A/n: I don't own anything. Trigger warning this story has depictions of violence and it mentions rape but no rape takes place.

Prompt: I'm right here

It was 2 o'clock in the morning when Sharon Raydor's phone rang, dragging her out of a restless sleep. "Raydor," she grumbled into the phone. Even though she hadn't been sleeping well to begin with, she disliked the idea of having to get out of bed even more.

"Captain, I need you at an officer involved shooting immediately." Assistant Chief William Pope spoke loudly into the phone, causing the Captain to pull it away from her ear a little. It was strange for Pope to be calling her directly at such a late hour, usually it was a Commander or Captain from another division stuck with the late night roll outs. She sat up reaching for her glasses. "I will send you the address. Quickly Captain."

The line went dead before she could even answer. A moment later a text filled her screen and she opened it. The second the address came into focus, Sharon was out of bed and throwing on clothes. That was Brenda's address. Sharon had been spending more and more of her free time at the other woman's apartment lately. There was something wonderful happening between them, and Sharon had been more happy in the past few weeks than she had been in a very long time.

As she rushed into the bathroom to wrangle her hair, she tried to dial Brenda's number. No answer. She put on minimal make up and pulled her hair up in a clip. She would worry about doing her hair correctly after she left the scene and after she made sure Brenda was fine.

Ten minutes after she received the call Sharon grabbed her coat and was out the door riding the elevator down to the parking garage. She made it to Brenda's in a record 12 minutes from her condo. Pulling up to the scene, she was impressed by the amount of emergency and police vehicles already there.

As she exited the car, she made eye contact with the Priority Homicide Division that was huddled up on the yard just outside of the red crime scene tape her own team had already put up. She nodded to Lieutenant Provenza when he raised an eyebrow at her. It was funny how her relationship with the PHD squad had begun to get more friendly in recent weeks. She knew that was because Brenda had probably threatened them or something.

As she crossed under the red tape and started up the driveway, she was immediately met by Chief Pope and her own Lieutenant Elliot. "Captain," Pope said, turning to walk towards the house and she followed. Sharon was working very hard to keep her emotions in check and her face as neutral as possible. "This investigation needs to be 100% by the book and handled with the utmost care."

"Certainly Chief, but can you tell me what happened? Where is Bren-Deputy Chief Johnson?"

"I'm right here." Sharon's heart almost leapt out of her chest as the voice registered in her mind. Sharon spun on her heel, looking for the other woman. Brenda was in the back of an ambulance getting checked out. Sharon's heart absolutely sank when she looked the blonde over. Brenda was sporting a rather dark black eye and there was bruising on her arms peeking out from under her shirt. A busted lip, oozing the smallest amount. A cut on her arm that was bandaged but beginning to bleed through, probably she needed stitches. The Captain figured there were other injuries hidden underneath the clothing as well. Sharon found the other woman's eyes and held her gaze trying to ask if she was alright, even though she knew the Chief was far from alright. Brenda after a few seconds looked down and away. Sharon saw embarrassment and was that shame flash across the other woman's face.

"You can take her statement in a moment, come with me Captain." Sharon glared at Will, but as he turned toward the house Sharon stayed where she was.

When Brenda didn't look up at her, Sharon's heart sank. "I'll be right back," she whispered to the other woman before looking her over again and turning away. She instantly felt sick to her stomach. The look in Brenda's eyes was not one that she had ever seen before and that scared her.

She met Pope at the familiar doorway and could feel Elliot close on her heels. There was no one inside, no crime scene techs or other investigators, it was completely empty. She was sure Pope had kept everyone out until she got there. He still had feelings for Brenda, everyone knew it too. She and Elliot followed the Chief into the house, and Sharon was shocked to find the place looking as though a tornado had blown through. There was furniture flipped over. The couch her and Brenda had occupied many times before was pushed back and into the wall, cushions all over the place. Broken glass littered the floor from the coffee table that was smashed. Pictures were crooked or knocked off the wall. Sharon looked around and wanted to kill whoever had done this.

This was an extended struggle. There was a bloody handprint on the wall leading to the kitchen. Carefully she wound her way through the debris to the kitchen. That was when she saw him lying dead in the middle of the kitchen floor. He was face down, but Sharon knew who it was without a doubt. She released a breath she had been holding. Brian Lee Atwood. The serial rapist and murderer the LAPD and LA County Sheriff's Department had been hunting for the past two months. Brenda had been the head of the taskforce after the elusive killer and the face of the case to the media.

Brenda had been so sure from the second she took the investigation over from the Sheriff that she was being followed. Sharon had even stayed the night on the couch a few times because Brenda was too scared to go to sleep. Sharon was touched that Brenda trusted her to keep guard while she got a few hours sleep, but mostly it had been heartbreaking to see the woman so tightly wound and utterly destroyed. However, Brenda had refused to let up. She had been relentless, and Sharon knew she had been closing in on him.

Just yesterday they found an old high school friend that Atwood had killed and stuffed in a freezer so that he could live in his house. There was evidence that Brian had fled LA, but Brenda hadn't believed it for a second. Nonetheless, she hadn't been able to convince the brass-including Pope-and they had ordered her to hand over the case to the FBI within the next 48 hours. Sharon turned and gave Chief Pope her sternest glare she could. What she really wanted to do was punch him.

"I know," he sighed. At least there was that. "Just be sure there is no liability and this can't come back on the department… or Brenda...in any way." He turned and left her with Elliot.

Yeah he wanted to cover his own ass for not putting a protective detail on Brenda when she voiced her concern about being stalked.

"What do you want to do, Captain?"

The things she wanted to do weren't legal, but she kept that to herself and focused on the situation at hand.

"To start, let's get the rest of the team in here. I want every single thing documented before anything is moved. I want SID to go over every inch." Elliot nodded as he wrote in his notepad. "Run ballistics on Chief Johnson's weapon compared to the bullets inside this man. Get Morales too. No one, but Morales touches the body. Let me know what time the autopsy is."

"Yes, ma'am."

Sharon didn't have any doubt that Brenda had defended herself, but she wanted to make sure no one else doubted it either. Everyone knew that Brenda wanted this man dead, and Sharon wanted to make sure they saw this was a legal/lawful act of self-defense, not a vendetta.

Elliot cleared his throat. "What about Chief Johnson?"

Sharon weighed her options. "The Chief needs to go to the hospital to be checked out. I will take her statement there."

"Shouldn't we take-" Elliot shook his head. "Yes ma'am."

Sharon looked at the man. She knew he was going to say they should take her statement here and do a walk through with her, but he didn't. He was going to be a good soldier. One more look around and she turned to leave, over her shoulder she said, "70 hours Lieutenant let's get moving."

Outside, she found Lieutenants Provenza and Flynn waiting for her. Any other time she would order them behind the line and away from her investigation but not tonight. She understood their need to protect the Chief. "Gentlemen."

"Captain, we want to see the crime scene."

She shook her head. "No, we need to preserve the integrity of the scene. Chief Johnson needs this done right. Trust me." She didn't trust Pope not to turn this around on Brenda somehow even though a horrible man that deserved to die was now dead.

Provenza ran a hand over his head, looking as though he was trying to figure out what the hell to do. "Who is it at least?"

She was shocked he didn't know and they must have seen it on her face. It also made her think about the fact that Brenda had enough enemies that they weren't sure which one it was that had done this to her.

"The Chief won't speak to anyone but you," the older Lieutenant said.

She looked around, ensuring no one was close enough to hear her. "Brian Lee Atwood," she said quietly.

"Son of a bitch," Flynn said in a very low voice, clenching his teeth and fists. She couldn't agree more.

"If you'll excuse me," She pushed past them and towards the ambulance holding Brenda.

The Chief stared at Sharon's shoes when they stopped in front of her, directly in her line of sight, where she had been staring at the ground. Brenda was trying to hold back the tears she desperately wanted to let fall. She wasn't sure she could keep up the act. Between the pain she was feeling and the emotions of the situation she felt like any second she could lose it.

"Brenda Leigh," Sharon whispered, knowing that if she spoke too loud her voice would crack. Brenda slowly brought her head up, searching the Captain's face. Sharon had the most compassionate look on her face Brenda had ever seen. The sight almost broke her right there in that moment.

"Shar-" Brenda looked around. "Sharon-can you get me out of here, please?"

Sharon saw where the Chief was looking, the media were starting to arrive. This scene was about to become a whole cluster of flashing cameras and reporters looking to get any sound bite they could.

Sharon climbed up in the ambulance with the other woman and settled down in the seat beside her. The paramedic looked at the Captain to ask what they should do. "Let's go to the hospital, gentlemen." Brenda looked as though she was ready to protest, but Sharon grabbed her hand and held it. The blonde quieted right down and leaned into the touch.

At the hospital, nurses and a doctor escorted them to a private room in the ER. Sharon had held back and stood in the doorway while they took Brenda's vitals and attended to her still bleeding arm. Sharon heard a nurse say she would go get the suture kit and the Captain felt the nausea bubble back up in her stomach. She turned and put her back to the wall outside the room. She didn't want to invade Brenda's privacy anymore than she had to.

Brenda hadn't said a word until the nurse said something about stitches. That's when the world came back into focus. "I need everything documented before y'all do anything else." Brenda looked around for Sharon wondering why the Captain hadn't already stated that. It was very unlike Sharon. She saw the other woman's elbow peeking out from behind the door frame. Brenda knew it was a bad idea for Sharon to be here. Their relationship had become personal lately. They had decided they could be friends and still do their jobs instead of just being enemies. They had become close and even though nothing physical outside of some hand holding and embraces had happened, they both knew there was something there, just below the surface. All it would take was acknowledgement but neither had let that happen yet. Brenda bit her lip and debated. She could let the nurse take the pictures and Sharon could look at them later or she could just let the Captain go ahead and see all the horror now. The nurse and doctor were waiting for her to speak again, she felt their eyes on her.

"Cap'n Raydor?" She waited until the brunette filled the doorway. Brenda decided she couldn't make the decision. She hoped the Captain could carry the weight for both of them this time. "Your investigation."

Sharon knew what she was talking about, Brenda could see it in her eyes. Sharon's face softened and she took her first step inside. Brenda just nodded.

"If you could give us some privacy," the Captain said, looking at the medical staff. They all nodded and filed outside the room. Sharon shut the door and closed the blinds before turning back around, she looked nervous.

"If you would prefer someone else…"

"No! Sharon," Brenda held the other woman's gaze, needing her to know this, "There's no one I trust more."

Sharon nodded and pulled out her phone. "Thank you."

Brenda stood and groaned at the pain, "I'm fine," she said when Sharon looked concerned. The Chief positioned herself against the wall and held her arms out to her side. She knew the drill. They went through all the different poses and before Sharon had to say it, Brenda removed her shirt. She faced the wall, not able to look at the Captain while she did it. Even though she hadn't actually seen the damage, she could feel it. She knew it was bad, really bad.

When she heard Sharon say, "Fuck." Her suspicions were confirmed. "Brenda Leigh," Sharon whispered, the tears evident.

"Not yet," the Chief warned. She couldn't talk about it yet.

After hearing the shutter of the camera a few times, she slowly turned around but kept her eyes closed. She felt the tears stream down her face anyway. Without opening her eyes and with the most humiliation she had ever felt she pushed her sweat pants down too and stepped out of them. The gasp she heard from the other woman made her open her eyes. Her reflection was staring back at her off the glass windows in front of her.

It felt as though her knees were going to buckle and she felt sick. She dropped to her knees and quickly grabbed the waste basket beside her and vomited many times over. She could feel Sharon there beside her pulling her hair out of her face, but the Captain didn't touch her in any other way. She knew Sharon's training had kicked in. Don't touch the victim or suspect until you have permission or enough information to ensure it is permissible. Brenda felt that whatever chance they had was ruined in this moment. Brian Lee Atwood had ruined her chances with Sharon Raydor. If he wasn't already dead, she would kill him again. The hurt made her yell out in anguish and as she held onto the trash can, her body shook with sobs.

As though sensing Brenda needed more Sharon whispered, "I don't want to hurt you, but Brenda Leigh let me hold you." Brenda held her breath. She wanted more than anything to feel the support and strength of her Captain, but she was scared. Sharon sat on the ground with her back to the wall and pulled at Brenda's arm that was gripping the trash can up and around her own shoulder. "I'm right here, Brenda, lean on me." And the Chief latched onto her, she cried and shook and struggled to breathe all while Sharon held her.

When she finally quieted, she felt completely embarrassed and her body tensed. The pain shot through every muscle and she cried out quietly.

"Am I hurting you?" Sharon whispered, trying to pull away. That was the last thing Brenda wanted to happen.

"No don't. Please," she pleaded.

Sharon didn't, she held a little tighter to prove she wasn't going to. She kissed the top of Brenda's head. After several more minutes, a knock came at the door startling the two women. Luckily, Sharon had the foresight to lock it.

"Just a moment," the Captain said loud enough to echo through the door. Quieter just for Brenda to hear, "Let's get you dressed and some medication." Brenda shook her head in the negative. "Honey, you need something for the pain."

"Sharon," Brenda whispered, "Don't tell anyone, 'k?"

Sharon nodded and helped pull the blonde up. "I just need two more," she waved her phone apologetically. Brenda knew that though and allowed what needed to happen to take place.

Once Brenda was dressed and back on the bed, Sharon opened the door. The room started bustling again. Sharon's phone rang and after a few dirty looks from the staff, she excused herself and took the call.

"Raydor."

"Captain, we are ready to move the body. Morales says 9 am for the post."

"Ok, Elliot. Tell him not to start without me." Sharon put her hand on the bridge of her nose.

"Chief Pope is leaving the scene. He says he is going to the hospital, ma'am."

Well Sharon wasn't going to let him see Brenda, that was for sure. "Thank you for letting me know." She started towards the nurses station. "Anything else I should know Lieutenant?"

"No ma'am. We have a lot of evidence to process and gather. Can I call someone else in to help me?" He sounded unsure and she knew why. He knew about the two women's friendship and knew how hard the Captain had worked in the past to protect the Chief. He was trying his best to be supportive and understanding.

"You can call in Frazer, just follow protocol and confidentiality standards."

"Yes ma'am…" He cleared his throat, still sounding unsure, "Is the Chief alright?"

"She's going to be fine." And Sharon meant that. She was going to make sure the other woman was fine. Ending the call after she asked the Lieutenant to have patrol bring her car to the hospital, she found the charge nurse and got her attention by flashing her badge. Sharon made it very clear that Brenda was to have no visitors until she herself or Sharon said otherwise. The nurse nodded her agreement and shuffled off.

When Sharon reentered the small triage room, Brenda was protesting being admitted. Sharon quickly made her way to the blonde.

"Brenda Leigh," Brenda's head snapped in her direction. "Just for tonight, it's already four in the morning." Brenda protested by giving her a death glare. "Let them get you something for the pain so you can sleep and I promise as soon as you wake up I will come get you myself."

Brenda seemed to think it over and finally agreed. An hour later, Brenda was transferred upstairs to an actual room. Sharon watched her get settled in and then took a seat beside her.

"You need to take my statement," Brenda said tiredly. They hadn't given her anything yet, but the adrenaline had worn off and the emotional spell down in the ER had taken a lot out of her.

"Only if you are ready. I can wait. I've still got 60 something hours to file my report." She smiled at Brenda.

"No, I want you to do it before they give me anything that makes my brain fuzzy." Brenda grimaced as she shifted to sit up better. The pain was very evident on her face and in her pulse rate. Sharon kept watching on the screen. It was unreasonably fast.

"Will you take the medicine then, after? Since you keep refusing."

"Yes."

"Ok," Sharon nodded and pulled her tape recorder out of her purse. "If you need to stop, just raise your hand and I will pause the tape, ok."

Brenda nodded her acknowledgement.

"This is Captain Sharon Raydor at St. Mary's Hospital at 6:22 am, here with Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson to take her statement about the officer involved shooting that occurred tonight at approximately 1 am." She looked at the Chief making sure she was ready to proceed. "Chief Johnson would you please walk me through tonight's events."

Brenda took a deep breath that clearly pained her and as she began to speak she grabbed Sharon's hand.

"I was on the couch reviewing a case file when I heard a noise outside like someone trying to open the door. I moved to the door and opened the curtain to see if I could see anythin'. There was no one on the porch that I could see. So, I moved back to the couch. As I sat down, my front door was kicked in." She paused to breathe and take a quick look at the other woman's face. When she couldn't take the emotion she saw there, she looked down at their entwined hands. "It was Brian Lee Atwood, the man I've been chasin' for two months. I took off for the kitchen where my gun was, but he dove over the couch and we landed on the coffee table, shatterin' it. We struggled, he hit me in the face and stomach several times. I couldn't breathe."

Brenda watched the muscles of Sharon's hand and arm flex while she tried to remain in control of her voice. "I got enough leverage to knee him in his penis and tried to scramble away, but he caught me and threw me into the wall by the kitchen. Then, he threw me back toward the couch. I hit the corner and couldn't hardly move, musta knocked the wind outta me." She cleared her throat, willing the images flashing through her mind to just slow down a little bit. "He kicked me in the ribs a few times and then pulled me away into the middle of the floor, flipping a chair over in the process to make more room. As he dragged me I grabbed a piece of glass from the broken coffee table. He didn't see me do it, but when he got on top of me, he pinned my arms down…"

She took a minute and Sharon was about to stop the tape, but Brenda shook her head to stop her. "He let go of my arms when he pulled down my sweats. I took the glass and swung at his face, cutting him. It was like he liked it because he just laughed and said something about me bein' feisty." She didn't tell Sharon about the look he had in his eyes though. It was the look of pure evil, it was also the look that made her think she might die right there in her living room floor. "He grabbed my…" This time when Brenda stopped, Sharon stopped the recorder.

"Brenda," Sharon said softly. When there was no response, Sharon squeezed her hand. "Brenda Leigh, did he rape you?" The marks on Brenda's thighs and legs were enough to say he had, but Sharon needed to know for sure. If he had, there were other precautions Brenda needed to take as far as STD prevention and care the doctors could give her.

"No, but he came pretty fuckin' close." Brenda pulled her hand away feeling exposed, vulnerable, and ashamed.

Relief washed through Sharon. She felt like she could breathe properly again. She let a few moments pass, to give them both a minute to calm down. "Do you want to stop there for now?"

"No. No special treatment, Sharon. Let's just do this. How detailed do you want me to be?" Big brown eyes met green for the first time in a while. It felt like she was asking a completely different question.

"No one other than myself, the Chief of Police, and the Inspector General will see the complete report." She sighed. "This man's family will have no chance in hell of filing a lawsuit, therefore, it will never be made public record. I promise you, Brenda."

Brenda knew the other woman didn't make promises lightly. So, she nodded and chose to believe the Captain. When Sharon went to start the tape again, Brenda stopped her. "One more thing. Are you going to be able to look at me after all this is over?"

Sharon swallowed and decided to be honest about that too. "I'm right here and I'm not going anywhere." She started the tape when Brenda gave her a small, unsure smile.

"He grabbed my vagina through my underwear, but his fingers…" She shook her head, she couldn't go there. "He said a buncha inappropriate things I don't even remember. He bent down and bit my thigh hard. I reached out for something, anything and I grabbed a book that had been on the coffee table and hit him in the head. He fell to the floor and I scrambled to the kitchen. I grabbed my gun and as he ran towards me. I turned and fired twice. His momentum carried him forward and he crashed into me, sending me to the floor again. He was on top of me when he took his last breath. I managed to get him off of me enough to get up. I called dispatch and waited." There were new tears in the Chief's eyes, but she refused to shed them. She couldn't keep breaking down in front of Sharon like that.

"Did he ever say anything to you about why he came after you?"

"He said I was the fucking police bitch that was ruining his life. He also called me several other names throughout the struggle, but I can't be sure when exactly in the timeline he said them."

Sharon nodded her understanding while trying to think of anything else she would need for her report. "Prior to tonight, did you have any indication that Mr. Atwood knew where you lived?"

Brenda blinked and looked up at Sharon trying to figure out where she was going with that question. When she realized the Captain was giving her an opening to make a complaint against Will for not believing her about being stalked, she just turned her gaze down into her hands. Could she do that? Brenda didn't ponder too long. This was about the truth and being cleared by FID. This wasn't personal, it was her job. "I had my suspicions, but nothing that I could prove." She nodded to herself. That was the truth. Her being injured wouldn't come back on the department or Will and once she was cleared this whole thing could be put to rest. They would be able to move on without it hanging over their heads for months.

Sharon just nodded. When she could think of nothing she said, "Is there anything else you would like to add to your statement Chief?"

"Not at this time."

Smart, Sharon thought. Leaving an opening to amend or add to if needed. Sharon concluded the interview officially on tape and shut the device off throwing it back in her purse. The monitor made a long beeping noise and Sharon looked up. Brenda's pulse was out of control.

"We need to get you calmed down and out of pain." She pressed the nurse's button. A few seconds later a young, red headed woman appeared. She took stock of the situation then left, 30 seconds later, she returned with a shot. Brenda didn't even protest, a testament to the amount of pain she was truly in.

"Will you really come back, like you said?" Brenda asked, eyes already fluttering.

"Yes, Brenda Leigh. I'll be back." Sharon watched Brenda drift off to sleep. She sat there for several minutes just watching the woman sleep. Finally, she shook her head and stood up. She pulled a notebook out of her bag and wrote a note for Brenda.

If you wake up before I get back. Call me.

-Sharon

She left her cell number at the bottom of the paper and moved the room's phone right next to it. Sharon also made a mental note to find the woman's purse and cell phone and bring them to the hospital with her when she returned. She looked at her watch and figured she had just enough time to make it across town to the morgue for the autopsy.

Across town in the morgue, Sharon watched as Doctor Morales worked. The usually chatty man was quiet, almost too quiet as he worked to remove the second bullet from Atwood's body. Finally, he removed the projectile and dropped it in the container with its twin.

"Lieutenant Elliot, will you please get those to ballistics," Sharon spoke, startling the two men apparently because they jumped.

"Yes ma'am." The lieutenant looked relieved to be leaving and Sharon couldn't blame him one bit.

Left alone with Dr. Morales, Sharon felt slightly better, almost like she could relax for a few minutes. "What's with you, Fernando?" She couldn't take the silence any longer.

"I know I always pretend to be annoyed with Chief Johnson, but I never want anything to happen to any of you." Morales looked up at Sharon. She just nodded, not knowing what to say to bring him any comfort. Hell, she couldn't find any comfort in this situation other than Brenda was still alive. Morales made an interesting noise as he looked into Atwood's mouth.

"What?" She moved closer.

"There's something between his teeth." He picked up a pair of forceps and Sharon's stomach dropped. "It's a piece of…" Morales swallowed deep, "It's skin."

Sharon turned away, trying to hold her emotions together. She whispered, knowing her voice would betray her. "It's from her." Sharon had seen the marks on Brenda's thighs, she knew that's where the skin had come from.

"Jesus Christ. I'm glad this guy is dead...and I almost never say that."

She couldn't agree more. "Fernando, do me a favor?"

"Anything for you, you know that Sharon." He was serious, she could hear it in the tone he used.

Sharon spun around, finding her strength again. "Before you finalize your report, let me read it…" She looked away and back at him shifting on her feet, uncomfortable of what she was asking.

"Is there something you want to tell me?" Morales crossed his arms and tilted his head ever so slightly. "Or something you hope I don't find?"

There was something she wanted to believe Brenda about, and she just wanted to be sure the autopsy supported the Chief's statement. It wouldn't change anything about her case, possibly even provide more evidence of self-defense. She just wanted to make sure Brenda received the care she needed.

"Nothing I want you to change or leave out, I wouldn't put you in that position. Just do this for me."

"Of course," He promised.

Sharon smiled a small thank you, "Let's continue."

Walking back into her office, Sharon took off her jacket and threw it in an empty chair in front of her desk. She smelt like the morgue. It was the absolute last thing she wanted to smell right now. She sank down in her chair and attempted to clear her mind with a few deep breaths. She needed to get her report started and Brenda's statement typed up. There were still quite a few things they were going to be waiting on, but she could get started. That way when Brenda called she would be able to keep her promise and go pick the woman up.

Brenda woke with a start, not knowing if her dream had woken her or a noise around her did. She looked around and groaned. The hospital. She hated hospitals. There were a bunch of flowers littering the flat surfaces that hadn't been there when she fell asleep. She heard some raucous out in the hallway and she knew it was her team. She was pretty sure Provenza was telling someone to settle down because she was asleep.

She groaned again, this time in pain when she tried to sit up. Finally, she achieved her goal with the help of the electric bed. On the table next to her bed she found Sharon's note and smiled. That woman, always thinking ahead.

Brenda knew she should let the team in. She hadn't even spoken to them last night. It had been the right decision, she knew it was all too much then and it was too much now. She couldn't let them see her like this...bruised and broken. She needed something for the pain, but then everyone would know she was awake and she was in no state to entertain visitors or even worse, answer their questions. She just couldn't

Brenda threw her head back against the bed, instantly regretting it when the pain worsened. There was only one option she had. The Chief picked up the phone and dialed the person that could tell her what to do.

"Captain Raydor," Sharon answered, not recognizing the number.

"Sharon," Brenda hated the way her voice sounded. Weak, she thought.

"Brenda, you're awake." Sharon looked at her watch. Time had gotten away from her. It was two in the afternoon, she had hoped to be to the hospital already.

"Yeah, for a few minutes now." Brenda felt foolish. She knew she shouldn't have called. She didn't know how to ask for what she needed. "I…" She let out a shaky breath, unsure of how to say what she needed to.

"Talk to me...what's going on?" Sharon didn't want to push, but she wasn't sure what to do. She cared deeply for Brenda, but sometimes she didn't know where the boundaries were. Considering Brenda had just been through an enormous trauma, Sharon felt even more off kilter about the whole situation.

"I can't-I can't face them Sharon. Not yet." Brenda admitted quietly. "But I'm in so much pain."

Sharon took a moment to think and then she realized what the Chief was trying to say. "I will take care of it. Wait just a minute." She put her cell on mute and called out for Elliot.

"Yes, ma'am." He walked into her office.

"Have you done the background interviews with PHD yet?"

"Uh-no. I was going to wait until tomorrow. Unless…"

Sharon cut him off. "Call them all in."

"All at once? That won't go over well."

Sharon sighed. No it wouldn't, but they would get over it. "Have someone else help you, but yes all of them. Now."

"Ok, Captain." She was asking a lot of him. She knew that. They had already been on the case for longer than the normal working day, but she needed a way to get Brenda's team out of the hospital.

She unmuted her phone. "I'm going to get your squad out of there. I'll also call the nurse's station and once the team leaves, someone will bring you some medicine, ok?"

Brenda was impressed. "Ok." She hated herself a little bit right now. "Sharon?"

"I'll be there in half an hour, Brenda Leigh. Hang in there."

Brenda let out a long breath. "Ok." She hung up before she started crying again. What a fucking wreck she had turned into.

There was lots of commotion outside the door and she could hear them all leaving. Relief washed over her. She didn't know how the Captain had managed it, but she was very grateful. Brenda clenched and unclenched her fists, battling with the pain.

What seemed like an eternity later, but Brenda knew it had only been a matter of minutes, a nurse knocked and then entered her room. She was a short, plump woman with long black hair. The contrast of her hair and complexion made Brenda think of a vampire.

"Hi Chief, my name is Rose. I was told you're in some pain."

Brenda nodded profusely, trying to unclench her body.

"I would've been in sooner, but there was a note in your chart to let you sleep, and no visitors unless you asked for someone." Brenda knew that was the Captain's handiwork. Rose inched a little closer to the bed.

"Thank you, I think I needed to sleep," Brenda finally spoke.

Rose nodded in understanding and Brenda appreciated that the other woman didn't feel the need to put her two cents in. "Would it be ok if I took your vitals and checked the bandage on your arm and leg?"

Brenda tilted her head wondering why the nurse seemed so timid. Most of the time nurses just zoomed in and out without any regard for what you wanted to happen. Then, she realized, she was a victim this time, not just a patient. So this is what that felt like...Fuck Brian Atwood.

"Sure. Do what you gotta do."

Rose smiled brilliantly causing Brenda to give her a little half smile. "I love your accent." She moved to the bedside now and began getting the blood pressure cuff and thermometer ready.

"You're one of the few." Brenda let out a small chuckle. Her smile faded quickly when Rose lifted her arm and slid the cuff over her bruised skin. They went through the motions of checking out the wounds and changing the bandages while having meaningless small talk. The Chief tried hard not to moan and groan too much.

When it was all done Rose handed her some pills and a small cup of water. "You're just here on observation status, your friend said she would be here soon and you would discuss discharging. She seems really nice." Rose smiled and threw some trash away before returning to the bed. "Do you want to wait for her or should I go ahead and start the process?"

Suddenly Brenda felt unsure again. It wasn't that she couldn't do all this on her own, it's just for once in her life she felt like she didn't have to. "Uh-maybe we can just wait a few minutes."

"Sure, that's no problem. You just press that little red button on the bed if you need me."

Brenda just nodded silently as she watched Rose leave. The Chief laid her head back into the pillow trying to breathe through her pain and praying those little pills kicked in quick. In the silence of the room everything felt amplified. The tick tock of the clock, the sound of her heartbeat, the thump of her pulse, the buzz of the lights. It all seemed more than what it was. Brenda took a deep breath like she had seen Sharon do at yoga that one time the other woman had dragged her kicking and screaming to a class. She held it and let it out. After several more times of doing that, the world felt manageable again.

A while later, the soft knock on the door made Brenda open her eyes. Then, the door pushed open enough for Sharon to slip in and she quickly closed it behind her. "Hi," Brenda said tremendously relieved the Captain was here.

"Hi to you." Sharon smiled and moved to the chair next to her. The brunette looked exhausted which made Brenda feel slightly guilty. Sharon had been up all night and working because of her. She watched as the Captain stretched out her legs and rolled her ankles back and forth when she sat down. Those heels were stunning on her, but Brenda knew they had to be killer on the feet and legs.

Sharon broke the silence and pulled Brenda's focus back to the Captain's face. "Did they give you something for the pain?"

"Yeah, she was real nice 'bout it too." Brenda nodded. "Thank you-for doin' that Sharon."

"It was no problem at all." Sharon looked down at the bags she had sat on the floor before finding Brenda's eyes again. "I'm glad you called me."

"Me too." Brenda wasn't sure what she would've done otherwise. Probably made a fool of herself.

"Speaking of calls," Sharon reached down into the duffel bag and pulled out Brenda's most prized possession.

"My purse!" Sharon laughed at the way the Chief's face lit up at the sight of the monstrosity.

"Your phone rang a few times on my way over here, but I didn't check it."

"Only person I want to talk to is right here," Brenda sing-songed.

Sharon laughed. "I guess the pills are kicking in."

Brenda had the good sense to blush, wondering why the heck she had said that outloud. She didn't regret it, but usually she was able to filter better. So she just shrugged. She pulled out her phone and checked it. Provenza, Fritz, Gabriel, Pope, Fritz, her mama, Pope. No one important. She threw the device in her purse and rummaged around until she found a piece of candy. Feeling proud of completing her mission she looked up, noticing the amused look on Sharon's face. "I'm starvin'."

"I thought you might be." Sharon reached down and picked up the paper bag. "I brought you a sandwich."

"You think of everythin'!"

Sharon chuckled again as she watched the blonde tear into the sandwich. The Chief seemed to always be hungry, and Sharon was now glad she had taken the time to stop and pick up the simple meal. She sat back in the chair, checking her own phone while Brenda ate. The email from ballistics contained their final report. They confirmed Brenda's statement. SID said they had several more hours to go but she was priority per Chief Pope. At least he was being helpful for once. Satisfied that everything was on track, she pocketed the device. Brenda was almost finished eating and she figured it was safe to start up the conversation they needed to have.

"Did the nurse talk to you about when you will be discharged?" Sharon leaned forward and caught the sandwich wrapper that was about to fall off the bed.

"Uh-" Brenda chewed while trying to find the words she wanted to use. "She-um-she said when I get ready to press the little red button." Truth. Without expressing the doubt she was feeling.

Sharon hummed her acknowledgement knowing there was something Brenda wasn't saying. "Do you want to stay here again tonight?"

"Not really, no." But she also didn't want to go home and a hotel seemed...wrong too. Really Brenda realized she just didn't want to be alone, but she didn't want to be with people either. It was confusing, even to her.

Sensing the confusion and turmoil in Brenda, Sharon decided to give her some options and some information. "I haven't released your house yet. I'll take you anywhere you want to go…" Brenda seemed to be becoming more distressed by the second and Sharon wasn't exactly sure why. "Brenda?"

The blonde put the remainder of the sandwich on the tray. Suddenly she didn't feel much like eating. She wondered if it would be easier to just stay here. Maybe she could talk Sharon into just staying till she fell back asleep. Or maybe she should just let the Captain go home. She looked-

"Brenda Leigh, I'm right here." Sharon tried to cut through the other woman's racing thoughts.

"What? Sorry, what did ya say?"

Sharon removed her glasses. She wasn't sure how to do this. Were they friends? Or did they just need each other sometimes? Should she keep her distance or pull the other woman closer?

"I asked if you had somewhere you wanted me to take you…" When Brenda shook her head in the negative she continued, "Or would you feel comfortable at my house?"

Brenda already knew the answer, but she pretended to think it over anyway. "Is that–isn't that a conflict for you?"

She would deal with the fall out if there was any, but truth be told she would like nothing more than to know Brenda was safe at her home. "Not at all."

"Liar." Sharon was a horrible liar. Brenda liked that about her. "Honestly, I know it could cause you trouble, but if you're ok with it then I would like that." Brenda wasn't used to flat out asking for help, but in this case it didn't so much feel like she was asking. It was more like this was the right decision for both of them.

"Then it's settled. Push that button. Let's get you out of here."

Sharon unlocked her door and threw the bags she was carrying on the little table in the entryway. Then, she turned around and helped to usher a very exhausted Brenda Johnson inside. After getting the blonde on the couch, she went back and shut and locked the door. She grabbed the bags and headed to the kitchen. She made a glass of water and started unbagging Brenda's medication when her phone rang.

"Captain Raydor," she turned the pill bottle around trying to read the tiny writing on the label.

"Captain, we just finished the last interview with PHD," Elliott said. "It went about as well as you would expect…"

"Thank you, Lieutenant. I know that wasn't easy." Sharon looked up to see Brenda moving around, trying to get comfortable she guessed. "You should go home, get some rest."

"Uh-there's still a lot to do Captain."

"I know, but you've been at it for over 16 hours. We are still waiting on SID and Dr. Morales. Go home." She heard him sigh. "Consider it an order if you need to."

"Yes, ma'am...Oh and Captain, just so you know Chief Pope came by about 15 minutes ago looking for you."

Sharon mentally groaned. "I'll take care of it Elliot. Tell Sarah hi for me."

"Will do."

Sharon threw her phone on the bar. Pope was always trying to rush her. Grabbing the pills and the water she returned to the living room. "Here take these." She sat everything down on the coffee table, looking down at a grimacing Brenda.

"I don't like pills." Sharon could've laughed at the pout the Chief gave her.

Sharon sat on the coffee table, facing the other woman. "Brenda Leigh, you have a broken rib and multiple other injuries. Do you really want to be in pain? And one is an antibiotic. Remember what the doctor said?" Sharon raised an eyebrow.

"Yeah, yeah." Brenda didn't particularly want to rehash the doctor's orders. She knew Sharon would win that argument hands down. She swallowed the pills and stuck her tongue out afterwards to prove it and to make Sharon smile.

She was rewarded with a full grin. Brenda's eyes trailed after the Captain, when she got up and headed to the kitchen.

"I'm going to go change and make up the guest room, do you need anything?" Sharon grabbed her phone and stuck it in her pocket then exited the kitchen, looking down at Brenda over the back of the couch.

Brenda shook her head in the negative. "You don't gotta go through all that trouble for me, Sharon. I can just sleep on the couch."

"Nonsense, it's no trouble." And Sharon meant it. She reached out and squeezed Brenda's hand before heading off to her room.

Inside her room, Sharon let out a long breath. She took her jacket off and threw it toward the hamper, almost making it. She kicked off her shoes and sat on the edge of her bed. Feeling the weight of her phone in her pocket, the Captain groaned, out loud this time. She needed to call Chief Pope and get it over with so she could move on with her night. Rolling her eyes, she punched his name on her phone.

"Captain, about time."

She rolled her eyes again. "Chief, what can I do for you?"

"Well, Captain, you can give me an update on your investigation and you can tell me where you've hidden Chief Johnson away."

Yeah that wasn't happening. Brenda had made her decision and she wasn't ready for visitors. "We aren't even 24 hours in, Chief. All the preliminaries are done, but nothing is finalized. I will let you know when we are close."

"I'll expect a copy before you turn it over to the Chief."

That wasn't happening either. She had promised Brenda. "Actually, I don't think that would be appropriate, sir." Sharon hated politics sometimes. "But don't worry. So far it looks as though no liability on the department and Chief Johnson will be cleared."

"Good that's good." They both knew he should have placed a protective detail on Brenda, but there was nothing they could do about it now. "Where is she, Captain? She's not answering her phone and the hospital says she was discharged."

"She's safe." Not a lie, Sharon thought. "When I speak to her, I will let her know you would like to speak to her." Also, not a lie, but she doubted Brenda would call him.

"Do that." He hung up on her.

Sharon flopped back on her bed. She needed this investigation to be over. After a few minutes, she rolled off the bed and changed into some comfortable sweatpants and an oversized LAPD shirt. She made a run through the bathroom, cleaning up a little and clearing off the counter. She washed her face and then headed off to the spare room. She knew the sheets were clean, but she wanted to make sure her kids didn't leave anything lying around on their last visit.

Brenda could hear Sharon moving about the condo, and she took comfort in knowing she wasn't alone. She just wished Sharon wouldn't worry herself with cleaning up or anything. Brenda had been here before several times. In fact, two weeks ago, she had fallen asleep right here on this couch after finding a dead bird on the doorstep of her own house...wine might have also been a factor. But she didn't need Sharon fussing over her either way.

When Sharon returned to the living room, Brenda had her eyes closed and her arms wrapped around herself, as though to comfort herself. She looked so small and fragile, Sharon had to stop herself from reaching out and gathering the blonde up in her own arms. She moved to the kitchen to find something for herself to eat. The muffin she ate earlier in the day was long gone. She pulled the leftover pasta out of the fridge, lifting the lid to smell it. Good enough. She placed it in the microwave.

While waiting for it to heat, she grabbed the wine out of the fridge and then thought better of it and placed it back in the door. She grabbed a bottle of water instead and checked the cabinet to make sure there was still a Ding Dong in there for Brenda in case she wanted it. Just before the microwave beeped, she opened the door and removed the hot dish, placing it on the counter.

"Sharon?" Brenda called out.

"Yes, Brenda Leigh?" Sharon moved to the back of the couch and looked down at the blonde.

"You don't gotta be quiet, I'm not sleepin,'" Brenda gave her a little half smile.

Sharon nodded, "I'm having some left over pasta. Would you like some?"

Brenda shook her head in the negative.

Sharon hummed her acknowledgement. "What about some chocolate?"

Brenda's face lit up at that and she made to sit up. When she failed and collapsed back onto the couch, Sharon held out her hand as leverage. The Chief managed to sit up and pushed back against the arm of the couch. "I'll bring it to you."

Sharon moved to the kitchen and grabbed her food and the Ding Dong out of the cabinet. She almost shook her head at herself, thinking about how during her last grocery trip she had bought the treat just for Brenda. It was a testament to how they were slowly becoming a part of each other's lives. Brenda kept Sharon's favorite wine and tea at her house now too. They both did little things like that for each other now.

Coming back to the living room, she handed Brenda the foil wrapped dessert and then rounded the couch and took a seat opposite the Chief, pulling her legs up in front of her, letting their feet barely brush. They ate in silence for a bit, Sharon enjoyed watching the way Brenda showed such pleasure eating the chocolate and cream. Before she was caught staring, Sharon averted her eyes and took a big bite of her food.

When they had both finished, Sharon gathered up the trash and headed back to the kitchen. "Do you want to shower?" She called over her shoulder from the other room.

Brenda thought about it, she didn't know if it would help or hurt, "I do feel pretty gross." She still caught the subtle scent of Brian Lee Attwood and gunpowder on herself every once in a while and it made her want to vomit. "I don't have any clothes though and you already brought me these in the hospital." She turned and watched Sharon moving about the kitchen.

"I can find you something to sleep in." Sharon looked up, and they locked eyes.

Brenda looked away first, something in the other woman's gaze confused her. "Yeah guess all my stuff is still evidence…" Brenda shook her head, trying not to think about it.

Sharon finished up in the kitchen, trying to figure out what had just happened and caused the rapid change she was witnessing in Brenda. She dried her hands and moved to the living room, still unsure. Brenda's eyes were glazed over, and Sharon was almost sure she was flashing back to what had happened last night. Not wanting to startle her, Sharon spoke quietly, "Brenda?"

Brenda hummed, before shaking her head again and looking up into confused green eyes.

"Come on," Sharon reached out to help the Chief up off the couch. She watched as Brenda fought the pain and clenched her jaw. She was going to be sore for a while, and Sharon wished she wouldn't try to hide it so much.

In the bathroom mirror, Brenda looked at her naked body. She looked worse than some of her murder victims. She was bruised from head to toe and not just little bruises, dark ugly, deep down to the core bruises. It was sickening. She wiped at the tears on her cheeks and moved to step into the already steaming shower. The rush of the water against her beaten body made her cry out and she tried to muffle the sobs by clamping her hand over her mouth. She sank down to the floor of the shower and sobbed into her hands.

Listening to Brenda cry in the shower, broke Sharon's heart. She paced around her room, running her fingers through her hair, before settling on the edge of her bed. She didn't know how to do this. Brenda was hurting and not just physically. Sharon knew it would take time to heal the physical and emotional wounds, but she also felt like she needed to do something. There had to be something she could do other than offer Brenda a place to sleep. She fell back on her bed, pulling a pillow over her head, trying to drown out the sounds of Brenda crying.

When she heard the shower shut off, Sharon sat up looking at the clock. It was already after 9 o'clock. She was close to being up for 20 hours and knew she needed sleep. Tomorrow she would hopefully have all the answers she needed in order to wrap up this case, and she needed to be able to think clearly. Sleep would help with that.

She waited until the bathroom door in the hallway opened, and she heard Brenda moving around in the guest room before she got up and exited her bedroom. Making her way down the hall, she made sure to clear her throat before she filled the doorway, not wanting to startle Brenda.

Sharon leaned against the doorframe, "Do you need anything else?"

Brenda was trying to pull the covers back, but her limited range of motion made it difficult. "Maybe a little help," Brenda said quietly. Sharon moved and helped her pull them back, and then she clicked on the lamp before moving out of the way and back to the door. They were in unfamiliar territory, and Sharon felt a little out of her depth.

"Anything else?" Sharon flipped off the overhead light, leaving just the dim glow of the lamp in the room.

Brenda bit her lip and contemplated saying what she wanted to say, but she chickened out and shook her head no as she pulled the covers up around her. "Good night, Sharon."

"Good night," Sharon moved to close the door, but at the last minute she saw Brenda's eyes get wider. "Open?"

Brenda nodded, "Please." She didn't want to feel closed in, somehow she thought it would be too lonely with the door closed.

Sharon just nodded, unsure if she should say what she was about to. "If you need something Brenda Leigh, just let me know. I know...sometimes it's hard to ask for help, but I'm here for you, ok?"

The Chief bit back her tears and nodded. She just wished she could quit crying. "Thank you," she whispered, unable to put any volume to her voice. Sharon smiled and then disappeared into the darkness of the hallway. It was as though, the Captain was ripped out of this world though because Brenda immediately felt as though she was all alone. Brenda didn't do alone very well. It was one of the reasons that she worked as many hours as she did. She never felt alone when she was on a case or when she was fighting for justice for one of her victims. The times she was alone in her apartment, she always seemed to fill the void with something, but alone here in Sharon's extra room there was nothing she could do. She just felt broken.

Sharon clicked off her lamp and sat her glasses on the nightstand. She fell back onto her pillows, sighing at the relief of finally being in bed. She closed her eyes and breathed in a few deep breaths, trying to clear her mind. Mainly, she was trying hard not to think about Brenda and how very unlike Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson she seemed right now. The persona always seemed larger than life, like the woman could take on any challenge. Sharon guessed, in some sense, Brenda had just faced down a pretty big challenge of being attacked, and she had come out on top, even if she didn't feel that way right now.

A creak in the hallway, brought Sharon out of her thoughts. She sat up, listening. She saw a shadow and then a tiny figure filled her doorway. "Sharon?"

"What's wrong, Brenda?" She reached for her glasses and put them on her face. She didn't turn the light on, for fear of scaring Brenda back to her room.

"Can I-" Sharon saw her shifting on her feet, looking a little unsteady.

"Come here," she whispered, understanding what Brenda wanted to ask. Brenda padded into the room and around the bed, stopping just before climbing in. "Come on," Sharon pulled the covers back, patting the empty space. When Brenda climbed in, Sharon removed her glasses and settled back down under the covers.

"I don't want to be alone," Brenda whispered and Sharon heard the tears in her voice.

Just as quietly, she replied, "I'm right here, Brenda Leigh." Sharon turned on her side, facing the blonde.

"I know." Sharon felt Brenda reach out and grab her hand, interlacing their fingers. Sharon squeezed, to let her know it was ok, they were ok.

Sharon woke to the buzz of her cell phone on the nightstand. When she opened her eyes, she took stock of the situation. Brenda was tucked into Sharon's side and had one arm on her stomach. Blonde hair was splayed this way and that. Sharon now understood why her own arm was a little numb, Brenda was using it as a pillow. They had fallen asleep with plenty of space between them, each on their own side, but somewhere through the night they had both gravitated to the middle of the bed.

Her phone buzzed again and carefully she reached her free arm out and swiped it off the hard surface. Without her glasses, she squinted at the screen. It was barely 6:30, but Dr. Morales was apparently up and already hard at work. He had emailed her his report and then proceeded to send her a series of text messages with the bullet points. His final message read: I now know what you were looking for. No evidence. Ok to send?

Sharon let out a long breath before replying. Yes. Thank you. It wasn't that she doubted the woman she was holding, but Sharon was a person that needed evidence and certainty. Now, she just needed to figure out how to extract herself from the other woman and go get ready for the day. She wasn't sure what to really think of this whole scenario, but she couldn't afford to let her mind wander. Brenda had needed her presence last night, and they had just shifted around in bed and ended up like this. That's how she was going to rationalize this situation.

Except, Sharon knew she didn't like to cuddle and for some reason she hadn't even woken up when Brenda wrapped herself around her last night. The Captain hadn't even gotten hot from the added body heat. It was unusual. She hadn't shared her bed with anyone for more than a few hours in a very long time for those exact reasons...and the fact that it never felt right. Something about this felt right though. The weight of Brenda on her arm, the smell of her, the hair tickling her neck...it all seemed right.

Sharon rolled her eyes at herself. She couldn't think like this. Not now. It was inappropriate. The bruising and marks all over the Chief reiterated that point. The woman was going to be in a world of pain today, probably more so than she had been yesterday. Sharon ached just thinking about it. Right now though, Brenda looked peaceful and that was better than Sharon had seen her in the past two months. First it was the exhaustion and worry from the investigation and the manhunt. Then, it was the fear of knowing she was being followed. The attack had just been the icing on a cake layered with constant stress.

Brenda had been through a literal hell these past months, and the effects had really taken a toll on her physically. Sharon had watched it happen. She had tried to make sure she ate and slept when she could, but now she just hoped Brenda would continue to let her be there. To let Sharon help her recover and find her rhythm again. To bring her back to the full magnitude of Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson and all the chaos, chocolate, and bravado that brought along with it. Sharon realized she just wanted to be a part of the other woman's life, no matter what role she was allowed to take.

After another few minutes, she decided she had to get up. She had lingered long enough. She slowly began to extract herself and slid toward the edge of the bed. Just as she pulled the last bit of her hand out from under Brenda's head, the blonde shifted and reached out towards her. Sharon held still, holding her breath. When Brenda stilled, Sharon finally pulled away all the way and quietly made her way to the bathroom.

Brenda jolted awake to the smash of glass and sat up, not even feeling the pain, just the adrenaline. Her eyes took in her surroundings and her ears strained to listen for any noise that would alert her as to where the danger was. She slid out of bed and onto the floor of Sharon's bedroom, hiding behind the bed when she heard footsteps out in the hallway. She struggled to hear over the harsh sounds of her own breath as her chest heaved, trying to draw in oxygen but not feeling as though she was getting any. She shut her eyes, hoping that it would help her senses focus on hearing the movements.

"Brenda?"

It was Sharon. Of course it was Sharon, this was her house after all. Brenda felt so stupid for her unreasonable response, but no matter how hard she tried she still couldn't breathe, couldn't talk or call out to the other woman.

"Brenda?"

The footsteps were coming closer, and she willed herself to breathe, move, something so she wouldn't be found huddling on the Captain's floor hyperventilating. She couldn't though. The more she tried, the worse it got.

"It's ok Brenda, it's just me. I dropped a coffee mug. You are safe. Breathe. You can do this."

With her eyes still shut, she could tell that Sharon was close to her. Close, but not so close that they were touching.

"Focus on my voice, Brenda Leigh. In through your nose and out through your mouth. Come on honey you can do this. In and out."

Brenda listened and willed herself to follow the directions she was given. The most basic human function, breathing. She could do this.

"Keep going. Deep breath in, let it out. You're doing great."

If she didn't think the effort would kill her, she would roll her eyes at herself. She felt a new rush of embarrassment at being praised for breathing.

"Open your eyes, Brenda. Let yourself see that you are safe and that I am right here," Sharon's voice was so soft and steady that Brenda did open her eyes. Kneeling in front of her, less than a foot away, fully dressed and probably getting wrinkles in her designer suit, Sharon sat with her hands in her lap and a concerned but gentle expression on her face. "No one is here. Just you and me. You're safe."

Brenda nodded, but she didn't dare look directly into Sharon's eyes for fear that she might break down again and she really didn't want to start crying. It would only add to the shame and embarrassment she felt. With the loss of fear and adrenaline, the pain was starting to come back. She could feel every punch and kick she had taken the night before, and she knew that if she were to look in a mirror right now she would probably want to throw up at the sight of all the bruising and swelling.

"That's better," Sharon whispered when Brenda's breathing returned to normal completely.

"I'm sorry." Those were the only words that she could manage to think, let alone say to the Captain. She was sorry for being such a mess. She was sorry for making her worry. She was sorry for coming here. She was sorry for causing Sharon to get wrinkles in her pants. She was just sorry.

"Shhh, you don't need to apologize to me Brenda Leigh. You don't need to apologize to anyone." Sharon said the words with such conviction, that Brenda looked up into her eyes and searched, finding nothing but honesty. Sharon gave her a small smile and Brenda just nodded a little.

Brenda knew she couldn't return to work until she was cleared by the doctor and the psychologist, but she also knew she couldn't hide out forever. Sharon protested but had given her some clothes to put on and waited for her to get ready. Then, they had ridden to Parker Center together. In the elevator, Brenda had felt Sharon's concerned glances coming her way, but she tried her best to ignore them. Whatever this thing was between them, Brenda still had a reputation to maintain. She couldn't just jump into Sharon's arms for protection every time she felt unsure or scared. When she stepped out of the elevator, she turned and gave Sharon a half smile before limping her way down the hallway toward her murder room.

Entering the familiar area, Brenda stood as tall as she could and plastered a fake smile on her face. It hurt to do it, but she needed to reassure her people. The team was up and surrounding her in no time.

"How you doing, Chief?" Flynn's words rang above everyone else and they all stopped to look at her.

She looked like hell, and she felt like it too. "I've had better days." She looked at them all individually. "But I'm doin' better. Thank y'all for the flowers and wishes at the hospital." She had donated the flowers to other people that needed them more than her, but she had read and kept the cards.

"That nurse wouldn't let us in the room, Chief." Sanchez still looked a little sore about it.

"Sorry 'bout that." It was all she could say because it really had been for the best. If they thought she was a mess today, she had been a bigger mess yesterday.

Brenda looked around and noticed the lack of outside personnel. For the past two months, their murder room had been crawling with Sheriff's people and all the extra personnel the LAPD had been able to spare from other departments. It was nice to have some quiet again.

As if reading her mind, Gabriel spoke up. "Everyone cleared out early this morning."

"Yeah, since now we know where Brian Lee Atwood is, there was no need for them to stick around," Provenza chimed in as he sat down in his chair. "Don't worry they left us with all the paperwork…"

"How nice," she smirked, but then winced when the tenderness on her cheek stung at the movement. They all saw it, she could tell. They were the best detectives she had ever worked with, of course they would notice. She was just grateful none of them felt compelled to start up with more questions.

"We are getting calls from reporters wanting to interview you though Chief," Gabriel said.

Brenda knew that was a horrible idea and definitely didn't want her face like this on any newspaper or news station. "Direct them to public relations. They can handle it." They all nodded and made noises of agreement.

"Let's get back to it," Provenza grumbled, noticing she needed a little space. Brenda nodded gratefully to him.

She made her way to her office, closing the blinds before carefully taking a seat behind her desk. Just the walk upstairs and to the murder room had just about zapped her. Instinctually, she opened her candy drawer and pulled out a Reese's. She leaned back and popped the deliciousness into her mouth. She could hear the team moving about and chatting amongst themselves as they settled back into their paperwork. The ticking of the clock on the wall made her look up. It was only 10 AM. What the hell was she going to do with the rest of her day? She couldn't work. She couldn't go home. She couldn't do anything other than feel the pain and stinging of her body.

Her phone buzzed in her purse on her desk and she pulled it out, looking at the text message.

FYI Pope knows you're in the building.

She sighed. Well that would eat up a little bit of her time…

Thanks for the heads up. And for everything else.

She hesitated to send it, but she sent it anyway. Brenda wasn't always the best friend that she could be, but she really was trying to be better. Saying thank you to Sharon was just one small thing she could easily do. The woman deserved more than a thank you after last night and this morning. Pope slamming through her office door drew her away from the happy thoughts and she sighed as she threw her phone on her desk.

"Brenda, you look like hell, why are you here?"

Where the hell else was she supposed to go?

Around 3 o'clock, Sharon made her way through the hallways down to PHD. As she entered, the team looked up at her and she smiled in greeting. A few of them nodded or smiled. Sanchez just watched her carefully as she crossed the room. He still wasn't her biggest fan, but he wasn't as hostile as he had been in the past. She raised her hand and knocked as she pushed the door open. When she realized Brenda was asleep in her desk chair, she caught the door before it slammed behind her.

Brenda was kicked back in her chair with her brown sweater over her chest covering her up. Her head was tilted just to the side and showcasing the large bruise and swelling on the left side of her face. Sharon sighed. She had tried to leave Brenda at the condo, but after the panic attack this morning, Brenda had said she would rather go to work. She said that she wanted to see the team, but Sharon could read between the lines, she didn't want to be alone. After all, that was what brought the blonde into her bed last night.

Sharon moved carefully over to the sleeping woman. She didn't get too close or touch her, she whispered first and then spoke just above a whisper when that didn't work. "Brenda Leigh."

Brenda stirred the second time her name was called and sat up quickly, instantly regretting it judging by the look on her face. Sharon maintained her distance until the Chief was fully awake and looking at her. Then, she moved over and sat on the edge of the desk next to her.

"Sharon," the name came out more as a question and Sharon scrunched her eyebrows together a little.

"Hi." She settled a little more fully against the desk. "How's the pain?"

"It's makin' me sick to my stomach actually…" Brenda blushed a little at the realization that she told the truth instead of giving the party line that she was fine. Sharon's face grew more concerned and Brenda felt a little bad about that.

"Did you take the pain medication?" Sharon stood and began looking around on the cluttered desk for the bottle.

"Purse," Brenda said as she sat back in her chair, closing her eyes.

Sharon dug around in the endless pit of the Chief's purse finally wrapping her fingers around the elusive bottle. "You should be in bed Brenda." She opened the bottle and handed it to Brenda. "Have you eaten anything other than chocolate today?"

Brenda just shrugged as she leaned back in her seat again after swallowing the pill.

"I'm going to get someone to take you home–to my house. I have to do something but in about 45 minutes I can leave. I will pick up something for dinner and then meet you there. Ok?"

That didn't feel ok to Brenda. "I can just wait for you," she said sheepishly.

Sharon looked at the other woman, her heart sank a little. She was not used to seeing Brenda like this. The bruises and marks would fade, but her emotional suffering was something Sharon really hoped would fade too. Finally, she nodded. "Ok, I'll be back in 30 minutes." She stood and gave the woman another once over before heading out. Sharon needed to go over a few things with Elliot so they could finish up their report and submit it in the morning. They could do that quickly and she would call in the food order before swinging back by to pick up Brenda. They would be home in a little over an hour...she hoped.

Each bump of the road, every turn, the stopping and starting, they were all taking their toll on her beaten and bruised body. The pain pill Sharon had given her a little bit ago was barely touching the pain. Her ribs were making it entirely too hard to breathe correctly. Sharon had been right this morning when she tried to convince her to stay in bed instead of going into work. Especially since she didn't and couldn't actually work. She tried to close her eyes, but the next pothole in the road made her tense, which in turn, made her whimper a little.

"Sorry," Sharon said quietly.

Brenda turned her focus on Sharon and how tightly she was gripping the steering wheel. She wondered what was going through the other woman's head. They had already picked up the Thai food, and they were only about five minutes from Sharon's condo. She honestly couldn't wait to get back. The air in the car felt tense and she wasn't really sure what that was about. She watched as Sharon took a deep breath and held it in for a few seconds before letting it out. Her brow was creased. Something had happened between the time Sharon left Brenda's office and came back to get her to go home. Something with the investigation Brenda was guessing, which made her nervous. What could have popped up? She had told the truth, she had nothing to hide. The asshole broke into her home and even if he hadn't beat the hell out of her, she had every right to shoot him. Why did Sharon seem as though it was worse than it already was.

Brenda had learned not to push too hard though, especially about an investigation or Sharon would shut her out. She would wait until later and see if Sharon told her. If not she would ask, but she wouldn't push. The investigation was about Brenda after all. Sharon might not tell her anything until the report was complete. The Captain was professional if nothing else.

"Brenda Leigh," Sharon called down the hall. When she got no response she started walking toward the spare bedroom at the end, listening for sounds of movement or anything really. When they got home, Sharon had put the food in the kitchen and then went to her room to change and collect her thoughts a little. The new evidence on Atwood's phone had been disturbing to say the least, but she didn't want it to ruin the night. Returning to the kitchen, she was surprised to find the food out of the bag on the counter along with plates and flatware, but no Brenda. Which was the reason she was now looking for the other woman. A few steps left, softer than last time, she called the woman's name. She didn't want to startle the Chief.

"In here."

Sharon paused and turned toward the bathroom confused. She hadn't even heard her in there. The door was only partially closed, and Sharon wavered on whether to go in or not. "Everything ok?" She put her back to the wall in the hall and took a deep breath.

"Yeah, I think I might owe you a towel though," Brenda let out a concerning chuckle. "I–You can go on ahead and start eatin' I'll be out in a jiffy."

Sharon heard some more rustling around and then some wrappers. Her heart was in her throat thinking about how battered Brenda really was. The Chief had worn a long sleeve blouse and pants out of Sharon's closet today which covered the majority of it, but Sharon had seen it first hand the night it happened. Brenda's face was nothing compared to the multitude of other injuries peppering her body.

"Oh, shoot!" Brenda said barely above a whisper. Clearly, she thought Sharon had gone off to the kitchen.

She couldn't take this anymore. "May I come in," she asked as she knocked lightly on the doorframe.

"Uh...I don't know." Brenda sounded a little deflated.

Sharon pushed the door open anyway. Brenda was leaning up against the counter sans pants trying to bandage the bite marks on her thigh. Years of Sharon schooling her features and appearing cool and collected meant nothing in this moment because try as she might, she just couldn't get her face under control. "Oh Brenda."

"I bent over too far in the kitchen and I felt the blood start to run," her lip quivered and Sharon could hear the tears in the woman's voice. It broke her heart that she was going through this. "I didn't wanna ruin your pants though...sorry 'bout the towel."

"Don't worry about that," Sharon said, finally finding her strength. Even one of her good kitchen towels was replaceable, Brenda was not. She could be the strong one for this. It's what she did. When Brenda needed her, she could pull it together and get them through whatever it was. She cleared her throat and went into action mode. She unwrapped some gauze and uncapped the ointment that needed to go on first. She quickly found a cotton swab to apply it with. Sharon found fortitude in order. Everything set, she looked up at Brenda's face quickly, making a decision. "Up." She helped Brenda sit on the counter, and meticulously cleaned and bandaged the wounds.

When she was done, before she stepped back, she looked up and found tears in Brenda's eyes and running down her cheeks. Brenda tried to turn her head and wipe them, but Sharon caught her chin and gently wiped them away.

"Shar–" Brenda stopped and took a moment, grabbing Sharon's hands and holding them in her own. The Chief's hands were almost trembling, but Sharon squeezed a little, trying to give her the strength she needed to say whatever it was she was trying to get out. "I'm not...I don't know how to ask for things that I need. Like emotionally or when I really need help. Sometimes you're gonna have to tell me or ask me or somethin' because I just know I'm gonna mess everything up with you...and I'll hate myself if I do." Brenda looked deep into Sharon's eyes trying to convey her message. "Right now I know I'm a mess, but just don't give up on me ok?"

This woman. The raw honesty was new, but very appreciated. Sharon hated not knowing where they stood or what Brenda wanted or needed. It had always been this weird balance of space, trying not to push friendship, trying not to overstep for fear of sending Brenda running in the other direction. She was grateful to have this little bit of insight. "I'm not going anywhere, Brenda Leigh," she promised. "I can be stubborn too," they both smiled a little at that, "But I will do my best to remember that."

By the time they made it to bed, Brenda felt as though her whole body was on fire and tingling at the same time. Exhaustion. She knew what it was, but the sheer force of it was something she hadn't experienced in quite some time. Her body was working hard to heal itself, and she had ignored every bit of medical advice and pushed herself more than she should have.

Brenda didn't ask and Sharon didn't question the fact that Brenda climbed in bed beside the other woman instead of going down the hall to the spare bedroom. They settled in and Brenda reached out and grabbed Sharon's hand, interlacing their fingers. They just laid in silence for a while until Sharon whispered, "Are you awake?"

"Yeah," Brenda whispered, fighting off sleep.

"I'm going to release your house in the morning, but Brenda, I want you to stay here for a little bit longer...if you want to." Sharon was taking a chance and offering something she normally wouldn't, but Brenda had told her that sometimes she needed help. She thought this was one of those times. The woman wasn't ready to be on her own. Physically she could probably muddle through, she needed rest, which Sharon fully intended to make sure she stayed in bed tomorrow to accomplish. Emotionally, Sharon knew the Chief wasn't ready to be back in the house where such a violent attack had taken place.

But when Brenda didn't answer Sharon started to get nervous. She turned her head to chance a look in the dim light. Brenda was just looking back at her. "I want to," the blonde said simply and quieter than a whisper.

"Good," Sharon said, squeezing the hand she was holding.

Sharon looked at her night stand wanting to groan when she saw that it was almost two in the morning. Brenda had been asleep for hours now. She turned on her side and gently brushed back a strand of blonde hair that had fallen across the woman's face. She was careful not to brush against the angry marks on Brenda's face. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't sleep. The thoughts of Brenda, the crime scene, Atwood's body, Brenda's body, the pictures on Atwood's phone of her and Brenda, Elliot's face when he explained what he found, her anger at Pope, all the thoughts were warring around in her mind. Usually, she would still be at work when things were like this, but her need to take care of Brenda had pushed her to come home instead. Tomorrow she needed to finish up her report. Brenda would want to read it, she knew that, but Sharon had tactics and ways to keep her out of the loop until the last possible minute.

"Will you tell me?" Brenda whispered, sleep still playing in her voice.

Sharon pulled her hand back to her side of the bed. "Tell you what Brenda?"

"What's goin' on in that big ol' brain of yours?"

Sharon smiled at how thick Brenda's accent sounded right now. It was more pronounced now than when they were drinking, and Sharon liked having that knowledge. "Did my thoughts wake you up?" she chuckled.

"Yeah I can hear them, but I don't know what they're sayin'." Brenda opened her eyes finally and inched a tiny bit closer when she adjusted herself.

Sharon watched Brenda watch her. There was something comforting in knowing that they had developed this easiness between them, especially after their rocky start. It drove their teams a little bit nuts that they had gone from enemies to friends. However, Sharon treasured their relationship. They were still working on it and they still had their moments of animosity, but moments like this were what she craved. "I'm worried about you," she answered honestly but leaving out the thoughts about the case.

"Me too," Brenda admitted a little shakily.

Sharon didn't know how to answer with words. She was surprised and feeling emotional from everything all of a sudden. "Come here," Sharon said, raising her arm and scooting to the middle of the bed. Brenda only whimpered a little as she adjusted and allowed Sharon to hold her. "I'm not hurting you, am I?"

Brenda shook her head slightly and pulled Sharon's arms tighter.

Freshly showered and made up, Sharon came out of the bathroom and found that Brenda was awake but still laying in bed. Sharon made sure her robe was wrapped tightly around herself and headed to the closet. "Good morning."

"Mornin'," Brenda said croakily. "Time is it?"

"Around seven," Sharon called, slipping on her blouse. She had allowed herself to sleep later than normal because she had been up half the night thinking. Normally she would be rushing around feeling as though she needed to get to work and finish her report, but today she found herself wanting to procrastinate. As she pulled on and buttoned her pants, she heard some groaning noises and stuck her head out of the closet door. Brenda was attempting to stand up. She watched as the blonde struggled and then finally gave up with a huff and fell back onto the bed.

Sharon moved to the side of the bed, "How can I help?" She felt unsure because of how bruised Brenda was, she didn't want to touch her in the wrong place. She offered a hand out and Brenda grabbed it with one of her own. It wasn't enough though and Sharon had to brace the Chief's back with the other hand to get her up.

As Brenda walked into the bathroom she was pretty sure the inside of her cheek was bleeding where she had bit down to keep from yelling as Sharon helped her up. She had needed the assistance, but the Captain's hand on her shoulder hit a particularly tender place. She spit the blood into the sink and braced her arms on the ledge. The sight in the mirror was sickening and actually made her a little bit nauseous. She wondered how Sharon could even stand to look at her. The bruises were darker and wider than they had been previously and the cut on her lip was all scabbed over and crusty. That was just the visible parts. She didn't want to know what the rest of her body looked like.

After a few more minutes she made her way over to the toilet and had a hell of a time getting seated. Getting up was even worse. She felt pathetic at barely being able to accomplish even the most basic of tasks. Not to mention that just these few things, had completely zapped her of all her energy. As she was washing her hands, Sharon called through the door, "Brenda, I'm going to make you some breakfast and coffee so you can take your pills. Just get back in bed, I'll bring it to you."

"'K." Brenda waited until she heard Sharon leave the bedroom and then limped her way back to the bed. As gingerly as she could she managed to lay back down and get the covers over her with a big sigh.

Sharon carried a tray with a cup of coffee, a glass of water, pancakes, syrup, and the pill bottles into her room. Brenda was settled back against the pillows, eyes closed. "You awake?" Sharon asked quietly.

Brenda's eyes popped open immediately. "Yep. Oh goodness, Sharon you didn't have to go through all this trouble. I woulda been ok with somethin' easy like toast."

Sharon shrugged as she got everything situated. "It was no trouble." She stood back up and moved to the closet to get her shoes. "Be sure you take both the antibiotic and the pain pill. You can take the one for pain again in four hours, ok?" Brenda nodded. "Don't forget."

"Yes, ma'am." Brenda fake saluted the best she could without raising her arm too high.

Sharon just chuckled. "When you get done just set all that on the nightstand. I can get it later." She watched as Brenda took her first bite and was pleased when the woman smiled and quickly took a second bite. "I put the remote on the nightstand by you. Help yourself to anything you want in the kitchen. What else, what else?" Sharon looked around. "Rest as much as you can and call me if you need me."

"I'll be ok. You sure you want me here? I mean I can get a hotel or something…"

"I'm sure." And she was. She didn't want Brenda in a hotel suffering by herself. Today was Friday and God willing, once she submitted her report, she planned to take the rest of the day and come home anyway. Sharon's phone started ringing in the other room. "I'll see you in a little bit. Call if you need to."

Brenda just nodded and watched her walk away.

Around two that afternoon Sharon unlocked her front door and gently closed it behind her. She leaned back against it. Before she left the office, she had Pope in her office fishing for information and pressuring her to let him read her report. She had declined and informed him that it had already been sent to the proper people. It took her reassuring him about five different times that Brenda hadn't made any grievances against him or the department and that she was going to be cleared before he finally left her in peace. The second he left her office, she had packed her stuff up, informed Elliot she was leaving and then gotten in the car to come straight home. It had been a tiresome week and she just wanted to have some time away from the drama of the LAPD.

Sharon opened her eyes and looked around, everything was still where she had left it and there were no noises coming from the condo. She slipped off her shoes and quietly made her way down the hallway to check on Brenda. She found the blonde asleep, covers pulled up all the way to her chin. Her face was scrunched and didn't look anything like the peaceful sleep she had been in last night. The TV was on but muted and an old black and white movie played on in silence. The tray Sharon had brought to the Chief this morning was still on the nightstand, so she moved to grab it and clean up the mess.

She figured Brenda probably hadn't moved from the bed all day. That was a good thing, but also worried Sharon a little. Brenda was a restless person, she was always on the go or fidgeting in some way or another. She was probably too sore and her body in too much distress to get up though. Sharon moved out of the room as silently as she could and into the kitchen. There were no dishes in the sink and nothing looked as though it had been touched, which meant Brenda hadn't eaten lunch either.

She sighed and sat the tray on the counter. Moving to the fridge, Sharon weighed the options. It was already two which meant if they ate now they probably wouldn't want dinner. That was fine too though, one less meal to cook. Or she could take the shortcut and order something in. She was still debating when her phone buzzed in her pocket. She pulled it out surprised to see a text from Flynn.

Just a heads up Agent Howard was just here wanting to know where The Chief was and if anyone knew where she was staying. Officially we don't know but I figure she's with you…

Oh the lovely Fritz Howard. He and Brenda had dated for a bit and Brenda had clued her into the way their relationship had made her feel. He had tried many times to get her to reconsider her job, to not go out in the field, to find a safer job. Fritz had also been pretty adamant about having kids which is something Brenda was almost positive she didn't want to do. There had been other little insights Brenda had shared with her, but the bottom line was that they ended their relationship and he hadn't been able to figure out why or let go completely. He had told Brenda that she would be back when she realized she needed him.

As it turned out, Brenda hadn't needed him and Sharon was positive that this whole ordeal happening now wasn't going to push the blonde into running right back into his arms. Especially since she was injured so badly and was exactly what Fritz had been worried about. They all worried about it in their line of work, but being an investigator and interrogator were in Brenda's blood. Anyone with half a brain could see that, and they would also know that forcing her to give it up would break the woman. She would never be happy doing something else. Fritz Howard was an idiot.

Sharon sighed and typed out a quick reply.

Thanks for the heads up. Officially I don't know either. Unofficially you are correct.

Flynn was a good guy and pretty insightful when he wanted to be. She was just glad that Brenda's team had her back the way that they did. They would go to the ends of the earth for their Chief and that was something that could really be admired. She put her phone on the counter and decided to dig around for the menu to that italian place Brenda liked to have delivered.

Brenda woke with a start, unsure of what had actually pushed her out of the dream world she had been in. She strained her ears but heard nothing. She turned her head to look at the clock on the nightstand and realized she wasn't at her house and the clock was on the other nightstand, obscured from view by pillows. The tray was gone though. Sharon had to be home. That was good because she really had to go to the bathroom and hadn't been able to get up earlier on her own. God she felt pathetic.

She cleared her throat and called out not too loudly, "Sharon?"

A minute later the Captain appeared in the doorway. "Hey, you're awake." Sharon had changed out of the suit she had left in that morning and was now wearing a pair of sweats and an oversized long sleeve shirt. Brenda had to blink a few times to reconcile this look on the woman that was usually so impeccably dressed.

"Yeah, you have a really nice bed," she commented, feeling somehow a little guilty for still being in said bed.

"Some things are worth spending a little extra money on." She smiled and moved into the room, coming over to Brenda's side of the bed. "What can I do to help?"

Brenda wondered how the other woman had known. It was like she had a natural ability to read Brenda right now. If it wasn't so helpful in this situation, she would be annoyed. "I need to go to the bathroom," she said meekly, shifting in the bed a little.

Sharon just nodded and offered her hand. This time Brenda let out a little yelp of pain when Sharon helped her. "I'm sorry," Sharon said but didn't pull away, knowing Brenda would fall back to the bed if she did.

"It's fine," Brenda said through a clenched jaw. It wasn't Sharon's fault, there was no real safe place to touch her right now that didn't hurt. She made it up and into the bathroom though without further incident. When she finally managed to get off the toilet though she had tears in her eyes.

A knock sounded on the front door and Sharon called out, "I ordered us some food. I'll be right back."

Brenda just let out a sigh of relief when she heard Sharon leave the bedroom. She felt like such a fool crying in Sharon's bathroom and fought to keep the noise down. Maybe she should just go home. This whole situation was messed up and she didn't want it to cause Sharon to realize what a disaster Brenda really was. It wouldn't be good for their relationship and it definitely wasn't the way that Brenda wanted to court the other woman.

Try as she might, she couldn't get the tears to stop. It wasn't just pain, it was trauma. Brenda knew that. She knew that in order to move on she needed to process it and cry about it and talk about it, but she also hated herself a little bit for it. She was stronger, better than this. She was Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson for heaven's sake.

Setting the tray of food on the nightstand, Sharon was surprised to hear crying coming from the bathroom. She ran her hand through her hair. After a minute, she knocked on the door, "Brenda?" There was no response. She pushed the door open and found Brenda on the floor, face in her hands, sobbing. "What happened?" She got down on the floor next to Brenda. Carefully, she put one arm over Brenda's shoulders and pulled her closer. This didn't feel like a time for distance. Brenda started crying harder and turned into the touch. "It's ok, I'm right here," Sharon said quietly.

It took a while but eventually Brenda calmed down and quit shaking enough for Sharon to shift and lean her cheek down on Brenda's head. This hadn't been about pain, this was deeper than that. This was emotional turmoil.

"Shar–" Brenda sniffled. "I'm such a mess."

"No, honey, you're not a mess. You are hurting. I wish I could help somehow, take it all away." Sharon brushed a kiss over the top of Brenda's head. She couldn't help it, maybe it was the mother in her, maybe it was something else. She didn't regret it though. "Do you think you can get up?"

"You're definitely gonna have to help me."

In bed that night, Brenda couldn't quit thinking about her breakdown in the bathroom. She was absolutely humiliated at the fact that Sharon had now seen her breakdown two times and probably heard her the third time when she had cried in the shower. This was not how she wanted Sharon to think of her. She needed to get out of this house. She needed to put some distance between her and Sharon so that they could get back to normal. She would recover, they could go back to dinners, lunch, the occasional drink and go from there. They could go back to Captain Raydor and Chief Johnson. Anything was better than Sharon seeing her like this.

She was restless, the pain still hadn't let up even after taking two pills. She shifted again and tried to get comfortable, but it just wasn't working. The third time she moved, Sharon stirred from her sleep. "What's wrong?" Sharon whispered and reached out a hand to the middle of the bed.

"Sorry," Brenda shifted again when pain shot through her chest because she took too deep of a breath. "Maybe I should go to the other room so you can sleep."

"Stay, it's ok." Sharon turned on her side, toward Brenda.

"Is it though?"

"Brenda?" After a minute or two Sharon reached over and grabbed her glasses. "Talk to me, please."

Brenda sighed, wincing. "I like you Sharon. You're a smart woman, and I know that you know I like you, even if I haven't said it outloud." Brenda found Sharon's eyes. "I'm scared that if I stay here and you keep seein' me like this, it's gonna mess everythin' up. Because whether you think so or not, I'm not really me. I feel a little messed up in the head right now." Brenda closed her eyes and reached out for Sharon's hand that was between them. They easily interlaced their fingers and she found some strength in that. "I've had close calls before, but Sharon, this time I was almost sure I was gonna die right there in my livin' room. But somehow–" She stopped to think about how to phrase it when Sharon spoke for her.

"Somehow, you did exactly what you had to do. You survived and in the process you took a life." Sharon squeezed her hand a little. "It's hard to reconcile right now because it's still so fresh Brenda it's only been three days. I don't know many other women that would have been able to go through what you did and still muster up the courage and energy it took to fight back and save yourself. We all like to think we could, but I speak from experience when I say not everyone can. So you, Brenda Leigh Johnson, are still you...the strong, stubborn, feisty, southern, beautiful woman that kicks ass and always gets her man. Even if you don't feel it right now, you are."

Brenda smiled with a quivering lip, unsure of what to say to that. It made her happy that Sharon could still say those things about her. It also helped to push some of the doubt away that she had been feeling and had let build up inside of her.

"As for the liking me part," Sharon gave a little chuckle and smile. "I like you too."

"You do?" Brenda played coy because she already knew that, they had just been dancing around saying it out loud for a long time.

"I do." They just looked at each other for a few moments, and Brenda felt lighter, happier at knowing that things were finally out in the open. "We are going to get through this Brenda Leigh, this and whatever else follows. Together."

And Brenda believed her.