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The Heart of the Matter

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1.

Commander Ann McGinnis was exhausted. She didn’t need the dark circles or the red rims around her usually piercing blue eyes staring back at her in the mirror to tell her that. The ache in her arms and across her shoulders would have been enough to remind her that after the high adrenaline rescue of her officer Kate, who Ann swore she would never lend out to another Division again, she’d called Frankie and hit the gym for a gruelling 2 hour boxing session that had left her soaked in sweat and as physically wrung out as she was mentally. Frankie had worked her mercilessly, ‘jab, punch, hook, body shot’, over and over he’d danced her around the ring and she’d launched herself at him with all the ferocity he’d come to expect from her in the four years since he’d started training her. “Body, face, body face”, he’d kept calling out the combinations all the while advancing and lunging. She’d pushed him back and attacked him with her usual calculated precision but near the end of the session with her sides throbbing and her sweat running into her eyes she’d started to lose it. She hammered away at his midsection and then hearing the satisfying smack of her gloves against the hand targets as she levelled hook after hook to his face, all Ann could think about was Kate. Sweet Kate. Tough Kate. Young Kate.

God she was so young and she’d almost gotten killed. Rationally Ann knew it wasn’t her fault, all her officers knew the risks when they took the oath. Hell, that was the reason that most of them signed up and trained for Special Operations Branch in the first place

Ann sighed and scraped her blonde hair back from her forehead and secured it in its’ usual, practical ponytail.

Kate was different because she was young, and she was blonde, and Goddamnit if she didn’t look entirely like what Ann imagined Amy would look like at her age. Amy, her charming daughter who used to hurl herself off the monkey bars on the schoolyard without a second look down to see where she’d fall. Amy, who hated orange juice. Amy with her inquisitive brown eyes, so much like Jeff’s, who questioned everything. Amy, her beautiful little girl who had been just turned gawky, her coltish legs tangling together when she ran, sprinting head-long toward the teenager, and eventually the woman she would become. Except not now. Not anymore. Not ever. But, when Ann looked at Kate, the carefree way she smiled, how she unconsciously tossed her hair out of her eyes, She reminded her so deeply of Amy that to Ann it felt like drowning.

The lithe Commander ripped her eyes from the mirror, holstered her service weapon and stalked into the living room of the small condo she had moved to after disposing of the house she’d kept in her previous life. The life where she’d been a wife, and a mother and not just a rising star in the LAPD’s tactical unit. She carefully locked up the memory of her daughter in the its customary place at the back of her mind. Amy was never really out of her thoughts but Ann couldn’t afford to have her at the forefront. What she needed to do was work. Work and boxing had served to fill in the gaping hole where her husband and daughter used to be. Routine was the only thing that kept her sane in those first few months after the accident. Get up. Make coffee. Go to work. Take down suspects. Meet Frankie at Golden Gloves (an utterly pretentious name for a gym but it was cheap and the guys knew better than to hit on her) and pummel the heavy bag, or spar with Frankie, until she couldn’t lift her arms. Go home. Shower. Fall into bed. Rinse. Repeat. Over time Ann had reached a place of equanimity. It’s not that the wounds had healed but the pain was just different.

Almost losing Kate yesterday had brought it all crashing back. The horror, and if Ann was honest, the crippling loss of control, of having to stand helplessly by as Captain Sharon Raydor took command. Kate was her officer. Ann should have been calling the shots and instead she had to step back and grind her teeth as the Captain moved at her meticulous, cautious pace through the investigation. Ann wasn’t a stupid woman. She recognized that her inability to run the investigation, to do anything cut too close to home. There hadn’t been anything she could do on the night that a very drunk and coked out Megan Foster crossed the center line and plowed directly into Ann’s sensible Toyota Matrix either. Only Ann hadn’t been driving. She was working a standoff and while she waited with her partner for tactical air support her husband and daughter were blown into a guardrail. Crushed. And she couldn’t do a thing to stop it. Didn’t even know it had happened until her commanding officer had called her off the detail and sent her to the hospital. By then it had been too late.

Yesterday it had almost been too late for Kate.

Ann shook her head. She really needed to get a grip. It was bad enough that Captain-By-the-Book had almost dragged her off that filthy human trafficker, but the fact that her new Deputy Chief had found it necessary to forcibly yank her off the suspect like a rabid dog was embarrassing in the extreme. She didn’t regret her actions but she needed to pick her moments a little better. At least until she figured out the direction her new boss was going to to play it.

Ann found herself wistfully wishing that the roles were reversed and that it was her Deputy Chief’s ex-wife taking on the role at Special Operations. Ann much preferred former Deputy Brenda Leigh Johnson’s more creative methods to getting the job done. It suited Ann’s shoot first and ask questions later attitude. Sometimes when the moments counted tough decisions needed to be made and in her line of work, the suspects she saw everyday, you didn’t always have time to dot your ‘i’s’ and cross all your ’t’s’. Chief Johnson had understood that and Ann McGinnis had been secretly disappointed when the previous head of Major Crimes had been summarily, if not politically, dismissed.

Scuttlebutt in the department was that she’d rewarded her husband’s loyalty and support during the lengthy investigation into her actions by summarily leaving him, and in a move that stunned almost everyone, shacking up with her replacement - the new head of Major Crimes. Ann didn’t know what was more surprising, the fact that Miss-Thank-Yew-Very-Much had discovered she was gay so late in her life or that Captain Sharon Raydor, the ice queen of FID, actually had a heart beating somewhere under those sharply tailored suits. Ann snorted, she couldn't really trust any female police officer who wore stilettos to work, although she had heard that Raydor was fairly handy with a beanbag gun.

It remained to be seen whether or not her new superior officer was going to be handy with anything other than a field manual and a pencil. Howard had looked tired and drawn when she’d last seen him and as far as she could tell he was beginning his tenure as he head of Special Operations handing off what should have been a search for her, correction make that their, missing officer to his ex-wife’s lover cautioning her against the very actions that SOB were specifically trained for in the first place.

Her cell phone vibrated and Ann checked the display. Bloody hell, it was as though thinking of him could conjure him out of thin air
“HOWARD” flashed across her screen. (Howard was shorter than Deputy Chief Howard and Lord knows Ann wasn’t going to programme him into her phone under “Fritz”. What kind of name was that anyway?)

“Jesus wept”, her shift didn’t start for an hour.
Ann had the feeling he was going to be a micro-manager.

“McGinnis”, she barked into the phone.

“Commander.”, the voice on the other end of the line was mild . “I know your shift doesn’t start for another hour but there’s some things I’d like to go over with you before we roll out your squad this morning. About yesterday. If you don’t mind”. 
Ann rolled her eyes. Was he asking or ordering?

“Is that a direct order, Sir”?

There was a pause and then a slightly steelier tone, “I’d like you in my office in half an hour. Can you manage that Commander?”

“Copy that,” she stabbed at the ‘end call’ button and tossed the phone into her bag.

Ann had a feeling that this was going to turn into a spectacularly shitty day. She was being haunted by the ghost of her daughter, one of her officers had almost been shipped to Mexico in a crate and her new boss had probably spent the last half of his previous career sitting on his ass in an FBI van eating crappy takeout and listening to wire-taps. She had a bitch of a headache and now she wouldn’t even have time to stop for coffee on the way to Parker Center.

Yes, Deputy Chief Fritz Howard was going to be a royal pain in her ass.

2.

 

Brenda awoke with a sharp inhale; her eyes flew open her hands clawing desperately twisting in the pale lavender sheets. As her vision grew accustomed to the dim light she willed her breathing to slow and her fists to unclench.
“It’s ok Brenda, just a dream, not real, not happenin’, just a dream”, she repeated silently to herself as she instinctively reached out for the woman in her bed. Their bed. Sharon. Thank God Sharon was there just as she had been when they went to sleep the night before and the night before that.

But the images in Brenda’s recurring nightmare wouldn’t dissolve so easily and Brenda curled up next to the sleeping brunette, gently sliding her arm over Sharon’s waist her fingers trailing lightly until they found the swell of Sharon’s breast. Brenda cupped it softly and felt the nipple harden. Sleep didn’t seem to deter Sharon’s arousal where Brenda was concerned. She hummed and shifted her body closer to her lover, arching her breast harder against Brenda’s palm.

“Mmm, what time is it, sugar?”

A thrill shot through Brenda’s body. She never tired of Sharon’s secret nickname for her and even in the aftermath of her dream she relished the tingle in her body that Sharon’s husky voice created.

“S nothin’ Shar. I just had a bad dream is all. Go back to sleep”.

Sharon shifted further, turning on her side and wrapping her arms around
Brenda, pulling her close and bringing Brenda’s head to rest against her.

“Is it the same nightmare, the one about Phillip Stroh?” Sharon asked her voice low and full of tenderness.

Brenda bit her bottom lip and simply nodded, the movement brushing her hair across Sharon’s breasts. The older woman shivered involuntarily.

“I don’t, I can’t get there. I can’t get there in time.” Brenda’s voice was raw. “An’ he’s on Rusty, I can’t make it. Oh God, Shar I’m tryin’, I’m tryin’ to shoot him but my gun’s jammed. Rusty’s just bleedin’ out and he’s just standin’ there laughin’. Goddamn Phillip Stroh.”

She says his name with such venom and Sharon can feel the tears leaking out from beneath Brenda’s lashes.

“Hey,” Sharon breathed and sat up pulling Brenda with her. She cupped the younger woman’s face with one hand, long slender fingers gently wiping away the tears. “It was just a dream. You did get there in time. Phillip Stroh is sitting in jail where is going to stay for the rest of his miserable life and it is a very good thing that you did not pull the trigger.”

Brenda was soothed by the cadence in her Captain’s measured words. Even in bed in the early hours of the morning, naked and with her hair a riot of chocolate curls (a follicular state in which her squad would be privy to only over her flayed and dead body), Sharon Raydor’s words carried power.

“For Heaven’s sake how did he manage to get another trial? I swear it’s like the worst whack-a-mole ever. No matter how many times you smack him down he just keeps poppin’ his slimy head up somewhere else.” Brenda pouted.

Sharon’s eyes crinkled and she couldn’t contain her laughter.

“What? It’s not funny.”

“It’s just I am envisioning something like a cross between a ground squirrel and a snake and you in one of those ridiculous floral outfits wielding a hammer…..” Sharon bit her lip trying unsuccessfully not to laugh harder.
“Here I am, sharin’ my scary dreams with you and you’re policin’ my metaphors Capt’n Raydor” Brenda grabbed a pillow and swatted her lover, albeit lightly, over the head with it.

“I’m really sorry.” Sharon ducked. “Do NOT hit me with that, you’ll ruin my hair.”

Now it was Brenda’s turn to laugh. “I hate to break it to you Shar but if you could see what you look like right now, trust me, a pillow fight is not going to muss up your hair.”

“Oh really?” Sharon’s voice was soft but her moss green eyes, just inches now from Brenda’s gleamed with intensity. “And just what could possibly, in your opinion Brenda Leigh, appropriately muss up my hair- as you so charmingly put it- this morning?”

Sharon’s mouth was suddenly so close to Brenda’s that she could feel the Captain’s breath whisper across her lips like a ghost of a kiss.
Without breaking eye contact Brenda slid her hands slowly up Sharon’s shoulders revelling again in the feel of silky skin under her palms. She traced the freckles that dusted across Sharon’s shoulders and her fingertips brushed the line of Sharon’s jaw. She ran her thumb gently across the brunette’s mouth, sliding it over her bottom lip. She felt the older woman shiver as she bent her head and kissed the side of Sharon’s mouth. She slid her thumb back and forth across Sharon’s bottom lip all the while teasing her, nipping at the side of her mouth with the smallest of kisses. Her other hand found its way to Sharon’s mass of thick, dark hair and she wound her fingers into the curls.

“How’m I doin’ so far?” she murmured against Sharon’s mouth.

“Jesus,” was all Sharon was able to manage.

“If you’re describin’ a religious experience Capt’n I’m more than happy to oblige.”

“Stop talking,” the words mingled with Brenda’s mouth as Sharon kissed her long and slow. Her tongue darted against Brenda’s, gently at first and then with more urgency.

Sharon’s hands flew to Brenda’s breast, rolling the taut nipple back and forth between her fingertips. Brenda let out a little cry and tipped her head back to allow Sharon better access to her neck. Sharon trailed kisses down the length of that perfect alabaster column heady with the mixture of scents, slightly floral perfume, shampoo and something darker, the musky scent that drifted off her skin when Brenda was aroused.
Sharon pushed Brenda gently back onto the bed, parting her legs with one knee, pressing her thigh urgently into the heat of Brenda’s sex. She could already feel how wet her lover was and Brenda squirmed in anticipation, thrusting her hips upward against Sharon’s taut thigh.

“Yes, Shar…’ her voice low and hectic

“Yes, what?” Sharon teased, pulling her thigh back and blowing lightly across Brenda’s breasts marvelling in how the nipples tightened.

“Just, don’t stop”. She pulled Sharon’s head down and crushed their lips together at the same time arching her back and sought to press herself hard into Sharon’s thigh. Brenda could feel her Captain all along the length of her body, the swell of her belly slightly soft against her own. Her hands roamed across Sharon’s shoulders, her fingers trailed down the knobs of her spine, kneading and teasing until they came to rest on the swell of Sharon’s ass. Her fingers splayed open as her palms gripped the outside of her lover’s thighs pulling at her tighter, harder.

Their kisses deepened as Brenda lost herself in the rhythm of their rocking hips. She thrust harder and harder and Sharon met her, pressing her wet mound against Brenda’s. Through her folds she could feel her clit, swollen and slick. Brenda was making little mewling sounds in Sharon’s ear, her thighs and ass clenching, tightening as she rode the crest of her pleasure. The friction against Sharon was impossibly delicious and she realized she was close to falling over the edge.

When they made love in the evenings Sharon took her time, drawing out each kiss and caress driving Brenda nearly insane with wanting before she brought her over that edge but this morning, coming out of the depth of sleep to Brenda’s nightmare and then to this desire for the lithe blonde Sharon didn’t want to wait, didn’t want to draw anything out. All she wanted was the heat raging between them and to tumble along with Brenda into that place of mindless pleasure.

Brenda cradled Sharon’s ass in her hands, driving, grinding their hips together, holding them taut. Sharon arched her back and they both shattered, coming together, falling and Brenda was vaguely aware of her guttural cries blending with Sharon’s “Suggggar….”

Her breath came in ragged gasps and Sharon sank boneless into Brenda’s embrace, their legs entwined, her head resting in the hollow of the blonde’s neck.

“Did you just?…” Brenda’s was breathless.

“Indeed I did”, Brenda could hear the smile in Sharon’s voice.

“Oh.” she breathed. “Wow, just. Wow.”

Sharon rolled onto her side and propped herself on one elbow gracing her lover with a smile that softened her face. Her squad would never have recognized her. A smirk played at the corner of her mouth.

“I can now check off the tick box in another one of my life goals.”

“Oh?” Brenda raised one eyebrow

“It seems I have managed to successfully render 'the Great Atlanta closer' completely speechless.”

“What?” Brenda cried, “What? No”.

“I prove my point.”

“Ohhh you terrible woman,” if Brenda had been standing up instead of sprawled on the bed her expression said she would have been stomping her feet. Instead, she settled for reaching up and tweaking Sharon’s nipple. Just once.

“Well, I wasn’t the one yellin’ out terms of endearment at critical moments”, she retorted. “I sure hope Rusty sleeps with his ipod thingy on”.

“Me?” Sharon’s face was incredulous “I wasn’t the one mewing incoherently.”

“Mewing?” Brenda’s voice went up an octave. “I do not mew. Kittens mew.”

“It sounds kind of like that, actually.” Sharon replied her eyes twinkling. “Only with more abandon.”

“Oh you are in such trouble Captain Raydor,” Brenda pushed Sharon to the mattress an held her down in a fairly good impression of an arm bar (Sharon hadn’t realized Brenda even knew what an arm bar was) and began tickling her mercilessly with her free hand.

“Stop! Stop. Ok I surrender. White flag. Jesus, Brenda Leigh, I’m sorry. Stop.”

“Yes for the love of God please stop,” Rusty’s voice came from the other side of their bedroom door. “I have no idea what you guys are doing in there and I don’t want to know. Ever. There’s not enough brain bleach in the world”, he continued, “But whatever it is, just....just....,no.”
Brenda and Sharon could hear Rusty’s footsteps hurrying down the hall, no doubt trying to get as far away from the two women as possible.

Sharon’s snort laugh broke the shocked silence.

“Shit” she said, “shit, shit, shit. I guess that answers the burning question of whether or not he keeps his ipod on at night”.

“Go talk to him.” Brenda commanded sotto voce

“Me? YOU go talk to him”, Sharon shooed her lover off the bed.

“What am I supposed to say?” Brenda sounded like she was strangling as she yanked on the yoga pants and tank top that she’d left pooling on the floor next to the bed the night before.

“I don’t know,” Sharon said mildly “You could could broach the Phillip Stroh re-trial. I know it’s bound to be bothering him and sometimes he responds better to discussing it with you than with me.”


“And how’s that supposed to work out?” Brenda huffed, her eyes wild around the edges, “ ‘Rusty I know I was just in the bedroom making your future step-mother see God but how y’all feelin’ about bein’ a witness at the new trial of a man who tried to murder you in my kitchen’?”

“I’m sure you’ll muddle through,” Sharon sauntered toward the bathroom. “I need a shower.” She wiggled her fingers at Brenda, mimicking the blonde’s signature Southern wave. Brenda stuck out her tongue.

“You owe me for this Capt’n Raydor.”

“Payback will be a religious experience. I promise.”