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Close Encounters

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Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.

- Oscar Wilde


1. Start All Over Again


Brenda holds the paper by one corner between her thumb and forefinger.


'You don't have to accept the request. You don't owe him anything.'


She makes a vague noise in the back of her throat, places the paper on the desk and reads the neat, precise script. All capitals. 'Did he say why he wants the transfer?'


Pope shrugs. 'No, he was pretty vague.' He pauses, then: 'He did add that if the request is denied he'll take a position in Traffic. Now, while I'm sure that sending Flynn after people for speeding and illegal parking would do wonders for Traffic Division's clear-up rate, it would also be like using a sledgehammer to crack a peanut.' He raises his hands in the air, holds them there a moment - a resigned gesture. 'I'll tell him he's staying put in Robbery-Homicide.'




He stares at her. 'I'm sorry, did you say "no"?'


'Yes.' She pushes the paper across the desk.


Pope watches her, thoughtful, and says carefully, 'He is an excellent detective.'


Brenda's lips press together. 'Yes, he is.'


And that has been one of the most frustrating aspects of the man from the beginning. If he'd just been arrogant but incompetent she could have dismissed Detective Lieutenant Andrew Flynn completely. But he is good and he is dedicated and-


Gabriel has potential, a lot of it, but he is still learning. She needs an experienced investigator, someone who can do the job without her having to supervise each step and it seems that Flynn is it. And if he is willing to work for her even half as hard as he had for Taylor... She remembers something Andrew Schmidt had told her once: never question when and where loyalty is born.


Across the expanse of desk that separates them Pope is silent and still, watching her. Then he raises and drops his shoulders lightly. 'Fine. As of now Lieutenant Flynn is officially a permanent member of your squad. Congratulations.' He pauses. 'And good luck.'


She smiles - one of saccharine sweetness and just as false.


Barely out of Pope's office and her phone rings; a frantic hunt through the depths of her bag unearths her phone and when she answers her mother's voices chirrups at her. News of her brothers and her niece and Daddy's reunion with his army buddies. Brenda takes a few moments at the end of the corridor, next to the elevators and the stairwell. She leans against the window ledge and stares out at the glittering sprawl of Los Angeles. It's almost starting to look like home.


She does not tell that to her mother.


With the phone call over she goes back down to the Murder Room and finds that it isn't as empty as she had thought it would be. There is one figure, filling up the drawers of the desk he has claimed as his own.


'You're not wasting any time.' He must have stayed back, waiting on Pope's call.


Flynn looks over his shoulder, straightens, turns to face her. 'I didn't see the point, Chief. Plus I thought I'd get in here before you changed your mind.'


It's a small box on the desktop and she wonders if he really has so little to show for all his time at Robbery-Homicide, or if he just believes in clean slates. The ever-present toothpick juts aggressively; she watches in fascination as it migrates from one corner of his mouth to the other. His gaze is still direct, still challenging but not quite the same. And when he calls her by her rank it's without the usual edge of irony that has always made it sound like an insult.


'It's been quite a day,' she says, not quite sure of what to say and thinking that she sounds like her mother. And mothers always know best.






From the corridor beyond Provenza is impatient, glaring in. Flynn waves a hand in the older man's direction, irritation flashing across his face. Provenza scowls and retreats.


'And just when I thought this day couldn't get any more exciting, I get to have dinner with Provenza. And one time he might even pay for it,' he adds, almost a mutter.


She tilts her head. 'I didn't you know two were such good friends.'


'We're not, we're just used to each other,' he says.


The answer comes quickly, glib - like most of his pronouncements - but she listens more to his tone than his words. There is affection there, concealed but only roughly. She watches him as he dumps the remaining contents of the box into the bottom drawer and rams it closed.


'Well, I won't keep you.' She nods. 'Goodnight, Lieutenant.'


He looks at her and clears his throat, takes the toothpick from his mouth. 'Thanks.'


She frowns. 'For what?'


'For accepting my transfer request.'


'Yes, well... Just don't make me regret it.'


He leans towards her as though they are confidantes; the corners of his mouth pull upward into a smile. 'You mean you don't already?'


She feels her lips twitch in response and grinds her teeth together. His eyes are dancing as he straightens again and starts to move past her.


'Goodnight, Chief.'


She watches the tall figure and thinks that frustration might be something she'll just have to get used to.


2. Reach Out


When she tells Provenza that they will need help her mind turns immediately, automatically, to Gabriel. Then dismisses it just as quickly. There is still the desire to protect him and his career from the potential mess that could result should she fail.


But it isn't just that, if she's completely honest. There will be caution on Gabriel's part, an unwillingness to break the rules; and she doesn't have the time to argue the point.


She doesn't ring his desk - she's not sure if it will still even be his desk - but instead pushes the buttons for his cell. She still has all of their numbers programmed in. It rings, and rings, and then a click and Flynn's voice, pleased, greets her, 'Chief?' before she has a chance to identify herself.


Something inside twists. She's still the chief; she hasn't been deleted. It shouldn't really come as a surprise, she thinks; they have all sent her e-mails and Flynn has sent her text messages: good-humoured salutations that include terrible jokes that make her laugh out loud despite herself.


'Yes, Lieutenant.'


'How are you?'


'I'm fine. Thank-you.' She pauses. 'How are you?'


'It would take too long. When are you coming back?'


Her eyes burn and she pushes down the hardness in her throat. The longing to be there, with them, is so acute it sends a spear of pain through her. She misses them, all of them.


'That's partly why I'm calling. Are you working on the Malik Farrah murder?'


She hears what sounds like a snort. 'We should be, but- How do you know about that?'


'I need a favour, Lieutenant Flynn; I-'


'Wait a minute, Chief.' A sharp crack, muffled voices. 'Let me call you back.'


Minutes crawl by like hours. She chews at a dried patch of skin on her lip, tastes blood. Her phone rings and she answers it before the first tone has stopped.




'Yeah. Taylor was on the loose; I thought I better get out of the Murder Room.' His voice sounds slightly distorted, like there's an echo.


'Where are you calling from?' Her nose wrinkles. 'Actually, don't tel-'


'I'm in the gym. It's like I always say: it's the one place where you're guaranteed to be on your own. Sometimes I wonder how everyone passes their physicals; but maybe we make up for it by spending all those hours walking around parking lots, airports, city blocks-'




'-all the other places you like to send us-'


'Lieutenant Flynn!'


A gym weight might fall on his head, she thinks grimly; she knows the look he'll be wearing - that arrogant, amused smile. Even that she misses.


'What can I do for you, ma'am?'


She gives him the outline of it, of what is needed, and he is silent, asking no questions. After she finishes there is a pause so long that for a moment she thinks that she's lost the connection. Then his voice comes again, speaking slowly.


'Okay, let me make sure I've got this right: you want me to go behind Taylor's back - my superior's back - and give you information about an active investigation in the hope that it will get rid of Taylor and bring you back to P.H.D?'


The fingers of her free hand beat an irregular tattoo against the table-top. 'Yes, that is more or less what I'm asking.'


'Uh-huh. Chief, do you remember how it ended the last time I did something like that?'


She blows out a breath. 'Well, Lieutenant, I am counting on those sort of circumstances not arising again.'


Something almost like a sigh on the other end of the line.


'Yeah, you're probably right... Apart from anything else, Taylor's legs aren't as good as yours.'


She chokes and hears him laugh.


'I'll see you tonight, Chief.'


When she hangs up the telephone she shakes her head slightly, then remembers that Provenza is still there. Elbows on the table, he leans forward, watching her curiously, eyes beady.


'What did he say to you?'


She shakes her head again. 'Nothing.'



3. The Way You Look Tonight


The woman standing with Flynn is familiar but not immediately placed. Brenda watches them across the expanse of Parker Centre's foyer and slows her steps toward the elevator bank. They talk earnestly; or rather, Flynn does most of the talking, the woman nods occasionally.


Maggie Hodge, Brenda realises suddenly. Her face looks tired but less strained. They embrace - surprisingly - then Maggie walks across the foyer and out. Brenda resumes her path and hears familiar footsteps catch her up; and she turns slightly at his usual cheerful greeting.


'Lieutenant.' She inclines her head. 'Did I see Maggie Hodge a moment ago?'


He looks at her.


'She looked better than she did the last time I saw her.' Her face feels flushed.


'That wouldn't be hard,' he says. 'She was finishing the paperwork - Ray's body. She's decided to take him back after all - but then she always did.'


Brenda shakes her head. 'Poor woman. I wouldn't have blamed her if she hadn't.'


'Ray was a good guy!' He releases a breath and his voice loses its defensive edge. 'But a pretty lousy husband.'


'And you covered for him.'


His head, lowered, snaps up. 'What was I supposed to tell her when she'd call? Yeah, Maggie, I'm sure Ray will be home just as soon as he's finished banging whichever bimbo he's picked up in a bar?'


She fiddles with the strap on her bag. 'I guess not.'


They step onto the elevator, Flynn automatically pressing the button for their floor.


'Can you press twelve, please?' Another meeting with Pope, another round of arguing over budget cuts and staffing... She already feels sick.


'I didn't want to be the one to hurt her,' Flynn says suddenly, keeping his voice low but ignoring the presence of the other people in the elevator car. 'But she was hurt already. God, people make a mess of their lives. Sometimes I think people on the job should be banned from getting married, period, for their own protection.'


She laughs slightly. 'That might be a bit difficult to enforce; plus there are any number of ways people would still get to mess up their lives, they'd probably just find new ways to do it.'


He leans against the back wall and seems clamer. 'See, that's why you're the chief - you think of everything.'


The doors roll open, eject some of the occupants, close again.


'Will you stay in touch with her? Maggie.'


He shrugs, hands in his pockets. 'Probably not. I think she'll spend some time forgetting things and it's probably best not to remind her.'


There are, she thinks, lots of things best forgotten. She shakes it off. All the while they've been talking Flynn has been looking at her, studying her; suddenly his face clears. 'It's your lipstick.'


Her features look pained. 'I beg your pardon?'


He seems pleased with himself. 'Your lipstick. It is, isn't it? It's different.'


'I-' She stares at him, shakes it off. 'Yes.'


Flynn's lips push out, then in and he nods. 'Uh-huh. It's what that moron plastic surgeon said to you. Right?'


Her mouth hangs open for a moment. 'You- Did Detective Daniels tell everyone about that?' she demands. He shrugs.


'It's just more proof that the guy's a jerk - as if we needed any more.' He is silent, seemingly thoughtful, then shakes his head. 'Plastic surgery- That's some racket. Making a living out of making women feel bad about themselves. They all want arresting.'


The elevator lets out a discreet ping and lurches to a stop. The doors slide open. Flynn starts forward, turns, and his eyes take a wander over her before finding her face again. 'And Chief, for what it's worth, I like your sweaters.'


He steps back neatly and the doors roll shut before she's able to answer.


4. Black Magic


Brenda hangs up the phone, silencing Claire's energetic chirrup. Despite Fritz' warnings beforehand, she had always imagined Claire as being the female version of her brother: solid, dependable, capable, the all-rounder. Her eccentricities are endearing, if exhausting. If nothing else they make Brenda feel like one of the more normal members of the human race.


When she turns Lieutenant Flynn is behind her, leaning against the doorframe, his arms folded. 'Is Claire coming in for show and tell again?'


Her responding gaze is withering. 'Yes, she'll be by later.'


His lips curve and his eyes glitter. 'Would you like me to give her another ride-along?'


Her frame stiffens, her mouth thinning to a hard line before she adopts her habitual armour-plated courtesy. 'No, thank-you. I think the last one was quite enough.' She hates losing a round to anyone, but she has to admit that he found a subtle form of revenge for sticking him with her soon-to-be sister-in-law. Not that that excuses anything. 'And in future, Lieutenant, I would prefer it if you did not discuss my private life with anyone. Do I make myself clear?'


Amusement bubbles beneath the surface. 'To be fair, Chief, she intuitioned most of it on her own; I just pointed her in the right direction when she took a wrong turn out on the astral plane. I've heard the traffic can be murder up there.'


She tilts her head, narrows her eyes at him. 'Well, thank-you so much.'


'Don't mention it.'


She has one weapon left.


'Actually, Claire asked after you.'


His smile slips a little. 'She did?'


He rarely panics - if ever - but there's the hint of it behind his eyes. Brenda decides to relish the moment. 'Oh, she enjoyed your time together. You know, she's talking about moving closer to Los Angeles.'


His face is starting to take on a frozen look, as though he's seeing a nightmare future unfolding. 'Really.'


'Oh, yes. Oh, she's so excited about all of it, and she has so many plans... And you know she's single.' He's watching her and she beams at him charmingly. 'Claire said you have a very interesting aura.'


He is entirely still, then unfolds his arms and pushes himself away from the doorframe. 'I do get that a lot,' he tells her.


She lifts her chin. 'I'll bet.'


'Are you sure you don't want me to take her out again?'




He shrugs and manages to look resigned. 'Well, okay... It's a pity, though. She was talking about setting up a Tarot reading station, maybe getting Doctor Morales on board to let her use one of the rooms at the morgue. You know - so she can be really close to the action. Or inaction.'


Brenda chews on the insides of her lips and sounds a little strangled when she speaks. 'Maybe on her next visit.'


His face is alight. 'It'll be something to look forward to.'



5. Witchy Woman


When she gets into her office that morning, Brenda finds Flynn at the whiteboard, putting the finishing touches on the latest additions to the portrait that has been taking shape there.


'Enjoying yourself, Lieutenant?'


He glances over his shoulder and she catches the flash of his teeth. 'You know me, Chief.'


'Yes...' She closes the door, joins him at the board. The stick-figure (with broom) is about to be flattened by a house. Small black curlicues that she takes to denote a whirlwind rise up either side.


'Do you think I should sign it?' he asks, tilting his head towards her.


'I think you should erase it,' she replies and tries to sound stern.


'Ah, come on - you can't tell me I'm not right. The Wicked Witch of the West...' He gestures towards the board expansively; his eyes move beyond it, out to the Murder Room and the rest of the squad bent over their desks. Brenda sees his lips twitch. 'I figure Tao for the Scarecrow, and Sanchez for the Cowardly Lion.'


'I guess that makes you the Tin Woodsman,' she says. 'The one without a heart.'


He grins at her.


Gabriel walks past, taking his place at his desk. Flynn's lips curve, his eyes glittering.




Brenda bites back a smile. 'And Lieutnant Provenza?'


His smile widens, like this is something he's been saving up. 'A Munchkin.'


She can't help it: she laughs. 'And who am I in all this? Dorothy?'


'Hm, maybe...' He considers her. 'Or Glinda. I think she was a blonde, too.'


Her eyes roll. 'I might have known you'd have me down as a witch.'


'Hey, Glinda's a good witch,' he tells her, indignant. 'All the witches from the South were good.'


There is a softening in his face as they look at each other - something so slight that it would go unnoticed by someone who knew him less well.


'Anyway, would you really want to be the clueless girl in pigtails skipping along a road someone else had told her to go down?'


Knowledge goes both ways, she thinks. She moves her own gaze, looking out across the floor and sees Pope enter.


'There he is,' Flynn says softly, 'the man behind the screen.'


She shoots him a look and he is wholly unrepentant. His eyes blaze with humour and warmth.


'Could you take the whiteboard back into the Murder Room, please? Thank-you.'


'You got it.'


As she pulls open her office door and starts out to intercept Pope she hears a quiet whistle start up behind her - We're Off To See The Wizard . She's still smiling when she meets Pope in the corridor.