Captain Sharon Raydor pulled up outside the bar and eyed the place up before getting out of her car. It wasn't exactly a classy place but it certainly wasn't as bad as she had expected. She had seen worse. She locked her car, walked across the sidewalk and then stepped in to the bar. It smelt of beer and wine and like someone needed to open a window. She recognised a verse from "Hotel California" playing on the jukebox in the corner as she walked in and she looked around. The place was dimly lit and mostly empty, but what else was to be expected at one o'clock in the morning?
She made eye contact with the guy behind the bar and shoved her hands into the pockets of her jeans.
"You here for the drunk lady?" the bartender, or Sharon assumed that's who he was, asked and she nodded. He then pointed at a table in the corner of the room and Sharon's heart sank,
Oh, how the mighty had fallen.
Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson, head of Major Crimes, lay with her head on the table, blonde curls sprawled out over her arm. Two empty bottles of wine and what looked like a whiskey glass stood just within reach.
Sharon turned back to the bartender. "Why did you call me?" She wanted to know.
"I just went through her recent call history. Your name was at the top. Figured you were her wife or something."
"Not exactly," Sharon sighed but she did remember the call Brenda had made. It had been about six hours earlier and it had just been to inform her that the case was solved. Brenda had sounded cheerful then, a sharp contrast to the pathetic pile of crap she appeared to be now.
Sharon walked up to the table and softly shook Brenda's shoulder. "Chief?" she asked but no response came. She raised her voice a little, the tone she usually reserved for uncooperative suspects. "Chief Johnson?"
Brenda looked up, bleary eyed and clearly intoxicated. She studied Sharon for a moment or two and then smiled the goofiest of smiles. "Capt'n Raydor."
"Just Sharon will do for now," Sharon replied and pulled at Brenda's arm. "Right, time to go. Get up, Chief."
"But I don't wanna leave!" Brenda whined.
Sharon wondered what the hell happened for the blonde to have ended up in this state. When she'd seen her hours earlier, Brenda had seemed rather smug and satisfied that she had closed her case within twelve hours.
"But I do. And you're coming with me whether you like it or not." She set her jaw. "Don't make me slam the cuffs on you."
"Ok, ok, I'm up! I'm up!"
Brenda staggered to her feet, swaying precariously on her kitten heels, and Sharon snaked an arm around the younger woman's waist to steady her. Brenda giggled and her arm fell around Sharon's shoulders.
Somehow they managed to get out of the bar and Sharon helped Brenda into the passenger seat of her car. She buckled up the seatbelt and circled around the vehicle to get behind the wheel. By the time she started the engine, Brenda's head rested against the window. Sharon turned the air conditioning up to full blast but it didn't provoke a reaction. Brenda Leigh Johnson was well and truly hammered.
"I'm gonna be sick," Brenda announced about twenty minutes into the drive home. It was the first time she'd spoken since getting in the car.
Sharon pulled over just in time and Brenda threw open the door and puked. The sour stench of vomit filled the car even though Brenda had thrown up outside the vehicle and Sharon vowed that one day, Brenda would repay her for this.
She wondered why the bartender had not called Agent Howard. If he'd seen Brenda's call registry then surely he would have noticed the amount of calls to her husband?
When she first got the call and the man informed her that he was calling because he was worried about the safety of one the patrons in his bar, she had assumed it had been about Jack. She had received plenty of these calls before. Until the caller referred to the patron as a she. Sharon had then asked if he knew the woman's name and he said that according to the badge in her bag, her name was Brenda Leigh Johnson. At that point Sharon had asked for the address and told the man that under no circumstance was he allowed to let Brenda leave.
Sharon shot Brenda a sideways glance. The blonde Chief had covered her eyes with her hand and had opened a window, despite the air conditioning being on. She looked a mess, Sharon thought. Her blue floral skirt was wrinkled, her blazer dirty and there was mud on her shoes. It was probably from the crime scene, but it didn't do anything to lift Brenda's already sorry state
Sharon parked her car on the driveway of the duplex Brenda shared with her husband and immediately noticed the absence of another car. Brenda's Crown Vic was still at the bar but it seemed that Agent Howard wasn't home either. The house was dark.
Sharon got out of the car, opened the passenger door and took the large purse Brenda always carried around with her from the blonde's lap. Brenda barely acknowledged Sharon's presence and Sharon sighed before attempting to find house keys. She pulled out two Ding Dongs, three sets of rubber gloves and an evidence bag, lipstick, a pen and several empty sweets wrappers before finding the keys. She then undid Brenda's seatbelt and the blonde opened her eyes this time.
"Where're we?" she asked, slurring her words a little.
"Home," Sharon replied. "Come on, Chief, get out of the car."
"No, no! Take me to your house. I... I don't want to be here!"
Sharon froze momentarily. Had Brenda just said that she didn't want to be here? Her eyes narrowed. What exactly had happened?
"Brenda," Sharon chose to use the woman's first name instead of her rank this time. Concern settled in her chest. "Brenda, what happened? Where's Agent Howard?"
"Gone." Brenda's voice was thick.
"Gone?" Sharon questioned, shooting another glance at the dark house and empty driveway. "Gone where?"
Sharon decided to leave any further questions until she got Brenda inside. With her arm around the younger woman's waist she walked her to the front door and after three attempts, found the right key. The door opened and Sharon helped Brenda inside, patting the wall as she went along in the hope of finding a light switch. The light came on and Sharon found herself standing in Brenda's kitchen. Suddenly she realised she had never actually been here before and she felt like an intruder. She knew damn well that Brenda would never have called her herself if she'd been given the choice.
"Where's the bedroom?" Sharon softly asked when Brenda just stood in the middle of the kitchen, looking rather forlorn.
"Capt'n, I'm married!" Brenda unexpectedly exclaimed and giggled. The giggle would have been endearing if it hadn't sounded so disturbing in this very moment. "I can't take you to my bedroom."
Sharon blinked. Did Brenda think Sharon had just propositioned her? She felt her face flush, the warmth spread all the way down her neck, and she swallowed.
"You need to go to bed," she said sternly, attempting to hide her initial reaction.
Brenda looked at Sharon for the longest of moments and suddenly, Sharon could see it. The vulnerability, the brokenness. It went hidden inside Brenda's eyes but the alcohol had washed away her composure, the mask she always wore. She might as well have been standing naked in front of Sharon. Brenda looked vulnerable and scared and Sharon was overcome with the desire to take that pain away. To wrap Brenda up in her arms and just wait till morning came. Everything always looked different in the light of day.
Brenda came to her senses a little and turned on her heel. She walked out of the kitchen into what Sharon suspected was the bedroom. Now that she was alone, Sharon looked around. The kitchen was spacious. Not exactly her style but nice enough. The counters were relatively clutter free but there were dirty coffee mugs and plates in the sink and a pile of mail on the table. Most of it seemed to be addressed to Fritz Howard.
Sharon opened the fridge. A carton of milk (which on closer inspection got emptied down the sink), left over Chinese, some yoghurt and cheese, a few veggies that had seen better days. Not exactly nutritious. She closed the fridge and opened one of the kitchen cupboards. Plates and bowls. They matched the ones in the sink. She tried the one next to it and found the glasses.
After pouring a large cold glass of water, Sharon left the kitchen and made her way through the house. The only other light came from a room down the hall and she approached carefully. The door was open and she found Brenda standing by the window, still fully dressed. Her shoulders were slumped and she seemed to be swaying a little, dancing to a tune only she could hear. The bed hadn't been made and there was a pile of what Sharon guessed was dirty laundry on the arm chair.
The blonde Chief turned around and saw Sharon standing in the doorway. She smiled. The smile was disarming and the brightest thing Sharon had seen all day.
"You should be in bed."
Sharon walked into the bedroom and handed Brenda the cold glass of water. Their fingertips brushed together. "Here, drink this. You'll feel better."
"What is it?" Brenda suspiciously eyed up the glass. Sharon smirked.
Brenda downed the water in one large gulp and put the glass down on the bedside table with a loud thud. With her back turned towards Sharon she shrugged herself out of the blazer. Sharon watched it fall down at Brenda's feet. The blonde kicked off her shoes and then began unzipping her dress. It peeled away from her back, revealing a white bra. At that moment, Sharon quickly turned around, away from Brenda. She felt her cheeks burning and her stomach tightening. There had been times she fantasised about what the other woman looked like underneath her clothes but this wasn't the time or the place to think about that.
She chewed her lip and counted to ten, hoping to settle down the insane thundering of her heart. When she turned back around, she found Brenda had crawled into bed and pulled the sheets up to her face.
"Sharon?" Brenda's voice was soft.
"Yes, Chief?" She tried to create some distance. Back to using Chief instead of Brenda.
"Stay with me?
"Of course," Sharon smiled and began to turn around. "I'll be in the living room. You just call..."
"Here," Brenda quietly said. She pointed at the other side of the bed. "Stay here with me."
"Chief, I don't think that's such a good..."
The fragility of Brenda's voice erased all of Sharon's reservations and she walked around the bed. She sat down and the mattress dipped under her weight. She unlaced her boots, took them off and then unbuttoned her blouse. Wearing her jeans and the simple black tank top she'd thrown on instead of her bra, she lay down on the bed. She felt Brenda shift under the covers and felt uncomfortable. She stiffened when Brenda rolled over. She could feel her eyes on her in the dark. For a moment she felt Brenda's fingers on her forearm, her skin soft and warm.
She had wondered about this moment for so long. About lying beside Brenda, feeling her body so close, but this was not how she had imagined it. Brenda was vulnerable and weak and Sharon had no intention of betraying the trust Brenda had instilled in her by asking her to share her bed. She held her breath, afraid to move, and then Brenda pulled back.
Sharon slowly released her breath. How had she ended up here? In bed with Brenda Leigh Johnson? Why had she even answered the damn phone?! And where the hell was Agent Howard and how had Brenda let herself get into such a state?
Sharon turned to look at Brenda. She lay on her side, still facing her. She could faintly make out the features of her face.
"Brenda?" she asked softly.
"Hmmm?" Brenda sounded half asleep. Her breath tickled the side of Sharon's face.
"Hmmm?" The response was barely audible.
Sharon propped herself up on her elbow. She felt sorry for the younger woman. Whatever had happened, no one deserved to be alone when they were this vulnerable. "Brenda, where's your husband?"
Brenda didn't move but her eyes had opened. The room was spinning. "Like I said, he's gone."
"Gone where?" Sharon whispered. She dared to reach out and touch Brenda's hair. She could've sworn she felt and heard the other woman sigh.
"He left me."
The three words sounded so broken, they tore through Sharon's heart. Fritz had left Brenda.
She wanted to ask why and when but she didn't get a chance. Brenda's soft, steady breathing told her that she was asleep. Sharon folded her hands behind her head and stared up at the unfamiliar ceiling in the dark. She considered getting up but then, unexpectedly, Brenda draped her arm across her waist and pulled her closer. She stiffened but then relaxed and slowly, very slowly, she wondered if maybe receiving a midnight call from some dive bar wasn't such a bad thing after all.