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Dying in L.A. (The Only Difference Between Suicide and Martyrdom Is Press Coverage)

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Brenda had tried not to wake him when she got out of bed, but it's three in the morning and she can feel Fritz watching while she does her hair, studying her in the mirror as she smooths back her hair.

"You know," he says casually, propping himself up on an elbow, "I think I see you on TV more than I see you at home these days."

Brenda sets her brush on the dresser and starts twisting the length of her hair. "It'll be over in a few more weeks," she says. "I'm just new and exciting right now."

"Do you even want to do these interviews? You hate talking to the press."

"It's part of the job." She grabs a handful of bobby pins and starts pinning her ponytail into a bun.

"You're telling me Will Pope would be getting up before dawn to talk about feminism on The Today Show? Please. This has Sharon Raydor written all over it."

Brenda makes a face, knowing full well Fritz can see. "Of course it was Sharon. She's my media liaison."

"Not to mention your soon-to-be chief of staff."

"Who happens to be waiting for me outside." Brenda shoves one last pin into her hair and gives Fritz a quick kiss goodbye before rushing out the door. The car the network sent has been idling out front for nearly ten minutes, but the driver only nods politely as he opens the door for her to slide into the back seat.

"Good morning, Chief," Sharon says, taking a silver travel mug from between her knees. She twists the top open and hands it to Brenda as the car pulls away from the curb.

"Ooh, Sharon, thank you." She hadn't had time to make any, and she takes a grateful sip. She tastes honey, not sugar, but she thinks it might be wildflower instead of clover. "Keep it up and I might have to make you a deputy chief."

Sharon tries to hide her smile with a sip from her own mug, but the metallic green just draws attention to the twinkle in her eyes. "Did you have a chance to read over the talking points I prepared?" she asks when she lowers the cup.

"I did." She fell asleep studying them, glasses still on her face. There were little indentations on her nose when she woke up. "The sergeant who kept wearing her ring after her divorce, who was it?"

"I can't say. The important thing is--"

Brenda takes a breath and slips into the serious but upbeat tone she plans to use for the interview. "The LAPD has come a long way since then, but women in the department still face a number of institutional challenges, and when we exclude women from command positions, it's to the detriment of the city and the department. Over fifty percent of Los Angeles's population is female, but women account for less than twenty percent of the city's police officers." Brenda drops her cheerful, rehearsed tone. "I told you, I read it."

"Say leadership, not command," Sharon says. "It'll sound better to civilians."

"Civilians," Brenda repeats. "You mean certain members of the police commission."

"You said it, I didn't."

Brenda takes another sip of her coffee. "I don't know how you've dealt with them all these years. It's been six weeks and I'm already grateful for term limits."

Sharon shakes her head. "Rookie mistake, Chief. The newer commissioners are always the worst -- they come in with strong opinions and a weak grasp of the realities of law enforcement. Oh, sure, some of them will go out of their way to prove they're friends of the law enforcement community, but never in a way that's useful or convenient. Just politically expedient."

Brenda groans. "You couldn't've told me this sooner?"

"And get stuck with Chief Tommy Delk? Not a chance." Sharon leans her head against the seat and turns to Brenda with a slow, Sunday morning smile that warms her as much as the coffee.

"You wanna get breakfast after this?"

"I was going to go to the gym, then home to shower and do some laundry before work."

Brenda wrinkles her nose. No one needs to do all that before nine a.m. "Lunch?"

"Let me check." Sharon scrolls through something on her phone only to look up with an apologetic smile. "I could do dinner."

It's Brenda's turn to shake her head. "I promised Fritz we'd have some alone time tonight. He's been complaining that he never sees me."

Sharon hums. "Well, I wouldn't want to stand between you and a hot date." She smiles briefly, just enough to show she's teasing, and then looks back at her phone. After a moment, she says, "The laundry can wait. Breakfast would be nice."

"Who needs clean underwear when you can have pancakes?"

"A philosophy the parents of Los Angeles will thank you not to share on your grade school visits."

"Me? I got plenty of clean underwear." She hesitates, tries to picture what the drawer looked like as she dug through it in the dark, but she can't remember. "Least I think I do."

Sharon doesn't look up, but she laughs, a warm, rich chuckle. Brenda never thought she'd laugh like that, that she was capable of more than a throaty, sarcastic ha, or a derisive and insubordinate snort. Brenda still hears those plenty, but this one is catching up, and she doesn't mind this strange twist of fate that has her cataloguing Sharon's laughter. It's been a long time since she had someone to talk to like this, someone who counted as a friend.

They make the rest of the ride to Burbank in silence, and the car lets them out in front of an unremarkable stucco building with the network logo hanging over the doors -- one of which Sharon opens for her.

"After you, Chief," she says with a sweep of her arm and a teasing smirk on her face.

Sharon handles the receptionist, too, getting them directions to the fourth-floor studio where Brenda will do her interview. The windowless room isn't as big as her old office, or half as cluttered. There's a desk and chair positioned between the camera and a backdrop of downtown Los Angeles, and Brenda starts to feel just the slightest bit nervous as she sets her purse on the floor and takes a seat.

She can see herself in one of the monitors and she sits up a little straighter, squaring her shoulders and raising her chin. She feels ridiculous and settles back into her normal posture. "How do I look?"

Sharon is leaning against the door, and she takes a few long, nerve-wracking seconds to look Brenda up and down. "You look great, Chief."

There's something about the way the r rolls off her tongue that makes Brenda blush, makes her smile just as self-consciously as the first time Sharon said those words. Still, she can't accept the compliment, not after asking for it, and she says, "You only ever say that when I'm not wearing my regular clothes."

Sharon doesn't smirk -- she grins. "You noticed."

Brenda's phone rings then, the sound muffled but unmistakable. "Shoot," she says, grabbing her purse. She digs through it until she finds her phone. "Chief Johnson."

"Brenda Leigh," her daddy says, "what's this your mother and I hear about you being on the TV?"

She can hear Matt Lauer's voice in the background, competing with the sounds of her mama cooking breakfast. "Well, Daddy, I'm going to be on The Today Show in about two minutes, and--"

"When were you planning on mentioning this?"

"Daddy, I really can't talk just now, but you know what? Sharon's here. Why don't you talk to her?" She thrusts her purse and phone at Sharon without waiting for an answer. Her parents have been asking after Sharon ever since Brenda brought a positively morose Sharon home for Christmas dinner after making her miss her flight. Brenda's not above taking advantage of that.

Sharon looks slightly panicked for a second but recovers quickly, crossing the tiny room to take Brenda's things. "Mr. Johnson, hi," she says cheerfully, sliding Brenda's purse onto her shoulder. She slips out the door, leaving Brenda to face Matt Lauer alone.

-

Sharon closes the blinds to her office, takes off her glasses, and lies down on her little green couch. It's barely lunchtime, but she is already nine hours into her day after a late-night raid in Olympic Division resulted in multiple use of force complaints. She hasn't gotten a full night's sleep since two nights before the mayor announced the new chief, and it's chosen this moment to catch up to her.

She yawns and turns onto her side, and her eyes aren't even closed before her phone rings. If she hadn't taken off her glasses, she'd be able to read the name on the screen, but instead she answers blind. "Raydor."

"You busy?" It's the chief.

"Aside from coordinating half a dozen use of force investigations? Not at all. I was just about to do my nails."

"Well, come up here and we can do each other's."

Sharon sighs. "Be right there, Chief."

She puts on her shoes and glasses and heads out of the office. Elliot raises his eyebrows when he sees her walking through the bullpen, and she just shrugs and points upward to let him know where she'll be.

The elevator ride is quick and Brenda's civilian aide doesn't even look up as Sharon walks past his desk. There's a short list of people who can walk into Brenda's office at any time, and Sharon had been surprised to find herself on it. Taylor had been apoplectic to find himself not on it.

"You wanted to see me, Chief?"

"I did, Commander. I have a sensitive matter concerning carbohydrates that'll take us both to resolve." She points her plastic fork at the black takeout container on Sharon's side of the desk. "I got the alfredo and you got the vodka sauce. Eat half and we'll swap."

Sharon raises her eyebrows as she settles into the guest chair and reaches for the box. "Is that an order?"

"Does it need to be?" Brenda asks, pasta halfway to her mouth.

"God, no." Sharon stabs a piece of penne with her fork. It's a little firmer than she likes, but the sauce is good, creamy with a little tang. She can't remember the last time she had pasta that wasn't frozen and microwaved.

"How's your investigation going?" Brenda asks.

The messy way she's shoving long strands of fettuccini into her mouth is enough assurance she's making conversation, not asking as the chief, but Sharon still hedges. "I'll be glad to finally get out of IA."

Before Brenda can respond, the door opens and Agent Howard steps in. His mouth presses into a thin line when he sees Sharon.

"Captain." He shakes his head. "Commander, sorry. Still not used to that." He turns to Brenda. "I was in the building and figured I'd surprise you for lunch. Thought maybe we could talk."

Sharon hears the pointed way he says talk, but Brenda -- well, Brenda's entire career relies on her ability to hear things like that. She just ignores it. "If I'd known--"

"You would've told me you were planning to have lunch with Commander Raydor."

"Fritzi--"

Sharon can't take it. She shuts the lid on her pasta and gets to her feet. "If you'll both excuse me..."

She ducks out of the office, making sure to quietly close the door behind her before she heads toward the tenth-floor break room. There's always a pot of lukewarm coffee there, and Sharon's not sure how it will taste with vodka sauce, but the caffeine might do her good.

She makes a cup with cream and sugar, hoping to compensate for the bottom-of-the-pot taste. It doesn't work -- by the time she adds the milk, it ends up cold in addition to burnt -- and she dumps it down the drain, but at least she killed some time. She throws the cup in the trash and heads back down the hall.

Brenda's aide is gone from his desk, and Sharon hesitates outside the door, listening for signs of an argument.

Silence.

She's relieved, but she tries not to let it show as she pushes open the door. "Will Agent Howard being joining us?" She sits down and scoots her chair closer to the desk.

"What?" Brenda's entire demeanor has changed; she looks distant, pensive. Uninterested in her food. "No."

"I could leave, if you'd like to call and ask him to return. I'm sure he hasn't gotten far." At Brenda's frown, she explains, "He hasn't liked me since... well, since the day I interviewed him as part of your application. So ever, really."

"It ain't you." Brenda pushes her pasta around in the container. "Did your husband ever imply you were the reason he drank?"

Sharon's shoulders slump, and she tilts her head sympathetically. "Honey," she says, "he did more than imply it. I don't know how many times he said he wouldn't need to drink if he weren't married to a bitch like me." She presses her lips together, hesitant to ask the next question. "Is Agent Howard..."

Brenda shrugs. "I don't know. Maybe. He said he'd be home late tonight because he was going to a meeting."

Sharon bites her lip. "It's better than a bar," she offers, but if he's using it to manipulate his wife, she's not sure it's true. "It means he's trying."

Brenda makes a skeptical sound and twirls her fork half-heartedly in her pasta before scraping the noodles back off.

"Trade?" Sharon offers, gesturing at the food.

Brenda shoves the box across the desk but doesn't reach for Sharon's. "Take it." She sucks the sauce off her plastic fork and drops it into the trash.

It puts a weight in Sharon's stomach that finishes off her appetite. Still, she twists some pasta around her fork and tries to change the subject. "I noticed you haven't RSVP'd to the LAPD women's banquet."

"That was four months ago," Brenda says, crossing her arms. "I know because I made sure to avoid it." There's a twitch of a smile.

"That was the annual banquet," Sharon explains patiently. "This is our traditional banquet honoring the new chief."

Brenda scoffs. "Now that doesn't seem very feminist of y'all. Buncha women putting together a big dinner for a man."

Sharon rolls her eyes. "This time is a little different. In fact, it's very important to us because -- and I don't know if you're aware of this or not -- our new chief is a woman."

"I think I read something about that, yes." She opens her drawer and pulls out an individually-wrapped piece of red licorice that she tears open with her teeth. Sharon has to suppress the urge to point out there's still actual food in front of her. "I don't suppose there's any way to get out of this one."

"Short of resigning? No."

"I didn't want this job in the first place, you know."

"We're having a triple chocolate cake for dessert."

Brenda groans. "You did that on purpose."

"Of course I did. And, since I know how busy you are, I've also taken the liberty of drafting your speech. All you need to do is give it a few personal touches." She smiles. "It's a party, Chief, and you're the guest of honor. It's going to be fun."

-

Brenda feels ridiculous pacing her office in cocktail dress, waiting for her husband to appear. They were supposed to leave for Sharon's banquet ten minutes ago, but Fritz isn't answering his phone. Impatiently, she dials again, muttering, "Pick up, pick up, pick up," as she holds the phone to her ear.

He does this time, on the last ring before it would go to voicemail. "Hello?"

"Fritzi, where are you?"

"At work. We picked up a case and... your thing is tonight, isn't it?" He doesn't wait for her to answer. "Honey, I'm sorry, I'm just not going to be out of here in time, but I'll see you at home, all right? Talk to you later, bye."

"Fritzi!" But the line is dead. She growls and snaps her phone closed.

There's not much to do except plaster a neutral expression on her face and try not to stomp all the way to the elevator, although she does allow herself the childish pleasure of pressing the call button too hard.

Her driver gets her to the hotel at a time that could almost pass for fashionably late.

She's not sure what to do when she makes it to the banquet room, but Sharon saves her, waving and calling, "Chief!" before she crosses the room.

Everyone notices her then and a wave of applause quickly builds, leaving Brenda to stand uncomfortably in the doorway, blushing as she mouths and nods her thanks.

She's not sure what happens first, the applause fading or Sharon pressing a drink into her hand and taking her by the arm. There's still enough noise that Sharon has to lean in close and speak into her ear. "You looked like a woman who could use a drink."

They navigate a maze of round tables, complicated by pushed-back chairs and people -- mostly women -- standing around to talk. Sharon stops every few tables to introduce her to people, but Brenda won't remember their names. It's a whirlwind, and it's still sinking in that this is all for her.

"This is fancier than my wedding," Brenda says as Sharon pulls out her chair, the second one in from a lectern that separates two long tables at the front of the room.

"Mine, too," Sharon says with a grin, and Brenda wants to know -- she wants to sit there all night, heads leaned in close, and swap stories about life outside of work. "Speaking of weddings, when will Agent Howard be arriving?"

"He's not."

Sharon's smile falters for the first time since Brenda walked into the room, but she hides it quickly. "No problem," she says. "I'm sure we can find someone to fill his seat."

Brenda looks down the length of the table, which except for her and Sharon is all empty chairs. "Who all is sitting up here, anyway?"

"The female department heads; the secretary, treasurer, and vice president of the Women's Alliance; the heads of the women's groups at the fire and sheriff's departments... and of course Councilwoman Santiago and Commissioners Jones and Monroe-Carter." She pauses. "I'm going to find Beth Rizzo. She's been on the force longer than any other woman -- she was Provenza's classmate at the academy, if I'm not mistaken."

Brenda takes a sip of her wine. "Well, at least we'll have something to talk about."

Sharon laughs. "You have no idea," she says, and then she's up and heading into the crowd, leaving Brenda alone at the head table.

She's never been good at this, and she's not sure what to do. Get up and talk to people, sure, but she doesn't know who to approach or what to say. It would be easier if everyone were in uniform; she could start with the commanding officers, ask them about their divisions, tell them to get in touch if there's anything they need. But she's never been social at work outside Major Crimes; she doesn't know the lieutenants from the patrol officers.

A familiar face saves her. "Chief."

A genuine smile spreads across Brenda's face. "Detective Daniels! How have you been?"

"I'm good," Daniels says. "Congratulations on the promotion. How is life as the chief of police? I was surprised to hear you'd put in for it."

"I was surprised to be applying," Brenda says. "It wasn't something I thought about until Sharon -- until Commander Raydor put the application in my hands."

"I know what you mean," Daniels agrees. "I'm still not sure how she got me to be treasurer of the Women's Alliance, but here I am."

"I didn't even know you were involved."

"That's because you never came."

Daniels's words are gentle, but Brenda still feels a pang of guilt. She wants to think she would have gone to a meeting or two, maybe even one of the yearly banquets, if she had known, but she'd be kidding herself.

"How did Major Crimes take the news?" Daniels asks.

"They were amazingly supportive," Brenda says, and this part is easy. She's never had trouble singing the praises of her team. "I think they were even more excited than me."

"Does this mean Provenza's in charge?"

"Louie Provenza?" comes a third, incredulous voice, and Brenda looks over to see Sharon standing behind a woman who looks about Provenza's age. She's a couple inches shorter than Sharon, and her hair is dyed rusty red.

Found her, Sharon mouths and takes a sip of her newly-acquired drink. "Chief Johnson, Detective Daniels, this is Sergeant Beth Rizzo from Central Division."

Things go like that until dinner is served: small talk interrupted by more introductions, most of them made by Sharon. She seems in her element, and Brenda can't help but nudge her once everyone has sat down to eat. "I didn't know you were like this."

Sharon frowns. "Like what?"

Her mama would call Sharon a social butterfly, but Sharon is already looking at her funny. "You said being in IA made you disliked and mistrusted."

"But now I know the chief." She flashes a dazzling smile before turning to her plate, but Brenda's not satisfied.

"That doesn't explain how you got this gig."

Sharon shrugs. "It's a lot like IA. No one else wanted it." She takes a bite, and Brenda finds it strangely charming she talks with her mouth full. "Everyone wants the Women's Alliance to exist, but no one wants to do the extra work. However, I find there are certain advantages to taking it on."

"Like getting to pick the new chief?"

"Exactly." Sharon looks out over the room and then glances at the silver watch on her wrist. "On that note, I think it's time to get these speeches over with." She wipes her mouth with the pink napkin, then smiles a little strangely at Brenda. "Do I have anything in my teeth?"

Brenda shakes her head and then does the same. "Do I?" She could keep eating through Sharon's introduction, but the food's not that good, and she's a little nervous. Plus she was promised chocolate for dessert.

"All set," Sharon assures her, and she drops her wrinkled napkin onto the table and gets to her feet. "Wish me luck."

Sharon's introduction is good, a brief history of women's involvement in the LAPD mixed with acknowledgements of everyone at the head table, right down to Sergeant Rizzo. The way she lays it all out, Brenda can almost understand her excitement -- her appointment sounds like the culmination of decades of work, like a goal generations of women specifically worked toward. By the time Sharon calls her up, Brenda is feeling humbled and empowered, honored to be chosen, and she's startled by the hug Sharon gives her, the little congratulatory kiss on the cheek.

When Brenda first read the speech Sharon gave her, she knew it was good, but she found it too sentimental for her own taste. Still, she hadn't had time to change it, had figured she'd just pretend as she recited it. But she feels every word now, standing behind a podium in front of a crowd of female officers who care enough about the department and their role in it to join this organization and come to these events. It's almost enough to make her tear up, and when the applause dies down and she returns to her seat, she whispers to Sharon, "I didn't know it would feel like that."

Sharon just smiles and hands her a fork. "Eat your dessert, Chief," she says. "You deserve it."

Brenda won't argue with that, and she presses her fork down against her cake, breaking off a bite. It's the richest cake she's ever tasted, fudgy as a brownie with chocolate buttercream slathered on thick and curls of dark chocolate coating the side. Even the syrupy cherry on top is half covered in chocolate, and Brenda eats it all up.

"You not eating yours?" she asks Sharon, whose cake is mostly untouched, and Sharon just shakes her head.

"Have it if you want," she says. "Death by chocolate is not really how I plan to go."

Brenda pulls the plate over and spears the cherry with her fork. "What is?" She pulls the cherry off the tines with her teeth.

"In bed," Sharon says. "You were expecting skydiving?"

Brenda shrugs. "I didn't think your vice would be sleep."

Sharon laughs. "Chief, I raised two kids by myself while working FID. There is nothing in the world as good as eight hours of uninterrupted sleep."

Brenda hums around her fork. "I've been known to go for ten or twelve."

Sharon moans the way Brenda does at the taste of pecan pie. "With a bubble bath before and someone to make breakfast after. Or at least a coffeemaker with a reliable timer."

"Mr. Coffee doesn't snore," Brenda agrees. She sets her fork on her plate. "I'm going to give Fritz a call. Excuse me."

She picks up her purse -- a little blue clutch she thought Sharon would like -- and begins a slow walk toward the door, glad she isn't headed for the restroom. At least one person at every table she passes has to say congratulations or compliment her speech, and by the time she makes it out of the banquet room, she decides she might as well get in line for the ladies' room after all.

It's fancy as bathrooms go, with a big upholstered bench by the door and lighted mirrors over the sinks that remind her of black and white movies where women with finger waves primped in front of elegant vanities.

There's a fair amount of primping going on in here, too, not to mention gossiping, but Brenda never understood the appeal. She just gets herself in and out as quickly as possible before stepping back into the lobby and dialing Fritz.

It rings and rings before going to voicemail, and Brenda huffs before shoving her phone back into her purse. She's trying to prove she's thinking about him, but he can't even pick up the phone -- a sin he's complained about her committing countless times.

"What's wrong?" Sharon asks when Brenda returns to the table.

"Nothing." It's the truth, really. Plenty of people don't drop everything to answer their phones.

"If you have to leave, I don't think--"

"I said nothing's wrong, Commander." She sees Sharon flinch and looks for a quick change of subject. "This music wasn't playing before."

It's something vaguely familiar and not quite new, like maybe she heard it on the radio a few years ago.

"Dance with me," Sharon says and she pushes back her chair, grabs Brenda's hand once she gets to her feet.

Brenda could pull her hand away, feels like she should at least question the appropriateness of dancing with her female subordinate, but if Sharon is comfortable, it must be fine.

When Sharon's hand rests on her waist, Brenda asks, "Do you dance with every new chief?"

Sharon laughs. "I usually go to great lengths to avoid it."

"How come I'm different?"

There's a little twinkle in Sharon's eye and a smirk on her lips. "Can't imagine, Chief."

Sharon spins her then, catches her by the hip at the end of that quick little twirl. It's strange to feel so light, celebrating her new responsibilities, but Brenda laughs just the same, throws her arms around Sharon's neck and shimmies up close.

"It occurs to me I haven't said thank you," Brenda says, and she's grateful when Sharon just nods, accepting that as enough.

"I haven't danced like this in years. Not since the academy."

Brenda knows she's supposed to say something about college, or Washington, or even Atlanta. Something about the last time she went dancing with friends. "I never danced like this," she admits. "It was always more of a dating thing." She looks around the dance floor, which isn't crowded and is filled with more women than men. "You ever run into anyone from then?"

"Sometimes. More these last few weeks than the last twenty years." She moves in and lowers her voice. "I think they know I have the chief's ear."

They're close now, hips and breasts brushing if they move a certain way. Brenda thinks she should take a step back, but it feels nice, and Sharon doesn't seem to mind.

"Chief," someone says, and Brenda looks up, sees Detective Mendoza coming their way. That's what convinces her to take her arms off Sharon's shoulders and step away, but she doesn't miss the way Sharon keeps a hand on her back, their bodies angled slightly toward each other.

"Detective Mendoza," Brenda says. "Do you know Commander Raydor from FID?"

"We've spoken a few times," Sharon says.

"Good to see you, ma'am," Mendoza says with a nod. "Would it be all right if I cut in?"

Brenda looks at Sharon, who is no help at all. "Of course," she says. "I wouldn't want to monopolize the chief's time, and there are a few people I should really talk to before the night is over. Excuse me."

She has barely stepped away before Mendoza takes Brenda by the hand, and Brenda can tell she's uncomfortable. Her arms are a little stiff and her other hand rests too lightly on Brenda's back. Still, Mendoza forges ahead.

"I just want to say what an honor it is to serve under the department's first female chief," she says, but before Brenda can so much as smile in thanks, Mendoza is running through a list of reasons people might not like having a woman as chief. By the time she starts talking about potential threats, Brenda realizes Mendoza is angling for command of her security detail.

Brenda looks around for Sharon and finds her standing off to the side, listening to a young black woman who is speaking animatedly and bouncing on the balls of her feet. When Brenda is sure she has Sharon's attention, she widens her eyes and mouths save me.

Sharon quickly interrupts the other woman with a hand on her arm. She says something, smiles, and makes her way back to Brenda.

"Excuse me, Detective Mendoza," she says, "but there's someone Chief Johnson needs to say hello to."

Mendoza lets Brenda go easily. "Sure thing," she says. "Thanks for the dance, ma'am."

"Thank you," Brenda replies before Sharon ushers her away. As soon as they're out of earshot, Brenda says, "So, who am I meeting?"

"I haven't gotten the far," Sharon says through clenched teeth that almost look like a smile. "Pick someone and--"

"Chief Johnson."

Brenda feels Sharon stiffen as soon as she hears the voice, but Brenda knows an opportunity when she sees one. She turns toward the voice with her most charming smile already on. "Yes?"

"Commander Winnie Davis, Office of Operations," the woman says, hand extended. When Brenda takes it, Davis's grip is overly firm. "It's good to finally meet you. I've heard a lot about Major Crimes." It's hard to miss that she doesn't say whether the things she's heard are good or bad, but Brenda just keeps smiling. "I was hoping we'd be able to discuss resource allocation within the department as relates to--"

"I'd be more than happy to, Commander, but I promised Commander Raydor here a dance." Brenda smiles at Sharon, who looks as uncomfortable as Brenda has ever seen her. "Isn't that right, Commander?"

It takes her a second to answer. "Yes, Chief."

Davis looks back and forth between them. "I see," she says. "Some other time, then."

Brenda leads Sharon back to the dance floor and the song that's playing is a little slower than the one they danced to before, but she's going to see this through. She puts her hands on the curve of Sharon's waist and pulls her in.

"You know her," Brenda says, tilting her head back toward Davis.

Sharon nods. "The commissioners wanted her to be the female candidate for chief. I fought them on it."

"And why's that?"

"She's a bully, Chief, plain and simple. She just knows exactly what line to walk to keep it from becoming a professional standards issue. I'll grant you she's an effective leader on paper, but chief material she is not." Sharon shrugs. "The commissioners got sick of arguing with me and told me to find someone better."

"So you found me."

Sharon smiles softly, and it's a peculiar, wistful thing that doesn't quite reach her eyes. "So I found you." The warm weight of her arm leaves Brenda's shoulder as she lifts her arm to check her watch. "People are going to start saying their goodbyes soon. You should probably make yourself available."

"So what you're saying is I won't need to gladhand anybody if we keep dancing."

"That is one interpretation," Sharon allows. A smirk tugs lightly at the corner of her mouth. "However, it's unlikely to be the most... politically advantageous strategy."

"I thought you found my disinterest in politics to be one of my most enticing qualities."

Sharon hums. "To say nothing of your unfriendliness."

"So you'll dance with me some more."

"How could I resist?"

They don't make it through the next song before Daniels interrupts to say goodnight and congratulate Brenda again. It's like some sort of signal, and after Daniels comes a steady stream; somewhere in it, Brenda loses track of Sharon, but by the time the crowd has thinned, she finds her near the bar, sipping something ruby red through a narrow straw.

"You owe me the rest of a dance," Brenda says, hands clasped behind her back.

"All right," Sharon says, "but let me lead."

They dance to something upbeat, and Sharon surprises her with a lot of quick turns and spins, leaving both of them laughing and out of breath as they return to Sharon's abandoned drink. She tilts the glass toward Brenda after taking a sip.

"Vodka and cranberry," she says by way of an offer.

Brenda gratefully accepts, and when she hands the glass back, her fingers are damp. "Guess I'd better be going, too," she says, looking toward the exit as she wipes her fingers against her dress. "Make sure Fritz made it home."

"All right." Sharon gives her a little twitch of a smile. She hesitates for a second before leaning in for a hug, drink still in her hand. "Congratulations again, Chief."

This time, Brenda manages to return the hug.

When she gets to the car, Brenda makes a few minutes of smalltalk with her driver before her mind starts to wander. It reminds her of when she first got to L.A. and David drove her everywhere. Nice in some ways, but uncomfortable, too.

"Home, ma'am," the officer announces, and Brenda realizes they are in fact stopped in front of the duplex.

"Thank you," Brenda says and slips out of the car. "Have a good weekend."

When she lets herself into the dark apartment, something isn't right. The sounds are off; there's an echo that isn't usually there, like the apartment is empty. She can see the headlines now -- she doesn't need Sharon to tell her how much the Times would love to print Police Chief's Residence Robbed.

She feels along the wall until she finds the lightswitch and flicks it on, and just like she thought, things are gone. The plasma screen, the Blu-ray player her parents got Fritz for Christmas. But it's too neat for a robbery, and there's an envelope on the coffee table where Fritz's autographed baseballs should be.

Inside is something closer to a missive than a note. It starts off with plain Brenda -- she doesn't even rate a dear. That stings more than the laundry list of reasons her husband has up and left, taking his things to the apartment he found while pretending to go to AA.

The letter doesn't say anything she hasn't heard before, except maybe the part that says he was wrong. He should have known better than to think he could live with her being chief, with the appearances and the events, with the illusion of time spent together.

She wants to ask him how he knows. He's been to exactly one party with her, a small dinner at the mayor's house a few days after he appointed her chief. The night she was actually sworn in, Fritz had been stuck at work. She'd gone to her reception with Sharon on her arm.

Sharon. Brenda thinks about calling her, but only for a second. She might still be at the party, and Brenda's not even sure this is something they've worked up to. Instead, she goes into the kitchen and pours herself a glass of wine. She takes it with her to the bedroom, and when she sees that Fritz took his pillow, but left her floral pillowcase, she bursts into tears.