So this idea came to me last week while I was talking to a friend, then suddenly this story was born and I couldn't stop myself from writing it. I am still continuing with my other Mella fic More and hopefully I will still have time to update them both plus all of my others. I would love to hear your thoughts on this. I'm not sure how long it will turn out, but I do have some plans for it so there should be quite a few more chapters.

Disclaimer: I don't own Rush or any of the characters.


Close personal protection is what we are supposed to be doing and I could give him close personal protection - Stella Dagostino


Prologue

Machines – they could lie so easily. All it took was the pressing of a few buttons and the disconnecting of a couple of cords. Technology was easily manipulated and the people that depended on it for answers even more so. As the steady beeping of the monitor turned to one long continuous beep, the occupants of the room began to mourn the death of Michael Sandrelli, yet, little did they know, he was still very much alive.

The operation was extremely covert and those involved operated on a strictly need to know basis. As such, the officers of Tactical Response were kept completely in the dark. It was only the senior most officers that were privy to information regarding the relocation and protection of Senior Constable Michael Sandrelli.

The truth was that Michael's future was not looking promising. If his injuries didn't kill him, there were dozens of people out there who would. Michael knew too much. He had gone undercover with the Raineys, a family that was not to be messed with and were not too happy to find out that Michael was a cop, a family that would gladly hold Michael responsible for recent events and seek their vengeance via another bullet to the head. On top of that, the Russians believed that Michael was working with the Raineys which had already very nearly gotten him killed. In short, Michael wasn't safe anymore.

It was Kerry's idea. She felt that she owed it to Michael after what had happened, as though she was personally responsible for the events that had led to Michael being hospitalised and left fighting for his life. The official word was that Michael was getting worse. Labelled as brain dead and a hopeless case, Michael's family and friends were coming to accept that the worst was to happen. It was only a matter of when the plug was pulled and not if. Yet in reality, and off the record, Michael was improving. The bullets had been removed from his chest and head and there was hope that before long he would be able to breathe on his own. In a medically induced coma, it was all too easy to fake his death.

The time on his death certificate read 9:29pm and from that moment forward the man known as Michael Sandrelli died, yet his body lived on. Fighting for survival, the body was moved to a more discreet location in the hospital until he was well enough to be moved to a safer location. No visitors were allowed, not that there were any there in the first place. After all, who was going to come and visit a man who was officially classified as dead? Only a handful of people knew that the man who used to be known as Michael was still alive and they were sworn to secrecy. Everyone believed the lie and Michael was believed to be dead.


The funeral was short and the casket empty. Stella was given the option of sitting with her colleagues from Tactical Response in the middle of the room or sitting with Michael's family at the front. She chose neither, choosing instead to sit by herself at the back. She felt out of place. This wasn't somewhere that she had ever expected to be, not somewhere she should be. She had lost co-workers before, but none had hit her as hard as this. Michael wasn't just a colleague, he was her friend, he was her best friend, he was... dead. That was all he was now: dead.

Stella glanced around at the people who had come to pay their final respects to Michael; family, friends, colleagues, ex girlfriends, old school friends and others that she didn't know. She wondered how many of them had loved him. She wondered how many of them had told him before it was too late. Then there was Stella herself. Where did she fit in all of this? Which group of Michael mourners did she fit into? Who would she congregate with after the ceremony? She was more than a colleague, more than a friend, not quite family and Stella most definitely did not want to group herself with the ex girlfriends.

That was when it hit her. It was almost as if Michael himself has spoken directly to her. She didn't fall into any of these groups, she was different. Dare she say it, she was more. Stella knew that her presence alone would have meant more to Michael than the majority of the others combined. She was Stella and together they had been Michael and Stella; nothing more and nothing less, simple, yet at the same time incredibly complex, a mix of unsaid declarations and hidden feelings.

For many people present, the funeral was an ending. It was closure. By the end of the day, they would have said their goodbyes to Michael and begun the process of moving on, getting on with their lives. But not Stella, never Stella. She knew this wasn't the end. She felt no sense of finality about this and knew that she would not begin to move on that day. Perhaps she would grieve him for years before finally moving on, she didn't know. The thought seemed unlikely. How could she hold onto him for all those years only to get over him and move on? She couldn't, she could never forget him. The thought hung over her like a storm cloud of a rainy day, focussing its efforts on her, leaving her cold and drenched out in the storm. Yet the thought of Michael, of the time they had spent together, was like a single ray of sunshine, breaking through the clouds and shining down on her, warming her heart.

Stella wasn't sure what she was going to do after this. Where would she go? What would she do? She had no clue. But there was one thing she was certain of and that was that this wasn't it. This was not the end of Michael and Stella.