No Time like the Present
Sharon balanced on her dining chair. She grunted indignantly as her fingers reached for the storage box that she had difficulty getting to every year.
With one final huff she pulled the box down and stepped off her chair, pleased.
It was Christmas and Sharon was looking forward to her family's annual trip to Park City. During the year she didn't particularly miss the snow or the cold but every Christmas she felt that yearning within herself, and the anticipation of the upcoming trip left her buzzing and, for her standards, rather bubbly.
Seeing her children for five uninterrupted days and having them pretty much to herself was perhaps the biggest joy.
Sharon opened the box and retrieved her jacket. She had bought it a month ago for the trip, her other having gone out of fashion which had been enough of an excuse to buy the new one even though that voice in the back of her mind had protested slightly at spending this much for a last season's Peuterey.
The brunette folded the jacket and put it over the cast iron frame of her bed.
Sharon smiled a little as she closed her ready packed suitcase that laid on the covers.
Her cell phone decided to ring at that moment and disturb her pre-Christmas cheer. Sharon hoped it wasn't Pope or her mother, again, to ask her to bring her something or other that she had forgotten.
Instead, Sharon realized with a sinking feeling, it was Chief Johnson.
She sat on the edge of the bed, slumping over a bit and took a deep breath, steeling herself.
"Cap'n," Brenda said, "This is Chief Johnson."
Really, Sharon rolled her eyes and pulled her glasses from her nose. "Chief, what can I do for you today?" She tried to be polite and patient, the latter requiring quite the amount of self-control whenever Little Miss Peachy was involved.
"We've got a situation."
Sharon swallowed, her eyes closing in near-despair. "A situation?" She asked delicately, trying to remain on a respectful level with the woman because it gave her a certain sense of civilizedness that Sharon found to be lacking in the world, especially in her line of work.
"Well," Chief Johnson went on too nonchalantly. "It looks like we've got ourselves an Officer involved...um...death."
Sharon nodded slowly. "A death, Chief?"
"Hmm," she hummed and glanced at the clock. "I suppose I should have a look." She got up and pulled her suitcase from the bed, extending the handle.
Sharon took her down jacket and draped it over her arm. "I'll meet you at the scene then."
"Oh that won't be necessary," Brenda said quickly.
"And why is that?"
"It's quite clear what happened...we've got video and b'sides, the scene has already been released."
The brunette sighed and made her way to the front door. "Released? Chief, if I am to conduct a thorough investigation, I will need a scene."
"Well...that's too bad. Um, look, Sharon...this won't take long, it's open and shut but I still have to sign off on three reports for Chief Pope, god knows why he's still workin' and I have to pick my Momma and Daddy up from the airport." Brenda sighed loudly. "I'd love to take this off your hands, even the coroner says the autopsy should be pretty conclusive but I've just don't got the time."
Sharon rolled her eyes. "And I don't have time for your...endless tales of woe-"
"Tales of woe?!" Brenda screeched, scandalized. "This is a serious police matter."
"A man got run over by the LAPD, if that's not serious then what is, Captain?"
Sharon locked her front door, pulling her suitcase along. "Run over?"
"Yes," Brenda confirmed. "Splattered across the windshield."
"Oh for god's sake..." Sharon mumbled under her breath and proceeded to her Hyundai in the driveway. "I'll be right there. And please, Chief, don't...do anything else till I get there, okay?"
"Okay...I was just tryin' to be helpful."
"Well," Sharon opened the trunk of her car. "Don't."
"Fine," the blonde sounded contrite. "I'll see you in the morgue."
"Perfect," she said, more to herself, and hung up.
Sometimes Sharon felt like a pushover.
Not that she could leave, mind you, Brenda was still her superior officer and her orders had to be followed...even when they were completely ludicrous, as far as Sharon was concerned.
Truth be told, she had a life and she hardly got to see her children as it was.
Her son called her once a week, relaying much about his work life, whereas his private life, and it was strange to think of your children having such, remained in the dark.
Sharon wasn't sure whether he was merely being secretive about one thing or another that he felt too embarrassed to talk to his mother about or perhaps he just couldn't talk to her, per se. Perhaps he talked to other people, perhaps he was a very talkative person usually, perhaps she had missed one Christmas too many.
Johnson could have taken care of it herself, Sharon concluded, staring down at the blood stained linen sheet wrapped around their dead body.
And so far, it was 'their' body because somebody had yet to claim it.
And usually that was Johnson.
Sharon released a slow, deliberate breath - she had to get rid of this case.
Admittedly, it wasn't necessarily the honorable thing to do, and to think of him as a mere criminal, having attacked somebody with a knife, was morally reprehensible because most of the time Sharon did find herself on that side of the fence with her investigations whereas Johnson was on the other...far, far at that.
She listened to Brenda relay her tales of woe yet again, her parents were coming to town, it was Christmas, her squad had plans, blah, blah, blah. Sharon had heard it before. Brenda was, if anything, very predictable in her efforts to manipulate people.
Sometimes Sharon wondered how her husband dealt with that.
The blonde probably jerked him around as well.
It was reprehensible to think of it that way but that sordid thing they were doing had given her a lot of insight. She had always known how to push the woman's buttons, that was fairly easy but funnily enough, Brenda knew how to push hers just as well; at least Sharon now knew what to say in order to get her way.
Sometimes Brenda was completely oblivious to how transparent she actually was.
"Chief, I sympathize but I'm leaving tomorrow to be with my mom and dad in Park City. My kids are already there and my dad is not feeling well and this may very well be his last Christmas."
Brenda stared at her for a moment, Sharon could practically see the wheels turning which she knew meant that she had very likely won this round - Brenda just was weak when it came to fathers.
"I'm sure we can wrap this up by tonight."
"Detective Sanchez, get Dr. Morales for me, wherever he might be and you," she meant Sharon, "get the dash cam from the patrol car and interview the officers-"
"And I get the guy who was attacked in an interview room right away."
Gabriel finished her sentence and was on his way.
"And we'll take a statement together."
The instance Brenda smirked at her, Sharon knew that she was mocking her.
"Together?" She asked silkily, knowing that the blonde particularly enjoyed that tone of voice.
"Yes," Brenda turned on her heel, expecting her to follow. "You even get to pick when to ask your questions."
"Is that supposed to be my Christmas present?" Sharon put her hands in the pockets of her blazer, clicking and clacking after the woman.
"No, Cap'n." Brenda said over her shoulder. "I got somethin' else for you..."
As the interview unraveled some of the mysteries of the case, Sharon began to get the sinking feeling that she would not make her flight.
Everyone knew how Johnson was - that she worked tirelessly and perhaps somewhat obsessively to solve murders, and that she wouldn't let anybody stand in the way of her investigations.
Not even Sharon's sick 'Daddy' or Gabriel's trip to Italy.
Her 'Gabriel', Sergeant Elliott, was at home. His first Christmas with his new baby and even though Sharon felt tempted to call him in and have him take over, she didn't have the heart to take that away from him.
After all, she knew how it was to look back on several missed festivities over the years.
And she really couldn't not show up this time.
Sharon felt like she owed it to herself as well. She had had a hard time lately and the fact that she had to stand next to the woman she was carrying on with didn't help matters. She knew why Brenda needed this, Sharon wasn't an idiot, but she couldn't figure out why she herself couldn't just end it.
It was clear that she had to do something about it, sooner rather than later really, or else she might not be able to look her parents in the eye.
And then her mother would prod and pester her until she gave it up and all hell would break loose.
No. Her lips would be sealed.
First she had to make sure that she even got there. The airline wanted $700 to change her ticket, which she would pay, but that was beside the point. She knew she had to take care of her duties but at that moment she wanted to throttle the woman following a good whack over the head with that hideous handbag.
Sometimes Brenda annoyed her more than other times and it was those occasions she wished she could cuff her to the bed again.
Sharon smirked to herself then smirked at Detective Sanchez...and his hat.
Everyone was ready for Christmas, everyone except Johnson.
She was always ready for a murder.
What a miserable existence that must be.
Sharon wanted to roll her eyes.
What in the world attracted her to the woman that even when she was being completely insufferable, Sharon couldn't help but want her.
The brunette was seldom selfish, she made a point not to be, but Brenda was just something she wanted to have.
She took it. For once.
And it felt good.
As Brenda sped down the hall to greet her parents in the 'Murder Room', as they called it, Sharon contemplated to just remain in the exact same spot.
Meeting her parents?
Out of the question but the way Sanchez eyed her up, as if he knew something, which he very likely didn't, made Sharon feel just a tad uneasy.
She hurried after the woman then, Sanchez right behind her, and tried to come up with an impromptu game plan, improvise a nonchalant and entirely unsuspicious first meeting.
Her parents had no idea and Sharon tried not to let the guilty conscience show as her eyes zeroed in on Mr. and Mrs. Johnson.
She looked terribly sweet, Sharon thought, and it was apparent where Brenda got her sense of fashion from.
He looked imposing, like somebody you didn't want to antagonize.
Sharon swallowed. She hadn't even looked at Fritz yet. She couldn't.
Some days were just better than others, some days she couldn't even remember having slept with this man's wife, some days it completely slipped her mind but others Sharon barely managed to look at him.
"I just wish we all could watch Lieutenant Provenza put on his Santa suit..."
The brunette took a breath upon which she realized that she had stopped breathing altogether.
"...and take all these toys to the needy children."
So, that were the parents.
Brenda didn't seem fazed at all.
Sharon wanted to disappear.
However, Brenda's nonchalance calmed Sharon somewhat, oddly enough. She couldn't help but admire her ability to become Daddy's little girl, change personality, in the blink of an eye.
Was she genuine?
Sharon couldn't tell.
The brunette felt a hot flush coming on, it was panic, she realized and even though she had wanted to remain silent and to simply wait it out, desperation made her do the craziest things.
Like entering a room with the parents and the husband of the woman she was carrying on with.
She was sleeping with Brenda Leigh Johnson. Not just the Chief, no, with an actual person who deceived her entire family and was even despicably good at it.
"Um, Chief Johnson..." Sharon said quietly, hoping to interrupt the cheerfulness and remind Brenda where they were at and what they were supposed to be doing.
"Oh, I'm sorry."
Sharon almost breathed a sigh of relief, but then:
"Momma, Daddy, this is my Captain Raydor."
Absolute silence. Sharon blinked.
"I-I mean, my friend, Captain Sharon..."
It just went from bad to worse. The brunette felt the blood drain from her face, the idea of whacking the blonde with her giant purse getting more and more appealing.
"I mean, my friend, Sharon Raydor."
Her friend...Sharon Raydor. She glanced at Fritz.
Oh, yes, Sharon thought, swallowing convulsively. He was thinking it. And he didn't even spare her a glance.
Sharon was pretty sure that the man hated her guts.
"We've been waitin' to meet one of Brenda's friends since she graduated high school."
Any other day Sharon would be greatly amused at Brenda's expense but not today. She glanced at Fritz again.
Her parents were absolutely lovely.
"Well, here I am."
Sharon surprised even herself. She wasn't a good liar, at least she liked to think so; being a good liar wasn't something people prided themselves with.
"Wait a minute Clay; did you say Captain, as in you work here?"
The brunette nodded. "Yes, that's right, Mrs. Johnson." Manners. If Catholic school had taught her anything, it was manners. Sharon was glad for it, being able to fall back on proper mannerly conduct, ladylikeness, pleasantries even, was a great comfort.
"Ah, I see, her friend works here." Mrs. Johnson said evenly.
A recurring theme then, Sharon noted.
"Please, call me Willie Rae. Brenda's friends are my friends too."
Sharon grasped the woman's hand, plastering a smile onto her face. "Okay, Willie Rae." It felt like an initiation yet she couldn't help but think about her children, if somebody did that to them.
Not that Brenda wasn't just as responsible but as a parent you were meant to overlook these things, or weren't you?
Clay would skin her alive, Sharon was sure. And Fritz? He still hadn't looked at her. Perhaps he felt superior because he had what he thought she wanted. It angered her slightly; she didn't want anything though, he could have her, which sounded somewhat archaic but it wasn't like Sharon was trying to ruin anything on purpose.
She just really wished they weren't doing this.
It was detrimental to her mental health, one way or another which was the dilemma.
Sharon wanted to throw up as they finally made it out into the hallway. She felt like a dying swan which, perhaps verged on overly dramatic but she had been accused more than once to have a flair for it anyway.
She might as well wallow in it.
Brenda was quiet as they strode down the corridor; perhaps she realized she had messed up.
My Captain Raydor?
Freudian slip? Sharon wasn't interested.
"Ah!" The brunette held up her hand; she wasn't interested in that either. "Whatever it is, I do not want to hear it."
She heard the blonde scoff loudly. "You won't let me apologize? What kinda person are you?"
Sharon wanted to retort, despite herself - she didn't talk back and she didn't get into ridiculous arguments...except, of course, when Brenda was around because petty little fights were part of their daily routine.
She was sick of it.
"Half the time, you don't even mean it."
"I do so!" Brenda was about to grab her when an officer rounded the corner.
"Chief," he said with a deep voice then glanced at her. Sharon made eye contact. He nodded at her, "Captain." He couldn't look away fast enough.
Sharon groaned internally; the story of her life.
The brunette rummaged for her keycard - she had had it five minutes ago.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to put you on the spot like that."
Sharon nodded, accepting the apology somewhat but in the pit of her stomach she felt that it wasn't enough.
Sorry I got you into this mess.
Sorry you're feeling so horrible because of me.
Sorry you liken yourself to a dying swan and blame everybody else but yourself.
The brunette swiped her keycard.
"I'm sorry," she said as Brenda walked through the door. "I just really need to get away for Christmas."
The blonde nodded. "To see your kids."
Sharon sighed. "To see my kids."
"Your son's with the FBI, isn't he?" Brenda started somewhat awkwardly. "What's the other one doin'?"
The brunette smirked at the put on conversational tone; Brenda was just so obvious sometimes and Sharon had to admit, albeit begrudgingly, that it was a rather endearing quality.
"Now, now, Brenda," She patted the woman's shoulder. "I really don't appreciate nosiness. Especially from my friends."
Sharon contemplated dialing her mother's number so she could break the news, that she might not be leaving tomorrow morning, but rather tomorrow night, to the rest of the family but knowing that she would put on that pitiful voice and say somewhat condescendingly, "As long as you make it here for Christmas," put Sharon off that idea.
She stared at the phone, annoyed with herself and with Pope for dumping this mess on her doorstep, including Brenda and her attitude, but realized she at least had to let her family know.
Sharon decided to text her father. She couldn't be sure whether or not he really read texts but writing her son was out of the question - 'hey, I'm sorry, it really was out of my hands, there was a terrible accident, I'll be on time next time, promise, really, I promise.'
That wouldn't fly anymore with her children.
Instead she said, 'Last minute orders. Will try to catch my flight. Will let you know of any changes. See you soon.'
The door to Pope's office opened as she hit send and for a moment she could merely stare open-mouthed at Brenda.
The blonde stared back at her, a strange expression on her face. "We'll get this sorted out." She breezed past Sharon.
The brunette stuffed her phone into her pocket and rolled her eyes - promises, promises.
"We better," Sharon commented sourly, "Because my daughter has very nearly forgiven me for being late to her graduation." She had barely finished the sentence when Brenda pulled her aside. She walked right into the woman's back as the door the blonde had intended to catapult them both into wouldn't budge.
"Ooooh, I hate this buildin'!" Brenda fiddled with her keycard.
Sharon sighed and stepped back, crossing her arms. She tried to look defiant and perfectly confident but in truth she was merely steeling herself for whatever was about to come. "What are you doing?" She asked lamely, not protesting as Brenda pulled her into the room.
"Get in here!"
Sharon straightened her jacket and pushed her glasses up her nose. She wanted to be angered by the other woman's audacity, she wanted to tell her how inappropriate she was and how her conduct was unacceptable but the blonde frequently reduced her to a speechless, insecure, stuttering little girl.
"How long are you gonna be in Park City?"
The brunette blinked. "I want to say five days but as you can see, I'm here and not yet...there."
"Got any plans for New Year's?"
"Yes," Sharon said carefully, feeling like this was verging on an interrogation. "Yes, in fact, I do."
Brenda crossed her arms.
"I thought you were spending Christmas and New Year's with your parents?"
"I was," the blonde shook her head. "I am. I was just wonderin'..."
"Ah," Sharon uncrossed her arms, finally regaining some semblance of composure. The ball was in her court, she realized and she could tell by Brenda's expression that the blonde was expecting a certain answer.
Sometimes, Sharon thought, she really wished she could surprise the blonde and say, thanks but no thanks, but Brenda gave her a tingle, a prickly sensation that seemed to rule her mind. "You were wondering what?"
There, she had done it yet again; Sharon swallowed heavily and crossed her arms once more, realizing in despair that, yet again, she was utterly helpless. It was despicable and vile how the woman could just make her do these things, she was her kryptonite.
"I was just wonderin' if..." Brenda came closer, biting her lip and reaching out. "If you'd like to maybe get together...sometime."
Sharon glanced down as the woman's fingertip drew a circle onto the back of her hand.
Yes, she wanted to say yes but tried not to. The answer should be no, I do not, not ever again. What we're doing is utterly wrong, I can't look at myself anymore. I feel awful. I wish you'd leave me alone.
"I know it's maybe a bit inconvenient but Fritz's not gonna be there," the blonde babbled along, Sharon had been quiet for a moment too long, "He's visitin' his sister. By himself."
The brunette nodded slowly.
"She coulda come see us...even though she's just terrible, and gets my Mama upset." Brenda shrugged. "But he wants to get away for a few days," she added somewhat nonchalantly. "Again."
Sharon studied the woman's features for a moment, she wasn't stupid or naive, and realized what was happening. It all sounded strangely familiar.
"Yes...oh." Brenda turned around and leaned against a table, her typically sullen expression on her face. "He needs more time."
She didn't really want to hear it.
The fact that it was partially her fault didn't help her heavy conscience.
"Maybe we shouldn't see each other for a while," Sharon said slowly, feeling strangely proud of herself. "Maybe that would be for the best, don't you think?"
Brenda stood back up. "Of course not!"
"No?" The woman frequently confused her.
"No! What gave you that ridiculous idea?"
Ridiculous? Sharon blinked and shook her head.
"Let's just meet on the 1st. I can come over to your place, my parents will be asleep, they won't even know I'm gone and-"
"Hold on." She took a deep breath. "We're not going to my place anymore."
"Where else would we go? You can't get a hotel room in all of L.A. at that time of year," Brenda went on frantically. "And it's not like we can go to mine and-"
"Stop," Sharon interrupted. "Stop." She rubbed her forehead and took a deep breath, gathering herself. "This is getting out of hand."
The blonde didn't look pleased but what could she do?
Sharon stared at her for a moment, waiting for the blonde to comprehend then rolled her eyes. "We cannot meet when your parents are in town."
"Don't you think we should just let things cool-"
Sharon turned around and took a few steps, gathering her resolve. She was making excuses and she really wished she had the balls to say what she really meant but...
But there was always a 'but'.
Facing the developing nightmare in the room, Sharon decided to do what she knew was never permitted - there was an unspoken rule between them, so far it had been honored, mostly, but Brenda was persistent.
The reason was obvious and even though it pained her to do so, Sharon laid it out for the blonde.
"Don't you think it would be better if we didn't see each for a while," she wanted to say 'never ever again' but couldn't. "This was never meant to go on for this long but first and foremost it was never meant to impact on your marriage."
"But it isn't! If I hadn't told him about the kiss, we wouldn't even be havin' this conversation."
"Clearly." Sharon had to roll her eyes again - if she didn't know any better, she would have to think that the woman was just plain thick.
The brunette raised her eyebrows, unimpressed - she knew where this was going - and folded her arms calmly, tilting her head just to let Brenda know that her little routine wasn't really working.
She had heard that tone before and even though it dripped along her spine like honey, she knew not to show it. Brenda was an expert at exploiting other people's weaknesses, she exposed them and took advantage, she was a user.
There was the occasional glimmer of selflessness but those moments were far and few in between so Sharon, who usually tried to see the good in people, in Brenda, wouldn't bother to hope that there was more.
That she would change.
Because the heart of the matter was this: Brenda was not her problem.
She had a husband.
"Did I abandon you when you were havin' a hard time?"
Sharon narrowed her eyes. "Not the same thing."
"And how is that?"
Yes, indeed, how was that?
Sharon waited for her brain to come up with an answer.
"Thought so," Brenda said in a self-satisfied tone. "B'sides..." She sing-songed and swayed closer, "I still got your gift."
Sharon's shoulders slumped as the woman stopped in front of her and gently pulled on her arms, unfolding them.
"Don't you wanna unwrap it?"
The brunette rolled her eyes yet couldn't help but smirk at the sight of Brenda's cheeky grin.
"Sharon..." The blonde stepped even closer, their bodies touching faintly. "I'm not done with you yet."
Brenda's hand trailed over her hip and settled onto her behind.
She swallowed. "Chief..." She couldn't remember what she had wanted to say.
"It's Brenda." Their breaths mingled. "And I know you don't really mean what you said."
Their lips touched.
The blonde sucked gently on her bottom one.
Never had she been kissed like that; sweet as honey, sticky warmth and a gentle harshness that made her want to paw and claw at the woman.
Sad, truly, Sharon thought, throwing caution to the wind, and opened her mouth. Brenda always managed to worm her way back in, it was just one of her talents...at least that was what Sharon preferred to call it.
Before she knew it she was perched on the edge of the table.
"Nnnh," she tried to say and fisted the blonde's blazer. Her lips were so pliant and her body so warm and soft and firm, all in one. Full breasts.
She wanted to touch it - it being that strange sensation of womanliness - but it didn't seem like a physical thing, Sharon had come to realize, it was something about Brenda, something she couldn't grasp, and she had tried, but never could she get a hold of it.
She just always wanted to touch everything.
The thought of which seemed somewhat inappropriate for a woman her age, even though Brenda would disagree, but it wasn't always about Brenda, was it?
Then her phone vibrated in her pocket.
"Wait..." She tore her lips away and squirmed, freeing herself. "I've got to, I mean, uh, 911 calls." She nodded with finality.
Brenda just looked at her with a blank expression, fixing her lipstick. "Right," she finally said and smirked, biting her lip. "So we'll get together then? After Christmas?"
She sounded hopeful, Sharon thought, and that didn't help.
The brunette shook her head, her eyes momentarily focused on the ceiling before she closed them and said, "...okay."
Argh! She would never rid herself of the woman! She would be forever stuck with this, with her, with the guilt and, eventually, somebody would find out and then her life would go down the drain, she-
"And don't you worry," Brenda interrupted her pity party. "We'll get this sorted out in no time. I'll get Lieutenant Tao to help you."
"Thank you," Sharon responded evenly, not feeling it in the slightest.
"Right," the blonde seemed too happy to care. "You've got...lipstick..." Brenda wiped at it with the pad of her thumb, her own lips forming a pout.
Sharon watched with interest as the emotions flitted across the woman's face, a rare treat that she treasured.
"There," Brenda said slowly, her eyes darting upwards, her gaze smoldering. "All better..."
It wasn't just about sex.
In fact, it was very little about sex, although, it was quite good, Sharon had to admit.
It had become apparent, or rather crystal clear, that she preferred the soft plains and curves of a woman's body yet Sharon couldn't help but think that there was more to being a lesbian - god, she hated that word - than mere sex with women.
Wasn't there supposed to be a 'lifestyle'?
Sharon nearly grimaced - that sounded horrible and, ironically, quite homophobic.
She wasn't though, not at all, she hated nobody.
Technically speaking, she feared nobody.
Sharon had never given it much thought before: Homophobia. No. Not really.
But then it occurred to her, as if somebody had slapped her in the face and doused her with cold water, that she was indeed afraid. Of her own sexuality.
Perhaps getting married to her buddy, her good friend that she thought she quite loved, hadn't been the best of ideas.
She had always looked at it as something her parents had wanted. He had come from a good Catholic family, he had the potential to become a great man, a great husband and father and that was what she had gone with.
But maybe it wasn't so much her parents she had tried to please.
Sharon felt her palms go sweaty with the realization.
No, it wasn't about sex; it was about having what she had always wanted, and the fact that she thought of it as wrong, in more ways than one, made it all the more necessary.
She contemplated Brenda's advice - take a breath, have more wine, eat a big, giant cake and get over it.
She had to accept the things she couldn't change, and her sexuality was one of them.
Was it that simple?
Could she let go of a lifetime of denial?
The voice startled her, interrupting the quiet in the media room. "Yes, Buzz?"
"I'm going to order pizza and I was wondering if you wanted one as well. That is, if you don't tell anyone we've been eating it in here."
Sharon smiled at him. "That's very nice of you to offer." She rubbed her tummy a little, realizing she was quite hungry. "I think," she wanted a salad. "I'll have a big, giant one. With everything."
"Yep," Sharon nodded, shocked she had just done that. "My treat."
"Oh," Buzz said slowly, just as shocked but he knew not to protest. "Okay then. One with everything..."
The brunette gave him a smile and stared at him while he ordered. Buzz, she didn't even know his name, seemed like a very well mannered and well spoken young man and, admittedly, she had a bit of a soft spot for those.
Her son came to mind. She wondered what they were all doing at that very moment. Perhaps having dinner at the restaurant they always went to. Her father would order a big lump of barely cooked meat and her mother would pick on her filet mignon for half an hour.
The Pope was effectively ruining her Christmas.
She couldn't really blame the boy - he was just a boy - but Pope? She wanted to rip him a new one.
"Don't worry," Buzz said suddenly, having hung up the phone. "Chief Johnson will come up with something. She always does."
Sharon gave him a weak smile, wanting to pat his knee but refrained from doing so. "You hold her in very high esteem..."
"We all do." He picked up his earphones and put them around his neck. "She is very good at what she does."
"I've come to realize that." Sharon picked at the hem of her shirt. "So," she said, changing the subject. "You cook?" Buzz gave her a surprised look. "I overheard you saying you were defrosting two turkeys..."
"Oh, yes, well, I'm helping my mom prepare Christmas dinner this year. My sister is out of town." He shrugged a little. "Plus, she never lets her take all the credit, my mom kinda likes the compliments."
Sharon smiled again. "Sounds nice," she replied quietly, wanting to say something else but conscious of the fact that Buzz was neither her friend nor her colleague, really - she hardly knew him.
When the pizzas arrived, Sharon found herself surprised at their size. They ate with their fingers, no knife, no fork, and she tried to remember when the last time was she ate anything without silverware that wasn't a bread roll. Buzz had his headphones on and was piecing together the tapes, his gaze very focused on his work, and beside his clicking and typing the room was silent.
Sharon chewed on a piece of crust absentmindedly, having had enough of the pizza already, and drifted off once more. She wondered briefly whether to go home or not but there she would sit with a bottle of wine and her misery and sulk about her almost missed Christmas.
For somebody who hardly ever drank, Sharon found herself drinking a lot lately.
That had to end.
Wine had tons of calories.
Leaning back in her chair and stretching her legs a little, Sharon contemplated her next move. Coming to terms with things was easier said than done. She wondered how her parents would react because she would have to tell them eventually, that much was clear.
No more hiding, no more deceit and lies. No more.
"Back in a minute," she said and stood, suddenly feeling rather antsy. She breezed out of the room and strode down the hallway towards the toilets.
Her life had become a nightmare.
Sharon came to a halt in front of the sinks, holding on to one as she stared at herself in the mirrors. She was trapped in this endless pas de deux, dancing back and forth with a married woman. No ending, no coda, no final goodbye.
She wondered what their last dance would be, where this would go? Sharon felt as if it was out of her hands, beyond her control, the great unknown.
It shouldn't be like this. She shouldn't be like this.
Defenseless, succumbing to her desires, blindly reaching for every little morsel of attention and affection Brenda merely tossed her way, seemingly indulging her, uncaring of her feelings and her own 'tales of woe'.
Her life threatened to disintegrate, to shatter, and still Sharon wanted to engage in sex, mindless, incautious, desire-filled, all-consuming sex, the kind she had never had before, and throw herself at the woman with a desperation never experienced prior to one Chief Johnson.
The despicable truth was that, as long as she persisted in her avoidance of the facts, she wouldn't be able to drag herself away from the woman. Brenda made her feel what nobody else had ever made her feel - regrettable, but fact.
What was it about her?
The answer was there, she could feel it.
Sharon wanted to cry in frustration.
"Are you alright?"
The brunette jumped and turned, holding onto the sink for dear life.
There she stood, her nemesis, Brenda.
"I'm sorry," the blonde said, dimples forming in her cheeks, "I didn't mean to startle you."
Sharon shook her head a little. "That's okay," she said.
"I thought you'd gone home..?"
"I was just about to," she lied, not wanting to seem sad or to be pitied. "Are you leaving?"
"Yes," Brenda washed her hands right beside her, glancing up at her from beneath her eyelashes. "My mama's puttin' on a big dinner...she probably cooked for a whole army."
Sharon nodded slowly, releasing the sink and crossing her arms. "It's hard to go back to cooking for only yourself once you've had to cook for four."
"Six," Brenda dried her hands on a paper towel. "I've got three brothers..."
Brothers then. Sharon bit her lip, an uncharacteristic gesture on her part, and sighed.
"What are you doin' for Christmas? Usually, I mean..."
"Well," she tilted her head, "We don't really cook. But my Dad makes pancakes in the morning."
"And?" Brenda prodded.
"We open our gifts..." Sharon smiled to herself. "I got my parents a wine tasting weekend away, in Napa."
"I got my Daddy wrenches," the blonde commented dryly.
The brunette spared her a smile. "I'm sure he'll appreciate them."
Brenda said nothing for a moment, leaning against the sink with her hip and stared at her, studied her. Sharon hated the scrutiny, Brenda always made her feel as if the blonde had all her secrets and thoughts figured out, as if she knew everything, which of course was ridiculous but Sharon couldn't help it.
She shifted from one foot to the other.
"You know," Brenda said suddenly, slinking closer. "Sometimes I regret tellin' him...about the kiss."
Sharon nodded slowly, wondering where this was going.
"If I hadn't, I'd invite you over for dinner tonight." The blonde shrugged self-consciously. "Whether you'd wanna come or not, I don't know but-" She cut herself off.
"But?" Sharon asked with a raised eyebrow.
"But...sometimes I wish we hadn't started all this."
The brunette met the blonde's fearful gaze and smiled. "Me too, honey."
"We coulda been friends."
Sharon exhaled slowly, toying with the idea of a friendship then tilted her head. "Woulda, coulda, shoulda?"
"That sounds just wrong," Brenda slapped her arm a bit, "but yes, somethin' like that."
"Well, uh, I should..." Sharon pointed at the general direction of the door.
The blonde just nodded, smiling, and came closer, her lips pursed, ready for a kiss that, in Sharon's opinion, was completely uncalled for but before their lips connected, Brenda drew back, eyes flashing curiously.
"Is that pizza on your breath?"
Sharon blinked, her heart less achy after their conversation, and decided not to be a bitch this time. "I had a big, giant one of something...could've been a pizza."
"Big, giant..." Brenda mumbled, remembering the advice she herself had given. "I like the sound of that..."
Sharon said nothing, she merely stared back, no words necessary.
"Well, I'll see you tomorrow then."
The brunette nodded once, unable to speak as the woman came closer once more and kissed her, gently, gently, on her cheek.
"We had this gorgeous hotel right on the beach," he said. "And there was barely anybody there, off season and all..."
"I wish we could've gone there for Christmas. Who needs Palm Springs anyway?"
The brunette blinked, absorbing what Jonathan had just said, but the first half of the conversation seemed to be elusively absent.
Did he say Maui?
They were on a first name basis, agreed upon during Willie Rae's beautiful Christmas dinner.
"Maybe you should call your kids? Since you're not really with it anyway." He nipped on his faux-champagne. "I can't believe she made us all late for Christmas...again."
Sharon smirked and glanced at Brenda who was conversing with her husband in a corner.
"Now you know what that feels like as well. It's like an initiation into the Miss Atlanta all work, no play club." He shrugged. "Not that I'm complaining. She gave me some of my best cases...I might apply for Chief Medical Examiner next year."
Jonathan wrinkled his nose. "You don't really like her, do you?"
Sharon held her breath for a moment, thankful for the table she was leaning against. Jonathan just stared at her and she was pretty sure that her facial expression didn't match any emotion known to mankind; actually, what she felt at that moment was indeed indescribable.
Perhaps Brenda's laconic and succinct reaction had spoiled her a bit - of course she had to say nice things, with them being in the same bed and all, barely clothed at that - and Sharon had hoped for a similar one from Dr. Morales, with him being gay and all himself.
Instead he just looked at her, surprised perhaps but confused.
Sharon grimaced - she should stop blabbing at the most inopportune moments.
"Ha," Jonathan finally said, putting a smile on his face, "Me too." He waved her off and gulped his drink.
Sharon heard him swallow, her gaze on Brenda, cursing her very existence.
"Welcome to the club. I didn't peg you for one of us but hey, the more the merrier, right?"
The brunette nodded and relaxed a bit, still staring contemplatively. She basked in the brief moment of relief, of happiness, of carefreeness, before she looked back at her companion and smiled.
"Not as merry as I would like." She glanced at her clock. "Thirteen hours and twenty-two minutes until I get to see my family."
"Tell me about it."
"Are you still going to drive to Palm Springs?"
He looked torn then shrugged. "I guess I should go, face the parents..."
"You should," Sharon patted his shoulder. "You're a doctor, no parent can say no to that."
"Right. I'm a doctor for dead people and have extra parts, which makes me doubly weird." He shook his head. "My boyfriend's been out for all of a year which makes it even harder."
The brunette sighed gently and thought of her own coming-out, or lack thereof. Telling Brenda was a bit of a no brainer, telling Jonathan, well, it was progress, wasn't it?
Honestly, Sharon thought, she wasn't even entirely sure whether she wanted people to know. Not because she was ashamed - which she perhaps still was, a little - but because of the simple fact that she didn't like people in her business.
She would have to figure that out.
"You know, if you ever wanted to go out with us..."
The question hung in the air for a moment; Sharon smirked and lifted an eyebrow. "I don't go out to clubs, I go to museums." She glanced at him over the rim of her glasses. "I won't be any fun. And I could be your mother."
"Not quite," he said with a boyish grin, "Good genes." He bumped his shoulder into hers. "We do go to the theatre once in a while, if that's more to your liking?"
"I do love the theatre," she poked him in the chest. "Theatre theatre and not movie theater."
"I have been known to enjoy a movie or two, subtitled even-"
"Impressive," Sharon mocked.
"But no, theatre, performing arts. You should come, we can show you all the best gay plays."
How did he know? How did he figure out that she wasn't all over the gay theatre, that she was out and had whole hoard of gay friends to go out with?
Perhaps her spooked expression gave her away. Perhaps she came across like a newbie.
She hated not knowing things. She hated not being good at what she was doing - even if it was being a lesbian.
Sharon gave him a slow nod. "I accept your invitation."
"Perfect," Jonathan smiled and glanced at his watch. "Well. I think I'll hit the road."
"You're going to drive to Palm Springs now?" She asked, incredulous.
"No time like the present. Gosh, he'll love the Armani watch I got for him..." He came closer and hugged her, surprisingly. "You take care and enjoy your time with your family."
Sharon hugged back, opening her eyes that she hadn't realized she had closed and glanced over his shoulder. She saw Brenda standing in that same corner still. Her husband was nowhere in sight.
The blonde stared right back at her.
Ha, Sharon thought, gloating inwardly, hoping Brenda knew now what it felt like to be on the outside for once.
"I'll see you when I see you," Jonathan let her go. "And call me."
Sharon smiled and watched him leave, saying his goodbyes to everyone. The brunette kept an eye on Brenda, watching her interact with Dr. Morales, smiling at him politely, shaking his hand, wishing him a merry christmas.
Before the blonde could catch her gaze again, Sharon had turned on her heel and wandered off. She needed a moment. The brunette strode down the hall and into the ladies room where she stopped in front of the mirrors again, staring at herself.
She felt like she looked different, somehow.
Sharon swallowed heavily; she traced the outline of her lips with her gaze and studied the wrinkles surrounding her eyes.
She felt lighter, somehow.
The door burst open at the very moment she had that revelation and Brenda swept in, scowling.
Sharon rolled her eyes and made for a stall, hoping to avoid whatever was coming - she never knew with Brenda.
"Now, hold on," the blonde drawled.
Sharon slowed down, despite herself and turned with a sigh. "Why are you following me?"
Brenda bit her lip, trying to hide a smirk. "I just wanted to see you before you left, is all."
"Really?" She didn't buy it, not one bit, and Brenda had to know, Sharon could tell from her innocent, wide-eyed expression. "What is the matter with you lately?"
"What do you mean?" The blonde almost screeched, hands on her hips and tapping her foot. "I could ask you the same thing," she added lamely. "On second thought, we all know what the matter is with you anyhow."
Sharon's jaw almost dropped. "That is a low blow if I have ever seen one."
"I'm sure Dr. Morales knows all about it now too. You wanna go and announce it over the speakers?"
"Now you're being intentionally perverse." Sharon put her hands on her hips as well. "Besides, whom I tell what is none of you business."
"It is my business if it does concern me-"
"It doesn't," Sharon retorted evenly.
"-it does! It so does! We're sleepin' together-"
"And that gives you any prerogative how?"
Brenda pursed her lips, closer than Sharon would like her - funny how the other woman always turned out to be her enemy - then her expression changed to a satisfied smirk that Sharon wished she could get rid of and bury, never to be seen again.
"How am I s'posed to know whether I'm the only one or not? You did get quite cozy with Detective Mendoza if I remember correctly."
That was it. Sharon took a deep breath, swallowing her initial reaction and turned around, unable to face the other woman. "Aren't those the questions your husband should be asking?"
"Fritz," Brenda said sharply. "His name is Fritz."
"Well then," Sharon turned back slowly. "Aren't those the questions Fritz should be asking? And why in the world are you following me into the restroom when out there are all your colleagues, your parents, your husband, Fritz? Why? Do you want to get caught?"
Brenda's shoulders dropped almost immediately, she looked defeated for the tiniest moment and it was that expression that remained in Sharon's mind when the blonde shoved her into the stall and up against the wall, her lips latched upon her own, warm and soft yet forceful.
"Because," Brenda's lips looked bruised. "Because sometimes I can't stand any of 'em."
Sharon blinked at the pitiful voice that made her heart ache yet annoyed her terribly.
"And because I won't be seein' you for the longest time and that just drives nuts."
The brunette sighed - she was too old for this, too smart and, honestly, had seen and heard worse.
"I just...I just need...you."
Sharon shook her head. "But why?"
Brenda said nothing, instead she just kissed her.
Brenda kissed her like she always did in the end, with a seemingly frantic hunger. Sharon often wondered what exactly went through the blonde's head, if Brenda, just like she did, vowed that it would be the last time, that she wouldn't be doing this again, that they would stop.
Because they would, wouldn't they? This time, for sure.
Or did she even care? Did the blonde not experience the struggle, the guilt over what they were doing?
Brenda bit her lip a little, Sharon could tell she wanted to really bite but didn't. There was always something nasty about the blonde, something mean and angry, as if a part of Brenda wanted to punish her.
Perhaps that was her conscience, the blonde had to have one, didn't she?
Sharon despised whatever it was; it reminded her of her own short-comings, her own responsibility in this, her own guilt but she had felt utterly powerless and paralyzed, deserving of whatever was coming her way.
No more though - the thought had repeatedly swirled about in her head. No more.
No time like the present.
She had come to a point where she had realized that this, that Brenda, wasn't something she needed, it had become something she wanted.
Should she feel worse for letting it go on despite that?
Sharon had asked herself countless times in recent days.
As the blonde wrapped her fingers around Sharon's wrist and pulled her hand from her hip down between her legs, she instinctively knew.
It felt great. It was what she was meant to be.
One last time, Sharon thought, also hoping that, once she was inside of her, making her come in the bathroom at the very place they worked at, she could safely say that they had broken even that last rule and it would make it easier to say goodbye.
But then Sharon remembered how all of this had started, how she had vowed to only admire from afar, how she had ended up proposing the woman, how she had ended up in front of her house and had sat there for almost an hour until her husband...until Agent Howard...Fritz...had left and had then proceeded to kiss the woman up against the counter.
They had ended up having sex after all and, topping it off, she had thrown caution to the wind and had invited her into her home.
They had broken all the rules and Sharon knew in the back of her mind that having sex in the women's bathroom wouldn't be the last grotesque and immoral thing they would end up doing.
It was never enough. There was always more.
"We can't do that here!" Sharon yanked her hand away. "Are you mentally ill? Have you gone completely insane?" She wasn't sure whom she was talking to, Brenda or herself but Sharon felt a weight lift off her shoulders as the words flew from her lips.
Brenda stilled, her gaze sweeping about the grey stall for a moment, taking in the cold tiles, the empty toilet paper roll, the rather unbecoming color of the lights. "Maybe I have," she whispered and wanted to lean forward against Sharon's shoulder but Sharon couldn't bear it.
Brenda didn't deserve a shoulder to lean on, in fact, she already had one which made this even more inappropriate.
Sharon felt a deeply rooted anger towards the woman and wanted to lash out but breezed out of the stall and toward the sinks instead. "This is exactly why we can't keep doing this." She stared at herself and Brenda in the mirror as she grabbed a paper towel. "We have to quit before we can't," she said and wiped at her smudged lipstick.
She was angry but she didn't yell, she seldom did and even though Brenda hadn't gotten it in the beginning, Sharon was pretty sure that she did now - she was always quiet when she was mad, perhaps one of the most prominent leftovers of her childhood.
"Your parents are out there." She narrowed her eyes a bit. "Your husband is out there." She stared at Brenda, looking for some sort of reaction which never came.
"You're right," the blonde said and stepped out of the stall, shaking her head a little.
Sharon wanted to be a bitch and bring up her precious Daddy, just to get some sort of emotion out of her but Miss Atlanta was, if anything, a great liar, and whatever she was trying to hide behind her mask, Sharon wanted to belief that it was best not to know.
"Okay, well, we'll go back to how things were before all this."
"You mean open hostility, bitch fights and temper tantrums; the last of which clearly concerns only one of us." Sharon lifted an eyebrow then rolled her eyes a little at the blonde's glare. "After all, you're now my friend Brenda."
"Very funny," the blonde retorted, "and all those stories my Mama's told you? None of 'em are true."
"I'm sure," Sharon said with one of her put on smiles. "Then let's go out there and pretend that we've never seen each other naked."
Brenda's face fell a little, it was almost comical. She watched Sharon for a moment and the brunette allowed it, just this once, even though she despised scrutiny, ironically enough.
"Your family's lovely." She said and knew the blonde hadn't expected that. "Your husband..." Sharon swallowed. "Fritz...is wonderful. He loves you and supports you no matter what you do."
"What's this," Brenda interjected.
"I dunno." The blonde shook her head, coming closer. "I don't know what you want from me."
Sharon blinked slowly, her eyes darting around the room then she tilted her head a little. "Nothing."
"It's over." Sharon felt the whole impact of her words only when she witnessed true emotion pass over Brenda's face.
Disappointment, a moment of panic and, before she could divulge any more, a pleasant expression took over.
"Alright," she said with a smile. "Fine."
"Great," Sharon responded enthusiastically. "Fantastic." The brunette released a large breath and walked to the door, her heels clicking on the tiled floor. "I'll see you out there." She needed to leave.
"Yes...see you out there, Sharon...I mean, Cap'n Raydor."
Sharon smirked, amused slightly and calmed by the sudden feeling that she had done the right thing.
"Merry Christmas, Brenda."
She gave the blonde a smile, relieved yet weak in the knees.
But Brenda smiled back.
Yes, you're reading correctly - the end. I have decided to end Laws of Attraction here, it is just getting too big and, honestly, I just fancy writing something new. Now, the story doesn't end here, I can promise you that. I'm writing a sequel.
I have never written anything this long and I have never written anything that brought me as much joy as this. I want to thank everyone, all of you, for commenting, for reading, for sticking with it, for giving it a chance. tayryn, thank you for pimping this fiction as much as you did, for your support and all the awesome reviews. fireflies_uk, I thank you the mostest, you listened to me moan, you sat in silence while I wrote, which I think must be the most boring thing ever, you read every line, were my sounding board and never complained. You are the best.
Anyway. Thanks again, all you guys, and I'll see you soon with a sequel.