Welcome To The Harem

An Office Romance (Part 4 of 7) by Scifinerdgrl
Summary: This is my attempt to explore what Reyes could have been thinking when she got involved with Brad Follmer. This story takes place between her arrival at the New York Field Office (after graduation from the FBI academy in 1995), and her first meeting with John Doggett in 1997.

Brad looked on as Monica shot at simulated bad guys, good guys,
dogs... her concentration was off, and he held himself
responsible. Her results would be going to Williams, and they
would both look bad. He walked up behind her and tapped her
shoulder gingerly. She turned around, keeping the virtual gun
pointed out, and whacked him in the chest. He couldn't help
grinning at her embarrassed expression, which quickly changed to
an expression of amused annoyance. "Sorry," she said

"You seem nervous," Brad said, trying to keep a professional yet
helpful demeanor. She nodded and formed something between a grin
and a grimace. Brad leaned against the wall and crossed his
arms. His relaxed pose was contagious, and Monica let her
shoulders slump a little. Brad looked at her appraisingly, and
said, "The Agent Reyes who pulled a gun on me this week didn't
seem one bit nervous. She was rather impressive, in fact. Where
is she now?"

Monica sighed. "That was impressive?" He nodded
enthusiastically. "Well," she began. "That other Monica was
reacting to a situation..."

"And what was different about that situation?" Brad probed.

Monica stared at the ceiling, replaying that day's events in her
mind. "I was protecting someone..." Brad could see the
proverbial light bulb go on over her head. "Someone else, not
myself," she added.

"Aren't you worth protecting?" he asked, then quickly answered,
"I think you are."

Monica took a deep breath and turned toward the simulator. "I
want to try again," she said with determination. "Turn it on,"
she ordered. Brad complied, and watched as Monica's eyes scoured
the field for danger... dangers to herself... She held back
until seeing a man pull a gun, and she shot him, hitting him in
the shoulder.

"Good!" Brad said, applauding energetically. "Let's try another
one." He watched her performance as it steadily improved, and by
the end of the afternoon, both teacher and student felt the
satisfaction of a task attempted and mastered.

"Thank you," Monica said as they were walking to his car. "I
needed your encouragement."

"That's what supervisors are supposed to do," he answered,
somewhat paternally. "It's my job."

After dropping her off at her apartment, Brad drove back to his
office to take notes. "A model of self-control," he thought,
congratulating himself on his restraint that afternoon.

That evening Joe seemed very solicitous when he picked Monica up
at what was now their usual time. In the car, he kissed her
tenderly, more tenderly than he had to now. She sighed into the
kiss and responded with tender motions of her own, but pulled
back as he became more passionate.

"What's this about?" she asked, flirtatious yet genuinely

"I've been thinking about you all afternoon," he answered,
stroking her hair. "You shouldn't have seen what you saw this
morning." He watched his hand as it moved down and slightly
backward, behind her ear, but his eyes were seeing the morning's
autopsy. "You are such a sensitive," he interrupted himself
deliver one short, tender kiss on the lips. "sweet," he kissed
her again, "wonderful person..." He pulled back and looked into
her eyes. "You're the last person who should be working in that

Monica's breathing heaved as she fought to suppress her rising
anger. "I'm going to try to make it work," she answered as
straight-forwardly as she could. "Please don't make an issue of
this..." She waited for him to answer, and when his eyes became
even more pitying, she added, "I'll be fine... Really." Her
raised eyebrows signaled her determination to change topics, but
Joe seemed not to notice.

"Monica, if my partner -- an experienced cop who's seen
everything -- can't deal with this kind of case, why do you think
you can? You're a lot like him. I just can't see...." he
stopped when he noticed her angry expression, and decided to get
to the point. "You should ask for a transfer. You've just
started. You don't even have a partner yet... Your supervisor
has seen how sensitive you are..."

At the mention of Brad, Monica became suspicious. "Are you
jealous of my supervisor?" she exclaimed, raising her voice.

"No!" he belted out, a little too quickly.

"You don't have *any* reason to be jealous, Joe," she placed her
hand on his forearm. "I'm with you. I have no feelings for

"I'm not jealous, I---" Joe protested, but Monica closed the
subject with a kiss.

She pulled away from him and said, "Now, let's get to the gym. I
can't wait to get started on chi breathing." The smidgen of
disdain that swept across Joe's face did not escape her notice.
"and I want to get back into that hot-tub," she added, putting
her hand on his thigh.

At the gym, Dennis Gray greeted Monica with enthusiasm. She was
touched to find that he'd brought books and pamphlets on Taoism,
Chi Kung, and Shaolin philosophy. She opened a pamphlet and

"There are many wonderful benefits derived from practicing chi
kung, and they may be generalized into the following five

Curing illness and promoting health.
Enhancing vitality and developing internal force.
Promoting youthfulness and longevity.
Expanding the mind and the intellect.
Spiritual cultivation.

Many chi kung types focus on only one or two of the above
categories, but a few cover all the five. For example, most types
of medical chi kung aim mainly at curing illness, virtually all
sexual types of chi kung emphasize solely on youthfulness,
whereas Shaolin Cosmos Chi Kung touches on all the above five
categories of benefits."

Sexual chi kung? She was intrigued. "What is chi kung, really?
It's not just breathing?"

"You start with breathing, but it has many aspects. It is
energy, in your being. Breathing is the central aspect, and the
one we focus on in classes here. It is essential to all other
aspects of chi." Despite his ethnic ambiguity, Monica felt as if
she were in the presence of a Chinese sage.
A smile spread over Monica's face, a smile of admiration. He
noticed and watched in amusement as she read on:

"All great kung fu makes use of energy training (which is chi
kung) to develop internal force, without which it remains at its
external, mechanical level, considered by Chinese martial artists
as rough and low-class. Hence, a kung fu master may look, and
actually is, gentle, yet with his internal force he can cause
much damage to his opponent if he wishes. Moreover, his internal
force does not diminish with age, and he can apply it for
peaceful use in his daily living. Unlike in many other systems of
martial arts where the training itself often results in physical
as well as emotional injuries, kung fu training with chi kung
enhances harmonious chi flow, thus promotes health, vitality and
longevity." (from: http://www.shaolin-wahnam.org/chikung.html)

She set the pamphlet on a chair and said, "Dennis? How do I
He answered, "We start with the proper way to address your chi
kung or kung fu master. Call me "Sifu", which is the Cantonese
word for "Master." You may also call me "master." I am not a
great master, but if a great master answers you when you call him
"Sifu", you are honored because it shows he accepts you as a

Monica blushed and bowed her head instinctively. "Sifu," she
corrected herself. Sifu Gray led her through a series of
exercises designed to focus her energy, or "chi," as she
breathed. After ten minutes she felt not just her lungs, but her
entire body cleared, and her mind was more relaxed than it had
been in years. The registered students started to arrive, but
Sifu Gray made no moves to wrap things up with Monica. "They
will wait," Sifu said calmly when he saw her becoming distracted.
"The student waits for the master."

He took her through a few more steps then announced she was
finished. She was startled but instinctively bowed and thanked
him. He looked at the students practicing their kicks, then used
his eyes to lead hers to the students. "What do you see there?"

"People doing exercises, fighting motions..." her voice trailed
off into a question.

"No, you see an outward manifestation of chi. For most American
students, chi is a necessary precursor to the outward
manifestation which is kung fu. But the Shaolin philosophy will
develop a person in all her physical, emotional, mental and
spiritual aspects. Are you interested in more than the
physical?" Monica nodded seriously. "There is a temple in
Queens, founded by a great master from China. You should go
there. The classes here are not for you."

Monica's eyebrows raised in surprise, then realized his humility
was a part of the philosophy he lived. "Okay," she said
cautiously. He turned over a pamphlet and she saw the address.
She smiled and bowed briefly. "Thank you Sifu."

An Office Romance, by Scifinerdgrl Part 6

Monica's sense of calm, serenity, and purpose stayed with her as
she pedaled the exercycle, then went, alone, to the hot tub. She
breathed deeply and relaxed in the tub, nearly falling asleep, as
several people joined her. By the time Joe arrived she was ready
to get out, but she stayed. His eyes sparkled when he saw her,
and he kissed her as soon as he'd positioned himself next to her.
"Have a good work-out?" Monica asked, trying to keep the
conversation suitable for public display.

"Great. I feel like a million bucks!" He kissed her again, then
put his arm around her shoulders and leaned back. "Inspired, you
might say..." He nuzzled her neck and whispered into her ear,
"But I'm ready for more of a work-out at your place..." She
responded by putting her hand on the back of his neck.

"Let's go then," she whispered back. Fifteen minutes later they
were hungrily undressing each other just inside the front door of
her apartment.

This time, thought Monica, things will be better. Joe picked her
up as if she weighed a few ounces, and carried her to her futon.
He laid her down gently, and trailed kisses over her cheeks,
neck, and breasts. She felt like a princess as he murmured
compliments about her body. She breathed deeply -- almost chi
breathing, she thought -- and languidly writhed under his
ministrations. He nibbled on one nipple as he fondled the other,
sending tingles throughout her body. With his other hand he
traced a path downward, rubbing gently over her belly, in a
switchback pattern that slowly reached its goal. He let out a
low growl as he found her wetness, and she parted her legs for
him. Keeping his mouth and hand on her nipples, he played in her
crevices, tickling and fondling his way forwards and backwards.
She writhed and moaned as his pressure built, then groaned in
disappointment as he let go and made motions as if to position
himself to enter her. She grabbed his hand and directed it back,
and whimpered, "please." He obliged her, and continued working
the places that her body told him were the most sensitive. When
she started to buck he slipped two fingers into her and let her
grind against him, humming and purring as they worked together to
bring her to the brink.

"Now?" he whispered huskily.

"Now," she answered, just as huskily. He rose on his elbows and
mounted her, carefully aiming his member for her slick opening.
The loss of his touch, even for a few seconds, set Monica back,
but she felt confident she would respond quickly enough this
time. Joe started thrusting slowly, and Monica felt her desire
building, but she was far from climaxing, and the quick increase
in Joe's breathing made her panic. 'Not yet, please!' she cried
out mentally. He grunted and she felt his hot breath against her
ear. Suddenly her mind filled with a mental image that sent her
over the edge into a mind-blowing climax that in turn sent Joe
over the edge. The mental image was of Brad.


She ran through the woods, leaping over boulders and logs in
graceful movements, her breath coming in deep, warm pants.
Behind her, rustling sounds told her that he was getting
closer... and maybe bigger.... She came to a meadow, an oasis of
calm, and ran to the middle... Her breathing still labored but
gradually calming, she turned a 360-degree circle, checking for
predators, jumping every time she saw a leaf turning in the
breeze... From behind her, she heard a rushing sound, and turned
to see an enormous lion running toward her, its teeth bared, its
mane flowing with powerful grace. Suddenly, she felt herself
running again, and she ran circles around the perimeter of the
meadow, the lion close behind her. She tripped and fell, and on
the ground, close to her head, she heard a loud hiss. She looked
over and saw a snake slithering toward her, its forked tongue
preceding its wide, brightly colored body. Before she could roll
out of the way, the lion was on her, pinning her, not letting her
move, its hot breath on her neck. She screamed the loudest
silent scream she'd never heard, and tried to push the lion off
of her chest, using her hands, knees and head against it.
Suddenly, the lion went limp, and she rolled out from under it
just in time to see it collapse to the ground and breathe its
last breath.

The snake slithered out from under the lion and wrapped itself
seductively around her body, making her writhe in pleasure as its
body wove a slithering path around her limbs, belly and then....
Brad's body was on top of hers, his long arms enveloping her, his
long fingers weaving irresistibly through her hair, his legs
forming a braid with hers... He was moving rhythmically,
churning inside her body, hissing into her ear, speaking words
she didn't understand...

Monica awoke in a sweat, feeling hot, wet, and smelly. She
opened a window and was greeted by the barking of her neighbor's
dog. She watched for a moment as it threatened another
neighbor's stubborn cat. After the cat slowly walked away and
the barking subsided, she started her shower, letting the water
wash away the seeping feelings that had awakened her.

Brad sat staring at his computer screen, an e-mail from A.D.
Williams staring back at him. How was Agent Reyes' training
coming? Has he decided who should be her partner?

He sighed and swivelled his chair back and forth, moving only a
few inches, unaware that he was doing it, and equally oblivious
to the slight squeak emanating from under the seat. A page in
his hand swayed gently in response to the motions of the chair.
Brad's eyes once again drifted from the computer to the sheet.
Which agent?

Alvarez... No, looks like racism to pair two Hispanics

Blake... No, he's going to retire in a few years and just doesn't
care anymore

di Martino... He tried to picture Vinny, a large, wild-haired
Italian with salt and pepper hair, always dressed in dapper yet
conservative suits, always smiling broadly in the elevator, the
only one of the older agents on Brad's side... but when Brad
closed his eyes only Joe's face came to his mind. Joe was so
much like a young Vinny....

Franklin.... Maybe... Jacob was not the ripest tomato on the
vine, and he often created tight spots that his partner Alvarez
had to fix... but he was honest, dependable, a straight-arrow...
devoted to his wife...

Brad shook his head and tried to focus. He had to decide before
Agent Reyes returned from the communications center with her new
cellphone and an e-mail account. He ran a hand through his hair
and sighed. Next...

Gentile, Jones, Kelly, LaMontaine... all had applied for Brad's
job, and he didn't know yet whether they'd be loyal. From the
looks they gave him in the elevator, he knew it would be an
uphill battle.

Norris... No, looks like sexism to pair two women

O'Brien... Kelly's partner and good friend

Follmer threw the page onto his desk then leaned his elbows on
his desk and put his head in his hands. The other five are no
better, even his own former partner.

Janet knocked softly on the open door, and asked cautiously,
"Agent Follmer, is there something I can help you with?"

Brad smiled. "No, Janet. Just wrestling with my first executive
decision... Who should be Monica's partner.... I need to give
whoever it is some notice in case they have an objection..."

"You know yourself how important partners are," she said
knowingly. "Mis-matched partners cost Mike a lot of time."

"Exactly," Brad said, a touch of relief in his voice. "Monica's
so new... her partner will also be her trainer."

Janet sat down across from him and slouched forward in a
listening posture. "But you'll still be training her, too," she
said reassuringly. "And you've told me yourself she's got a lot
of potential." Brad nodded. "So why the worries?"

Brad knew the answer, and he suspected she knew it too. Nobody
was good enough for her. Except possibly him.

Monica interrupted Brad and Janet's tete a tete. "I'm sorry I'm
late," she said tentatively. From their body language she could
tell they'd been discussing something privately, and she took a
step backwards. "I'll just wait out..."

Janet stood up and turned around. "Have you had your coffee
break yet, Monica?" she asked, walking toward here purposefully.
Monica shook her head, her mouth open as if to speak. "Good,
let's go get some coffee & get caught up." She grabbed Monica's
briefcase and after stuffing it into the kneehole of her desk,
shooed her toward the door. "Agent Follmer isn't ready for you
just yet... we might as well..."

They walked to the deli then stood outside, Janet smoking as
Monica warmed her hands with her cup. "So," started Janet. "How
are things with Joe. I've been dying to hear more... Is he
taking you on a real date yet?"

Monica closed her eyes and inhaled, just as smoke wafted toward
her from the end of Janet's cigarette. She remembered her
seventh-grade experiments in smoking -- girl talk in the girls'
room, waving the smoke toward the vents and the window, throwing
the butts in the toilet... Fond memories... "I don't know,
Janet..." she sighed. "I like him, but..."

"Aw, hon," Janet said compassionately. "What's wrong?"

Monica's breath became ragged, but she managed to keep her
composure. "It's too soon... I'm not sure..." She watched
enviously as Janet inhaled a deep drag. "I'm new here..."

"Give it a chance, Mon." Janet said, puffs of smoke accompanying
each word. "You just met him. He sounds so nice..."

"He is," Monica sighed. With growing enthusiasm, she listed his
virtues, not the least of which was his athletic body. Janet
grinned as she pictured this man who could be any one of her
cousins. "You're right," Monica concluded. "He's a good man, a
wonderful man... It's too soon to tell."

Brad heard the cheerful chatter of the two women as they left the
elevator, and he hit 'send' on his e-mail, finalizing his
response to Williams: Give me until Monday.

For the next two hours, Brad and Monica sat in a roomful of new
agents, listening to a dry lecture about policies and forms: how
to know which forms to use, how to fill out forms, how to file
forms, where to get more forms, what to do if you make a mistake
on a form...

Monica's head fell forward suddenly, and she snapped it back as
Brad chuckled quietly. "Pay attention, Agent Reyes," this is
important stuff, he whispered through the side of his mouth.

"Sorry," she whispered back, her head intentionally bent forward
now, her eyes peering up at his.

He bent forward and surreptitiously faced her. He was smirking,
his eyes sparkling in amusement. "Have a late night last night?"
he asked.

Monica eyes flashed an angry glare, then returned to face the
speaker. "None of your business," she muttered out of the side
of her mouth. Chastised, Brad slid forward and looked to the
front of the room, affected an interested pose. After a moment
he whispered, "Sorry."

Brad invited both Janet and Monica to lunch and they accepted.
After laughing about the boring lecture, Brad said, "And
anyway... Who needs to know anything when they have a secretary
like Janet?"

"Administrative Assistant," Janet corrected. "And thank you."

The three studied their salads carefully as Brad sighed and
mentally kicked himself, thinking 'whoever invented the phrase
thank god it's Friday never had one like this...'

It was Monica who finally broke the silence. "So, Janet," she
said, with an excess of enthusiasm. "Do you have plans for the
weekend?" Brad looked at Monica with gratitude, but she her eyes
were focused on Janet, so he followed their gaze.

"Tomorrow is my cousin's birthday party. We're having a party
for him out on the Island..."

"Where?" Monica asked, genuinely puzzled.

"Long Island," Brad offered. "Sorry, we keep forgetting you're
new to New York. I had to learn these things too. Don't worry,
you'll catch up. You seem like a quick study." The expression
on Brad's face was sweet, sensitive, and a little amused, while
at the same time admiring. Monica blushed and looked down, the
skin of her cheek somehow feeling the gentle caress that he
wished could accompany his words.

Janet's fork hovered mid-air, as if to torture the tiny tomato
below. In her fifty years, Janet had learned a lot about people,
and she knew what she was seeing. But she'd never seen it in
Brad before. His devotion to his job, to his victims' families,
and to Mike, was so passionate that she thought she'd never see
him like this. Knowing this could be trouble, she looked at
Monica's face, hoping to find confirmation that Brad was not
heading for trouble. She didn't find it.

They spent the afternoon at a personality typing seminar run by a
consulting firm. Brad suspected this part of Monica's training
was really set up for his benefit, and he made a point of playing
the attentive student. For her part, Monica had encountered some
of the theories before, but she was genuinely fascinated by the
subject. For each method the students took brief tests to
determine their category.

The instructor gave them time to take the test for Myers-Briggs
typing. Monica quickly found that she was an INTP: Introverted,
intuitive, thinking, perceptive. She quickly turned to the
description of her type in their hand-out packet:

"The INTP takes his/her energy from the inner world of thoughts
(and, maybe, emotions). He/she prefers dealing with patterns and
possibilities, and making decisions on a logical basis. His/her
life is flexible, following new insights and possibilities as
they arise. He/she is quiet and detached, and adaptable (up to a
point - sometimes he/she may stop adapting, insisting that there
is a clear principle at stake). He/she is not interested in
routine, and will often experiment or change things to see if
they can be improved. He/she operates at best when solving
complex problems that require the application of intellect."

After reading her description, she peered over Brad's test, and
saw that he was an ESFJ -- her complete opposite -- extroverted,
sensing, feeling, judging. From the corner of his eye he saw
her leaning toward him and he instinctively pushed his paper to
the side, as if she were cheating on an exam. "Let me see!"
Monica said familiarly, and pulled the page toward her. "Don't
you want to look yourself up?" she said with enthusiasm.

"Monica, I know myself. I don't need to see th---" he started,
but before he could finish, she'd found his description:

"The ESFJ takes his/her energy from the outer world of actions
and spoken words. He/she prefers dealing with facts, and making
decisions on the basis of personal values. He/she likes dealing
with people, and organizes life on a personal basis. He/she is a
very warm person, seeking to maintain harmonious relationships
with colleagues and friends, who are a very important part of
his/her life. He/she can find conflict and criticism very
difficult to handle. He/she has a strong sense of duty and
loyalty, and is driven by a need to belong and be of service to

Monica leaned back and sighed. "What?" Brad asked, a little

"It sounds like the perfect type for an FBI agent -- especially
for a supervisor," she answered with admiration. Then she shoved
her results toward him for his inspection. "I'm the complete
opposite." She sighed again, "Maybe Joe is right -- I'm in the
wrong profession."

He pulled her packet toward himself and skimmed her results
aloud. "He/she operates at best when solving complex problems
that require the application of intellect," he read to her.
"What could be more perfect for this profession?" She smiled at
him, and he could see that her eyes had started to tear.
"Monica, this is all baloney. You don't need this stuff to tell
you whether you're right for your job. You know yourself, *I*
know you now... " He turned in his seat and placed his hand on
her shoulder. "I know you're in the right profession. You're a
natural. I don't need a silly quiz to tell me that."

She placed her opposite hand on his forearm. "Thanks," she said.
She squeezed his arm gently and he quickly withdrew it.

He gave her a ride home, and when they were in front of her
apartment, she turned to him and asked, "Do you have any plans
for the weekend?"

He swallowed and answered, "Working, as usual. Deciding who your
partner will be, preparing for Monday's meeting..." a look of
pity flashed across her face, and he quickly added, "And my
weekly handball game... and church of course."

Her forehead wrinkled in surprise. "You don't seem like the
religious type."

"What type would that be?" he said, obviously offended. "I go to
St. John the Divine -- in Morningside Heights. What's wrong with

"No, no, no..." Monica said, embarrassed. "I'm so sorry... I
didn't mean that..." She took a deep breath and looked at him
apologetically. "I didn't mean to offend you. I'm sorry."

"It's okay," Brad said, the hurt in his voice belying his words.
They looked at each other for a long moment, until Brad's head
started a very slight, very slow, wobble in her direction. He
snapped it back and said with finality. "And on Monday, I'll
look into getting you a car." He paused, then added, "After what
happened with your briefcase... you need to have a car."

His words pushed her out of the door, and she stood on the
sidewalk looking on in confusion as he sped away.

Myers-Briggs info from:

Later that night, Monica lay next to Joe, looking into his face
through tearful eyes. He looked back, mistaking her wistfulness
for a satisfied afterglow, and stroked her hair. "You were
fabulous again, Monica," he said softly. She couldn't help
smiling, and she stroked his chest, hoping to distract him from
her silence.

From somewhere on the floor an insistent but muffled ring
intruded. "Your cellphone is ringing," Monica said, nodding
toward his pants.

"That's not mine. It must be yours," he answered, still groggy
from their love-making.

She jumped up and frantically ran to her purse, fumbling through
its contents until finding her new cellphone. She took a deep
breath and tried to remember her instructions, then found the
correct button to push. "Hello?" she asked.

"Agent Reyes, it's Agent Follmer."

"Brad?" she repeated. She'd never heard his voice on the phone,
and at any rate wouldn't have expected a late-night call.

"We have a case... well, not really *our* case... there's been
another murder, with the same markings as that child from the
dumpster. I need you to take a look before the body's removed
from the crime scene. Are you at home?"

"Yes..." she answered, surprised by his demand.

"It's on the Island. I'm on my way, and I can pick you up. How
soon can you be ready?"

Before Monica could answer, Joe appeared beside her and put his
arm around her waist. "Who is it?" he asked with concern.

She turned to face him and said, "My supervisor. I have to go."

"Now? You haven't even had dinner," he said, nodding to the
pizza they had abandoned in favor of love-making.

"Monica? Monica?" Brad yelled into the phone. "Who's that?"

"Yes?" Monica responded to Brad's frantic voice.

"Is that Joe?" he demanded.

"Um, yes," she said, turning away from Joe and bending her head
for privacy.

"Don't tell him anything about this... PLEASE" he pleaded.

"Tell him what?" She couldn't hide the annoyance in her voice.
"I don't know anything yet!"

"I'll be there in five minutes. Be ready," he ordered, then the
phone went dead.

Monica turned to Joe and said apologetically, "I have five
minutes to get ready. He's picking me up."

"Now?" he said incredulously. "What could be so urgent?"

"Murder case on the Island..." she answered, her hand rubbing up
and down over his muscular arm. "I have to get to the scene
before they remove the body. This murder might be related to
that dumpster baby..."

Joe shut his eyes and sighed. "Monica..." he started, then
paused as her hand left his arm. "This is nuts."

"This is my job!" she protested. "I would think you, of all
people, would understand. Don't you get called out on cases?"

"Not often," he answered with calculated calm. "Only if the
detectives need help securing a scene, or the precinct is

Monica suddenly realized the truth behind Brad's seeming
snobbery. Beat cops *were* different from FBI agents. "Well,
*I* get called out on cases, apparently." Joe put his arms
around her and pulled her to him apologetically. "Joe," she said
with frustration. "I can't say no..."

He nuzzled the hair behind her ear and whispered, "I know..."
They kissed, and she could feel the kindness of his lips melting
the anger in hers. How could she resent him? she wondered.

He pulled back and held her head in his large, strong hands.
Looking into her eyes, he said warmly, "See you tomorrow? Come
to the precinct at about one?" She nodded, and he kissed her

Ten minutes later they emerged from her apartment to find Brad
Follmer leaning against his car, his arms folded over his chest.
They walked toward him until Joe stopped and pulled Monica to
him. He kissed her possessively and passionately, then pulled
away and said, "See you tomorrow, sweetie." Joe turned and
walked past Brad, meeting Brad's judgmental sneer with a smug

On the way to the crime scene Brad made a point of not mentioning
Joe. In fact, he resolved to push the mere thought of that kiss
as far from his consciousness as he could manage. Monica sighed
loudly a few times but did not initiate any conversation. Her
thoughts jumbled together, as her private and professional lives
were not thoroughly intertwined. Before pulling on to the
expressway, Brad pulled to the side of the road and put the car
in "park."

He turned in his seat, leaned toward Monica, and opened his mouth
to speak. Noticing her backing away from him, he instinctively,
pushed his back against the car door. When her body relaxed in
response, he couldn't help feeling a little hurt. "Monica," he
started, a little condescendingly.

Her response was a defiant glare. She crossed her arms and bent
her head forward, forcing her eyes to peer up at him from under
her eyebrows.

"Monica," he modulated his voice. "You're still in your training
period -- you're not supposed to be in the field..." He watched
as her body relaxed, even though her face showed confusion. "A
friend called me about this -- he'd heard about that baby... your
theory... and he thought there might be a connection." She
nodded for him to continue. "...but I know how stressful that
was for you, and I want you to know... don't feel obligated to
stay. Just take a look at the injuries, the scene... do it
quickly if you need to..."

"I think I can handle it," she said with determination. "I've
been practicing -- breathing exercises." His raised eyebrows
told her to continue. "You won't laugh?" He shook his head
earnestly, and she continued. "I've started learning chi
breathing with a kung fu master -- at Joe's gym," she added,
checking for a reaction. She found none and felt relieved. "But
I'm going to go to Shaolin temple tomorrow morning for more
spiritual instruction." Her speech became more animated, and her
hands started to wave as she described her plans. Brad couldn't
help but smile. As with most things she said or did, he found
this interest of hers endearing. She noticed his smile, and
awkwardly finished, "You don't think it's silly?"

"Not in the least," he reassured her. "We all need to find a way
to cope with this job, and I think you've found something that
could work for you." He grinned, with nothing but friendly,
albeit admiring, emotion in his face. Monica matched his grin and
sighed. "This will be your first test -- ready?" he asked. She
nodded, and he pulled onto the expressway.