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The Nearness of You

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1. i'd rather be blue over you than be happy with somebody else.

“There’s always been an intense attraction between us,” Sharon says, twirling the little plastic straw that came in her Jack and Coke. She clinks the ice cubes, watching them swirl around in her drink as the condensation trickles down the glass. “Right from the beginning -- the day we met.” She laughs, and she knows her cheeks have betrayed her by flooding with color, no doubt helped along by the whiskey. She stabs at an ice cube, laughing again at how pathetically obvious she is. “It’s honestly a surprise that something hasn’t happened sooner.” Resting her chin on her hand, she looks at the man seated beside her.

Her companion watches her thoughtfully, his lips pursed. “Maybe you had more sense back then,” Gavin offers after a lengthy period of silence. He watches her brood. “What has happened, Sharon?”

“Not anything...physical.”

He quirks an eyebrow. Her non-answer is telling enough, though he wouldn’t hate a few of the more juicy details. “Do you want something to happen?”

This is the million dollar question. Sharon sucks her teeth and sighs. “Yes. God, listen to me. Yes, I do. There’s something so magnetic about her, so desirable, so --”

“So married?” He tosses out the word, knowing it’ll bring her back down to earth before she’s carried too far away.

She knocks back the rest of her drink, wincing as it burns its way down her throat. “You know, after that Joanna debacle in college and Jackson’s string of affairs, I always told myself that I’d never be in this position again, that I’d never willfully engage in an affair.”


“But...this isn’t even an affair. This is...nothing.”

Gavin laughs. “Oh ho ho, but it’s certainly something, Shar. My darling, listen to Gavin -- it may not be an affair yet, but you are both tumbling headfirst into that bedroom.”

Sharon doesn’t confess that she imagines their first time will happen outside of a bedroom -- the office perhaps, a car, a bathroom -- she’s confessed too much already. “I don’t know where this is going, Gavin.”

He sips his martini. “Oh, you know. You always do. Just be careful, okay? You’re both playing with fire. She’ll rise from the ashes like a phoenix, but that fire will burn you up.”

“Don’t I know it,” she says, signalling the bartender for another round.


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2. a kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh

Brenda makes the rounds, checking in with her team as she makes her way toward her office. There’s a skip in her step -- there always is now. For the first time since she’s acknowledged that there really is a leak in her division, Brenda enjoys coming to work.

Smiling secretively to herself, she drops her purse onto a chair and rounds the desk, sitting down before she eagerly opens the center drawer. As she knew there would be, there’s a solitary Hershey’s kiss sitting amongst the loose paper clips and hordes of white out.

She flushes with pleasure and takes up the candy, picturing the long, thin fingers that placed it there. A shiver skitters down her spine.

“Aren’t you going to eat it?” a cool, low voice asks from the doorway -- the giver of the candy.

Brenda waits two seconds, three seconds, before looking up at Sharon, who stands propped against the door, arms folded across her chest. She looks incredible. Her eyes are so vividly green that Brenda is certain that she’s gotten more beautiful since yesterday. She draws her lips into a smirk of her own. “Why, Cap’n Raydor, you know I eat my chocolate in private.”

“Mmm. I never did understand why.”

Brenda places the kiss atop the desk and leans back in her chair. “Eating chocolate is a very serious business. I tend to get carried away -- it can be a little intense for someone else to witness.”

“I see.” Sharon’s eyes burn her up, heating her to her very core. “I look forward to sharing a candy bar with you some day, chief.” There’s a twinkle in her eye.

“I can’t really imagine you eatin’ a candy bar.”

“It can be a little intense,” Sharon says, smirking evermore as she pushes herself off the doorframe to re-enter the Murder Room to monitor the morning’s work.

Brenda can’t breathe until she’s gone, and the breath she draws in is shaky. This strange new dance of theirs is so exciting and so erotic that it’s all Brenda can think about, and it’s all Brenda can do to refrain from relieving the tension building between her legs in the bathroom. Instead, she saves it -- the arousal is intoxicating, and she wants to lock it away until she can indulge in it and savor it.

Turning toward the window, Brenda hides her flushed face from anyone who may be watching. This is her new morning ritual: if she’s not in the middle of a case, she comes to work to find the kiss Sharon has left for her, and Brenda spends anywhere from ten minutes to three hours imagining all the ways she’d fuck the other woman until this insatiable desire is finally sated.

It’s shocking, really, how desperately she wants the other woman. She has no idea what changed or when, but now this flirtation is the very center of Brenda Leigh’s universe and she orbits around it in a state of constant desire.

There’s a knock at the door. Brenda smirks. “Miss me already?” she asks, turning around with a smile that falters when she sees Fritz at the door, not Raydor.

“Always. I missed you this morning, so I thought I’d drop by to say good morning.”

“Mornin’, Fritzi,” she says, ever conscious of the fact that Raydor is somewhere out in the room behind him.

“Did you remember to feed Joel before you left?”

She rolls her eyes. “Of course I did.”

He lifts his hands in mock surrender, though the hard glint in his eyes betrays his playful gesture. “Hey -- I’m just checking after that time that you--”

“I know, I know.” She doesn’t need yet another reminder of an incident that took place five months ago that he still tries to make her feel guilty about. “Joel is fine.”

“Great,” he replies with a genuine smile -- a mixture of satisfaction and relief. He enters the office, eyeing the candy on her desk, no doubt assuming she’s got a drawer full of them. He reaches for it.

“Uh uh,” Brenda admonishes, slapping at his hand. “That’s mine.”

He chuckles at her as if she’s a greedy two-year-old hoarding her snacks. “I’d prefer the real thing anyway.”

When he bends down to kiss her, she closes her eyes and imagines that she’s kissing Sharon. It’s another secret indulgence, and part of the ritual -- she can’t kiss her, and she won’t, but she wants to. She allows herself her fantasies. They’re just thoughts -- harmless thoughts, and this flirtation is nothing more than fuel for those thoughts -- nothing more.


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3. i took one good look at you and i swear i must be dreaming

Sharon doesn’t sleep especially well anymore, not now that things have changed at work. She’s all but ready to torture Goldman into revealing the leak so she can get out of Major Crimes and go back to FID where it’s mercifully free of Brenda. She needs to be away from her, to sober up and distance herself so that she’s not driven by this need to see how much she and the blonde can get away with. Each day they get away with a little more, and Sharon’s reaching a point where she’s sure they’ll be caught with their hands in the cookie jar or, worse, that they’ll give in and act on it.

She rolls onto her stomach and presses her face into her pillow, letting out a frustrated groan. The pressure mounts between her legs, and the friction of her pubis pressed against the mattress is enough to make her hips squirm.

It can’t be normal for a woman rapidly approaching sixty to be in a state of near-constant arousal, but that’s the fact of things.

Not for the first time, Sharon wonders how things got so out of control. When did it all change? That first day in the hospital? In the morgue, working toward the same goal for the first time? The first working lunch? When Sharon was assigned to micromanage Brenda’s division?

She’s pretty certain every single moment shared between them has brought them to this inevitable reality, but the night they went out for drinks after a tough case probably propelled them a little faster.

One drink had made talk of work and the leak a whole lot easier. The second drink had fueled the feminist ranting about the men in the division and the stick up Pope’s ass. By the time they got to the third round, they were sharing personal stories verging on inappropriate. Beneath it all, the flirtation between them only became more prominent.

“I know hardly anythin’ about you,” Brenda had said, leaning in closer. She had looked so intensely at Sharon through heavy-lidded eyes that Sharon had been unable to refuse her anything. She had rattled off a list of her guilty pleasures -- she liked eating coffee ice cream with a shot of bourbon after work, she had been primarily with women until she met Jackson (and again after they separated), she had once gotten off in a library full of people, and kept Babeland in business. Brenda had absorbed each tiny detail like a sponge, and Sharon had felt bold and dangerous confessing.

Brenda had shared her own confessions -- she had been married twice but wasn’t sure she believed in the institution of marriage, she had never been with a woman but always wanted to, she watched female porn from time to time and, in a whisper, confessed that she’d always been fascinated by the idea of scissoring.

Sharon had played it all off. After all, what was sharing a little too much information between friends who’d had a few drinks? It was all completely innocent -- even the casual touches and the hug at the end of the night that lingered so long that Sharon had felt the hardness of Brenda’s nipples beneath her cardigan. So she had blushed furiously beneath the dim glow of the bar’s what? Sharon had even maintained that innocence until she told Gavin what happened (“Sharon, straight girls don’t just say that they wanna trib -- she wants to trib with you!”).

Sharon's removed the blinders. This situation is so far beyond her control now and she feels powerless to stop it...and, if she's being truthful with herself, she's not sure if she wants to stop it. She's wanted Brenda for a very long time, and now it's obvious that Brenda wants her too. She's so close to getting what she wants that she can almost taste it.

With a resolute groan, Sharon slips a hand beneath her hips and the mattress, bringing her fingers to the throbbing apex of her thighs.

This won't take long.


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4. i know we’re lost but soon we’ll be found

Sharon’s dreaming, and it’s just another variation of the same theme.

She dreams often of work, of her children, of Jack in better days -- but now she dreams mostly of Brenda. There are days when the same romantic REM cycle is interrupted by a particularly bad case, or a frustrating display of rampant egotistical sexism amongst her male coworkers, but mostly her thoughts stray to the deputy chief.

Tonight, they’re standing side by side on a balcony overlooking a beach, the waters far more blue that the California coast. These beaches are tropical, almost translucently blue and aquamarine. She can almost make out the shadows of fish beneath the surface, swimming in dizzying patterns as they avoid larger predators. Directly below them, the entire Major Crimes team is scanning the beach for clues about a case, but the details are hazy. Some murder, some death, some missing evidence -- Sharon can’t care about the details because Brenda’s shoulder touches hers and she can’t really remember how to breathe.

She draws in a shaky breathe anyway, forcing her lungs to expand and take it in, and she leans forward, resting her forearms against the balcony. The smaller woman mimics her pose and now their whole arms are touching, from shoulder to elbow to wrist. Sharon can feel the warmth of her, the intensity, and she shivers so violently that it passes through the blonde, as if they’ve been struck by the same bolt of lightning.

“Me too,” Brenda Leigh says in a low, melodic drawl.

Sharon nods. She watches Sanchez lift a conch shell to his ear and yell out, “Hey chief, I can hear the Macarena in this!”

Brenda gives him a thumbs up with her left hand while she tentatively brushes the back of her right hand against Sharon’s, their knuckles caressing. Rather than risk the touch for the briefest of moments and regain some modicum of composure, Brenda then traces the bumps of her knuckles with her fingers and, as Sharon holds her breath, she runs her fingers over her pulse point, teasing the delicate features of her wrist.

“Someone will see,” Sharon whispers, not pulling away.

“They already saw.” Her fingers skim downward, over the lines of Sharon’s palm, and she breathes in shallowly. Their fingers touch and then they’re holding hands, gently at first, relishing in the fit of their intertwined fingers, and then tightly, as if they are afraid of letting go.

“Fritz will see.”

“So?” Brenda looks at her then, her doe eyes dark and intense. “It’s too late. I did it. I’m already guilty.” She brushes Sharon’s fingers against her lips and kisses the tips of each finger. “And so are you.”

When Sharon wakes up, she’s sweating and on the verge of tears.


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5. you’ll never get to heaven if you’re scared of getting high

Brenda allows the door to slam behind her, the loud noise satisfying her immense agitation. She’s so tightly wound that she feels as if she may snap, and when she drops her purse on the table and it tips over, spilling its contents on the kitchen floor, she scowls.

“Bad day?” Fritz asks, coming to stand in the doorway. He raises an eyebrow in amusement at her mood, which only irritates her more. He looks at her sometimes like she’s a naughty child, all bemused and superior, as if he is the mature adult in this relationship. She wonders if he even considers them equals anymore and his patronizing smirk is answer enough.

Sharon is her equal.

“Yeah,” Brenda lies. It was a good day, actually. She put a woman away for a double homicide and she got to spend a glorious hour alone with Sharon, sitting too close in the conference room. Their knees had touched beneath the table, and Sharon’s bare knee against Brenda’s own had driven her mad. They had shared a knowing, secret smile, and their knees continued to touch even when the others joined them at the debriefing.

Now, she is so aroused and so on edge that she feels she may lose her mind.

“Hungry?” he asks, and she knows full well that he’s referring to dinner. They haven’t had sex in a while given Brenda’s...distraction. He is therefore completely surprised when she approaches him whilst unbuttoning her cardigan.

“I know what I want for dinner,” she replies, dropping the cardigan to the ground. She pulls the matching camisole over her head and it joins the sweater.

Fritz grins, sweeping her into his arms and carrying her to the bedroom. She’s a horrible wife because he isn’t who she wants, but he is who she has.

He sets her down on the bed, tugging his t-shirt off. As he perches himself over her and leans down to kiss her, she stops him, pushing at his shoulders and indicating that his mouth’s attentions are better focused elsewhere. He grins, pleased at her forwardness, and pushes up her skirt.

She closes her eyes and thinks of Raydor and those long, perfect legs wrapped around her waist.

She hates herself just a little for this and clenches her eyes a little tighter. It’s not Fritz that she wants, but his mouth will satiate some of the urgency. This, at least, they still manage to get right. She and Fritz barely talk, barely coexist, but they can still perform the perfunctory act of fucking.

Tears sting at the back of her eyes -- what kind of marriage is this? -- but Brenda forces herself to think instead of Sharon’s mouth and those endlessly green eyes. She needs the release more than she needs to contemplate the deteriorating state of her marriage.


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6. you know i’m fallin’, fallin’, fallin’ at your feet

Working through the night is always hard, but Brenda suspects it might be harder on the female detectives -- they have to do it in heels and makeup. As daylight begins to break over Los Angeles, she knows it’s still going to be a while before she can sneak home for a fresh change of clothes (and really, she should have learned by now to at least keep a clean t-shirt in her office), so she takes the opportunity to slip away from the office to freshen up. Her coworkers will thank her if she at least brushes her teeth.

Clutching the little bag of toiletries that she keeps in her desk, Brenda Leigh nudges open the door of the ladies’ room with her shoulder. She nearly jumps to see that it’s not vacant before her awareness is sharpened by the realization that she’s alone with her.

“Cap’n,” she says, her voice a little higher than usual, “I thought you’d gone home by now.”

Sharon Raydor smiles at her in the mirror. Her eyes are tired. “If you’re here, I’m here.”

“Lucky you,” Brenda replies, not feeling as guilty as maybe she should. There’s at least a show of solidarity in the knowledge that Brenda’s not in this alone...and the fact that it’s Sharon, well…

The blonde brushes her teeth, acutely aware of the other woman beside her. Sharon’s got a little bag of her own; a damp toothbrush is resting on top, and a small hairbrush is lying on the countertop beside it. There are a few brown strands coiled up in the bristles and Brenda has never been jealous of a brush before; Sharon’s hair looks perfectly coiffed and smooth and she longs to run her fingers through it.

“They never get easier, do they?”

“Hmm?” Brenda sounds, swishing a mouthful of water.

“The round-the-clock cases. I have yet to find a successful method of making it through the night without looking like a trainwreck.” She leans in closer to the mirror, running her pinky beneath each of her eyes to wipe away stray flecks of freshly reapplied mascara.

Brenda spits out the water, appalled. “Trainwreck? Please -- you look fantastic.”

Sharon sets down the mascara, turning now to look directly at the chief. “Do I?”

Blushing, Brenda nods. “You know you do.”

The captain snorts. “I wouldn’t go that far.”

“You look beautiful. You always do.”

The corner of Sharon’s mouth quirks. “Always, huh?”

Maybe the captain has grown bold in her state of sleep deprivation, but clearly Brenda has too. She shrugs and tries to make it seem nonchalant. “I see your face a lot. It’s a good face.”

“I hope it’s not still a nuisance to see my face all the time.”

Those green eyes are so intense and that mouth is so dangerously pink and Brenda swallows. “I like lookin’ at your face.”

Sharon reaches out then, and Brenda stops breathing. The captain’s thumb drags along the corner of her mouth. “Toothpaste,” she says with a smile.

Lord help her, but all Brenda wants to do is pin the older woman against the sink and suck her bottom lip into her mouth while her hand works its way beneath her skirt. It’s all she can do not to whimper.

“Thank you for the compliment, Brenda Leigh.”

And then Brenda does whimper, barely audible, because the sound of her name on Sharon’s tongue is like honey. There’s the faintest twinge in Sharon’s eyebrow -- she’s heard the barely perceptible sound, of course -- before Brenda manages to croak out, “We should get back.”

There’s something in Sharon’s eyes, the same want and desire no doubt reflected in Brenda’s own, before she nods. She tugs on her blazer, and Brenda wonders if Sharon’s nipples are hard and aware of the sensation. “Yes. We should.”


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7. learn to let it bend before it breaks.

They haven’t fought like this in ages, not since the dynamics of their relationship shifted into a gray area laden with sexual tension. A disagreement about their current case and Brenda’s continued lack of acknowledgment about the leak has lead to a full-blown disagreement complete with raised voices, furrowed brows, and finger pointing.

“You may be the senior officer here, but this is not my first rodeo. You are overlooking vital--”

Captain, I know how to conduct this investigation! I’m not overlookin’ anythin’, a fact you’d realize if you let me do my job without steppin’ on my toes!”

Sharon breathes out slowly, her frustration boiling dangerously close to the surface. “I am not trying to step on your toes, Chief. I would like to be useful here.”

“For heaven’s sake, I know how to run my damn division without your help!” Brenda Leigh seethes, her cheeks red in anger. Her dark eyes flash as she stalks across the room, whipping the blinds of her office closed with a snap of her wrist. Sharon’s grateful for the privacy; the curious, protective stares of Brenda’s team isn’t helping a damn thing, and she knows they’re all ready to jump to Brenda’s defense.

Taking a bracing breath, Sharon exhales again and tries to calm herself. “Chief -- Brenda, listen to me. I’m trying to help you. I’m on your side.”

“It sure don’t feel like it!”

“Do you think I like spending my days down here, crossing your i’s and dotting your t’s? Do you think I volunteered for this position? I’m here because I have to be. Someone in this team of yours is leaking information that is putting your job and your reputation in jeopardy--”

“Can we please stop talkin’ about this leak?”

“That’s exactly my point! You won’t talk about it! You won’t even acknowledge it! Brenda, someone in that room outside this door is probably going to tell Goldman all about this conversation. Please -- let me just help you.”

The deputy chief pinches the bridge of her nose while she paces around her office, the clack of her heels unnecessarily loud. Brenda’s infuriating obstinance makes Sharon want to grab her and shake her until she realizes just what’s at stake. She has never felt so invested in trying to help a fellow officer clear her name, but only one of her fellow officers is Brenda Leigh Johnson.

“Brenda,” she says, taking a step closer. “I know this isn’t easy for you. I want to protect you.”

“Protect me? From what?”

“From the leak. From Goldman. From…” Yourself, she doesn’t say. “From everything that is putting your career at risk. Contrary to popular belief, I give a damn about what happens to you.”

To Sharon’s relief, the blonde stops pacing. She looks at her, her eyes softening. “Why?” She snorts. “I never realized quite how seriously you take your job.”

“This is about more than my job, Brenda Leigh. I care about you. Whether you like it or not, whether you acknowledge what’s happening around you or not, I’m always going to be here to try to pick up the pieces before they fall.”

“Capt -- Sharon, I’m not broken.” The tone of her voice wavers, betraying the comment.

“Not yet, but you could be.” Sharon balls her fists inside of her pockets. “I’m not going to let that happen.”

Brenda twists her lips, biting the inside of her cheek. She watches carefully, thoughtfully, as Sharon retreats from her office.

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8. she says, 'i wanna do right but not right now. '

Sharon sweeps back the curtain of her hair, tying it up into an unkempt ponytail, her cool eyes studying the stream of deep, rich red wine as it fills her glass half-way. She raises her eyebrow. “Uh uh -- keep pouring, buddy.”

Gavin arches his brow, pursing his lips. “That sort of a day, was it?”

Sharon rolls her shoulders, working out the kinks in her upper back. “You have no idea. You would think that a woman whose job and reputation are on the line would, I don’t know, listen to a voice of reason who is only trying to help.”

“La belle dame Deputy Chief? Difficult? You’re preaching to the choir, sister. Try giving her legal advice.” He lifts his glass to her. “To my dear Sharon, who has the patience of a saint.”

“I’m not so sure about that, but I’ll drink to it anyway.” Her glass clinks against his and she takes a sip, reveling in the Pinot Noir. “That is heaven.”

“Isn’t it? I am such a whore for a good bottle of red.”

Sharon chuckles, feeling grateful for Gavin’s suggestion that she come by his penthouse after work. It’s been a while since she’s seen him; they’ve both been busy, but Sharon has admittedly had other things on her mind. She’s determined not to spend the entire night talking and thinking and fantasizing about Brenda Leigh Johnson, but the effort is as difficult as the woman herself.

And, because Sharon so desperately needs to unwind, her phone rings.

“No! I forbid you to work!” Gavin cries, grabbing her phone off the coffee table before Sharon can reach it.

“You know I have to take that.”

He glances at the screen and smirks. “Mmm, well well. Speak of the devil.”

Her pulse quickens. Of course it’s Brenda. She snatches the phone from Gavin’s hand and gets to her feet. She clears her throat before answering. “Is something wrong, chief?”

There’s a moment of silence and Sharon wonders if she’s dropped the call. “It’s Brenda calling, not Chief Johnson.”

“Oh.” She glances at Gavin, who is watching her curiously. She walks down the hall, stealing a moment of privacy in the bathroom. She shuts the door behind her. “What can I do for you, Brenda?”

“I...well, I just wanted to...apologize.”

Sharon watches her reflection in the mirror, watches the color rising in her cheeks. “What for?”

“For today. I know you’re just lookin’ out for me and I was a bitch to you.” She exhales. “I’m sorry.”

“I appreciate that.”

“I like it better when we’re on the same side.”

“Brenda, I’ll always be on your side, even when you’re wrong.”

“I’m hardly ever wrong.”

Sharon chuckles. “I know you like to think that, but sometimes even the great Brenda Leigh Johnson is wrong. At least you eventually see the light of reason.”

“Your light of reason, you mean.”


Brenda laughs. “So we’re all right then?”

“Of course we are, but I am grateful for the call. It’s always good to hear your voice.” Sharon wonders then if Brenda is blushing too, if she locks away the compliments like Sharon does.

“I always thought my voice annoyed you.”

Sharon smirks -- Brenda is fishing now for compliments, but she can’t stop herself from playing along. “I’ve become rather fond of it, especially when you say nice things.” She bites her lip. Her face is warm and flushed and she’s only had a sip of wine, but she feels drunk on this feeling. “Tell me something nice, Brenda Leigh.”

There’s a moment, a brief silence, in which Sharon worries that she has overstepped, but then Brenda says, “You looked so beautiful today I could barely stay mad at you. I wanted so badly to be angry but you just looked so lovely in that purple blouse that I just couldn’t do it.”

There is so much reverence in Brenda’s voice, so much desire, that Sharon tingles all over. She wishes that she could see it reflected in Brenda’s wide eyes. “Thank you.”

“I’d better go now.”

Sharon’s stomach clenches. She doesn’t want to get off the phone yet. She doesn’t want to say goodbye. “Yes. Thank you for calling.”

“Of course.”

“Brenda Leigh?” Sharon says quickly, before the blonde can end the call.


“Your hair was beautiful today. I love it when you wear it loose and curly. It’s gorgeous.” Sharon can almost hear the grin over the phone.

“Thanks, Sharon. G’night.”


She holds the phone to her chest for several minutes once the call has ended, waiting for the color to fade from her face. Clearing her throat, Sharon composes herself and steps out of the bathroom.

Gavin is standing outside the door, his eyebrow raised as he leans against the wall opposite her. His arms are crossed over his broad chest. “I take it there hasn’t been a spree of gruesome murders?”

She avoids his gaze. “Captain Raydor remains off the clock.”

He follows her into the living room, observing her closely as she settles cross-legged on the floor beside the coffee table, taking up her glass of wine for a fortifying drink.


She sighs, finally looking up at him. “I know, Gavin. I know.”


Chapter Text

9. never have i been a blue calm sea, i have always been a storm

Despite the overcast skies, Griffith Park is brilliantly green and alive this afternoon. Listening to the nearby laughter of children, the barking of dogs, and the chirping of birds, Brenda remembers what she once loved about being outdoors. In earlier days, she loved spending her time outside, laying in the grass and reading or simply listening to the world go by around her. She rarely gets outside now, too caught up is she in work and life and marital discord and falling headfirst into something she may not want to extract herself from.

It is the work of only a moment for her to find Sharon in the dispersing crowd. She’s taken down her hair and the gentle breeze sweeps it over her shoulders. She’s smiling at another officer, a blonde woman who earlier identified herself as Ann McGinnis, and a flash of jealousy punches her in the gut when Ann touches Sharon’s arm before slinging a duffel bag over her shoulder.

Brenda looks away.

She’s been asked twice a year for the last seven years to participate in the LAPD Women’s Committee bi-annual program that offers free self-defense classes to women of Los Angeles. Female officers and trainers volunteer to demonstrate defensive postures and teach practical skills while social workers and representatives of domestic violence shelters provide free materials and counseling. She did not decline every year because of the program itself -- she would certainly consider herself an advocate for women’s rights and ability to protect themselves -- but because she has allowed herself to become so immersed in her job that there seemed little time to spare for volunteering. This year, her altruism was outweighed by her selfishness. Not only would she be able to avoid a Sunday at home with her nagging, grumpy husband, she would be able to spend time with Sharon.

Or, be able to look at her, at least.

She is relieved to see that McGinnis is heading off toward the parking lot alone, noting that Sharon has stayed behind. Her jealousy ebbing, Brenda finds her again, putting away the packets of flyers and handouts in her tote bag. Various officers wave their goodbyes and the few remaining attendees of the program approach her to shake the hand of the woman responsible for bringing them together. Sharon, as always, is generous and humble, and warmth clenches at Brenda’s heart.

“It’s so good to see you, chief,” a low voice says behind her, pulling Brenda away from her thoughts. She turns and smiles at Mikki Mendoza, who is looking as effortlessly beautiful as usual in her matching blue sleeveless LAPD shirt.

“And you, Mikki.”

Mikki’s dark eyes are flirtatious, openly taking in the sight of Brenda’s body. “I knew if anyone could tempt you to train with us, it would be Sharon.”

There’s the jealousy again, sharp and stabbing in her gut. Sharon? “Yes, well, I finally had a free day off work to come join y’all.”

“And I’m so glad you did.”

For a moment, Brenda thinks that Mikki might be about to ask her for coffee or a drink now that the program is over, but her smile changes as Sharon approaches. The jealousy stings -- what if Mikki is about to ask out Sharon instead?

“Brenda, would you mind helping me pack up the rest of our stuff? There’s not much leftover, but I could use a hand.”

“I’d be happy to stay and help,” Mikki offers, her appreciative gaze sweeping over both of them.

“You get on home,” Sharon says with a smile. “That bike won’t fix up itself.”

“I wish it would!” She leans in, catching Brenda off guard by enveloping her in a hug. “I’ll see you around, Chief. Later, Sharon.”

Brenda and Sharon watch her go. When she’s a reasonable distance away, Brenda asks, “Close friend of yours?”

The captain smirks and hands an empty cardboard box to the blonde. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were jealous.”

Brenda begins tossing the remainder of free t-shirts into the box. She shrugs.She won’t deny it, but she’s not keen on admitting it either. “You just seem awfully close is all.”

“I’m close with all of the women on the committee. We’re a small, intimate group.”

“How intimate?”

Sharon chuckles. “You and I are closer than I am with anyone in the group, if that’s what you want to know.”

Mollified, Brenda shrugs again.

“Thank you for coming, by the way. It means a lot to me that you’re here. I think it’s good for women to see high ranking officers taking an interest in community events. It helps women to see that they’re not alone, that there are people looking out for them.”

“I’m glad I came. What y’all are doing is really important. You’re makin’ a big difference out there.” Her throat tickles with emotion and she looks away, closing the box. “I think that’s all of it.”

Sharon nods. “Are you heading home?”

The thought of home makes Brenda feel cold all over. “No, not yet. I thought I might stick around a while longer.” She glances shyly at the other woman, realizing the park around them is all but deserted now. The sky is slightly darker and more threatening, but the forecast indicated that the rain would hold out until tonight. “Did you wanna join me?”

Sharon’s smile is radiant. “I’d like that very much.”

They load the remaining boxes and materials into the back of Sharon’s car before meandering slowly toward an inviting patch of vibrantly green grass that Brenda immediately settles herself onto. She lays back, inhaling deeply as the wind rustles the blades of grass against her bare shoulders. “This is nice.”

Sharon chuckles and settles down beside her, lying on her side and watching with a bemused expression as the younger woman nestles into the grass. “I’ve never seen you like this. You’re like a kid.”

“I love lyin’ in the grass. I don’t do it often enough.”

“Why not?”

“Oh, life I guess. There’s never enough time in the day for the things I need to do, which doesn’t leave much over for the things I want to do.”

“You could make time.”

Brenda shrugs, watching the rain-bloated clouds swirl ominously above them. “I’m doin’ it now, so that’ll last me a while.”

They lay in silence for several minutes, enjoying the companionable silence. The silence at home is stilted and tense, but this is comfortable. There is no expectation here with Sharon and in this moment, Brenda feels blissfully free.

“Penny for your thoughts?”

The blonde turns to look at Sharon -- has she always been lying this close? -- and realizes that the other woman has been watching her. Her breath hitches as she catches the intensity in the captain’s gaze. She licks her lips. “I was just thinkin’ that it’s nice to be here with you is all.”

Sharon hums as she smiles. “I was thinking the same thing.”

Brenda isn’t sure if it’s her imagination or wishful thinking, but Sharon seems almost shy as her eyes take in the full sight of her, lingering on her lips. Her heart rate quickens as she considers the possibility that Sharon might kiss her, that she may finally feel the press of that beautiful pink mouth. She’s staring now too and she can’t help it. She doesn’t want to help it because soon she’ll have to go home and it will be hours before she gets to see this face again at work. Now, in the near privacy of the empty park, she can look and look to her heart’s content.

And then, because Brenda has turned to her side to face the other woman, the skies have opened up and great, heaving drops of rain beat down upon them.

“Oh!” Sharon shouts with a laugh, leaping to her feet. She reaches for Brenda’s hands and tugs her up, their bodies crashing together as Brenda loses her balance. “I’m sorry,” Sharon says, flushed and wet as the pouring rain falls around them.

“I’m not,” Brenda replies quietly. She tucks a strand of hair out of Sharon’s eyes, her fingers lingering before she pulls them back.

“I suppose we should head out.”

No, Brenda wants to say. Not yet. Kiss me in the rain. Hold me and dance with me and let the rain wash away our sins. Instead, she nods.

They walk briskly back to their cars, shoulder to shoulder.


Chapter Text

10. if i could have just a taste of you, would i be addicted?

They ride the elevator down in silence, shoulders touching. They are the only ones inside and they’ve got plenty of space but they somehow gravitate toward each other. Brenda finds herself wondering how much longer this dam will hold before the inevitable break.

Now that Sharon’s working so closely in Brenda’s division, they have a lot of time to get to know each other. They take lunches together or morning breaks, restocking on coffee and pastries loaded with chocolate. When they wrap up at the same time, they walk the three blocks together back to the parking garage and talk. Brenda has learned a lot about the other woman -- she knows how she takes her coffee, what she likes in her salads, her shoe size, her kids’ names, and pieces of her history. Brenda is collecting the pieces of the Raydor puzzle and assembling it as greedily as she can -- the more she discovers, the more she likes the other woman, the more she laughs at having hated her once upon a time.

Fritz finds their new friendship bizarre and unnatural -- it makes him uneasy.

Brenda looks over at the other woman, at her profile in the glow of the streetlights. Sharon is so beautiful that it makes Brenda’s heart hurt, and she knows that Fritz should be uneasy.

The parking garage is more or less deserted now, and their heels clack on the cement. They pass a uniformed officer and Sharon nods politely as they make their way to the far right of the lot, where Brenda is parked.

“Oh, shit,” Sharon says, stopping abruptly.

Brenda whirls to face her, alarmed. “What is it? What’s wrong?”

Sharon’s hand reaches behind her neck, beneath the curtain of thick, dark hair. “Oh -- my necklace. It’s caught on my blouse.”

“Can’t you just...pull it free?”

Sharon’s green eyes widen. “This blouse cost more than I would care to admit. I’m not going to rip it and put a hole in it.” She eyes Brenda’s oversized purse. “Do you have any scissors in there?”

Brenda rolls her eyes. “No, I don’t think so. Here...come over here into the light. I’ll fix it.”


“Just c’mere.”

They approach Brenda’s car, which is mercifully flooded with light. The LAPD forces its officers to park three blocks away, but at least the garage is well-lit. She sets her purse on top of her Crown Vic and twirls her finger, motioning the other woman to turn around. Sharon warily does as she’s told, sweeping aside her hair to expose the back of her neck.

As Brenda steps into Sharon’s personal space, her heart begins to pound. She should probably not do what she’s contemplating -- she’s inviting trouble, and Brenda’s in enough trouble as it is. But it’s Sharon, and it’s an opportunity to be closer to her for just a moment and Brenda can’t not take that opportunity.

She sees the blue thread caught in the clasp of Sharon’s necklace. She can’t totally blame the other woman for being so precious about her blouse; it’s blue and green and flowy in some places and clingy in others. It’s beautiful on her and worth every penny she spent on it, because it means that Sharon isn’t always buttoned up in her austere blazers.

Brenda takes a shaky breath and steps in a little closer, taking the hem of the blouse between her fingers of her left hand and the necklace between the right. She leans in, pausing for a moment to swallow. Sharon is warm here and her perfume lingers, and Brenda exhales through parted lips.

As Brenda’s breath whispers against the back of Sharon’s neck, the older woman shudders, her shoulders rigid.

“Brenda, what are you--”

And then Brenda leans in, drawing the thread between her teeth. She pulls the string taut between her fingers, which bump against Sharon’s flesh. Sharon reaches out a hand to the car, bracing herself as the deputy chief works her mouth against the tough string. Brenda tilts her head, hoping for a better angle, and her lips brush gently against the brunette’s skin. There’s an intake of breath -- she’s not sure if it came from herself or Sharon -- and then the blouse gives, freed from the necklace.

Brenda’s heart is pounding and her fingers tremble as she lets go, smoothing the blouse to lay flat against Sharon’s tense shoulders. “There you go,” she says, resting her hands on Sharon’s arms. This is the longest she’s ever touched her, the closest she’s ever been, and she doesn’t want to let go. She can’t.

“Brenda…” Sharon whispers.

Brenda stops thinking altogether, brushing her lips against the nape of Sharon’s neck. She’s so soft, so smooth…

Sharon whirls around, her eyes wide, her lips parted. She looks dazed.

“Oh Lord...I’m...I’m sorry, Sharon. I couldn’t--”

Sharon does not stop to hear what Brenda couldn’t do, because suddenly there is no more space between them, and Sharon’s lips are pressing against her own. Brenda whimpers, giving herself completely to this kiss, allowing herself this one tiny indiscretion because she knows she’ll go mad without it. Her hands slide along her shoulders, up the length of her long throat, and slipping into her thick hair. When her fingers scratch Sharon’s scalp, the brunette’s fingers tighten where they rest against Brenda’s hips, pulling her closer. The charge between them is electric.

Sharon is the first to open her mouth, the first to dart her tongue tentatively against Brenda’s lips. Little lights are exploding behind Brenda’s eyelids and her tongue slips out to meet Sharon’s. At the first stroke, the blonde’s knees buckle and she sways into Sharon, pressing her against the car. She’s not sure if it’s the friction of their hips so close or the cool exterior of the Crown Vic, but Sharon pulls away with a gasp. She pants for breath, tipping her forehead against Brenda’s.

“Oh God...what have we done?” Sharon asks, speaking the words on Brenda’s tongue.

“Somethin’ we both wanted…” she answers, wanting so badly to reclaim Sharon’s mouth. The kiss lasted too long -- it should never have happened -- but it’s over too soon.

“I have to go,” Sharon says, pushing at Brenda’s hips. “So do you.”

Brenda nods, and she touches her lips as she watches Sharon walk away.


Chapter Text

11. it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back

Sharon runs, pounding her feet mercilessly against the pavement. She pushes herself harder until her lungs burn, until her muscles strain in exhaustion. Sweat trails down her collarbone, snaking a harried path to the hem of her damp sports bra.

She can’t stop thinking about the kiss. About Brenda.

She should stop for a breather, but she pushes herself for several more strides before she finally answers her body’s desperate cry for a break.

Minutes later, Fernando gasps for breath as he catches up with her, grabbing at her sweaty arm. “You’re on fire today, woman. My God...I can’t keep up!” He bends over, bracing his palms on his knees as he struggles to catch his breath. “I thought you were going to ease me into this running thing!”

She pants for breath, wiping away a lock of hair stuck to her sweaty forehead. “I’m sorry. I’ve got a lot on my mind.”

“And then some! Can we sit?”

Images of Brenda flash in her mind. She can’t stop remembering how it felt to have Brenda’s body pressed against her own. She had smelled so rain and mint and...something distinctly Brenda. It’s not perfume but perhaps her shampoo or hell, even her deodorant… She closes her eyes at the sheer ridiculousness of her situation. Who the hell is turned on by the scent of someone’s deodorant?


They forego finding a bench and sit on the grass, which is still damp with morning dew. She recalls lying beside Brenda in the park. She had wanted so badly to reach out to her then and trace patterns in her freckles and kiss her sweetly, lazily, as if they’d had nothing but time. She had resisted, too, knowing she couldn’t allow herself to cross that line and yet, only days later...

“So, spill it, Sharon. What are you running from?”

She shrugs, watching the clouds pass. “Women.” She sighs. “Need I say more?”

“Mmm...and how is your leggy blonde deputy chief these days?”

He has her attention now. She whips her head in his direction. “What do you know?”

Fernando holds his hands up in surrender. “Only what you just told me!” He laughs. “I knew it! Oh, this is good! There’s enough friction there to start a fire. C’!”

“There’s nothing to dish about.”

Brenda had tasted like chocolate. She had been softer than Sharon had imagined.

“Honey, the look on your face says more than you realize.”

She glares. If she’s this obvious to her friend, is she just as obvious to everyone else? She wants to tell him about the kiss, to unload the sheer desperation of her want -- her need -- of Brenda, but she can’t. Not now, not to a man who works with Brenda too, not when her nerves are already so frayed that opening her mouth just this once might break her. “I can’t talk about this right now, okay? Please, let it drop.”

Maybe it’s the tremor in her voice, but he nods. “I’ll be here when you’re ready to talk.”

Even when her body is exhausted, she’s still unbearably aroused. She wants Brenda so badly she can taste it. She needs to get this out of her system, out of her head, out of her heart. “Let’s run.”


Chapter Text

12. it’s not what you’ve said, but what you haven’t said.

Brenda slams the fridge with a little more force than is necessary, and she can hear the bottles of condiments shake inside. It’s satisfying, and she almost wants to open it just so she can slam it again.

She wonders what Sharon is doing in this very moment, wonders if Sharon is thinking of her too. She hopes she is. She hopes that Sharon is struggling with all of this as much as she is. It just wouldn’t be fair to be in this alone but then again, Sharon kissed her back. She was not alone in that parking garage.

Brenda pinches the bridge of her nose and is so frustrated that she wants to stamp her foot. She wishes selfishly, horribly, that someone would get murdered to she’d have a case to focus her attention on.

She’s a terrible person.

She pulls the freezer door open so hard that a frozen package of ground beef falls loose from the door, right onto her bare foot. The pain is immediate.

“God fucking dammit!” she screams, kicking the meat across the floor while she slams the door shut. She can hear that other food has shifted inside, likely to fall as well the next time the door is opened. “Shit, shit, shit.”

“What the hell is going on in here?” Fritz asks, appearing in the doorway. He stands tall, squaring his shoulders, looking large and imposing. She bristles at the sight of him.

“Nothin’. Somethin’ fell on my foot.”

“And so you decided to have a tantrum?”

Brenda glares at him and bites back a scowl. “I was not havin’ a tantrum. It hurt. Aren’t I allowed to be a little miffed about that?”

He sighs slowly and slumps his shoulders, and the sound grates on her nerves. “Miffed, sure. Hollering at the fridge is something different.”

She rolls her eyes. “Sorry for interruptin’ your tv time with my little come apart.”

“Look, Brenda, I don’t know what’s going on with you, but you need to sort out this mood you’ve been in.”

“Nothin’s goin’ on.”

“You and I both know that’s not true. But whatever it is, please get it out of your system soon. I miss my wife.” He turns to walk out of the room but pauses, looking back. “And please, pick up the meat you kicked across the floor before Joel gets it.”

Glowering, Brenda picks up the hamburger and sticks it in the fridge. They can eat hamburgers or hamburger helper tomorrow. She bites her lip and thinks, again, of Raydor, trying to imagine getting her out of her system.

She’s not sure if that’s possible anymore.


Chapter Text

13. what would happen if we kissed? would your tongue slip past my lips?

Sharon wonders if anyone has ever actually died of sexual tension, or if she may just end up being the first documented case. She feels ridiculous; what sort of grown woman cannot put aside attraction and arousal? And yet, here she is, sitting in the passenger seat of Brenda Leigh Johnson’s Crown Vic, stuck in traffic at dusk, and wondering if she will survive the ride back to the parking garage.

It’s a minor solace that at least Brenda appears to be just as uncomfortable. She clenches the steering wheel, her back tense and straight, worrying the inside of her cheek with abandon.

Brenda’s voice cracks as she says, “You probably shoulda taken your own car.” She doesn’t look at her as she says it, though they haven’t moved in over five minutes. Her voice is tinged with accusation and irritability.

“In case you have forgotten, I rolled out with your team and got a ride with Tao. It’s hardly my fault that you sent everyone back before we finished at the crime scene -- including my ride.” Sharon watches Brenda closely, watches the purse of those pink lips, and shivers. “It’s almost as if you wanted to get me stuck in this car with you.”

Brenda whips around then, her dark eyes wide. “I--I did not! I wasn’t tryin’ anythin’ funny!”

Sharon chuckles darkly. “I know.”

They stare out the window, watching the cars ahead move at a crawl before brake lights illuminate the darkening sky in a red glow.

“I think we should talk,” Sharon says quietly, twisting her body in her seat against the strain of her seat belt to look at Brenda, to give the woman her undivided attention. “Don’t you?”

“No.” A pause, followed by a sigh. “Yes.”

When it becomes clear that Brenda is absolutely not going to elaborate on her own thoughts, Sharon takes a bracing breath and ventures, “I keep playing what happened over in my head. I can’t stop thinking about it.”

“Neither can I.”

“Are you sorry it happened?”

“I should be. I’m married...I should be sorry but I’m not.” Brenda finally turns to look at Sharon, her eyes glinting in the light reflecting from the dashboard. Her lips are wet. “Are you? Sorry, I mean.”

Sharon closes her eyes, the desperation in Brenda’s tone seeping into her bones. The ache between her legs gives an answering throb. “No.” She clenches her fists, her nails digging into her palms a reminder that she can’t touch Brenda right now. “I’m married too.”

“You are?” That edge of accusation is back.

“Separated, but married all the same.”

“What do we do about this?”

Sharon sighs. “I wish I had an easy answer to that question. This was never supposed to happen. I was completely unprepared for this.”

“Us talkin’ was your idea, Sharon.”

“I mean that I was unprepared for you. Something shifted when I met you. I can’t explain it, but I wasn’t expecting it and I wasn’t ready for it. And we are, sitting in your car, talking about how much we want each other.”

Do you want me, Sharon?” The car inches forward and stops, Brenda training her calculating gaze on the captain sitting beside her.

Sharon could laugh -- isn’t it obvious that she wants Brenda? Isn’t it written all over her face, predicted centuries ago and chiseled in stone? And then she realizes why Brenda is asking: though the younger woman is a master at reading cues and body language, there’s enough doubt due to the fact that neither of them have actually said the words aloud to each other. “I do, Brenda Leigh. I…” Her heart pounds and she wonders if Brenda can hear that rapid tattoo in her chest. “I seem to find myself wanting you more than I’ve ever wanted anyone.”

Brenda sucks in a breath. Her hands tighten on the steering wheel. “Heaven help me, but so do I. I want you so bad my teeth hurt.”

Sharon chuckles, amused and endeared by the other woman’s charming display of linguistics. “So there it is. Out in the open. We’re just two married women who want to fuck each other.”

The blonde whimpers but tries to cover the sound with a laugh. “Yeah.”

“Doesn’t mean we have to act on it.”


“You sound disappointed.”

“Well...aren’t you?”

Sharon unclenches her fists and reaches out to place her hand on Brenda’s arm. They both shudder at the contact, at the frisson of energy that passes between them. “You have no idea, Brenda.”

“I think I do actually.”

“What are you saying, Brenda Leigh? Are you saying that we should jump into bed together?”

The car continues to inch forward. Brenda releases her death grip on the steering wheel and lowers her arm, catching Sharon’s hand in her own. “I don’t know what I’m sayin’. Maybe we just...need to stop talkin’ about it and just...see what develops.”

Brenda’s hands are warmer than she expects. Her fingers are shorter than Sharon’s and a little wider, and in that moment she can’t stop herself from imagining how those fingers would feel inside of her, stretching and stroking and curling…

Sharon bites her lip and intertwines their fingers. They grip each other in silent agreement that, while they have no idea what the hell they’re doing, they’re at least stuck in this madness together.


Chapter Text

14. you don’t bring me flowers anymore.

Brenda worries her lip as she stands outside the break room, contemplating whether she should enter. The room is empty -- except for Raydor, who is fixing herself a cup of coffee. She looks incredible standing there, her backside encased in a tailored gray skirt.

They haven't been alone together since that car ride two days ago, and it's making her edgy. She's snapped at Sanchez already today.

She needs to snap out of it.

Taking a deep breath, Brenda opens the door and braces herself for the electric charge. She crosses the room and stands beside the other woman, reaching for a mug. She can hear the hitch in Sharon’s breath. Their shoulders touch while the captain stirs her coffee and Brenda pours her own.

“Good mornin’, Captain Raydor.”

“Good morning, Chief.”

“I've been thinkin’ about you.”

“Brenda Leigh…”

“You don't leave me Hershey kisses anymore.”


“Why? That's not very kind to do to a woman with a cravin’”

“I should never have left them to begin with. It's too risky.”

“It's just candy, Sharon.”

The captain finally puts down the spoon and looks at the superior officer. “It's not just candy.”

“You could give me the real thing instead…”

Sharon braces her hands against the counter. “We’ve...we must be more careful. Anyone could walk in right now.”

“There's no one here but us,” Brenda says, sliding her hand along the counter until their fingers touch. “I can't stop thinkin’ about how much I wanna kiss you right now.”

Their fingers shift, caress, and Brenda shudders. The longer she stays here, the more certain she is of the inevitable: she will sleep with this woman.

Sharon opens her mouth to speak and then, as if summoned, Flynn and Provenza burst into the room. Brenda steps away, still feeling the burn of Sharon’s touch. She curls her fingers into her palm, enclosing the heat in a tight fist.

“Morning, ladies,” Flynn says, his smile lingering on the captain.

Sharon nods politely and, stealing a final glance at the chief, makes a hasty exit.

The Hershey kisses may have stopped, but Brenda’s got a much stronger craving than chocolate can satisfy.


Chapter Text

15. you are always on my mind.

“Hey, mom?” shouts Emily, raising her voice to carry down the hall, where Sharon stands pulling fuzzy, warm towels out of the dryer. She cradles the fluffy warmth in her arms before dropping them into the basket.

“Yes?” she calls back, nudging the dryer door closed with her hip. She carries the basket of towels into the living room, where her daughter is leaning over her cell phone on the coffee table.

“Who on earth is Brenda Leigh and why is she blowing up your phone?”

Sharon’s pulse quickens at the mention of Brenda’s name, though she does not allow the interest to break her features. “Is she now?”

“She’s texted you about six times in the last ten minutes. So c’mon, tell me: is she work or play?”

“Both. She’s a friend from work.” She drops the basket beside Emily on the couch. “Now help me fold.”

Ever the dutiful daughter, Emily does as she’s told, draping a hand towel over her lap. The young woman’s features are serious, though Sharon knows her daughter well enough to recognize the nearly-concealed Raydor smirk playing at her lips. “Have I heard you talk about her before?”

“It’s possible.”

“She’s not the one from that old division you were on, was she? Robbery and homicide?”

“No,” Sharon replies, her curiosity nagging at her. What would Brenda have to text so much about on a Saturday night? If there had been a case, Sharon would have been called in. Her cheeks color slightly and she hides her face behind a towel.

“Oooh she that horrible Southern woman you complained about all the time?”

Sharon laughs. “The very same. As it would turn out, she’s not so horrible.”

“Of course you would go and befriend your work nemesis. How did you end up in the LAPD and not a UN ambassador or something?”

“Oh, just lucky, I suppose. Now, enough about Brenda. I want to hear about this new instructor of yours. What was her name? Katerina?”

“Yes -- okay, but I just have one more question. Do your coworkers often tell you that they can’t stop thinking about you?”

Sharon shivers -- Brenda can’t stop thinking about her? -- at the same time she narrows her brow into a disapproving glare. “Emily, why were you reading my text messages?”

“I swear I wasn’t creeping, mom. I was just curious and your phone was right next to mine. never tell me anything about your love life and I want you to be happy and there’s this real live human on the other end of this phone who is thinking about you and I’d just like to know what the hell you’re doing with me on a Saturday night and not on a hot date with her.”

Sharon swallows the easy answers that have already formed on her tongue. She’s not exactly ready to tell her daughter that she’s on the verge of having an affair with her married coworker. Emily’s dark green eyes are earnest, like her mother’s, and Sharon softens. “We aren’t serious.”

“Dating doesn’t have to be serious.”

“My relationship with Brenda is complicated. She’s my colleague and at best, we have a very tenuous working relationship. I don’t think either of us is ready for dating.” Sharon is pleased, at least, that she does not have to lie to her daughter. “Can we move on now?”

“I just want you to be happy, mom. You’re amazing and it seems like Miss Brenda Leigh agrees, and -- okay, okay, I’ll drop it!” she replies when Sharon drapes a towel over her head.

Several hours pass before Sharon gives herself permission to look at her phone. She receives no calls from work, so she chooses instead to focus on the gift of this rare visit from her daughter, who is not often on the west coast now that she has joined a prestigious ballet company in New York City. These four days with her child are a gift that she will not allow herself to squander, especially not in favor of indulging her fantasies.

It is not until after Emily has kissed her cheek goodnight that Sharon settles in with a third glass of wine and scans the messages from Brenda.

I hate Saturdays. They’re lonely.

I hope you’re doing something more fun than I am. How many baseball games do these people actually play in a season?

I bet you’re doing something wildly exciting on a Saturday night.

Or maybe you’re on a date.

I hate the thought of it. Is that bad to say?

I can’t stop thinking about you, Sharon.

A hot date indeed. Sharon snorts into her wine glass, inhaling the citrusy undertones in her chardonnay, before she considers her response.

I’ve spent a lovely Saturday evening with my daughter. She hits send before she can reconsider, pursing her lips as she wonders just why she needed to tell the other woman that she was not, in fact, on a date, but instead spending time with her child.

Brenda’s response is almost instant. I thought maybe I scared you off.

Not scared, just busy. We should be more careful though. My daughter saw your text and asked a lot of questions. What would happen if Fritz looked over your shoulder right now and saw me texting you?

He wouldn’t be able to see it without his reading glasses.

Brenda Leigh.

I’ll erase my messages as they come in. He won’t see anything.

A surge of guilt washes over Sharon then, and she takes a healthy swig of her wine. This is so wrong.

And yet here we are, texting each other on a Saturday night.

You’re quite possibly the worst, you know.

Then I’m in good company.

Sharon takes a deep breath. I’ve been thinking about you too, Brenda Leigh. Now delete your messages.

Good night, Sharon

Good night.


Chapter Text

16. i'll hold you up and drive you, baby, 'til you feel the daylight.

Brenda typically leaves the board to everyone else to clear up but this afternoon, she takes care of it herself, slipping each photo into the protective sleeve of an evidence bag. She can’t shake the unsettled feeling that has lingered after the resolution of this case. Is it the teenage murderer, so filled with remorseless rage? Is it the well-meaning but misunderstood coach, fighting against a flawed and oppressive system? She knows that yes, these factors have all contributed to this feeling, and yet she is certain that the real issue is the fact that her own husband relished in telling her that her captain intended to retire. The very memory of this conversation causes her shoulders to stiffen and her stomach to ache.

Why hadn’t Sharon told her herself? After all they’ve been through and the edge upon which they teeter together, she expects more from Sharon. She deserves, at least, that level of honesty.

Brenda drops the evidence bag forcefully onto Provenza’s desk, upsetting the stack of papers haphazardly scattered across the desktop. A few scrap pieces flutter to the floor and she bends to retrieve them, her blood running cold when she sees his familiar scrawl: buy goodbye & good riddance card for the wicked witch!!!

She doesn’t realize that she has crumbled the paper in her hand until she is tossing it in the waste bin in her office. She collects her purse and slaps off the lights, determined and hyperfocused on setting this straight once and for all.

Fritz had been completely mirthful in telling her the office gossip, and she wonders as she starts her car if he suspects anything. Is he happy that Raydor is leaving because he feels threatened, or was he merely reveling in knowing something that Brenda did not? The thought rankles her for the entirety of her drive and even as she manages to linger outside the lobby until someone coming out holds the door for her and lets her in. She rides the elevator in silence, chewing on the inside of her cheek as she rehearses what she’ll say. “What the hell?” has a nice ring to it, but she won’t open with that. No, what she really wants and needs to ask is simply “Why?”

Brenda knocks on the door and waits, shifting nervously on the balls of her feet. Now faced with the prospect of seeing Sharon Raydor in her home, she feels the tension coil in the pit of her stomach. Anger and betrayal and arousal do not, alas, make for a pleasant combination. Brenda Leigh acknowledges that Sharon has made her feel so completely dismantled -- how will she find the words to say what she feels?

Don’t go -- I need you.

Stay so we can carry on like we have been.

Are you leavin’ because of me?

She knocks again, less frantic this time, and worries her lip. She cannot help but wonder if this is her fault, if Sharon is running away because of the position Brenda’s attraction has put them in. Though Sharon is complicit in this...non-affair, it seems to Brenda that it is not beyond the realm of possibility for the other woman to duck and run before they edge any closer to the inevitable.

Considering now that Sharon may not be home, Brenda presses her fingers to her temples and lets out a mournful sigh. She can’t face going home, not now. She can’t face her husband when she feels as though the rug has been pulled out from under her.

When the door opens slowly, Brenda realizes that nothing will be the same when she finally does go home. It’s much too late to turn back now.


The blonde opens her mouth to speak, but she cannot. Sharon is standing before her in a gray bathrobe, the silk clinging to the damp spots of her body, accentuating every curve. Her hair is piled on top of her head and damp tendrils frame her face, sticking to her flushed cheeks. Her face is free of makeup and her emerald eyes are wide and not hidden behind the barrier of her glasses. She looks effortlessly sexy and Brenda knows she’s in trouble. “I...I didn’t think you were home.”

“I was in the bath.” She swallows, and Brenda notices the other woman’s bare feet and painted toe nails. “What are you doing here, Brenda Leigh?”

“I heard -- can I come in?”

Sharon clutches the edge of her robe and steps aside. “Of course.”

Brenda realizes it’s a bad idea, and even so she breezes past the captain, dropping her purse on the floor in the foyer. “I heard you’re leavin’.”

Sharon surprises her by smirking. “I suspected it would make its way around to you.”

“So you just expected that I’d hear about this through the grapevine rather than givin’ me the decency of tellin’ me yourself? My husband heard about this before I did!”

“Brenda...I’m not going anywhere. I needed to prove that a leak exists in your department.”

Brenda pales, and she feels her stomach churn unpleasantly at the realization that she may have fallen for a trap meant to ensnare a snake. “You’re not retirin’?”

“Absolutely not. You’re stuck with me, I’m afraid.” Sharon laughs breathlessly and softens her posture, no longer maintaining her death grip on her robe, allowing the edges to part enough to show the line of her collarbone. “I didn’t expect you to believe that rumor.”

“How would I know that it was just a rumor?” Brenda spits back defensively, her cheeks now flooding with embarrassment. “Good Lord, I’m such an idiot!” She spins on the ball of her foot, covering her face in her hands. “I thought you were leavin’...”

She can hear the captain step closer, can feel her warmth approaching. “Did you think I was leaving the LAPD, or leaving you?”

“Isn’t it enough that I thought you were leavin’?”

Sharon steps closer, resting her hands on Brenda’s shoulders. The touch burns and Brenda shivers. The brunette’s fingers grip her arms and trail downward over the cotton of her red t-shirt until she reaches Brenda’s bare biceps. Goosebumps erupt across her flesh and she bites her lip as Sharon’s fingertips trace torturous patterns. “No, it isn’t,” Sharon says quietly, her breath hot on Brenda’s neck.

“I…” Brenda’s eyes clamp shut as she feels Sharon’s face draw nearer to her throat, her lips only a breath away. The intensity of her breath is enough to make her gasp. “I thought you were leavin’ me. I couldn’t handle it if you left.”

Sharon’s lips brush the nape of Brenda’s neck so gently that the blonde wonders if she’s imagined it but there it is again, the gentle caress doubled with the teasing of Sharon’s fingertips as they linger along her forearm and encircle her wrist. Brenda has never felt so exposed and yet she has never felt so completely the center of someone else’s focus. It terrifies her.

“I’m not leaving you, Brenda Leigh.”

This is it, Brenda knows. She should leave because there will be no coming back from this, but she can’t. She can’t go anywhere. “I’m not leavin’ either.” She turns, wetting her lips and staring at the other woman through half-lidded eyes. Sharon’s green eyes are dark and intense and her gaze drops to her lips and Brenda has to kiss her before she dies, and so she does.

They do not hold back in this kiss. As Brenda winds her arms around Sharon’s neck, bringing their bodies flush together, she pours every ounce of longing, desire, and yearning into this kiss. The sheer force of her want hits her like a blow to the stomach and she feels dizzy and lightheaded and drunk. The reality of finally having what she so desperately needs is so overwhelming that her knees buckle, and Sharon’s arms around her waist brace her tightly.

Sharon’s mouth is warm and her lips are soft, softer than she remembers them being the first time they kissed. It had happened so fast but this kiss is endless. Lips glide and search and Brenda isn’t sure who relents first in opening her mouth, but now their tongues are touching. She strokes her tongue against Sharon’s and she’s surprised to hear the other woman moan. She has done this. She has aroused the other woman and now she’s going to see her unravel.

Brenda has never felt more powerful.

Sharon’s body is warm and as Brenda runs her hands over the silk, she feels nothing, no barrier between silk and flesh. No bra. No underwear, she confirms as her hands trail lower over the dip of Sharon’s spine toward the curve of her ass. Brenda whimpers because she can’t control herself. She wants to be cool and composed lest she scare the other woman with her desperation, but the task is too great. Sharon, for her part, matches Brenda’s urgency; her tongue sweeps into Brenda’s mouth again, more insistent this time, killing whatever brain cells Brenda has left.

“I need…” she gasps, slipping her hands lower to cup the roundness of Sharon’s ass. She squeezes, digging her fingers into the silk, and Sharon sighs.

“What do you need, Brenda Leigh?” It comes out like a purr.

“You. Oh!” That smirking mouth nips at Brenda throat and she turns her head, giving her better access. “I need you.”

Sharon nods, her tongue trailing along the expanse of splotchy pale flesh before pausing to suck gently and worry it with her teeth. “You can have me.”

Perhaps hearing it aloud was all she needed; emboldened with permission, Brenda tugs at the tie around Sharon’s waist, pulling the knot free and parting the halves of her robe until her hands meet the bare flesh of her waist. Here, Sharon is flushed red and she’s soft and looks better than a woman her age has any right to look. Brenda’s palms glide along the curve of her ribcage, the slope of her waist, the flat expanse of her belly. Sharon trembles beneath her touch and then her hands grip Brenda’s shoulders, though not to push her away. No, Sharon simply guides them around the sofa until Brenda is sitting and then, oh God, then Sharon is straddling her and pressing her back against the cushions while their mouths fuse together in a kiss that Brenda feels all the way down to her toes.

Brenda rakes her nails down Sharon’s back before smoothing her palms against her, touching everywhere she can. Given free reign to explore, she feels little explosions going off inside her brain as she squeezes her ass and then again when she cups Sharon’s breasts.

Sharon pulls back with a gasp, grinding her hips down against the younger woman as thumbs pass over pebble-hard nipples. Brenda’s mouth goes dry at the realization that maybe Sharon is sensitive here, that maybe she gets off on having her breasts stimulated and teased and so she plucks the hardened peak between her fingers, reveling in the brunette’s groan. She devotes equal attention to both breasts while Sharon nuzzles her hair. Brenda cannot get enough. She never wants to stop, not when she’s finally getting what she’s ached for so desperately….

Sharon pulls back. Her eyes are dark and glazed with desire as she reaches between them, pulling at Brenda’s shirt and sweeping it over her head in one deft motion. She lets it fall beside them on the couch while those intense green eyes study the swell of Brenda’s breasts encased in pale pink satin. Brenda belatedly wishes that she were wearing something sexier, something with lace or in a color Sharon actually likes, but the way Sharon is looking at her right now..

Brenda has never felt sexier in her whole life.

While trembling fingertips reach out to trace the edges of Brenda’s bra, the blonde leans in, drawing herself closer to Sharon’s warmth. The captain straightens her back and arches forward, giving Brenda free access to enclose her mouth around one pert, pink nipple. Sharon tips her head back and sighs, wriggling her hips as she clutches at the back of Brenda’s head. As she did with her hands, Brenda uses her mouth to gently lick and nip and suck between both perfect breasts until the other woman is positively squirming in her lip.

“God, Brenda Leigh…please...” she begs, her fingers now digging into Brenda’s shoulders. The blonde wonders if she’ll leave marks and doesn’t have the foresight right now to care because Sharon Raydor is begging to be fucked and Brenda would give her anything that she wanted.

“D’you need this?” she asks coyly, trailing her fingers down her stomach until she is searching through the curly tuft of damp hair. She hasn’t even touched her there yet and she can already tell how wet she is, how desperate, how warm…

“I need you…” Sharon’s hips arch forward, seeking more that Brenda is not yet ready to give.

“What was that, cap’n? What do you need?” She uses one fingertip to gently tease the wet, swollen folds of her labia, avoiding the areas that Brenda assumes to be most sensitive. She’s never fucked a woman before -- not counting herself, of course -- and she only has her own body as a frame of reference. But dear Lord, she wants to make this perfect, to make it so good and so worth the wait and --

“I need you to fuck me,” Sharon says in a low voice that invokes equal parts terror and arousal. It’s her best Captain Raydor voice, and yet it is laden with so much sensuous intensity that Brenda may never be able to hear that stern voice at work and not blush.

But by God, Sharon is begging to be fucked, and Brenda’s not about to miss this opportunity. She slips between her folds, entering unfamiliar territory and already feeling more at home than she does in her rental. Sharon is all wet heat and as Brenda searches for her clit, Sharon bites her lip and looks so completely stunning that it’s all Brenda can do to focus and not stare dumbly at her. And then it’s there, beneath her fingertips, hard and slipped out from its protective hood and she strokes it and draws lazy circles around it and the sounds Sharon makes in response are the best sounds in the entire world. She writhes her hips against Brenda’s hand, moaning every time Brenda strokes a particularly sensitive spot.


Brenda’s face flames even hotter as she searches for that tight ring of flesh and she knows she has found it by the way Sharon’s hisses. She slips one finger inside and then another and this, this is heaven. Sharon leans up, bracing herself against Brenda’s shoulders, giving the blonde’s wrist more room to navigate. It’s a weird angle but Brenda could care less because she’s fucking Sharon and twisting and scissoring her fingers and making her moan and cry out.

Brenda’s also a perfectionist, and she knows she can’t come just by being penetrated, so once she has settled on a rhythm that Sharon seems to like, she maneuvers her thumb to stroke gently against her clit. Sharon’s movements lose their finesse and then, right before Brenda’s very eyes, against against her own hand, Sharon comes with a cry, her entire body trembling and shaking and contracting. She looks so exquisite that Brenda momentarily wonders if she might cry, but she wills back the tears because she doesn’t want anything to obstruct the view.

Sharon doesn’t come down from her orgasm so much as she collapses, heaving in shaking breaths against Brenda’s shoulder. The blonde withdraws her fingers carefully and wraps her arms around Sharon’s waist. She feels half-crazed but having Sharon so close is a gift she can’t deny herself. This is almost as good as the sex: Sharon is warm and soft and she smells so good and Brenda’s heart feels full of --


Something clenches at her heart and she can’t answer it, not yet. She can’t let herself go there, not when they’ve only just reached this point.

Sharon nuzzles Brenda’s hair before seeking her mouth, kissing her slow and steady. Though she’s just come, Sharon’s sense of urgency does not seem to have dissipated, and it gives Brenda a little thrill to realize that she’s urgent for Brenda. Sharon’s mouth trails its way along the length of her jaw, nipping playfully before laving her tongue in open-mouthed kisses along her throat. Her hands are everywhere: slipping the strap of her bra off her shoulder, palming her satin-cased breasts, reaching behind to fumble with the clasp. In a huff of irritation, Sharon gives up on the clasp and instead tugs aside the cup of one breast before lowering her mouth to enclose the taut nipple between her lips.

Brenda cries out, threading her fingers in Sharon’s hair while that wicked mouth bites, suckles, and kisses with abandon. Her male lovers have always been fascinated with her breasts but this is ...different. This is more than just desire. It’s reverence.

The blonde is still in a daze when she feels the other woman shift off her lap and kneel on the floor. It’s not until she feels the cool air of the room hit her bare thighs that she registers the other woman pushing up her skirt and tugging down her sodden underwear. She gapes as Sharon discards her panties on the floor and her breath quickens as she pulls Brenda to the edge of the couch, only inches from Sharon’s face. She stops breathing altogether as the captain nuzzles the sensitive flesh of her inner thigh before breathing in the scent of her. At the first swipe of Sharon’s tongue, Brenda hums her strangled delight and arches her hips into the other woman’s mouth.

Sharon is good at this. Brenda had no doubt that she would be. Sharon is nothing if not a perfectionist, so it’s no surprise that she applies herself with single-minded focus, as if getting Brenda off with her tongue is the only thing happening in the world. She sweeps broad strokes along the length of her sex, swirling around her clit. She alternates between soft and hard caresses, learning what Brenda likes best and applying it in every single movement.

It’s hard to keep her eyes open but Brenda wants to remember this always: the sight of herself shirtless on Sharon’s couch, one glistening wet nipple exposed, her skirt bunched around her waist while the captain eats her out. It’s the visual combined with the feel of that wicked tongue that makes her scream, tremble, and fall apart.


Chapter Text

17. every now and then i fall apart.

Her blazer is perfect, she knows, and yet she tugs it down for the fifth time anyway. Sharon is more on edge than usual, pacing the room with distracted agitation. She knows she must be making the guys nervous but she can’t help herself; Brenda will be in any minute, and Sharon hasn’t seen her since the deputy chief’s impromptu visit to her home.

Since they had sex on her sofa.

The memory causes a shiver of excitement to settle in the base of her spine. She can remember with clarity just how good the other woman tasted, how she smelled, how she sounded when she came. Even now, with no contact of any kind in days, Sharon desperately wants her all over again.

So much for getting Brenda Leigh out of her system.

She hears Brenda before she sees her; the blonde is talking animatedly to Gabriel, firing off a rapid to-do list regarding the current case. Brenda’s train of thought falters as soon as their eyes meet, and Sharon notices a slight change in the color of her cheeks. Sharon looks away at the same time Brenda clears her throat.

To her credit, the deputy chief recovers quickly; she works the room, piecing together various leads from her team, updating the board with each new bit of information. Sharon is impressed; though she maintains her own unblemished reputation for professionalism, Brenda’s single-minded approach puts hers to shame. It gives her a flicker of hope that they may get away with this.

Sharon stands to the periphery of the group, as usual, and gives herself permission to watch Brenda. It has become part of her daily routine. It’s natural enough; everyone else in the Murder Room has given the deputy chief their undivided attention, though Sharon suspects she may be the only one imaging what it might be like to nibble on the soft flesh behind Brenda’s knees.

Brenda looks beautiful today, and her appearance does not appear effortless as it often does. No, every aspect of her outfit looks intentional, as if she put careful consideration into her fitted vibrant green skirt and pale yellow blouse. She looks gorgeous, like springtime, like she’s coming to life after a season of hibernation. Her hair falls in loose curls over her shoulders and Sharon longs to run her fingers through it again, to feel those silken strands against her bare skin.

Sharon’s throat goes dry.

“All right....let’s find this creep, shall we?” Brenda asks, recapping her dry erase marker with flourish. She catches Sharon’s gaze again and tilts her head subtly to the right.

Toward the bathroom.

It’s an absolutely terrible idea, but Sharon straightens her blazer again and makes her way down the hall, nudging the door to the women’s restroom open with her shoulder. She casts a quick glance beneath the stall doors, which are mercifully empty.

Brenda Leigh is only a moment behind and, when she finally steps into the bathroom, she leans back against the door. Her dark eyes look darker as she looks at Sharon. “Hi,” she says. Her lips purse ever so slightly. Sharon stares.


“I thought…” The blonde clears her throat. “I wanted a minute alone with you.”

“And here we are, all alone in the ladies’ bathroom.” Sharon smirks. “So romantic.”

“Well, when you’re havin’ an affair with your coworker, you sorta take what you can get.”

There it is, out in the open: they’re having an affair. By the sound of it, their first encounter will not be their last. The very thought sends a frisson of excitement down Sharon’s spine. Sharon nods. “You look beautiful today, Brenda.”

“Just today?” She cocks her head to the side, an errant curl falling over her cheek. She smiles playfully.

“Every day,” Sharon responds, stepping into Brenda’s personal space. She brushes the lock of hair aside, tucking it behind her ear. “But especially today.”

“Why especially?”

“I haven’t seen you in three days,” Sharon replies, her thumb brushing against Brenda’s lips.

“Oh yeah? I hadn’t noticed.”

“We have to be careful,” Sharon cautions, her eyes fixed on Brenda’s mouth.

“I know, but I missed you. I couldn’t get through the day without kissin’ you just once.”

Sharon nearly groans at the want in Brenda’s voice. “Once?”

“Maybe twice, if you’ll let me.”

The entire squad is just beyond these doors. This restroom serves an entire floor, not just Major Crimes, and yet Sharon finds herself taking the risk, jumping in with both feet. “I’ll let you.”

It’s Sharon who leans in, who brushes Brenda’s lips with her own. Mouths collide in a slow, torturous kiss, one that leaves them both panting for breath when Sharon pulls away. “Oh, Brenda Leigh,” she whispers. “When can I see you again?”

“I don’t know,” Brenda replies, teasing her mouth against Sharon’s one more time. “But I hope it’s soon.”

“Me too.”


Chapter Text

18. if i don’t kiss you now, i will never sleep again.

Brenda’s face burns with shame as she taps out a brief response to Fritz’s inquiry about whether she’ll make it home for dinner tonight. She expects her fingers to tremble with the guilt and misspell her excuse, but her fingers are quick and sure, and she’s firing off a text explaining that she’s got to work late so quickly that the elevator hasn’t even arrived yet to her floor. She drops her phone into her bag and twists her lips in contemplation as she watches the numbers illuminate above the bank of elevators. How long can it possibly take a brand new-ish elevator to descend ten floors?

She taps her heel, the sound echoing in the empty hall.

The elevator arrives after an eternity and she steps on, hitting the number of her desired floor. She waits, her breath shallow and impatient, while she chews the inside of her cheek.

Brenda blushes when she sees the light on in Sharon’s office, and blushes still to see that the bullpen is not yet deserted. Its lone inhabitant is Sergeant Elliott, who stands across the room in front of the copy machine. His eyebrow quirks to see her.

She puts on a scowl that she hopes is believable. “Your boss in there?” she demands, quirking her head toward Raydor’s office. “I’ve got a bone to pick with her.”

“Uh...yes. She is.” He turns his back, respectfully stealing himself against whatever tongue lashing his superior officer is about to get.

If only he knew.

She barges into Sharon’s office, unsurprised to find the other woman pacing behind her desk. She slams the door behind her.

“I thought he’d be gone by now,” Sharon says in a low voice as Brenda quietly locks the door behind her. “We shouldn’t even be--”

But Brenda doesn’t have time to listen to whatever they shouldn’t be doing -- she already knows -- because she hasn’t had Sharon in over a week and all rational thought has since departed. She cups Sharon’s face in her hands and kisses her, breathless.

“I’ve missed you so much,” Sharon breathes, her hands gripping at her waist and pulling her closer so that as much of their bodies will touch as possible. “I can’t think, I can’t...oh…”

Brenda’s hand has worked its way beneath Sharon’s skirt, pushing it up her hips so she can sneak between her thighs. Time is of the essence, of course, and Elliott is still lurking around, but they're so desperate for each other that they'd likely be doing exactly this even in a bedroom. Her mind goes blank as she feels that Sharon’s wearing a garter belt, the little snaps fastened around her silk thigh highs. She can feel the lace against her knuckles and she steals a glance, her throat going dry at the sight. She won't be forgetting that anytime soon.

Though she’s had a head start, Brenda is still surprised to realize that Sharon has rucked up the hem of her dress in order to slip her fingers inside her underwear to find the wet warmth between her legs. Brenda swallows a gasp and, never one to be left behind, follows suit. Sharon is a furnace here and so wet that her fingers slide easily between her swollen folds. She worried, stupidly, that she might not be as good at this the second time around but she seems to have learned Sharon’s body well enough to recreate the strokes and caresses that made her tremble and fall apart the first time.

They stand in Raydor’s office, the captain leaning against the edge of her desk. Her legs are spread and Brenda has the more awkward angle to give Sharon enough room to work her fingers, but she’d stand on her head if it were the only way to get what she wanted.

Sharon tips her head again Brenda’s, her breath hot and panting against the blonde’s parted lips. The other woman gives little sighs of encouragement so quiet that no one who wasn't listening for them could hear.

Brenda kisses Sharon again, wet and sloppy and desperate because she will have to go a weekend without them. Sharon sucks her bottom lip into her mouth, worrying it with her tongue. Brenda can feels her thighs begin to tremble, her body nearing the edge. She's so close and she feels so incredible that she once again wants to cry. She doesn't -- instead, Brenda comes silently, her shuddering movements and spasmodic caresses pulling Sharon close behind her. They pant and come and breathe together in the silence of the room, drawing out every tiny ounce of pleasure before they're wrung out entirely.

As Brenda comes back to herself, she can no longer hear the hum of the copy machine. She can only hear the drumming of her heart and Sharon’s quiet breath. She can feel Sharon’s strong, steady pulse beneath her fingers.

“Kiss me again before you leave,” Sharon request, her voice wavering.

Brenda kisses her. She doesn't want to leave.


Chapter Text

19. kind of woman that’ll haunt you, she matters to you.

Sharon lowers her body into the bathtub with a hiss, the hot water biting her now-pink flesh as she sinks into lavender suds. Steam curls off the surface and the heat feels so good that she revels in a luxurious moan. She can already feel the knots in her shoulders begin to loosen as she leans back against the tub.

She has needed this.

With a content hum, the captain lifts her toes out of the water, watching the bubbles slide over her feet. She settles a little lower until the suds reach her jaw and she closes her eyes.

Her mind conjures images of Brenda Leigh, at once a comfort and a curse. She aches for her, wishes she were soaking with her in the tub large enough for two. It has been two days since Sharon has seen Brenda at work, and over a week since they've spent time together alone. She misses the warm, wet press of Brenda’s mouth, but she misses her presence even more. She wants simply to be with Brenda.

She sighs.

Just when, exactly, did she fall in love?

It was inevitable, she realizes. It was as natural as breathing. She had known that Brenda was different, that she was special, right from the beginning. She had known it in the way they understand each other, in the way they speak the same language. She had known in it the way they challenge and push each other, in the way that they each strive to be better versions of themselves when they are together.

She isn't really sure where this affair will go, or how badly it will end, but she knows it's going to be a hell of a lot harder now that Sharon has acknowledged the truth of her feelings. She’s in love with a married woman and God, does it hurt.

But it also feels right.

She wonders what Brenda is doing in that moment. Is she at home, taking a bath of her own and thinking about Sharon? Is she sitting on the couch, having a glass of wine? Is she at the grocery store, buying tampons and junk food? Or is she doing something else, something with her husband, clinging to remnants of an intimacy not altogether lost? Is Fritz kissing her and telling her that she’s beautiful? Is she lying beneath the heavy press of his body with her legs curled around his waist? Is she entangled with him on the sofa, sharing a lazy Sunday evening?

She’s not sure what’s worse: the thought of Brenda sharing her body with her husband, or sharing her heart. Sharon is certain that their marriage is no longer solid, that the very fact of their affair exists because their relationship is irreparably fractured. Sharing Brenda, however, is painful. She wants to have her all to herself.

Suddenly her bath no longer feels like the relaxing retreat she’d hoped for. Her stomach coils in knots and she sighs.

When did she become this person, this other woman? Sharon has always prided herself for being better than this, for being a stronger person with firm moral convictions. She’s put it all on hold for love, for Brenda, and though it pains her to admit it to herself, she would do it all again.

She would do it all for Brenda.


Chapter Text

20. shake, shake, shake me sane.

Brenda never thought she'd enjoy oral sex this much--with a woman, that is. She knows she doesn't like going down on a man...there's something perfunctory about it. It feels like work. This, going down on Sharon, this feels like fun. She could do this for hours and maybe she will, maybe she'll tease Sharon to the very brink of release and then back off just long enough to prolong things just a bit more. She knows all of this has an expiration date. It can't go on forever, and so Brenda will enjoy it for as long as it lasts.

Sharon's heels dig into the mattress on either side of Brenda's head while her tongue brushes ever so gently against Sharon's clit. She glances up to see her, to watch her breasts heave as Sharon takes in shaky breaths, to watch as Sharon slings an arm over her eyes as if to block her sight of what they're doing, to watch as she bites her lip before releasing a moan.

It's intoxicating.

Brenda grinds her hips down against the mattress. The angle is all wrong but the pressure is nice. Each sound that comes out of Sharon's mouth feels like a caress and she hums her pleasure against the brunette's wet cunt. God, but she tastes so good, and Brenda can't get enough. She needs more and her plan of prolonging things will have to wait because she has to press the whole of her tongue against Sharon's sex, has to lap up that musky arousal, has to swirl her tongue faster and just the littlest bit harder. Sharon comes with a cry that sounds like surprise, rocking her hips against Brenda's mouth so that she can feel it all before she can't stand to feel any more.

"Oh....oh god, Brenda. You're too good at this."

Wiping her mouth, Brenda crawls over the other woman's spent body and straddles her, bringing their mouths together in a searing kiss. Sharon's tongue strokes against Brenda's, tasting herself. It’s been weeks since they’ve first fucked each other, and Brenda marvels at how the hell she managed to survive this long without her.

She’s got to work out a way that she can have this more often, but Sharon’s fingers are tracing the cleft of her ass and she doesn’t have much power of thought left.

"Get up here," Sharon orders, her lips brushing against Brenda's with each word.

"I am."

"No," Sharon says, grasping the younger woman's hips and urging her upward. "Put your knees on either side of my head and grab onto the headboard."

The blonde whimpers. She's never done this before, another first with this maddening, glorious woman. Her legs are already trembling in anticipation as she repositions herself above Sharon's head, careful not to pull her hair. She looks down. Green eyes stare intensely up at her before warm breath blows against her slick, swollen folds.

Brenda shivers and grabs for the headboard. She braces herself.

The first swipe of Sharon’s tongue is like a punch to the gut. It takes her completely by surprise at this new, foreign angle. She gasps for breath and then laughs; she can see herself too well at this angle, can see the slight droop of her breasts and the soft spots of her abdomen, but she can see Sharon too. She can see that direct, emerald gaze watching her closely as she tastes her. She can tell how much Sharon wants her just by the glint in her eyes.

Brenda couldn’t feel more exposed, or more wanted, if she tried.

She has never felt this way with her husband. She doesn’t want to.

Sharon’s arms curl around her thighs, holding her steady as she applies herself to Brenda’s pleasure with fervor.

Brenda Leigh tilts her head back, closes her eyes, and gives herself completely.


Chapter Text

21. drowning in the sea of love, where everyone would love to drown.

Brenda brushes her teeth, lazily circling the minty bristles around her mouth. Fritz stands beside her, flossing, his own gaze tracking his progress.

Another silent night in the Johnson-Howard household.

The silence has lost its comfort; what used to be companionable is now distant and foreign. Every sound he makes feels jarring to her. When he clears his throat and begins brushing his own teeth, she feels on edge and quickly rinses out her mouth. She watches him for a moment, his eyes never darting her way.

A striking pang of loneliness cuts her in half, and she walks into the bedroom in a daze. When had she begun to feel so alone in this marriage? When had Fritz, the man who had once been her best friend, become nothing more than a roommate? Once upon a time, they would have exchanged minty kisses at the sink. He would have pushed the strap of her tank top aside to pepper her shoulder with kisses, and then they would have made love until they fell asleep, spent and curled around each other. Those days have long since gone, and though Brenda can partly blame herself for having an affair and seeking intimacy elsewhere, the intimacy between herself and Fritz disappeared long before Sharon.

She hears Fritz using the toilet and, vaguely disgusted, Brenda retreats into the living room. She has a sudden, desperate urge to see Sharon, to have her there to kiss leisurely and talk about their plans for the weekend ahead. As she sweeps her messy curls into an unkempt bun, she realizes that these thoughts about Sharon are dominating her thoughts, though they’ve taken a different tone. It’s not just sex that she fantasizes about. She wishes for morning breath and hand holding and quarrels over who forgot to buy the milk and kisses in the rain. She wants it all.

She thought she wanted it with Fritz, but what she is coming to understand is that she wanted to want it.

She really, truly wants it with Sharon.

Impulsively, Brenda pulls her cell phone from her purse and sends a quick message.


“You comin’ to bed?” Fritz calls out. The sound of his voice surprises her after hours of quiet.

“In a minute.”

Sharon’s response comes only a few minutes later. Yes.

Relieved, Brenda deletes her messages and goes back into the bedroom. She can sleep now. She can make it another day.


Chapter Text

22. love was everywhere -- you just had to fall.

Sharon glances again at her phone, swiping left to review the time stamp. When Brenda texted to tell Sharon that she was on her way twenty minutes ago, Sharon had brushed her hair and changed her t-shirt twice before settling on a low-cut purple shirt and a pair of gray shorts. Pleased, and certain that Brenda will appreciate her assets, Sharon smiles and waits. She’ll be here any minute.

There’s a knock at the door, and her heart quickens. She does not stop to wonder how Brenda got into the building but instead she rushes to the door, pulling it open with a smile.

“Mom! Hey!” Ricky envelops her in a bone-crushing hug and Sharon must swallow her disappointment; she hasn’t seen her son in almost two months. His beard is fuller and his frame is a little more lanky than last time, but he looks good. Healthy. Happy.

Sharon feels like the worst mother for wishing he had come tomorrow instead.

“This certainly is a surprise! Is everything all right? I’m not used to my children just dropping by without a call first.”

“Can’t a grown man want to visit his mother without some sort of ulterior motive?”

She raises an eyebrow and beckons him inside. “I’m not sure I buy it, but I won’t complain.”

“You weren’t busy, right? Not that you look busy, but I know a ‘work at home’ outfit when I see one.”

She looks down at her clothing with a frown. Does she look bad? Too casual? She had wanted to showcase her legs and her cleavage, both weaknesses of Brenda’s, without dressing up, knowing the clothes would have ended up on the floor anyway.

“I’m not busy. I’m not working, either.” She thinks of Brenda, hopeful and on her way, and adds, “A friend is dropping by to borrow a book any minute now. Fix yourself something to eat and I’ll bring it down to her.”

“You can invite her up, you know. I don’t bite most of the time.”

Sharon rolls her eyes and, thinking fast, grabs the unfinished Michael Cunningham book from the table beside the couch. “I want you all to myself.” She grabs her keys and slips her feet into a pair of loafers. “I’ll be back.”

The elevator ride to the basement parking garage feels endless, and Sharon hopes that she has managed to catch Brenda before the woman talks her way past security into the complex. The last thing she wants is for Ricky and Brenda to meet without her there. She’s not ready for her children to know about Brenda, not until she knows where this is going.

Sharon is relieved to find as the elevator doors open that Brenda is just pulling in.

Brenda cuts the engine as Sharon pulls open the passenger side door. “I am so sorry,” Sharon says, dropping the book on top of the dashboard. “Ricky just showed up.”

“Oh,” Brenda replies with a frown, her shoulders drooping. “Well, I guess that happens when you’ve got kids.”

Sharon sighs. “I had no idea…I’ve missed you so much.”

Brenda smiles, her cheeks flaming with color. “Yeah?”

Sharon nods. “Very much.”

“Me too.” Brenda nods toward the book. “What’s that?”

Sharon chuckles. “My cover story. You don’t actually have to read it, but you might like it.”

The blonde leans forward, resting her hand on Sharon’s knee while she reads the title. “The Hours. What’s it about?”

“It’s one of my favorites. It’s about the lives of three women in a single day, and the choices they make for their own happiness.”

Brenda Leigh nods, stroking her thumb against the soft skin of Sharon’s knee. “I missed you,” she says, her voice solemn. It’s the most desolate Brenda has ever sounded, the closest to the reality of the situation.

“I’m here.”

“I suppose we don’t have long?”

Sharon shakes her head and, rather than hear that soft, sad voice, leans into kiss Brenda. It’s soft, and Sharon settles into the kiss. Even the tender touch of Brenda’s mouth against her own, no matter how sweet or gentle, is enough to ignite a fire in her that she has never experienced before. It overwhelms her and she allows that feeling to come through in the urgency of her kiss, slanting her mouth over her lover’s and swiping her tongue playfully at her lips. Brenda groans and opens her mouth, meeting Sharon’s tongue with her own.

It had been Sharon’s intention that she would simply sit with Brenda Leigh and enjoy whatever time she could before going back, alone, to her condo, but Brenda’s hands are in her hair and groping at her breast through her t-shirt, and Sharon is weak to stop herself. She pulls away, looking out the window to scan the parking lot for anyone who might see her when she maneuvers herself over the center console and straddles Brenda’s hips.

“Please let me,” Brenda whispers, her fingers gripping Sharon’s hips with urgency. Sharon shudders at the glimmer of desperation in the other woman’s dark chocolate eyes and she nods, leaning down to kiss her again. She spreads her knees as wide as she can, allowing the other woman what little access she can to slip her hand inside her shorts. It lacks finesse, and Sharon’s ass bumps the car horn, but Brenda reaches down with her free hand to ease the car seat back until they have a fraction more reclined space.

It’s enough; Brenda’s fingers are quick and sure and know just how to touch Sharon to make her come quick and hard. Sharon cries out, muffling a strangled sob into Brenda’s hair as she convulses against the other woman’s hand. Her body is uncomfortable in this awkward angle, but she settles herself against Brenda’s and savors the smell of her, the feel of her, the quiet throb of her heartbeat.

“I want to take my time with you,” Sharon says mournfully. She knows she has to get back inside, that she’ll have to be selfish just this once.

“Next time,” Brenda replies, kissing Sharon’s temple. “Now go, or I won’t let you outta this car.”

“I’ll make it up to you.”

“I know you will.”

They kiss again, and Sharon’s heart aches to leave her.


Chapter Text

23. we’re just beautiful people with beautiful problems.

“Why the long face?” the woman asks, her kind gray eyes observing Brenda closely as she pours another full glass of Merlot and slides it across the bar.

Brenda twists her lips in thought before she sighs. “My life’s gettin’ complicated.”

“Honey, whose life isn’t complicated?” she asks, her painted lips curled into a smirk that is all too reminiscent of Sharon’s. “Sometimes it helps to talk to someone about it.”

Brenda smiles. “Are you sayin’ I should unload all of my troubles on a complete stranger?”

The woman pushes her shaggy red hair from her face and extends a hand. “Name’s Mona.”

“Brenda.” She shakes the woman’s hand, which is rough and strong. So different from Sharon’s.

“Not strangers anymore. So -- shoot. You look like you need to vent.”

Brenda takes a long, healthy swallow of wine, followed by another. She considers her options: she could wallow and get drunk, or she could wallow, get drunk, and talk to a kind stranger. “I’ve been havin’ an affair.”

Mona’s eyes dart down to Brenda’s wedding ring. “Does your hubby know you’ve got another guy on the side?”

She shakes her head. “No.’s a woman, not another man.”

“Hoo boy,” Mona exclaims with a chuckle, pulling out a shot glass. She grabs a bottle and fills it with a clear liquid that looks lethal. “I think you’re gonna need this.”

Brenda eyes the drink warily. She thinks of Raydor, thinks of how desperate and sexy and wanton she had been in her car only an hour before, and she knocks back the shot without a second thought. It burns. “I can’t stop thinkin’ about her. It’s constant...even when I’m with my husband, she’s always on my mind.”

“How long has this been going on?”

Brenda shrugs. “Dunno. Years, maybe. The attraction, anyway. We didn’t act on anything until a few months ago. I thought maybe it might get her out of my system if I slept with her, but it only made it worse. I want her all the time. I want to be near her. I’d be happy just to sit and stare at her for hours.”

Mona nods. “You still feel that way about your old man?”

The blonde’s eyes fill with tears. “No. I dunno if I ever did.”

“Doesn’t sound all that complicated to me then.”

“Why not?”

“Because you’re in love with this woman, and not your husband. Sounds to me like you need to cut him loose and see where it goes with this woman.”

The suggestion hits Brenda like a train. Her chest hurts. “But...I made vows…”

“Honey, you broke those vows the second you acted on whatever feelings you have for this chick.” Brenda blanches, but Mona continues. “If the vows aren’t a good enough reason to keep you from cheating, they’re definitely not a good reason to hang on to him when you could both have a shot at being a whole lot happier.”

The reality check is harder to hear than she anticipates. “You don’t hold back, do ya?”

“Just calling it like I see it. Don’t take this the wrong way, Brenda, but it seems like you could use a cold dose of reality. You’re in a shitty situation but you’re still lucky. You’ve got happiness, which is a lot more than I see in here,” Mona explains, gesturing around her to the various men and women drowning their sorrows in booze.

“You charge by the hour?”

Mona chuckles. “Just by the drink.”

Brenda downs the rest of her drink, the stinging alcohol burning her throat as it goes down. She shifts uncomfortably on the bar stool; the combination of two glasses of wine, a shot of tequila, and unspent desire makes her feel unmoored. Her skin still prickles with the hard truth that’s just been laid out before her in five minutes -- faster than she’s ever come to the same conclusion on her own.

She has no idea what to do with it.


Chapter Text

24. i don’t know who i am without you, all i know is that i should

Brenda is the last to trail out of the media room, a calculated effort on her part. She hefts her purse over her shoulder and lingers behind. She watches. She listens.

Several feet ahead of her, Sharon talks with Andrea Hobbs. Brenda can only hear fragments of their conversation, but what she has heard is innocent enough -- they are congratulating each other on a successful conclusion to a messy case. Their supportive comments could be written off as congenial, two colleagues supporting each other in their joint efforts to ensure justice for a defenseless victim.

But this is...beyond that. Brenda has never seen Andrea tilt her head just so her hair will catch the light and fall over her shoulder. She’s never seen that knowing smile or the flirtatious lilt of her lips as they form a smirk.

Andrea Hobbs is definitely hitting on Sharon.

Jealousy coils in Brenda’s stomach, ugly and hot. Sharon is harder to read, much less open than Andrea who is all but throwing herself at the captain. Sharon’s smile is warm but not too warm -- not the way she smiles at Brenda. But she touches Andrea’s arm and smiles and smiles and smiles…

Brenda breezes past the two of them, kicking the door of her office shut behind her. She knows that both women are looking at her through the parted blinds of her office but Brenda will not give them the satisfaction of looking up or acknowledging the slam of her door. No, not when the acidic burn of jealousy is thick on her tongue.

It’s several minutes before a gentle knock sounds at her door. Sharon lets herself in. “Chief?”

“I’m pretty busy,” Brenda says dismissively, dropping her purse in her lap and pretending to dig around for something. She shuffles around a pile of keys, a spare ding dong, a twix wrapper, a crumpled post-it with “cat food” written on it. She does not look up.

“So I see.” Sharon leans back against the wall, her arms crossed over her chest. “What was that about?”

“What was what about?” She pulls out her cell phone and drops her purse onto the ground.

“Brenda Leigh.” Sharon exhales slowly. “Did it bother you that I was talking with Andrea?”

“Is that what they call it these days? Talkin’? Sure looked like more than just ‘talkin’.”

Sharon has always excelled at patience, and this appears to be no exception. “Andrea did ask me to dinner,” she offers calmly.

“How nice.” Brenda feels like crying or throwing up or both.

“I declined her offer, so you can stop sulking.”

“I’m not--”

“I told her I’m seeing someone else. She wanted to know who the lucky lady is, but I played coy. I can’t exactly tell her that I’m having an affair with a married woman.”

Brenda’s face flames and she’s disgusted with herself at how relieved she is. “You could’ve gone.”

Sharon rolls her eyes. “No, Brenda, I couldn’t. But next time you decide to have a tantrum about another person finding me attractive, just remember that I’ve put my life on hold while I see this affair through.”

The way Sharon says this sets Brenda’s teeth on edge, the mere thought that she’s seeing the affair through to its conclusion, implying that it will inevitably end. The idea of it makes her feel sick to her stomach. She wants to tell her that she never asked her to put her life on hold, but isn’t that exactly what she did? Didn’t they decide it together, silently agreeing that they were committing to -- what? Fooling around? Falling in love?

No -- she can’t let herself go there. She can’t acknowledge her feelings, not when she’s supposed to have those feelings for the man she married.

When, exactly, did she fall out of love with Fritz and in love with Sharon?

“Where did you go, Brenda Leigh?” The captain’s voice is softer, gentler. There is concern in her eyes.


Sharon raises an eyebrow and says nothing. Instead, she glances over her shoulder into the Murder Room. “Tonight?” she asks.

“Yes. Tonight.” What Brenda doesn’t say is that the possibility of tonight is the only thing getting her through the week, that she doesn’t care if they sleep together or talk or fight as long as they do it together.

Sharon nods. She looks -- not unhappy, but not happy either. It breaks Brenda’s heart.


Chapter Text

25. take another little piece of my heart.

Brenda tucks her legs beneath her on the couch, resting her elbow on the arm. Joel is curled up between her and Fritz, his slender orange body stirring only with the steady motion of his breathing. She wiggles her toes against his soft fur and smiles. Fritz, on the other end of the sofa, is watching a baseball game and tapping the remote control against his calf. Brenda could not care less what’s on the screen.

She glances at her phone, feigning disinterest in whatever new content may await her. Sharon’s last text message had been brief and to the point. I can’t stop thinking about you.

Feeling brave, fueled by Fritz’s complete lack of interest in her sitting beside him, sends back a response. Whatcha thinking about? She feels a thrill shoot through her, not knowing how the other woman will respond. She hopes it will be explicit, outlining just exactly what the captain would do to her if they were in the same room. She knows she’s playing with fire, texting Sharon this candidly in the presence of her husband, but she cannot deny that the risk is exciting.

Sharon is slow to respond, so Brenda checks her email again and then finally looks up at the screen. “Who’s winnin’?” she asks, glancing over at her husband. He is rigid on the sofa, his shoulders tense.

“The Mets.”

Brenda nods as if she cares about this. She looks at her phone; Sharon’s text conversation indicates that she is typing, and Brenda stifles an anticipatory smile. Right now, across town, Sharon is thinking about her. It sends a frisson of excitement through her core.

I’m thinking about how good you taste.

Brenda’s sex clenches in response. She shifts slightly, readjusting herself so that her heel is pressed against her body. She taps out a quick response. I wish I could come over for dessert.

You could, you know. I’m all alone in my big, lonely bed.

She wants nothing more than to grab her keys and go, to leave Fritz and his mood and be where she is wanted. Between the two of them, they’ve “worked late” every night this week. This is the first time they’ve been home (and awake) with each other in nine days. I can’t leave right now. It pains her to type this.

Sharon is silent. Fritz continues tapping the remote. He doesn’t look at her.

Irritated at having somehow managed to upset the two most intimate people in her life, Brenda turns her body to face him. “What’s goin’ on with you? You seem grumpy.”

He exhales slowly, the way he does when he’s annoyed, and hits the ‘mute’ button on the remote control. “You know what makes me feel grumpy? When instead of asking about my day, or my week, or hell -- my month -- you assume I must be grumpy.”

His month? She hasn’t asked him how he is in a month? She knows she’s been distracted, but she cannot help but feel like he’s being dramatic just to punish her. It wouldn’t be the first time.

“That’s not fair. I ask you how you’re doin’ all the time.”

He looks at her, the hard set of his jaw making him look older. The kindness in his face is long gone. “When was the last time you actually wanted to know the answer?”

“Why are you bein’ like this?”

“Well, gee, I don’t know, Brenda. It couldn’t possibly have anything to do with us, now could it?”

And, because she and Fritz are finally having a real conversation, her phone vibrates its announcement that there is a waiting text message for her to view. She can’t help herself.

She looks. It’s from Sharon.

Fritz stands up then, turning off the television. “Give it some thought when you’re not too busy,” he says, gesturing toward the phone. “I’m going to a meeting.”

“You say that every time we have a serious conversation. Do I make you wanna drink that often?”

He says nothing, which says everything.

Brenda’s stomach hurts. She curls her arm around her waist and watches him. She swallows the lump in her throat. “What kind of marriage is this if I’m puttin’ your sobriety in jeopardy?”

Fritz runs his hands through his hair with a sigh. The anger goes out of him. He looks deflated and tired. “I don’t know, Brenda, but we need to figure it out, because I’m not sure I can keep doing this.”

With this, Fritz grabs his keys from the kitchen table and walks out the door.

Heart pounding, Brenda reaches for her phone. Change of plans. I’m coming over.


Chapter Text

26. i’m not asking forever from you -- i’m just asking to be held for a while

Sharon knows better. She’s pushing sixty. She’s a police officer, for christ’s sake. She should know that nothing good will come of this affair with Brenda, but Lord help her -- here she is, fucking her from behind and pulling her hair and grinding her own hips against her ass.

She can’t get enough of her.

Brenda comes with a guttural shout, shaking so hard with the intensity of her orgasm that her elbows buckle and she falls forward onto her forearms. The sight of perspiration coating Brenda’s lower back, of her head resting on her arms, of Sharon’s fingers pulling out of her body still coated in arousal, is enough to ignite another surge of desire. She’s too damn old for this.

They collapse together in a heap on the bed, arms and legs tangled together. They share Sharon’s pillow. Their noses almost touch. It’s so intimate and she loves Brenda so much that her heart aches.

“How’d you get so good at that?”

Sharon smirks. “I am a woman of many talents.”

“You certainly are.” She leans in and kisses Sharon softly, sweetly.

Sharon takes a few steady breaths before asking the question she dreads every time: “Do you have to leave?”

Brenda is quiet for a moment before she says, “I could stay tonight, if you’ll have me.”

Sharon raises an eyebrow. “Won’t Fritz notice that you’re not at home?”

Brenda sighs and rolls onto her back, unabashed with her nudity. She wipes her hair back from her forehead. “We had a fight before I came over. I don’t think we really wanna be around each other right now. He left to go to a meetin’, so I came here.”

“So you’re saying that you came here because you didn’t want to be at home with your husband, with whom you are fighting.”

Brenda rolls her eyes. “I came here because I wanted to be with you. The fact that we had a fight was beside the point.”

Sharon nods. Her stomach coils at the thought of being used but clings to the fact that Brenda wanted her, chose her. “Do you want to tell me about the fight?”

The blonde arches an eyebrow. “Really? We don’t usually talk about Fritz.”

“Sure. He is your husband, after all.”

“In name, I guess he is. It just doesn’t feel like a marriage anymore. Y’know, I texted him to say that I was going to stay with a friend tonight and he told me that I don’t have any friends. Isn’t that rich?”

“Is that what we are? Friends?”

“You’re my friend,” Brenda says, rolling onto her side and stroking Sharon’s arm. “You’re also my Sharon.”

“What do you want, Brenda? Out of all this?”

Brenda shrugs. “I want to keep seein’ you.”

“And what about your marriage?” Sharon licks her suddenly dry lips.

“What about it?”

“You’re both clearly unhappy with each other. Forgive me for saying this, but I don’t think you’d be sleeping with me if you weren’t.”

Brenda says nothing.

“I can’t tell you what to do, but Brenda? I don’t know how much longer I can continue being your secret lover. The guilt and the shame aren’t sitting well with me the longer this goes on.”

“This sounds an awful lot like I’m getting my second ultimatum of the evenin’,” Brenda spits back defensively. “I didn’t know you were so ashamed to be sleepin’ with me.”

“I’m not ashamed of you -- I’m ashamed of myself for getting so involved with a married woman. This isn’t something I do, Brenda Leigh. I don’t go falling for married people. I don’t even know what you want or where you see this going. That doesn’t mean I’m making an ultimatum -- it means that you’ve got some thinking to do.”

Brenda is silent, staring above her at the ceiling. She twists her lips in that infuriatingly endearing way, the way she does when she is deep in thought. “I know I have a lot of thinking to do. Uh. You should know that I’m fallin’ for you too, Sharon. This ain’t easy for me either.”

The captain softens, reaching out to place her hand on Brenda’s belly. “I know.”

“I could go to a hotel…”

“No,” Sharon says firmly. “Stay with me.”

Brenda lights up at this, and Sharon feels as if her heart may burst. She pulls Brenda close and kisses her shoulder. She’ll take what she can get.


Chapter Text

27. you can only remember what you want to forget.

When the elevators part to reveal a haggard and irritated Fritz Howard, Sharon considers hiding her face behind the stack of manila folders she has clutched to her chest. She desperately wants to duck behind the nearby potted plant or, better yet, sink through the floor, but he has already stepped to the side of the elevator to make room for her. The expression on his face hardens.

She braces herself with a deep, fortifying breath and nods her hello. He nods back.

It is not until the doors close and the elevator begins to ascend that he turns to look at her, an intense accusatory glint in his eye. “I assume you’re the friend Brenda’s been staying with.”

“Agent Howard--”

“Let’s just drop the pretense, okay? She doesn’t have any other friends. You’re the only person she talks about. I always thought she hated you.”

“So did I,” she finds herself saying. “Things change.”

“I feel like I'm living with a goddamn stranger,” he confesses, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Will you do me a favor and send her home? Or ask her to make up her mind about what she wants?” His voice is hard, tense. Tired.

Sharon swallows, her tongue feeling like sandpaper. “I don’t think it’s appropriate that I get involved.”

“You’re already involved. She’s crashing on your sofa.”

Sharon stares straight ahead, her mind flashing to what she and Brenda did last night on her sofa. She counsels herself not to blush at the memory, or to think too hard about the small purple bruise Brenda Leigh left on the inside of her thigh.

He sighs. “I get it. You don't want to be in the middle, so don't be. Send her home where she belongs.”

Sharon feels sick to her stomach. She hasn't allowed herself to think about Brenda belonging to anyone but Brenda herself. Sharon, at least, has never wanted to possess Brenda. She's only ever wanted to love her.

It's startling to confront the reality of her situation. Fritz has been in the picture long before she has. Brenda committed to him, made vows, made a life. Sharon doesn't know about their marriage, not really -- she's only caught glimpses of the two of them together. They've never seemed particularly happy or unhappy; they've only ever been a fact. The sky is blue. The grass is green. Brenda is married to Fritz.

Brenda is also sleeping with Sharon, and guilt churns uncomfortably in her stomach. Sharon, at least, is separated from her husband. There is no longer an expectation of fidelity in her marriage. But here is Brenda’s husband, in all of his anguished glory, ignorant to what's truly happening right before his eyes.

“All right, Agent Howard,” she says quietly, steadying her voice to keep out any shred of emotion. “I'll send her home.”


Chapter Text

28. there’s blood in my mouth ‘cuz i’ve been biting my tongue all week.

Sharon is cooking dinner when she hears a quick rap of knuckles against the front door before the key slides into the lock. She knows it’s Brenda -- she had given her the spare key that morning before leaving for work as if it had been the most natural thing in the world. She wonders how to ask for the key back now that it is likely nestled comfortably on Brenda’s key ring, right next to her own house key.

Her stomach churns, and she vigorously jostles the vegetables in the frying pan.

“Yoohoo! Sharon!” Brenda follows her nose, dumping her large tote bag onto the dining room table. “Smells delicious!”

Sharon smiles at her -- it's impossible not to smile at the woman you love -- and adds pasta into the pan to mix with homemade pesto. “How was your day?”

“Oh -- fine,” she says, hopping onto a stool at the island. “We are this close to catchin’ our suspect though, and if only Will would approve our overtime we coulda had it wrapped up, but I s’pose we’ll catch him tomorrow.” Brenda pauses thoughtfully, watching Sharon closely. “How was yours? Bad day?”

Sharon stirs the pasta more than necessary before turning off the heat. She sets down the spoon and turns her body to face the deputy chief, bracing herself for a conversation she does not want to have. “What are we doing here, Brenda?”

The blonde blinks, her doe eyes studying Sharon closely. “We’re….talkin’ about our days, I thought. Gettin’ ready to have some dinner.”

“We’re playing house.”

Brenda laughs breathlessly. “Is that so bad?”

“Yes, Brenda Leigh, it is. You have a house of your own. You have a husband. We can’t be pretending here when we both know it’s not going to last.”

“Where’s this comin’ from? You didn’t have a problem with us playin’ house last night if I remember correctly.”

Sharon blushes at the memory but pushes these thoughts aside. She'll lose her resolve if she allows herself to become distracted. “I saw your husband today. He’s a wreck, Brenda. He asked me to send you home.”

“I -- What? -- What did you say to him?”

“I didn’t tell him about us. Give me more credit than that.” She sighs, pushing back her hair. “I told him I’d talk to you. What else could I say without giving anything away? You have to go home.”

“I thought you liked me bein’ here.”

“I do, probably too much. I can’t have you here knowing that you’re stringing us both along. He suspects something, Brenda. The longer you stay, the worse it’ll get.” Sharon sighs again. “You have a choice to make. You need to figure out what you want.”

“There's that ultimatum again.”

“I suppose you're right.”

Sharon watches as Brenda slides off the stool and gathers up her purse. With her back to Sharon, Brenda fights with her key ring to remove Sharon's key. She can feel the words heavy on her tongue. Stay here with me a little longer, she wants to tell her. I'm afraid you'll choose him. But Sharon says nothing and simply watches as Brenda looks at her, her dark eyes troubled.

“I'll see ya, Sharon.”

The brunette nods. “I'll be here.”

Sharon doesn't watch as Brenda makes her way to the door. Instead, she pours the pasta into a large Tupperware container and wraps her arms around herself, unsure of when she'll see Brenda again.


Chapter Text

29. your presence still lingers here and it won’t leave me alone.

Sharon hoists herself onto the high barstool, careful not to jostle her overpriced martini. It’s Brenda Leigh Pink -- a cosmo, she suspects -- and it tastes lethal. Nevertheless, she’s on her second round and regrets nothing.

She’s proud of herself for not checking her phone since she entered the bar; she doesn’t expect to hear from Brenda, and staring at a dark screen is not what she needs to be doing right now. Instead, she turns to Gavin and rests her hand on his forearm. “Thank you for taking me out tonight, Gavin. I really needed this.”

“I could tell. I’d need a drink too if I were shacking up with La Johnson.” He withers under her glare. “Sorry. Too soon?”

Sharon swats at his arm. “Tell me how you’ve been. I’ve been a terrible friend.”

“I didn’t like to say…”

She rolls her eyes, sipping her martini.

Gavin launches into tales of his recent trip to Morocco, complete with photos and charming anecdotes, and Sharon allows herself to be steered in whichever direction he wishes to lead her. It feels good to laugh, to speak about handsome men and beautiful women without the sting of jealousy or the heartache of her reality.

As she knocks back the last of her martini, her phone begins to vibrate on the small table, a photo of Brenda Leigh filling the screen.

“You’ve got to be joking,” Gavin says, snatching up the phone.

“Gavin, give me the--”

But Gavin has already answered the call and brought the phone to his ear. “This had better be important, Miss Thang, because you are interrupting -- oh. Right. Uh, one moment, please.” His carefree expression has been replaced with one of concern, and Sharon tenses her shoulders as she takes the cellphone.

“Brenda, honey, what is it? What’s going on?” She hops off her stool, walking toward the long, quiet corridor housing the bar’s bathrooms. She sticks her finger in her free ear. “Brenda?”

There’s a sniffle on the other end of the line, a sound she has never associated with the other woman. “My momma died this mornin’. We were supposed to have a talk -- a real talk -- and, well, I s’pose it don’t matter now.”

Sharon’s heart aches for Brenda, for Clay, for the loss of Willie Rae. “I’m so sorry, Brenda. What happened?”

She can almost hear the other woman shrug. “Her heart stopped. We don’t know the results of her autopsy but they suspect it’s entirely natural.” She laughs, a hollow stab of a sound. “As if it’s natural to be fine all curled up with your husband one minute and then--” Brenda breaks off, her voice muffled in what Sharon assumes is a glass of Merlot.

“What can I do? I could come over--”

Brenda cries in earnest for only a moment before her voice clears. “No. Fritz is here. We’re gettin’ ready to head back home to Atlanta. I just...I needed you to know.”

Sharon nods, though she knows Brenda cannot see her. “I’ll look after everything, Brenda Leigh. I promise.”

Brenda’s voice is small when she whispers, “I wish you were gonna be there.”

A pang hits Sharon’s heart. “Oh sweetie, me too. But I’ll be right here when you get back. Focus on your family. I’ll take care of everything else.”


Chapter Text

30. it’s the bitter taste of losing everything that i’ve held so dear

Brenda lies awake, staring at the ceiling. Fritz sleeps beside her, the steady rise and fall of his chest soothing in the darkness of her childhood bedroom. She wishes that she were comforted by him rather than by the idea of him; having another warm body in the room makes her feel like she’s still tethered to the earth, but he’s not the one she wants.

It’s warm; the overhead fan whirs and ticks and she watches it go, wide awake. A glance at the clock confirms her suspicion: it’s 4am. It’s been four days since she left LA. Four days since she’s spoken to Sharon. Five days since her Mama died.

Grief clenches at her heart, its grip tighter than ever. She wonders again, for perhaps the thousandth time, what her mother wanted to talk to her about. She’ll never know. She’ll never hear her mother’s voice again. She’ll never have her mother meddle in her life, or pick out ugly clothes for her at Christmastime, or tell her she loves her.

With a heavy, bracing breath, Brenda gets out of bed, readjusting the strap of her tank top before pulling her shorts up over her bare legs. She looks back at Fritz and quietly heads downstairs, grateful that her father and brothers are still asleep. She doesn’t want to talk. She wants to have a glass of her father’s twelve-year-old Scotch and grieve.

She pours herself a generous glass, sitting down at the kitchen table that was made by her grandfather. She sits in her father’s chair and glances at the empty seat across from her: her mother’s chair. Her mother will never sit there again. She sips the bitter liquid, wincing as it burns down her throat. It hurts, and she’s glad.

Why hadn’t she taken the time to talk to her? Why hadn’t she realized that she wouldn’t have another chance?

It’s unfair, and Brenda knows that it’s her own damn fault. She prioritized herself as usual, too focused on her own work and selfish needs.

And now it’s too late.

She swallows back a wave of nausea and chases it with Scotch. There’s nothing that will fill this empty void inside of her, though she aches for Sharon. Sharon would know what to do. She would know how to handle a grief that feels like drowning. She’d keep Brenda afloat.

What would she say to Sharon if she were here?

I love you.

She tastes the words on her tongue and whispers them, testing how they feel. It feels genuine. It feels real. It feels right.

What, then, would she say to Fritz?

“Can’t sleep?”

Brenda feels a chill course through her, freezing her to the core. She doesn’t turn to look at her husband as he stands behind her. “No,” she replies, taking a generous sip of her Scotch.

Fritz enters the kitchen, going to the sink. He helps himself to a glass from the dish strainer and fills it with water, the faucet dripping after he turns it off. He leans back against the counter and looks at her sleepily. “You okay?”


He stifles a yawn and his tired face is sympathetic. “It’s okay not to be okay right now. It’ll get easier. Your mom--”

“Fritz, I want a divorce.”

“--was--” He goes silent and stares at her. “What?”

“We aren't workin’ anymore. It's time we accept it.”

He laughs, disbelief in his expression. She watches his face change as he takes in her serious expression; his eyes grow dark, his smile disappears. “Where is this coming from? You've had a shock. Your mother died, but Brenda--”

She shakes her head and holds up a hand to stop him. She can’t argue with him about this -- she can’t have him try to rationalize and psychoanalyze and categorize her feelings. She wants, simply, to put an end to their suffering. “Fritz, I’m...I’m havin’ an affair.” Brenda looks him in the eye, forcing herself not to look away. She deserves to see his world crumble apart as a consequence of her selfish actions. “I’m sorry.”

“You’re having an affair and you want a divorce and you’re sorry?”


“And you chose to tell me now, in Atlanta, with five hours until your mother’s funeral.” He sets his glass in the sink before gripping the edge of the counter with both hands until his knuckles turn white.

“I needed to tell you. It wasn’t fair not to tell you.”

“What’s not fair, Brenda, is that you did something warranting a confession to begin with.” He looks away from her as if he can’t bear looking at her. He shakes his head.

“I know.” She licks her lips, wondering when her throat went so dry. Her mouth feels like sandpaper. “I should never have done anythin’ but it happened and... “ She takes a fortifying sip of Scotch. “You an’ I have been so unhappy. I didn’t go lookin’ for it.”

“So that’s your excuse? We go through a rough patch and you fuck someone else? Who is it?”

“Does it matter?”

He runs his hand through his hair before sitting down at the table in her mother’s chair. He props his elbows on the tabletop and sighs. “I guess it doesn’t, though I bet if I thought about it, I would have a pretty good idea who it is.”

She says nothing. Fritz clasps his hands, and she catches his glance linger on the amber liquid in her glass. She wraps her hands protectively around the glass. “We both know that this isn’t just a rough patch.”

He looks away.

“I expected you to be angrier.”

He shrugs. His eyes are red-rimmed and glassy. “I can’t say I’m surprised. You’ve been so distant lately.”

“You’ve been distant too.”

“But I didn’t cheat, Brenda,” he replies, raising his voice. He sheepishly glances toward the hallway. “Can’t we...could we try to fix it?”

“Can you honestly look me in the eye and tell me you actually wanna fix this, Fritzi? Cuz I don’t think you can.”

He looks at her and opens his mouth. He says nothing.

“I didn’t think so.”

“So that’s it then. You’re leaving me for someone else.”

“I’m not leavin’ you for anyone. The affair isn’t why I want a divorce. I want us to have the chance to be happy again while we still have time, and it’s not gonna happen if we stay together.”

Fritz licks his lips and props his chin on his clasped hands. “I’ll sleep on the couch. I’ll stay for the funeral but then I’m going home. You can tell your family whatever you want but I can’t be here.”


“I knew something was going on, but I wouldn’t let myself go there. I thought I mattered more to you than that. You just couldn’t think about someone else first, could you?”

Tears sting at her eyes. “I’m sorry. I really am.”

“So you keep saying.” He gets up from the table. “I don’t want your apologies. I just want to get this day over with and go home.” His gaze, steely and cold, fixes on her. “And I want you to move out.”

She nods and watches him go.

She downs the rest of her Scotch, wincing as it goes down her throat. She’d expected to feel relieved, but she just feels guilty and empty and lost.


Chapter Text

31. all i ever wanted was the world.

Brenda allows herself a pitiful sniffle as she burrows into her father’s armchair in the den, cradling the half-empty bottle of Scotch. Fritz is gone. Her momma is gone. She is alone.

She can feel the press of her cell phone in her pocket and wonders again what Sharon is doing. It’s 11pm in Los Angeles; Sharon could still be awake, thinking about Brenda too. She hopes she is. The idea that they might be thinking of each other makes Brenda feel warm inside.

“Whatcha think?” comes a voice in the doorway, interrupting Brenda’s maudlin thoughts.

Brenda looks up and laughs in spite of herself to see Jimmy wearing one of their mother’s tacky Christmas vests. This one has a snowman riding in a sleigh. “You look ridiculous,” she says, wiping an errant tear from her cheek.

“I knew you’d be awake, so I brought one for you too.” He hands her a red vest with floating Santa heads interspersed with “Ho Ho Ho!” She rolls her eyes but unfolds her body long enough to slip into the vest. She can smell her mother’s perfume.

“I swear,” her brother says, dropping his tall, lanky frame at the end of the sofa nearest to Brenda, “that our mother had more sweater vests than a gay man.”

“You would know.”

“I’ll have you know that I’ve never owned a sweater vest in my life. Frank on the other hand…” He reaches out a hand. “Hey, don’t bogart the hooch.”

She hands him the bottle, resting her chin on her knee as she watches him take a large sip. “You gonna take any of Mama’s things back to New York with you?”

He twists his lips in thought. “Yes, though I don’t know what. I guess we’ll have to start divvying and packing tomorrow.”

Brenda groans. The task of packing her mother’s possessions for donation feels insurmountable -- too soon, too fresh.

“At least we’ve got help. Joyce probably already has a clipboard ready.”

Brenda rolls her eyes. “Tomorrow will be endless…”

“Yep.” Jimmy runs his hand through his short brown hair. “It’s all downhill after you bury your mother.”

Brenda recalls the casket being lowered into the ground, the feel of the dirt against her palm before she tossed it into the grave. Her heart aches.

“So, uh, are we gonna talk about the elephant in the room?” he asks, handing her back the bottle.

Here it comes, she thinks, taking a bracing swallow of liquor. “Which one?”

“You know which one.” Jimmy raises an eyebrow. “Where’s Fritz?”

“He went home.” She twists her lips and bites the inside of her cheek.

“How nice of him to stay for our mother’s burial and then bail. Why’d he go?”

“We’re splittin’ up.”

“Oh. Well, shit, Brenda Leigh. I had no idea...I was expecting you to say that he went home to work or something. I was ready to be indignant on your behalf.”

Brenda shrugs and passes the Scotch back to her brother.

“You wanna talk about what happened?”

“There ain’t much to talk about. It’s the right thing to do. There’s, um, another woman in the picture.”

Jimmy gapes at her. “Seriously? I didn’t know the guy had it in him.”

Brenda grabs for the bottle, taking a swig as her cheeks flame. Even in the dark, Jimmy can read her silence. He gasps.

“No way!” He laughs, perching himself higher on the couch. “I can’t...oh my god. I knew I couldn’t be the only gay in the village, but I had no idea it would be you!”

Brenda groans, hiding her face in her knees. “Ugh. Don’t tease. It’s not becomin’.”

“I’m sorry. I’m just delighted! I had no idea my kid sister secretly liked girls.”

“I don’t like girls. I like one girl.”

“Same thing.”

“Is not.”

“Is t-- You know what, fine. Who’s the lucky lady?”

“A woman from work. She’s...she’s nice.”

“That’s it? That’s all you’re gonna give me?”

“What else do you want?”

“I need to know everything, obviously. I can’t believe you’re a secret rug muncher!”

She rolls her eyes at him.

“Is she cute? Is she blonde too? I’ll just bet she’s blonde.”

“She’s a brunette, actually.”

“Do you have a photo?”

Brenda pulls out her phone, scrolling through her camera roll until she finds a photo of Sharon from the self-defense training. It’s the only photo that Brenda has, much to her chagrin, but it will do. Sharon is smiling in the photo, making her look like sunshine. She hands Jimmy the phone.

“She is cute. Good for you, Brenda Leigh.” He’s silent for a moment before he asks, “So what are you gonna do now?”

“I have no idea what I’m doin’.”

“Well, honey, you’d better figure it out soon.”

Brenda looks down at the photo, her heart swollen with longing. “I know, Jimmy. I know.”


Chapter Text

32. my love is like a blanket -- it’s a little bit too warm sometimes

Sharon tugs at her jacket, smoothing out the day’s wear. She considers a detour to the restroom to check her hair, her makeup, but decides against it: she’s waited all day for this moment, and prolonging it will only make her more uneasy.

As she lets herself into the Murder Room with her swipecard, Sharon is relieved to note that the remainder of the Major Crimes team has gone home. The floor is empty, save one lingering officer.

When she reaches the doorway of Brenda’s office, Sharon finds the blonde sitting in her chair, looking out at the city through the tall office windows. The sun has set hours ago, and the lights that glitter the landscape twinkle invitingly. It’s fun out here, they beckon, but there’s nowhere else Sharon would rather be.

She lets herself in and sits in the chair across from Brenda, unbuttoning her jacket as she makes herself comfortable. Brenda does not turn around. “I wondered if you’d come.”

“Did you doubt I would?”

Brenda swivels around, a smile on her tired face. “No.”

“I didn’t expect to see you back today,” Sharon says. “I had hoped to have everything wrapped up with Gabriel before you got back. I didn’t want you to have to be involved in the thick of it.”

“No, it’s good that I was here. It’s my team. It’s my responsibility to see it through.” She sighs. Her eyes are red, and Sharon wonders if Brenda cried over the betrayal of her colleague.

“How are you handling everything?”

“About as well as you’d think,” she replies, offering a sad smile. “I told Fritz about the affair. I asked for a divorce.”

Sharon blinks, the words hitting her like a freight train. “You told your husband about us.”

“I didn’t tell him it’s you, but he probably suspects.”

Sharon nods. “Okay.” She breathes out, hoping to loosen the knot in her gut. “Okay. I can’t say I was expecting this.”

“That’s okay. Neither did I. It was can’t lose a parent and not change in some kind of way. He needed to know. It wasn’t right for me to keep lyin’ to him.”

Sharon has a thousand questions and bites her tongue, holding back a litany of jumbled responses. “How do you feel?”

“Guilty. Relieved though, mostly. Look, Sharon --” Brenda begins, sitting up straighter in her chair. Her hands are restless in her lap, and Sharon doesn’t have to be CIA-trained to read Brenda’s body language.

“It’s all right, Brenda Leigh. We don’t have to do this.”

“No -- listen, just...hear me out.” Brenda licks her lips, and Sharon’s shoulders tense. “We jumped into somethin’....somethin’ special, and we probably shouldn’t have. But that doesn’t mean I regret what happened. I don’t think I’m ready to rush into another relationship just yet.”

Here it is, then. “I see.”

Brenda narrows her eyes and twists her lips. “I don’t think you do. I’m not sayin’ this right. All I want is for you an’ me to take this slow. If you still want to.”

Take it slow. Take it slow. Take it slow. “I do. Very much.”

Brenda nods. “All right. Good.”

Sharon breathes out, exhaling the tension. “What do you need?”

The younger woman runs her fingers through her hair. “Sleep. I’ve gotta find a hotel for tonight. I came straight here from the airport this morning.”

“Do you want to stay with me?” Sharon quickly adds, “I have a guest room.”

“I’d love to, but I shouldn’t. I need to be on my own, I think. But...maybe I could come over for dinner tomorrow?”

“I’d like that.”

Brenda smiles at her, and this time the smile reaches her eyes. “Me too.”