Her eyes are burning and her fingers and arms ache from the length of time she's been holding the wheel. Her back hurts too but so far she managed to ignore the dull ache at the bottom of her spine even though she's silently been cursing herself for not having adjusted her seat when she got back in the car.
Brenda is aware of her companion in the car only because Sharon Raydor is snoring softly, her head rests on her arm which is propped up against the window. The radio plays softly. Brenda changed the station the moment she realised Sharon was asleep because she sure as hell couldn't cope with any more Bach or Mendelssohn or whatever composer was responsible for the music Sharon had chosen for their journey. Right now, the chorus from "Sweet Home Alabama" fills the car and Brenda drums her fingers against the wheel in an attempt to distract her mind.
Darkness had fallen hours ago. It was after ten o'clock and they still had more than half of their journey ahead of them. She wishes she'd booked a hotel for the night, like Sharon had suggested when they first left Los Angeles. But she'd insisted on driving home on the same day and had even shook her head when Sharon had offered to drive since Brenda had driven that morning.
Going up to Fresno had been a necessity. Brenda couldn't exactly imagine doing it for fun, and certainly not with Sharon Raydor as her companion, but she hadn't been left with any choice. Their suspect in a double homicide as well as the murder of a patrol officer had been arrested in Fresno after a simple traffic violation. It had resulted in a quickly unfolding sequence of events which, among others, involved Brenda and Sharon standing in Pope's office engaged in what could only be described as an undignified shouting match about to whom the suspect belonged.
Brenda insisted he belonged to Major Crimes due to the double homicide and Sharon insisted he belonged to FID because of the dead patrol officer. Brenda had reminded both Sharon and Pope that they didn't know if the suspect had been the one to kill the officer and when Sharon pointed out that Brenda also had no solid evidence he was responsible for her double homicide, Pope had intervened.
"You will both go to Fresno," he said and Sharon has seen the horror on Brenda's face. "Together." There was a pause and Sharon had been a little surprised that Pope felt confident enough to send her and Brenda anywhere together, let alone all the way to Fresno. "And I shouldn't have to remind you what 'together' means. I don't want a call from Fresno PD telling me they've had to arrest the Heads of Major Crimes and FID for attempted murder!"
Brenda had only reluctantly agreed to this and when they walked out of Pope's office, she'd sneered, "I'm driving" and walked off in the general direction of the elevator, leaving Sharon with no other choice but to tail after her.
And so they had found themselves in Brenda's sedan half an hour later, heading up towards Fresno, and Brenda had no idea how she was going to get through the more than three and a half hours it would take them to get there, and the same to get back again. Oh, that woman!
They'd talked very little during the drive but Brenda had, surprisingly, found Sharon not to be bad company. Sharon admired the scenery, as much as there was to be admired, and she paid for two of the coffees they bought along the way as well as a bag of Reese's peanut butter cups for Brenda. She asked Brenda a few questions about herself and Brenda, remembering her Mama's desperate attempts to raise her with some manners, politely answered the questions and asked some of her own.
She now knew Sharon had two children, a boy and a girl, and that she and her husband were separated and she'd been born in Chicago. But aside from that, Brenda knew nothing else about the FID Captain, aside from her poor taste in music.
The interview of their suspect was a waste of time. The second he found out they were from LA, he said the magical word "lawyer" and Sharon and Brenda left the interview room empty handed, much to Brenda's anger. He refused to talk and Brenda had been seething because they'd come all the way out here for nothing whereas Sharon calmly arranged for the suspect to be transported back to Los Angeles the next day. When Brenda heard that, she'd quietly said "Thank you" and Sharon had just smiled. Brenda's insides had done something strange and she'd turned away.
Brenda uses her left hand to rub her temples and in the distance she spots the lights of a gas station. Gas stations sell coffee, she thinks. Bad coffee but coffee nevertheless. She really needs something to wake her up. When she pulls into one of the parking spaces in front of the small shop and the car comes to a stop, Sharon stirs and lifts her head up from her arm.
Brenda can't help but think that Sharon Raydor looks incredibly disarming, her eyes still full of sleep and brown locks falling over her face. Sharon blinks a few times and fumbles with her pockets to try and find her glasses. Brenda can see she's squinting and she wonders just how bad Sharon's eyes are. Sharon finds her glasses and puts them on. Instantly the disarming woman Brenda has just seen transforms into the cool FID Captain.
"Why are we stopping?" Sharon asks.
"Again?" Sharon narrows her eyebrows and takes in the sight of the tired looking blonde sitting in the driver's seat. Brenda's shoulders are slumped. Sharon then looks at the gas station and wrinkles her nose. "This places looks like more likely to give you food poisoning than a caffeine buzz. Isn't there somewhere else we can go?"
Brenda rolls her eyes and her hand's already at the door handle. "It's the only gas station I've seen in the last thirty miles and I don't expect to see a Starbucks drive through anytime soon."
Sharon studies Brenda more closely. The blonde's eyes are dull and her skin is slightly sweaty. Damp ringlets stick to her forehead. The air outside the car is humid and hot and Sharon wishes they could stay in the car forever because the air conditioning is nice and cool but she isn't about to let Brenda walk into this dump of a gas station on her own so she opens the passenger door and gets out.
She catches Brenda as she tries to stifle a yawn and cuts her off on the way to the door. She holds it for the blonde chief, resulting in a somewhat peculiar sideways glance from Brenda as she enters, and then Sharon steps into the small shop herself.
Brenda was right. There is coffee but it's from one of those cheap machines and it probably tastes even worse than it looks. She pulls up her nose as the tar coloured liquid pours into the plastic cup and she decides there and then that she isn't going to drink it. She feels the eyes of the guy behind the counter burn into her back and she readjusts her badge just enough to know that he can see it. When she looks over her shoulder she finds Sharon standing by the candy, her badge on full display on her belt, her hands on her hips and one eye clearly on the man watching Brenda.
Brenda takes the coffee once the machine has finished and the warmth spreads through her fingers up to her wrist. She walks past the fridge and takes out three cans of Red Bull. That'll make up for the fact that she won't be having any coffee. Sharon meets her at the counter and insists on paying. Brenda realises she's too tired to argue so she lets Sharon pay, watches as the brunette exchanges dollar bills and Brenda suddenly wonders how she never noticed just how beautiful Sharon really is.
She is wearing her grey slacks and a simple white button blouse. She'd discarded the blazer into the backseat when they got in the car in Fresno. Her brown hair falls in thick strands down her shoulders and Brenda's gaze briefly drops down to Sharon's legs. They seem endless. Momentarily her eyes linger on the curve of Sharon's ass and then Brenda realises what she's doing and her cheeks flush red.
She tears her eyes away from the older woman just before Sharon looks up and quickly starts for the door. Sharon follows her, Brenda can hear her footsteps, and this time Brenda holds the door. Their arms brush against each other and for a split second, Sharon seems to freeze. Brenda notices and she's still standing in the open door when Sharon is halfway back to the car, wondering what just happened.
Brenda catches up with her and they walk the last few metres back to the car side by side, the sky over their heads dark and full of stars, and Brenda reaches to open the driver side door when Sharon puts a hand on her arm and stops her. Brenda's skin unexpectedly tingles under Sharon's touch and she turns to look at her companion and, despite the warm evening, shivers. When did Sharon come this close?
"Let me drive," Sharon offers but Brenda shakes her head. Sharon's voice is soft and her hand is warm and Brenda suddenly feels the urge to lean in to Sharon and just feel... her.
The feeling startles her and she jerks away unexpectedly. "In fine, Captain." By addressing Sharon by her title she severs whatever was bringing them together and Sharon takes a step back and removes her hand.
Brenda gets back behind the wheel and waits for Sharon to fasten her seatbelt. She starts the engine and leaves the gas station behind. Seeing it grow smaller in the rear view mirror feels like a relief even though she doesn't exactly know what it is that she feels like she's running from.
If Sharon disagrees with Brenda's choice of radio station, she's not letting it on because she closes her eyes again and Brenda thinks she's asleep until she softly hears Sharon hum along to Loretta Lynn's "Coal Miner's Daughter", and she is genuinely surprised.
"My, my, Capt'n Raydor, I never took you for a country girl."
Sharon opens one eye and she smiles knowingly. Brenda can those green eyes twinkle behind her glasses. Sharon hasn't removed them this time.
"I'm full of surprises."
Brenda lets the words sink in for a moment, not having missed the slightly teasing undertone.
Then suddenly she feels Sharon's hand on her knee. It's soft and warm and unelected and totally catches her by surprise. It sets something alight deep down in her belly and she bites down on her tongue to not sigh in relief.
Sharon knows Brenda is tired and she also knows the blonde chief will never admit to it.
"Brenda, you're tired." It's the first time Sharon has ever used Brenda's first name in front of her. She doesn't remove her hand. "You have been driving for hours. Stop trying to prove your point." Sharon pauses and Brenda finally dares to look beside her. Concern is etched over Sharon's face. Brenda's eyes are red and Sharon can see the tiredness.
Brenda opens her mouth to speak, to object to what Sharon has said, but the brunette cuts her off.
"Pull over. Let me drive for a while."
And Brenda pulls over without thinking. She switches off the engine, climbs out of the driver's seat and into the passenger side. Sharon walks around the car and slips behind the wheel just as Brenda slips into the other seat. The leather is warm and she can smell the lingering scent of Sharon's perfume. It's strangely comforting and she leans back deeper into the seat.
The aching in her body slowly begins to subside and as Brenda rests her head in her hand, she looks at Sharon for a while. She drives in a relaxed position, Brenda notices, with her hands gracefully but casually holding the wheel. Her eyes are focused on the road. A streetlamp lights up Sharon's features, giving her skin a strange glow. Brenda uses this moment to just watch Sharon and Sharon knows but doesn't say anything.
She smiles when she sees that after a while, Brenda's eyes close and she drifts off to sleep. Careful not to lose control over the wheel, Sharon leans over a little and brushes a stray curl out of her companions face and her fingertip ghost over Brenda's cheek.
And in her sleep, Brenda smiles.