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Some Gladiators Are Born

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"You know, sneaking up on someone that makes a living playing with explosives is a good way to get you hurt," Mace commented as she shut her locker door and turned to face the man that was leaning against the locker bay behind her.

"It's not really sneaking up on you if you're aware that I'm there, now is it?"

She raised an eyebrow. "And how do you know that I was aware that you were there?"

"You're a friend of Fiona and Becker," he responded, his Irish accent a little more pronounced than usual. "You knew I was here before the door even closed behind me."

Mace shrugged. "It comes with the territory. You never let anyone at your back unless you're sure they're one of your mates." She folded her arms, even as she tilted her head. "Matt Anderson, right?"

He nodded. "That would be me."

He looked her up and down and she tensed, narrowing her eyes.

"Do you have a problem with me, Anderson?"

"Not at all. I'm just trying to figure out how Hart could have had such a pretty sister."

At the mention of her brother, one of Mace's hands dug into her arm. "There was a lot about Stephen that no one knew about." Including her. "And from what I understand, you never even met him."

"No, I didn't, but I've read all of the files on all of the old members of the team." Matt said calmly. "It never mentioned in his file that he had a sister, much less that she was military."

"Yeah, well, you can't learn about a person from reading a bunch of files," Mace muttered. "They won't tell you a damn thing about who the people were."

"That's one of the reasons I'm talking to you," Matt pointed out. "Who would know Stephen better than his baby sister -- the person who grew up with him?" He gave her a slight smile. "I want to know about everyone that has worked here and Stephen and Cutter were two of the first team. No one knew anything about him outside of his work here."

Matt couldn't have known that his words were scraping at a re-opened wound that was very raw at the moment. He couldn't have known how much he was hurting her by asking her about the brother she wasn't sure she even knew any longer. For a brief moment, she wished she had a squad that she could hide behind or even that Becker or Fee were down here with her. Then she swallowed and gave herself a mental shake.

She had never hidden behind anyone in her life; not when she was a kid and not when she was in theatre. She certainly wasn't going to hide just because there were truths in life that she hadn't known before. No one had ever guaranteed that life would be easy -- and comparatively, this wasn't as hard as other things she had seen or done. As much as she wished she had her old friends here to lean on, she could at least try to do this by herself.

"He was nine years old when I was born," she finally said. "From what I remember, he took being a big brother very seriously when I was a baby." Not that he had ever stopped being over-protective until she had left for Afghanistan. "He was the first person I ever took a swing at."

Matt's eyes were full of humor. "How old were you?"

"Four." She could remember that day so clearly. "He and his friends had fireworks and I wanted to play, too. They were making all kinds of colors, sparks and sounds and it seemed like a great deal of fun. Stephen was thirteen and he and his friends were too old to play with babies -- at least that's what one of his mates said. I kicked his friend and when he picked me up, I bit him."

Matt laughed. "Why did you bite his friend?"

"For picking me up after he called me a baby. I didn't want him to and when he wouldn't put me down, I bit him. When Stephen tried to get me to let go, I swung my fist and hit him in the side of the head."

"What happened after that?"

"Hurt me more than him," Mace remembered, looking down at her hand. "Possibly because I was just flailing my fists around and hitting anything I could reach. I mean, I was four, so my technique wasn't very good."