It shouldn't have come as a surprise that it had ended like this. It had seemed inevitable that Brenda would eventually cross paths with Philip Stroh in a way that would damage at least one of them. Sharon would just never have guessed that it involved Brenda shooting him in her kitchen before calling Sharon and asking for her help. Seeing Stroh carted off to the hospital with his wrists chained to the side of the stretcher felt strangely satisfying but the image that haunted Sharon the most was seeing Brenda sitting in the back of the ambulance, her hands and shirt covered in blood, and her ghostly pale face lit up by the red and blue flashing lights.
Never before had Brenda Leigh Johnson seemed so small.
Sharon had only been able to think of one thing she could do when the doctors gave Brenda the all clear and, with her arm wrapped around the blonde, Sharon had led her out of the Emergency Room and towards her car. Brenda's clothes had been taken for evidence and she wore a pair of light blue scrubs given to her by one of the nurses. The colour made her look even paler and the dark circles around her eyes had aged her by almost ten years. Sharon's heart ached at seeing the lost look in Brenda's eyes.
She'd held the door to the condo for her and Brenda had walked inside almost appearing skittish. Sharon had flicked on all of the lights, sensing that the darkness and shadows were not Brenda's friend right now, and she'd offered her some coffee. Brenda had accepted and climbed on one of the stools at the breakfast bar. From there she had watched Sharon move around the kitchen because Sharon could feel Brenda's eyes on her. When she eventually turned around, she was greeted by a tired and weary smile.
"When will Agent Howard be home?" Sharon asked, remembering Brenda telling her that her husband was in Washington for work.
"The earliest flight leaves Dulles tomorrow afternoon," Brenda answered as she gratefully accepted the mug Sharon offered her. The heat warmed her sore and tired hands. She felt the strain in her muscles after her fight with Stroh, had seen the bruises beginning to form when she had stripped off her bloodied clothes and put them into evidence bags.
Observing some of the dried blood on the side of Brenda's face, Sharon sighed. "Do you want to take a shower?"
"What happened to Rusty?" Brenda asked, her brown eyes seeking out Sharon's green.
"Social Services took over," Sharon explained. "He was fully checked at the hospital and the doctors treated his leg. He was placed with an emergency foster family where he will stay for the foreseeable future." She cocked her head. "You did a brave thing tonight, Brenda."
"I should've killed him," Brenda answered. Her voice was cool, almost emotionless.
Sharon knew she didn't mean it, at least not entirely. She leaned against the counter but was careful not to come too close. Brenda's adrenaline was still high and she didn't want to spook her. "What you did tonight means Philip Stroh will stand trial. It means he will go to prison for what he did." She put down her own coffee mug. "He will pay for his crimes because of you."
"This is Stroh. Nothing is ever easy or simple when it comes to him." Brenda's words carried a darkness Sharon had never heard before. "You watch, Sharon. That asshole will weasel himself out of this somehow the same way he's always done." She shook her head. "This ain't over."
"For tonight it is," Sharon interjected, causing Brenda to look up. "Because tonight Philip Stroh lies chained to a hospital bed with a police guard around him. He won't be able to hurt anyone else." When she felt sure Brenda wasn't going to reject her, Sharon covered the younger woman's hand with her own. Green eyes found brown, held them longer than what was strictly necessary. "For tonight it's over, Brenda."
Brenda cradled her head in her hands. The headache had been building since she pulled the trigger and ever since it had continued to grow. She could barely remember going through the FID interview with Sharon after they got to the hospital, didn't recognise most of the words in Sharon's handwritten statement as she placed her signature underneath. The world just seemed to have faded into some kind of blur that made little to no sense.
"Brenda, honey," Sharon softly said, rousing the blonde from her thoughts. "You should go shower." She didn't think Brenda was aware of the blood on her face and she didn't want to directly tell her. "It won't wash it away but it'll make you feel a little better." She straightened herself up. "Bathroom is down the hall. I'll go find you something to wear."
Without protesting Brenda slipped off the stool and followed Sharon down the hall to the bathroom. The door was slightly ajar and Sharon switched on the light before turning around. "There are some clean towels in the cupboard. Just throw the scrubs in the hamper."
Sharon quietly closed the door behind her and Brenda peeled the scratchy fabric away from her skin. Dropping the top in the hamper, she noticed the smudge of blood along the sleeve. She then took off the pants and dropped them on top of the shirt and eventually her panties and her bra. She stepped into the shower and switched it on, gasping when the warm water pounded down on her. She tilted her head back and let the flow rain down on her face; the water rinsed off the dried blood and the physical remnants of shooting Philip Stroh vanished down the drain.
Brenda used Sharon's shampoo, some expensive salon brand, to wash her hair, and then Sharon's shower gel to wash her skin. It felt like she was surrounded by Sharon, wrapped up in her scent, and Brenda's eyes fluttered shut as she let the sensation overwhelm her.
After switching off the shower, Brenda found the towels in the cupboard and wrapped one around herself whilst using the other to dry her hair. Wrapped up in the fluffy white towel, she stepped out of the bathroom and found the door to Sharon's bedroom open and the room brightly lit. She hesitated momentarily but then entered the room. Sharon sat on the end of the bed but looked up when she heard Brenda come in. She smiled and pointed at some simple grey sweats and a t-shirt.
"I'll leave you to it," she excused herself and headed for the door. Before leaving she turned around. "Brenda?"
"Yes?" Brenda was surprised by how comfortable she felt. She stood in front of Sharon in nothing more than a towel but she didn't feel self-conscious.
"Where will you go tonight?" Green eyes reflected worry.
"LA is full of hotels," Brenda answered. "It won't be the first time."
Sharon shook her head. "No. Not after tonight. You're not sleeping in a hotel." She saw the surprise etched across Brenda's face. "Stay over."
"I don't want to impose," Brenda objected.
"You're not imposing! I just…." Sharon smiled a little. "I just want to make sure you're alright. Besides, Agent Howard will never forgive me if I let you leave to stay in a hotel tonight." Her cheeks had reddened slightly. "Please. Stay."
Brenda nodded. "OK. Thank you, Sharon."
"I'll wait for you in the living room," Sharon said as she went to close the door. "And I think I have a bottle of Merlot somewhere. Maybe we can turn this night into something better after all."
Slipping the t-shirt Sharon had given her over her head and feeling even more surrounded by the brunette's smell, Brenda thought that the night had already improved. She was literally surrounded by Sharon.
She really didn't need anything else.