up last night and when we recognised the voices, she hung up."

"She hung up?" Angie exclaimed. "Why?"

"I don't know. I don't know if I want to know."

*

"Thanks Danni," Pete started as she lay out a sleeping bag on her couch for him.

"Hey, not a problem. Can't have you staying at that awful motel, can we?"

"So Stoney stays with Angie often, does he?"

"At the hospital? When they don't kick him out, yeah. Only newlyweds, you know!" They laughed.

"I don't wanna know, Dan!"

"It's been so long Pete."

"I know."

"I missed you."

"Me too." They moved forward and hugged tightly, Pete kissing her cheek gently as she tilted her head, their lips meeting. But he pushed her off slowly, savouring the taste he remembered so well.

"I love you," Danni whispered. Pete nodded.

"I love you too, it's just-"

"Things have changed. You've changed. I understand."

"Do you?"

"No but never mind."

"Danni-"

"No really, I understand Pete. I'm just glad you're back."

"I can't stay."

"Really?"

"It's too dangerous."

"Can I ask you something Pete?"

"Yep."

"Did you love Mac as much as you loved me?"

"Excuse me?"

"Angie told me, after Mac left, that the two of you had also- Why?" Pete shrugged.

"We were troubled, suited each other for a time there."

"Still do."

"Funny that because we haven't seen each other in so long."

"How'd you hook up on line?"

"I don't remember – it was ages ago! Just clicked, I guess, and kept writing. No wonder why, knew each other so well already."

"Are you going to get her back here?"

"She's not talking to me."

"How do you know? And you didn't answer my question."

"Just a feeling. And I loved Mac just as much as I loved you. I just never told her like I told you."

"More?"

"No idea, and if I had an inkling, what makes you think I'd say!" Danni laughed.

"Shoulda known!"

*

"Now sit down and don't move a muscle!" Angie laughed.

"I'm not an invalid Stoney!" Pete grinned.

"You call him Stoney? Aren't you Angie Stone now?" Angie shrugged.

"Sounds good though." Oscar rolled his eyes and Oscar laughed.

"Cam!"

"Ooh, now I'm in trouble!" They all laughed as Angie eventually did as she was told and sat down, Danni dumping her bags and Oscar moving to the kitchen to make a drink. Surprisingly, they'd kept Angie's place and sold Oscar's – Pete would've thought Oscar's was larger, but he supposed the size meant more money coming in from the sale. And that was always good.

"So Pete," Angie started. "Aren't you even in the least curious as to why Mac's in witness protection?" Pete nodded. "It wasn't because she was on the job – it would've happened to anyone. She was in the car park one night and witnessed a homicide."

"She was in a carpark at night?"

"Mm, it was just after I told her I was pregnant. I guess she didn't go straight home because she was gone as soon as we knew it."

The laptop started beeping in its bag and Angie reached out and set it up as she sat on the chair, legs stretched over Oscar's lap.

"Instant pager from Mac," she explained to Pete quickly. "She says 'hi everyone, I thought you should all know that I talked to Pete the other night – just a coincidence – I don't know where he is, but he's all right. I thought you should know. Mac.' Brief, they're usually a lot longer." She typed one back quickly.

*

Mac looked at her screen as she typed a letter for her boss. She couldn't believe that after all of her life, she'd become a secretary. Assistant was the more proper term at the moment. But she didn't feel like she was missing out on anything. Well, not much, anyway. She clicked on the Internet chat connection to find the instant message from Angie:

Mac, you at work? Listen, Mac, we all want to see you desperately. When? Miss you. Ange.

Mac sighed, replying quickly.

Can't come back yet. Trial's not for another month or so. Sorry. Can't talk at the moment – working. See you. Mac.

*

Mac sat curled up on the floor of her bedroom, laptop balancing on her knees. She wasn't typing, wasn't even connected. She had been going to before stopping and just staring at it. That was twenty minutes ago. She sighed as the doorbell rang. She stood, putting the computer on her bed and pulling a robe over her long pyjamas. A familiar face stood on her porch and she opened the door reluctantly.

"Bill," she started. "What are you... How did you-"

"I didn't 'find' you, Mac. I'm part of the witness protection department and you're on the move."

"What?"

"It's customary to shift the witness after a threat has been made against him or her."

"There's been a threat?" she asked, eyes wide.

"Don't worry, nothing serious. We're just being cautious. Your friend, Peter Church, has gone AWOL, believe it or not."

"What?" Mac exclaimed. "When?"

"Don't know for sure. They think a few days ago, somewhere back in Melbourne. They're trying to find him now."

"Oh. Where am I going this time?"

"I can't tell you at the moment. Come on."

"Can I grab my laptop?"

"Yeah, I guess so."

*

"Now come on Pete why can't we tell her anything about you being here?" Oscar asked.

"I don't want to freak her out."

"How could it freak her out?"

"It just could."

"Do you want to talk to her under your own identity?"

"Not yet."

"Why not?"

"Just, not yet."

*

Pete looked at the lonely laptop on Oscar and Angie's dining table. They'd gone out to dinner and he was housesitting for something to do. Danni was on a date. A good one, she'd hinted. That was another reason he was here, not there, in case she brought him home. Pete sighed, sitting in front of the computer and turning it on, signing in.

=====

Hey Mac

Hey, but not Mac here

Okay Sorry I haven't been on



It's okay



I want to see you



I can't. I've been moved again.



Again? Trouble? Serious?



I don't know, they won't say.



You okay?



I don't know. I just, it's a good time for some company, thanks for getting on.



It's the psychic thing I've got



So where are you? I was told you'd gone AWOL.



How'd you know?



Movers told me



I'm in Melbourne



They're looking for you



They can look all they like



Pete.



Yeah?



I do want to see you soon



Yeah?



Yeah. I'm a little scared with all the protection I've got now



What sort of protection?



They're on my doorstep, literally



Is there a trial?



Yeah a week. Whether I can go back depends on the verdict.



Is there anyone monitoring this?



No



Go to a really big shopping centre, slip away and call a cab. Meet it at one of the back entrances and get on a plane to Melbourne straight away.



I can't not testify



Why not? Did the guy see you?



No, but I saw him



He'll see you at the trial. Everyone will.



He'll go to jail.



Will his friends in the gallery?



How'd you know?



What?



That a guy might've seen me?



You were in a car park one night and



Who told you? Is this really Pete? Who is this?



It's me, Angie told me.



What?



Angie, she sends her love. They've gone out to dinner. I tell you Mac you have to get down here!



You're with Angie and Oscar and Danni?



Yeah. Why'd you hang up on me when we recognised each other?



I didn't hang up. I got cut off and I was going to reconnect but-



But?



I couldn't.



Why not?



I was in shock.



That's 'Mac-speak' for you were crying



Too good. Let me see what I can do, about air flights. Might not be for a week though. After I testify I'm outta here, I promise.



You don't owe me any promises. Danni told me the support you offered her when I left. Thankyou. It was very kind.



I was dealing with my own stuff – I didn't mind. And I owe you a lot because on this computer you're my best friend, just like you were in real life.



Are, am.



We'll see.



What does that mean?



I have to go.

=====

Pete sat waiting in the hospital corridor later that week. Danni was opposite him, reading a magazine.

"Heard from Mac again?" she asked. Pete shook his head.

"No, only in the 'hi' she sent through Ange and Oscar. I haven't been on to see if she is – got a feeling she isn't though. Lying low."

"Trial's this week."

"Yeah. Do you think she'll be all right?"

"Course! All they do is knock her out, cut her open and kaboom! Oscar will probably faint though." Pete grinned. "What?" Danni asked, looking up.

"I was talking about Mac."

"Why shouldn't she be all right?" Pete shrugged.

"I just have a feeling."

"You need to get some sleep. Up all night last night too?"

"Yeah."

"How come? You haven't slept in days!"

"I have no idea. I'm just not tired."

"Insomniac."

"Yep."

"Congratulations."

"Thankyou." Their conversation was stopped by Oscar returning back down the corridor as he stepped of the elevator. Danni stood.

"Well?"

"They're both fine. A month early but everything's fine for the moment."

"Had to be done," Pete remarked. Oscar nodded.

"Little boy, but I already knew that of course!" Danni rolled her eyes.

"Well? Name?"

"She's only just in recovery so I'm not sure yet. He's in the nursery. Come and have a look!" Danni nodded eagerly but Pete held back.

"Church?" Danni asked. "You coming?"

"Hmm? Oh yeah, just had a feeling I should go home-"

"You mean to my home? Why?"

"I don't know. Doesn't matter. Come on Stone, let's see this son of yours, eh?"

*

Pete got out of the cab and paid his way, fiddling with his keys supplied by Danni, and finding the right one, before looking up as he climbed the stairs.

Mac stood quickly. She'd been sitting at the top, waiting for someone to arrive home. Her long coat was untied in the spring weather, revealing an ankle-long dress. Her hair was out and hung around her shoulders – she looked so different. So feminine.

"How long have you been sitting there?" Pete asked, concerned.

"About four hours," she replied quietly, looking at her feet. Pete climbed the stairs in a hurry, not wasting a minute in reaching out and running a hand through her hair, letting it rest on her shoulder and run down her arm to grip her hand tightly.

"I knew I should've come home sooner."

"Where is everyone?"

"At the hospital." Mac took a step back but Pete smiled. "It's okay, Angie had to have an emergency caesarean but everything's fine. Cameron Martin Stone."

"Cameron?" Mac grinned. Pete nodded.

"Egotistical bastard!" They laughed softly before Mac looked away again. "You look fantastic!" Mac smiled.

"Well since I look so good, could I maybe get a drink?" Pete chuckled, pushing gently past her and opening the door. Mac watched him enter and followed, closing the door behind her. Pete returned quickly with a glass of water.

"Danni and I drank all the beer."

"So are you and Danni back, uh, into old habits?" Mac asked curiously. Pete shook his head.

"No, she's in what she describes as 'an extremely serious relationship and thank god for that' at the moment. His name is Joe."

"Ahh, yes, I've heard about him."

"Of course you have. Stupid, sorry."

"No, it's okay." There was a slight pause. "This is a bit awkward, isn't it?"

"I don't know whether to be excited or happy or sad or amused or bemused or oh hell there's so much going on at the moment-"

"I know." Pete took a step forward as Mac caught his eyes, just as the door opened once more and Danni entered.

"Mac!" She cried, running to her with open arms and embracing her tightly. "You're back too! Oh, this is fantastic! I can't believe it! Did Pete tell you about Cameron? He's gorgeous! Angie's fantastic! Well, as fantastic as you'd expect but Oscar's stoked and it's just-oh you look fantastic!" Mac laughed.

"That's what I said," Pete put in. Danni suddenly caught on to what had been happening.

"Oh God, sorry, I cut in on the reunion, didn't I? I can leave, it's okay-"

"Danni it's your house!" Mac exclaimed. Danni nodded sheepishly.

"Yeah, look Mac you must be dead tired."

"I am."

"Joe's coming over tonight and I, well, I could go to his place and you could have my bed, I don't mind-"

"It's okay, I'll get a hotel."

"Oh no, you can't do that!" Mac grinned.

"Yes, I can. You and Joe have your privacy. I'll be fine. I'm no stranger to this city, you know!"

"Yeah, did you testify?" Mac took a deep breath and looked over at Pete.

"I was thinking about what you said, about them getting the chance to see me, and I talked to Witness Protection, they told me about the threat. It had been sort of serious, I guess. I told them I'd only testify to a closed court, and that's what I did. It was over within minutes."

"So only the judge, lawyers and jury?" Mac nodded. "Good," Pete added. "I'll show you a good hotel?" he offered. Mac shrugged.

"If you know one."

*

"The Californian?" Mac asked dryly. Pete chuckled.

"Thought you'd remember."

"Hope that's not an insinuation as to what we'll be doing here except sleeping."

"Of course not. They have twin rooms."

"I'll bet they do."

*

Mac brushed her long hair as she got into bed, pulling the sheets up to her neck and turning onto her side. Pete was watching her from his bed.

"Aren't you hot?" he asked. "It's pretty warm tonight."

"No." She pulled the sheets tighter around her in defence of the statement and Pete watched on, concerned, ever so slightly.

"Are you sure?"

"Pete, I'm fine!" Mac exclaimed, her voice breaking as she cursed herself for getting so emotional. Pete got out of bed quickly and sat on her bed, leaning over her to see her face. Slowly, he got her to roll over. She dried her eyes with the back of her hand. "I'm sorry," she whispered. Pete shook his head and let his hands rest on hers, which were gripping the edge of the sheets white-knuckled. He eased her grip and lowered the sheets to around her waist, revealing her sleeveless satin night-dress. His eye immediately caught on the long thin scar across her shoulder that disappeared under the satin material, probably extending across most of her right breast. He put a hand tenderly on her shoulder.

"What's this?" he asked. "New?" Tears ran down her cheeks as she blinked the back furiously.

"Sort of. I'd been moved before the last time. Someone in the department had a connection, I don't know, it was never fully explained to me. It's a knife wound."

"Deep?" She shrugged.

"Are there others?"

"Just one other, across my back."

"How come you never told me?"

"What in the last hour or so?"

"Anyone else know? They should've mentioned it to me."

"I never told them. Acted like nothing was different."

"Why?"

"I was scared, or being found again. I didn't mention anything like that to them, or anything about the past. Just general things, until I got confident enough..."

"Did you catch the bastard?"

"Yeah, I knocked him out with a vase."

"Touché." Pete leant down slowly and let his lips meet hers for a brief moment. Mac responded and he continued, gently massaging her shoulder as he slid the straps down her arms.

"Pete, I don't know," Mac muttered she pulled back, a hand to his cheek. "I don't know if I can." Pete nodded. "Do you uh," Mac blushed. "Have, anything?" Pete caught on and shook his head.

"Sorry."

"Also, I, I don't know what I mean to you. I know what you mean to me, but there was Danni and Colette, Pete. They should be foremost on your list, I would think." Pete smiled.

"Had a lot of time to think about that."

"Mm." Mac didn't stop Pete as he unbuttoned his cotton shirt, revealing his singlet and dumping it on the floor.

"Danni was the closest I could come to the Mac I remembered, and Colette was the Mac I always pictured you to be."

"Bullshit."

"Probably."

"But it's good bullshit."

"I'm not lying, you know." Mac nodded as she looked up at Pete. "You don't mind the scars?" she asked. Pete laughed.

"Of course not. Why?"

"It's just, whenever I got close to any uh, man, and there weren't that many, they didn't really take too well to them."

"They ended things with you because you have a couple of scars?"

"They're not just physical, you know. He was after more than a couple of stabs." Pete nodded.

"Don't say any more." Mac smiled as he squeezed into the bed beside her, wrapping his arms around her shoulders and pulling her close. "You don't have to worry about that any more, you hear?" She nodded. Pete leant closer to her and kissed her cheek as he whispered. "I personally love a woman with scars." Mac laughed, looking up at him.

"Yeah, yeah, sure!"

"I can prove it too."

"Oh, can you now?"

"Hmm-mm." Mac's expression softened.

"Go ahead then." Pete smiled, reaching down taking her waist in his hand, pulling her onto her side gently and letting himself rest close to her, their lips meeting for a familiar yet empowering kiss.

The End.