Author's Note: I'm sorry for the gap in putting this chapter up, especially considering how short it is. I've just been so busy with work and school that my update schedule has been scuppered completely! But in any case, much love again goes out to Asphaltcowgrrl, Beth, Lady Shaye,Rose, ArjetLuna and Mascha for helping me push through my writer's block. Ugh, you are all a dream-team of fandom friends. I cherish you all madly!
And thank you for all my readers, including Simple3Love, AnnB, Jagged, Chocolate-Colombo, and KrisEaly (who left me 7 reviews in a row!) and my guests- I will finish this story for you, oh yes. Thank you again for encouraging me. :)
Wesley Mitchell, one of the youngest and most promising detectives of the entire Los Angeles Police Department, was lying in his hotel bed at the present moment, obsessively wondering whether his hotel's house-keeping department had remembered to change his sheets.
Those who had never met the man would likely think him mad—a statement to which his common-law partner, Travis, would agree with heartily. Hell, even those who knew him for the nit-picky bastard that he was might think he was going over and above the call of even his OCD. After all, given the king's ransom he paid in rent every week to live in a bloody hotel, it would be ridiculously simple to call house-keeping—even this late at night—and ask them to come up and freshen up the room. He could simply go off to—not the bar, most definitely not the bar—to the restaurant or something to wait an hour or so until they finished wiping away all the traces of his past humiliation and defeat.
After all, it was perfectly possible that house-keeping hadn't given him new sheets since the last time he was up here, especially as he obsessively neatened them all the time himself. Frankly, since he'd been living in this space, he had guarded his privacy like a dragon over a hoard of gold, although all he had was a couple of suits and more wet-wipes than was strictly healthy. But house-keeping had long since realized that he got… tetchy when they came into his room unannounced and so, their visits actually came quite sporadically.
(Apparently, his habit of leaving tetchy little notes about his housekeepers' lack of sanitation had made more than one of them break out into tears. Since then, Wes had started leaving twenties on his pillows… although some part of him still thought they should be paying him for keeping everything so damn tidy.)
Needless to say, all of that meant that there was practically a one-in-two chance that his exhausted body was now lying atop of filthy, sweat-drenched, possibly semen-encrusted bed-sheets that hadn't been changed since he'd found himself outwitted by a red-headed Jezebel and taken advantage of ruthlessly.
(And obviously, that was exactly how last night had proceeded. Never mind that that Miss Scar— Miss Smith had not precisely overpowered him, even given her remarkable level of agility. Damn straight he was still an injured party!)
So here he was, collapsed on top of filthy sheets that would likely light up like Time's Square if he ran some UV lights over it to see all the fluids that had previously leaked out of his body. Here he was, so tired from the events of a wretched day spent trying to dodge the perpetrator of his misery that even the thought of getting up and calling the front-desk made him want to throw himself off his hotel balcony. Here he was, doing everything he could not to remember that he'd had 100 pounds of beautiful girl on top of him less than 24 hours ago, her red hair falling over his face and her own, her hands lightly stroking his hair as he kissed a line of fire down her body—
Wes paused, let his analytical machine of a mind decode his last few thoughts, and then—very calmly—socked himself in the jaw.
Women, he thought bitterly even as he rubbed his sore face afterward, were nothing more than a lure and snare given to men by a Mother Nature that hated them thoroughly. And then, after the stinging pain had died down, he went on much more rationally.
Women, especially red-haired ones, were clearly formed only to tease and torment men like himself. And even worse, he might be lying on sheets one of them had thoughtlessly contaminated before. Ergo, he should definitely not merely get or leap but vault off the treacherous material that was lying beneath him.
But god help him, he just couldn't make himself so much as move presently.
And maybe it was simply due to being all too tired from the events of today Or maybe it came from him still experiencing the whip-lash of seeing Little Miss Scarlet saunter into his life again as though she hadn't dumped him only 4 hours back, looking as though butter wouldn't melt in her mouth and she didn't regret a single thing. Or maybe it even came from some idiotic impulse to retain a single reminder of one single night when a smart, funny, charming young woman had actually sought out his company.
So now, all Wes could do was sigh on his stupid bed and feel betrayed by the world in its entirety.
He felt like a fool. He felt like a dupe. He felt like he'd been used and abused and thrown away, as he always seemed to be.
And the worst was that Wes knew he was an idiot to feel this way—that he had no real reason to even feel so—so disappointed by everything that was happening. They'd both waltzed into this hotel room knowing that they were supposed to have a night that would be easy to walk away from—and it wasn't her fault she couldn't read his mind and realize that all the stupid mooning he'd done (and god, how fucking pathetic he felt about that now!) after they'd finished meant…
Well, to him, it had meant something. But she obviously didn't agree—and Wes had long since learned how useless it was to get someone to want you if they didn't care for you already.
God. Stupid, stupid, stupid—he was so stupid. And somehow, it only made it worse to know that she was holding up her end of the bargain by leaving without a fuss in the morning; he was the pathetic idiot still clinging to a fantasy.
He had no right to be upset—he knew that. No right even to be angry at the thought that she hadn't even had the courtesy to wake him up and give him a real goodbye before she'd waltzed out the door and very nearly out of his life. He had no reason to be so—so furious—
(It's not hurt. It isn't hurt. It can't be.)
-that from the first, he'd meant so much less to her than she did to him, even after the events of a single long, lovely evening.
It was just—he hadn't thought he'd be so easy to walk away from, even with a stranger.
He'd never walked away from anyone who'd ever needed him his entire life. So why the hell was he always so easy to leave?
(Miss smith couldn't have reminded him more of his past had she skinned his ex-wife and wore Alex's face as a mask in the morning.)
Frustrated, Wes turned to his side, and found himself staring at the space where her body had lain the other night, as he had buried his face in her hair and wrapped his arms and legs around her light little figure and kissed her as she lay sleeping.
Then, with a muffled groan, Wes flopped to his other side—and ending up seeing the note she'd left by his desk, looking remarkably intact despite the fact that he'd crumpled it up and then smoothed it out a dozen times as he read and re-read the damn thing.
Needless to say, this didn't much help his impending head-ache. It was all he could do to stifle the urge to beat his forehead against his bed until he lost consciousness completely.
It was bad enough to be reminded of what a complete twerp he'd been. It was even worst to realize that his one regrettable personal mistake in over a year was going to end up coming back to bite him in the ass even in his professional sanctuary.
After all, considering the fact that he had at least—at least!—a good year of seeing her every single day he came to work, he had a feeling that last night was going to haunt him for a long time to come. And god help him, if every day turned out to be as stressful as today—if he had to spend all his time remembering the sweet touch of her lips every time he looked at her face—he was going to seriously think about quitting his job, shaving his head, and moving to a monastery to a be a Buddhist monk.
Right now, the thought of living in a quiet sanctuary with absolutely no demon women or dirty bed-sheets to bedevil him was starting to sound very, very damn appealing.
And just when Wes was about to sink into an uneasy rest chased by dreams of bright brown eyes that flashed at him mockingly, he was interrupted by a knock on the door which made him sit up from his bed.
God help him, if it wasn't room service coming up to belatedly change his sheets, he was going to shoot something.
And by the time he opened the door and stared into the lovely little face shining up at him, Wes decided that that something ought to be himself.
"Hi there," Miss Scarlet herself said, as she raised her blazing brown eyes up at him. "I don't have any alcohol but I do have some time. May I please come in?"
The first time Wes had laid eyes on Kendall Smith, he had thought: I should not let her get near me.
The first time Wes had read her note goodbye, he had thought: I can't believe I've been dumped already.
The first time Wes had seen her waiting for him at headquarters, he had thought: Am I still dreaming?
And now that he saw her standing outside his hotel hall, eyes burning and face determined, her bright red dress wrapped around her as though to tempt him unwittingly, he didn't even bother to think.
He simply slammed the door on her and then found himself braced against it, as though her tiny pixie frame might somehow burst through solid wood and overwhelm him once again, just like the memories of her hands and her hips and her words and her laugh were coming at him furiously.
And when enough time had passed for him to start tentatively hoping she was only a hallucination of his fevered, germ-obsessed mind, there came another knock on the door—one that somehow managed to be both prim and belligerent.
"You," her unmistakable voice said on the other side of the door, "are being rather childish. Am I going to have to huff and puff and threaten to blow the door down before you let me in?"
There was no one on earth who would ever say that when it came to his work, Wesley Mitchell, top detective of the LAPD, was anything but precise, brilliant, perceptive, methodical—and maybe even obsessive. He had a keen eye for detail, a sharp turn of mind, and one hell of a killer instinct when it came to sensing when a suspect had let something vital slip. He had been a damn good lawyer, and he was now a damn good cop, and almost nothing slipped by him.
So naturally, given his talents, he had employed them to full effect on learning more about Miss Kendall Smith's work history after he'd finished (well, almost finished) seething over her perfidy and the feckless nature of femininity. And Wes hated to admit it, but what he had seen had been pretty damn impressive.
At only 24 years old, Miss Smith had her masters in computer programming, had passed her training as an analyst (though not field agent) at Quantico with flying colors, was reputed to be on the cutting edge of technology in terms of developing sophisticated statistical models to track criminal activity and patterns of illegal behavior—and had now been sent to the LAPD to study his work with Travis, in order to see if further models could be built to train other cops to eventually do what they did so efficiently. For at least the next year—and possibly longer, should the FBI keep her situated to study Wes' and Travis' work—she'd be working with him practically every day, keeping daily logs of their every activity.
She was apparently very, very good and very, very smart—and to get to where she was at only 24 years old, she also had to be very, very stubborn. And possibly very, very suicidal as well, to stride right back into the lion's den after Wes had already made his feelings clear.
Not that he impressed by her, of course. That was not it in the least. And as though to prove his sheer lack of astonishment at any display of balls or bravery on her part, Wes found his mouth opening and him saying—almost without conscious thought—"Oh yeah? Well, why not go ahead and try? Let's see your lung capacity!"
As far as snappy come-backs went, that wasn't about to send him to the Algonquin Round Table. From the amusement in her sweet voice the next time she spoke, she saw that clearly.
"Oh really? I thought I demonstrated plenty of it last night. What else are you expecting from me?"
Wes found parts of him he barely even knew existed turning bright red. "That's not what I meant!"
Demon woman she was, she giggled on the other side of the door. "Well, good! Because I pride myself on my skills but even my tongue can't penetrate solid wood! Though detective, it's kind of flattering you even thought it could. I must have impressed you greatly."
Wes neither felt the urge to laugh hysterically nor pound his forehead against the door until he lapsed into unconsciousness—tempting as that last action now seemed. Instead, gritting his teeth, he finally said: "What the hell do you want now? Why are you even here?"
Her voice was a little sharper when she replied, as though he were finally getting to her. "You don't think we have to talk about what went on last night? With the hands and the mouths and the tongues and the—"
"I know what body parts were involved!" he interrupted, glad the door was between them so she couldn't see him turn bright red.
"Well, wonderful," she replied, her voice dry. "I'd hate to think you didn't know common physiology."
Masterfully, Wes fought the urge to toss himself out of his hotel window. Instead, he grunted and pushed forward, trying to see what the hell she might want in order to get her to go. "Get to the point already, Miss Smith. You left on your own this morning—so what the hell are you doing back here?"
There was a pause at that, small but startled, as though she were surprised at the sheer depth of his anger. And then, very slowly, she responded, her voice quiet and low.
"It's because… look, Wes," she murmured (and he hated the way she said his name in a sogt tumble, as though it were actually precious to her), "all kidding aside, we do need to talk about what happened last night. I—I mean, we're going to be working with each other from now on. Up to a year, maybe longer. I'm going to be partnering up with you and Detective Marks to determine how you work on a near daily basis—and to help you with ongoing investigations as well. In light of that, don't you think we need to figure out how to be—be—be at least professional with each other?"
Another pause, and then, sounding strangely uncertainly, she added: "Even if we can't be any other thing?"
And if she hadn't walked away from his this very morning, he might have thought her almost… wistful, maybe. Hoping without hope for something she wanted quite desperately.
But she'd squashed his hopes quite firmly this morning and considering how it came on the tail-end of a hell of a long line of his broken dreams, Wes wasn't inclined to be charitable. Instead, he gritted his teeth and went on, wanting this over already.
"All right. We'll be professional, Agent Smith. We'll do our work and talk about the weather and never bother each other by thinking about a night I'm sure we both sorely regret. Eventually, any office gossip Travis spreads around will die down and we'll be like any other set of colleagues who can't stand each other at work. We'll be professional and only speak professionally."
With dry generosity, he even added: "I'll be sure not to pull a gun on you in a crowded room. At least we'll be spared couple's therapy."
She didn't even laugh, though he had been half-hoping for it. There was only silence on her end.
And when Wes could finally bring himself to look through his door's peep-hole, he saw her still standing by the door, looking—different entirely.
She looked tired, if he were to be honest to himself, her light dimmed in a way he had never before seen. Last night, she had been glowing first with interest and then indignation, and then incandescent in his arms as she had kissed him over and over again. And this morning, she had been almost painfully vivid as she had stared defiantly at him, as though trying to taunt him with a clear vision of everything he could have had and everything he'd never had and everything the world always denied him continually.
But now, she simply looked tired and sad and older than her years, as though something she wanted very much was slipping away from her slowly.
And it was stupid, that was stupid that he thought this was what he was seeing— he was stupid, she was the one who had left him, and every time he had wanted to help someone, it had backfired on him horribly and cost him his marriage and any semblance of happiness and he was not going to fall for it this time, not him, not again.
He was not wavering. Not even for a minute.
And thankfully, before he could do anything crazy like—like—God, he didn't know—open the door and scoop her into his arms and tell her that he was sorry, he was a complete asshole, he didn't meant to make her upset, that it was okay she had ruthlessly crushed the first thing he'd had to a budding relationship in a long time beneath her pretty little feet as she had walked away from him this morning—
Before he could humiliate himself as he had done before with Alex and Travis and the therapy group and pretty much everyone else he'd ever met in his life, she looked up and her eyes met his, as though even when separated by several inches of solid wood, she knew when he was looking.
Her eyes met his and the spark he'd admired so much before stole into those dark brown irises and the curving contours of her lips with terrifying ease.
And speaking as though she knew he was paralyzed by her at this moment by her glowing eyes and her secretive smile, she murmured:
"By the way, speaking of professional things to say… since last night, have you experienced any spontaneous genital burning?"
Wes thought he misheard her at first, honestly.
He wasn't definitely sure why—she did enunciate her words clearly. His working hypothesis later would be that sheer horror had overwhelmed him for a moment and made him hallucinate.
"Pardon?!" he managed to squeak out at last, in the tones of a duchess offended mightily at high tea. "Are you—did you just—what the hell did you just say?!"
For good measure, he looked through his room's peep-hole again and saw her look up beguilingly at him, her face looking both upset and worried.
Which—oh god, this was worse than being shot—and he would know, having long become intimate with the sound of bullets whistling past his head. At least he could heal from being shot and explain away any scars as coming from battling danger. You couldn't say the same when your dick sprouted multi-colored dots and broke at the half-way point.
Suddenly, Wes found himself more afraid for the structural integrity of his penis than he had ever been before. And her next few words—said in a sweet, chiming, almost sing-song tone—didn't help much either.
"Well, it could also manifest as extremely uncomfortable rashes. Or festively colored warts. Or possible genital inflammation that could go on to infect your brain."
Wes made a noise like a tea-kettle going off; she went on to further his distress and dismay without appearing to notice. "Actually, there are so many side-effects that could come from tumbling about with someone you barely know. I've read that in the most extreme cases, you can suffer from epilepsy, tumors, trauma, death…"
He made another sound that resembled something that might erupt out of a dying elk; she went on gravely.
"Even the desire to watch reality tv," she said at last, voice low and sad. "That one's probably from the syphilis—from all the brain cell destruction, I'd guess. Though you could find out from these medical records I'm carrying…"
And that was when she looked up at him, challenge bright in those maddening dark eyes. "But then again, you certainly won't know for sure, will you? Seeing as how you're too afraid to even take a good look at me?"
And that had been Wes' breaking point. For he had spent the last 35 years of his life using a frankly obscene amount of hand-sanitizer, cleanser, and various bacterial wipes to wage a one-man war on every bacteria that had the bad luck to cross his path… and to know that a single drunken night that he was already regretting emotionally might infect him virally could not be borne for a single second longer...
Especially when it came while he was being taunted with answers by the most maddening woman he had ever seen.
His door flew open so quickly and violently that it would have slammed into her had she not jumped back at the last minute. And then, eyes going narrow with what might well be incipient madness, Wes found himself confronting his demon red-headed Jezebel in the flesh, trying to appear to be an impassive pillar of manly stubbornness when he honestly felt weak in the knees.
It was almost certainly due to a fear of infection, of course. It had nothing to do with her quick breath or her determined eyes or her raised chin or her bold smile or the memory of what it had been like biting into that delicate little neck and leaving traces of himself all over her body.
Not in the least.
And it was right when he was busy convincing himself of that much when she shoved him back into his hotel room, shut the gaping door behind her with a decisive click—and then launched herself at him as though he were a medieval nunnery and she were a horde of Vikings intent on pillaging.
Author's Note 2: In light of the sad news of Common Law possibly being canceled, I'm going to try and finish this story in the next two chapters so that I don't leave this story hanging. If our show gets renewed, I'm planning to continue with Kendall and Wes' story again... but by chapter 10 (which will hopefully be finished sometime this year, depending on my schedule), this particular fic will be done. I hope everyone is looking forward to the end of it as much as I am. I want to see these two crazy kids work it out, and I hope you agree as well. ;)
BTW, to my Mormon guest... I honestly didn't wish to offend you by giving Kendall a crazy Mormon family in chapter 7 and I apologize for giving offense. Given my own experiences as Muslim-American post-9/11, I can understand how hurtful it can be to feel as though your religious tradition is being attacked! However, I'd like to emphasize that Kendall is not merely a Mormon- she comes from, essentially, the Mormon equivalent of the Duggars. (Well, not quite as extreme, but y'know what I mean.) Her immediate family consists of Fundamentalists with a capital F, which every religion has... and it makes her rather prickly and rebellious in many weird, weird ways. So don't think of Kendall as being a Generic Mormon- she comes from a specific background that very, very much has shaped her to present day. I'm not bashing a religion- I'm only trying to construct a family for her to rebel against heartily without defaulting to making her come from a Pentecostal Protestant family! Er... I hope that makes sense? In any case, please feel free to PM me or email me if you'd like to chat further about this. I really, really am trying not to give any offense!
And finally, if you enjoy this story, please do review! It'll make the next update faster. :) And please do contact the USA Network to urge them to keep our beloved show on air. Warren Kole himself has encouraged fans on his twitter page to contact the show. Apparently, eyes are watching and every bit helps! Let them know we'd love to see the show renewed so we can have another season! (And also, more fic in this fandom!)
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