Authors: i-must-go-first & UbiquitousMixie

Fandom: Brenda/Sharon, The Closer

Rating: PG-13 (Overall M)

Word Count: 6881

Disclaimer: Not ours. Please don't sue.

Summary: A late-night craving and a coincidental meeting lead a certain deputy chief to discover that there's much more to the inimitable Captain Raydor than meets the eye, and to realize that her mama was right: sometimes all a single woman really needs is a good girlfriend.

Authors' Note: Thank you all for your continued patience and support - your kind words about this story have been so encouraging and motivating. This little labor of love has brought us a long way, through a close friendship and loving relationship and, most recently, an engagement! And to think, Brenda, Sharon, and all of you were along for the ride! This is a pretty fun chapter, and we hope you enjoy it! Let us know what you think!

Chapter Twenty-Two: Move Over, Darling

"Are you sure it's wet enough?" Brenda blinked innocently at Sharon and rubbed her fingers together, frowning at the complete lack of moisture that lubricated them. She bit her lip and closely watched the other woman's face.

There was a pause, drawn out long enough for Brenda to hear several seconds tick by on the wall clock, before Sharon snorted with laughter.

"What on ear-" Brenda rolled her eyes. "I swear, Sharon Raydor, you have the filthiest mind of anyone I've ever met!" She didn't have it in her to be irritated though, not when Sharon was giggling like a teenage boy.

Sharon fanned her face, cheeks flushed with giddy amusement. "It's pasta dough, not pancake batter. It's not supposed to be wet."

Rolling her eyes again for good measure, Brenda turned back to the pasta dough that she was kneading against the counter. It had been Brenda's idea to forego dinner and a movie in favor of cooking together and catching whatever was on tv; after two very successful dates, Brenda knew it would be best to follow the trend of keeping things slow and low-key.

Unfortunately, her confidence waned as the dough crumbled in her fingers. "Are you sure it wouldn't be better to just, I dunno, use a box of linguine that's already made?"

"And take all the fun out of making our own?" Sharon raised an eyebrow, peering over Brenda's shoulder. "Move it around in the flour," she said, her arms encircling the slender woman's waist in order to stick her fingers in the dough. Dipping her fingers in the excess flour that covered the countertop, Sharon covered Brenda's hands with her own. "Like this."

Neither of them breathed for several long moments as they worked the dough together, fingers entwined. Sharon's breath was hot on her neck, her body deliciously warm against her back. Brenda shivered.

"You've got to work it with your fingers until it's smooth and firm."

Brenda spun around then, cupping Sharon's cheek with her messy fingers and bringing her in for a deep, probing kiss. She vaguely remembered something about going slowly but, when Sharon's tongue stroked against her own and she pinned Brenda's hips against the counter, she realized that slow could wait just a little while longer.

Sharon returned the kiss with equal intensity, but without the urgency that had marked their previous encounters. A second misdirected pizza was highly unlikely; there was no Provenza to come blundering around the corner; and there was no race for her to run with her own demons. She angled her head, playfully nudging Brenda with the tip of her nose, kissing her leisurely, as if they could do this for hours, for days, if they wanted to (although the dough would dry out).

At first she registered only the pleasant, warm sensation of Brenda's palm caressing the swell of her hip, her thumb pushing up the edge of her dark top (the one she'd worn to work today beneath her favorite Armani) and whispering over the bare skin she'd just revealed above the waistband of her jeans. Then she registered that Brenda's thumb was oddly grainy, and pulled away slightly with a smothered exclamation.

"You're getting dough all over me!" she protested, twisting around to look at her back. She could've traced Brenda's handprint in the flour residue clinging to her shirt and the back of her jeans.

Brown eyes widened with chagrin for a split second, and then an unmistakable grin tugged at the corners of the blonde's mouth. "Uh, sorry?" she hazarded.

The captain responded with a disgruntled "Harumph" and a shake of her head. "You are not. There's only one thing for me to do."

Brenda Leigh recognized the glint in Sharon's deep green eyes an instant too late.

"I'm going to have to get you."

Sharon dodged around Brenda, thickly coating her hands in flour, and the younger woman seized the opportunity to dart away - but her options were limited, so she couldn't dart far, and Sharon was fast. The blonde found herself pinned against the refrigerator with the other woman's hands first cupping her face, and then lovingly trailing downward, over her neck and her collarbones before coming to rest squarely on the twin mounds of her breasts, which she squeezed for good measure. Brenda's eyes widened and automatically dropped to the spectacle of Sharon's elegant hands just resting on her chest, no doubt smearing flour all over the red tank top she wore beneath her gray cardigan; and then she looked up to meet Sharon's gaze. She felt herself flush, but began to chuckle at the look of smug satisfaction on Sharon's face, the quirk of her lips, the twinkle in her eyes. They were both smiling when their open mouths met, and this time Brenda didn't bother fighting the urge to tangle her fingers in Sharon's hair. They'd both need a shower by the time this meal was ready.

They'd both need showers. Separate showers.

Suddenly Sharon was trying to pull away, and Brenda was moving with her, refusing to let her go, when she heard it:

"Mom! Mom?"

The wide-eyed, open-mouthed expression of total panic that overtook the captain's normally implacable countenance would have been extremely amusing if she hadn't looked so, well, panicked.

The taller woman sprang back from Brenda as if she'd been shocked, snagging the dish towel from the rack above the sink and swiping it over Brenda's chest so it no longer looked as if Sharon had been finger-painting rather than making dinner. Brenda stood there, letting the captain dust her as if she were a piece of furniture, as her eyes swept over the kitchen. It was, to put it mildly, a mess. There was loose flour everywhere, along with liberal flecks of dough - most of it on the two of them. There was flour on their skin, dough on their clothing, dough in Sharon's hair.

Later Brenda supposed she'd panicked a little too, and that was why she started to laugh, her hand clapped over her mouth, helpless titters escaping as she slumped back against the refrigerator. In the end that was what saved them. Daniel sauntered easily into the kitchen to find his mother with her hands on her hips and a fiery scowl on her face, and Brenda doubled over, shaking with laughter. He stared, but the stare was not the one they would've received if he'd come in unannounced.

"Hey, Mom, Brenda." He looked between them with a mildly perplexed smile. "Did I interrupt a food fight?"

No, but you interrupted, Sharon thought, and felt a smile tug at her lips as she looked at Brenda out of the corner of her eye. This was incredibly ridiculous. "Don't put it past her," she returned darkly, flicking the dish towel in Brenda's direction as she turned back to the poor manhandled dough.

"I don't need to know anything about Brenda Leigh's proclivities, or lack thereof, for turning innocent food into projectiles," Daniel shot back, leaning over the counter to kiss his mother's cheek. "I already know what you're capable of, Mommie Dearest."

"And for that you've just earned the privilege of rolling out the dough. Congratulations." She stepped aside, imperatively motioning for her son to take her place. "Brenda, sauce."

The other woman had finally managed to drag herself into a fully upright position, still leaning against the refrigerator, and she raised her eyebrows. "What about it?"

"Stir it."

Her pouty, pursed lips reminded Sharon of an expression Vivien had mastered by the age of two. It hadn't worked then, and it wasn't going to work now. "What're you gonna do?"

"Change clothes," Sharon retorted breezily, sweeping out of the kitchen. "And then I'll open a bottle of wine."

Daniel's gaze followed his mother and then darted toward her friend. "Hey, now that she's gone," he murmured, leaning his dark head toward Brenda's light one in the best conspiratorial fashion, "I want to ask you something. Just between the two of us."

The deputy chief looked squarely back into his eyes, hoping her expression was more "casual curiosity" and less "deer caught in the headlights." What, exactly, are your intentions concerning my mother? she heard in her head, and swallowed a strangled burst of that hysterical laughter.

"It's a favor," Daniel continued. "For Mom, really, not for me. I could really use you on my side on this one."

The blonde pursed her lips and avoided looking Daniel directly in the eye. There was no mistaking whose genetic traits were dominant between Sharon and Paul; looking into his eyes was too reminiscent of looking into his mother's, and she knew she'd be unable to extricate herself from whatever trap those eyes (and their owner) might suck her into. "Depends on the favor."

He let out an exasperated sigh. "Really? You can't be one of those cool friends who just says yes?"

"Firstly, I am cool. Ask anyone." She thumped the large spoon against the pan after giving the sauce a final stir. "And second, I'm a police officer. Favors make me nervous."

"You're just like my mother." He carefully rolled up the sleeves of his olive green button down shirt and opened the drawer housing the rolling pin. "You know how she is-you're probably the same way. She's a little...resistant to change. Sometimes she needs a little push."

Tell me about it, Brenda thought, biting her lip to suppress a knowing smirk. Curiosity getting the better of her, she tilted her head and asked, "What exactly d'you want my help pushin' her into?"

Daniel grinned, the wicked gleam in his eye alarming her only slightly. "Well, do you remember when-"

"The two of you look like you're up to something," Sharon observed grimly, arms folded across her chest. She'd managed to clean herself up, removing all evidence that hands other than her own had been on her body. Her hair was swept up into a loose ponytail, damp in places where Brenda's messy fingers had been. The clean blue t-shirt that she was wearing was modestly cut but hugged her breasts in such a way that made the blonde's mouth water.

"Well..." Daniel began, dabbing his hand in flour before smoothing it across the rolling pin. His mother groaned.

"I'd better open that wine."

"Let me help you," Brenda offered. Sharon raised a curious eyebrow, nodding her head in Daniel's direction, and Brenda merely shrugged before she took down three wine glasses. She watched the older woman's nimble fingers uncork a bottle of Moscato, her face still flushed with the memory of those fingers on her breasts. If he hadn't shown up when he had, what would Sharon have done? What were those hands capable of?

It was with a rueful resignation that Brenda acknowledged that they probably wouldn't have gotten around to finishing the pasta if the young man had chosen to stop by the following evening instead.

"Brenda and I were talking," Daniel began, his gaze directed at the task he'd been assigned, "and we both think it's time you start dating."

Two pairs of eyes widened in alarm. Had he been looking at either of them, he may have realized how easily his words could have been misinterpreted. Sharon paled slightly and shot an accusing glance at Brenda.

"Is that so?" She poured the first glass of wine, setting the bottle down to take a large swig.

"Yes," he said, brandishing the rolling pin in her direction. "I've already set up a dating profile for you, mom. I only need a little help narrowing down some of the specifics before I activate it."

Brenda's surprised snort alleviated a little of the worry evident in Sharon's eyes. She took up the forgotten wine bottle, relieved that Sharon had figured out for herself that she had nothing to do with his little scheme. Amused, Brenda chimed in. "Awe, Shar-you're only one click away from true love."

"Hey, don't knock online dating till you've tried it. Mom, you remember Deval, right? He met his wife on eHarmony and they've been together for six years."

Sharon pinched the bridge of her nose. "I thought we discussed this."

"I believe the topic was shelved," he replied.

"I fail to see how my saying 'no'-"

"Brenda, help me out here," Daniel interrupted. Both sets of green eyes focused on the blonde woman. "Don't you think it's time for my mother to start dating again?"

Brenda blinked very slowly, all but fluttering her thick eyelashes at the captain and her son. This opportunity was too good to resist. "Oh, yes," she said calmly, taking a generous drink of the second glass of wine. There might not be any left for Daniel. "Definitely."

"See?" Daniel's vivid gaze sparkled with delight. "Your best friend agrees with me, Mom."

"Oh, I'll bet she does," the older woman returned darkly, her own enigmatic stare fixed unwaveringly on the blonde.

"You have so much to offer. Unwanted advice, mostly, when it comes to me, but you're intelligent, sophisticated, beautiful -"

"I am, indeed, all of those things." Sharon had recovered enough to smirk as she leaned back casually against the side of the counter opposite her son. "Any man would be lucky to have me."

Brenda smothered her grin in the bowl of her wine glass. "You've been thinkin' about datin', haven't you, Shar?" Green eyes narrowed and Sharon's lips thinned. "Come on, admit it," the chief pressed. "The thought has at least crossed your mind."

"This will only take a few minutes, and it won't hurt a bit." Abandoning the dough, Daniel hastily wiped his hands off and rounded the food preparation island to where his mother's laptop rested on the dining table. Opening the screen, he grabbed the edge of Sharon's t-shirt and tugged. "Come on, Mom. Enter your password, and then sit down right here next to me like a good girl."

"You are not too old for me to spank."

Brenda wondered if she had exceeded the spanking age-limit, but wisely said nothing. She did, however, exit the kitchen to join the other two at the table.

The keys rattled as Daniel typed, and then he turned the computer so Sharon could view the screen. "'Kay, I already did the basic stuff. You don't smoke, you do drink, you're not a vegetarian -"

Sharon jabbed at something. "Political views: moderate?" she questioned. "That's like saying 'self-declared fence-sitter.'"

When Daniel smirked he looked uncannily like his mother. "Exactly. You'll catch more fish that way, from both sides of the pond, and potentially rule out the hardline wack-jobs." Sharon opened her mouth to protest, and Daniel gave her a pointed look as he scrolled down. "Just leave it, Mom. Beggars can't be choosers. There's this short personality quiz. I could've filled it in for you, but -"

"Over my dead body."

"Again, exactly. Okay, so: Rate the degree to which the following sentences describe you, with zero being not at all, and five indicating a dominant personality trait."

"Is 'homicidal' on that list?" Sharon returned snarkily.

"No, but neither is 'anal-retentive control freak.'"

"Hey, now," Brenda cut in mildly before things could become ugly, "this could be fun. Give it a chance, Sharon."

The captain's answering look suggested that she thought Brenda currently deserved to drop dead.

"Number one," Daniel continued, "I am open-minded, welcoming to new ideas and new methods of performing tasks."

"Four," Sharon said instantly, and Brenda's jaw dropped.

"How 'bout one?" she challenged. "Or zero?"

The older woman scowled. "My job is to make sure everyone follows the rules, Brenda. I haven't ever had you and your entire division thrown behind bars; I think that fact alone demonstrates that I'm pretty open-minded."

Daniel quietly cleared his throat, glancing up at Brenda. "I'd say she's pretty open-minded where it counts," he pointed out, and Brenda felt herself blush. More than you know, she thought, her gaze sliding away from Sharon's son to land again on the way that simple blue t-shirt hugged the brunette's body.

"We'll go with four," Daniel decided. "Number two: I am typically the peacemaker. I go out of my way to avoid conflict."

This time they all looked at one another. Brenda was afraid to open her mouth. "Um... two?" Danny suggested hesitantly.

Sharon smirked. That was being generous. "Well, isn't this fun? Bring on the next one, son."

"I do well with rules, and thrive on order, structure, and regularity. - Oh, well, I don't need you for that one. Five."

Sharon sipped her wine, feeling like both her presence and her input were superfluous.

"I am generally a positive, confident person. I have faith in myself and my abilities in most situations."

The captain had stopped paying attention, and had to reread the question for herself when she realized Brenda and Daniel were expectantly awaiting a response. "Oh, four, I suppose," she said, and then frowned. "So according to this, I'm a boring, arrogant bitch. It's amazing I'm still single."

"Let's go on to the next part," Brenda suggested, darting a sidelong glance at her friend. Still single - was she? If someone asked Brenda about her own relationship status, what would she say? Most likely that she was seeing someone; that sounded about right, not too formal, not too casual. But then, people who were 'seeing someone' didn't usually go around filling out profiles for online dating sites, and none of this had been Sharon's idea. She was being silly.

"Okay, ladies, more numbers. This time you're ranking how important each of the following qualities is to you in a mate or relationship."

Sharon gave intelligence a five, and Brenda nodded her approval, sitting back complacently. Intelligence: check.

"Physical appearance," Daniel continued.

Sharon thought for a few seconds, pursing her lips. "Three."

Brenda's forehead puckered slightly in a frown. Three? What did that mean? Surely Brenda could attract someone who gave appearance a four, at least. Couldn't she? She glanced down at her attire. True, she hadn't exactly dressed up for this evening, and most of her makeup had been rubbed off even before the dough incident; but keeping this casual and low-stress was the point, wasn't it?

Danny nodded decisively. "Good. You don't sound superficial, but it will help weed out the totally unkempt. You know, those people who think Crocs are actually shoes, and can be worn in public."

Sharon allotted a three to romance as well. "I don't need hearts and flowers, but it'd be nice to have someone else do the dishes once in a while," she commented, and the blonde thought, I can do dishes. She didn't, usually, but she could. She filed that away.

"Physical attraction; chemistry," Daniel read.

"Five," Brenda blurted as Sharon simultaneously murmured "Two," and the blonde gaped at her friend, aghast.

"Two?" she exclaimed indignantly. "Two?"

Sharon blinked. "Well, I mean, chemistry would be nice, but it's not always... necessary."

Brenda's eyes narrowed. "Yes, it is. Or are you sayin' you'd pursue a romantic relationship with someone you didn't even find attractive? You'd just endure all that kissin' and touchin' for the sake of havin' your dishes washed, I suppose!"

Sharon's eyebrows rose. "All right," she said carefully, the faintest blush tinging her cheeks. "Four." She stood up, carrying her wineglass back into the kitchen. "Daniel, if you want me to do this, you're going to have to fill the rest of that thing out. Just put whatever you think."

"Fine, whatever. I'll do this part, but there are a few more questions you need to answer."

"At this rate it's going to be midnight before dinner's ready."

He shrugged. "So order a pizza. I bet Brenda likes pizza. Brenda, you like pizza?"

Brenda's lips twitched. "I like pizza."

"You'd say that just to get out of cooking, wouldn't you?" Sharon questioned, eyebrow arched. "So much for dinner and a movie."

Daniel scoffed. "It's just pasta. The dough will keep, won't it? You're acting like I interrupted some big date or something." He shot a commiserating glance at Brenda. "If only, right?"

Brenda forced a chuckle. "Indeed." She bit the inside of her cheek, contemplating just how rude it would be to kick out the son of the woman you were sort of dating in order to continue said date. She immediately recoiled at the thought. She saw Sharon almost every day; what was one evening? There would be another date (she hoped), but even that knowledge was little consolation for the tremor of jealousy that made the selfish recesses of her mind say, "But I don't want to give up this date. This is my time."

Besides, if Brenda wanted Daniel on her side if and when she and Sharon actually pursued a relationship on a more official, recognized level, it wouldn't hurt to subtly remind him that she was cool, accommodating, and out for Sharon's best interest. "We can make the pasta tomorrow."

Sharon scooped the dough into her hands, rolling it into a compact ball. "Danny-make sure it says somewhere on there that I like home-cooked meals and sharing the kitchen."

Brenda hid a frown in her glass and wondered if she had a chance after all.

"All right," Daniel said, back down to business. "Next question. Indicate which of the following pet peeves are relationship deal-breakers for you: nagging, lying, indecisiveness, infidelity, promise breaking, double standards, sloppiness..."

"I won't tolerate infidelity," Sharon answered, though her input was clearly unnecessary as Daniel had already begun ticking off boxes. "Or nagging."

Brenda raised an eyebrow and remained silent, noting grimly that the young man had also ticked off lying and sloppiness. She scooted closer, peering over his shoulder despite her inability to see clearly without her glasses. She snorted. "You checked off more pet peeves than anythin' else! You're gonna scare everyone away!"

Sharon glared as she wrapped the dough in saran wrap, and Daniel merely laughed darkly. "I know-that's why I've got a secret weapon." With a few quick taps he saved his progress on the profile and clicked the link to return him to the main page. "Voila."

Brenda didn't need her glasses to know that most of the blurry text gave a generic rundown of Sharon's love of long walks on the beach, getting caught in the rain, and making love at midnight. She also knew that it was not the text he had wanted her to see.

Brenda couldn't help herself: she openly gaped at the downright scandalous photograph of the captain with a sassy smirk on her lips and her cleavage abundantly on display in a tiny, miniscule, barely there dress. She'd never, ever seen Sharon like that, so flirtatious and brazenly sexy. "Good lord," she managed to say, and she knew her voice was a tad more breathy than usual. "She'll be snatched up in no time!" (Why did the thought of other people, men and women alike, seeing Sharon like this make her feel like her stomach was caving in on itself?)

"That's sort of the point," was Daniel's snide reply, and he unashamedly tilted back the screen when his mother appeared behind his shoulder.

The captain gaped and smacked her son in the shoulder. "Where the hell did you get that?"

"Audrey's Facebook page." He turned to Brenda, sympathetically acknowledging her confusion. "Her best friend from college. Mom went all out for her bachelorette party."

Brenda eyed the brunette's breasts. "I'll say..."

"That was ten years ago!" Sharon pointed out, hitting him again for good measure. "That picture makes me look desperate."

"And hot." Brenda blinked. Had she said that out loud?

Daniel's wide, Cheshire-cat grin and Sharon's aghast expression suggested she had.

The captain's expression very quickly transformed into a glare that was equally split between her son and her friend. "It's false advertising," she snapped, vigorously scrubbing away the floury residue from the counter. "If I have to be half-naked and ten years younger to be considered 'hot,' then you're setting someone up for a very big disappointment."

Daniel's eyes rolled toward the ceiling as he lounged back in his chair. "Everyone does it, Mom. Seriously. Besides, just as long as you don't go like that -" He waved vaguely toward his mother's disheveled appearance, and Brenda permitted herself a small moment of appreciation of how richly the fashion-conscious mother and son duo deserved one another.

Sharon socked the dough, now in a ziplock bag, into the fridge with unnecessary force. "Well, this is what there is," she continued in the same sniping tone. "I'm fifty-four. I work an average of sixty hours a week. So if the dating world thinks the merchandise has been on the shelf a little too long, let's just leave it where it is. I'm not quite ready for the fifty-percent-off sale just yet."

Daniel scoffed. "I'm using this photo," he muttered stubbornly, tapping at the keyboard.

Brenda was more interested in the stiff set of the other woman's shoulders. Realization dawned uncomfortably. Oops, she thought. I messed up. She bit her lip. To her Sharon seemed as ageless as the classic styles she wore; and the captain had never seemed at all bothered by the consideration that she was slightly less than a decade older than Brenda Leigh. In the grand scheme of things, what was eight years or so? Their life experiences made them contemporaries in the ways that mattered; and besides, Sharon was so disgustingly healthy that she'd probably live to be 110. She remembered that crazy day when they'd gone sofa shopping: Brenda had been a wreck, and Sharon had been the one reassuring her that she wasn't too old for love and sex and romance.

That was one of those differences, Brenda thought, between being friends with someone and dating that someone. She rose and ambled into the kitchen, where she stopped just beside Sharon, close enough to touch but not touching her.

"You know," she drawled steadily, "you don't have to get all dressed up to be sexy. The proper captain taking off her uniform, lettin' her hair down - or pullin' it up, as the case may be." Brenda's lips twisted into a playful grin. "That's pretty sexy, Sharon. Any sane person would be pretty thrilled to come home to this." Her expression was filled with meaning as her eyes raked slowly over the taller woman's form. "I know I would be. If I were on that datin' website," she amended, still grinning, and Sharon grinned back, her eyes sparkling.

"And Brenda unintentionally raises a good point," Daniel piped up, half listening to what was going on in the kitchen as he put the finishing touches on his masterpiece. "Do you want me to check 'interested in: men,' or do you think you might be open to other possibilities?"

Sharon looked away from Brenda when the blonde quirked an eyebrow. The younger woman could tell that there was more going on in Sharon's head than she was letting on and she wished more than she ever had for the ability to crawl into the other woman's thoughts.

"Daniel," the captain sighed, her patience clearly waning. "In fifty-four years I haven't been struck by any particular urge to date a woman. What makes you think that's suddenly going to change?"

"I dunno, Shar. If you met the right woman, you might end up havin' a mighty strong...urge." Brenda felt her mouth go dry, having come to know all about strong urges for certain female captains.

"Exactly." Daniel was, thankfully, entirely oblivious to the twinkling gleam in Brenda's eye that leered suggestively at his mother. "Though if you and Brenda had just hooked up like I suggested in the first place, you could've saved me all this trouble."

Brenda was downright grinning now. "Accordin' to that site, I don't meet any of her criteria. All those fancy scales and questions say I wouldn't be her type at all." Shows what they know! she thought. She crossed over to the sink and ran a sponge beneath the faucet; even though Sharon had chosen to date her despite their apparent incompatibility, Brenda wasn't about to push her luck by leaving her a messy kitchen to clean up. She began to wipe away the remnants of flour and flecks of dough that littered the counter, using the motions as cover to brush her arm against Sharon's.

The captain gave her a meaningful glance before she moved back toward the dining table, standing behind her son. She placed her hands on his shoulders and kissed the top of his head. "Put whatever you want, baby," she finally said. "This is your show."

The young man flashed a grin. "Then I'm putting 'both'. I don't want to overlook the possibility that beneath your repressed, icy exterior lies a vampy bisexual."

"What am I going to do with you?" she mournfully questioned, ruffling his hair while she watched Brenda's hips sway in front of the kitchen counter.

"With any luck, you're going to go on a few dates and get your freak on."

Brenda snorted with laughter. "Oh my Lord! My mama would be horrified if I ever said anythin' like that to her!"

"You don't talk to your mother about sex?" The look of bewilderment that crossed his face would have been funny-that is, if Brenda weren't so terrified of the very notion. She attempted to imagine how a conversation might go between the two of them, discussing Brenda's burgeoning sexual desire for her best friend. She could not even fathom the look on her mother's face, much less what her response would be.

"No. Absolutely not. There are some things that are better just left to share with your girlfriends."

"No need to share the gory details," he added, tapping a few final keys on the computer. "Anyway-there you have it. You are live." He grinned up at Sharon. "Let the dating commence."

Brenda turned back to the sink, rinsing the sponge under water that was a little too hot. It had all been funny when it was all a speculation. Somehow, Brenda hadn't considered the possibility that he would actually activate the account-or that Sharon would let him. Her stomach turned unpleasantly and she resisted the urge to rub the ache in her belly. Was this all some sort of way of humoring her son, or was Sharon actually interested? And though Brenda understood why Sharon might not leap at telling her baby boy that she was sometimes making out with her, why wouldn't she try harder to talk him out of it?

Behind her, Brenda heard them discuss the fact that the first two weeks on the site were free, giving Sharon the option of buying a membership. Daniel had, of course offered to pay for the first few months.

Brenda sulked.

"Do you actually want pizza?" Sharon asked them both, pointedly changing the subject.

Daniel fixated on the clock at the corner of the computer screen and then smoothly jumped up. "None for me. Skype date with Kai." He playfully tugged his mother's ponytail and then kissed her cheek. "Thanks for playing, Mom. You're a game old girl, when you want to be."

She rolled her eyes. "Drive safe," she admonished, moving back into the kitchen.

"Bye, Brenda."

The blonde lifted her fingers in a little wave. After a few seconds she heard the side door open and close, and then the two women were alone again. Brenda felt a tingle creeping along the base of her spine, but it was anxiety, not the anticipation she'd felt earlier.

"For somebody who was so anti-datin', pro-single-person's-rights just a few months ago, you sure have jumped on the bandwagon with a vengeance." Brenda had intended the remark to be light and teasing, but heard the brittle tone of her voice and was sure Sharon heard it too. She sounded disgruntled, peeved; and if the captain cracked the thin veneer, the younger woman's swelling need for reassurance would be exposed.

The dark-haired woman snorted as she rummaged in a cabinet, retrieving a Tupperware container. "Oh, yes. I just can't wait to meet Mr. Perfect. Let's see. He'll call himself Bill. He'll sell insurance and live in Glendale, and he'll have a fast car and hair plugs, and he'll be sixty-two but say he's fifty-five. Our first date will be at Starbucks. Make sure you get us a really nice gift, Brenda Leigh."

Put that way it did sound absurd, but lots of people found perfectly lovely partners online, didn't they? Brenda was sure that Sharon would have no shortage of offers; she wouldn't get stuck with Hairplug Bill. She found herself picturing ranks of handsome men in Armani, their features blurred. What if Sharon went out with one of them and felt that instant chemistry Brenda had (stupidly) insisted was all-important? What if she realized it was only loneliness that had drawn her to the blonde woman, and that she was really only sexually interested in men after all?

That possibility was best ignored. "Maybe instead of Bill it'll be Wilhelmina, and she'll be Ms Perfect," Brenda couldn't help suggesting. "She'll be an architect and speak five languages and want to whisk you off for an exotic cruise up the Mekong. She'll tick all your little boxes and never run late or forget to do the laundry."

Silence. Brenda didn't even have to look to know that Sharon was smirking. Finally the captain spoke. "Brenda," she began in a quiet, droll tone, "are you jealous of someone you just invented?"

"Of course not," the blonde huffed, tossing back the dregs of her wine. All right, it was all a little intimidating, this website with its rigamarole of personality profiles and scientific-seeming numbers, but Sharon wouldn't really go out with anyone else, not Bill or Wilhelmina, when she knew how Brenda felt - would she? Brenda nibbled at a cuticle. "Just how far are you willin' to go with this business to please Daniel?"

Brenda sensed Sharon's warmth behind her, but still jumped when the other woman's hands landed on her shoulders. "Oh, as far as necessary," the captain replied in the low, throaty tone that sent shivers down Brenda's spine and did very interesting things to other parts of her anatomy. She leaned in to speak directly into Brenda's ear, her breath lifting the curling golden tendrils. "All the way. My nearest and dearest wants me to date? I'll date. Fancy dinners, expensive wine - I might even see if I still have that absurd dress hiding in the recesses of my closet. There are worse sacrifices a mother could be asked to make."

Sharon's proximity, her low voice and her hot breath, were delicious, and Brenda's body was certainly responding; but her words were twisting the chief's stomach into knots. The combination of contrasting sensations was an unpleasant one.

Sharon's hand drifted up to toy with Brenda's silky hair, the texture of which was much finer than her own. "The Lord love him. If only Danny knew he could've saved himself that time and effort and accomplished his goal just by going away." She chuckled. Manicured nails lightly scratched the blonde's scalp. "Thank you for being a good sport. I'm sorry my son has terrible timing."

Brenda spun suddenly to face Sharon. Earnest brown eyes met green. "That's all right, as long as you plan on goin' on another date with me to make up for it."

"Of course I do." The skin at the corners of Sharon's eyes crinkled as she smiled, but there was an ounce of perplexity in her expression. "Isn't that what we were just talking about?"

Brenda Leigh blinked. "Is it?" she asked breathlessly, a second away from minor embarrassment and major relief.

Sharon smiled as her eyebrows drew together. "What else?" She traced the delicate dip of Brenda's collarbone as realization dawned. "Oh, Brenda. You silly girl."

Warm affection mixed with exasperation in those lovely green eyes, and Brenda's thoughts distilled to a single word: Mine. She surged against the taller woman, her arms twining securely around her back and bringing their mouths together. She didn't want anyone else seeing Sharon, touching Sharon, kissing Sharon. In that moment she thought she'd do whatever was necessary to make sure Sharon didn't want that either.

Brenda's kiss was blatantly possessive, her tongue thrusting between the captain's lips as she pulled Sharon more tightly against her body, and she felt Sharon's second of surprised hesitation. She didn't pull away, though, instead kissing Brenda back, letting the determined blonde lead them where she wanted.

Where she wanted was, evidently, across the kitchen. Sharon didn't realize they were moving until she felt the sharp jolt of the refrigerator rushing up to meet her shoulderblades, and in the same breath Brenda's fingertips on her bare back, dragging the paper-thin t-shirt up and out of the way. There was the cold surface at her back, Brenda's hot touch, innocent and unexpectedly erotic, and all that lush softness pressed against her front - arousal throbbed heavy and insistent at the juncture of her thighs, and Sharon chased Brenda's tongue back into her mouth as her hands settled firmly on the blonde's denim-clad ass.

Emboldened, Brenda slid her hand between their bodies, lifting the hem of Sharon's shirt and scraping her fingernails over the smooth, vulnerable flesh of the captain's abdomen. Sharon gasped, her hips jerking, and Brenda plunged back into her mouth. Mine, mine, mine. Her fingertips slowly, tentatively swept upward, her thumb just brushing the underside of one full breast.

Dizzy from the riot of sensations coupled with lack of oxygen, Sharon tore her mouth away and panted harshly. Brenda could feel how wildly the captain's heart was pounding, echoing her own. Even as she dragged much-needed air into her lungs, Brenda peppered Sharon's jaw and neck with kisses, and her determined right hand slipped up, hidden from view by blue fabric, to cup the weight of Sharon's breast through her bra. Sharon gasped again, almost as if the other woman had hurt her. Brenda held her breath as the pad of her thumb explored the pebbled terrain of a tightly puckered nipple, the thin barrier between her skin and the other woman's almost heightening, rather than diminishing, the sensation.

"Brenda," Sharon gasped. "Brenda."

"Mmm," Brenda sighed, transferring more of her weight onto the taller woman, who was already trapped against the refrigerator door.

"Brenda." The captain's fingers twined themselves in blonde curls and pulled sharply. "Your phone is ringing."

Too close to Sharon to see her clearly, Brenda blinked slowly, gazing at the golden flecks mingling with the green of her eyes. Her thumb brushed over Sharon's nipple again, and she registered the widening of her eyes and the quickly indrawn breath.

"Phone," Sharon repeated, her voice trembling. "Answer the phone."

Dazed, the blonde took a step back, instantly missing the warmth of Sharon's body.

The phone. Right. Almost ten on a Friday night: it was almost certainly a call-out.

Sharon yanked her t-shirt down. Brenda blushed fiercely. They stared at one another until Sharon's eyes slid away. Dimly Brenda registered that her phone had stopped ringing, and she headed toward her purse on autopilot, automatically rooting around until she found the small hunk of plastic. The missed call was from Flynn.

Shooting an apologetic look at the other woman, who still leaned red-faced against the fridge, Brenda called back. "What've we got, Lieutenant?" she asked, and then tried to listen. Fortunately Flynn assured her that he was also emailing her the details of the crime scene location, because she had absolutely no idea what he told her, although she was reasonably sure it involved dead people.

After she hung up, she and Sharon looked rather shyly at one another. "I'm sorry," she said.

Sharon cocked her head. "It's amazing it hasn't happened before this, really, to one of us," she pointed out, and then mustered a small smile. "Eventually we'll prepare a meal together."

Brenda managed to smile back. She hoped that wasn't all they'd do together, eventually. "Terrible timin'," she commented as she hoisted the strap of her bag over her shoulder.

Sharon walked around her, leading the way to the door. "Actually," she responded, sounding more like herself, "I think it was probably really good timing." She turned back, meeting Brenda's gaze steadily as she opened the door. "Don't you?"

As much as Brenda's clamoring body disagreed, her head knew Sharon was right, and that they should both be grateful to Andy Flynn. Brenda felt more confident every day that she was ready to pursue a more physical, intimate relationship with Sharon, but the last thing she wanted to do was rush her cautious captain. Apparently her impatient hormones needed a little help to remember that. She could just imagine the expression on Lieutenant Flynn's face if she attempted to express her gratitude.

Brenda left Sharon behind with a kiss on the cheek and a murmured promise to talk soon, and stepped out into the cool Southern California night. She left Brenda Leigh there, too, mentally switching gears as she walked down the sidewalk and unlocked her car. The deputy chief was in.