Lust or Love Chapter 7: Competition

Disclaimer: I do not own GI JOE.

Thank you again to Bronwynn, for all her help. Thanks also to everyone who is following this fic, for being patient while waiting for an update. I had to take a bit of time off to finish up a fic for a friend's birthday.

Duke watched Scarlett over the rim of his coffee cup. The coffee was horrible, the delighted smile on his girlfriend's face as she was embraced and passed on to the next old friend finally to sit down next to the Irishman was his own version of a personal hell. He didn't know what they were waiting for, it seemed as if Daniel's team were all assembled, the Joes certainly were. They'd been shooting the breeze for close to forty-five minutes and if he had to lose his girlfriend's attention to that Irishman for one more minute he'd do something he'd regret later. Much later.

He sat down and across the table from Scarlett, the closest he could get to her. Everyone it seemed had a Scarlett story to share. His guys were swapping stories with the FBI, the FBI were passing around cinnamon buns and coffee. He felt more like he was at a party than a briefing.

Daniel grinned over his coffee mug, "You still owe me a ball game and a beer."

She groaned, "I was hoping you'd forgotten that whole incident."

He laughed, "Forgot? How could anyone forget something like that? You O'Hara's are never boring, I'll give you that." He stood up, bracing his back before speaking in a high pitched voice, "Oh, my back. Oh no! Oh, Brain, Brian its back labor I just know it!

He deepened his voice and sat back down, pretending to be intent on something, "Chipper Jones just made it to third base, the bases are loaded!"

"Brain, it's time!"

Eyes widen, "Now? The bases are loaded!"

He carried on again in the high pitch voice, bracing back, "Now, everyone now, we've got to go now! I could have been in labor and not realized it!"

"How could you not realize it, you're an ob?"

The whole table by now had stopped to watch Fizpatrick, "And we all had to rush to the hospital only to find out it wasn't labor at all –it was the chilly cheese dog Michelle had had when we got there!"

Everyone burst out laughed, even Scarlett, "I still remind her of that story when I need to torment her."

The laughter died down, settling once again into small conversations, this time mostly centered around baseball. Duke inwardly scowled, Michelle was one of Shana's sisters-in-law. For Fitzpatrick to know a very pregnant Michelle he would have been in Atlanta at Braves Stadium with the family.

Sometime later Daniel finally looked at his watch, "Okay everybody, we've all had time to mingle. I for one, would be interested in mingle with our good friends later, but for now on to business." He gestured for Scarlett to take the lead.

Scarlett in turn glanced at Duke who gestured for her to go ahead; she was after all, the connecting point that got them all working together in the first place. "We all met last night so we know what our joined operation is all about. All the party guests as well as staff were released earlier this morning after the FBI finished questioning everyone. We need to quickly review what we've learned so far and divvy up tasks so we can catch these jerks before slip away."

After reminding everyone that the weapons dealer the FBI was after was in town to meet with terrorist the Joes were after they split up a pile of witness statements that needed to be reviewed and started pounding the pavement. Going on witness statements they figured the scheduled meet between the dealer and the Baroness hadn't taken place. That meant they would have to try again. In the meantime the Baroness was holed up somewhere. The FBI would resume their search for the dealer while the Joes would try to track down the Baroness, knowing she'd be holed up somewhere luxurious. Tex and Mainframe started going through any promising footage of last night's party while Bobby and Stalker searched the hotels, Mace, Joe, and Gung Ho searched the streets for the dealer, and Daniel went with Scarlett and Duke to interview party guests who had been seen with the Baroness.

On phone with LJ, talking about some of the wealhy people they'd interviewed, wondering if the baroness was holed up in a private residence, they had a couple of people they were doing deep background checks on, tells LJ about Dniel & duke not getting along-she's not surprised

They wrapped up their last round of interviews late in the afternoon. After seeing Daniel off to a meeting at the FBI Duke and Scarlett headed back to their hotel. Scarlett immediately kicked off her boots, trading them for thick socks and a pair of fuzzy slippers. Duke would check in with their team before reporting in with base so it would be some time before she saw him. Meanwhile, she had her own phone call to make.

Lady Jaye answered on the first ring, "So how's the cold and rain?"

Scarlett rolled her eyes as she peaked out of the curtain. She shivered, "Cold and wet."

"It's nice and sunny out here."

"Of course it is, you're in the middle of a damn desert. Didn't anyone ever tell you it's mean to rub things in?"

"I probally didn't listen."

"Of that I have no doubt."

"Ohh, listen to you being all snarky. Guess a girl can learn new tricks after all."

"Shut up."

"You called me remember?"

"For information I requested earlier."

"Oh, well if that's all, I can just send that to your email. Bye…"

"Wait."

Jaye smugly sipped on her water before answering, "Yes…"

"Conrad and Daniel aren't getting along."

"Ohh, newsflash of the century, I wonder why?"

"Cut the crap, Allison, it's getting in the way of our mission."

"No it's not."

Scarlett took a deep breath, remembering that it had been her great idea to befriend this annoying woman in the first place, "I'm the one who's here."

"Duke is way to professional to let jelousy get in the way of a mission."

"He's not jelous, what would he have to be jelous of?"

"Ha! That proves my point."

"What point?"

"That for some inexplicable reason you are completely clueless when it comes to men!"

"I am not!"

"Outside of an op men are either friends or pretty faces to be admired but never pursued, until you came across our resident boy scout who, I'm happy to say, isn't as much of a boyscout as I had been afraid he might be. He was just a friend or a pretty face to be ignored. He wanted you back and did something about it. And unless I'm very much mistaken he's still doing something aobut it, so yeah, of course he'd going to be jelous of some hot Irish guy who had a prior relationship with you!"

"Daniel and I never had the kind of relationship! I worked with him, he was practically my boss!"

"So what! Conrad is your boss and you're sleeping with him!"

"That's different! And I never slept with Daneil, our relationship was stricktlay platonic!"

"On your end maybe. What the hell is Duke supposed to think anyways with this little banter going on between you and Daniel, all those stories about you and his family, him with your family, honey, I hate to break it to you, but Daniel wanted you all those years ago and now he has a second chance."

"Why will you not listen to me when I tell you it was always platonic, always!"

"Because, I'm right, you're wrong and you just won't admit it."

Scarlett threw her phone across the room, feeling more than a little perturbed when the phone bounced harmlessly on the bed. She stared daggers at it, hating that she had to call Jaye back to get the information she had requested. She needed a moment first, she decided, stepping into the bathroom to wash her face. She counted backwards in Russian from one hundred before she felt calm enough to call Jaye back.

"Feel better?"

"I still think you're wrong."

"I think they left stubborn off your green sheet. Regardless of Daniel's feelings for you past or present he knows things about you that Duke doesn't. That past history alone, those shared moments would be enough to drive him mad. It's not like he can buy you a fancy ass piece of jewelry to stake his claim."

"Why would he even need to, I'm sharing his bed aren't I?"

"Sure, but are you sharing anything else?"

She thought for a moment, "It's supposed to be light and easy or at least it was. It started out that way."

"But now you share his bed every night you can, meals as often as you can get away with it, and find yourself texting him in the middle of the day with some inane thought you had or maybe to just say 'hi'. That's not how it's supposed to be but that's how it is."

"When you put it that way it sounds a lot like the beginnings of a relationship."

"I think it's time to start calling this what it is. Bootie call it is not."

"He just buys me lingerie, a lover does that, you don't have to be in a relationship or have feeling for the other person."

Jaye took a deep breath, "I can see why you made a good lawyer, you argue everything to death! When he sneaks you flowers or buys you chocolate, the good kind, let me know if you still you two are just lovers."

"Wait, flowers, seriously? I wasn't even sure you liked Flint. Thought he was hot, damn good in the sack but actually like him as a human being? That's news to me."

"A dozen red roses and a box of French chocolates, the kind I lust over, were waiting in my room two days ago."

"Wait, you're leaving something out, what else did he give you?"

"A book of poems by Byron."

"Love poems?"

"He was an English major you know."

"Yeah, I know. So…"

Jaye sighed, "So we had the best freaking sex of our lives and he won't be back for three more days." Jaye left out the part where she smuggled one of his shirt's out to slip under her pillow. No one knew that and no one was going to find out."

"Wow."

"Yep, that about sums it up."

The girl talk stopped after that, after all, that little bombshell pretty much said it all. Flowers, French chocolates, and poetry weren't something you typically got after a bootie call. Jaye relayed the information Scarlet had requested and hung up.

For her part, Scarlett could admit to herself that Jaye had given her a lot to think about. She changed into sweats and went through her martial arts exercises, before grabbing a shower and changing into something a bit more appropriate to greet her, whatever Conrad now was to her.

Later that night she showed Duke just what she thought of getting sexy lingerie as a gift. They ignored the knocking when it started. They ignored it when it continued, too wrapped up in each other to care what was happening on the other side of the door.

"Hey, Shana, open up, it's me, Daniel."

Shana groaned, "He won't go away until I answer."

"Just ignore him and he'll leave, eventually."

"Hmm…I'd rather him leave now than eventually." She reluctantly turned her attention away from his ripped abs, running her fingers lightly down his stomach as she got up, "Don't go anywhere."

She grabbed her robe while wrapping her hair in a towel. Opening the door to Daniel, even to dismiss him, while she was wearing lace Conrad bought for her wasn't her idea of decent. Lace she could cover, hair tangled from his fingers she could put up in a twist, her lips, well they were delightfully swollen from Conrad's kisses and if her eyes were a bit bright well, Daniel was a big boy; he'd accept her excuse regardless of whether or not he believed her.

"I'm coming!" she hollered, turning to look back over her shoulder at Conrad who murmured, "not yet but soon."

She opened the door a crack, "Hey, I was taking a bath, what's the big emergency?"

Daniel grinned, "Still like a good soak, huh? Well, dry off so we can grab a beer and catch up."

"Mmm…tempting but I'm gonna have to pass."

"Pass? On a beer? Look, if you don't want to go out in the cold I understand, we'll grab a beer in the lounge downstairs."

Shana could feel Conrad standing in the open door between their rooms, his impatience radiating.

"It's really sweet of you to think of me and I do want to catch up but tomorrow night would be better. I'm exhausted and I've got to get up early in the morning to shop."

"The stores don't open until 10, you've got plenty of time to sleep in before heading out."

"Daniel, I planned for an overnight, two nights at the most stay, I did not come prepared for working with the FBI and forgive me if I don't want to show up in dirty clothes. I'd prefer to look professional and my CO has a briefing scheduled for noon. If we're not out chasing down a lead I'll grab a beer tomorrow or better yet, if we're here long enough I'll swing by your mom's, how's that?"

"You drive a hard bargain Shana but I guess if I have to weigh a single beer against and an afternoon of you, beer, and you trouncing my brothers at baseball I'll have to wait until Sunday. See you in the morning."

Conrad walked up behind her and shut the door with one hand, sliding the lock home and turning her around. "Mine." He whispered in her ear, lifting her up to wrap her legs around his hips, "and I don't share."

He took her mouth, thrusting in and staking claim. He took her back up to the peak he'd been holding her at all night, the sound of her pants turning him on.

"Conrad….bed…."

He jerked the tie of her robe loose, baring her to his hungry eyes, "You are too fucking hot and the bed is too damn far away. Here. Now."

Seconds later she was biting down on her lower lip to keep from crying out. He felt so good, so right when he thrust home. Never had she been so hot for a guy, never before had a man gotten her this crazy, this desperate in such a short period of time.

She squeezed her legs around him, and felt him jerk just a bit, missing a beat, before his thrusts became more powerful. She let her head roll against the door.

He let her support her weight while he sent his hands and lips skimming over her porcelain skin. He knew just how to touch her, just where to kiss her beautiful body to drive her insane, to send her over that edge.

And suddenly they were there, on the edge together, he felt her tighten around him and fall off the other side just as he spent himself inside her.

They collapsed in a heap on the floor, breath coming out in great gasps. She shuddered, reveling in the way he made her feel, beautiful, desirable, but at the same time cherished.

Next chapter….?

Shana poured over yet another report that basically reiterated every other report she'd read that day, they had nothing. No Baroness, no other arms broker, no arms buyer, no Destro, not even a sign of her henchman. She sighed and stretched her neck. She desperately needed a break.

"You've been at it too long, you look like you could use a break."

She smiled, looking up at Daniel, "I imagine we could all use a break." She titled her head to one side and studied him, a slow smile spreading across her tired face. "You, Daniel Fitzpatrick are up to something. What gives?"

"I have a surprise for you."

She laughed, "I don't like surprises."

Across the room Conrad looked up and scowled. She liked surprises just fine when they came from him and he'd bet the bank she'd like the surprise waiting for her on her nightstand.

Daniel grinned like a school boy, "You'll like this one, trust me." He held his hand out as if daring her to take it.

She shrugged her shoulders and let him pull her up. "Do I need to close my eyes?"

"Nope, just watch the door…" he consulted his watch, "…in 10, 9, 8,…"

"What, a countdown? Seriously, what's going on?"

He started a drum roll, "And here she comes ladies and gentlemen, straight from her world tour, Ms. Ashlynn Campbell!"

Shana's jaw dropped as her oldest and dearest friend sauntered in waved before breaking into a long legged run. Shana met her halfway and was caught up in a rib cracking hug. They held each other at arms length for a moment before embracing again. Ashlynn rocked her from side to side, "I can't believe after all this time our paths finally cross without divine intervention!"

"What are you doing here?"

Ashlynn grinned, her red curls bouncing, "My tour group is performing at the Kennedy Center this week."

Shana 's eyes widened, "I forgot, oh my gosh, I am so sorry!"

"Don't worry, Daniel didn't."

She turned around and looked at Daniel, "You did this?"

Daniel rocked smugly back on his heels, "Sure, I put it on my calendar."

"Thank you. Thank you very much."

They took a cab back to her hotel with a brief stop for a pizza and copious amounts of junk food. "I can't believe you're wearing a suit again. I thought you swore off Ann Taylor & Calvin Klein when you were recruited?"

Shana laughed, "I can't believe you're a ballerina again!"

"What, just because I think most ballerinas are pomus, stuck-up, anorexic bitches?"

"And yet here we are with pizza and enough of bags of candy to start a movie consession stand."

"Okay, so it's not all ballerinas I dislike just the ones on this tour and a girl has to pay rent."

"Even if Riverdance stopped touring the US there are still plenty of other companies here and abroad that need Irish dancers and you're so versatile."

Ashlynn shrugged her shoulders, "I don't want to talk about me and ballet at the moment." She slid the pizza onto the table by the window and sauntered over to the nightstand. "I'd really like to talk about this…" she picked up a high end, discreet looking gift bag and had the pleasure of seeing her friend turn bright pink.

"Um…I uh think that's mine."

Ash grinned, "Uh huh, and since this comes from what many consider to be the finest lingerie store in the DC area I'm guessing Conrad isn't such the boy scout you used to think he was. Come on, open it!"

Shana looked embarrassed, "What? Now?"

Ash rolled her eyes and flopped down on the bed, "Yep, now. I want to see what he got you."

"But…"

"We have never kept secrets from each other and you've told me just about everything that's been going on in your "affair" and I use that term loosely now, so come on open it."

Shana sighed, "Okay. Ohh…nice…very nice…" she pulled out an ocean blue lace panty and bra set.

Ash moaned, "I am so completely jealous. All the lingerie I ever got came from Victoria's Secret or Fredrick's. This is way better than anything those stores carry."

"He has good taste."

Ash snorted, "Obviously, he had the good sense to keep you, didn't he?"

Shana chuckled, "I think it was more of a mutual keeping."

Ash sat up and folded her legs under her, "Ohh, so we're finally admitting this is more than a fling. That's progress, Shana, I'm proud of you."

Shana collapsed into a chair by the table, "What am I going to do about it, Ash? I really, really, really like Conrad. If this ends badly it's going to kill me."

Ash raised an eye brow, "Seriously? Shana, that man is so totally in to you it's ridiculous. How many women has he taken to his secret get away place? How many nights has he come to your bed, not for sex but just to be with you?"

"But we're still sneaking around Ash and for good reason. If we get caught our careers are over."

"You of all people assessed the risks and decided to jump anyways. And you're not in deep like anymore honey, you're in love and from what I've gathered, he's in love with you too."

Shana grabbed a piece of pizza and sighed, sitting up straighter, "Okay, enough about me for the moment. Tell me about you. I'm fabulous, I know but you're dedicated enough that even if you dislike your current job you're still going to do everything you need to do be a success, and in this case it includes avoiding any and all forms of sugar."

Ash rolled her eyes, "yes, we all know that sugar goes straight to my hips and no one wants a fat ballerina."

Shana snorted and chocked on her sprite, "You barely weight a hundred pounds; this is skinny, so skinny that you'd have to eat pizza for a year to be fat."

Ash fiddled with her napkin for a minute before looking up, "I'm really glad you're here, Shana."

Shana's eyes widened, "Spill, quickly, before I have a heartattack waiting."

Ash closed her eyes and took a deep breath, letting it out and talking so rapidily it took Shana a minute to process what her friend had said.

"Sean, as in my lame ass brother who cheated on you the night before he was supposed to propse marriage has asked you to come back to Atltna and give it another chance? And you said, yes?!"

"Don't yell at me and don't hate me for it, Shana. I'm still in love with him. I'm always going to be in love with him and don't kill me for the next part but he's been coming to see me for the past year."

Shana froze, pizza dropping back onto her plate, "What?"

Ash cleared her throat and looked down taking another big breath before facing her friend, "He was in the area one time and caught my show. We met for drinks afterwards. We talked, oh Shana, we talked for hours and hours, all night, literally. We hashed everything out like we'd never been able to do before. He admi ted, finally, that he hadn't been ready to comiit, that he'd been scared, that he'd ruined everything…I left him, sitting there in the lounge, just got up and left. He came after me. Finally."

Shana got up from her seat and wrapped her arms around her friend, both of them ignoring the tears, "So my dumb ass brother finally got some sense knocked into him, huh?"

"Yeah, he kissed me. I decked him and he still came back for more. He sat outside the theater the next day while I was at rehearsal. His eye was swollen shut."

"Atta girl!"

"Yeah, just like your dad taught me. He was really proud of me too by the way."

Shana sighed, "So, what? Everyone in the family knows about this except me? I guess I win the crappy friend award, I'm sorry Ash. I said not to go back and if you did not to tell me but I didn't really mean it. I'm sorry you felt you couldn't share it with me."

"That's okay, I'm sharing now."

"So this has been going on for a year now?"

"Yeah, he flies out every chance he gets. He gave up with job with the Atlanta Journal & Constitution and does freelance writing now. He's even branched out from sports if you can believe that."

"Huh, Mr. It's 2 am and I've been out all night, did you catch the game sis and if you did will you write my article for me?"

"Hey, you did some nice stuff. He even got nominated for that award."

"Thankfully he didn't' win. That would be a little hard to explain in his acceptance speech, yeah I won but my little sister actually wrote the article."

"Little? You're barley ten months apart and you've been able to kick his ass since you were nine."

"one of my many talents. If he makes you happy then I'm all for it Ash. And if he screws up again, brother or not, I'll get my sniper riffle and take his sorry ass out."

Ash dissolved into hysterics, "Deal. But he's grown up Shana. We're both gone so he finally had to learn to stand on his own two feet and be the man we both knew he could be."