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Angela had always called her ‘Sweetie’. Brennan didn’t really understand why, because she wasn’t the kind of person who immediately inspired endearments or nicknames, and as far as she could tell, nothing about her indicated that such a practice was wanted. If anything, she inspired irritation, anger, and a great deal of general loathing.

“Why do you love me?”

The slide of soft skin against cotton almost disappeared under the sleepy sigh that accompanied it, but Angela’s smile was amused and not angry. “Do you really want a complete list? Now?” she asked; her voice was warm and loving and Brennan felt an uncharacteristic wash of emotion, its intensity threatening to make her do something horribly embarrassing.

Brennan absolutely wanted a complete list, wanted the reasons spelled out in concrete terms so that she could have a surety that transcended her insecurity. She wanted something other than an indulgent smile and the soft trace of Angela’s fingertips as she secured an errant lock of hair.

Reading the uncertainty in Brennan's eyes, unsure of the genesis of this uncharacteristic bout of neediness but somehow, perversely, pleased by it, Angela pushed up onto her palms and eased herself over with a lanky grace Brennan couldn’t help but appreciate. The warm skin pressing firmly into her own, covering her completely as Angela pressed them down into the mattress, her hands finding Brennan’s wrists and holding them down, soothed her somehow. She was a more than willing captive. It was a perplexing paradox, the joy she felt as she subtly tested her boundaries and found herself unable to escape. She was independent, stubborn and headstrong in the face of anything or anyone who might hold her back, not complacent and yielding. With exception, apparently.

Angela watched the play of emotion trace its way across Brennan’s face, barely able to hide her own amusement. Brennan's brow tightened in confusion, drew lower in perplexity and then finally smoothed out in acceptance, as if the too-quick mind hidden behind it had skidded to a halt.

She couldn’t deny herself a quick kiss, and couldn’t help herself when it grew into something more, Brennan’s mouth surging up against hers . She felt the wrists beneath her hands tense, push up in a futile attempt to escape her grasp, and she pushed down firmly, drawing a shocked, aroused gasp from her captive.

Pulling away with a sharp bite to a swollen bottom lip, Angela smirked arrogantly, enjoying the flush in Brennan’s cheeks and the lust being broadcast plainly in glazed eyes. “Why do you think I love you, sweetie?”

Brennan took the question seriously, as she took every question seriously. “You love me because I’m an equal. I challenge you and frustrate you and I don’t discount your intelligence in favor of your appearance. We’re extremely compatible sexually, and I don’t try to hold you back or keep you contained in any way. With me, you’re free to be your own person, to be independent but still have the comfort of a partner who trusts and supports you.”

Angela smiled indulgently, leaning down to brush the tip of her nose against Brennan’s, holding her lips millimeters out of reach. “Those are some of the reasons,” she said softly, eyes glinting. “But what you’re going to have to accept, even if it doesn’t sound reasonable, even if it’s built on belief instead of fact, is that I just do.”

She’d felt a spark of attraction the first time she met Brennan. In retrospect, she realized that she should have been intimidated, but Angela had never really been drawn into the circle of academic awe, admiration, and just plain hero worship that seemed to be the standard response to her too-serious coworker. Instead she’d been slightly amused, irrationally drawn by the intense dark eyes, the jaw set in what seemed to be a constant scowl, and the unflinching logical dissection of any and everything. Brennan wasn’t much for metaphors or subtleties. It was refreshing endearing.

And then, surprisingly, once she’d proved her worth, she’d been treated like an esteemed coworker. Angela had a long-standing habit of making female coworkers feel threatened, and was used to be treated with patronizing disdain. She hadn’t realized how used to it she was, until Brennan treated her like just another member of the team, like a valuable asset to be respected and used.

She had thought the flirtation between them was innocent until she realized it wasn’t. Brennan grew still and uncomfortable and almost distressed every time she was near, and Angela searched for a reason until she discovered she didn’t know what it could possibly be. And, because she wasn’t the kind of girl to let things go unsaid, she asked, as bluntly and as plainly as possible, because Brennan wasn’t the type of girl to understand vague allusions and she didn’t want any misunderstandings.

“You confuse me,” Brennan had said, and if Angela hadn’t seen the flicker of vulnerability, she would have brushed the conversation off as nothing, as Brennan’s charming inability to socialize with other humans in a normal way. So she’d pressed, had smiled reassuringly and asked why.

“You flirt with me as if you’re interested in pursuing a sexual relationship, but all of the evidence I’ve seen up until now indicates that you lead an active heterosexual lifestyle,” Brennan had said bluntly, unblinkingly, and Angela barely kept herself from laughing in surprise.

She hadn’t known how to proceed for a moment, so she didn’t. Instead, she'd sat back against the cushions of the couch in Brennan’s office and thought about what she’d done and why. When she didn’t reach any concrete conclusions, she instead asked, “Are you interested in pursuing a sexual relationship with me?”

The words had sounded ridiculously formal, but she hadn’t known of another way to ask.

Brennan had tilted her head to the side for a moment, watching Angela speculatively. And then she had said, plainly and unflinchingly, “Yes.”

Angela had known that Brennan had sex, and that she greatly enjoyed it. When the topic came up during typical office banter, she’d said so matter-of-factly, as if it wasn't odd to discuss sex as if it were any other topic and not instead resort to off-color jokes and barely veiled innuendo about the topic. Despite that, Angela had never really been able to reconcile the notion with what she knew about Brennan, who was awkward and stiff and more reserved than any other person she’d ever met.

She didn’t remember how they had decided that she should follow Brennan home, and didn’t remember giving the idea much conscious thought. If she had, she could have laid out a laundry list of reasons why it was an incredibly bad idea to pursue the fledgling concept of a sexual relationship between herself and Brennan. But, she’d been known to act impulsively, and, to be honest, she was curious.

“Sexual relationships between people of the same gender are completely normal,” Brennan had announced once they were inside her house and standing inside the doorway of her bedroom. She said the words dispassionately, as if giving a lecture. “They’ve existed longer than written history, and been alluded to in works as revered as the Bible. The stigma attached to them now is an artificial construction, probably related to fear of that which is different, a subconscious belief that procreation is the sole meaning behind sex which probably took root at times when the species faced danger of extinction, and a patriarchal fear of emasculation, feminization, and uselessness.”

At the time, Angela had smiled despite herself. “Sweetie, I don’t need to be convinced.”

That first night had been more than a revelation. Brennan approached sex with the same attitude as everything else, namely determination, intensity, an almost reckless curiosity and an insatiable need to learn everything. If she were awkward and reserved in everyday life, in bed she was the complete opposite. There was nothing shy about her as she raked her nails down Angela’s back to bury them in the muscles of her buttocks, pulling Angela against her with a blatant need and urgency. She didn’t bother to hide behind embarrassment, took exactly what she wanted and demanded what she needed.

She’d been shocked the next morning when she'd awoken to find Brennan staring down at her impassively, buttoning the final button on her shirt. “I see no reason why the continuation of this should affect our working relationship," she’d said coolly. “I’d like to see you again. I should be home tonight by ten.”

Angela had merely nodded as Brennan straightened her collar, glancing back once as she crossed the doorway. “Don’t forget to lock up.”

She went back because she couldn’t help herself, because she was curious and ensnared in something out of her control. She went back because she wanted to.

She lied because she couldn’t stand it anymore. Nearly six months of the hottest sex she’d ever had and absolutely no declarations of anything other than a desire to have more sex and she’d discovered, much to her shock, that she needed something more. She needed feelings. She needed love. She needed intimacy and warmth. It was ludicrously girlish, and she hated Brennan for making her feel so weak.

So when she had casually mentioned to Brennan that she had a date, that she wouldn’t be coming by that night, Angela thought she’d imagined the flinch, had chalked it up to wishful thinking in the face of Brennan’s stony stare, and muttered beneath her breath as she fled the other woman’s office. Fled so fast she forgot her purse, and cursed when she got to her car and realized that she was going to have to go back into the office. She’d promised herself that she wouldn’t go near Brennan’s office, not as raw and exposed as she was feeling, but she couldn’t help herself. She’d felt compelled to go, the masochistic desire to see Brennan carrying on about her evening as if she hadn’t just crushed her heart motivation enough for Angela to blend into the shadows, moving until she could see clearly through the still opened blinds into Brennan's office.

Brennan’s head was in her hands, body hunched over in defeat, and Angela had stepped forward unconsciously, the move bringing her into the light and catching Brennan's attention. She’d watched in disbelief as Brennan angrily wiped at her cheeks, face composing itself into a blank mask as she looked at Angela from twenty feet and a pane of glass away. And then she was on her feet, arms crossed over her chest as she stood in the doorway of her office.

“I thought you had a date,” she had said bitterly, and if Angela hadn’t been able to make out the faint red tint staining her eyes, she would have assumed that she had made the whole thing up, that she hadn’t seen Brennan crying.

“I just needed an excuse to be away from you,” Angela had said bluntly, and this time she didn’t imagine the flinch. “I can’t do this anymore.”

Already darkened features darkened further, closing off and erasing any hint of human weakness. “You don’t owe me anything,” Brennan had said, scowling, eyes flashing.

Inexplicably, Angela had gotten angry. “I should owe you something,” she’d nearly growled, crossing the space between them so that they were standing only inches apart. “You’re not a machine, sweetie. I’m not a machine. I need to be more than a convenient booty call or a stress reliever. I need you to be more than no-strings-attached sex.”

Brennan had looked at her helplessly, as if she didn’t know what to do or say in response, and Angela had snorted in disgust.

“I don’t know what else to offer you,” Brennan had said helplessly, the same look of confusion in her eyes as when she was confronted with a pop culture puzzle and didn’t have the pieces.

Angela had shook her head sadly, lips curled up in a wry smile. “I don’t know… how about love?”

Brennan had taken a step back, had looked at Angela in shock. “Love?” she’d echoed, and Angela had wanted to slap her, the incredulity in her voice too much. Brennan’s brows had drawn together, eyes flashing with dark intensity. “You need me to tell you that I love you?”

Despite the way her heart leapt in her chest at the sound of the words, Angela had shook her head sadly. “No,” she’d murmured, drawing a look of even greater confusion, “I need you to mean it.”

She’d turned to walk away, no longer able to stand there and look at Brennan, when she’d felt the strong fingers wrap around her upper arm, pulling her to an abrupt stop. Brennan’s voice had been uncharacteristically rough, her eyes oddly compelling. “I brought you into my life. I trusted you with everything, every intimate detail about myself. I trusted you to see all of me. I offered you all of me.” Brennan paused, lips compressing into a frown. “Why do you need to hear me say that I love you when I’ve already shown you?”

******

Looking down at the woman beneath her, face open and readable with an almost child-like trust that that trust was deserved, Angela smiled at the memory. “Why don't I show you,” she murmured, returning to the question as she leaned down to brush her lips against Brennan’s.