A/N: Although I loved "Hollywood Brass", I felt there had to be more between Jim Brass and Annie. That said, I own none of these characters and get nothing from it but the joy of writing Jim Brass and Annie Kramer. Oh, and a special big thanks to Merc!
Spoilers: Hollywood Brass, obviously.
Open EndsIt was nearly one in the morning when the familiar Chrysler pulled up in front of her house. She watched from the front window as he exited the car, grabbed his bag from the back seat and slowly crossed the small, manicured lawn. His movements were stiff and worn, weary and resigned, like a man completely dragged down by the weight of the truth and his inability to affect it. He came to LA to help Ellie and instead, he would be leaving with more revelations about his daughter than he or any father could bear.
Brass had intended to drive back to Vegas but something told her he wasn't ready to make the long drive back just yet and quite honestly she doubted that he'd be able to stay awake. Although Jimmy would never admit it, Annie knew he hadn't had much, if any, sleep since he arrived three days ago. It was his desire to help Ellie that kept him going—well, that and the detective instincts that he'd never be able to rid himself of—but that rush had long since passed and with the help of a large scotch, the reality of it all had come crashing down.
She had given him her home number and told him to call if he changed his mind. A half hour after she walked in the front door, he called.
Now, wordlessly, he followed her inside.
She knew he wasn't there because he wanted to rekindle something long passed. He was there because tonight, he needed someone familiar, someone who wouldn't judge his failures; he needed a friend. Annie Kramer was happy to fill that role.
"I'm not putting you out or anything, am I?"
"No, I already traded my shift with one of the guys." He stood rigidly in the middle of her living room, staring at some far off point like it held all the answers. She had seen that look too many times over the last few days and each time it ripped her heart a little more.
"Thanks." He tried to smile but it never reached his lips.
"When was the last time you slept?" Why hadn't she noticed how tired he looked before? Then again, if it were her kid, she wouldn't have slept either.
Annie felt the pang deep in her stomach. Yes, she had a truth of her own only this one would never be revealed—not to Jimmy anyway.
"About twenty-two years ago."
She stood in front of him, motioning for his jacket. "Before Ellie was born."
"Yeah." His dark eyes looked away momentarily then locked on hers with an intensity that took her breath away. He'd already chipped away at her defenses earlier that night; another look like that and she'd have nothing left.
She ran her hand over his back, gently guiding him over to the sofa and asked the first question that came to mind. "Still play hockey?"
He let her sit first then took the cushion next to her and leaned back. "Don't get much chance any more."
"Wouldn't know to look at you."
He shook his head. "I'm fifteen years older and a couple of steps slower than the last time you saw me. Hell, even my chest hair's turning gray."
"Age looks good on you, Jimmy. I don't care what you think."
"Thanks," he replied with a smile that conveyed nothing but weariness. "You still look beautiful, Annie. Just like back in Jersey."
She laughed. "I'm in LA. Everything can be reversed—even age."
"Shoot, you know me too well." Eyeing him closely, she stood up. "Come on," she said, holding out her hand. "Let's go to bed."
He looked up at her, his expression devoid of any emotion, and took her hand.
After all the years that had passed, it amazed her how so many things about Jimmy Brass were still familiar to her. She remembered how the tension always settled at the base of his neck, between his shoulder blades, and the awful headaches he got because of it. Seeing him persistently rub the back of his neck, pulling at the muscles, she knew he had to be suffering. She also knew Jimmy would never say anything. He'd always suffered in silence, whether it was a bad marriage or a tension headache. It just wasn't in his nature to complain. But she knew.
Without a word she had pointed him in the direction of the bathroom and strongly suggested he take a long, hot shower. He hadn't protested.
Twenty minutes later and she could still hear the water running. Either he had fallen asleep or the hot water was doing him some good.
Brass emerged from the bathroom and waited in the hallway in a pair of drawstring cotton pants, damp hair sticking up, unsure where to go.
Annie stood unnoticed in the doorway of her bedroom, quietly observing, among other things, his bout of indecision. He was too much of a gentleman to make assumptions and if she didn't say something soon, he'd probably stand there all night.
"Come on," she said, motioning with her head and stepping back to let him pass.
"I didn't have a T-shirt to put on," he said with an apologetic shrug.
"That's okay." How could she possibly complain? She definitely liked what she saw.
He'd never had what she would call a perfect body—too many scars from old battles. Cleaning up corruption always came with a heavy price and Jimmy had paid his dues. But there had always been something about him that she found extremely attractive—even now, much to her chagrin.
Damn, she did not want this to happen again; she didn't want all the memories dredged back to the surface. She'd hoped to leave the hurt from their affair back in Jersey. LA was a clean start. Jimmy never knew the real reason she left and she'd never tell him. She saw a lot of hurt in his eyes over the last few days; she didn't want to see ever again.
She followed him into the room and watched him sit on the edge of the bed and let out a deep breath. Crawling across the bed and coming to rest on her knees behind him, she put her hands on his shoulders and felt him tense momentarily, then relax.
"You're one solid knot, Jimmy," she said, working her thumbs into the unyielding muscle along his spine. She ran her hands down his broad back then back up to his neck and across to his freckled shoulders, delighting in the contrast of soft skin and the hard, compact muscle beneath.
Tracing the long, ugly scar that started at the top of his left shoulder and curled around to his armpit, she felt him squirm. "Danny Battaglia did that, didn't he?" She kissed the top of his shoulder as if it would make the pain go away.
"Yeah. Two of his buddies held me down while Danny carved. I think he was trying to cut my arm off."
She was surprised he was willing to talk about it. Then again, he had made a lot of unexpected revelations tonight. "Looks like it still hurts."
"I got some nerve damage. My hand tingles every now and then."
"That why you flex your fingers all the time?"
He turned around and smiled. "Yeah."
Her eyes narrowed. "And they still let you in the field?"
"It doesn't affect me that much. I can still qualify either hand."
She looked at him long and hard, finally deciding he was telling the truth. "How long did Danny get?"
Brass took a deep breath. "Twenty-seven years."
"You got a lot of enemies out there, Jimmy. Does it ever scare you?" She was afraid of the choices she had to make, of the political enemies that could end her career. He'd done it and landed on his feet so that did give her some measure of comfort but this was her life. She wasn't sure she had the determination that Jimmy had had.
"If I spent all my time looking over my shoulder, I'd be too paranoid to do my job." He turned all the way around so that he was now facing her. "Look, I know you'll do what you think is right and if it means not stirring up that can of crap, well, you gotta do what you think is best for you. I'm not gonna judge you any different if you decide to throw away that envelope."
Impulsively, she leaned forward and kissed him, gentle at first but then with more fire, more urgency. Fueling the desire, his hand pressed against her right breast, fingers massaging, making the nipple harden sharply under the fabric of her cami, then slid over to its twin and bestowed the same careful attention.
It seemed like an eternity had passed before the kiss ended but when they finally parted, she had goose bumps all over her body. How could the feel of him, the closeness of him, the scent and taste of him still have such and effect on her after fifteen years? Then again, judging by the looks of one significant part of his anatomy, she still had an effect on him as well.
Gently stroking her arm, his voice was soft, serious. "Tell me you don't want this to go any further and I can sleep on the couch."
Annie knew why he was asking. Jimmy Brass would never lose that self-deprecating sense of worth, that feeling that he was never really what a woman wanted. Give Nancy the grand prize because she certainly did a number on him. Hell, for that matter every woman in his life did a number on him. Was she guilty too?
"No, I want you to stay." Seeing his eyebrows go up questioningly, she answered what she knew was on his mind. "It's taken care of. No worries."
He took her hands in hers and kissed the fingertips with a gentleness that tore at her heart then slowly, deeply kissed her again.
Once, when she had first met Jim Brass, she would have never believed he could have been capable of such profound sensuality, such intense desire. But she had learned quickly. And now, as he quietly divested her of the cotton cami and matching shorts, as she slipped the cotton pants off his hips, as he gently urged her onto her back and explored her body slowly, thoroughly, delighting her in each hot, burning caress, each heated kiss, she knew he hadn't lost his touch.
He kissed every tender, sensitive spot, stroked every plane of warm, responsive flesh and when she said she wanted him now, he lightly kissed a path along her body until he was directly over her. She caught the feral look in his eyes, felt the heat emanating off his body and pulled him closer. She wanted that heat desperately and as his mouth seized hers, as he reached down to position himself, she lifted her hips instinctively and welcomed the union eagerly.
Contact brought a hard but pleasant jolt in the pit of her stomach. She remembered the feel of him perfectly and when he started to move, she moved with him: two bodies in perfect motion slow at first then with increasing intensity. The pace was fast, punishing, and as she wrapped her legs around his hips, she heard his shuddering breath and knew he was close. So was she.
Her own breath came in tight, quick gasps now all semblance of thought replaced by one primal response that made her back arch and grip his shoulders tightly as she cried out. A few more thrusts and she felt his body tense then spasm in his own release.
She held him tightly, feeling his heart pounding against her chest, her hands stroking his damp hair, her body still tingling. He hadn't moved yet and quite frankly, she didn't want him too. She loved the feel of his skin against hers, the tickle of damp hair against her breasts but mostly she loved the feeling of electricity still in her body. God, how she missed that.
Lifting his head off her shoulder, he kissed her with something akin to reverence. "Thank you," he whispered into her ear. Those expressive eyes were looking at her again, conveying so much more than he seemed to be able to say.
Brushing her fingers through his hair, loving how soft it felt even damp, she smiled tenderly. She could have easily said the same thing but in the end, she said nothing. Maybe she wasn't in love with him, as she once had been, but she was still cared deeply for him; there was no doubt she was still attracted to him.
He rolled to the side then shifted, bringing her body close to his. He seemed to be just as unwilling and unable to let go of her as she was of him. Studying his face, she saw the serenity in his eyes and smiled. He knew as well as she did that this had not been a mistake. He needed her, yes, but the bigger revelation was just how much she needed him. Although she knew it wouldn't last beyond this moment, she felt at peace. No worries about departmental politics or dead hookers or Vic Patterson or her career. Just the peace of being with someone she held very dear to her heart.
Brass rolled onto his back, his arm still wrapped around her back while her fingers combed through the soft, glistening hair on his chest.
She started to tease him about the coarse gray hairs only to realize he had drifted off to sleep. Sighing contently, she closed her eyes and snuggled against him.
Brass walked slowly down the dark corridor, the stench of urine and vomit strong in his nostrils, and rubbed the back of his neck. Most of the tension had dissipated, thanks to Annie, but one knot would never go away, not as long as Ellie was still on the streets.
By the time he got back to Vegas, he expected he'd have a couple more knots. His cell phone rang twice at Annie's and both times it had been the sheriff. Brass knew he'd be lucky if he still had a job when he got back but honestly, he wasn't sure he really cared. He'd always figured he'd end his days as a burnt out PI working out of a seedy office off the Strip.
Glancing at the open window on the second floor, wondering if Ellie was up there, looking down at him from the shadows, he unlocked the Chrysler and got in. With both hands on the steering wheel, he rested his head against the headrest and closed his eyes.
The night at Annie's, though all too brief, had done him a world of good but merely served to reopen something he'd thought had long since closed.
He felt a twinge of guilt leaving like he did but he had to. He had to get back to Vegas, back to his reality, where Ellie and Annie would eventually fade into the bright neon lights. Leaning forward, turning the key in the ignition and starting up the engine, he put the car in drive and with one long last glance up to the window he drove away, leaving behind Ellie and the stink of human garbage.
Annie rolled over and ran her hand across the cold void. He was gone. She knew it before she got out of bed and looked out the window. That part of Brass never changed. He'd never liked to say good-bye so he just left. Maybe that's what he did with Ellie.
Picking up her cordless, she dialed the number, hoping she remembered it right.
He answered on the third ring.
"So you still leaving without saying good-bye?"
She heard the deep chuckle on the other end. "Yeah, you know me. I didn't want to wake you."
She glanced at the digital clock and realized he was still on the road. "So where are you?"
"Other side of Barstow."
"Traffic must be bad. I figured you'd be closer to home."
"I, uh, had a stop to make first."
She didn't have to ask where he went. "And?"
"Had a nice little chat with the sheriff."
Okay, so he wasn't going to talk about it. She'd leave it alone since he'd so obviously changed the subject. "Oh, yeah? How'd that go?"
"I got a brand new asshole."
She laughed, knowing immediately what he meant.
"Pulling a double tonight."
"Your choice or his?"
That was a quality in every cop but a strong one in Brass: bury yourself in work so you don't have to think about how your own life is. There's always some poor bastard that's worse off. "Jimmy, how are you doing?""A lot better. Annie, again, thanks for everything. And uh, next time you're in Vegas…"
"I'll be nice enough to say good-bye."
"Maybe I didn't want this to be a good-bye." He was quiet for a moment then, "Look if you hear anything, you'll call me, right?"
"I got your number in my cell phone."
"Thanks. I owe you."
"I'll be out to collect." Her voice turned very serious. "You take care of yourself, Jimmy. Don't get careless."
"I won't. And don't worry. Whatever you decide, it'll turn out okay."
"Wish I had your optimism." She heard him laugh again.
And with that, they hung up.
Annie sat on the bed, thinking about something he said. Maybe it wasn't a good-bye after all. Seeing him again certainly stirred up emotions she had long since buried.
And Vegas wasn't that far away…