It was startling, how she'd gone from blind fury, to standing here, across the cold steel table, watching as the slender hands of the chief mimicked her own. Methodically, in an eerie synchronicity, the two women broke down the pistols, swapped the barrels, and rebuilt the guns, slamming the clips in with twin clatters of finality. Despite the gravity of the situation, the whole process had left Sharon Raydor slightly breathless. She stood with her arms crossed, a look of neutrality on her features, almost perfectly calm, except for the flashing green eyes, the tight jaw, the slightly thinned lips.
Brenda kept part of her attention on the Captain, even as she drove the final point home to Detective Dunn. The young officer's face fell as he realized just how deftly he'd been manipulated. Brenda had a wash of sympathy. She was feeling her own brand of guilt over the dead man on the slab next to her. She'd let her feelings about Raydor get in the way of her usual single-mindedness about a case, and because of that, a man was dead. Because of that, she was going to have to face the Captain with this failure on her hands. Because of that, she was having to look too closely at the root of the intensity of her feelings. She was never this wrecked when Pope or Taylor rode her ass. It was only the Captain. Just a glare from that woman's fathomless green eyes would send a blush flooding through Brenda, her heart racing, palms damp. Only the captain, who made her stammer and stutter in consternation, exasperation, and sheer oppositional fury. A captain. And she was the Chief! Okay, Deputy Chief, but still. For once, she was glad that emerald glare was turned on someone else.
Turning her head slightly, she ran her gaze over the Captain's face, taking advantage of the rare opportunity to study the woman so unguarded. She really was rather beautiful, despite her severe countenance. The Captain nodded once at the uniformed officers, and they led Moore and Dunn away. She was acutely aware of the chief's gaze, and she felt a slight blush steal over her cheeks. The realization of what had just transpired struck her hard, then. One of her own had used her, had capitalized on her emotions, to commit murder. She laid her hands flat on the table, closing her eyes, she let her head drop to her chest, breathing in slowly, trying to quell the angry tears that threatened just behind her sternum. Brenda caught the eyes of Flynn and the coroner, and tipped her head towards the door. Nodding, they quietly left, and Brenda looked at the Captain, unsure of what to do. It's not like they were friends. It's not like they even liked each other, for heaven's sake. Still, she could feel the emotion rolling off the captain in waves, and Brenda couldn't leave her, not like this. She reached out a hand, hovering it above the woman's shoulder, then hesitantly dropped it, giving a gentle squeeze.
"Cap'n, you can't blame yourself, she fooled everyone. And if she had been being truly abused, you would've been a perfect advocate. " She moved her hand in a reassuring circle on the Captain's shoulder blades. Sharon drew in a shuddering breath, and glanced over her shoulder at the Chief. Their eyes met, and Brenda realized with a start that the Captain was actually crying. Moving without thinking, Brenda stepped forward, circling Sharon in her arms. Sharon stiffened, and then let her head rest on the Chief's shoulder as the tears continued to fall. Brenda held her close, shushing her gently, and stroking her back. She leaned her cheek on the Captain's head, brushing Sharon's dark hair back away from her face. They stood like that for a long moment, and then Sharon stepped back, clearing her throat. Brenda released her immediately, taking a step back herself. An awkward silence hung between them, neither woman sure what to say, unaccustomed to the absence of animosity between them. Brenda glanced down at her shoes, over to the slab that held the body of Ally Moore's husband, and finally back at the Captain.
"Well, Cap'n. We both have reports we need to finish up, so, um, I'll walk you out?"
"Uh, thank you, Chief, for, um. This. I'm going to make a detour on my way up to FID, so, that won't be necessary. I...Thank you." Sharon spun on her heel and stalked past Brenda, pushing through the heavy doors of the morgue and disappearing from sight. Brenda stood still for a moment longer, then followed the woman through the doors.
Later that evening, Brenda sat at her desk, reading over her report one last time before handing it over to Chief Pope. She should've been finished hours ago, but she couldn't stop thinking about Captain Raydor, and the sensation of the woman's body pressed up against her own, solid and fragile at the same time, the citrus scent of her hair, the whispers of her breath. Brenda was beyond distracted, tapping her teeth with a pen, as she stared at the papers before her. Everyone else had knocked off for the evening, and the office was quiet except for the thrum of the air conditioner, and the drone of traffic from the freeway outside. Sighing, Brenda tossed the pen on her desk, and leaned back in her chair. She pinched the bridge of her nose, then rubbed a weary hand across her forehead, trying to stave off the encroaching headache. Closing her eyes, she dropped her head back on the chair, and tried some deep breathing to clear her mind, so she could focus. She was on her third round of inhale-exhale, when a knock at her door startled her. Sitting forward, she opened her eyes, and blinked in surprise at the sight of Captain Raydor in her doorway, clutching a manila folder in front of her like a shield.
"Um, Chief Johnson. I have the completed FID report here. If you could sign this page regarding your involvement, that would be great." Sharon leaned forward on the balls of her feet, waiting to be invited into the office.
"Well, sure. Sure Cap'n, that's no problem. Come on in, have a seat." Brenda took a deep breath, and tried not to notice the quickening of her pulse at the sight of the Captain's long legs crossing as she sat down.
"It figures you'd be done before me. I'm still making sure I've included all the relevant information in mine, and I'm having a heck of a time staying focused." Brenda let out a small chuckle at that, considering the reason for her poor attention span was sitting across from her, absently scratching her ankle. Brenda watched those slender fingers for a moment, wondering how they'd feel on her skin, before blushing furiously, and looking up at Sharon.
Sharon noticed the blush creeping across the Chief's face, and wondered what she'd interrupted.
"If this is a bad time, Chief, I can come back?" Sharon leaned forward as if to stand.
"No, no! No. Stay put. I'm just looking for my pen...I just had it here a minute ago. Oh for heaven's sake!" Brenda bent low at the waist to look under her desk, for the errant pen. Sharon sat quietly, and then shifted in her seat, and cleared her throat again.
"Chief, I wanted to apologize, to you. For earlier. That was wholly unprofessional behavior, and I can't. I don't know what...I'm not sure...At any rate. I'm sorry." Sharon was terrible with conversations surrounding emotion, and rolled her eyes at her pathetic attempt with the Chief.
Brenda sat up quickly, narrowly missing cracking her head on the desk. She looked at the Captain, who was staring fixedly at her hands, now clenched in her lap.
"Cap'n. I don't know what you're apologizing for. But don't think about it for one more second. It's fine. If anything, I should be apologizing to you. If I'd not avoided talking to the husband, things might've gone differently. So, to that end, I apologize. I let my personal feelings affect how I did my job, and now a man is dead. I just wish I knew why she did it." Brenda leaned back in her seat, the search for a pen abandoned for the moment.
Sharon was taken aback by the raw honesty of the Chief, and didn't respond for a moment, trying to gather her thoughts. She smoothed the fabric of her skirt down, to give herself something to do with her hands, and, glancing up at Brenda, she watched the Chief's eyes follow the path of her hands, then sweep back up to meet her eye.
"Actually, Chief Johnson, that's part of why I brought the report in person. I wanted to show you something, that I believe is why Officer Moore started this whole plan in action." She stood, and crossed around to Brenda's side of the desk, and retrieved the manila folder, flipping through the contents til she found a sheaf of papers clipped together. She dropped it on the desk in front of Brenda, and leaned over the blond woman's shoulder, bracing her hand on the desk.
"This is a copy of Moore's mortgage. They were getting ready to be foreclosed upon, unless..." She trailed off, giving the Chief a chance to finish the thought.
"Unless one of them died, triggering the mortgage insurance." Brenda shook her head in disbelief.
Sharon gathered the papers back up, replacing them in the folder, and flipped through again, finding the paper that needed Brenda's signature.
"If you could sign this one, then I'll be on my way." Sharon straightened up, and leaned against the desk, crossing her ankles casually.
Brenda was acutely aware of the Captain standing a few inches away. From the corner of her eye, she took in the gray suit, with the tailored jacket, and pencil skirt, the woolen fabric hugging the curves of the Captain in all the right places. The bare legs, slender, shapely, traveling into the simple pumps, crossed at the ankles. Shaking her head slightly, she glanced back at her desk, lifting papers to find her wayward pen.
Sharon glimpsed the white barrel of Brenda's pen, and reached out to retrieve it at the same time Brenda noticed it, and reached for it. Their hands brushed, and the sensation of the Chief's skin on hers set Sharon's nerves on fire. She pulled back, but the Chief grabbed her hand, flipping it over, and holding it in her own, palm side up. Sharon's breath caught in her throat. She wasn't sure exactly what was happening, but she knew she was balancing on the edge of a knife here, with Brenda, and that one way or another, they were going to fall. If she was honest with herself, she purposefully antagonized the Chief. If she was honest with herself, she did it because the alternative was pressing her against the nearest wall, and kissing her senseless. If she was honest with herself, she loved the flushed, indignant look. But Sharon was a master of repression. She was rarely this honest with herself, and right now, the feel of her hand in Brenda's was almost her undoing, so close on the heels of their unexpectedly tender embrace earlier in the day. Brenda brought her other hand up, and traced the lines of the Captain's palm, marveling at the smoothness of her skin, the softness. Gently, she whispered her fingertips along Sharon's slender wrist, feeling the small bones beneath her skin. She was so soft, her pale skin almost translucent here, the blue tributaries of vein visible. Brenda could actually see her pulse, so quick, beating there, beneath her thumb. Sharon swallowed hard, trying to ignore the storm gathering within, trying to muster the power to snatch her hand away, to regain control of herself, of the situation. Before she could move, the Chief shifted, bringing the Captain's hand up, pressing her lips to the tender skin of her inner wrist. Then, she let go, and snatched up her pen, scribbled her name on the form, and shoved the paper back towards Sharon.
"Well, Cap'n. I've got to uh, finish up my editing, here. I have to meet Fritz for dinner soon, and so, I'll be seeing you later, m'kay?" Brenda pulled her chair close to the desk, and violently stacked her papers on the desk, her hands trembling as she moved.
"Right. Well. I'll leave this on Pope's desk. Have...have a good night, Chief Johnson. Tell Agent Howard I said hello." Sharon pushed off of the desk, on slightly weakened knees, and strode to the door. She turned, one hand on the knob, and opened her mouth to speak, but just then the Chief looked up, and met her eyes with a smoldering gaze. Sharon snapped her mouth closed, and left the room, stunned into silence at the intensity of that interaction. Walking through to Pope's office, she was aware of a familiar ache in her belly, and an unexpected dampness further down. Breathing deeply, she pushed open Will's office, and dropped the folder in his IN box. She leaned against the wall, relishing the coolness through her jacket, her skin hot with frustrated desire. What on earth had THAT been? It was fairly common knowledge that Sharon preferred the company of other women, but Brenda was married! To a man! So what had that been? Sharon shook her head, and started towards the elevators that would lead her to her car.
Brenda sat in her chair, staring blankly at the papers in front of her. What had she been thinking? That woman! For heaven's sake. She was married! Still, she couldn't stop thinking about the silk of Sharon's wrist beneath her lips, the slip of Sharon's palm beneath her questing fingers. She breathed in through her nose, savoring the receding fragrance the Captain left behind, a blend now, of citrus and something else, musky and intoxicating. Brenda traced her lips with the end of her pen, before tossing it back on her desk. She yanked open her desk drawer, grabbing the first bit of chocolate she could get her hands on, and tore into it. She was clearly overly emotional. This case had been trying from the start, and it was odd, but not unheard of, for emotions to get confused under stress. That's all this was. She'd gotten her wires crossed, and her general annoyance at that woman had expressed itself as desire. She'd be fine. Glancing at her watch, she cursed under her breath. She was going to be late for dinner again. Shoving her drawer shut, she left her report on her desk, planning to go over it once more in the morning, with a cooler, clearer head. She grabbed her purse, and stalked towards the elevators, ignoring her traitorous body and it's crossed wires.
Rounding the corner, she stopped short. The Captain stood waiting for an elevator, her back to the Chief. Brenda thought quickly. If she quietly backed up, she could make it to the elevators on the other end of the Department, and then she'd just have to cross back over to this side once she was in the parking area. Avoiding the Captain should be easy enough, as long as she stayed quiet. To that end, she braced one hand on the wall, and bent to remove her pumps. She'd just hooked a thumb under the first heel, when she heard a voice rich as honey say her name.
"Chief Johnson. Brenda. I think we can share the lift. We can't avoid each other forever, so we should probably chalk it up to job stress, and move on, wouldn't you say?" Sharon spoke without turning to face the Chief.
Brenda straightened up, and stepped towards the elevator. She told herself she didn't notice the thrill that ran through her at the idea of being in an elevator with that woman.
"Cap'n. That's very forgiving of you. I do apologize for-" Brenda wasn't sure what to call it.
"It's fine, Chief. Let's not dwell." Sharon squared her shoulders, and tossed her hair back.
Brenda inhaled as the shifting air sent the sharp citrus scent of that woman wafting past her nose.
Her eyes fluttered closed, and she clenched her hands into fists. The elevator dinged, and the doors slid open. The Captain stepped aside, and gestured for Brenda to go first.
"After you, Chief." She said, allowing her gaze to drop, taking in the sway of those hips, the length of those legs. She stepped into the elevator behind the Chief, and turned, automatically, to punch the button for the parking level. Brenda had been reaching as well, and their hands brushed again. Sharon heard Brenda's quiet gasp, and she turned, slightly. The Chief was leaning against the wall of the elevator, looking at her hand as though it were on fire. Sharon rather thought she understood, since the jolt had run from the side of her hand, straight to her core, pooling liquidly there. She was so close. The distance between them wasn't more than a step or two. Sharon's eyes swept up to Brenda's face. Brenda was still staring down at her hand, her lips parted, her face slightly flushed as she struggled for control. Sharon stepped forward, well into the Chief's personal space, and reached out, reached for Brenda's hand. A moment of stillness, and then Brenda held her hand out, allowing the Captain to cradle it in her own. Sharon traced the back of Brenda's hands, feeling the tendons flex, exploring the bumps of knuckles, the slender length of her fingers. She pulled Brenda's hand to her lips, kissing it chastely. Brenda's breath hitched, she pulled her hand free, and cupped Sharon's cheek. The Captain leaned into her subtle embrace, and thought again about her precarious balance on this knife's edge. Brenda slowly dragged her thumb across Sharon's lower lip, wondering what it would be like to kiss her, for real. Sharon parted her lips, and Brenda dipped her thumb to trace along the soft skin inside. Sharon made a small noise in the back of her throat as the sensations spilled through her. Brenda stroked her jaw, letting the backs of her fingers trail gently down Sharon's elegant throat. Brenda pulled her hand away when the elevator shuddered to a halt, and Sharon stepped quickly back, her breath coming in ragged gasps. Reaching out, she held onto the elevator door, and looked back at Brenda.
"I hope you have a good evening, Chief. Good night." Sharon was pleased that her voice sounded mostly normal, under these totally abnormal circumstances. If anything, her arousal made her voice slightly lower, vaguely husky in tone. She stepped out of the elevator, moving rapidly to her car, leaving a very confused Chief behind. Brenda let the elevator doors slide shut without leaving. She leaned hard against the wall, breathing deeply. Once she was reasonably sure she wouldn't run into the Captain again, Brenda punched the button to open the doors, and exited the elevator. She fumbled in her purse for her keys, and unlocked her car, sliding behind the wheel. She leaned her head back on the head rest, and then keyed the car on. Pulling out of her parking space, she grabbed her cell phone to call Fritz, and let him know she'd be late, but that she was in the car. Hanging up, she clicked on the stereo, and hit the 'scan' button, hoping to be distracted by talk radio. Instead, a rolling guitar rhythm filled the car, and a whiskey-voiced woman crooned
Your mouth waters I'll hold you up
stretched out on my bed
your fingers are trembling
and your heart is heavy and red
and your head is bent back
and your back is arched
and my hand is under there
holding you up
and drive you all night
I'll hold you up
and drive you baby 'till you feel the daylight
I'll hold you up
and drive you all night
I'll hold you up
and drive you 'till you feel the daylight
oh and this has just begun
I'll hold you up
Brenda felt her cheeks go warm at the implications of the song, but found herself too engrossed to change the station. She stifled a snort as she realized that, if she'd heard this song yesterday, she probably would've assumed the singer was singing about a man, but now, she could only envision the Capitan beneath her, hair wild with abandon as Brenda discovered all the places on her body that lived under those austere suits.