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It was 4.15 in the morning as Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson pulled her car into the almost empty parking lot of the LAPD headquarters. She was tired, she was hungry, she was cranky, and she was out of chocolate. The crime scene smelled of it, and whenever she asked, everyone looked at her as if she was insane. She had been so good all day, she hadn't had any. She had looked at it, she had sniffed it, she had licked it - but none of it passed her lips. It gave her something to think about, now that the house was empty - it still took some time to get used to how quiet it was without Fritzy or Joel - it had been months since Fritz had moved out and she was starting to think he was never coming back.
Contrary to popular belief, LA wasn't always warm - it could get downright cold this time of night, it was, for all intensive purposes, a desert - she shivered in her car as she waited for the rest of the team to meet her back here. She could go up, but she was too afraid she'd fall asleep at her desk, at least the cold was keeping her awake. Her office did have her cardigan. She was pretty sure she'd stashed a Snickers bar somewhere in one of her fits. She yawned and stretched her arms, then crossed them over her chest for warmth while she waited for the guys to catch up to her.
Sharon Raydor started to suspect she didn't need sleep anymore. She started to avoid her bedroom, choosing to settle down on the couch in her living room with a book and a glass of wine. Lately, she'd dabbled in baking. Last night she made croissants. From scratch. She had even pounded her butter to release the excess moisture. When Sharon Raydor did something, she was determined to do it right. If she was desperate, she would turn on the television. She would nod off around 1 and would be up by 4. She could get a run in, be showered, dressed and at Starbucks by 6.15, she would make it into the office for 6.30.
She knew all the cars in the lot and who they belonged to. They belonged to those who, like her, who were hoping work would relieve whatever kept them from sleep. As cops, there were a lot things it could be: the crimes they witnessed, the victims they couldn't help, the criminals who went free, the unstable hours, the daily threat on their lives, the toll on their families, the toll on themselves. That's why she was surprised to find one car in specific parked in what she thought of as her spot. Not as surprised as she was to find the car's owner still in the car.
She got out of her car and stood at the driver's side window, looking down at the sleeping face of Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson. Usually, when people were asleep, they were peaceful, but not this woman, her brow knit in frustration. Sharon thought to let her keep sleeping, but knew how fast the gossip mill at Headquarters ran. She wanted to save her friend the hassle. She supposed they were friends, at least as friendly as two women like them could be. Which wasn't very friendly, despite what Brenda had introduced her to her parents as. It was hard for Sharon Raydor to have friends that she worked with - she liked to keep her friends and her work separate, her work dictated it. It was harder still when she was attracted to her friend. It wasn't a shock to her, her attraction to both men and women she had dealt with that decades ago - what was a shock to her was that this time, the attraction was towards Brenda Leigh Johnson. She generally preferred her partners to be well-dressed, well-read, and well-rounded; Chief Johnson on the other hand still dressed like this was Georgia, did nothing but work, and as for well-read, Sharon was fairly certain that the last thing she had read was the ingredients list of a bag of Reese's Pieces.
She tapped on the glass softly, glancing around to make sure no one saw her.
To be fair, the Chief was also incredibly talented at her job, sharper than she dressed, and yes - attractive, if you went in for the blond hair/pouty lipped look.
Sharon rapped on the glass, harder this time. The Chief stirred, but was still sleeping. "Oh, come on!" She grumbled, as she placed the box of croissants she was juggling and her venti cup of scalding coffee on the hood of her car and knocked loudly on the glass, still making sure no one saw her.
Eventually, the Chief's eyes popped open, startled and she sat up. She quickly wiped her eyes and rolled down the window. "Captain Raydor - I'm so sorry, I guess I fell..." Sharon noticed her accent was even thicker with sleep. That was a small detail that she wished she didn't know - it would just be one more thing to think about in between fitful bouts of insomnia. "Not at all Chief, I just wanted to make sure everything -" She stepped back and opened the door for Brenda.
"I was just -" The blond scrambled for an excuse but was too foggy to come up with one.
"It's alright. I don't think anyone saw." Sharon said, uncomfortable in her close proximity to Brenda, between the cars. She turned around and retrieved her coffee and croissants, she turned around and found Brenda peering at her with a look Sharon wasn't entirely sure she liked.
They walked in silence, shoulder to shoulder across the parking lot towards work, the sun reflecting brightly off the hoods of the cars. Without asking, Sharon offered up her cup of coffee towards the other woman, "Bless you!" The blond mumbled, taking a sip, their fingers brushing briefly in the exchange of the precious cup of coffee.
"Look like you could use it." Sharon responded.
"What I could use is whatever you have in that box." Brenda teased, taking another sip as she held the door open for the brunette beside her. They made their way to the elevator banks and with a familiar eye roll, Sharon Raydor lifted the lid and offered them up to the blond.
"Oh my - they're still...warm." She gushed, as she delicately picked one out and bit into it, stepping into the empty elevator. "Where'd you get these?" She asked, devouring the flaky creation and following it up with another sip of coffee.
"Oh, little bakery near me." Sharon kept her eyes forward, not knowing why she lied. It wouldn't have been hard to say she made them, after all it had taken nearly two days of prep and waiting. It had more to do with telling the other woman anything about herself, she guessed. The less they knew about each other, the easier it would be to go around sniping at each other. They continued their ride up in comfortable silence, until the chime went off and the doors slid open to Sharon Raydor's floor. "I suppose you want your cup back?" Brenda asked as she recognized the floor. "Keep it, Chief." The other woman said briskly as she walked out and down the hall, doing everything she could to keep from thinking of the flakey crumbs which were stuck to the other woman's lips.
Brenda didn't expect to be woken up by Sharon Raydor. Certainly not in her car. She didn't expect to ever be woken up by anyone ever again, after Fritz left. She supposed Sharon Raydor wasn't too bad to wake up to. A slight blush rose to her cheeks - she hadn't meant like that, although now that the thought was there, she couldn't help but wonder what the other woman would look like, like that, all undone without her pressed suits and her straightened hair and her lipstick. Brenda was certain that beneath all that armor Captain Raydor donned every morning, was a beautiful woman.
Not that it mattered.
Because it didn't. Sharon Raydor may be beautiful, and competent, she was also bossy, controlling and confused the hell out of her. She didn't need to wake her up this morning (although she was glad she had), and she certainly didn't need to be kind, offering up her morning coffee, or breakfast - but then to return to being almost rude as she left the elevator, not even looking at her, as if she couldn't wait leave her presence.
Brenda sighed and threw back her shoulders, preparing for whatever lay behind the opening elevator doors. No one had called her, no one had checked on her - they had, for all intensive purposes, left her. The office confirmed it, with the white board already set up for their latest case - the victim, Peter Maccey's photo already up. The guys all looked up at her, with guilty eyes but didn't say anything to her as she made her way into the middle of the room. "Well thanks, fellas!" She began. "I really appreciate it - looks like y'all have this under control, don't you?"
"Chief -" Flynn stepped up, "We didn't mean-"
"Didn't mean to what?" Brenda asked, cocking her head to one side, stepping up towards him, "To undermine me? Or my position? By all means, go on."
"Chief," Provenza began -
"What Lieutenant?" She snapped.
"We didn't mean nothing by it - it's just, you know."
"No, I don't know."
"You haven't - you know, been yourself -" He began, embarrassed.
"And so when we saw you sleepin' we figured you could use a break, it's rough, when stuff happens." Flynn continued, trying to dance around what they all knew but didn't talk about.
Fritz and her.
Fritz leaving her.
"So we started with some of the basic stuff, you know, cataloging the evidence, we were gonna wake you up-"
"Honest, Chief." Provenza chimed in, "If you weren't up by 7, we were gonna go get you, before the lot got filled."
Brenda sighed and ran her hand across her brow - they were just looking out for her. She knew it, she'd been off, moody for the last few months and it was only getting worse. They had been really sweet trying not to say anything - they knew what it was like, hell, they'd gone through more break-ups than she had boyfriends. "Well thank you, all of y'all, I'm fine. Next time though, wake me up. The last think I need is be fired - then I'd be dumped and fired." She smiled and moved towards her office where she dropped off her purse before returning to the room, "Now, where we at?"
"Uh, Chief? You uh, got a little something on your lip." Flynn pointed out before turning towards the board and began to catch her up.
She didn't like it, not one bit.
Being summoned up to Will's office mid-day was never a good thing. "You want me to what?!" She asked, making sure she heard correctly.
"I want Captain Raydor to shadow you."
"Am I being investigated for something Will?" She asked, rising from her seat and pacing around.
"No. Should you be?"
"No. So if I'm not being investigated, then why am I having that horrible woman shadow me?" Brenda was stewing, but she was too tired to be truly angry just yet.
"Sharon Raydor's smart, and good at her job; she's also stuck in F.I.D. and I want to see her branch out, get a chance to see what else is out there."
"Are you trying to sleep with her?" She asked, cranky and unable to stop herself.
"What?! That's entirely out-"
"Sorry. It's been a long, long day at the end of a long, long week." She sighed and moved to the window.
"I want her to become more experienced, see what else the LAPD can offer. I also want your team to be ready."
"Ready for what?" She asked, her shoulders squared back for a fight.
"Should anything happen, Chief Johnson, I want to make sure your department is ready."
"Should anything happen, Chief Pope? Is that a threat?"
"Not at all, Brenda." He said, "But it might be a warning. People have been asking about you. I don't know what it means, they might transfer you, they might promote you, they might just be nosy, I don't want you to be unprepared."
"No, you just want me to train my replacement."
Brenda continued to look out the window. She was getting tired, it didn't seem to stop - this constant insecurity about her job. Her life was unraveling quickly. "It won't work." She spoke finally, turning to face her boss.
"All of this. Y'all can't push me out like that-"
"We're not-" Pope began, but stopped when Brenda raised her hand up.
"And they won't accept her. Not as their boss. Not her."
"They accepted you, didn't they?"
"So Peter Maccey was killed -"
"Murdered." Provenza grunted, walking by the desk where Flynn sat, trying to catch Sharon Raydor up on the case.
"We do not know, Lt. Provenza, if he was murdered, or killed - unless there's something you're not telling me?" She smiled with an icy glare. "What we do know is that he was killed under suspicious circumstances and a small cache of art has been reported missing by his widow, the one very young, very bouncy Tammy Maccey. Am I with you all so far?"
Brenda closed the door to block out the sounds and rolled her eyes heavenward - she had done it so often over the last two days that she was starting to worry that they would get stuck there. Sharon Raydor was integrating into the team about as well as she had anticipated. Which wasn't very well. If she had any energy to care, she would've wondered who Raydor has pissed off enough to feed her to the hungry wolves of the LAPD, but she didn't care. Not really. She had a hard enough time waking up in the morning under the haze of one glass of red wine too many and making it into to work in clean clothes.
She told her parents about Fritz moving out and she had to endure her parents concern. She was only mostly sure she had convinced them not to drive cross-country to be with their baby girl. She was also only mostly sure she didn't want them to come, although some small part of her wanted to be able to crawl into her mother's lap and cry and cry and cry. She missed Fritz. She missed Joel - but she was on the verge of tears because she was realizing she didn't actually miss Fritz as a husband, she missed what he would do as a husband: make dinner, drop off the dry cleaning, clean out the litterbox. She missed him like she'd miss a roommate, or a best friend. She was lonely not because her husband left her, she was lonely because her best friend had. Try as she might, Brenda Leigh Johnson, one of the most gifted liars in the country, discovered she couldn't lie to herself for very long. She had recently come to realize that Fritz was entirely too good for her. It wasn't some self-deprecating revelation, but an honest one. Fritz took care of her, put her and her wants and her needs first. He always had. He wouldn't say much about the late nights, or early mornings; he wouldn't say much about the wine in her hand or the empty bottles in the recycling; he didn't even say much about that one year where she missed their anniversary. He dealt with it all the same way - a quiet sigh and a disappointed look before he'd return to doing whatever it was he was doing. She had come to realize that she and Fritz needed two separate things - well, actually, they both needed the same thing - a wife. Someone who would -
"Chief?" A knock at the door interrupted her thoughts as Tao popped his head in.
"Yes, come in Lt. Tao." She invited, ruffling some papers on her desk to look busy.
"Can I talk to you for a second?" He asked, nervous.
"Sure, what is it?"
"What's the deal with her?" He cocked his head towards the glass pane and Sharon. A quick turn of her head revealed Flynn being held back by Provenza before he could attack her. To make matters worse, the woman seemed to be enjoying it, egging him on. With a sigh, she pushed back from her desk and marched out towards the centre of the room.
"Seriously?" She shouted, forcing the commotion around her to stop short. "I look out my window and all I see is a schoolyard fight."
"Sorry Chief" Both men mumbled, looking down at their feet.
"You're no better, Captain Raydor. From where I was, it looked like you were instigating the whole thing." The smaller woman remarked with a pointed look towards the other woman.
"Sorry Chief Johnson."
"That's better. You're mature grown-ups. The city of Los Angels has entrusted y'all to carry loaded weapons. Act like it. I would like to remind everyone that Captain Raydor has been assigned to temporarily-" Dear lord, she hoped, anyways. "shadow us here at Major Crimes. This has come directly from Chief Delk, and so I would like everyone to treat Captain Raydor with all the respect due to her as a guest of Chief Delk, and as a fellow officer. I would also like Captain Raydor to remember she's a guest in a different department and to act accordingly. Do I make myself clear?" She turned around to take in everyone nodding silently. "I said, do I make myself clear?" She barked, louder.
"Yes Chief!" The room chimed.
"Good." With a curt nod, she marched back into her office and slammed the door.
Flynn held out his hand towards Raydor who shook it as they all settled down. "Don't worry, Captain. She's been like this all week." He explained.
"Fritz's week with Joel." Provenza explained as he sat down at his desk and took a sip of coffee.
"Her son?" Sharon asked, unable to picture Brenda as a mother.
"Her cat." Tao explained.
"Oh." She smiled, her lips curling up against her will. Leave it to Chief Johnson to be upset because she had to share custody of her cat.
When Brenda stepped back out into the room, things were quiet. Calm. Tao was on his computer showing something to Buzz and Sharon was settled into Flynn's desk looking over crime scene photos and making notes on a large yellow pad.
"Where's your bitty little thing?" Brenda asked, walking up to the other woman.
"That's for projects." Sharon replied, flicking her eyes up over the rim of her glasses before returning them down. "Yellow is for training - reference."
"I see. And Provenza and Flynn, you scare 'em off?"
"Hardly." The brunette snorted, flipping through the photos until she found what she was looking for. "They're off tracking a lead - one of the missing sketches showed up at Sotheby's. They invited me, if you could believe it." She smirked as she scrawled some questions on her pad of paper. Brenda liked the long curve of the script. It seemed so...indulgent... for someone as direct as Captain Raydor.
"Why didn't you go?"
"I'd love to - but I have a meeting in 45 minutes with Pope." She set her pen down and looked up, "Don't worry. Not about you."
"Not worried," Brenda lied. "Listen, let's head downstairs."
"Chief?" Raydor asked, lifting a brow.
"I'll have you back in plenty of time for your meeting. Come on."
The ride down could've been better timed, Brenda thought as she squeezed herself onto the packed elevator besides the brunette. She was already on guard, Brenda noticed, taking in the crossed arm posture of her companion who stared straight ahead at the sliding doors. A movement behind her forced her to shift, adjust herself until her bare arm brushed by Sharon's exposed hand. "Sorry." The blond murmured, noticing the halted breath of her companion. Curious. She shifted again, her movement deliberately slow as she dragged her arm across the other woman's fingertips, watching intently out of the corner of her eye to see Captain Raydor's reaction.
There was the sudden intake of breath, a slight setting of the jaw, a pursing of the lips. There was no shifting - if it bothered her, she was determined to bear it. Except Brenda didn't really think it bothered the other woman. It didn't bother her either. In fact, there was a peculiar little thrill to feel someone's skin on hers.
Even if it was Sharon Raydor.
Maybe because it was Sharon Raydor.
Brenda watched as her companion slowly raised an eyebrow. The corners of her lips also curved up ever so slightly. She couldn't help but feel she'd been caught - the trouble was, she didn't know what she'd been caught doing.
The days and weeks began to fall back into a routine for Brenda - she would wake up sprawled in bed alone, having willed herself to forget what it was like to wake up with someone. She would play her music loudly as she got ready. She would leave her discarded clothes where they fell. She would eat cold Chinese leftovers for breakfast. Weeks where she had custody of Joel were better than weeks where she didn't. She wouldn't describe it as fun, but it was definitely familiar - she had spent a majority of her life uncoupled - slipping back into her old way of life was like slipping into an old sweater you had found in the bottom of your dresser drawer after some years had passed.
She was sleeping more, she was smiling more, she was adjusting. So was Fritz, she had heard - when she ran into him of the lobby of headquarters, the tugs on her heartstrings weren't as sharp as she'd thought. He'd lost some weight, was up for a possible promotion, he was happy...ish. So was she.
Cross-town, Sharon Raydor contemplated the trajectory of her life as she stared at the cup of coffee in front of her. If her life was a novel, coffee would become a loaded literary symbol, weighty with meaning. If her life was a novel, she snorted, it would be going somewhere.
Captain Sharon Raydor wasn't a dumb woman - she believed in being honest, especially herself. Her father, the capitalist chalked it up to the New Englander in the Raydor family; her mother, the Psychologist chalked it up to the obstinant streak in her family. Her brother, when he was alive, chalked it up to the fact that she was just a bitch. Regardless, Sharon Raydor knew the possible options she had for her life were dwindling. Despite Delk & Pope's insistence that she shadow Major Crimes, she knew it was just for show. Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson wasn't going anywhere; and even if she was, Sharon knew she wasn't a viable candidate as a replacement. She was seen as too old to lead such a high profile team. She had been stuck too long in F.I.D. and missed her chance to branch out earlier. She supposed she could always move back to the East Coast - the kids were there for school and she knew of at least 4 publishers who'd be willing to hire her.
Every couple of months these moments and thoughts would would hit her, linger for a few days, then disappear. This time, they didn't disappear. They were with her when she woke up, trailed behind her for her morning run, sat in the passenger seat during the drive to work and would wander around her office until it was time for them to go home again. These thoughts even followed her on her date last night - she had to feign a headache to escape, unable to focus on anything her date, Jack, had said. She came home and baked again. Devil's Food Cake.
She wrapped her hands around her still-steaming coffee and glanced around her office at F.I.D. - it was still too early for anyone to have come in. She liked these moments in her life. Quiet. Half-lit. It was perfect for thinking - and lately she found herself thinking about a particular person. She knew that this growing feeling wasn't real - it was just misplaced frustrations at her current situation, one didn't listen to endless lectures from her mother without learning a thing or two about self-analyzation. But that didn't stop her from allowing herself this one indulgence. She took a sip of her coffee and sighed - it was bad enough that that woman was constantly intruding on her actual life, but the intrusion on her inner life was just inexcusable.
Brenda was developing a new-found appreciation for coffee. Which wasn't particularly a welcome appreciation as she had entirely too many vices to contend with - she didn't need coffee in addition to the sugar and the wine. Every morning she would stop by the cart on the ground floor of headquarters and order a large coffee, Dominican style. She didn't even know what Dominican style meant until she watched Captain Raydor order it a few weeks ago when she first began shadowing Major Crimes.
No matter how often she ordered it, it never tasted the same way it did, coming from Sharon Raydor's cup - dark and rich, with an unexpected burst of sweetness. Life was slowly being shifted from a before Fritz/After Fritz perspective to a Before Raydor/After Raydor. She kept trying to tell herself it was the fact that that she was essentially training her replacement that made her a figure of importance in her life, but she couldn't make herself believe it. If she was so worried about her job, she would've been lighting a fire under Will Pope's ass; or polishing her resume; maybe sending out feelers - but she hadn't. She was curious to see what would happen - as if her life wasn't hers anymore, just something that took on a life of its own.
With coffee in hand, Brenda made her way upstairs. She was early...ish. Tao's computer was on, but he wasn't at his desk. She entered her office and flipped on the lights - it wasn't until she had turned to set her coffee down to pull open the blinds did she notice her desk. Mainly, what was on the desk. Which was a cake. Chocolate to be precise. She sniffed the air - expensive chocolate. Callebaut or Valrhona. She approached the cake and eyed it suspiciously. It wasn't her birthday - there was no reason for the cake. And yet, there it was. She swiped a fingerful of icing and popped it into her mouth quickly before her mind questioned the action - Callebaut cocoa, she could taste the milder flavor. "Morning Chief!" Tao popped his head in, "Nice cake, what's the occasion?"
"I was hoping you could tell me, Lt. Tao?"
"Got me." He shrugged, "I was going through the phone dumps from last night - I got nothing, but we did recover a cell - so I'm waiting for the records on that."
"Very good..." She responded, "Any news on the wife?"
It was driving her crazy, it was toying with her emotions, just standing there, all chocolaty and rich and good. And oh Lord was it good - the lick of frosting from earlier in the morning was all that she let herself have until she could figure out where it came from, and why. There was no note, no receipt, no box, nothing. Not even a hint. All morning long she'd wracked her mind trying to think of who it could be and what it's meaning was. So far she had come up with zero viable leads and this wasn't acceptable.
Some perps needed to be finessed; manipulated into revealing their guilt and some just needed to be confronted flat out. Luckily, Chief Johnson was getting tired of being taunted by a chocolate cake - the sooner she could figure out the meaning, the sooner she could eat it - and decided to try the second approach. She grabbed the cake and marched into the middle of the room. "This is a chocolate cake." She announced loudly, halting the work around her. "It was on my desk this morning when I got in. There was no note. There was no box. There wasn't even a damned horse's head. I want to know who dropped it off and why?"
No one said anything. Someone's cell phone went off but was quickly silenced. She met the eyes of every one in the room, but could find no trace of deception amongst them. If she was supposed to be this crack, C.I.A. trained investigator, how could she not solve a question about cake? Perhaps, she thought, she should be replaced.
"Nothing? Y'all know nothing about how this cake, chocolate with Callebaut cocoa made it's way to my desk? Did it just walk there, Lt. Flynn?"
"No ma'am." He responded, eyeing her with a smile.
"And why not, Lt. Flynn?"
"'Cause cakes don't have legs ma'am."
"'Cause cakes don't have legs is ri-"
"Are you going to share the cake, Chief? Or are you just rubbin' your lady gifts in our faces?" Provenza asked.
"I am not rubbin' your noses in my ... lady gifts." She sighed. "But there will no cake unless someone gets me some answers."
The cell phone went off again - and that's when Brenda noticed it. A small detail, microscopic - a smudge of dried brown frosting on a white cuff as the arm it belonged to reached out and grabbed their phone. "Back to work." She sighed as she placed the cake off on Provenza's desk.
She went to the break room and scrounged up some paper plates and forks. She clutched the edge of the counter and shut her eyes as she took a moment to compose herself. Oooooh - that woman. What games was she playing at? It wasn't bad enough that first she was everywhere Brenda was, but now tormenting her with the cake? If Sharon Raydor thought she could bake her way to the top, she had another thing coming. She grabbed the cutlery and plates and stomped back to the room where she proceeded to cut off a giant slab for herself and forcefully shoved a bite into her mouth. "Oh." She braced herself on the edge of a desk. Perhaps she had been too hasty - maybe Sharon Raydor could bake her way to the top, especially with a cake like that. It was light, airy, and moist. It was a perfect companion for the rich, dark frosting that melted on the tongue. The matching looks of appreciation on the men's faces around the room confirmed it - it was damned good cake. The desk shifted slightly as Flynn leaned against it beside her and nudged her shoulder. "So you figured it out?" He asked as he shoveled another piece into his mouth.
"I did." She replied as she speared a piece from his plate.
"Care to share who it was?"
"Not at all." She smiled, enjoying this feeling of having a secret that was hers and hers alone
"A secret admirer?" He asked, scraping the last of the frosting off the plate.
"No. Nothing like that." She glanced around the room but didn't see who she was looking for. "Seen Raydor?"
"The witch?" He asked, "Think she went out, call from F.I.D. or something."
"You know I wish you wouldn't call her that." She said, rising up from the table.
"I think she likes it, Chief."
Brenda pushed past the doors put into the quiet halls. The change in the air was drastic - it was cool and still here. She spotted Sharon Raydor leaning her shoulder on the wall, speaking quietly into the phone. Brenda took a breath and watched the other woman, taking a rare opportunity of having the upper hand. She wasn't quiet sure of how to approach this - the stops and starts of kindness and affection were at best difficult to read but more frustrating than anything else. "You going to watch me all day, Chief Johnson?" The other woman asked, still facing away from Brenda.
"How - never mind." She shook her head, what was it about this woman that made her want to stamp her feet like a four year old? "Everything alright downstairs?"
"Yes Chief." Sharon pushed herself upright and turned to face the blond. "They had trouble finding a file."
"I see. You're missing cake."
A moment passed between them, a weary look being exchanged. Neither woman knew what the other was after and it wa-
"Would you like to have dinner with me tonight?" The question was asked and both women looked confused at where it came from. "What I meant to ask was" Brenda began, hoping to clarify. "Would you like to...have dinner with me tonight?"
It seemed there wasn't much to clarify.
"So," Brenda began, handing her menu back to the waiter, "I never thanked you for the cake."
"I don't know what you're talking about." Sharon Raydor responded, meeting the Chief's calm gaze with an equally calm one.
"You had a few flakes of dried frosting on your sleeve," Brenda explained, taking Sharon's wrist in her hand and flipping it over, "Right here." She said, indicating where it she had seen the telltale stain.
There it was again, Brenda noticed, the sharp intake of breath. If she didn't know any better, she'd think the other woman was - "If I can have my hand back, Chief?" Her companion asked, one eyebrow raised. Brenda released her grasp on the other woman's wrist and watched as the brunette took her hand back and slowly let out her breath. There would be moments, shorter than a second, that she thought she could see the cracks in the other woman's armor, but before she could be sure, everything would be back the way it was. It was like trying to catch something moving out of the corner of your eye, but never being fast enough. "Yes, Chief?"
"You look like you want to say something." The other woman set her eyes on Brenda as she took a sip of her Gin & Tonic.
"After all the -" She waved her hand in the air to try to capture their past, "You can call me Brenda."
"I suppose that means you want to call me Sharon?"
"Are you going to be downright adversarial all night, Captain? Because if so, I'm going to need more than a glass of wine." She took a sip of the Merlot. It was expensive, but delicious. She was glad Raydor had convinced her to get it, though she would never admit it.
"I don't know Brenda, I haven't planned that far in advance." The brunette cocked her head to the side and smiled.
"You don't like me." Brenda stated, placing her glass down on the table.
"I don't know you."
"Shar? I haven't seen you in AGES! How are you?!" Both women snapped their heads towards the intruder, a small, slender redhead at the side of their table.
"Don't exaggerate Mel, it's only been a few weeks. How are you?" Sharon sprang up from her chair and met her friend, "Would you excuse us for a second?" Sharon asked, tossing the question over her shoulder as she corralled the other woman away.
"Oh, honey, are you on a date? I'm so sor-" Brenda couldn't hear anything past the roar of wine coming back up her throat! She clamped her lips shut and swallowed firmly.
With Sharon Raydor?
What kind of prescription pills was that woman on, she wondered as she watched the two women talk. Sharon had brought them to the edge of where the dining area met the bar and they stood close to each other. Brenda watched her through new eyes, she watched her like she would watch a suspect, and from where she stood - it certainly did look like Sharon Raydor was both flirting and being flirted with. The redhead laughed and placed a hand high on Sharon's chest. Sharon then responded by brushing a stray bit of hair back from the other woman's face. It was curious, watching this never-berfore-seen side of Sharon Raydor come out. She shifted in her seat when she noticed both women turn to face her. She gave a quick wave and smoothed down her skirt. Suddenly, she wished she wore anything but this, she felt very ... southern all of a sudden as she compared herself to the two women she was watching. Mel, the very obviously dyed redhead with her hands all over Sharon was clad in simple black pants and a black tank - both looking very expensive, and very tight. Sharon looked beyond put together in her navy pants and cream silk shirt. Brenda hated how the other woman could do that - be so well dressed - especially on what she knew was a Captain's salary. They both fit in with the sharply dressed Friday crowd at the restaurant Sharon chose - she did not. Brenda couldn't help but wonder what else she didn't know about Sharon Raydor - everything she knew was from her personnel file, in fact, it was her mother that told her about 'her friend' Sharon's kids. Willie Rae simply thought the world of Sharon Raydor after Christmas which made Brenda wonder what was it that she was showing the world that she was hiding from the whole of the L.A.P.D.?
"Sorry about that," Sharon said, sliding back into her seat. "An old friend."
"Not at all. It was fun, seeing you like that. You know, with friends." Brenda teased, pulling herself together to focus.
"I have friends, you know. Just not at work." The brunette huffed, only mostly serious.
"I'm sure you do, 'Shar' -" The blond teased, reaching out a hand to the other woman's shoulder. She didn't know why she did that. Judging by the look on Sharon Raydor's face, neither did she. She jerked her hand back and placed it in her lap. "So, what did you two talk about?"
"Mutual friends - we hadn't seen each other in a few weeks and-"
"Why did she ask if this was a date?" Brenda interrupted, watching the other woman's actions intently.
"Because-" Sharon began, not missing a beat. "Two people are sharing a meal together after work on a Friday night in a nice restaurant in L.A." There wasn't a misplaced movement, no twitch, no wayward glance. Brenda couldn't read her right now, which was pretty dangerous for a woman who'd spent her whole life reading people.
"We're two women."
"Women have been known to date other woman, Chief. Even down there in Georgia." Sharon crossed her arms and watched with delight as Brenda processed their exchange. She was taking enjoyment in this as payback for Brenda grabbing her wrist earlier. She was fairly certain the blond knew she had an affect on her.
"On occasion. She was an ex. But don't worry Chief Johnson, I have my own ride." She watched as Brenda blushed at the mention of their earlier interaction.
The women each too a sip of their drinks, unsure of where to go from here. "I would, however, appreciate if this was kept between ourselves."
"Of course, Captain."
"I don't want to be fodder for the rumour mill." She rushed, eager to explain her hesitation. Not that she needed to, but it felt very ... different for Sharon to feel so exposed. She had never hid her sexuality - except at work, where she hid everything; every defining characteristic was swept under the rug, hidden and guarded from those around her not because she was ashamed, but because her job demanded it.
"Am I the first person, from work, who knows?" Brenda asked, leaning forward. She couldn't explain this sensation - it felt like she was at Jenny Lewis' sleepover in the fourth grade all over again - sharing secrets and staying up late. It made her feel lonely and excited at the same time.
"How many times have you been called a bitch, Chief?"
"Or a dyke, or a cun-"
"I get it." Brenda held her hand up. There was no need to repeat the litany of insults suspects hurled at them; she was familiar with most of them. "It happens. More times than I can count."
"Exactly." Sharon agreed, thanking the waiter as he set down their meal before them. "That's from the ''bad guys', the killers and the rapists and the thieves who at least have the decency and the balls to say it to your face. When men call me that, they're cops, the 'good guys'. And they don't have the integrity to come at me and say it. They're saying it behind my back, or under their breath, or scribbling it on a white board. I'm already a target for what I do and how I do it; I don't want to be a target for who I do too." She finished before turning her attention towards the sushi on the plate in front of her.
It was that last part that stuck with Brenda - 'who I do'. She had never thought of Sharon Raydor having sex - but the idea didn't repulse her in the same way thinking about Provenza or Buzz or dear Lord, even Will having sex did. In fact, for the first time in a very, very long time, Brenda could feel a flush spreading across her cheeks. She turned her head down to focus on the noodles before her.
"Do you want some?" Sharon asked, pointing to her plate with her chopsticks.
"No, no - I'm fine. I like my bait on a hook, not on a plate." Brenda joked, popping a noodle in her mouth.
"I, I hope this hasn't changed anything between us, Chief?" Sharon asked, the hesitation obvious in her voice. It was...sweet. Sharon was scared. Or as much fear as she could show.
"Not at all. Was it a hard break up?"
"How long ago?" Brenda asked, taking a sip of wine.
"Are you trying to draw me out of my shell, Chief?" Sharon asked, setting down her chopsticks.
"What about you?"
"What about me?" Brenda countered.
"Anything about you." Sharon responded, tilting her head ever so slightly to the side. Brenda had forgotten that Sharon was a capable interrogator herself.
"My husband Fritz left two months ago." She responded.
"Your turn." Brenda smiled.
"A year ago - sometimes two people just don't...fit."
"A year ago? No wonder you're always so wound up." Brenda smiled, bumping her shoulder against Sharon's. "Celibate for a year."
"I never said anything about celibate. The wonderful thing about being our age...s." She smiled, acknowledging the difference between them, "Is that you don't have to explain or justify anything to anyone anymore." Sharon picked her drink up and held lightly touched it up to Brenda's wine glass.
Brenda thought about that as she watched her companion return to her meal. She was an adult. She was free to make her own choices. She always had been, she supposed, but for the first time, she believed it. The question is, what would she do? What did she want to do?
"Are you ok?" Sharon asked, peering at her, a piece of sashimi hovering in front of her.
"Yes." Brenda answered, her voice trembling slightly. "Yes I am."
"Good." Sharon responded, "You've splattered sauce on you."
"You don't talk much about your children." Brenda said, setting down her fork on the empty dessert plate which lay between them.
"What's there to talk about?" Sharon eyed her. "I have children. Two, if because I know you'll ask."
"So why don't you mention them?"
"Because there's nothing worse than those women who have bred and now incessantly insist on talking about their children, assuming everyone wants to see their photos or hear their stories."
"Do you have photos of them? Because I've heard some mothers eat their young at birth." Brenda tried to hide her smile. She knew the women Sharon was complaining about - they were the ones who would never make it far, who would gather at the coffee machine, who would stop chatting when she would walk into the bathroom. They would cast her looks, pitying or glaring when all she wanted was to be left alone, able to go to the bathroom in unobserved peace. The thought of Sharon Raydor ever being confused for those women made her smile.
"Just for that I won't show you." Sharon replied, shooting a patented icy glare in her direction. The look didn't land, it didn't scare Brenda.
For once she saw through the armor.
Sharon slipped into bed. This, in and of itself was a rare event, usually preferring to fall asleep on the couch. By the time she made it home it had been almost one and between the drink and the conversation she was feeling optimistic enough to hope she could fall asleep in her own, empty bed.
The problem was once the lights were off and the blankets pulled up, she couldn't fall asleep. It wasn't her usual bout of insomnia but something entirely forgotten and familiar. It would only lead to trouble, but it didn't matter. For one night, Sharon Raydor decided with a small smile, she wouldn't worry about it. She would enjoy every excruciating moment until she fell asleep - when she woke up, it would be a new day.
She turned on her side and gazed out the window. The full moon shone through the branches of the lemon trees outside and the wind rustled their leaves. She remembered when they had planted the trees, how small they were. Her kids refused to believe it'd grow but they had, both the trees and her children.
Brenda had complicated things.
Tonight Brenda had been sweet and she had been charming, and she had been kind. If she hadn't been southern, Sharon would've been convinced the blond had been flirting with her. Sharon had been perfectly happy ignoring her growing attraction to co-worker. Or, if she wanted to be accurate, her boss. Brenda was higher ranked, and given her growing involvement with Major Crimes, her immediate superior. These were the things she wouldn't worry about until tomorrow.
A sigh escaped Sharon's lips and rang out in the empty room. She could imagine it sliding out of the room, floating down the stairs and out the windows to be carried off by the same wind that ruffled the leaves, or her hair as she stood out beside Brenda by their cars.
Brenda Leigh Johnson always filled her with a feeling of uncertainty - as if the axis on which her life could stop at any moment - they had both, surprisingly, enjoyed spending time together. If asked, Sharon wasn't sure she could even remember what they spoke about - but she could remember the sound of their laughter, or the smile that reached all the way to the Chief's brown eyes.
She could remember the way Brenda had placed a hand on the small of her back as she followed her through the tight path between the tables, and how she kept it there until they made it to the front door. She could tell you about the breeze that blew past them, mussing hair and Brenda's skirt.
She could tell you about the hesitation she felt as they stood between their cars about to say goodnight. She could tell you about the distinct suspicion she had that neither of them really wanted the night to end, so they stood there, in the breeze talking until there was nothing left to talk about.
She could tell you about how she had turned around to unlock her door and how she had felt Brenda slide her shaking hand into hers - suddenly time seemed to stop for Sharon, all noise and movement and thought froze as she felt the contact of skin on skin and the spark of electricity pass between them. Before she could turn around, she felt Brenda drop her hand with a gasp. As quick as she could, the other woman muttered a hasty goodbye and got into her car, driving off before she even buckled her seatbelt, leaving Sharon to wonder just what happened.
What just happened? Brenda asked herself for the umpteenth time this evening. She was still in her car. She pulled into her parking lot ... She looked at the clock on the dash ... Two hours ago and hadn't left. She had just sat there, her hands folded calmly in her lap, and tried to examine the chain of events that brought her life to that very point. What had caused her to move to L.A.? To marry Fritz? To watch as Fritz walked away? To ask Sharon Raydor out to dinner? What caused her to slip her hand in the other woman's? It wasn't just that she had reached out - that could be reasoned away. What concerned Brenda was the lingering thoughts that couldn't be reasoned away.
She could still smell the gin on Sharon Raydor, which was odd as she'd only had the one drink. Brenda had decided right there and then that she she liked it. The crisp, clean smell suited her. It had a bite and a softness that met in very curious ways. It reminded her of the juniper bushes their neighbors had in Georgia. Summer nights smelled of juniper, of Sharon Raydor.
Brenda leaned her head back on the head rest of her seat and tried to have a rational conversation with herself. She was a grown woman, who's husband had (understandably) just left her and she reached out to a coworker. It didn't sound so bad when she put it that way, she thought. Her parents were always telling her she needed more friends, weren't they? The logical side of Brenda had trouble believing it - Sharon Raydor was many things, but a friend wasn't one of them. She was rude, assertive, underhanded and manipulative, not to mention completely devoid of charm or manners.
She was also damn good at her job.
Brenda closed her eyes tightly and willed herself to stop thinking of the positive attributes of Captain Raydor. Like the fact that she was manipulative for good reason, and believed in her, and had been the harbinger of cake, sweet, sweet chocolate cake. There was more to life than chocolate cake, Brenda thought to herself, and sometimes a thought was just a thought - like her thought about kissing Sharon Raydor tonight. It was just a thought. Something that popped into her head as she stood there between the cars with the other woman. It was a simple craving - no different than when she would sit at her desk, look up and realize she really wanted gummy bears.
Except this time it wasn't at her desk.
And it wasn't gummy bears. She didn't understand where it came from - she had never found other women attractive in that sense. She could appreciate when other women were well dressed, or well put together as her mother would say - but she'd never wanted to kiss them, and she never reached out to hold their hand like that. Tonight however, she did want to kiss Sharon Raydor, dear lord how she wanted to reach out and kiss her. She supposed she should be thankful that she had just reached out and grabbed the other woman's hand instead of kissing her, she had found herself doing quite a lot of unexpected things around her. She could only imagine the look of sheer confusion that would be on that woman's face if she had kissed her. Because Sharon Raydor may be...whatever... but she certainly wasn't interested in her.
In the least.
Brenda was happy about it because she fairly certain she wasn't interested in her either.
Tonight was just a fluke. She was feeling lonely, and the other woman was kind enough to accept the invitation to dinner (while Sharon pretended to be surprised when hearing about Fritz, she knew it was old news in the rumor mill). Seeing Sharon with the other woman must have put ... thoughts ... into her mind. Yes! Brenda thought, latching onto that train of thought. It was Sharon Raydor and her ex's fault for being so... the thought escaped her and left her alone in her car.
Thinking about another woman.
She was pathetic. She briefly wondered if she had always been this pathetic, or if it was middle age that brought out the pathetic in her. There was hundreds of other, more positive ways she could be spending her Friday night instead of sitting in her car. She could be sitting in a bar. Or her apartment. She could be driving by Fritz's apartment to see if he was home. She could invite herself over the the poker game the guys had started, she could go stock up on candy and cheap wine and fall asleep to Home & Garden television. The more her life started falling apart, the more she found herself watching that channel, with all those happy little people with their happy little houses and happy little gardens. Brenda reached out to grab her keys - and found herself turning the car on instead.
Nononononononononono! She thought to herself as she reversed out of her spot and got drove down the street. It seems her car knew where she was going - although so did she. She soon found herself driving down a quiet side street. It was nice and dark, filled with expensive houses and beautiful lawns - people lived here. People here had lives - they had husbands and wives and children and mistresses and pool boys and gardeners - and they were all asleep.
Like she should be.
Like Sharon would be.
Brenda pulled over by the curb and turned off her car. She was here, now what? She prayed the other woman was asleep and wouldn't peek out of her window to find a neurotic blond sitting in her car, hoping that this was all a bad dream. She pinched herself firmly on the back of her hand and waited. Nothing happened. She grabbed her keys and got out, slamming the door loudly, as if it was her car's fault for bringing her here. Brenda knew, after all these years of living with herself, what would happen next. She had done the same thing every time she had to make a big decision - she would know what she should do, but would spend hours going to and fro about it until finally she got too sick of hearing herself think and would just do what she knew she would do anyways. She had done it when she had worn lipstick for the first time, had sex for the first time, applied to Georgetown, slept with Will... the list went on and on and brought here here. Knocking on Sharon Raydor's doorstep at ... she glanced down at her watch ... two thirty.
This was insanity, Brenda thought, pacing up and down the porch. What was she going to do? What was she going to say? How do you justify showing up uninvited on the doorsteps of a woman who could barely tolerate you in the middle of the night? She should just leave n- the door swung open and Brenda forgot what she was thinking of. Standing in the dark hallway was a sleepy but unsurprised Sharon Raydor.
"Chief." She greeted, wrapping her thin robe tighter around herself.
"Sharon. Hi." Brenda could hear how loud and awkward she was sounded. "I hope I didn't wake you?" She asked, her eyes darting around to anywhere but the woman who stood in front of her. She remembered wondering once what the other woman would look like undone, without her suits or her make up - part of her wanted to hate the other woman for looking so well-dressed in her simple cream nightgown and robe.
"Not at all, I was just thinking..."
"About?" Brenda asked, not really listening for the answer. She could feel the nervous energy coursing through her and all she could hear was the blood rushing through her body. This was madness - there was no way she could recover from this. "Sharon - I - oh I don't know!" Brenda just gave up, flung her hands in the air and stepped forward towards the other woman and pressed their lips together. She doesn't know why she did it, in fact, she doesn't know why she's done a lot of what she's done when it comes to Sharon Raydor lately. All she knows is that right now she is kissing another woman. As far as first kisses go, it's good but not great. In the back of her head, the small part not busy panicking, she remembers her first ever kiss, it was with Billy Parsons. This one is better.
And then, as suddenly as it began, she steps back onto the porch. She can breathe now. She can think now. Her mind, free from the distraction of Sharon Raydor, is returned to its normal state of controlled chaos. "Thank you, Captain. Good night." Brenda smiles, taking in a lungful of cool night air and then turns around and makes her way back to her car. As she pulls away from the curb, she sees the other woman still standing in her doorway.
The last thought Sharon remembers before she fell asleep was that if she had a last breath to take, she would gladly take if from Brenda Leigh Johnson's kiss.
The weekend had flown by for Brenda. She cleaned out her kitchen, she scrubbed her bathroom, she went grocery shopping for something other than candy, she picked up her dry cleaning from a month ago and even called her mother. She was productive. She was happy. She was free from Sharon Raydor and all thoughts of her. In fact, Brenda spent the weekend thinking about how free she was from Sharon Raydor and the kiss they shared.
In fact, it's not until Monday morning as she's putting on her mascara that she realizes that maybe all that thinking about how she wasn't thinking about Sharon Raydor was really thinking about Sharon Raydor. That thought distracted her just enough that her hand slipped and smeared black pigment all across her eye.
She was really starting to hate that woman.
The real world ramifications about kissing not just a co-worker, but a junior officer occur to her shortly after she races to catch up to elevator that morning. She smells the other woman's perfume before she sees her. A quick turn of the head reveals the elevator filled with the morning crowd...and Sharon Raydor immediately to her right, files in hand, obviously already in the middle of her morning. The other woman doesn't make eye contact, simply nods her head slightly in her direction and murmurs "Chief". The colour drains from Brenda's face and before she can move, they're forced almost to the back of the lift. She kissed a subordinate. She couldn't even say with confidence if the kiss was welcomed or not. Even worse, she kissed the subordinate who was being groomed to replace her should anything happen. Anything like a misconduct investigation.
Brenda was starting to feel sick. She needed a Snickers bar. She had risked her entire career for what? Ten seconds of lip pressing against a juniper scented automaton. Had the other woman already gone to Will, or was she waiting for her arrival before she did? She began to replay the signs that lead her to kiss the other woman but aside from a few sharp breaths and a chocolate cake, there was nothing concrete. Maybe the other woman had asthma, Brenda thought, maybe she poisoned the cake? There could be hundreds of reasons, each one more believable than the other woman's alleged attraction to her. The doors opened on the fourth floor and as the group shifted slightly to allow someone off, it happened.
Her hand brushed by Sharon Raydor's.
She heard the soft sound of the other woman's breath and couldn't help but smile. The kiss, however ill-advised, wasn't unwarranted or unwanted. The crowd settles back into position, but Brenda doesn't. She stays closer to the other woman and with her head facing forward moves her hand ever so slightly to the right, until it settles against the other woman's open palm. The touch, however small, begins to calm her down. If the other woman wanted it to stop, all she had to do was shift slightly, or raise her hand, or even start to speak - but instead there was nothing of the kind. A quick flick of the eyes towards the brunette reveals her lips are ever-so-slightly parted and there is no breath going in or out. She's seen that look in men before, she's caused that look in men before, but seeing it come from another woman, one as aggressive and as intimidating as Sharon is, quite honestly, thrilling. She begins to drag her fingers up and down slowly against the other woman's palm and is impressed that there is no further reaction. She's never been able to read the Captain as easily as she could at this very moment - but then again, she supposes that desire is an easy emotion to read. Our bodies weren't designed to hide it, she thinks to herself as she wonders what others can see on her face. She's schooled her features into a blank slate, her eyes wide, her mouth straight but it's difficult. She could chalk the kiss to the wine and the hour of the night, but how could she justify her rapidly increasing heartbeat or the spread of warmth coursing through her own veins if it wasn't simple attraction...that wasn't quite so simple?
The doors open again and with a quiet "Excuse me" someone tries to slips past between their two bodies. Without a word, Brenda watches as Sharon follows them out of the elevator.
Sharon waits to hear the elevator's doors slide shut before she lets out the breath she'd been holding from the fourth floor up to the 12th. She can't believe she allowed for that to happen at work, in public. She had spent the weekend rationalizing what she assumed was Brenda's drunken kiss - but this...groping...session was just Machiavellian in intent. She had trusted Brenda when she admitted the truth about Mel, and when Brenda appeared out of nowhere in the middle of the night to kiss her, she held back, uncertain of it's intent or motive but sure that it would be best for both of them if she ignored it. It seems the trust was misplaced, and now she was paying for by having Chief Johnson undermine her and tease her at every turn.
Luckily, Sharon was stronger than that. She was better than that. She was smarter than that.
She turned to the stairwell and set off to climb the 11 stories between herself and her office. Suddenly she was full of angry energy, courtesy of Brenda Leigh Johnson - it seemed some things never seemed to change. She took the stairs a lot after her first few run-ins with the Chief. She smiles as she climbs each stair - each step firming her resolve against the other woman and her manipulations.
By the time Sharon pushed through the stairwell door to her hall, she was ready to get to work, ready to nail whoever had the misfortune to cross her path first. Her grin grew even wider as she saw who was waiting for her outside her office. "Your staff said I could go in," Brenda laid out the southern accent as thick as she could manage as she straightened herself up off from the wall where she was leaning. "I figured I'd wait for an invitation from you though." She smiled nervously, it didn't quite reach up to her eyes.
"Well," Sharon leaned over until she was close to the blond's ear. "Keep waiting, Chief." Sharon could smell the fear radiating off the other woman and it was delicious. She pulled herself back and entered her office, and as she was closing the door behind her a slim hand reached out to stop the door. "I just...wanted to say how much I enjoyed Friday night Captain. I hope we can do it again." With a tight smile, Brenda turned around and walked down the hall towards the elevators.
Sharon sighed. Her resolve was strong, but it had never been tested against the likes of Brenda Leigh's soft chocolate eyes. Usually when Chief Johnson set her eyes on her they were flashing with fury, or full of rage, or some other melodramatic and useless emotion - this was a new tactic, one she wasn't prepared for.
This was going to be harder than she thought.
After her small triumph over the blond, Sharon's day improved. Mondays were days she had designated for F.I.D. work, making sure that everything had run smoothly in her absence. Mondays were the days she could look out of her office window and see everyone hard at work - people were quiet here, they were polite, they were the people who didn't quite fit in to the other departments. Elliot, one of her lieutenants likened them to the debate team in a high school - not weird enough to get openly mocked like those who worked underground in the freezers, but not popular enough to be friends with the other officers. They generally stuck together - the risk of burn out was high among her staff, it was a departmental hazard. The isolation from the rest of the L.A.P.D. wasn't for everyone, but under her seven year tenure, she had done her best to make them feel valued and respected. There was Anne Elliot, one of the few other women in F.I. D. who like her literary counterpart was entirely too smart and too quiet for her own good; and Tom Crenshaw, who with his dry British wit could reduce them all to fits of laughter with a single sentence or a raised eyebrow. There was Lee James, who was their veteran, a beat cop who made his way to F.I. D. and who spent his nights working away on his novel beside his sick wife's bed. There was John Robinson, who was an old man in a young man's body - who liked to go fishing on his weekends and had shown up to work more than once with freshly caught fish for his co-workers. They were loyal to her, and to each other, and she wished others could see them as she did.
She knew they spoke about her shadowing Major Crimes behind her back - they weren't sure what to expect, neither did she. She knew it was all for show, but couldn't tell them that. If they thought she was going to get promoted, maybe it would make them feel like they weren't toiling away in obscurity. They were - no one knew it more than she did, having dedicated the last part of her life to it. The L.A.P.D. viewed them as a necessary evil, something that had to be put up with but not respected. Their existence reminded the force as a whole that aside from a uniform and a badge, there is very little separating the 'good guys' from the 'bad guys'. People didn't like to be confronted with their own moral failings. It was a sign of human weakness, and in this job, human weakness could get you killed. It could force you to make the wrong choice.
It was these thoughts that kept her mind busy as she gathered up her belongings and made her way down to the parking lot at the end of the day. The sun had started setting, reflecting coppery rays off the surrounding buildings, L.A. at times, could be quiet beautiful. She didn't hear her cell phone ringing, not at first. She kept walking between the rows of cars until finally the ringing broke through her thoughts - Chief Johnson. Her first instinct was to ignore it, it couldn't be work related - there's no way anyone in Major Crimes would call her - but regardless, she was a superior officer. "Captain Raydor."
"Turn to your left!" The familiar voice snapped at her.
"I really don't have time for -" Sharon's voice died as she tried to keep her laughter inside. To her left and about 5 rows over was an unamused Chief Johnson bent over the popped hood of her car. Both women hung up the phone and Sharon made her way over. "Car problems, Chief?"
"Not at all," Brenda shot back, wiping back a loose piece of hair with the back of her hand. "Just figured now's the time to stick my arms elbow deep into a greasy pit of metal."
"I see." Sharon opened the back door and dropped off her stuff before she circled back and stood with the other woman and peered down into into the engine. "What happened?"
"I ran out of oil, and now it won't start. AAA won't be able to get here for another two hours and I was on my way to crime scene." Brenda turned around and leaned on her bumper, dejectedly. "Fritz used to remind me to change my oil."
"Can't you catch a ride with one of the guys? Flynn or Tao?"
"They already left - I was in a meeting with Will." Her eyes started to sparkle as she got up off her bumper and slammed the hood shut. "Come on, Raydor. You're taking me!"
"You're taking me. Field trip, you're shadowing Major Crimes -"
"It's a Monday." Sharon countered.
"Tell that to the victims. 'I'm sorry, it's a Monday.'" Brenda reached for Sharon's purse and -
"Don't you dare touch it with your hands."
"What?" Brenda glanced down at her dusty, oily hands. She shrugged and wiped them down on her skirt, in part to see the look of horror in Sharon's green eyes. Sharon simply grimaced and headed towards her car, leaving an amused Brenda to follow behind.
This was going to be fun.
It had been a gruesome crime scene. Brenda was fairly certain she'd be seeing it for a while - what had started as a triple homicide of a young family was quickly revealed to be a murder-suicide when the husband's mistress was found a few blocks away, dead in her car. At least it wasn't an open case - it just required the clean up.
She was glad she had brought Sharon along - she had a long day before the call had come in, the trouble with her car and the humiliation at having to beg Sharon Raydor for a lift had just added to it. The scene had been brutal and the media frenzy that they had to push through just to get there was insane. As soon as she'd arrived, the guys threw her to the wolves with microphones and cameras. A quick glance over her shoulder when she had a spare second revealed Sharon wrapped up in her familiar black trench coat bringing order to the chaos and directing the uniformed officers. Provenza and Flynn were walking towards Sharon - Brenda's heart dropped as she prepared herself for added bloodshed - but the men flanked the other woman and then followed her off to the house where she pointed. There was no bloodshed. There was no fighting. Everyone was on their best behavior. They were acting like the mature, responsible grown ups sh- "Chief Johnson?" One of the reporters asked, pulling her attention back to the gaggle of microphones and bright lights. "I'm sorry Charlie, just makin' sure everything's running smoothly." She smiled as she continued the briefing.
The bodies had been transported to the morgue, the photos had been taken, the evidence had been collected and the uniforms had slowly been returned to their previous duties. Flynn and Provenza had been let off hours ago, Tao had gone to deliver the photos & evidence to the office and Sharon and Sanchez were just putting up the new crime scene tape around the perimeter of the house. Brenda tore down the old one that cordoned off the street.
She was tired, her feet ached, she was filthy and she was stuck here. She stood in the middle of the dark street, dejected, watching the slow looping lights of the squad car flashing. She watched as Raydor and Sanchez finished up then said goodnight, splitting off and heading in the opposite directions. She could hear every quiet click and clack of the other woman's heels on the hard concrete. She didn't know what to do. She needed the other woman to drive her home, but given the weariness that hung around her, the way her hands were shoved deep into the pockets of her trench, the way she avoided meeting her eyes - Brenda wasn't sure it was a good idea. Nothing she had done in regards to Sharon had been a good idea, it seems. She wasn't sure where her life was going, but it certainly wasn't where she wanted. Hell, she didn't even know where she wanted it to go anymore. This morning's elevator incident had proven that much. Was that just this morning?
"What is this thing -" Brenda waved her hand between their two bodies "between us?"
"Does it matter?" The other woman stopped short before her.
"Doesn't it?" Brenda snapped. She didn't mean for it to come across as sarcastically as it had, she wasn't sure if it did or didn't matter, she just knew she wanted to know, concretely, what their relationship was. She had given in to the urge to kiss the other woman in hopes that would clarify the matter - but it hadn't. In fact it had only muddied it, making her feelings and desires even more confusing. She didn't like the other woman, so why did she like kissing her?
"You can put a name to anything but it doesn't make it mean something." Sharon responded, rolling her head from side to side. Brenda didn't care much for the world-weary tone the other woman had taken on, but was willing to cut her some slack given the late hour and the fact that she had been surrounded by blood and death.
"I just know Sha-"
"From where I'm standing - it doesn't look like you know a whole lot about what you're doing." The brunette interrupted, her voice reaching dangerously low levels "So, tell me Chief, what do you know?"
"It's been a long, long time since I felt like...this." Brenda began, matching the other woman's voice, "And it didn't end well." Her hands were balled into fists, her rage at having to explain herself bubbling just beneath her skin. She didn't need this. She didn't need to explain herself, or intentions to anyone, including Sharon Raydor. She didn't used to be like this, so willing to answer others questions. She was just so tired now and couldn't be bothered. Maybe she would take Will's advice and take some time off? She could go home and visit her parents, or go somewhere hot and lie on a beach drinking Mai Tais.
"Well then, we'd better make sure we don't start something, shouldn't we?" The older woman's voice was laced in venom but her heart wasn't in it. In fact, she sounded just as tired as Brenda did.
After a moment, Sharon continued to walk down the street towards her car. "Wait," Brenda called out, "Where are you going?"
"It's late, Chief and I'm tired. Am I taking you home or not?" Without waiting, Sharon continued to walk, leaving the choice up to her. Brenda hated how the other woman would do that - at work, she would go after what she wanted, even if it wasn't hers, but when it came to this tension between them, she would just lob the ball back into Brenda's court and waited for her to make all the choices. Brenda was tired of choosing - she had chosen to kiss Sharon, and she had chosen to do whatever it was that they did in the elevator - she would choose one more time but that was it, Brenda Leigh Johnson didn't beg.
She caught up with the other woman and walked alongside her until they reached the car and got in. Sharon pulled out her keys, but stopped before she turned on the car. "I'm not willing to be your experiment Brenda." She said softly staring straight ahead.
"We're all someone's experiment, Captain Raydor. One way or another." Brenda murmured, sliding her hand over the brunette's.
Brenda wasn't sure why she invited Sharon Raydor to come in as she drove her home. It just seemed like something she should do. Sharon looked at her for a moment, her green eyes peering over the rim of her glasses then politely declined. Brenda was too tired to fight, she was too tired to do anything except curl up in bed and pull the blankets over her head. She was surprised to find out once she crawled into bed, however that she wouldn't have minded if the other woman had said yes to her.
For the rest of the week they behaved like professionals - nothing was said and nothing was done to imply or reveal that there was another layer of meaning that existed between them. They didn't mention the crackle of electricity that passed from one to the next whenever they were in the same space. It was always Captain and Chief; Raydor and Johnson never Brenda or Sharon. Which was fine, which was how both of them preferred it. The office doors were always left open whenever they were alone together, elevators were avoided, same with phone calls to each other, e-mails sent back and forth always involved a third party cc-ed just in case. Both women hoped that if they just kept on ignoring the other, eventually thoughts of the previous weekend would disappear.
It didn't seem to be working. Here it was, Friday night and they were stuck at the same impasse they were on Monday night.
Sharon stood at the open door of Chief Johnson's office and peeked in. She spotted the other woman engrossed in the files at hand, turning occasionally to jot something down. Sharon pulled her head back and hid behind the corner. This was stupid. It was ridiculous. She was acting like a woman half her age. She shook her hair back and took a deep breath to prepare herself when - "Would you like to come in, Captain?" Chief Johnson called out from her desk. Damn. She was caught. With a deep breath and a fake smile, Sharon walked into the office. "Want to tell me why you've been lurking by my door for the last, oh..." Brenda glanced at her watch, "four minutes."
"It wasn't four minutes." Sharon responded, crossing her arms.
"It was more like two."
"As fun as our little back and forths are, Captain, what can I do for you?" She placed her pen down and looked up at Sharon through her black rimmed glasses. If she hadn't been wearing those glasses, or if she hadn't looked up with those brown eyes, Sharon was fairly certain she'd be able to come up with a decent excuse. "I was wondering - well - if you weren't too busy - which I can see you are, so you know..." She was floundering. It was humiliating. She tried to back out towards the door.
"Hold it," Brenda commanded, taking off her glasses as a smile spreading wide across her face. "Back here."
"I'm not a puppy, Chief - I'm not going to sit on your command." Sharon shook her head, shooting a look at the seated woman.
"What were you going to say? You know, before you started to slink off?"
"Nothing. I wasn't going to say anything." With the glasses off, Brenda was entirely less adorable and Sharon found it easier to lie to her.
"You are an atrocious liar, Captain Raydor. Have you always been this bad?"
"Listen, Chief - I just came in to say..." She watched as Brenda carefully picked up her glasses between her two palms and placed them back on her face. Damn.
"You just came to say?" Brenda asked, with a practiced innocence.
"Goodnight?" Sharon offered weakly.
"Try again, Captain."
"You're enjoying this entirely too much." The brunette shot out.
"Absolutely." The blond responded, finding the entire situation delightful.
"Meet you downstairs in ten?"
"Is this a date?"
"This is not a date."
"So, why'd you ask me to dinner, Captain?"
"Why'd you kiss me, Chief?"
And there it was - each woman put forth the question they were most curious about. Their eyes met briefly before they each set their attention to the plates in front of them - the earlier excitement from the office forgotten.
"This is a great place, do you come here often?" Sharon asked, digging into her meal.
"I do. Yes." Brenda snagged a piece of penne from the other woman's plate and popped it into her mouth. If her mouth was full, she couldn't speak. Didn't the other woman know her by now? She didn't know why she did half of what she did. She did things without thinking, said things without thinking, and -
"Is your car fixed?" Sharon asked, as she raised a forkful to her mouth.
"Oh, yes. Just needed some oil."
The awkward silence fell back onto their table and each woman looked around the restaurant, at their table, anywhere but the other.
"Oh, yes. Yes."
One of them sighed.
"I asked you out to dinner because you kissed me." Sharon finally confessed, setting down her fork and looking at the woman across the table from her. "And I wanted to know why."
"I appreciate the honesty." Brenda responded, still avoiding the green eyes peering at her.
"So, are you going to tell me?" She asked, starting to get fed up with the games Chief Johnston constantly played with her.
"No, I'm not." Brenda finally raised her brown eyes to meet Sharon's and dabbed her lips with her napkin. "I don't know why I did it."
And just like that, she saw the other woman harden - her jaw set firmly, her eyes narrowed slightly. The transformation between Sharon and Captain Raydor was almost instant - she was fascinated by the other woman's ability to do that, to pull back so effortlessly.
"I hope you do, because I certainly don't." She placed a hand lightly on the other woman's thigh and felt the very physical buzz between them. "See, THAT'S what I mean." She pointed to where her hand just was, "I don't know what that is. I don't know why I kissed you, or why I invited you up, or why you said no. I don't know." Brenda let out a long breath. "I don't know why you drive me absolutely up the wall with your perfect hair, and matchy little outfits that are all ... matchy and your clicky little heels and your 'my investigation comes first'. Because you do - and that little smirk you have - like that one you're doing right now - drives me insane. It does. It's so damn ... frustrating! It is! So I don't know why I kissed you, or why I want to do it again!" Brenda slumped down in her chair, winded after her rant.
"Are you quite done?" Sharon asked, trying not to smile.
"Yes, I'm pretty sure I am." She picked up her fork and began to eat again, stopping after a bite, "I need wine."
"You want to kiss me again?"
"Well, not when you put it that way."
"Well then in what way?"
"I don't know - I've never done that before."
"No. With -" She waved her hands in the general direction of her breasts, "You know, a lady."
"A lady? Well," She smiled, motioning for the waiter to bring the cheque, "You've called me a lot of things before Brenda, but never a lady."
"I can't believe I was lured over here." Brenda whispered, following Sharon up the path from the driveway to the house, her hand in the other woman's as they picked their way in the dark.
"I hardly call this luring you."
"I was promised wine and dessert. That's luring."
"Brenda?" Sharon whispered, stopping at the front door to unlock it.
"Why are you whispering?"
"I...I don't know." Brenda started laughing half from nerves, half from being this close to another woman.
"Well stop it -" The brunette turned around, caught off-gaurd by the proximity of the blonde to her. "It's making me nervous." She finished, her voice catching in her throat. It was true - Brenda's laugh was making her anxious, but her nearness that made her jittery. Brenda's laughter died off, leaving nothing but silence between them - but unlike the silences that dominated their earlier conversations, this one held nothing but anticipation. Brenda wanted to kiss her, she had said as much. She wanted to kiss Brenda too, very badly. Right now, under the moonlight. There was something in the way that the younger woman was looking at her, through dark fringed lashes and the way she licked her lips in anticipation that made her suspect that this wasn't Brenda Leigh Johnson's first time flirting in the moonlight. Perhaps it was a traditional southern mating technique? Green eyes met brown as the two women started to move in towards each oth-
"What was that?" Sharon asked, whipping around towards the house.
"What was what?" Brenda stepped back, softy shaking her head in hopes of getting her sense back about her.
"That sound? It was coming from the house." Sharon reached her right arm towards her back and unclipped her sidearm. "Stay here."
"What? And let you go off half-cocked? I don't think so. I'm the superior officer here and -"
"And it's my house!" Sharon responded, pushing open her front door.
"So?" Brenda followed closely behind, shielded by the other woman's left hand. She hated to say it, but Sharon was right - there were sounds coming from the back of the house. She glanced about the hallway and noticed a pair of boots and an open suitcase with its contents spilling out. "Going somewhere?"
"What?" Sharon whispered, noticing where Brenda pointed towards. She rolled her eyes and slid her gun back in its holster. "Laura?" Sharon called out loudly, "Is that you?!"
"I'm in the kitchen, Mom." A voice from the kitchen responded.
"Mom?" Brenda whispered, surprised. She knew Sharon had children, she'd heard all about them from her mother - Laura and Adam, two years apart, in their mid-20's, living on the East Coast - it was one thing when they were over there, far away, like an imaginary pet, only a child. It was another thing when one of them was in the kitchen, her suitcase spilling out clothes and books while she was about to kiss Sharon outside. The absurdity of her situation hit her instantly - she was about to kiss a woman, a mother of two. She felt sick to her stomach thinking about what it could mean.
"Why didn't you call?!" Sharon shouted, picking up the clothes from the floor. "I had my gun out!"
"And why didn't you pick your stuff up?" Brenda muttered, ignoring the fact that her own apartment looked the same.
"Grandma said not to call - you might be out on a hot date! Sad to see that the old lady still has hope for you -" The door to the kitchen opened, spilling its bright light out into the dark hallway. Both women squinted in the dark and Brenda stepped back behind Sharon for protection, placing a hand on her hip to let her know she was there. "Oh wow. Ok, sorry." A slim, brunette popped up in front of them, and threw one arm tightly around Sharon as the other hand cradled some form of dessert. Together, Brenda could see the similarities, same dark hair, fair skin and sparkling eyes. "This is awkward." The young woman laughed as she stood back and smiled towards Brenda. "Hi - you know what mom?" The young woman backed herself towards the stairs, "I'm just gonna head up and uh, you guys just pretend like I'm not here, OK?"
"Not OK. Hold it. Get back here. Chief Johnson, I'd like to introduce my charming daughter Laura Raydor - would you believe she was raised by wolves?"
"Nice to meet you Laura," She eased her hand off of Sharon's hip and held it out to the young woman, "You can call me Brenda."
"Hi," Laura took her hand and shook it. "I totally didn't mean to crash your date or -"
"It's not a date." Sharon interrupted, stepping away from the Chief. Having her daughter back made seemed to snap her back to her senses. The other woman was her boss. Her straight boss. Who hated her. And who she hated back. It didn't matter if she wanted to kiss her again - the facts were simple, clean cut and impossible to argue with. So why did her hip still tingle from where the other woman held her?
"You keep sayin' that and I'm going to think you mean it." Brenda laughed nervously, "Don't let me scare you off Laura - in fact, I think I'm just going to get me a piece of whatever that is in your hand -" She pointed in the general direction of the kitchen and quickly escaped into the cool, bright kitchen.
She placed her palms on the cold marble countertop of the island and took a deep, calming breath. What was she doing here? What was she doing with Sharon? These were questions that she should've asked herself earlier in the week. She should've at least had some clue before she admitted to the older woman that she wanted to kiss her. She certainly should've had an answer before she was inches away from the other woman's lips. Oh God, she squeezed her eyes shut and prayed for a way to escape the situation. She was a grown up, she could just be honest and tell Sharon that coming here was a mistake and that she'd really appreciate it if they could put this whole episode behind them.
Oh no - that was too hard, too mature - she would just lie.
Yes. That would do. A lie. Something believable, something convincing - but what? She needed sugar, she needed something to help her focus and and clear her mind from thoughts of Sharon Raydor and come up with a big, fat lie. She opened up her eyes and noticed the open cake stand, piled high with treats, on the island in front of her.
"Now, it's been a while since I brushed up on my police hierarchy, but doesn't a Chief outrank a Captain?" Laura teased, finishing the last of her food.
"Yes it does." Sharon answered her daughter wearily.
"So, does that mean you're dating your boss?"
"Just get over here!" She wrapped her arms around her daughter and gave her a proper hug. It had been too long since she'd seen her. She knew they saw each other over the holidays but that was so short, and the kids all had their own activities going. It was still shocking to think of her kids as people, not just her kids who used to lisp and cry and walk around with their underwear over their pants. "What are you doing here?"
"Would you believe I missed my mommy?" Laura asked, batting her eyelashes.
"Bull." She set forth her patented Raydor gaze on her daughter - people often wondered where she learned and perfected it - it was years of negotiating the truth with her children. Cracking the hardest criminal was nothing compared to cracking her children when they were younger, neither confessing to who broke the lamp (or when they were older, took the bottle of scotch). She watched her daughter squirm - she was always easier to read than Adam - just another moment and...
"Whoopie Pies?! Sharon Marie Raydor - you made Whoopie Pies?!" Brenda called out from the kitchen, interrupting the moment. "Banana foopie fies?" She continued, her mouth obviously full of the cakey, creamy goodness. Damn - why was that woman ALWAYS ruining her interrogations?
"Marie? We're on a middle name basis already?" Laura was smart, she took the out and gained the upper hand in her negotiations with her mother, "Should I start getting used to calling her mommy?"
"Cute." Sharon replied, watching her daughter's smile play out - she realized, truly, what it meant to be on the receiving end of the Raydor smirk - she didn't like it.
"I like to think so, listen -" A honk came from outside, "That's Julie, we're going out for some coffee. Don't wait up." Laura leaned over and gave her mom a quick peck on the cheek. "And we'll talk tomorrow. Don't worry - it's all good. I hope."
Sharon watched her daughter bound out the house, leaving her alone in the dark hallway. She waited for her world to slow back down to its usual speed, but it never came. Brenda was still here - in her kitchen - and she didn't know how to get her to leave. How do you tell your boss, 'I'm sorry, but you're entirely too straight for my own good, leave now so I can be miserable alone'? Because, as tactless as that was, it was the truth. Despite the blond's confession about wanting to kiss her, and that they were inches away from it earlier - it was never going to happen. It just wasn't. Sharon wasn't dumb, she knew exactly how this would play out - Brenda would have fun, or not, and would go back to Fritz (whom she actually really liked - he was not at all the type of man she'd expected when she first met him), or not - but either way, it would end and it would be messy and it would hurt. But that's what life was, wasn't it, pain? She certainly learned that the hard way when her husband had passed away - Jamie was the love of her life, he still was - and when he died suddenly, without any warning, with two young kids to take care of, she was left alone and in pain. She couldn't understand why the world kept turning when hers had ended - but it revived itself, slowly and surely. The beauty of humanity is it's instinct for survival, Sharon thought, and for her to survive now, she would have to end this - march into the kitchen and tell Brenda to leave - as quickly as she'd rip off a particularly stubborn bandage. She took a calming breath and straightened out her hair - it had to be done, is what she kept telling herself. It had to be done.
It had to be done.
It had to be done.
She walked into the kitchen and watched for a moment, as Brenda sat at the kitchen table. Her kitchen table. She was toying with the stem of a half-empty wineglass and a plate of crumbs were to her left. She seemed as deep in thought as the other woman was. It had to be done.
"Why do you do that?" Brenda asked, looking up suddenly.
"Watch me like that?"
"It's the only time when you're quiet." Sharon answered, walking past the island and pouring herself a glass of wine.
"She's gone out. I'm sorry about that, I really didn't know she'd be stopping by."
"Is everything alright?"
"I hope so. I think so. I hope so."
"She looks a lot like you."
"Not really, she looks like her dad, she just has my colouring. Adam, he looks like me."
Brenda turned to look at her, leaning against the counter, her wine glass resting gently in her hand elegantly. "Long day."
"Mmmmm." Sharon murmured.
"Nice whoopie pies."
"You may want to try just a dash of ginger next time, it really makes the cinnamon kick." Brenda suggested, pushing a crumb down onto her fingertip then popping it into her mouth.
"I'll keep that in mind." Sharon responded, distracted.
"It's mama's secret ingredient with anything banana. 'Brenda Leigh,' she would say, 'always, always, always add just a dash of ginger to your cinnamon, it's the honey to your bee.' to which I remind her, 'Mama, I never bake, but I'll be sure to keep that in mind.'"
"You should leave." Sharon announced abruptly.
"I should." Brenda agreed, not moving. "You should sit down."
"This is never going to work out."
"It's not." Brenda agreed with her.
"So you should leave."
"You should sit down."
"I don't want to sit down!"
"And I don't want to leave! I want to talk to you and it's hard with you all the way over there. Why are you all the way over there?"
"Because I'm waiting for you to change your mind." Sharon admitted, taking a sip of her wine.
Brenda pushed back her chair and made her way slowly towards Sharon who set down her glass and crossed her arms defensively across her body, her eyes steeled in readiness. Brenda had seen this this look, it was the same look that her suspects had, daring her to unravel their secrets. She could beat them at their game, and she could beat Sharon, even if Sharon's game was self-defence.
"Don't make me fish my glasses out of my purse." Brenda began, trying the humorous route. If the other woman expected a battle, she would surprise her with a touch of humanity.
"I don't know what you're talking about." Sharon lied, trying to force her lips back down from the smile they curved into.
"I'm pretty sure you do, Captain Raydor." Brenda teased gently, stepping close enough to the other woman that she could feel the heat pass between their bodies. "You have a hard time saying no to me when I wear those. You always have." She looked up into the other woman's eyes - it was the first time she'd really looked into them, carefully and calmly under the light - every exchange between them had been in the dark, or in a crowd. She could see that the defense was thin, it was the terror, the trepidation, the fear clouding the emerald green into something smokey that really shone through. For once, the other woman looked her age. She wonders if Sharon had looked like this when she kissed her for the first time; or when she held her hand in the elevator. She doesn't know. She didn't bother to look, or to check, she simply acted, taking charge of the situation, acting without thinking.
She doesn't know.
This is a curious position to be in for Brenda - her job is to find out what she doesn't know, to ask questions and to discover why people have done what they've done. It occurs to her that she hasn't looked at her self, or her life like that in a very long time. Why didn't she leave? And why did Sharon look so very scared? Could it be she cared? That they both cared very deeply about what was going on? Stranger things had happened in the world, hadn't they? One day man decided to deep fry a Twinkie and it was a good day, one night she showed up on Sharon Raydor's doorstep and kissed her - weren't they on the same level of crazy? She raises a hand and runs it through Sharon's hair - it's soft and smooth, it just flows effortlessly between her fingers. It was different than every other partner she'd ever had. It was confusing to her, reminding her of being 15 and innocent, running her hands through her friend Jenny's hair trying to get it to lie just so so she could braid it, but also being new and exciting and just a little bit dangerous. Sharon Raydor had the ability to be dangerous - she knew it from the first time she saw her across the lobby of headquarters, and she knew it now.
Then it happens - suddenly.
Sharon's hands are on her face and their lips are pressed together. She can taste the bitterness of the wine, and the slickness of lipstick coming off the other woman's lips, but she can also feel the warm wetness of her tongue and the urgency and the ferociousness as Sharon's mouth quickly dominated her. It was so different from their first kiss, where Brenda had pounced on her, unexpectedly and Sharon received, standing there stunned. This is what she wanted, has wanted. Brenda remembers her earlier thought - that it seemed that she was constantly watching her life unfold from outside of herself. She watches as she pushes the other woman back with her lips, her body until the taller woman is pressed against the counter and Brenda's body. Brenda can hardly believe this is happening - that she's kissing Sharon Raydor like this, with all the passion and desire that she has.
Sharon lets go of Brenda and pulls back just long enough to lift herself so she's sitting on the counter and quickly returns to kissing the younger woman, now nestled between her legs. In the back of her mind, she can hear herself screaming to stop but she couldn't. She chooses to focus on the soft murmurs escaping from their lips, the gasps, the hisses of breath - the sounds echoing in the silent kitchen. The second that Brenda ran her hands through her hair, the tenuous grasp she had held on her emotions for the other woman snapped. She had fought back the urge to kiss her the first time, and to take her hand in the elevator, to go into the other woman's house, she had denied herself countless times when it came to Brenda that she just couldn't do it anymore. It was going to hurt when this ended - because it was going to end, and poorly. It seemed pain was the only option when it came to an element as volatile as Brenda Leigh Johnson. Wasn't that what life was all about, Sharon thought as she gave herself over to the kiss, pain?
Brenda Leigh Johnson found herself spending quite a lot of time at Sharon Raydor's.
Her kitchen, specifically.
It made sense, Sharon spent a lot of time in her kitchen and she was spending quite a lot of time with Sharon. She still felt out-of-place bringing the other woman over to her apartment, it was where she lived with Fritz, and being intimate, or close with anyone else there seemed odd. It was fine though, she liked seeing Sharon peering at a recipe over the rim of her glasses, she liked putting a hand on the other woman's hip and reading over her shoulder or sneaking a lick of batter from whatever the brunette was making, she even liked the Thai place that they ordered delivered from on Wednesday nights.
She thought it would be odd - and it was - that's what made it so easy. It was all so different, there was no expectations, no pressure - if she wanted to come over she would, and if she didn't, she wouldn't. More often than not though, she did. She liked working on her reports at the big raw wood kitchen table, she liked curling up on the couch with her head on Sharon's shoulder as they read, but mostly she liked the early mornings of waking up pressed against the other woman's body - the moment right before they started moving against each other, slowly and sleep-drenched. It was peaceful, and restful. Two words she never thought she'd use when it came to Sharon. They were taking it slowly - never going beyond kisses or caresses. Brenda tried at times to think of who's rule that was, but she couldn't quite recall. Either way, it was what it was.
As far as they knew, no one at work suspected a thing - Sharon was still a thorn in her professional side and Brenda still used every trick in the book to out maneuver the other woman, should their paths cross. Those were the nights Brenda chose to stay with Joel, and it was those morning afters that she'd find some warm and wonderful treat waiting for her on her desk. There was little affection at work between them, aside from a glance, or a smile. Brenda found it remarkably easy to separate Work!Sharon from Home!Sharon but every so often found herself tempted to shove the other woman against the wall of her office and kiss her, just to see what would happen to the other woman's polished armor. Wasn't that part of the fun of having secret office romances? She remembered sneaking into empty stairwells with Will in another lifetime, or dashing off to meet Fritz for lunch and holding hands under the table if any of their colleagues came into whatever dive they were hiding in. There was none of that with Sharon - or, more specifically, Sharon wouldn't allow any of that. Brenda had once made the mistake of reaching out to tuck a stray lock of hair back behind the brunette's ear - the same gesture she did at least twice a night when they were tucked onto the couch - never again.
There was no reason for anyone to suspect anything, they came in separate cars, at separate times. Sharon would get out of bed early, go for her run, and then shower and get ready while Brenda buried herself in the fluffy pillows. She wouldn't get up until after Sharon had headed out, occasionally crossing paths with an equally sleepy Laura in the kitchen as they huddled around the coffee maker Sharon had turned on for them. She had come to really enjoy the young woman's company in the last few weeks - she was quiet at first, but grew louder, more outgoing as she got more comfortable with Brenda. She had a mouth like a sailor that she tried to clean up for her mother, and once asked if she was U-Haulin' it, which Brenda confessed she didn't understand, nor did she want to. She was the only person who would put Sharon in her place at times, or make her laugh at others - Brenda had lost count of how many times she'd looked up to find Sharon leaning against the counter or the fridge trying to catch her breath from laughing so hard. There was an easy, comfortable domesticity that settled in amongst them that no one wanted to question.
So, with everything going as smoothly as it was, Brenda couldn't help but feel like something was off. There was a distance that Brenda couldn't seem to bridge. She wasn't sure she wanted to. Bridging it meant talking, and she didn't want to do that yet. She didn't want to have to talk about what they were and what they were doing and what they were feeling and all those other messy details. She wanted things to stay the way they were - where she was free to come and go as she pleased, do as she pleased, and say what she pleased. She knew it wasn't fair to Sharon, but she was fairly certain if Sharon wanted to say something, she would.
Clearly, she didn't know Sharon Raydor.
"That's her problem." He said, motioning to Sharon, waiting at the bar for her drink. She watched as the other woman shot down the man who slid up beside her and tried to chat her up. She didn't even say a word, just a glance, and he turned tail and ran. Brenda couldn't help but smile behind her glass.
"Care to elaborate, Lt, being very careful to remember she's a superior officer." Brenda warned before taking a sip of her wine. It was a Friday and in a completely uncharacteristic move, they had decided to go out together.
Loneliness had a way of drawing other lonely people to one another, and this evening, it drew them all to go out for beers at the dive bar near headquarters. In an overwhelming spirit of generosity, Brenda discovered they had even invited that woman. That's what they were calling her now. That woman. It was better than 'The Witch' - which was in and of itself better than what they wanted to call her. Which brought up the whole subject of what SHE should call her.
"If I've learned anything, and I like to think I have," Provenza continued, interupting Brenda's thoughts, "Is that it all comes down to sex. Men, women, it's all just sex. Too much of it, not enough of it, but it's sex." Provenza explained. "No one wants to talk about it, everyone says it's sexist, but it's the truth. Sex."
"Sex." Brenda repeated, hoping it was dark enough to hide her growing blush. She sighed, of course it was sex. Mainly, that they hadn't had any. They'd kissed, and necked, and petted and done all sorts of things that Brenda had done when she was back in Junior High, but the fact of the matter is, they never went past what her third boyfriend, Chris Moss called the 'Up & Out' stage. She watched as Sharon and her lieutenant, the one who's name she always forgot made their way over and settled down at the table next to theirs.
"You can join us, if you'd like, Captain." Provenza motioned to the seats left empty by Flynn and Sanchez as they went to pour quarters into the jukebox.
"I'd hate to cramp your style. Have you met Lt. Elliot?" Sharon introduced the younger woman as the other men came back.
"Anne," The slim woman rose and shook hands across the table. Anne. That's what her name was! She knew Sharon liked her, looked out for her. "I think you used to work with my father when he was a beat cop," Anne started speaking, turning her chair around and facing them.
Brenda tuned out, watching Sharon, who's back was all but to her. The more she thought about Provenza's crude, but true statement, the angrier she got. It was was always the other woman that put on the breaks, that caught Brenda's wrist if it brushed too close, or too hard and would softly deflect, or get up, or turn over or do a countless other things to distract her. She wanted Sharon - she did. She just didn't know how to tell the other woman that. She wasn't sure how things would fit, but she was fairly confidant she'd be able to figure it out, Chris Moss did, and he was in remedial math! She loved that feeling of her stomach flipping when she would see Sharon across the office in her heels and a skirt, following the line of her slim legs up to where they disappeared under her skirt. She had spent more time than she would like anyone else to know thinking about the brunette, her legs, and just about every flat surface in the squad room. She would watch Sharon through her half-sleeping eyes in the morning as she would slip out of her robe after her shower and stand there, in front of her closet, deciding what to wear. Just thinking of their morning ritual made Brenda cough, choking on a sip of wine she didn't realize she took.
Did Sharon know she watched her, every morning, wondering what it would be like to really be with the other woman?
Which meant that Sharon must know that she wanted her.
Which meant that Sharon must not want her - at least not in the same way.
And that made sense, she supposed. Sharon was older, perhaps it was menopause? She knew she had just thought she had menopause, but the other woman must've gone through it - wasn't low sex drive one of the outcomes? Brenda eyed the brunette as she chatted with a woman who had come up to her earlier and sat down. She tried to recall how old Raydor's personnel file had said she was - she remembered it had shocked her when she first read it - it was much older than she thought it was. She watched as the other woman laughed and placed a hand on Sharon's knee...and didn't remove it. And Sharon didn't seem to mind. Maybe it wasn't Sharon, maybe it was her? Maybe she just wasn't attracted to her, not like that anyways. It happened - not to her, but it surely must happen. You liked someone, you were drawn to them, but you just weren't turned ON by them. Or maybe it was a lesbian thing - maybe lesbians didn't have sex outside of adult films? "I'm getting a drink." She announced to no one in particular as she got up and walked away to the bar. She needed something stiffer than wine. She watched as the two women leaned into each other to be heard and felt her heart sink. She supposed that compare to that horrid Mel, and now this ... person, she wasn't quite up to Sharon Raydor's standards. The Eskimos 37 words for snow, Sharon had 37 shades of black in her closet. She was polished, she matched, she liked things on time, in order and her way. And Brenda, well, she had 37 patterns of florals in her closet, and as much as she had tried to be polished, it never quite seemed to work out, and pink matched with floral, and she...ran on Southern time, which seemed so much more civilized than ON time. She traded her cash for the drink the bartender handed her and she took a big gulp.
She hated vodka. Or maybe she hated martinis.
Either way, it was unpleasant and she grimaced.
"I know that look," A familiar voice said, sliding up beside her.
"Fritzy!" She threw her arms around her estranged husband, oblivious to the looks she drew from her table. "What are you doin' here?"
"Two Cranberry Spritzers." He ordered from the bartender before he answered, "Just closed a big case, came out for a drink with the guys before I headed home." He nodded towards a table crowded with his co-workers.
"Well that's just...great! You look...great!"
"Thanks Bren, so do you." His arm was still around her waist, it felt nice.
"How's Joel?" She asked, trying to distract from the feeling that she should look over her shoulder.
"He's good - thanks, man." Fritz took the drinks from the bartender, removing his arm from Brenda and continued, "We're thinking of getting him a friend."
"We? A friend?" She couldn't think if it was the vodka, or the sentence that made her head start spinning. First Sharon, now Fritz?
"Ah...yeah. A tabby. One of the guy's mom's cat just had kitties, so..." He started stammering. Looking past his shoulder, Brenda could see a young-ish brunette looking on anxiously. Brenda liked the odds that she was the 'guy'. She looked familiar and she was fairly certain they had met once, maybe. Her name was...Katie?
"Well that sounds...great! I'm sure Joel will love the company." She smiled widely, "I don't want to keep you, but it was good to see you Fritzy." She looked at him and let her smile fade. "Fritz." She corrected herself. Fritzy was her husband, Fritz was Agent Howard, or her ex. It was good to see him, and it hurt to see him with someone, but not the way she thought it should. It was more of a pang of possession. He was hers, damn it. She didn't necessarily want him, but she didn't want anyone else to have him either. It was childish and petty and it was who she was. He really was too good for her, especially when she got in these moods.
"You too." He leaned over awkwardly and placed a kiss on her cheek. "You should come over and say hi before you leave. I...ah... I don't want things to be more uncomfortable than it has to."
"Me neither." She agreed, avoiding the curious looks Katie was throwing in their direction.
They parted, each heading off to their respective tables. Fritz had moved on, and as she watched as Sharon uncrossed her legs, she realized so had she. At least she hoped she had. She continued towards the tables the Major Crimes & F.I.D. had claimed as their own, with every intent of sitting beside Sharon and setting things right - but it seemed Sharon had other plans. Her uncrossed legs stood up and she followed the other woman as she moved towards the dance floor.
Brenda pushed the other woman into the wall and stepped up to her, only a few atoms of air separating their bodies each other. It was dark, but the younger woman was fairly certain she saw a glint in the other woman's eyes."I'm going back insid-"
"Sharon Marie Raydor, if you move, so help me God..." Brenda warned, her heart beating loudly in her ears, "You're staying here and you're going to listen to me." Brenda stopped suddenly. She hadn't thought her speech through. Given how Sharon was acting inside, she was surprised that her command had worked. She shivered in the breeze that blew down the alley way behind the bar. In the distance, a car alarm went off. She really should've planned this better she thought as she stood, her body all but pressed against Sharon. "I don't know why you're acting the way you are. Ever since you came in, you've been acting even more childish and immature than usual. You've been rude and insufferable and - and - Fritz was in a bar."
"Excuse me?" Sharon asked, disbelieving of the turn the conversation took.
"Fritz was in a bar. He's in AA, he shouldn't be here." Brenda stepped back, it was as if someone had turned her world right side up all of a sudden. She spent the night in a bar with her estranged husband, the recovering alcoholic. Now, that's fine, it was his choice, and he seemed to be drinking soda all night - but it suddenly occurred to her that it was no different than every night where she drank wine in front of him, making him open her bottles, and pour her drinks, and clear her empty glasses. She had done that to him and it wasn't fa- "Excuse me if I don't want to talk about your husband tonight." Sharon muttered as she tried to get past the blond.
"We weren't talking about him. At least that's not why I brought you out here."
"Why won't you have sex with me?"
"Provenza said your problem is either too much sex, or not enough -"
"You were talking about me with your team?"
"Of course not," She lied, "Now I know it's not too much sex, at least with me, 'cause we're not having any. So it must be not enough sex. And I'm not used to begging, I don't beg - but I just want to know, is this a menopause thing?"
"Or is this a gay thing? Are you just not into sex, which is fine, I suppose. I can learn to be fi-" Brenda's ramble was cut off as Sharon kissed her. Not a plain kiss like their first kiss, not even a kiss like their second first kiss. This kiss was desperate, and hot and eager - every drop of desire Sharon had for the other woman, had suppressed and bottled up after every kiss or touch. The world came crashing down around Brenda - or so it seemed. She could feel each and every cell of her body going into shock as she just stood there, on the receiving end of Sharon's embrace.
Sharon pulled back as she felt Brenda freeze where she stood. She knew it - it was too much, too soon. As much as Brenda talked about sex and having it, and not having and the frequency of which they were and were not having it - Sharon knew she wasn't ready. She felt stupid. And embarrassed. She stood in the dark alley that the Chief had dragged her off to and shivered slightly. "I think I'm done here. Good night, Chief." She crossed her arms around her front and started back towards the door. She was going to go home, crawl under the shower with a glass of wine and pretend the whole night had never happened.
"Wait -" The blond called out, still frozen in spot.
"And now you're leaving?" Brenda asked, confusion clouding her eyes. Sharon just shrugged in her general direction. She had known all along that Brenda didn't know what she was getting into - she had known, she just hoped she was wrong. She had never wanted to be so wrong before.
"I'm going home, yes."
"No. No. You can't just kiss me like that and then leave." Brenda stamped her foot in frustration. "We are in the middle of a fight and if you leave -"
"And if I leave, what?" Sharon challenged her, turning around and stepping closer to the other woman. As soon as she saw the victorious smile spread across the younger woman's face, she knew it was a lost cause. She had played right into her hands. Quite literally as the smaller woman closed the distance between them and wrapped her arms around her. She didn't want to admit that it felt nice there in the other woman's arms. Safe, even. She tried to keep the smile off of her face.
"You can smile, Captain." Brenda purred, reaching up on her tiptoes so her warm breath tickled her ear. "I know you want to."
"How do you know that?" Sharon challenged, trying to steady her breath and calm herself.
"Because you smile every time I do this..." She caught the brunette's earlobe in her teeth and tugged gently. She slowly shifted her hands up and tangled them in the Sharon's hair and then pulled back to look into Sharon's green eyes. "I watch you."
"I know." Sharon admitted.
"No, I don't think you do. I thought you did - and you just didn't care, but I don't think you do know. I watch you - every morning when you get out of the shower, and take off your robe and you stand there in front of your closet deciding what to wear." This felt odd for Brenda - she was used to having the upper hand in relationships - it had always been a given. Except when Will refused to leave his wife, which was fine. Eventually. This was the first time she DIDN'T want the upper hand, she didn't want to be responsible for the collateral damage that came when people entered her life. "And I watch you when you cross and uncross your legs 18 times a day - we ALL do. I watch you when you're in the kitchen, or when your on the couch - and I think you have to be one the prettiest women I have ever seen. Ahh -" She prematurely cut off Sharon's argument and watched as the other woman shut her mouth. For once. "And then I think about why you aren't attracted to me. And then you kiss me like you just did." Brenda's voice turned sickly sweet before her anger snuck back in "And then you walk away! So excuse me if I'm a little confused!"
"I knew -"
"You knew what?" Brenda asked, not letting the other woman go from her embrace. "How about letting me in on what you know?"
"I knew you...you wouldn't be interested."
"In sex, Brenda! You and me and sex!"
"I wouldn't be?"
"It's different -" She paused as Brenda snorted, "Than just kissing, or having mid-week slumber parties!"
"I'm fairly sure I can figure out where what goes, Sharon. And I'm 47 and I'm southern - my people practically invented sex. I happen to like it. I happen to be very...good at it."
"Oh really?" Sharon challenged, her eyes dropping to Brenda's pouting lip.
"What are you -" Before she could finish her question, she felt Sharon's lips drop to her mouth as she wrenched herself out of the blond's grasp - she playfully pushed the younger woman against the wall with her body and took her hands, pinning them above her hand. "You were saying?" The brunette growled.
"Give me your jacket." Brenda ordered, trying to put herself back together.
"You could try a please." Sharon teased as she ran her fingers through the other woman's blond hair, trying to restore order to it.
"Now." The blond demanded, an angry look across her face.
"Look at me! You've left me a mess, woman!" Brenda cried. Sharon took in the sight of the other woman and had to admit, she did look worse for wear with her blouse buttons ripped off and marks down her neck. She also looked...stunning.
"You look beautiful, Brenda." She stated softly, slipping out of her jacket and wrapping it around the other woman's shoulder.
"You're just sayin' that 'cause you got lucky, Captain." The blond remarked, her comment softened by the tender look in her brown eyes. "This doesn't change anything, does it?" She asked the older woman who stood there watching her.
"It does..." Sharon admitted solemnly nodding. "It means we're going to be doing that a lot more often." She smiled, placing a soft kiss on her lover's lips.
"Next time, can we do it somewhere warmer? Maybe a little less...atmospheric?" Brenda asked as she returned the peck.
"You're the one who brought me out here, Chief. I thought this was your attempt at romance." Sharon held open the door and the women snuck back into the the back hallway of the bar.
"I know about romance, Captain. When I am being romantic, you will know it." She huffed, pressing herself briefly against the other woman's body before they stepped apart and returned to their work personas.
"Is that a threat?"
"It's a promise."
Brenda ran a light hand over Sharon's brow, smoothing it in while she slept. At moments like this - in the quiet, in the dark - she felt overcome with emotion. It seemed to swell, slowly, in her chest until it became difficult to breathe, to think, to do anything but reach out and touch the other woman, to reassure herself that she was there, really and truly. Brenda settled down in bed, fitting her body against her lover's - they were lovers now, as crude as the alleyway had been - and tried to catch her breath. This wasn't love - it couldn't be. She had been in love before and it felt nothing like this. She could walk away at any time, owing nothing to the other woman and being owed nothing in return. She was free. As Sharon shifted, turning on her side, wrapping Brenda's arm tighter around her waist, Brenda felt her breath grow more labored.
Yes, she could walk away at any time - but she couldn't. She wouldn't. She didn't want to.
It seems the less the other woman expected from her, the more Brenda wanted to give her.
Brenda was angry. No, she was more than angry, she was livid. She was personally going to make Sharon Raydor's life a living hell after the stunt the brunette pulled this morning. "Morning Chief," Flynn greeted her as he joined her in waiting for the elevator in the lobby of headquarters.
"Morning, Lt. How are you?"
"Good, good." He took a sip from his coffee, "You?"
"I'm just fine." She responded curtly.
"I know that look. Raydor again?"
"Who else but that woman?" She smiled, hearing the familiar clicking of heels behind them.
"She's just very good at what she does." Brenda diplomatically stated, trying not to blush at the double meaning of her words. Sharon was, indeed, very good at what she did. And when they involved pleasant things that benefited her like looking good, or seducing her with just an eyebrow raise, or crawling into bed after sex with freshly baked brownies she was very pleased. Brenda had considered all of these as unexpected perks of being involved with another woman. When they involve torturing her like she had done earlier today, that was another story.
"Morning Chief. Lieutenant." Sharon greeted them, joining them at the elevator.
"Why good morning, Captain. I do hope you had a pleasant morning? Had a hearty breakfast?"
"Yes, Chief, I did. You?"
"Can't complain." Brenda lied through her teeth and stared straight ahead at the elevator doors. "I had a bagel. It was toasted." She could tell Sharon enjoyed seeing her seething. It wasn't funny. It would be if it was reversed, but it certainly wasn't when it was her! She saw Flynn raise his eyebrows in warning to the other woman then return his attention to his cup.
The elevator eventually arrived and they boarded - without thinking Brenda pressed Sharon's floor for her. Sharon reached out and selected another floor. Higher than Brenda's. Everyone knew the hierarchy of the building - the higher up you were above the smog, the more important you were. That's why she was allowed to taunt and tease Sharon (on a strictly professional level of course). The only office Sharon would have any reason for visiting that was higher up than her was Will. She raised her eyebrow in a silent question to her lover but was met with a blank stare. Oh well, back to payback. Suddenly, an idea sparked inside...
"Lt. Flynn, do you know what song I love?" She asked, playing up her Southern accent just to let the other woman know it was for her.
"Uh, no Chief, I don't." He stammered, confused as to where this was going.
"It's that Baby song - do you know it?"
"No, can't say I do." Now he was really confused.
"Oh, I'm sure you do. It's by that cute little Canadian boy, what's his name? Justin Beaver?"
"Don't." Sharon muttered under her breath, setting her jaw.
"Do YOU know it Captain?" Brenda batted her eyelashes towards the older woman, something she knew Sharon hated and loved at the same time.
"Uh no Chief Johnson, I'm afraid I don't know."
"Oh I'm sure you've both heard of it it goes -"
"Don't. Even. Think. About. It." Sharon warned.
"No, Captain Raydor, that's not how it goes - it actually just kind of gets stuck in your head and loops and loops and loops for days until you're just ready to jab a Q-tip in your ear or marry that little boy." She felt bad for the others in the elevator as she began singing. Off-key. "Baby, baby, baby oooooohhhhh."
"Stop." Raydor pleaded.
"Now?" Flynn agreed.
"Baby, baby, baby nnnnooooooo"
"Please?" Sharon asked, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath.
"Really Chief? Stop."
"Stop? I can't, I still have the whole rest of the song, it's about how his first love broke his heart for the first time! It's really very sweet."
"Listen, I don't think we've ever agreed on anything before -" Flynn nodded towards the Captain, "And I don't know if we ever will again, so please - just-"
"Oh. Our floor. 'Scuse us Captain. Enjoy your meeting." Brenda stepped off the elevator and walked down the hall. She didn't look back, if she did, she knew Sharon would see the smile spread from ear-to-ear across her face.
"That wasn't funny." Sharon announced, marching into her bedroom, followed shortly after by Brenda.
"Oh yes, it was!" Brenda argued, "You just need to learn to have fun more!"
"I hate fun." Sharon deadpanned, turning around and wrapping her arms around the smaller woman and placing a light kiss on her lips.
"I can tell. You didn't even laugh when we drew that picture of you - which again, all in fun!" Brenda smiled up devilishly, batting her eyelashes towards the other woman.
"I hate that song. You know it. I loathe it. I revile it. That song is the musical equivalent of well, of you!" She shot back, stepping away from the other woman.
"Charming, brilliant and captivating?" Brenda asked, flopping down on the bed and reaching across to where she had stashed a bag of pretzel M&Ms.
"Annoying, cloying and obnoxious." Sharon countered, "And it gets stuck in your head -"
"I said I was sorry about that," Brenda sat up, popping some candy in her mouth. "It was my earring and it was just dangly. Besides - you said you liked them!"
"I do - just not when they get tangled in my hair!"
"Oh baby, baby, baby " Brenda sang, bouncing along on the bed.
"Don't. Not again. Not again." Sharon warned, coming up to where Brenda sat on the bed.
"Well, you deserved it - you should've known better than to have taken the last brownie this morning!"
"I made them."
"Well, you should've made more then. I was saving that one for breakfast!" Brenda sweetly explained, as she slipped her hand in the standing woman's pocket and pulled out her cell phone. "You still have me listed as 'Chief'?" Brenda asked, munching on more candy. "These are really good."
"Well," Sharon shrugged, shedding her clothes from the day, "You still have me listed as 'The Witch', don't you?"
"That's because I don't know how to change it!" The blond pouted.
"Do you hear music?" Sharon asked.
"Find my phone."
"What? You find it!" She snapped as she tossed her shirt into the dry cleaning pile.
"No, go on! Find it!" Brenda grinned excitedly. "Trust me, you'll love it!"
"I don't know why I listen to you sometimes " Sharon muttered to herself as she dug around Brenda's obscenely large bag.
"It's because you think I'm pretty " The blond teased, pulling her hair out of her ponytail. "You like to kiss me " She continued as she watched the other woman fish out her phone and listen to the ringer.
It was that damned 'Baby' song again.
"I hate you." Sharon silenced the phone and tossed it to Brenda's side of the bed. She tried not to like that fact, that Brenda had a side of the bed.
"No you don't " Brenda sang out, wrapping her arms around the other woman's nude waist and pressing herself against her. "You loooove me " Sharon could feel herself stiffen under the other woman's embrace. She had never said anything about love. She hadn't even dared think about the word when it came to Brenda. She thought the other woman was brilliant, yes; beautiful, yes; fun to be around and yes, maybe she felt something more than the general lust and loathing she pretended to feel. Maybe she liked coming home and finding Brenda already settled in on the couch, with two glasses of wine ready. Maybe she liked looking across at Brenda from the squad room or the elevator and know that they had a secret. Maybe she liked the way Brenda would drop a kiss on her shoulder as she passed by her in the bathroom to reach her toothbrush, or her comb. It was a lot of maybes. That was what their entire relationship was and had been built on maybes. For all she knew, the blond didn't feel the same. They had never talked about it. They had never talked about anything - the fight in the alley way was the closest they had had to a 'what are we doing here' talk. She didn't want to press it, she didn't want to examine it - she just wanted to enjoy it for as long as it lasted. "I ah had Tao change my ringer." Brenda explained, stepping away from her to give them space. "I told him I wanted to know who was calling before I picked up and I asked him to give you this one." She elaborated.
"And he didn't ask why?" Sharon asked, shucking her bra and slipping into her oversized NYU t-shirt. She made her way into the bathroom and begun to brush her teeth, leaning on the doorway, watching as Brenda pulled her nightgown out from under her pillow. She thought it was sweet how she was disorganized, messy and frazzled, yet always managed to fold her nightgown up properly and tuck it under her pillow.
"I just told him you loved that song, Flynn backed me up. I don't know why you don't like that song. I think it's cute!"
"You would." Sharon rolled her eyes and returned to the bathroom, rinsing her mouth.
"Why do you always do that?" Brenda asked when she stepped out of the bathroom.
"Do what?" The brunette asked, pulling back the covers on the bed.
"Pretend like you're not the biggest sap in the world." The other woman joined her, rubbing hand lotion on like she had done every night she stayed over. Again, an unexpectedly feminine ritual.
"I am not. Take that back!"
"I will not because it's true. You are the biggest romantic in the world. Speaking of, have you noticed Flynn and Elliot lately?" Brenda reached over and flicked off the light, leaving them in darkness, before she settled in by Sharon, her head on her shoulder, her arm around her waist.
"I did notice them heading out together " Sharon admitted smiling in the dark. Flynn wasn't her type - but he seemed decent enough, and Anne needed someone sweet and decent.
"You're smiling, aren't you?"
"No." She lied.
"Liar." Brenda squeezed her.
Sharon felt the other woman sigh against her. She knew what that meant. It was another one of Brenda's tactics - she supposed she should be thankful that the blond didn't dig up her glasses Although the thought of Brenda in her nightgown and glasses was an unexplainably adorable one. "That sigh wouldn't be you wanting me to tell you why I was headed up to Will's office, would it?"
"I just assumed it was to see Will." Brenda stated, playing dumb.
"So you don't want to know?"
"If you wanted to tell me, you'd tell me." The blond asserted.
Sharon started to count in her head. One. Two. Three. Four -
"Why'd you see Will?!"
"I thought -"
"Just spill it Raydor!" Brenda threatened, jabbing her knee into her thigh.
"You know, it's so much easier to tell you things when you have your glasses on." She admitted, her lips curling into a devious grin. If Brenda wanted to do this, she may as well have some fun too.
"Seriously?" Brenda asked, "The glasses?"
"Oh lord." The blond mumbled as she threw back her covers and ran off to her purse. Sharon wasn't sure, but she could swear she heard her muttering about perversions and kinks - her grin grew. Brenda slipped them on her face and ran back to the bed, pressing her cold legs against Sharon's to warm them up. "There, I'm cold and I look like an idiot. Tell me."
"I think you look sweet in them." She felt nervous suddenly - if this was at work, and she had on a suit and heels, this conversation would've been easier than lying in bed beside the woman, dressed in nothing but a ragged cotton t-shirt. Maybe she coul-
"I had a meeting with him to go over the current F.I.D. policy -" She took a breath to steady herself and continued. She'd have to go through with it. "There's the new federal mandate that's expected to be issued in a few months and I'd like to make sure we're ready for it. Legal's changed hands - they're no longer under Lo, so I met the new Chief there, Williams."
"Didn't Lo get promoted?"
"Mayor's office - he was great to work with -"
"He let you get away with whatever you wanted." Brenda corrected.
"I only want what F.I.D. is due and entitled to." Sharon stated, turning on her side so she wouldn't have to look at Brenda while she continued. Not to be ignored, the younger woman propped herself up on one arm so she could at least tower over the other. "So Williams and I have plans to meet on Monday an-"
"Monday's your day at F.I.D. - can you really give it up?"
"Well " The brunette began, "I've been released from shadowing Major Crimes so I'm back with my team full time."
"What?" Brenda asked carefully, straightening her glasses as if that could help her clarify what she had just heard.
"I asked to be released from Major Crimes. Pope agreed. I've learned all I can, and I was going to tell you Mond-"
"Did you tell him about us?"
"No. Should've I have?"
"Of course not." Brenda snapped, lying forcefully back down. A moment passed. "I just don't get why you would do that - I mean, if it's not us, then what was it?"
"Nothing in particular." Sharon said softly in the dark, trying to keep her voice steady. She felt Brenda shift beside her, moving to straddle her, forcing her onto her back so the smaller woman could sit up in her lap. She fought against her initial instinct to squirm - she didn't know how Brenda always seemed so in control of everything. From the first night she stayed over, she seemed to claim everything as her own domain with a stray hair tie or glasses case or misplaced sweater. Wherever she went, she assumed she would fit in, and so she did. Sharon envied that. Looking up, Brenda's brown eyes seemed black and flat in the darkness - but the way her head was cocked to one side betrayed her concern.
"Don't lie to me."
"I'm not It's nothing in particular. My department is suffering from having an absentee boss who seems like she's angling for a promotion. It's began as a dog and pony show and it's just getting worse."
"Does that make me the dog or the pony then?" Brenda asked, crossing her arms.
"They had me shadowing your team so they can say they tried me out in another department. The truth is, I only have a few more years with the L.A.P.D. and I don't like the thought of starting from scratch in another department. I like where I am, I like what I do, and what I'm responsible for. I think it's ridiculous that they're spending their energies on trotting me around before I'm put out to pasture, while other capable women, younger and with more years to give to the city are being ignored."
"Maybe they're not ready? Maybe they haven't had affairs with the right people? Maybe you really do deserve more opportunity?"
"Maybe I don't care anymore." Sharon sighed.
"Maybe you should." Brenda argued, looking down at her "What do I even call you?"
"I know what you HAVE called me." Sharon laughed, raising a hand and running it through Brenda's hair.
"I mean it - I don't even know what to call you. You're Sharon, or Raydor, or Captain Raydor but "
"If I had to introduce you to someone, what would I say?" The blond asked, peering down at her.
"Would you introduce me to anyone?" Sharon asked, playing devil's advocate. She knew Brenda had a small network and that she had met, in a small way, almost everyone important to the younger woman.
"I I don't know. Do you get upset that we don't talk about us at work?"
"No." Sharon admitted. "I don't talk about anything personal, this isn't any different so why bring this up? Does it upset you?"
"No." Brenda agreed, "I think it would make things too difficult. It makes it easy to treat you as my Captain Raydor when we're at work when no one knows that you're my Sharon at home."
"I'm your Sharon?" She asked, laughing.
"Yes," Brenda bent down until her lips were just hovering the other woman's lips, "You're my Sharon. All. Mine."
And with that, she began to tickle the other woman, watching as she squirmed with laughter under her. She was, after all, all hers.
Brenda Leigh Johnson was fairly certain that in a past life she had done something horrible in an elevator, like kick a puppy, or steal a baby's candy - otherwise why else would she constantly run into her ... Sharon in them all the time? There were 6 elevators that serviced their floors, but somehow they always seemed to get on the same one. It was always the same - she'd start from the floor, recognize the shoes, move up those familiar (and frankly fantastic) legs and by the time she reached Sharon's bemused face, she was all but certain she was blushing. Today seemed no different - Sharon stepped onto the elevator, nodding in greeting to her and Provenza, who was headed down to the morgue - except she was followed quickly by Laura.
Brenda felt the blush on face spread. She liked the young woman and but everything was at hom - Laura and Sharon's home. What if Laura said something, did something to reveal their relationship? She needed air, but it seemed more people were crowding onto the elevator. "Nice to see you again, Chief Johnson." Laura said before returning her attention to her mother.
"You too Ms. Raydor." She managed to stammer out, carefully avoiding her Lt's eyes. Lucky for her, it seems he was fixated on the backside of a shapely blond who was busy fiddling with her phone. Any other time and she'd bust his ass but right now, she needed all the distractions she could get.
"So, you have the list and -"
"I got it mom. I'll go shopping and I'll clean up. I'll even set the dishes but I will not set foot in the kitchen."
"Of course not." Sharon agreed, looking deadpan to her daughter, "I don't want to come home to the smoldering embers of what was once my house."
"Ok, see - it was that one time and you've never forgiven me for it -"
"I have honey, I have forgiven you. I just haven't forgotten it." She smiled at her daughter. "Let's see," The older woman continued, slipping a small pad of paper out of her pocket and going over its contents. "Groceries, then cleaning: bathroom, dining room, living room - you can just toss whatever...work was left in there in my room -"
Brenda let out a soft huff of displeasure. It was audible enough to get Provenza's attention as well as elicit a small laugh from Sharon and Laura. That "work" they were talking about happened to be Brenda's work - and she couldn't help it if she fell asleep on the couch halfway through whatever awful movie they made her watch! Something about whiny single people in Seattle who wore high-waisted jeans and plaid and seemed to get stuck in traffic. She supposed she could've picked up after herself on her way to bed, but... well she had other things on her mind. It took every ounce of self-discipline that she had (and Lord knows, she didn't have a lot to begin with) not to mention that Sharon didn't seem to mind what they did instead of clean up.
She still has the marks to prove it.
"Why they don't just plan like normal people, I'll never understand!" Laura said, stepping aside to let Provenza's blond out of the elevator.
"Oh, they do plan, honey - they just don't tell us. It's a family trait."
"Company, Captain?" Brenda asked, surprised that she had actually spoke out loud.
"Ah, yes, Chief Johnson." Sharon smiled wanly towards her, "My parents have decided to surprise...us."
"Oh, I thought only mine did that." Brenda returned with another equally watery smile. Parents, what did that mean? Did she have to meet hem? Did she even want to? She'd have to spend the night at her place, which was obvious. Damn, where were her keys?
"Apparently not." Sharon returned her focus straight ahead to the doors.
"Parents?" Provenza grunted with an amused look across his face, "I thought people like you were hatched?"
"And I thought dinosaurs were extinct," Laura calmly shot back, echoing her mother's cocked head and laser-like focus towards the elevator doors, "But it seems we learn something new every day."
"Like mother, like daughter." Brenda stated, trying to stifle her smile.
"I'll say. See you Chief, Captain. Young lady."
The elevator doors slid open, letting them all out, save for the gruff man on his way to the freezers in the basement. Brenda fell in step with the other two women as they headed towards the main doors. Sharon ripped a page off of the notepad and handed it to her daughter along with some cash.
"Ugh mom," Laura rolled her eyes and quickly squeezed Brenda's arm. "See you later Brenda!"
The two women watched as Laura bounded down the front steps and towards the parking lot. Brenda didn't want to ask. She knew she should, but she really didn't want to. She could tell Sharon was waiting for her to say something. "So, your parents are in town?" She finally asked, her voice all but cracking.
"Surprise -" Sharon began, "An unexpected or astonishing event or fact."
"I know what 'Surprise' means, Sharon." Brenda sulked, "I was asking about us."
"What about us?" Sharon asked, finally turning to face her Chief. "They know I'm seeing a woman."
"They do?" This was news to Brenda. Sharon had mentioned her to her family? Her mind was drawing a blank as to what the appropriate emotion she should be feeling was. "Do you want me to meet them?"
"Do you want to meet them?"
"I asked," Brenda spoke slowly, trying to calm herself down, Sharon's ability to turn everything back on her getting under her skin. "If you wanted me to meet them?" Getting the other woman to admit anything was infuriating, as if each request was a sign of weakness.
"You're a grown-up, Brenda. You're more than welcome to meet them if you'd like. You're more than welcome not to if you don't want to."
"It's just...it's a big step." Brenda explained, grabbing the out that the other woman had provided her with, letting out a sigh of relief.
"It is." Sharon confirmed with a stiff nod of her head.
"I mean, how long have we really been...seeing each other...socially?" Brenda began, digging her hole deeper. "Is it really necessary to meet parents? Fritz didn't meet Mama until, oh...I don't know...Wait! Where are you going?" She called out as Sharon walked past her back towards the elevator banks.
"I need help." Brenda blurted out as soon as she heard the line connect.
"I think I messed up. I don't know how to fix it."
"I can barely hear you - why are you whispering?"
Why was she whispering? She was in her own office, on her cell, with the doors closed. She had thought for a moment to close the blinds, but thought better of it, it made it look too suspicious. She took a deep breath and flattened her wrinkled skirt against her thigh.
"I'm sorry, is this better?" She asked, speaking clearly.
"Yes." Laura confirmed, "Now what's going on?"
"I don't know. Sharon said I didn't need to come over if I didn't want to -"
"Do you want to?"
"No! Not at all! I hate meeting parents - it's just such a..." Brenda realized that maybe talking about this to Sharon's daughter wasn't the best idea she'd had. There was no one else though, no one else to talk to, who knew. How did she get herself into these situations?
"Yes. No. Yes. I don't know - I just don't like it. I'm not good at it. I said it was a big step and then she left - I can't help but think I was somehow tricked into messing up."
"That's because you were - she sets these traps, then watches you fall into them. And you fell into it. Big time. She gets like this - one sec." She could hear the other woman muffle the phone as she asked someone something. "Ok, sorry - she's like a pony sometimes."
"I was thinking of another animal, but go on." She muttered.
"She gets all skittish and nervous. She's waiting for you to leave so she can be right."
"I...I don't want to leave. Not yet. At least I don't think I do."
"Great - but have you told her?"
"No but - how do I fix it?"
"I don't know. I'm trying to find Dover sole. I don't even know what Dover sole is, but I'm looking for it because I love my mother and we make sacrifices for the people we love. We also occasionally make sacrifices for those we are in deep like with, ok? Do I need to repeat myself?"
"No ma'am." Brenda mumbled, fiddling with a pen on her desk.
"Listen, dinner's a big step, so come over for coffee after. Say you were held up at the office - that way it looks like you've made some sort of supreme effort but without staying for the whole meal."
"And you mother?" Brenda asked, realizing that she wasn't prepared for this thing with Sharon to end. Not like this anyways.
"She'll get over it the same way she gets over everything else. It's infuriating, isn't it? Now listen, flowers never hurt, white ones - nothing showy like roses, but nothing too 'I stopped in at a bodega on my way over' either. Aim for 8-ish. I gotta go. And Brenda?"
"Yes?" She could hear the hesitation in the young woman's voice.
"We um... We're dressing for dinner. See ya!"
And with that the line went dead and Brenda was left with one final question: What was with the Raydor family's fixation on how she dressed?
It wasn't the doorbell ringing that triggered Sharon's senses that something was off - it was the way Laura kept eyeing the door all night. Her mother too. Sharon had asked her daughter if there was something she wanted to tell her about her newfound obsession with the door, but she simply shrugged and pretended she hadn't heard her. She remembered why she was so supremely thankful once her children left for college. When the doorbell rang, she was pleased that whatever it was that had them all on edge was finally happening.
"I'll get it -" Laura said, sweeping past her mother in the kitchen making coffee, "It's just Brenda."
"Excuse me? Brenda?" Sharon asked, wiping her hands on a dish cloth, "Why?"
"Because she's sorry."
The doorbell rang again.
"Sharon, do you want me to get it?" Her mother called out from the living room.
"Grandma knows?" Sharon asked her daughter.
"Grandam knows." Laura confirmed, taking up her mother's place at the coffee machine.
"I'll get it." She sighed.
The walk to the door was a quick one, one she'd done countless times in the last twenty odd years she'd lived in this house, but every step made her stomach churn. What did Brenda want, why was she here? She placed a hand on the doorknob, took a deep breath and opened the door, stepping out quickly - blocking Brenda's way in - and closing the door behind her.
It was indeed Brenda, and she looked beautiful in that red and white dress. She hated how the other woman could effortlessly transform into a stunning woman. It took her hours of hair straightening, working out and wardrobe deliberation so she could look somewhat presentable, but all it took was for Brenda to NOT dress like a Georgia housewife circa 1996 and she took her breath away. "If I tell you I was stuck in traffic would you let me fall helplessly in your arms as if nothing happened?" The blond asked, producing a small bouquet of white flowers from behind her back. Sometimes she wanted to strangle her daughter - if Brenda though she was a romantic, she knew nothing of Laura - it was certainly her who told the blond about the flowers. Laura and her brother Adam practically had the florist on speed-dial when they were teenagers - she could usually guess the severity of what they'd done by the size of the bouquet they'd present her - when Adam totaled her car at 18, she woke up to freshly planted white hydrangeas in the front lawn.
"Do I need to put on my glasses for you to forgive me?" the blond joked awkwardly as they stood there.
"You didn't have to come." Sharon replied
"I know Sharon, I wanted to." She watched Sharon cross her arms and shoot a disbelieving look in her direction "Ok, Sharon honey, you've really got to help me out here." Brenda began, "I know you keep waiting for me to disappoint you, and I know sometimes I do - but you've really got to help me when I need it. When I ask you if you want me to meet your parents, it's because I don't know what you want. You just bounce things back to me and then get angry when I don't do the right thing. I don't know what the right thing is sometimes and I can't read you when you get like this." She motioned to the other woman's crossed arms stance. Sharon took the flailing flowers from her hand. "You're like a brick wall and I'm getting real tired of disappointing you because it the last thing I want to do." She sighed and looked past Sharon and into the front window where she saw a well-dressed older woman and Laura watching on in fascination. She smiled slightly as the young girl gave her a thumbs up. "Sharon, you're mama's watching."
"Brenda -" Sharon looked down into her bouquet - it wasn't a standard one that you just picked off the shelf, there were roses and lilies and daisies and some other ones she couldn't quite name.
"I wasn't sure what flowers you liked, I know Laura said no roses, but I've always thought they could be very pretty."
"I've never bought flowers for someone that wasn't for my mama before."
"I don't know where we're going." She didn't. She really didn't. She didn't even know what they were. She knew they had danced around that particular issue for months - and it had been months - but they hadn't addressed it. Maybe she didn't need to name whatever it was she and the other woman had, but she wanted to. She wanted to be able to identify the emotions and the feelings she had towards the woman who was standing inches away from her, and what's more - she wanted to know that Brenda felt the same things for her. She was getting too old for this - her age another thing they never talked about aside from the odd joke - it never seemed like an appropriate topic to bring up. Brenda had just gotten out of her second failed marriage - she needed time to see what else and who else was out there. Time was something she wasn't sure she had to give so freely anymore.
"I do -" Brenda said to her, stepping up "It's inside for coffee and cake. There is cake, right?" She joked, fitting herself against the other woman.
"Chocolate." The brunette murmured, pressing her lips against Brenda's knitted brow.
"Like the one you seduced me with?" Brenda teased, leaning into the kiss.
"I wake up every morning, and before I even open my eyes, I reach out my hand and make sure I can feel you, that you're still there."
"I'm still here." Brenda whispered, wrapping her arms around Sharon's neck and placing a hard kiss on her lips.
Brenda wished she could tell the other woman that she'd always be there, but she couldn't. Not yet. She wasn't sure if she'd ever be able to say those words. Why lie to someone, especially someone you cared so deeply about. Because she did care about Sharon - very deeply. It was like Fritz, but different. With some relationships, Brenda fell hard and fast - those were the ones that never lasted, with the men who were no good. It was like that with Will; it was like that with her first husband. But with Fritz, and now with Sharon - it was something that grew slowly, gradually until one day she realized that their lives and hers were intertwined until you couldn't pull them apart without bringing their worlds crashing down around them. These were the people who were patient with her, who waited while she figured out what they'd known all along. She had fought against these people, the ones who loved her and understood her better than she did herself, her whole life. Maybe it was time to stop fighting and just accept it?
"They do this." Martha Raydor told her, leaning in as if she was sharing a secret, "I often feel like I am a record widow when they get together."
"I can certainly see why." Brenda laughed awkwardly, following Martha's glance to where Sharon stood with her father, going over the bookshelf in the back corner of the wall. Funny, she had been here so many times, but she had never noticed that bookshelf or the hundreds of records that filled it. While Brenda wasn't above snooping, she found herself unable to do it after she found a photo of Sharon and her husband in Sharon's desk. The truth was, she didn't want to know that much about Sharon's life, she knew everything she needed to for now.
"So, Brenda..." Martha clasped her hands over Brenda's knee, "Tell me a little about yourself?"
"Oh, well..." She really hated meeting parents. She really did. They were always so nosy. Why didn't they just ask what they were thinking, which Brenda was pretty sure was somewhere along the lines of 'are you sleepin' with my baby?'. She plastered a smile across her face and hoped she hid her discomfort. "I'm not sure there's much to tell."
"Now you're being mysterious - a useful trait in a woman. Your accent - the Carolinas?"
"No ma'am. Atlanta, Georgia."
"And your parents, are they still there?"
"No need to call me ma'am, dear. Martha works just fine." She patted the blond's knee and took a sip of coffee. Brenda took this time examine her - she had silver hair styled in a severe bob; she had a delicate bone structure that differed from her daughter's, but Brenda could already see where Sharon got the habit of pursing her lips from. Sharon looked more like her father Paul, who was at least in his late 70's, but still had a head full of salt-and-pepper hair. He had a wide smile and broad cheeks. She had seen him smile once, from the corner of her eye at something Sharon had whispered in his ear - his face lit up. He reminded her a little of her own father - the thought that they weren't as dissimilar as they had once believed was too odd of a concept for her to think about. She still thought of them as to drastically different people brought together by unusual circumstances and wondered how long they would manage to hold together. She turned her attention back towards Sharon's mother, she was dressed simply in a flowing black tunic and white pants - she was glad Laura had warned her to dress up as she had a feeling that Martha Raydor's ensemble was possibly in the range of her monthly rent. "Is this a police thing, dear?" Martha asked.
"This sizing up, I notice Sharon doing it when we're out - is this something you all do?"
"I'm sorry if I made you uncomfortable, ma'am. Martha." She corrected herself, blushing.
"Don't let Grandma get to you, Brenda. She's just trying to figure you out. She's a psychologist - she treats the world as her asylum."
"One - never give away all of Grandma's secrets, especially when she's in the middle of updating her will." Martha warned, a manicured finger pointed at Laura who sat across from them in the living room. "Two - we don't use the term asylum, it's so...uncouth."
"And we wouldn't want that, do we Grandma?" Laura teased.
"How you and Sharon put up with this one is beyond me!" Martha said to Brenda, painting a faux stern expression on her face. She could see that in the Raydor family, at least with their women, teasing was a form of endearment. It also seemed that the Raydor women were all strong and intelligent - these were the people she had hated while at Georgetown, the women who made her life a nightmare in D.C. - the ones with a shoe for every outfit and a snide remark for every person. Sitting here, sipping coffee and nibbling cake, Brenda realized they didn't seem so bad. Although everything seemed easier to take when sugar was involved.
"Well it's a burden, but we try our hardest." Brenda chimed in, smiling across the table. "Tell me some more about yourself, Martha." She asked, falling on an old trick her mother had once taught her. "And if you have any potentially humiliating stories about either Laura or Sharon, please feel free to go into great detail about them."
"Well, if y'all are leaving, I suppose I should go too. It's getting awfully late." She saw the look of amusement on the faces around her. "What?"
"Well..." Paul began, coughing to cover up his laughter.
"It's nothing dear," Martha began, placing a light touch on her husband's arm. "We just assumed you'd be staying is all."
"But -" Brenda's mouth gaped open and shut. She looked over at Sharon for help, but just saw the brunette duck behind her hair. She was pretty sure she could hear her laughing. She didn't quite know how to handle this. Her parents would've never suggested it. They never would've even talked about it. Brenda liked that about them. She never had to have these awkward moments with them. Her father thought she was a virgin up until her third week of marriage when her mother had to break it to him!
"We're what you might call pretentious liberal." Paul began, slipping into his sport coat, "Forgive us?"
"What Paul means to say, Brenda is well...that we assumed you spend the night here."
"What...would give you that impression?" Brenda asked, humiliated at her inability to lie properly. She could never lie to her mama - she didn't realize she couldn't lie to OTHER people's mamas!
"Well, if Sharon's closet is any indication, you keep quite a lot of your clothes here. The last time she's had that much pink and floral in there she was still tinkling in her -"
"MOTHER!" The brunette shouted, humiliated.
"No, no - carry on Martha. I'd love to hear more." Brenda wrapped her arm around the elder Raydor's arm.
"Perhaps another time." She winked - Brenda noticed she had the same vivid green eyes as her daughter, she suddenly felt very much at ease around her. Funny how such a small detail could change your whole perception of a person. "But it was very sweet that you tried to put us at ease. Walk us out?"
"Well, it's just that I'm a little old fashioned. I suppose that's just the way my mama and daddy raised me." Brenda confessed, holding onto Martha's arm as they made their way down the walkway to the driveway, followed by the rest of the family.
"And I don't see anything wrong with that. They clearly did a wonderful job. Paul and I are old-fashioned too."
"Indeed. We believe a martini's with gin and that you don't wear white after labor day." He joked.
"Alright, she's dating mom, not you two!" Laura groaned, getting into the driver's seat. They said their goodbyes as Brenda walked Martha around to the passenger's side and Sharon helped her dad into the backseat. Plans were made for lunch. Brenda was invited over to their hotel for a glass of wine one night before they left. Sharon wrapped an arm around the other woman's waist as they stood side by side in the dark, watching and waving as the car headed down the street.
They eventually turned around went back into the house. It was quiet and dark and suddenly, they both felt very lonely. Sharon knew they needed to talk - she just doesn't have the heart to do it. "I'm going to change." She heard the blond say softly behind her as she began to clear the coffee cups from the living room into the kitchen. She wished she wasn't in this position, but she knew she only had herself to blame. If she was smarter, stronger, she wouldn't have given in, she wouldn't have kissed her here in her kitchen that night, she would've just left it the way she knew she should've. The sense of loss pressed heavy on her, it slowed her breathing, her movements - but she hadn't lost anything yet.
When Jamie died, she regretted having forgotten so many details about him. How he smelled, how he liked to mess up her hair, or how he would eat ketchup with his eggs. All the little things you take for granted when you fall in love is what you miss when it's gone.
She wondered what she'd forget about Brenda.
She wondered for how long she would find those long strands of golden hairs pressed against her suit jacket. She wondered how long it would take to get used to an empty bed again. She wondered what it would be like to fall asleep on the couch again.
Brenda took her time getting undressed upstairs.
Given the suddenly solemn mood that fell over the other woman, she wasn't looking forward to rushing down there. Brenda reached for her nightgown and then stopped, running her hand over the fold of Sharon's white cotton nightgown tucked behind the pillows. It was the one she'd been wearing the night she stormed over here and kissed her. She couldn't believe how long ago that was and how much had changed. And how little at the same time. She pulled the red and white dress up over her head and put on Sharon's gown - it was a little too roomy - Brenda thought as she wrapped the white robe around herself. She felt very far from the other woman. She sat on the bed and mulled over the fact that she knew very little about her lover. This was unlike her - Brenda liked information, her whole life was dedicated to it. She would follow boyfriends for days in college, trying to figure out their secrets - but she didn't want to look for anything in Sharon's life, she wanted to leave those secrets secret. If she knew too much, this would become harder, whatever this was. When she sat in her office earlier today she had thought about how she was completely unprepared for that to be her last blow-up with Sharon, but now, sitting here alone in the dark bedroom she wondered how much longer she could expect to stay.
She realized she would have to go down, but she didn't move. She stood there, sitting on the edge of the bed, in the dark, wrapped up in Sharon's nightgown and robe until Sharon eventually came up. She didn't say anything to Brenda when she walked in, she didn't even look at her, she simply came in and went straight to the closet where she shucked off her clothes. Brenda loved the curve of the other woman's back. It was so long and lean and inviting. It was distinctly feminine, with its tapered shoulders and small of the back and the swell of her hips. Her favorite part of the day was crawling into bed and fitting herself against the other woman's back. Wordlessly she rose from the bed and placed a light touch on Sharon's back, her fingertips fluttering down her spine. "Look at me." It took her a moment to realize she had been the one say those words, they sounded so different from her usual voice. So tired.
"No." Sharon said, shaking her head.
No response, just Sharon's body moving in small motions in the dark as she hung up her suit.
"Look at me." Brenda repeated, more forcefully. It didn't sound tired this time, it was commanding. She had come to realize that Sharon, as bossy as she was, liked being a Captain - she may have made empty gestures towards moving higher up, but if she wanted it, she'd have done it. Captain let Sharon lead and command, but still subjected her to orders. She may not admit it, but she liked having to listen to someone else at times, it took the burden off of her. She watches Sharon freeze, then slowly turn around - and before she knows it, Brenda's being pulled into the other woman's arms in a hug. She has never felt need from Sharon - not like this. She's felt admiration and toleration; lust and desire; rage and manipulation; she has even felt love from the other woman but she has never felt need. Brenda wraps her arms around Sharon and slowly starts to stroke her hair. There's the smell of junipers again, that astringent gin smell that has reminded her of Sharon ever since their first dinner, their first kiss. She knows something is changing between them and she doesn't know what to do beyond provide what little comfort she can at the moment. She stands there, continuing to stroke Sharon's hair and be thankful that the other woman wasn't crying. She didn't know if she had ever really seen her cry beyond the stray tears that she would wipe away fiercely at the end of movies. Brenda would never tell her, but for a woman with such pretentious tastes when it came to art and literature, it was laughable how bad her taste in movies were.
She eventually felt Sharon's grasp ease off of her and soon felt her pull away and laugh. "That's mine." She said, her hand flicking the bottom of her robe that Brenda was wearing.
"Well yes, I just thought it looks better on me."
"I see, and what am I supposed to wear then?" Sharon asked, schooling her features back under control.
"What's wrong with what you have on now?" Brenda teased.
"I'm half naked!"
"You're right. You should take it all off." She laughed, "Here, I'll help you." She reached out a hand and unzipped the side of Sharon's skirt.
"Your parents seemed to like me just fine." Brenda shot back, "Maybe it's just you."
"Maybe it's just you?" Sharon replied, pulling Brenda back into her arms.
They stood there for a moment and Brenda could tell she wanted to say something. She knew this feeling well, this was the feeling that had seeped into the last months of her relationship with Fritz, it was the feeling of him trying to gather the courage to ask her for a divorce. "Not tonight." She whispered, placing a quick peck on Sharon's lips. "I know, I do. Let's just go to bed." She watched as Sharon nodded. "Good." She sighed. "Good.
Brenda felt herself float back to reality from whatever dream she'd been having. She didn't know, she didn't care - dreams didn't mean much to her. A quick glance at the clock told her it was earlier than she thought. She returned to her previous position, curled up agains Sharon's back, skin to skin. She knew what Sharon was talking about earlier on the porch - how the brunette would check to make sure she was still there - she did it too. She never wondered if Sharon was still there, she checked to make sure she was still real. She brushed back some of Sharon's hair and dropped a sleepy kiss against the back of her neck as she let herself return to sleep.
She was still real. They both were.
Her hands were shaking. She wedged the phone between her ears and quickly grabbed her steering wheel to steady them.
She counted the ringer, taking a deep breath with every unanswered ring. Maybe she would she'd be lucky? Half-way between the fourth ring and the familiar voicemail click, the line connected. "Hello? Brenda Leigh - is that you honey?" No. Not lucky. Not today anyways.
"Why yes Mama, it's me! How are you?" She asked, her voice high and nervous. She prayed her mother wouldn't notice it. She felt sick. She was going to be sick. She was thankful she hadn't eaten anything yet - at least they'd find her dry heaving on Sharon's driveway instead of actually vomiting on it.
"Did you hear what I said? They're tearing' down the house down the street and puttin' up one of those -"
"Yes Mama, I heard! That's just awful!"
"Isn't it just?" Willie Rae agreed before continuing. Brenda meanwhile continued to take deep breaths to calm herself. She wasn't sure why she was doing this. Or why now - late for work on a sunny Friday morning. Or why here - sitting in her car still parked in Sharon's driveway.
Sharon hadn't asked her to do this. In fact, she was inside enjoying a day off - she had no idea Brenda was doing this.
Even Brenda didn't know why she was doing this - but sometime around Laura giving her romantic advice, she realized that she had nobody, not a single person she could talk to about this. It made her sadder than it should've. She was a 47 year old woman, she was a high ranking official with the LAPD, she worked with the CIA, she could put together a Glock in 32 seconds - she had done plenty of other things with her life in lieu of making friends. And now she was paying the price.
"Why Brenda Leigh, I don't think you've heard a single word I've been sayin'! It's alright though, I suppose I should just be thankful you called at all, shouldn't I?" Her mother laughed on the other end. After all these years, Brenda couldn't tell if her mother was the single most passive aggressive woman on the planet, or the sweetest.
"I know Mama, I'm sorry about not callin' y'all more." She rolled her eyes at her inability to control her accent. It always seemed to be as thick as molasses when she talked with her parents. "But I'm tryin' - that's why I'm callin' now!" She took a breath to steady her nerves. She felt like she was in the middle of a lamaze class with all these deep and meaningful breaths she'd been taking.
"You seem to be wheezy dear, everything alright?"
"Yes Mama," She chimed, digging through her purse for candy.
"You know you never take care of yourself," Willie Rae needled, "You should go see your doctor. I know you and Fritz are on a break, but that's no reason to neglect your health. You need to take care of yourself and have your lady's annual every year."
Candy. She needed candy. Now.
"Promise me you'll see your doctor?"
"Yes ma'am." Brenda agreed, pawing desperately through her glove compartment in search for anything - a stale Fuzzy Peach or a half-empty bag of Skittles. "I will make an appointment with my doctor. But look, Mama - that's not why I'm calling." She found a beaten bag of M&M's. "I'm calling because well because I " It was empty. "I'm seeing someone and I wanted you to know about it. And before you ask, it's not Fritz. He's seeing a very lovely girl named " She reached under the car seats, feeling around, "Well I forgot her name. But she seemed nice."
"Well Brenda - how west coast of you." She could hear the uncertainty in her mother's voice. "Goin' out with Fritz and his new lady."
"We didn't go out Mama, I've run into them a few times out and about."
"Well Are you happy?"
"About Fritz? Why wouldn't I b-"
"No, Brenda Leigh!" Her mother sighed loudly on the other end, "I meant are YOU happy, with your new beau?"
"Yes Mama. I am." And she was. She had her life, she had her work and on most nights she had her wine - she was a simple woman with simple desires.
"Well, I'm glad. Who is it?"
"Ah." And there it was. "I don't know what you're going to say " Brenda warned. Suddenly she didn't think this was such a good idea. Come to think of it, when had she ever thought this was a good idea?
"Don't be coy, Brenda Leigh - I've seen it all."
"Well, it's someone you know." It was true. She did know Sharon. "And liked! You lik-"
"Brenda Leigh Johnson, it's not that Chief Pope is it? You know what your daddy says about shi-"
"Daddy!" She had forgotten about her father. She closed her eyes and hoped for the whole thing to be a dream. She was so nervous about telling her mother that she had forgotten all about her daddy. She couldn't do this to them. They were so proud of her. It had broken their hearts to hear about Fritz that she didn't know what hearing about Sharon would do.
She wouldn't do this to them.
She opened her eyes and saw Sharon - it was only for a minute. She was throwing back the curtains by the front windows. Her hair was piled up and she was in her grubby work shirt. She had been so excited that morning, digging out her 'cleaning clothes' from the bottom of her drawers. She had gone on and on that morning about her bi-annual cleaning of the house. Laura had wisely left early and Brenda had found the whole thing so endearingly sweet, so oddly sexy that she threw Sharon down on the bed and quickly began to undress both of them.
Yes, she was happy.
"Brenda? Hello? HELLO? I think the line went dead " She heard her mother mutter, "Hello?"
"Mama? Hello? I'm here! I'm here! Sorry, I was just thinkin' was all."
"Oh well, I was sayin' about how I hope it's not Chief Pope, I know you're both single now, but really -"
"It's no Will, Mama. Goodness no. And and it's not Andy either."
"Oh, I like him, Brenda Leigh. He's always so polite and -"
"It'sSharonRaydor!" She heard the words all tumble out of her mouth in one solid, single lump.
"Brenda, honey - can you repeat that? You jumbled them all together. I could swear you said Sharon Raydor." She could hear her mother chuckle on the line. Why shouldn't she?
"It's because I did say Sharon Raydor."
That was all.
Both women waited in silence for the other to say something. Brenda, for all of her useless deep breathing earlier found herself holding her breath hoping for something, anything from her mother.
"Mama?" She finally whispered, "Say somethin'?"
"I uh " She could hear her mother's television in the background. Ellen was on. She wanted to laugh. "I don't know what you want me to say, Brenda Leigh. Are you gay?"
She didn't know. They had never talked about it. Even Sharon was very vague about it - Brenda knew she was married, and her husband had died. She knew Sharon loved him deeply, and still did. She also knew Sharon had dated both men and women. The whole situation seemed bizarre to her, a woman of Sharon's age doing that, but then again it seemed no more bizarre than her dating Sharon herself.
"I I don't know." She didn't. "I don't know Mama." She could feel her hands shaking again. "I don't even know how it happened, I just know that it did. And I'm sorry Mama. You have to believe me. I'm so sorry." And then she started crying. She couldn't help it. She didn't know. She didn't know anything, it seemed - about herself, or her life, or Sharon, or anything. "I'm so sorry."
"Well stop your cryin' Brenda Leigh!" Her mother exclaimed. "You know that never solved anything! Stop it. Stop it right now!"
"I " She started hiccuping, like when she was 12 again. She wiped her sleeve across her face, mopping up the tears.
"Well there you go, workin' yourself up again. You know your daddy and I, we love you. No matter what, we love you. We love you and if you love someone, then we'll love 'em too." Willie Rae took a breath, "You do love her, don't you?"
And there it was.
The $64,000 question.
Did she love Sharon Marie Raydor?
"I I don't know." Brenda confessed, "I just know I can't imagine my life with out her right now."
"Brenda - this is serious now, listen to me honey, is this because of the divorce? If so, it's not really fair to her. Or us."
"I don't know Mama. I don't. I don't know anything anymore."
"Then you best figure it out. You can't go around hurtin' people like you hurt Fritz. You're my baby and I love you like a bee loves honey, but you need to stop hurtin' those of us who love you. You understand?"
"Yes ma'am. I know. I just don't know. What about Daddy?"
"Well " She could hear her mother thinking, those wheels turning. "Let's tackle one thing at a time, ok? I love you, and your father loves you and don't you forget it. You din't have to call and tell me. It means a lot that you did."
"I love you too Mama. I'm sorry -" She realized she had smeared her mascara across her sleeve.
"There's nothing to be sorry about. You found someone who's making you happy. You are happy, aren't you? You have to know that much."
"Very much so, Mama. She - she makes me very happy." Finally, a question she knew the answer to!
"Well then good." She could hear her mother struggling. "It's going to take some time to get used to the idea, but we'll get there. All of us." She could hear something in the background. Her mother's voice changed suddenly, "Now honey, your daddy just walked in. Say 'hi' to him, ok?"
"Ok Mama. I love you too." She heard the phone change hands, and smiled as she heard her mother explain how she's having a rough day.
"Well hi there, Brenda Leigh! What's this your Mama's sayin' about a rough day?"
"Not now that I'm talkin' to you Daddy! How are you?"
"I think we broke up today." Brenda said. It was the first time she said it. Out loud. She hadn't even let herself think it. She offered a Twix to Laura, then snapped hers in half. It felt good to break something, even if it was just a chocolate bar. She began chewing a mouthful as she mulled over the words she had just said.
"Well then," Laura said slowly, processing Brenda's information, switching her melting chocolate from one hand to another, "I suppose this isn't how you intended to end your day."
"No." Brenda snorted, "It certainly wasn't". Exhaustion and weariness having worn her down to her most basic elements, the snort turned into a chuckle, then into a slow laugh that built up, releasing every emotion that was coursing through her, lurking just under her skin until it felt like it was crawling over her.
It was laugh, Brenda realized, or cry, but she wouldn't cry, not here. Crying would make it real and she certainly wasn't ready for this situation to be real. She didn't have nearly enough chocolate on hand.
Sharon Raydor was stubborn as hell. Sometimes the only person more stubborn than herself was...well herself.
She dropped her pen in disgust and sighed.
Fine, she thought to herself. She'd admit it once and once only and then maybe she'd be able to go back to work.
She was in love with Brenda Leigh Johnson.
She wasn't in love with everything - the woman could be annoying as hell, manipulative, inconsiderate (she wouldn't put the cap on the toothpaste, she wouldn't put her dishes in the dishwasher, she would leave her shoes where she knew Sharon would trip on them and she'd always finish the milk...she had to stop herself from continuing the mental list) - but the fact of the matter was, she was in love with most everything else about the other woman. Her intelligence, her sense of humor, her ability to read her, the way she fit against her, the way she smelled, the way she tasted, the way she had to fight to keep a smile from her face whenever they stepped on an elevator together.
So she was in love with Brenda Leigh Johnson.
It didn't change anything. She wouldn't let it. She'd stick to her resolve and end it. Not like those other times she said she was going to end it. She meant it this time. She couldn't go around, being all...in love...with Brenda. It was one thing to have sex with her, to occasionally share a bottle of wine, to make out on the couch like they were in high school (when their high school years were far, far behind both of them). It was another thing to be in love with her. And admit it. It was funny, love was once a dramatic emotion, all chest constrictions and heart palpitations - counting down the minutes until they'd see each other, or making up some phony excuse to run into them if the minutes were too many - but now it was a fact (she had two arms, she had two legs, she was in love), an inconvenient one more than anything else. It was like a sunburn - irritating and vaguely painful but with nothing to do but wait it out.
If being in love wasn't going to force her to distraction, her poor metaphors were. Another reason to end it - love was hell on her productivity.
She picked up her pen and took a deep breath, steadying herself in the face of reviewing and notating the 2,409 page document outlining the new policies and procedures L.A.P.D. and every other major police force in the country would be expected to roll out in the next three months. She scanned the page for where her concentration gave out and returned to work - she dragged the pen across the sheet ... and nothing happened.
Her pen had ran out of ink.
She calmly took a deep breath and (very thankful her office door was closed) hurdled the pen across the room with a very satisfactory "Aaaaaaaarrrrrrggghhhhhh!". She smiled as she watched the useless item hit of the wall then bounce on the floor a few times. Good, she thought as she rooted in her desk for another one. Screaming was childish, so was taking satisfaction from the projected pain of an inanimate object, but sometimes she was tired of being an adult. Of being Sharon Raydor, of being the force's Wicked Witch and of always being an adult. Sometimes she wished she could trip through life as carelessly as Brenda had. It wasn't to say the other woman hadn't worked for her position, her experiences, or wasn't capable. She knew how much harder Brenda had worked because of her voice and her hair and her looks she had to - it was just that it seemed Brenda never had to make the hard choices, she simply landed wherever the wind blew her. She knew her marriage to Fritz was over, she confessed one night on the couch as she went over her witness testimony for a court date, but she had waited for him to make the first move (and the final one). Sometimes she didn't want to always be the adult.
Sharon looked up, feeling eyes watching her.
Brenda stood against her closed office door, an amused look on her face.
"Most people know better than to come in without knocking, Chief." She warned, running her new pen back and forth across the corner of the page to start the ink flow. "How can I help you?"
"I did knock, Captain. You must have been too busy assaulting that poor, defenseless pen to notice." She nudged the plastic corpse with the tip of her shoe.
Which Sharon couldn't help but follow up where it led, past her slim legs which disappeared under a simple floral skirt and creamy twinset.
"My eyes are up here, Captain." Brenda teased, stepping away from the door. "What are you working on?"
"New federal mandate. Three months to roll out." She motioned towards the pile and then returned to the page in front of her, simultaneously willing herself not to look up or engage Brenda while willing the other woman to stay on the other side of the desk. From the periphery of her eye she noticed Brenda's shoes walking past her. She soon felt a warm pair of arms wrap over her stiffening shoulders and begin to play with the buttons of her shirt.
"You know," Brenda purred softly into her ear, "It's lunch time."
"It...is." Sharon agreed, trying not to notice the effect the other woman was having on her, her proximity to her, or the fact that she had used Sharon's shampoo which made her feel incredibly possessive and incredibly manipulated. She stared straight ahead at her work. She wouldn't be distracted.
"And before you ask," Brenda continued, "I did use your shampoo." She felt the other woman's tongue flick across her earlobe before her teeth gave it a quick tug, pulling her focus to the blond woman behind her and ONLY the blond woman behind her. "I seem to remember you saying how much you liked it when I smelled like you."
"Really?" Sharon lied, "I don't remember."
"No." She lied again, trying to to not notice Brenda's hands and how they weren't playing with the buttons of her shirt - they were undoing them.
"My mistake." Brenda let go of Sharon and her buttons and seated herself on the edge of the desk so that they were now facing each other, brown eyes meeting green. Sharon welcomed the distance, she welcomed the fact that she could now think again, free from the fog Brenda and her teasing just caused. "Remember when I said you'd know if I was being romantic?"
"Is that what this is?" Sharon asked, pushing her chair back and rising to get more distance, more strength, "Trying to seduce me in my office, feet away from my staff isn't exactly romantic."
"Your staff has just been released for lunch by one very irate Chief Johnson. Did I forget to mention, I'm wearing the black bra?" Brenda pointed out, confusion in her voice.
"The black bra?" Sharon felt her mouth go dry while other other parts of her body were distinctly...not.
She liked the black bra.
She loved it.
She would do unholy things to see Brenda in the black bra. She wouldn't even mention how one shouldn't be wearing a black bra under cream knitwear - that's how much she adored it. On it's own, it was nothing special or spectacular. It was a black, cotton bra, like countless other bras - but on Brenda it was transformed. The colour was striking and stark against the fair, milky skin of the other woman. The soft curves of breast that filled the cups and the knowing smirk that often accompanied it elevated the simple cotton into something dangerous, exciting. It was the Glock of underthings - simple, unassuming, and deadly in the right hands. Brenda rarely wore it, she thought it looked to severe - she preferred her beiges, her whites, her pinks - Sharon thought it looked spectacular.
"Yes," Brenda confirmed, "The black bra." She rose up off the table and made her way towards Sharon, who kept backing away until she hit the sideboard behind her. "Why are you so jumpy?" The blond laughed, reaching out and wrapping her arms around the other woman's waist. "Expecting someone?" She asked, arching an eyebrow.
"No." Sharon answered carefully, feeling her body betray her inner resolve and strength when it came to Brenda and her advances.
"So, you have no other...appointments, your team is out for lunch, you have a very willing me, and a very big desk. Are these facts correct, Captain?"
"Yes, Chief." She answered, finding herself unable to tear her eyes away the serious way Brenda had schooled her features.
"So what are we still doing talking?" She asked, before she pressed her lips to the other woman. Sharon had two choices, she could either sidestep the other woman and do what she needed to do, say what she needed to say and get back to work. Or she could enjoy this moment. As she felt Brenda's cool hands buzzing across her body, finishing it's earlier work of unbuttoning her blouse, she seemed to forget the first option. She was too caught up in the other woman's kisses. If this was going to be her last few moments with Brenda Leigh Johnson, she was going to commit each and every sensation to memory.
She quickly moved her mouth down, past Brenda's lips, to the curve of her neck, the smell of shampoo and perfume still strong. She could taste the soapy aftertaste as she nipped the skin lightly with her teeth. "That's more like it." She could hear the other woman egg her on softly. But she hadn't seen anything yet. Sharon pulled her head up from that delicious crook between shoulder and neck and looked at the other woman. This was going to be it. And if she couldn't tell the other woman what she felt, and how deeply she felt it, she wanted to at least be able to show her. She grabbed the hem of the younger woman's twinset and with a strong pull, yanked it up, over her head and took in the sight - Brenda standing in her office dressed in a flouncy floral skirt and a black bra - a collision of contradictions come to life. "You are beautiful," Sharon whispered as her eyes roamed over every inch that was once almost all hers before she let instinct and desire take over.
"Not that I mind," Sharon began, her ability to put words together in simple sentences slowly returning to her, "but what was that for?"
"What?" Brenda asked innocently, fitting her nearly nude body against Sharon's, chest to chest, for warmth and placing a string of kisses on her shoulder. Sharon didn't answer, the reality of what she needed to do weighing down on her. Maybe if she was paying attention, she'd have noticed Brenda being equally distracted. "Can you hand me my bra?" She asked Sharon, pointing to where it landed, somewhere between pages 154 and 155 of the new mandate on her desk. While Sharon was turned, Brenda launched her assault - "I don't know when we'll get to do that again." She took the offered bra and twisted it back into position. "Thank you, I just wanted to...have something special -"
"Well that was certainly special." Sharon deadpanned, slipping back into her shirt and turning around to button it up.
There was something heavy in the air between them.
As if what Brenda wasn't saying and what she wasn't saying were living, breathing beings competing for all the air in the room.
They both laughed awkwardly. Sharon turned around, mostly put together and watched as Brenda put herself in order.
"You go first," She offered.
"I just wanted to say, Mama's here - I mean she's coming here and she -"
"It's over." Sharon couldn't help it. She knew what was coming out of the other woman's mouth and wanted to beat her to the punch. It was over and it had been for some time.
"Well yes, Captain," Brenda laughed, easing herself off the sideboard and reaching past Sharon for her cardigan. "It certainly is. I can see how your powers of deduction have gotten you this far."
"I mean us." Sharon stepped back, trying to avoid Brenda, as if avoiding avoiding the pain would be as simple as sidestepping her lover. "We're over."
"What do you mean we're 'over' Captain Raydor?" She asked, slipping into her cardigan and buttoning it up.
"I mean over. It's been...fun... to say the least." She explained, tucking her shirt in and hoping her nonchalantness would be believed. She kept her eyes down to avoid Brenda's. "But it's over."
"You know, you keep sayin' that -" Brenda said, standing with her hand on her hip, her southern twang pronounced and betraying her causal stance. "and I keep not believing you."
"Have you always had difficulty grasping simple concepts, Chief?"
"Why are you doin' this?" Damn it. Brenda hated when the twang came out uncontrolled. She stepped up to the brunette, uncertain of how to handle this recent turn. When Fritz told her, she was relieved, even more so by noticing the bag in his hand. He would be the one leaving. She didn't know how this was working, or why it was happening. "Why now?" She reached out a hand, playfully running it down the other woman's side, hoping she had just misread the other woman - that this was all a joke.
"When would you like for me to do this?" Sharon asked, her features set as firmly as stone. "Should we reschedule for tonight? Tomorrow? Next week? The fact is," She began, raising her hand dragging a thumb under Brenda's lower lip, fixing her smeared lipstick. "We're done. There..."
She took in the sight of a reasonably composed Brenda, the last look she'll allow herself of Brenda as a lover before she walks out that door and completes her return to Chief Johnson. "That's better."
"It was supposed to be a surprise."
"With parents? Brenda, here's a hint. No one likes surprises involving parents. Not even parents."
Laura rolled her eyes at the other woman's ineptitude. She knew that the blond was supposed to be some sort of super-ladycop with brains by the C.I.A., but sometimes she wondered just how much of that was true. Here she was, racing around the house, throwing stuff under couches, tables and beds in trying to get ready for the arrival of Brenda's mother. The plan was simple, entertain the lady, feed her some cookies, make her some coffee, and Brenda would be by to pick her up as soon as she could.
She can hear a car pull up outside, a quick peek revealing a multi-coloured cab pulling in. Sometimes she really missed New York and it's yellow cabs and tourists. She quickly opened the door before the older woman had a chance to ring the bell. "Mrs. Johnson, nice to meet you, I'm Laura Raydor." She stuck out her hand and took the woman's suitcase as she watched the cab drive off. "Sharon's daughter. How was your flight?"
"It was lovely - I was seated beside this young gentleman, I believe he called himself a...hip sir?"
"Hipster?" Laura asked, struggling to keeping her face straight. This explained so much about Brenda.
"Exactly - anyways, polite as could be, he was traveling back home to see his mother. He helped me get a cab and everything. What a good son. Brenda never comes home anymore. She barely calls. I suppose that's children for you though. I bet you call your mother, don't you Laura?"
"Yes ma'am I do. May I make you some coffee? Or -" The phone rings. "One moment." She races to the kitchen to answer it, followed by Mrs. Johnson - it's Brenda.
"Yes." No, Laura could tell she was not. "Is my Mama there yet?"
"Yes, she just arrived -"
"Great - can I talk to her - one sec -" She could hear Brenda shout out instructions to people on the other end. She could hear sirens.
"She's calling from a scene." Laura explained, handing the phone over to Mrs. Johnson.
"Oh my." She took the phone and looked at Laura, "They both work too hard don't they?"
"I think it's the only way they know how to be ma'am." She explained as she set the water on the stove to boil.
"Mama? Mama you there?"
"Yes, Brenda Leigh - I'm here. Laura says you're at work?"
"Yes Mama, I'm so sorry. I'm going to stop by and pick you up just as soon as I can. Or maybe I can send Sergea-"
THREE! Loud shots rang out from the phone, gun shots. She'd only heard them once before, but they weren't easy to forget.
"Mama, mama I gotta go!" Brenda shouted, hanging up the phone on them. The whistle from the kettle began and Laura set forth making the coffee. She looked across the island to Brenda's mother who had gone white, impressively, she had managed to keep her composure. "Wife of an Army Captain - no stranger to gun shots." Willie Rae explained as she settled down on the stools by the island.
"It doesn't make it any easier, does it ma'am?" She asked, offering up a mug of coffee.
"No dear, it doesn't." She smiled up at the younger woman. Laura can see, not only the origins of Brenda's charm, but maybe also her strength.
There's nothing to do now but wait.
Brenda looks down at her hands - brown with blood - and smears them down her skirt, trying to get them clean. This always fascinated her, blood and how it went from blue in the veins to red on the pavement to brown when it dried.
Sharon bled a lot. It was a good sign. Bleeding was good, it meant her body was still working, still pumping. That's what she kept telling herself as she watched the blood oozing out past her fingers as she pressed down on the entrance wound. That it was good.
She sat down by the entrance and placed her hands on here knees with purpose. She was not lost. She was here, waiting for Laura to arrive. Waiting for Sharon to wake up. She would wake up. Brenda was sure of it.
She drummed her fingers on her knees and tapped her toes on the formica. She chipped off a dried flake of blood from her nail. She should wash her hands. It would give her something to do. It would be productive. She rose from her seat and found the nearest washroom, and placed her hands under the running water. Turning the hot water did nothing but make it run colder. Still, she scrubbed her hands under the icy stream until she could stand no more. The washroom was out of paper towel. She searched her skirt, trying to find a clean part to dry her hands but couldn't find anything free from dirt or blood. She hitched up the first layer and dried her hands on the lining of her skirt. She didn't think about how this wasn't the first time she had her skirt gathered up around her hips. That had been with Sharon, it was only a few hours away but it felt like days.
She left the washroom - her seat had been taken by a mother with a screaming child. She suddenly felt very claustrophobic and turned away from the waiting room. Everywhere she looks, there's people. She walks straight ahead until she can can feel the afternoon heat hit her like a wall, hard enough to jar her back into focus. A quick glance reveals she's in the ambulance bay, she was here not that long ago. Half-hour? Fourty-five minutes? She wraps her arms around herself, shivering in the heat. She moves to the left of the doors and leans against the wall. She's waiting now - for Laura, for the doctor to come back, for something to start making sense again. "Miss?" She turned her head to the voice to her left, some skinny kid in scrubs. "Miss, this isn't really for waiting, maybe you can -" She unclips her badge from her skirt waist and holds it up to him wordlessly. "Oh, sorry. We just get a lot of...well, people hanging out here." She smiles briefly at him then turns back to staring straight ahead and he wanders off to the other side of the door and lights his smoke.
Brenda doesn't know what happened. At least not exactly. She knows what she was able to put together in the moments right after it, while pressing down on Sharon's wound, shouting orders out to the uniforms surrounding them. She should get things straight - it would be productive. F.I.D. would be around soon, funny to think of that department as being bigger than the bossy brunette lying in wait in the hospital. She wondered who'd be there to investigate. Her team - the shooting of a L.A.P.D. officer was considered a major crime - but the discharge of a L.A.P.D. officer's gun mandated the involvement of F.I.D.. And Sharon had been hit with a L.A.P.D. bullet.
Brenda took a breath, leaned her head back flattened her palms against the brick supporting her. From the beginning: Major Crimes had been summoned to a botched robbery of Lawson's Jewelry which had turned into a hostage situation. The take down had been quick, thanks to a stroke of luck in the form of Jonathan Miller, a beat cop on his day off as one of the hostages. Miller was rewarded for his heroism with an on-site interrogation at the hands of F.I.D.. Sharon had, thankfully stayed on her side of the situation, and Brenda had made sure to stay clear on the other side. Will had even commended her on being able to work with Sharon without being reduced to childish name-calling. She had taken a moment to step aside and call her mother - she had to get her out of Sharon's house before the other woman knew what was going on - and that's when the shots rang out. She could still here them, three clean shots. They had purpose, they had direction and two of the three had missed. The third however landed clean in the breast of Sharon Raydor who dived to protect her witness.
She smiled softly, almost hearing Sharon's voice dripping with sarcasm - but you didn't know it hit Captain Raydor, did you Chief Johnson? No, she didn't. She hung up the phone and allowed her training to kick in. She scanned for the source, Brian Fergus, aged 53, formerly employed at Lawson's had been tackled swiftly (in part by Tao, the proud Deputy Chief in her pointed out) and was being secured. Roughly. She then scanned the ground, looking for victims, and there she was, lying on the ground, pinning Jonathan Miller to the ground. He was shouting, she remembers. She can hear him as she runs towards her. "Officer down! Officer down!" She slides in before others crowd and assess the damage. She wished she could say she was thinking like a lover, or a friend - but twenty plus years of training means that for the moment, she's an officer down, a brother in arms and not the woman who held her in her arms just hours earlier when she complained about not wanting to go in to work. She starts barking out commands as she presses both palms down onto the wound, orders an ambulance, something to stop the gawking crowd from watching. Sanchez, who was right behind her appears on the other side of Raydor and wordlessly eases her shoulder and torso up to allow Miller to crawl out from under him. He doesn't ask how bad it is. He can see the same as she can - blood. Brenda's thankful that the woman was in her black suit - she can't see the blood as well against the black material. She can feel its stickiness, its warmth oozing out past her hands, but it soon disappears until it falls down on to her skirt, and the pavement in steady little drops. It's a chest wound. The entry's on the right, a small act of grace - but it doesn't mean anything - no one can say for certain what the trajectory of the bullet was.
By this point, the ambulance had arrived. Brenda rises from her knees and thoughtlessly wipes her hands on the first thing she thinks of - her skirt. She watches, not as they transfer Sharon onto the gurney, but the scene behind her - it is under control. Flynn, in his sunglasses stands beside Will and together the two men direct the human flow of activity. She sees Provenza slapping the back of the black and white carrying Brian Fergus, signaling it drive off. Tao is off with the uniforms looking for casings and marking the path. "Hang on fellas'" She hears herself say, as they ease the gurney up onto the ambulance, "I'm comin' with y'all." They shrug - they know better than to argue with a woman with a gun and a badge. Sanchez appears again, supporting her elbow as she climbs into the back of the bus. "We'll take care of it here, Chief."
"I'm sure you will Detective." She smiles because she knows they will. The door slams shut and they're on their way. The sirens come on. Or were they always on? Brenda is glad she's left - before someone else arrives on scene, starts announcing they have "72 Hours". It's sitting in the back, quietly observing the scene of the paramedics as they moved about around her - checking, compressing, injecting - that she began to realize that this was no ordinary officer. This was her... well, her Sharon. Those limp arms were the same ones that curled around her waist most mornings; those blue lips were the same ones that had kissed her neck, her back, spreading a trail from one shoulder to another. This was her Sharon lying there.
"You ok?" One of the paramedics asked, as she adjusted a knob on a monitor.
"Yes, thank you." Brenda lied.
"You've seen this before, you've been a cop a long time." She stated.
"How can you tell?"
"You're not in a uniform." The other paramedic said, watching out the window.
"We're almost there. Listen," The woman explained, "We're gonna pull in, the doors are gonna open, and it's going to be quick, stay back until they have her." Brenda wasn't going to tell them this certainly wasn't her first ride in a bus - they were trying to be kind. "Oh, and have your badge somewhere handy, otherwise you ain't gettin' any answers."
"Here we go!" Her partner chimed as they quickly undid the stays that held the gurney in place.
It was effortless, within a matter of seconds, the doors flew open and Sharon and her paramedics were engulfed by a swarm of yellow scrubbed staff. Brenda watched as she slowly made her way off the bus and followed them in until the swinging double doors of a trauma room. She watches until they shear the black jacket off of her body. Then she has to turn away. She doesn't want to see it. Soon, a doctor comes out, explains they've wheeled her off to surgery. He says something about the bullet and the tissue - she files the details of it away until she has time to review them calmly. For now all she retains is that it missed the spine, it missed the heart, but it tore up pretty much everything else. Surgery should take 2-3 hours. Afterwards, she'll be in a medically induced coma for the next three days to give her body time to begin healing and recovering from the trauma. He tells her to head up to the waiting room on the 8th floor when she's ready - that's where they'll look for her. He leaves and a nurse hands her a clipboard - pages and pages of paperwork. Her heart sinks and instinctively she wonders why Sharon couldn't be here to fill it out, she loves the mundanity of paperwork. She would file her morning coffee order in triplicate if she could.
Left alone with nothing but a clipboard, Brenda is suddenly thankful for the work. It keeps her mind off of Sharon. On the table. Being cut open and poked and prodded and stitched into working order. She looks down at the board and takes her time, filling in each and every letter and number neatly into the squares and lines provided. She realizes how little she knows about Sharon as she guesses and omits certain answers. They never talked about the past. They also never talked about the future. They just talked about...nothing. They would occasionally discuss work, but more often than not, they chose to ignore it, having learned early on no good ever came of it. They would argue the merits of drunken noodle over pad thai (Brenda fell firmly in the pad thai camp, while Sharon defended the broad noodles to the death). They would argue over the stupid cop shows on television - which was funny because they didn't watch them. They would argue over CNN vs BBC. They would argue over the proper way of making sweet tea (to which Brenda believed her cultural heritage alone gave her every right to make broad sweeping declarations like "You're doin' it wrong!"). But they didn't talk. How much did they really know about each other? Maybe Sharon was right, making that decision - just how far could they go? She knew the basic facts of the other woman's life: Sharon Marie Raydor, 58, daughter of Martha and Paul Raydor, widow of Jamie Stewart, mother of Laura and Ada...
Brenda's heart sank and leapt up, if such a thing was possible. She'd have to call Laura. She didn't want her to get the call from someone else, it might have been too late already to avoid that. She digs her phone out of her purse and stares at the number for a moment before hitting the send button. She wouldn't be surprised if Laura didn't pick up, it seemed she was always calling for something.
"Hey Brenda," Laura answered, "I was going to take your mom out for some dinner - you think you two'll be done soon?"
"Oh, honey, thanks but - can I talk to you?" Brenda asked, her voice low.
"Sure, what's wrong?"
"It's ah..." She can hear the nerves in the other woman's voice. She supposes it's the call every loved one of a cop fears, but prepares for. Sooner or later, it's going to come. "It's you mama. She was at a scene, she was shot."
"She's in surgery now. It missed her spine and it missed her heart."
"But she's in surgery." Laura repeated. "Which hospital?"
Brenda quickly gives her the directions to Good Samaritan and hangs up. She rises up from the chairs and hefted her purse onto her shoulder and starts to walk. She was glad for the size and weight of it, it kept her anchored - it made sure she always remembered who she was, Brenda Leigh Johnson - she'd faced tougher things than this. Perps with guns were no match for Captain Clay Johnson when she'd sneak in home after riding around cars with boys she knew better than to be riding around with. She hands the clip board to the nurse at the admin desk and waits.
There's nothing to do now but wait.
The three women ride up the elevator silently, each lost in thought.
Laura can't help but stare at Brenda's hands, clasped in front of her. They're tinted pink. They stand out agains the rust colored skirt - she knows the skirt was really floral. She had made fun of it this morning, asking if she had borrowed it from Laura Ingalls Wilder. Brenda had simply stuck her tongue out and finished the last of the milk as retaliation. That is her mother's blood. She knows she's staring. She can't help it.
Brenda stands at the other end of the elevator, her mind is a blank. She's waiting for news. She's not thinking about anything, because if she does, all she's going to do is think about bad things like their fight this afternoon or the fact that the last words she ever said to Sharon was something about a broomstick.
Willie Rae is confused. She isn't particularly certain what the correct thing to do is in the situation where your middle age daughter's lesbian lover was shot. That's what they were called now, wasn't it? Lesbians? She doesn't know. She's been meaning to stop by the book store to see about getting a book on this sort of thing, but never quite got around to it. As confusing as this is, she does know a few things, one being she likes Sharon Raydor - she was surprisingly sweet under that hard exterior. She supposed she needed it to do her job - Willie Rae knew many woman like Sharon - women who were on the front lines. She respected her for what she did and was impressed that she was able to do so while raising a family on her own. She reached out her hands and took in Laura's on her left and Brenda Leigh's on her right and gave them a squeeze. They would get through this. She'd make sure.
"Mrs. Johnson?" Lt. Provenza asks, "What're you doin' here? Chief wasn't hurt too was she?"
"Oh, gentlemen -" She raises her head and sees Brenda Leigh's boys coming down the hall. They take up the whole width, even on their best behavior, they seem out of place, loud and banging into things. She's glad they're here. "Brenda Leigh's just fine - she's in there now."
"Oh good." Lt. Flynn tries to peek into the window, but she moves to stand in front of it. She doesn't know how much the boys know, and would like to give the family a few moments of peace. Family... what an odd thing to think of them ask. "We just wanted to stop by and see how the wit- Captain was doin'."
"She just got out of surgery, she's restin' right now - but she'll be up in a few days." Willie Rae said.
"Hell of a cop." Provenza grunted, "Haven't seen somethin' like that in ages. Just dove right into it."
"Well... I suppose that's a good thing but perhaps it's best not to say that in front of her daughter." Willie Rae smiles at him.
"She has a kid?" Gabriel asks, darting around Flynn.
"Yeah, mouthy little thing -"
"They let out out of the museum, did they?" Laura asked, opened the door and slipping out quietly.
"Yeah, you know, like that movie where they come to life." Provenza nodded at Laura.
"We ah - we brought your mom's purse." Tao said, pushing Provenza forward, from behind he holds up a black purse with a silver buckle. It was her mother's favorite - a gift from her grandparents, a Kelly bag from long before it was the trendy bag to carry. It IS her mother's favorite, Laura corrects herself, one she's still not allowed to borrow. She smiles, she can't help but smile at the image of the scruffy cop carrying the elegant purse.
"It looks good on you, sir." She says, her smile growing into a chuckle. It feels good to get out of the room for a little bit. She needs some space to process what's going on. The surgery went as well as could be expected, according to the doctor - but any number of things can go wrong in a hospital. She won't breathe a sigh of relief until she can take her mother home. She's too scared to say it, but she doesn't want to be an orphan. She knows she's not too young - she knows she's a grown up, capable of living life without her mommy, but it doesn't mean she wants to. That is what it's called, when your parents die - you can be an orphan at any age.
"Nah," Flynn says, watching his partner hand over the purse, "Provenza here's more of a red leather man, wouldn't you say?"
Willie Rae takes this as a chance to see how Brenda Leigh was holding up. She was quiet while they waited for the doctor, sitting in the waiting room, holding onto her hand as if she was six again. She was quiet when the doctor called them into the room, and quiet when Willie Rae excused herself, wanting to give the two women who knew Sharon some time together. Brenda Leigh doesn't hear her come into the room. It's dark in here, and cool. The windows are large and reflect the scene back to her against the dusky sky. It seems like some sort of movie scene, she thinks to herself. The woman in question is lying pale against white sheets, her dark hair spread out - in this light it's reddish. For all of Brenda Leigh's and Clay's work - she hasn't been exposed to hospital visits like this very often. She supposes she's lucky.
She hears Brenda Leigh murmur something - and before she responds, she realizes she's speaking to Sharon. She's holding onto Sharon's heavy hand and rises to smooth out her hair, tucking it behind her ear. "I know you hate when I do that in public," she sits herself back down in the chair set up by the bed, "But I also know you hate when it isn't just so. So..."
"Oh, Brenda Leigh." She sighs, reaching out and touching her own daughter's golden hair. Her heart breaks watching her so unlike herself.
"Mama!" Brenda Leigh jumps up, surprised. "I didn't know you were here."
"I just wanted to see how you two were doin'." She pulls up a chair and joins her daughter.
"Laura's handlin' it better than I am. You know sometimes I swear she's twenty somethin' goin' on forty somethin' She's just like her mama." She laughs, but her heart's not into it.
"I'm doin' just fine Mama."
"I'm sure." She could always tell when Brenda Leigh lied to her. The C.I.A. could train you to fool just about everyone but your own mama. She'd let her take her time. She'd be here for her daughter when she needed her.
"Excuse me, Miss. Visiting hours are over...close family only, so..." The nurse stood and gently made a couple of small sweeping motions towards the exit.
"Well, they are family." Laura explained deadpan to the nurse.
"Close family." Flynn confirmed.
"Oh really?" The nurse challenged. Not that he really cared, he'd be heading off for his weekend soon.
"Yeah, uncles. All of them." She lied. She watched as his eyebrow raised as a challenge when he took in the ragtag group of men in front of him. "I'm adopted."
"Whatever." He muttered, shrugging and back down the hall, he had better things to do than argue with a bunch of middle aged trigger-happy cops.
This wasn't how she thought she'd be spending her first night visiting Brenda Leigh. She had thought she'd be able to cook some dinner, take a shower, and if the nice people of Los Angeles could refrain from acting like damn fools, maybe even enjoy a conversation with her daughter. Instead, here she was - loitering outside of the Good Samaritan hospital at 9.36 pm, her arms crossed over her chest and her head swimming with questions.
Ever since Willie Rae had gotten the call from her daughter, all she could think of was what this meant. She had never called her before to tell them she was seeing someone. That alone meant this woman was special. Yes, everybody was special - but making sweet potato casserole beside the woman didn't reveal anything particularly spectacular or remarkable about this person. She was a co-worker of Brenda Leigh's. One who the rest of the staff mocked and openly teased with some name she couldn't quite remember, but who was rather nice. She had a biting sense of humor, Willie Rae remembered, and she was polite. She had mentioned her children and her parents - it wasn't much, but they were busy. She remembers the other woman pulling her aside as they were cleaning up afterwards to say 'thank you' for being included, Willie Rae thought it was sweet, the way she was almost embarrassed like, ducking behind her hair.
She wished now she had talked to her more.
"Yes?" She turns her head to see Fritz, his hands deep in his pockets.
"Mrs. Johnson - what, what are you doing here? Is it Brenda? Is everything alright?"
"Fritz! Oh, Fritz, she's fine! She's just fine! What are you doin' here?" She asks. She wishes she had stopped by the book store now, certainly there'd be a book on the proper etiquette on dealing with your daughter's ex-husband while she was in the hospital visiting her lesbian ... friend. She started to laugh to herself - this is what she and Clay had warned their daughter about when she moved to Los Angeles. This messy way of living life.
"I was checking up on a friend, thought it was a heart attack, turned out to be angina. I told him he can't eat the crap he eats every night." He shrugs. He was always such a sweet man. She wished it would've worked - she knew, meeting him for the first time it wouldn't - but she still wished. "Occupational hazard, I guess. How 'bout you?"
"I just came into town - Brenda Leigh's inside visitin' with a friend. Shot. I suppose that's an occupational hazard too."
"The jewelry store hold up... yeah, I heard about it. Who was it, not one of the guys?"
"No, no." She doesn't know if he knows. About Brenda Leigh and Sharon. Maybe it's common knowledge? "It was Captain Raydor."
"How bad off is she?"
"I don't know." She shrugs. "She was shot to the chest -"
"She's asleep, they're keepin' her under for the next few days."
"Wow. Brenda upstairs? I should go up. Shouldn't I?" He looks at her with a very confused look in his eyes. "I don't know what the right thing to do is. I mean, she's my ex, but she's always going to be..." He looked so lost, she realized, looking at him.
"I know," She pats his arm, sighing. "She has a way, doesn't she? Charms like a flower and stings like a bee. I don't think there is a right thing, Fritz honey. I do know Brenda Leigh's upstairs hurtin' and I'm sure she'd like to see a friend."
"Well then, shall we?" He turns to go back inside, offers her his arm. She laughs and takes it.
"Now then Fritz, a little bee told me you're seein' someone new-"
"Oh no, she didn't!"
"She did, she said she's a perfectly lovely girl!" Willie Rae assures him, patting his arm again as they made their way back into the glaring white building. "Tell me all about her." She could do this, she could be just as west coast as they were. Life was different here, but it was still people living it, the best way they knew how.
"Her name is Katie, and she's nice..."
"Yes Mama?" She raises her head and turns to see her mother smiling from the door. They whisper to keep from waking Laura who had fallen asleep, her head down at her mother's side.
"Someone's outside to see you."
"Oh Mama, I just sent those boys ho -"
"No, no. It's someone else. Go. I'll stay here with them."
Brenda was about to argue but shut her mouth. She was tired, too tired to argue. She rose and made her way out of the dark room, blinking in bright lights of the hall until she can make out the figure leaning against the wall. "Fritz - what are you doin' here?"
"Hey Brenda. I'm sorry to hear about Raydor."
"You know that Woman..." She jokes softly, "Can never stand to have me out-do her! What, Mama didn't call you did she? Ooh-" She could feel her blood begin to bubble. She wasn't expecting a parade but -
"No no, I was visiting Drake, you remember him -"
"The one who always dribbled-"
"Down his chin, yeah. He's fine now - indigestion -" Fritz rolled his eyes, "And on my way out I saw your mother. My first thing was to see if you were ok, I mean, your mother's not exactly known for hangin' out in front of hospitals lookin' to score or anything!" They both smiled at the thought.
"I'm fine. It's - Sharon."
"She said. I didn't think you could stand her. You were always coming home angry about something or another."
"Yeah, well..." She shrugged, leaning against the wall beside him. "What can I say, we've gotten close." Her voice chokes on the word close. Were they? She could barely fill out her hospital records, Laura had to fill in the blanks when she arrived. There were times when she couldn't figure out the woman and times where she couldn't figure out how to live with her and times when she -
"Bren, can I ask you a question?"
"Sure Fritz." She didn't want to be asked any questions. She just didn't have it in her.
"When you say 'close', do you mean 'close' or 'closeclose'?"
"I..." She turns to look at him. "I forgot how good you were at this."
"You could say I majored in 'Brenda Leigh' for the last...ooooh, how many years was it?" He chuckles, but is serious.
"Too long to have wasted on me."
"Not a waste, Brenda." He bumps her shoulder with his. "But you haven't answered my question."
"Does it matter?" She looks up at him. She's fairly certain he can read her implications through her lashes. This is they game they play - Fritz asking questions he knows the answers to while she dances around them. They have different strategies for interrogation - Fritz never likes not knowing the answer to any question he asks.
"No Bren, it doesn't." He looks away. She follows his eyes to window in the door, watching Sharon in the panel of glass. "I should go but ah-" He holds out his hands as an offering - presenting her with a couple of Twix bars, Snickers, and Reeses cups. "It was this or flowers, I figured this was more appropriate. Your mother accused me of enabling you, then chipped in for the Reeses."
"Fritz -" She could feel the tears well up. She wouldn't cry. She wouldn't-
"Don't cry, I always hated when you did that. Just take the candy."
"Thank you, Fritz." It's all she can say. There's so much she wanted to tell him about how sorry she was, and how she really hoped he was happy because he was the best man she'd known after her daddy - but all that came out was the 'thank you'.
She reaches up and places a gentle hand on his cheek and kisses him. She loves this man for everything he is. She wishes she could've been better for him.
She takes the offered candy and watches as he walks away...and then stops to turn back around.
"Joel misses you."
"I miss Joel."
"He's better off where he is."
"Maybe ... Katie's parents, their cat just had a litter. I was meaning to see if you wanted to pick one out. I didn't quite get around to it, so...you know. Think about it." He smiled at her once again - the smile that broke her heart and put it back together again - then left.
She turns around and slides back into the room, feeling surprisingly relieved at returning back into the dark room, with its cool stillness. She drops the candy on Sharon's bedside and moves a second chair beside her mother who eyes the pile. "I told him he wasn't doin' anyone any favors, but that boy seemed to think that's what you'd want."
"Thank you Mama." She takes her mother's hand and looks at her, really looks at her in the eye. She knows it can't be easy for her, to watch her daughter like this. "Thank You."
"If you ate the last of the Reeses, I swear I will hurt you." Brenda announces, groggy, as she wakes up from her nap.
"What? How? But?" Laura freezes as she stretches across her mother, her hand on the pile of Brenda's chocolate.
"I'm that good and I have a gun." Brenda murmurs, blinking her eyes open. It's still dark, still silent save for the electronic beeping which has been the soundtrack to her dreams. "How long have I been asleep?" Brenda asks - stretching up where she'd been hunched over.
"It's three now, a few hours? I figured you'd had a rough day."
"She just fell asleep." She points to the woman who had settled down in two chairs against the wall. "You know, she's pretty cool."
"I wouldn't know about cool, but...."
"No, really. You guys don't talk a lot, do you?"
"Why do you ask?" Brenda asked, reaching into the pile for something...there it was, a Twix.
"She wanted to know about you. And mom, but mostly you."
"What'd you tell her?"
"I don't know." Laura shrugged, "Generally we argue over the last cup of coffee, but other than that - you're ok."
"Thanks..." Brenda smirked, ripping open the chocolate bar.
"It's true - I told her if she wanted to know more, she should talk to mom. You know what's weird?"
"No one's said anything - you know, about there being three of us. Last time they made this big huge deal and...nothing."
"Did you want me to leave?" Brenda asked, feeling very foolish all of a sudden. She didn't have a right to be here, did she? Sharon had dumped her. Maybe Laura had known all along? She and Sharon were close, maybe they'd talked it over, made the decision together, tired of her presence in their life.
"No, God no, Brenda!" Laura reached out a hand and grabbed Brenda's own. "Not to get all cheesy on you, but I don't think I could be holding together without you and your mom here."
"Oh, I just wasn't -"
"You know Mel, right?"
"Of her. All tight and dyed?" She remembered vaguely the woman from her dinner with Sharon months and months ago. It was hard to think it was so long ago. She remembered the need to reach out and touch Sharon that night, the way it gnawed at her until she brushed her hand against the other woman's and the shock when she realized the craving didn't go away.
"That's the one." Laura laughed. "You know I only met her once?"
"Well you lived in New York." She didn't know where this was going. She was still sleepy though. Maybe it's become clear soon.
"No, I was home for a month that summer. She was always angling for an invite over, I don't think she ever got one. Are you going to keep molesting that chocolate bar, or are you going to share?"
"I think we broke up today." Brenda said. It was the first time she said it. Out loud. She hadn't even let herself think it. She offered a Twix to Laura, then snapped hers in half. It felt good to break something, even if it was just a chocolate bar. She began chewing a mouthful as she mulled over the words she had just said. It felt weird. She tried to think back to the last time she was dumped. Fritz didn't count, they had both been waiting for that one. Will, well...it was mutual, they both knew there was little between them except for some pretty decent sex. And her ex-husband, well he was just an asshole. And then there was... None of this was making her feel better. She would have to rethink her strategy.
"Well then," Laura said slowly, processing Brenda's information, switching her melting chocolate from one hand to another, "I suppose this isn't how you intended to end your day."
"No." Brenda snorted, "It certainly wasn't". Exhaustion and weariness having worn her down to her most basic elements, the snort turned into a chuckle, then into a slow laugh that built up, releasing every emotion that was coursing through her, lurking just under her skin until it felt like it was crawling over her.
It was laugh, Brenda realized, or cry, but she wouldn't cry, not here. Crying would make it real and she certainly wasn't ready for this situation to be real. She didn't have nearly enough chocolate on hand.
"I think it's a cop thing." Laura said after a moment, biting into her chocolate.
"The break up?"
"The not saying anything thing."
"Maybe. Professional courtesy?" Brenda is too busy trying to deconstruct why Laura brought up Mel, but it's the middle of the night and she's running on fumes right now. "Are you sure it's OK that I'm here?"
"It is to me. Do you want to be here? Because I'd understand if you didn't."
"I..." Brenda sighs. She does want to be here, she doesn't know why, but she does. She wants to be there when Sharon wakes up and she wants to be the one to wrap her hands around the stubborn woman's neck and threaten her with death if she dares to do something as idiotic as diving in front of a bullet again.
"You can leave, Brenda, if that's what you want. She'd never know."
"I'm afraid that that's what she wants."
"Mom's afraid of what she wants. She's stupid like that - what?" Laura smiles, "Just because she's in the hospital doesn't make it less true! Grandma always encouraged us to be honest." The younger woman eyes her calmly. "You can leave, but you won't."
"The question is why?"
"Because I..." She opens her mouth and nothing comes out.
She shuts it and then tries again.
Brenda can't help but smile, because to her sleepy brain, Laura looks just like her mother - her eyebrow arched and her lips set in a firm line to keep from smiling. She worries she'll never see that look again. And that's when it hits her. She's in love with Sharon Marie Raydor. She knew she enjoyed sex with her, but she also enjoyed sex with her vibrator, she wasn't in love with it. She knew she liked spending time with her. She knew she wanted to spend more time with her - she wanted to spend every waking moment arguing with, teasing, making fun of and having fun with her. She can feel her heart swell just by thinking those words: love and Sharon. She has to look up to make sure no one's turned on the light because that's what it feels like, as if the lights have suddenly gone on or the curtain's been pulled back and she's able to look at everything in the full brightness of day. She holds on to the moment, relishing it. It feels like cracking a case, but a hundred times bigger and better.
"When are your grandparents comin' in?" Brenda asks, changing the topic. She picks off an imaginary piece of lint from the bed and drops it on the floor. She avoids eye contact with Laura, afraid of what might show through her eyes.
"Tomorrow morning - they're on a red-eye now. Adam's coming with them."
"Yeah, although I doubt you'll see him."
"Oh." She tries not to be insulted or upset, choosing to feign curiosity or indifference instead.
"Not the you thing -" Laura laughs, like her mother, she has a knack for saying just what the person in front of them was thinking. "He doesn't do hospitals."
"You'd think he'd make an exception."
"Mom never told you about dad, did she?"
"No. She never brought it up and I-"
"Never wanted to?"
"Something like that." Brenda could feel a blush spreading across her cheeks. "It seemed nosy."
"Somehow, that doesn't seem to be the type of thing that would bother you." Laura shrugs with a knowing look, "It was a crash. He picked us up from school and there was some guy who drove through a stop sign. Maybe he drove through the stop? Anyway - it just happened."
"I'm sorry." This is why she didn't bring up Sharon's husband. Part of her didn't want to know. She was allergic to grief, especially the grief of others. She didn't know what to say or how to act. At work she could promise the victim something, justice or an answer - what do you promise here?
"He hung on for days...kind of like this." Laura shrugged and looked around the room. "I don't remember much, I don't think. One day mom went to get some coffee and when she came back...it was too late."
"And you two were in the room?"
"Nope," Laura looked down, beginning to imitate Brenda's habit of picking imaginary lint. "I went with mom. Just Adam. I was going to get juice. I think it was apple."
"Oh honey...." She didn't know what else to say. What did you say to someone who told you about her father dying? This could be why she liked men, liked working with them - they never told you things like this. Not often. And if they did, they wouldn't want you to say anything, just pretend like it had never happened.
"It's fine. We don't talk about it. It's easier not to and there's not much to say. Besides, like I said. I don't remember much, just what Adam told me."
"You must miss him."
"He was my dad - but this happened, what, twenty years ago? I don't really remember much about him. He was nice, he would take us for donuts, he'd sing along to the radio in the kitchen. Sometimes he'd let us help him in the garden - I think we planted those lemon trees together in the yard. The older I get, the more I realize it really must have sucked for mom. Like, really sucked. Not just having us, 'cause that's hard enough. But like, he was her husband. She knew him. Long enough to have real memories of him, not just some bits and pieces. She wasn't much older than me, you know, to have built a life with someone, to have picked the person that was always gonna love you just...disappear like that?"
"She still loves him." Brenda confesses, unsure if she's betraying her lover by admitting this. She knows it's true. Sometimes she's worried she has to compete with a ghost of someone who died before they could mess things up past the point of no repair, but she generally pushes those thoughts from her mind. "She still has the wedding rings." They were in a little porcelain dish by her side of the bed, the same place she'd drop her watch and her earrings at the end of the day. Sometimes when she was alone, Brenda would pick them up and look at them. She had a set of her own once - her own ring was floating somewhere at the bottom of her purse, having wrenched it off one day stuck in traffic.
"I know." Laura turns away from her, and Brenda thinks for a moment it's because the young woman pities her, but then she turns in the other way and she realizes she's stretching. "Does it bother you?"
"No." This isn't too much of a lie. "If anything, it's kind of reassuring." Laura stares blankly at her then shakes her head slightly.
"How? You know, never mind. I don't ever want to grow up. Life's hard now - adding another layer of mess on top of it? Picking up the pieces of guy that someone else broke? I don't think I can do it. I think I'll just sign up for the crazy cat lady club now."
"My ex is giving away kitties." Brenda suggests helpfully. "If you want, we could get you a starter!"
"You know, let me think about that one." She grins then stops. "Do you think it's weird, us just chatting like this while mom's...you know?" She looks down at Sharon's body lying between them.
"You are askin' the wrong person the wrong questions. Nothin' about today seems normal."
"Brenda?" Laura's voice drops to just a whisper and she can imagine the woman across from her as a young girl. "I'm sorry."
"Sorry about what?"
"I...I may have said something that may have something to do with what mom did what she did today."
"You pushed her in front of the bullet?" It was in poor taste, but she couldn't help but laugh.
"Why she said what she said to you."
"What did you say?" Brenda could feel her body getting cold. She didn't like to talk - not like this, all emotional and obvious.
"So, you know how last week you were in a panic about not having a shirt to wear and you were running around trying to find one of mom's that fit you?"
"Yes...you lent me one of yours. I am sorry about getting ketchup on it, it's in the dry cleaning pile..." Brenda was trying to fit the pieces together, it seemed she couldn't quite keep up with the thought process of either of the Raydor women. Unfortunately, it didn't seem to be the hour that confused her as much as it was the women themselves. Was this what all women were like?
"Oh, that's fine - no..." Laura looked down at the blanket and took a deep breath. "I may have made some joke to mom about how if you were going to be around all the time, you may as well just move in so we could collect the toaster."
"Toaster?" Brenda knew the words, but the order they were being said confused her. Were all twenty somethings this obtuse?
"Gay joke." Laura explained.
"So, you asked your mother if I was going to move in - this is why you think she said what she said?"
Laura simply nodded.
"Honey, let me tell you something about your mother. She doesn't do anything she doesn't want to do. Unless she's ordered to..." She can't help but smile a wicked little smile at the thought of Pope ordering Sharon to following her orders. A victory over Sharon Raydor was one to be savored.
"Oh god - is that a sex smile? Were you thinking sexy things? About my mom?" Laura grimaces and tries to block the thought.
"No, not a sexy smile! She may be your mama, but mine's about 4 feet away from me. No, I was sayin' Sharon said what she said for her own reasons. Maybe what you said scared her, but it had nothin' to do with you."
"You're really twangy right now."
"I'm really tired, it happens." And suddenly, she was. It was as if her body realized it was almost dawn and she should be asleep.
"You should go back to sleep. I'll keep an eye on her for a bit."
"You sure?" She couldn't keep her eyes open. Laura faded in and out as she fought to keep her eyelids open.
She lost the battle.
"You know," She heard Laura say softly as she faded off to sleep. "If you didn't always finish the milk, I wouldn't mind it so much if you did stay."
"If you didn't finish the hot water in the mornings..." She yawned, "Maybe I'd think about it."
Inertia - Is the resistance of any physical object to the change in its stat of motion or rest...An object will continue moving at its current velocity until some force causes its speed or direction to change.
It was morning, but entirely too early in the morning.
She knew this from the way her eyes refused to open and her mind fought to stay afloat of the sleep it was still swimming in. She could feel Sharon's touch lightly brushing through her hair the way she did when she had a few extra minutes in the morning. She liked the way she did it - the way her hands would run through the strands, it was reassuring, possessive even - but something was different. She struggled to remember what it was, but it was too early and she was too sleepy. She twisted to get closer to the warm body but instead found the hard plastic and cold metal of her chair jammed into her side.
She dragged her dry eyes open. She heard it now, the soft electric sounds that announced with every beat that Sharon was still with them. She'd say she looked asleep, except the brunette rarely looked that peaceful asleep. She would often toss and turn, fret and worry. Brenda had been surprised the first night she had stayed over, she had assumed the other woman's calm demeanor from work would extend this far, but it didn't. She would become possessed with nervous energy at times - she thought it was funny, to sit at the table or the couch and watch Sharon Raydor orbit around her. "They've gone to get coffee." A familiar voice announces - she turns around to see Martha Raydor. "I hope I didn't wake you?"
"No ma'am." Brenda lies. "When did you get here?"
"Oh, a few hours ago. Laura said not to wake you, apparently the two of you have had an exciting day." She nods towards her and Sharon. The bags under her eyes betrayed the calm exterior, the polished hair and the linen suit which hid the signs of a sleepless red-eye. She didn't know what to say - Martha simply stared at her daughter, an unreadable look across her face. The Raydor women fascinated her - how did they always appear so well put together even as their world was falling apart? "Laura says you were there?"
"I was - we were a block apart - she had her own investigation to run."
"You know, as a mother you think you expect this call, you do." Brenda lets her talk because there's nothing else to do, to say.
"Where's Mr. Raydor?"
"Paul? He and Adam are dropping the bags off - our friends lent us their condo - it was very generous of them." Martha takes a breath and clasps her hands in her lap as she sets her shoulders back. She is transforming back into the woman Brenda recognizes. "How are you doing? It couldn't be easy for you."
"I'm fine." She says, and she is for the most part, fine. She's tired and dirty and terrified she won't ever get the chance to argue with Sharon again, but aside from that...
"Leave her alone, Grandma..." Laura warns as she enters the room with two cups of coffee, followed by Willie Rae carrying another two. "Remember what I said, Brenda - she just wants to mess with your head." Laura handed her grandmother a coffee and settled down back in her chair, tucking her feet up under herself while Willie Rae handed Brenda a coffee and pulled up her chair to join the other women.
"Well!" Laura exclaimed, looking at the sight of the women gathered around Sharon's body "This is certainly cozy!"
"Don't be glib dear." Martha smirked over her coffee cup.
"Mama, have you met Mrs. Raydor?" Brenda asks, unsure of what has happened while she was asleep. She hates being caught off guard like this.
"Briefly dear." Willie Rae says.
"Yes," Martha shifts in her chair so she can address Willie Rae, "Brenda speaks very highly of you. Tell me Brenda, when do you have work today?"
"Work?" Brenda repeated, hoping to gain some clarity as to where this was going. "I was planning on staying here with Sharon."
"Oh, you don't need to do that, sweet as it is." Martha pats her on the knee. "Paul will be by soon."
"I know I don't need to," Brenda's felt her back straighten, her head cock to the side. "But I'd like to."
"Maybe we should take you to work, Brenda Leigh. Let the family have some time alone." Willie Rae suggests.
"Well Mama, I'm sure if Mrs. Raydor wanted some time, she'd say so, wouldn't you Martha?" She sets her brown eyes to meet Martha's green ones, eager for a challenge.
"May I be frank Brenda?" Martha crosses her legs and meets Brenda's challenge.
"By all means."
"I don't believe in passive aggression - I make a lovely living in dealing with it, but I don't believe in engaging in it myself. You are covered in my daughter's blood. I look at you and all I can see is my Sharon lying there bleeding. As for your devotion to her, it's sweet, but I have to ask what the motivation is. From the way Sharon talked about you and -"
"She talked about me?" Brenda asked, confused and a little touched. "I didn't know she talked about me."
"Yes, she did. She's very fond of you. If I were to venture a guess, she might even love you. I can't say I blame her, you're smart, beautiful and from what I've heard, even more stubborn than she is. But Sharon's my baby and I don't want to see her get hurt - of course I'm not saying you'd hurt her willingly," Martha hurried to correct herself, "But I know what she knows - which is you aren't ready to provide what she needs."
"Grandma," Laura interrupted, "That's not fair. You don't know that."
"You're right - I don't. This may seem unkind, Brenda - that's not how it's meant." Martha's features soften ever-so-slightly. "I only want you to take this time and think about how much you're willing to invest in this relationship."
Brenda is surprised by how cool she is able to remain during Martha's speech - it was like dealing with a perp and their lawyer - her training and instinct kick in. "In the spirit of honesty, Martha - as well as taking into account the fact that you're tired after a red-eye and dealin' with a situation no parent should ever have to deal with, I'm going to agree that you're right. I am covered in..." She couldn't bring herself to say it, "I am not in the cleanest of conditions and I could use a change of clothes. So I will go and shower and change. Then I will be back. Because I have thought about how much I'm willin' to invest in this relationship - in fact that's what I spent most of the night doin'. The answer is - everything. I love Sharon -" She could feel her mother's eyes widen at the words. She was going to deal with that next. "I don't know why, because God help me she is the most aggravating woman I have ever had the misfortune of knowing, and that will be nothing compared to how she's going to react when she wakes up - because she will wake up. So -" Brenda rises from her chair and grabs her purse. She has a crick in her back but refuses to show it. "I will be going to work. Then I will be going...home to take a shower -" She notices Laura smile. She'll have to deal with that after she deals with her mother. She hopes Sharon wakes up soon because this is all getting to be a bit much. "And drop off my Mama but then I will be back. So, ladies I will see you soon." With her head held high and her Mama by her side, Brenda leaves the room. She doesn't look at Sharon because she knows she will back.
She knows it like she knows her own name.
They take a cab to headquarters, where Brenda's car is. They don't talk much on the ride over, Brenda can feel her mother's reassuring pats on her knee but isn't ready to talk about what just happened. She didn't believe in talking about her...feelings...and her...thoughts. Just because she had ovaries didn't mean she wanted to go about blabbing about everything.
It was rare than you'd think to see someone stroll into L.A.P.D. Headquarters crumpled and covered in dried blood, let alone with their Mama trailing behind them. Generally most officers of the law had the good sense to clean themselves up prior to coming into work but still, exceptions were known to occur which is why no one batted an eyelash when Brenda Leigh & Willie Rae Johnson marched through the lobby and waited for an elevator. No one seemed to note the bags under their eyes or their rumpled clothes no one except for Will Pope, who slipped into the elevator as the doors closed. "Mrs. Johnson, Chief Johnson always a pleasure." He taps the files in his hand and turns to the blond woman on his left, "Chief, can I see you upstairs?"
"Right now?" She sighs and fixes her purse on her shoulder. She doesn't need this. She really doesn't. She just came here to pick up her car and check on the case. That's all she didn't want to have to be dragged into Will's office to get in -
"Yes Chief, now."
"Fine Chief. Mama -" She turns smiles forcefully, "Do you think you could wait in my office for a moment while Chief Pope and I talk?"
She follows Will into his office and waits for him to tell her what this is about. She hopes he does it quickly and from afar because she isn't sure she has the reserves not to lash out if this is over something stupid like paperwork.
"How's Raydor?" He asks, tossing his file down and settling behind his desk.
"Have a seat."
"I'd rather stand."
"I bet." He watches as she begins to pace around the room, "Heard you were with her all night."
"Where is this going, Will?" She looks out the window, he looks out at her.
"Then why pull me in?"
"Then I can leave?"
"Brenda, I'm going to ask you something and I don't want you to -"
"Don't want me to what, Chief?" She turns around to face him at least he's too far for her to lunge at him.
"I don't want you get all...Brenda on me."
"Excuse me? Did I hear you correctly? Get all 'Brenda' on you? Is that some new terminology? Will it be in the new handbooks?"
"Calm down this is exactly what I was talking about. This flair for the dramatic -"
"Flair for the dramatic? Do you hear you-"
"What's going on with you and Raydor?"
"Did you hear me?"
"I heard you. I think I will take that seat now."
She sits down, her legs clasped together and crossed at her ankles. She brushes the hair off her forehead with the back of her hand.
"Something you want to tell me?" He looks at her like he's looking at the lions in the zoo, nervous they'll attack through the bars and a little hopeful for it too.
"No Will, there is not."
"Brenda, I don't have to remind you about the departmental policies on interpersonal affairs, do I?"
"No Chief, you do not."
"Again, I have to ask you is there anything going on between you and Captain Raydor? "
"If I were to say no, would you believe me?"
"Yes. Are you saying no, Chief Johnson?"
"I'm saying it's no one's business."
"Are you ok?"
"No Will, I'm not. I won't be until she's back."
"Do you? Because I don't." She uncrosses and re-crosses her legs. A thought crosses her mind there's many in there right now, but this one seems to float to the top. "Why are you even askin' Will?"
"About you? Because I care. About Raydor? Because she's a thorn in my side, but a damned fine cop who protected a fellow officer and a witness. About the two of you? Do you remember back in D.C.?"
"Not if I can help it." She shoots him a look that says she's only half joking.
"When I was in the hospital with a burst appendix, you didn't even sign my get well card now you're spending the night holding vigil at the bed of a woman you can't stand."
"Two things Will, the first bein' you were married and we were havin' an affair, so I didn't want to be obvious by signin' your card; the second bein' you weren't shot in the chest maybe if you were, I'd have demonstrated some more compassion."
"You're tired you're getting all twangy. You have any vacation time?" He chuckles it's Brenda he can't remember the last time she willingly took time off. "Listen, take a couple of vacation days take a week, take two. Take care of...whatever it is you've got to take care of." He flips open the report on his desk and begins to read it.
"Is...is that all?"
"What else did you want, Brenda?"
"Nothing I suppose I was just expecting...Why, I don't know."
"Well then..." He motions towards the door and she rises and makes her way out quietly.
Jesus, Will thought to himself, looking up from the paperwork. She must have it bad.
The knock at her office door is soft, so she's surprised to look over her shoulder to find Andy Flynn leaning against the doorjamb waiting for her.
"You can come in you're halfway there." She says, returning to her search for the Horrisan files she's promised an old friend in Atlanta she'd go over the cold case, see if she could find anything new but so far it's nowhere to be found. She has found a fun-sized Bounty bar not one of her favorites but given the circumstances, it'd do. "I can tell it's serious, you've closed the door." She glances at him in the reflection of her office windows. "What's going on?"
"And now you're lying to me." She is purposeful in her diction, it wouldn't do to have everyone know her slip-ups. She finds the file on top of the filing cabinet. On top of a half-a-dozen other cases whose reports need to be reviewed and signed off on. She thought she'd done it earlier but it seems now it was just wishful thinking. "I know you don't mean to insult me like that so just...out with it." She turns and begins to stuff the files into her purse to take with her to the hospital later.
"So, you were at the hospital all night, hunh?"
"Yes I was. What does everyone know this?"
"Well I mean, look at you Chief -" He shrugs, "It's not your usual look, you know?"
"What's your point, Lt. Flynn?" She doesn't need to look at herself, she knows she looks rough, haggard. She had tried to tame her hair into a ponytail and no amount of smoothing down would take out the wrinkles and the stains from her clothes.
"I ah... I guess I don't have a point, Chief. Just wanted to say... We feel like..." He started to stammer and was ready to kill the guys for making him come in here and do this. What did they care if the rumors were true? Two hot, bossy chicks going at it why ruin the fantasy with reality?
"What do you 'feel' Flynn? Tell me. It seems it's what everyone's doing today talking about their damn 'feelings'. First Martha, then Will, so why not you too?" She begins to pace around the room, oblivious to the fact that the rest of her squad and her mother are watching from the windows.
"Well there's two to one odds that you were in the hospital to finish the job on Raydor."
"How big's the pool?" She deadpans.
"Pretty big but ah, there's another one too."
"You were there to playing naughty nurse."
"Excuse me?" She doesn't know how to react. Horror, of course but is is over suspicions of her relationship with Sharon or of being thought of as a naughty nurse? Don't they know she'd be the doctor?
"Someone's fairly certain they...you know what, never mind." He goes to open the door, questioning why he even risked his life to come in here.
"Hold it-" He does. "Turn around." He does. "Fairly certain what? Clearly it's important enough for you to bring it up. I want to know what people are saying behind my back, lieutenant."
"Someone's fairly certain they ah...saw you and Captain Raydor...In an...incriminating position...in her office." He felt his balls constrict in fear. Oh well fellas, it was nice knowing you.
"Who is this person?"
"I don't know. It was going around yesterday A - I mean Lt. Elliott came to me yesterday asking if I could help stop it but... It's getting around Chief."
"I see. Thank you." She looks him square in the eye, honestly thankful that he let her know. "It's not the first time I've had rumors spread around about me, sure it's not the first time for Captain Raydor either." She shrugs. "What would you say if it was true lieutenant?"
"What would you say?"
"Honestly Chief?" He crosses his arms and leans against the door. Brenda is worried for a moment until she sees the wolfish grin spread across his face. "I'd ask if I could watch -"
"What?! You asked! I don't know I guess I'd say it's none of my business and that I'd be out 50 bucks."
"Well we had a bet going from the first case you guys worked Kill her or Kiss her. I had kill her it was the way you kept staring at her, like you were wondering where you could dump the body."
"Basement." Brenda deadpans again, ignoring the morbidity of this conversation. "Who had kiss her?"
"Smart man." She slings her bag onto her shoulder and heads towards him and the door. She just wants to leave. She wants a nice glass of wine, even though it was 10.23 in the morning. "I appreciate what you and Lt. Elliott tried to do, both of us do but just leave it alone. The more people argue, the more attention it'll get." She pats him on the arm. She know she shouldn't have favorites and she doesn't but there's always been something between them that blurred the lines. She never really thought much about it there was always Fritz but she knew that Flynn held a special place in her heart. She really needed to leave, she was starting to get all emotional that was the last thing any of them needed!
Flynn doesn't ask if it's true again he knows it has to be. He didn't buy it until he saw her last night, sitting beside the Witch, talking to her as if she could hear. He didn't know how to feel... it was like walking in on your parents making out - weird and a little gross. He supposes he'd feel this way if he found out Chief was dating Pope again too, or anyone else that wasn't him. His flame for the Chief was a long time ago, but there was always a little bit that wondered what would've happened if anything came out of it. At least Raydor's prettier than Pope and less of a douchebag. Besides... he's actually has a pretty good feeling about his new girlfriend or whatever it was women were now calling themselves when they dated.
She leaves her offices and collects her Mama she reminds them that she'll be back in a few days and her cell phone is always on. The ride down to the ground consists of her mama's comments on the boys and their various affairs. She sometimes wonders how she'd know anything personal about her staff if it wasn't for her mother. She also wonders what it is about Willie Rae that gets people to open up to her.
They get into the car and before Brenda starts it, she turns to her mother. "Mama, I just wanted to say thank you for everythin'". She's been on a roll it seems, when it comes to feelings. "I know we don't talk much, and that it's my fault I just don't like talkin' about 'feelings' but it seems that's what everyone wants to talk about today, so I'm just going to say thank you for being here, and for just lettin' me figure this out. I know it can't be easy for you and it's probably confusin'. It's confusin' to me too. But it's starting to clear up. When Sharon wakes up, I don't know what's going to happen I know that whatever it is, it isn't going to be easy." She takes a breath and blinks her eyes are starting to water it must be the sun.
"Nothing worth having ever is, dear." Her mother reaches out and pats her knee. "It's not easy. I wish it were I just don't get it but I will, and so will your father. You'll have to tell him, Brenda Leigh, when the time is right. What I do get is that you have someone you love in your life and you have people who love you too. Not just Sharon, or her daughter but also your boys in there, and Fritz. You're growing up Brenda Leigh you're learning that there's people other than you."
"I don't like it Mama! I don't like growing up!" Brenda pouts, hitting the steering wheel with her hands. "I want it to just be me!"
"I know dear, you always have." Willie Rae jokes. It seems the Raydor women aren't the only ones capable of honesty in times of trouble.
"You know Fritz offered me a kitty?" Brenda asks as she starts the car and pulls out of her parking spot.
"I did not. That's awfully nice of that boy. Do think you'll ever get back tog-"
"No Mama," Brenda sighs. "I most certainly do not."
"I was just asking Brenda Leigh, no need to get huffy."
"I love you Mama."
"I love you too dear."
Inertia con't - An object that is not in motion (velocity = zero) will remain at rest until some force causes it to move.
Brenda Leigh Johnson doesn't dream. She knows that according to popular science, she must, everyone does - she just doesn't remember it. She considers herself lucky because of this. For her, sleep truly is restful, free of the ugliness and confusion she sees everyday. It's like a vacation, a black veil separating her from the world for a few hours until she wakes up and has to deal with it all over again.
Her first thought when she wakes up is to go back to bed. The room is familiar, it's Sharon's bedroom - but the sunlight is splayed on the walls in a different pattern - it should be in her eyes like it is every sunny morning in L.A., but this time it's low and dappled against the far wall and the door. The walls aren't the bright wheat but darker now, a golden glow cast over everything. She sits up slowly, unsure if she's ever seen the room at this time of day where day turns into dusk. There's the feel of being in the library after-hours, quiet and lonely. A quick glance to her right reveals the time - 5.54; she'd slept most of the day. Her mama had stopped in, she can tell because the glass of Merlot was missing and she was covered in a thin blanket. The last thing she remembers was coming into the room, glass of wine in her hand, after showing her mother to the guest room. She was going to shower before she slept, but it seems her body had other plans and passed out on top of the bed. At least she made it that far.
She didn't like sleeping alone - she never had - but it felt incredibly wrong to be asleep in this room, in this bed without its chief tenant. She needs to go to the bathroom, she needs to shower, she needs to move. A slight shifting of her legs revealed something else she also wants sex. She groans in frustration - selfish as it is, she wants Sharon here beside her, touching her and teasing her until she can't stand it anymore. She remembers yesterday in Sharon's office (was it only yesterday?) - it had been fun and urgent and passionate - the way the brunette threw back her head in surprise as Brenda slid her hand down the waist of her pants and moved to kiss down that delightfully exposed neck (she was also pleased the slight bite mark she'd left was low enough to be hidden behind the flimsy cotton of the hospital gown) and tugged her closer so she could nip each breast in turn. She remembers how she gave up arguing as Brenda curved her fingers against the sensitive spots and how Sharon had to bury her moans against Brenda's blond hair. She remembers how Sharon straightened her back immediately after, a devious look across her face:
"I take it you're pretty pleased with yourself?"
"I just enjoy a job well done."
"Who says it was well done, Chief?"
"At the risk of being slightly vulgar Captain, the proof is in the pudding?" Brenda eases her now slick hand back up and wipes it against her skirt. Sharon leans over and kisses her deeply - and for a moment, she can feel everything that the other woman is feeling - power, satisfaction, desire, pleasure and something else, something bigger, familiar yet different. Brenda can't place the emotion, all she knows is that it's over when Sharon pulls back, her grin wider.
"If you don't mind, Chief, I'd like to show you what a job well done really means " Sharon pushes up Brenda's skirt where she sits on the metal cabinet until the floral fabric is pooled against the industrial grey. She feels the other woman's fingers inch closer and closer to their destination. She was taking her time - she always did this, dominate because she could. Brenda hated how well the other woman knew her. She'd be cranky about it later, when the benefits weren't as immediate. And pleasurable.
"By all means -" She gasps as Sharon's fingers brush her lightly, "Go right ahead."
"That's the plan." Sharon whispers with a predatory curl of her lips, dropping to her knees.
Now she really does need sex.
She makes her way off the bed and towards the bathroom. She drops her clothes in the trash, if she never sees them again it'll be too soon. They're covered in blood and dirt and too many memories. The shower was one of Brenda's favorite things in this house - or more specifically, the water heater that came with it - she could stand under the hot water for hours before the water turns cold, she knows this because on particularly rough days, she tests this theory. Days like today. She pushes the dial as hot as she can stand then steps under the scalding hot stream. She stands there, letting the water beat down onto her skin, onto her hair - hoping it can penetrate through the imprint of the day; through the caked-on make-up and sweat and grime and the stains and the heartbreak and the sight of Sharon lying in the hospital. She should bring her something else to wear, something more familiar, more comfortable - the last thing she'd want is to wake up in a paper sack.
And this is where Brenda begins to cry.
She hasn't cried all day. She hasn't cried since she told her mother about Sharon - and she can't remember the time before that - Joel maybe? She hates to cry because once it starts, she can't stop it, so she closes her eyes, squeezing them shut as hard as she can and hoping for the tears to stop soon. She can't help but think what if - so many what ifs. What if Sharon doesn't wake up? What if Sharon really meant what she said about them being over? She doesn't want them to be over - she doesn't want this to not be hers anymore, she doesn't want to lose Sharon and she doesn't want to be lost either. She wants this but more of it. All the time. She wants to wake up with the other woman and argue with her and share a bottle of wine with her and have kitties with her. She wants so much. She doesn't know where this is coming from and she doesn't want to know. She just wants to stop crying, she wants Sharon to wake up, say she was wrong (Brenda snorts at this thought through her tears - Sharon has never once said she was wrong) and for things to go back to where they were before. But with kitties. Lots of them. The thought of kitties makes the tears stop and she rubs her face clear of them. She reaches over for the brunette's shampoo - something ridiculously overpriced but delicious smelling and starting from her scalp down, begins to scrub inch of herself clean. When she gets out she will be fresh and new and able to deal with whatever else comes her way - so far she's dealt with robberies, gunshots, hospitals, angry mothers (not hers), confused mothers (hers) ex-husbands, ex-boyfriends, and ex-whatever's - save for a nuclear fallout, she's pretty sure she can handle this.
She's pink when she steps out - she looks a little like a drowned puppy burrowed in her towel, with her blond hair all straggly around her face. She dresses quickly, the hospital was too chilly for a skirt, so she pulls on black yoga pants - she laughed when Sharon bought them for her but thankful for them now. They didn't look half-bad, although with her hair up in the ponytail she'd put it in, she looked like almost every other woman in L.A. - she just needed the yoga mat. She went around the room, throwing items in an overnight bag - a change of warmer clothes, the barely started book Sharon had put down a few nights ago - Sharon, it seemed, had an overnight kit already stowed under the sink. Brenda sighed with exasperation - leave it to that woman to be so so prepared. She took a look around and hoped it really wouldn't be her final one.
She steps out and can hear her mama puttering downstairs in the kitchen.
It's been three days since Sharon was shot.
To the rest of the world, it was a Thursday, but for those gathered in room 867 - it was the day Sharon would wake up.
Brenda tries not to get too excited when she feels Sharon's hand twitch under hers. The nurse had warned them it could be hours until the drugs worked their way out of her system. Instead Brenda tries to feign interest in whatever Martha and her mama were going about now. It was something to do with the book she'd brought for Sharon, something about dragons and tattoos. Honestly, how did her mama even know this stuff?
Sharon Raydor's biggest regret in life was that she wasn't artistic. She could appreciate art in a variety of forms - she could look at a painting and tell you the origins of the artistic movement, or who it was by, or what the symbolism of the cocking of the model's head just so was. She could listen to a piece of music and give you the time signature and the historical context of it. She could read a book and trace its themes and meanings and archetypal characters throughout western literature and storytelling.
Despite her appreciation and dedication, she couldn't paint or draw or sculpt. She couldn't sing, or play, or composes. She could barely write a proper birthday card. She could, however recognize the skill and greatness in others and knew how to nurture it, foster it and bring it out.
Sharon Marie Raydor was born the younger child of Paul and Martha Raydor. She was born in Manhattan on January 14, 1954 - the same day Marilyn Monroe married Joe DiMaggio. She would spend the better part of her childhood in New Rochelle. She would idolize her older brother Adam until he died - he was 17 and was hit by an oncoming car one night coming home. She would go to school where her idol, Katharine Hepburn went, Bryn Mawr and graduated third in her class in 1976. She's fairly certain she'd have come in second if Susie Adams wasn't sleeping with their English professor, earning herself the .72% edge she needed to beat out Sharon.
Third was still strong enough to catch the attention of Harper Collins Publishing where she went to work editing and updating Nancy Drew & The Hardy Boys under the Collins & Sons imprint. It was there that she met Jamie Stewart, an intern in the accounting department who got off on the wrong floor on his first day. It was love at first sight, at least that's what Jamie used to say. For her it wasn't so simple, but every day he'd stop by and ask her out to lunch and every day she said no until one day she said yes. He was charming, and shy, and smart. It wasn't until their fourth month of sharing lunch that he revealed he was a writer - and it wasn't until after she agreed to marry him did he let her read his work. It was good. It was better than good, it was brilliant. She's embarrassed to say that to this day, her first reaction was seething jealousy at his ability to write so beautifully and to not know it. They marry just after Thanksgiving in 1979 and Sharon surprises him with tickets to see the first Star Trek movie for their honeymoon. By this time they know each other inside and out - she knows he loves Star Trek because he is nothing if not an idealist who thought that the world would one day catch up the utopia depicted on screen. He knows she envies him, truly, and asks her to edit the novel - a coming of age in Iowa and the loss of innocence in war. They even know that unlike a lot of their friends, they don't quite fit in when it comes to others, the words were hard to say, and they weren't said very often. Three weeks before the wedding, Jamie calls her late at night crying to tell her he was once in love with his friend Jonathan, a doctor out in New Mexico. Sharon doesn't doubt his love of her - she knows it like she knows her name, it isn't an act for him and his confession proves it. She tells him it's alright - she knows what it's like. Hours later they both hang up the phone feeling free. They really are the best of friends.
In 1982 their first child, Adam, is born. They move to Los Angels in 1983 when Jamie's accounting firm transfers him. Sharon gives up publishing - but not her connections - and to this day has a handful of editors she can call up and take out to lunch. In 1984 Laura is born. After 6 years of off and on work Jamie's novel, 'Last Night on the Lonely Farm' is published. It was a minor success at the time, but built up a strong following over time and every year a handful of liberal arts colleges assign it as required reading for a variety of classes. Every so often she still gets a modest cheque which funds her occasion luxury label splurges for her services as editor. The publishing royalties get deposited straight into a small trust Laura and Adam. In 1989, Sharon goes back to work - not in publishing but accounting - going over work with Jamie reveals she has the same knack for solving problems of a financial variety as well as a literary variety. On March 27th, 1991, Jamie goes to pick up the kids and gets hit by a car in oncoming traffic. On April 4th, he dies. He's buried on April 7th and Laura turns six.
At this point, Sharon contemplates returning to New York, to be with her family and to give her family the same life she's known - but she can't leave the house and the lemon trees that Jamie planted three weeks before he died. Her life took a curious turn at this point - while working on an audit, she discovered minor discrepancies and not being a person to leave well enough alone, she unraveled a multi-million dollar embezzlement scheme. It sounds very exciting, but it was numbers, just lots and lots of numbers and having those numbers not make sense. It was 1993 and Sharon Raydor (having never taken Jamie's name professionally) was on the forefront of forensic accounting - she would be called to work with police and lawyers to either prove or disprove client's guilt or innocence. While others found the work tedious and mundane, she loved it - thrived even. There could only be one right balance and her job was to figure out why the numbers didn't add up to it. There were rules that could not be broken - because if they were, she'd be there to catch them. In 1996 she would start to date again, and in 1997 she would start to date women as well - starting with Dana Cohen, a lawyer on retainer at the firm who reminded her of her college roommate who gave her her first real kiss. It was Dana who realized they were better friends than lovers, and who made sure they stayed in touch. They still met up once every couple of months for wine and mindless chatter. It was also Dana whose cousin was in I.A. with the L.A.P.D. and suggested she look into it.
After Dana came Aaron, then after Aaron came Kelly, David, Emily, Evan (the man), Jon, Evan (the girl), Steve, Jennifer, Vanessa, Julianna, Thomas, Maggie, Chris, Art, and Mel. In almost every case - Sharon would be the one to leave. She would get bored, she would get scared, she would get distracted. On the rare occasion where Sharon was the one being left, it was after being told she was too distant, too protected. She wouldn't argue - dating was a distant third to her children and her career. Often her partners were surprised to hear she had children, unable to reconcile her personality and the stereotype of a mother - they hadn't met her children. In fact, Mel was the only one to meet them - and that was a complete surprise and a manipulation on Mel's part which ultimately lead to their demise. That was the hardest break up - it was the first one after Jamie that hurt because Mel made it very clear what she thought of her - a lovely woman with a God complex and an inability to trust or be alone. This wasn't new to Sharon, her own mother warned her of it at least once a month (along with a reminder to take her vitamins) but it made her listen. She had liked Mel, valued her. It made her stop everything. Laura and Adam were gone by this point and Sharon realized it was the first time since 1976 that she was alone. It scared her. Terrified her. It wasn't that she couldn't find someone, finding someone was never the problem - it generally didn't take more than an eyebrow raise and a flash of leg to get a response - it was that she couldn't find someone worth staying for. Then one day she rounded the corner of a hospital in the middle of the night to find Brenda Leigh Johnson looking like carnival candy floss and was strong enough to be every inch her equal.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Sharon was in the middle of a very pleasant dream - she's not sure how others do it, but she dreams in black and white.
If it's a good dream, everyone's dressed by Edith Head and Adrian. Everyone talks in Hepburn's clipped tones or Garbo's drawling accent. She loves these dreams. There's something very comforting about them, nothing bad can happen to her here. Not even the pain she feels emanating from her chest, slow throbs set to her heartbeat. This one is set at work, or so she thinks, everyone's talking so loudly around her it sounds like a dull roar or white noise and it's hard to the handsome men through the haze of cigarette smoke that hovers eye level with her. A door crashes open and out flies Brenda talking a mile a minute in gibberish she can't quite make out and pointing to a ticker tape machine spitting out streams of paper. Even in her dreams, the blond gives her a headache.
She goes to speak but can't.
Her mouth is dry, as if stuffed with cotton.
The roar goes quiet - as if someone turned down the volume - it's still present, but not at ear splitting levels. She feels something warm in her hand - and looks down - her black silk gown has been replaced by her nightgown and robe.
She opens her mouth again but can't.
It gets brighter and quieter. She can only unravel one thing and decides to focus on the light. She tries to open both eyes - but is exhausted by the effort and gives up. After a minute she starts with the left one bright lights and shapes she can't quite name. Everything is silent now except for a steady beep. She closes her eyes and breathes heavily. She's in the dark - her dream complete with costumes and sets and beeping ticker tape has gone. She's trying to figure out where she is and why she feels like the bottom of a shoe. She's not in her room - the light wasn't familiar and the smell of antiseptic was too strong. She could figure it out, she knew she could, if it wasn't for that beeping.
She brushes her hand across the surface - it was rough and scratchy.
She was in a hospital, the question was why. The last thing she remembers is Brenda in her office. On her filing cabinet. Oh God, she hopes she didn't get knocked out by a stray knee only to hit her head - that would be humiliating. She tries to open her eyes again and has better luck. They both open and stay open. She sees the light, she sees the sun, she sees the ceiling tiles and Laura. She sees her daughter. And her mother. And Brenda's mother. And Brenda. She closes her eyes, uncertain if this was just another dream within a dream - if so, she wants to go back to the black and white one to clear her head. What happened that parents were involved? She was 57 years old - but she still didn't want her mother to know she was having sex. In her office. That doesn't explain the pain in her chest though.
She opens her mouth but again, nothing. She feels something wet poke through her lips - Brenda orders her to drink, so she drinks - thankful for the order, she still knows how to follow them at least. The cool liquid slides down but doesn't dampen the dryness of her mouth. She keeps drinking until she's told to ease up. So she does. She takes a deep breath and opens her eyes.
She's not dreaming - she's in the hospital. She's surrounded by people. In the words of her daughter, she feels like ass.
"Don't talk," Brenda orders her softly, "For once in your life Captain, listen to me and don't talk."
"Brenda's right dear," Martha confirms, already spotting her daughter's frustration.
"Don't give your mama that look, it's been known to happen." Brenda says.
"You're in the hospital mom." Laura explains, "You were at work and you were shot." She sees the confusion on her mother's face. "You're fine, or you will be. It was a few days ago. They kept you asleep after the surgery. You understand me so far?"
Sharon can only nod. That alone takes work. Things are starting to come back to her - Brenda standing in front of her in her black bra, standing on a street corner talking with a witness, glancing down the block and seeing something.
"On the plus side dear, you look great!" Her mother lies.
She shoots her a withering glare. She can hear Brenda laugh and murmur some snide remark.
Her mind is still swimming with sleep and drugs but she's fairly certain she's missing something.
"You're right mom, you look like ass." Laura admits, "But we're glad to see you, so we'll forgive you this one time."
She may not be able to talk but she can laugh - or try to - it's dry and hurts, causing her to wince. Brenda reaches for her hand and gives it a squeeze.
"Don't make her laugh," Martha chastises, "Laura's right though dear - you do look less than your best."
This is her family, she thinks. No wonder she likes the dreams.
"Don't listen to them, you look beautiful." Brenda says, still holding onto her hand. She watches as Brenda sits down at the chair by her side. There's something going on, but she can't figure it out. If everyone left, she could ask - also why is Brenda's mother here? Was she that close to death? "Now, Captain -" She used her rank again "Here's what's going to happen, the doctors are going to come in soon and check you out and make sure everything's where it should be and how it should be, alright?"
As if on cue, the doctor appears - he looks young and makes her nervous, but the way he clears everyone out impresses her. "Figured you could use some time." He explains as he shuts the door behind them.
He takes his time talking to her, helping her sit up, helping her find her voice again. He goes over the details of her recovery and while she hates hospitals, she's not exactly certain she's happy to hear she'll be free to go home soon. At least the ground floor of her home. Work was still weeks away. Rehab would take all her time. She could feel depression and fear sinking in already. She tried to hold back tears. She just wanted Brenda. She wanted to be held and told it was all a lie. She hated not knowing everything and she felt like she didn't know everything about whatever was hanging between herself and Brenda. Oh God, she thought, she had become one of those people who needed others. She hated those people - or more specifically, she hated being one of those people.
Everything hurts and the doctor offers her a sedative - she convinces him to give her a few moments of lucidity before he puts her to sleep again. He gives her 15 minutes and leaves the room, asking whoever Brenda was if she could go in.
Brenda's surprised by the request and looks around - "Shouldn't one of you go in?" She asks Laura and Martha. Laura shrugs and Martha smiles and pushes her towards the door. "Don't worry, we'll be watching from the window if you need any help."
"Well isn't that nice of y'all." Brenda mutters as she pulls open the door and walks in. Sharon looks tiny in the bed. There's very little of the imposing woman she's battled with and it scares her.
"Don't worry," Sharon whispers, "I'll be better soon."
"You'd better," Brenda says, ignoring how the other woman was able to read her thoughts, "Otherwise how will I ever kill you for scaring me like that."
"You can come closer,"
"Don't." Brenda says, shaking her head, "Don't do that to me ever again - I love you Sharon Raydor and my current plan is to make your life difficult for years to come, so don't you ever do that to me again, do you understand?"
"Come here," Sharon asks again, patting the bed, watching Brenda as she steps closer but stops short of the bed.
"I don't want to hurt you."
"You couldn't put me anymore pain than I'm already in." She winces. "Don't fight with me - even with me in here, you don't stand a chance." She jokes. "Brenda, I just want to feel normal for a minute because I'm afraid normal's going to be very far away for a very long time."
Brenda looks down at Sharon, her green eyes dull and heavy, her body limp. As much as she wants to argue with the other woman, she has a feeling that she's right. She gently perches on the edge of the bed and turns on her side - their bodies are brushing but she's putting no weight on Sharon. "They're watching, aren't they?" Brenda asks knowingly.
"Yes they are. I can't remember a lot."
"It's probably for the best."
"We had a .spat."
"A spat?" Sharon asked, humor evident in her voice.
"Yes, I was right and you were wrong - the usual." Brenda shrugs.
"That's not all, is it?"
"No." Brenda agrees, "But that's all you need to know for now." Because it's true. Sharon's in no condition to talk about anything heavy - and even if she were, it wouldn't matter - Brenda'd still be right about them. She'd let too many people call the shots in their relationship before - she hadn't cared. Things were different now.
"This is going to be rough."
"It is." Brenda agrees, fully aware that the surgery and the coma, as awful as it sounds, was the easy part of the ordeal.
"So you don't have to stay or anything. It's really very sweet that you came and brought your -"
"I'm not going anywhere." Brenda props herself up on one arm and looks down at her lover.
"I don't think you understand what -"
"Oh I understand, Captain. You're not the first officer to get shot and sadly you won't be the last. There's going to be doctor's visits and rehab and learning how to do the basic things again not to mention depression and mood swings and competency hearings and meetings with councilors to talk about your 'feelings' about all of this and being asked how you 'feel' about your 'feelings'. And that's all before you even get back to work. I get it, Captain Raydor. I understand - I've been understanding it the last three days, and I've been understanding whenever it happens to anyone else, including me. So no, I'm not going anywhere, so you can just get rid of that idea. And if you want to keep arguing with me, I'm not afraid of poking you in that gaping wound you have in your chest." Brenda threatens. She watches as the other woman digests the words she said and the meaning behind them. Satisfied that she's done arguing, she settles back down, closer to Sharon's body.
"So - you said -"
"I said I love you, yes. You don't have to say it back." She goes on to change the subject, "You should know that there's a rumor going on at work. About us."
"What about us?"
"That I'm here to play Naughty Nurse." Brenda confesses matter-of-factly.
"Well that's ridiculous. The outfit was mine - it'd never fit you." Sharon deadpans.
"Exactly." Brenda agrees. They both laugh gently, mindful of their positions.
"I have a feeling I did that thing where I was a bitch before I got shot." Sharon can see by the look on Brenda's face this is a correct guess. "Something stupid like -"
"This is your only 'get out of jain free' card, Captain. I strongly suggest you use it." Brenda warns, not wanting to have this talk. "I'm not going anywhere and neither are you. And while we're at it -" Brenda props herself back up on her elbow, "If you ever, EVER do anything stupid like that again I will shoot you myself - and I don't miss. Do you understand me? Am I makin' myself clear Captain?"
"Yes Chief. Crystal."
"Good." She brushes a hand over Sharon's cheek and notices the other woman's eyes getting heavy. "You should rest."
"The nurse'll be in in a few minutes - I scared him into giving us some time." Sharon's eyes dropped shut. She was so tired. "Kiss me?" She asked.
So Brenda obliged, softly brushing her lips against Sharon's. There'd be time for more passion later (but hopefully not too much later) - right now she knew Sharon just needed comfort.
"Nice." Sharon grinned in her haze.
"Sleep now - the faster you get better, the faster you can get back up on your feet and do that little walk of yours."
"You know the one The strut tha-" Brenda was silenced swiftly when Sharon wrapped her arm around Brenda's neck and pulled her down into a kiss - compelling and desperate, a physical request for reassurance.
"Soft kisses are nice, but hard ones are better." Sharon responds, her eyes still closed. "I need you to know I love you."
"I had a feeling," Brenda whispers, brushing stray hair off of Sharon's face.
Inertia con't - In common usage the term "inertia" may refer to an object's amount of resistance to change in velocity.
Normal was something Brenda Leigh Johnson never quite understood. She understood easy, and liked it, but she had questioned normalcy and it's place and purpose for so long that by the time it crept into her life, one act and one word at a time it was too late to stop it. Besides, what was normalcy? Tonight would be considered normal to most people - but was a novelty to her. She had made dinner (well, unpacked it and put it on plates - which was almost the same as making it) and curled up on the couch beside Sharon and watched their new pet. Fritz meant it when he offered Brenda her pick of the litter and she knew from the moment she saw Tommy that that was the kitty for them. Tommy was a strawberry blond little thing - bossy and pushy - and she had a strut like a tom cat. Fritz laughed when she pointed him out - he knew her too well. Tommy was Sharon's concession to her - her way of making her feel welcomed, of making this her home too. She still had her apartment - more out of laziness than anything else. She'd be surprised if anything was left there, all of her important things having found a home amongst Sharon's things here.
She was leaving tomorrow for Atlanta - she had promised her mother she would tell her father, and she would. Sharon meanwhile would be heading back to work, her first day of desk duty. She had asked if Brenda wanted her to go home with her but Brenda declined. Brenda could already see what would happen - she would tell her father and he would get up and leave. They wouldn't say anything more about it until Brenda left and in a few weeks she'd get a letter detailing how he felt. She wasn't scared - not yet anyways - the letter was some ways away. She wouldn't get scared until the envelope came, addressed to her in his precise print. She wished she could be there for Sharon's first day but was certain her presence would be felt - Major Crimes had left a 'Welcome Back' gift for her in the shape of a broom stick on her desk. Just thinking about it made her laugh - she knew Sharon wouldn't want anything to change in the way people treated her, so that was what she made sure Major Crimes did.
But that was tomorrow and tomorrow was so far away.
Sharon rose up from the couch and held out her hand to Brenda, "Come on "
"Bed? But it's so early and look - Tommy's showing us how she plays with the squeaky mouse - aren't you, Tommy?" Brenda can't help it - the kitten makes her happy - she's never understood people's need for children when there were pets.
"Suit yourself," Sharon shrugged as she dropped Brenda's hand and walked past towards the stairs. "If you'd rather play with a squeaky mouse than me, so be it." Sharon climbed the stairs without looking back. She knew Brenda wouldn't be far behind She could already hear the other woman's footsteps following her up. She pretended not to notice her until she opened the door to their bedroom - it was theirs now - and started to get changed. "Oh, you came up?"
"Well, with an offer like that " Brenda replied, closing the door behind them, leaving them alone in the mostly dark room.
"Like this?" Sharon placed a firm grasp on Brenda's waist and pulled her close as she delivered a hard kiss to the other woman's lips. Everything so far had been gentle - her condition dictated it - but she was tired of gentle. She wanted to feel - not brushes and caresses but forceful pushes and pulls - she wanted contact. She wanted every inch of her body to touch every inch of Brenda's. She wanted the other woman to still feel her when she left for the airport, she wanted Brenda's lips to be bruised with kisses and her neck to be dotted and marked - she wanted others to stay away, to know that Brenda was hers. Because she was - she was all hers.
Shirts were unbuttoned and removed swiftly - hands were tangled in hair and Brenda found herself seated on the edge of the bed, with Sharon settled in her lap. She could tell what the other woman wanted, she wanted the same thing - with the recovery came uncertainty but they were always able to connect in this way. Maybe mores after the shooting than before. They could say everything and express every fear and hope like this in the dark where whispers carried louder than shouts. Like now, they could show each other they were afraid, but still present - it was what Brenda tried to do every time she saw the scar. It was still red and angry, two inches of puckered flesh above the curve of Sharon's breast. She had tried from the start not to make it obvious - she'd mention it, touch it, do whatever she could to show she wasn't afraid of it when the truth was, it terrified her. It wasn't just what it meant, that any moment they could be gone - it was something they both knew; she just didn't want Sharon to think about it anymore. It was always on the back of her mind, it had to be, every activity was tinged with discomfort as her body adjusted to itself again. Every outfit had to be considered for ease of putting on and taking off. New bras had to be purchased to avoid aggravating the tender flesh. To be honest, Brenda didn't mind the last one so much. She reached her hand around Sharon's back and unhooked the bra and watched as the thin material fell between them. Brenda wasn't a breast woman - she had never understood people's fixation on them. Some were big, some were small, most were boring - after she started seeing Sharon, she would look at other women with a discerning eye, asking herself if she was attracted to them - she never was. So she remained confused by the attention she would lavish on the other woman's body from the start - she loved her breasts in particular, the way they seemed to fill every shirt just so, the way they fit in her hand, the laugh that would escape Sharon's mouth every time she would run a thumb or her palm over them. She lowered her lips and gently kissed the scar. "You, you don't have to." Sharon murmured, using her fingers to lift Brenda's head up, to look her in the eyes. She loved how in the dark her eyes became black - it was harder to see what the other woman was thinking - she could only rely on what she felt.
"I want to." Brenda responded, laying herself flat on bed, pulling Sharon with her before rolling over her so she was on top.
They would learn how to get to normal again.
It would just take practice and hard work.
Luckily, Brenda thought to herself as she dropped a string of kisses down Sharon's body, they weren't afraid of a little work.
Practice made perfect, after all.
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