A/N: We all wear masks but we wear them for different reasons because we all hide for different reasons.

Of course, I don't own any of The Closer characters, except in my own mind. Maybe that counts for something. At least it counts to me. As usual, feedback is very much wanted and appreciated. Thank you.

Brenda had just given Fritz an explanation about why charges of sexual misconduct had been filed against her in Atlanta. She hadn't wanted to give him any more information and had been relieved when he took her glass of Merlot from her hand and suggested a change of subject. And that particular change was definitely welcome.

After remembering and removing the wire which was recording every sound, and after sharing many more kisses, she pulled away from Fritz for a moment.

"You're a great kisser," she purred.

"That's because you're so delicious," Fritz whispered in her ear.

That was the sort of thing that made her want even more kisses and that was the sort of thing that made Fritz want to oblige.

Brenda was on top, the place she enjoyed the most. It gave her the feeling that she was in control and being in control was incredibly important to her. She was not about to let things go any farther or faster than she wanted. She was not about to let her heart be crushed again.

His hands softly caressed her face as they continued to kiss. Then she felt Fritz's hand moving, pushing the neckline of her blouse down over her shoulder. Next she felt his hands slide down to her waist and up under her blouse. She was surprised at how much she was enjoying his caresses. It had been a long time since she'd been this hungry for a man's touch and his touch was the perfect mix of gentleness and firmness.

But reality penetrated her pleasure fog. She sat up suddenly, wiped her hands over her face to give her a moment to compose herself. "Do you have protection?"

"Uh, yeah." Fritz hoped his surprise wasn't evident in his voice.

"Ok. In that case we need to move this," Brenda explained as she stood up. She took Fritz's hand and led him to the bedroom where they undressed each other and spent a long and tender night.

The next morning Fritz woke up first. The first fingers of daylight were just beginning to filter in through the window. He looked at the clock: 5:50. Then he looked at Brenda with her long blonde curls tousled over her face and across her pillow. She was sleeping so peacefully. "Dammit! Why do I have to be at work early this of all mornings?" he thought. He watched her sleep for a few more minutes while wrestling with his emotions, then finally whispered, "Brenda... Brenda, wake up."

She struggled to breach the surface between sleep and awake, blinked a few times and tried to focus. Finally she was able to see Frtiz and ask "What time is it?"

"6:00. I'm sorry to wake you. But I have to leave and I didn't want you to wake up and find me gone. I wouldn't do that to you."

Still swimming toward full consciousness, she finally was able to focus on what he was saying and to ask "Why so early?"

"I have to be at work at 7:30 today and I need to go home and shower and change my clothes first."

Brenda lay there for a minute still struggling to process this information, then stifling a yawn she said "I've got a better idea. Why don't you take your shower here while I fix breakfast? Then all you'll have to do is change your clothes."

Fritz smiled at her. "Ok. That would be great."

She pushed the covers off, got up and went into the bathroom. When she saw herself in the mirror she said "Oh, God! Could I look any worse?"

"What did you say?"

"Nothin'. I'm just gettin' things together for you." If her bedhead was going to scare him away she guessed that it would be better that it happened now, she thought as she pulled supplies from the cabinets. Movement in the mirror caught her eye and she looked up to see Fritz standing in the doorway holding his clothes. "Here's a clean towel and washcloth. And since I went to the dentist last week I've got a brand new toothbrush you can have and there's the toothpaste. Here's a disposable razor and shaving cream. It smells like peaches but if you shave first and wash your face in the shower, that smell will be gone. You can hang your wet things here," she said as she pushed her own towel to the end of the towel bar. "I'll take care of them later." And she stepped out of the bathroom.

She picked up her clothing from the bedroom floor, threw them into the hamper, and headed into the kitchen. She got the coffee pot going first, then checked the eggs. She had enough but couldn't remember how fresh they were so she pulled the cereal box from the shelf and the milk from the refrigerator instead, sniffing it to make sure it was still ok. Just as she finished setting the table, Fritz appeared. He put his arm around her and gave her a gentle kiss. She responded by asking if he wanted strawberry preserves or grape jelly on his toast.

"Whatever you're having is fine," he replied, his eyes following her as she moved around the kitchen. He was trying to figure out what was different. It finally came to him. She was wearing comically baggy red flannel pajamas and every long, blonde curly hair on her head had its own idea of where it wanted to be. Even so, Fritz thought she was heartbreakingly beautiful and felt that she was giving him a great gift by not feeling that she had to appear perfect even early in the morning. "That's what you were wearing when I woke you up this morning."

"Mmm hmm. I'm not gonna put on anythin' else until after I get my shower. Is there somethin' wrong? You don't like my kitty pajamas?" she asked.

"No. No, it's not that. It's just that I distinctly remember that you didn't have anything on last night."

"I woke up durin' the night and was cold so I put this on."

"I'm surprised I didn't hear you get up."

"Well, you were sleepin' pretty soundly. I guess we both had a pretty good workout," she grinned at him.

At breakfast, Brenda asked him why he had to be at work so early.

"I'm presenting a case study for an inservice training class so I have to be there at 7:30 to get everything set up."

"Oh? What's your study about?"

"It's on a drug sting that got dismissed in court because the agent in charge lied to the defendant," Fritz explained.

"I keep on forgettin' that the FBI can't lie to people they're interrogatin'. I don't know how you ever close a case havin' to operate that way. But tell me. Were you that agent?"

"No. That was my first partner. Jose Hernandez. I think you met him when you were at Metro."

Brenda asked, "Was he the guy who thought he was God's gift to the human race?"

"I'm not sure about the whole human race but he definitely thought he could pick up any woman he wanted. Why? Did he hit on you?"

"Not too bad. I have the ability to let guys know when they need to back off."

"I'm glad I haven't gotten any such messages from you," Fritz smiled.

"Maybe that's because you're gonna be outta here pretty soon," Brenda smiled back.

"So, I guess that means no instant replay tonight."

"I guess it does. For tonight anyway."

"Then I'm going to hold out hope for the future." Fritz got up from the table, put his dishes in the sink and turned back to Brenda. Leaning over her chair, he put his arm around her shoulder and said softly, "Thank you. I'll call you later. Bye." He kissed her, gently then left.

"Bye," she replied as she watched him leave.

Brenda sat at the table reliving with great pleasure the events of last night as well as this morning. "Slow and easy, Brenda. Slow and easy," she checked herself. As if she needed to remind herself of the reasons, her mind drifted back.

She closed the door behind Will Pope and steadied herself by leaning against it. She was not used to being dumped. And the pain of losing him was almost more than she could bear. Nothing was more important than the time she was able to spend with him. Soon, she had hoped that it would be permanent. It seemed that her whole life depended on his promise that he would soon be leaving his wife. Just as soon as he found the right time to tell her, he'd said.

She had anticipated spending another blissful weekend with him. But she had been concerned by his demeanor when at last he unlocked her door. Normally, he was all smiles and would grab her and kiss her with an intensity which took her breath away. But this time he had a serious, almost sad expression on his face, which concerned her.

"What is it, Will," her apprehension was evident in her voice. "What's wrong?"

"Brenda, sit down," Will said as he pulled her down beside him on the sofa. "I don't know how to tell you this," Will wasn't looking her in the eye.

"What is it?" Brenda repeated, dread rising in her throat.

"Last night was the night I intended to sit down with my wife and tell her about you and that I was leaving. I was ready for a lot of hysterical tears but what happened was a long discussion about where we both went wrong in our marriage." Will was looking at the flowers on the coffee table as he spoke.

"Look at me, Will," Brenda insisted, "And tell me the rest." She had a sick feeling that she knew what was coming.

"Well," Will sighed and then continued, "We both decided that we owe it to ourselves and to our marriage to give it one more try."

"I see. Did you tell her about me?" Even as she asked she already knew the answer.

"No. I just couldn't hurt her like that, Brenda." Will was looking at her now and Brenda saw some sadness in his face but the misery she was feeling wasn't mirrored in his expression.

"So, what's next? Do we continue as usual?"

"I can't. I love you but I just can't. I have to give my marriage another chance and I can't do that and continue seeing you too."

"I see," was all Brenda could manage to say.

"We've been married for six years, Brenda, and Mary is a really good person. I just can't give up on her and our marriage without giving it my all. I'm so sorry. I really do love you and I don't want to hurt you."

"I love you too, Will. You promised that we'd be together. And I believed you. I thought we were meant to be together," Brenda's head was bowed. She was sinking in misery.

"Please tell me you understand what I'm going through," Will begged.

Brenda just shook her head no. Finally she was able to speak. "I know you love me and I won't make it hard on you, Will. But I need time and space."

Will reached over to hold her but she moved away from him and stood up. "I think it's best that you go home to her now," and moved to the door and opened it

Will got up and followed her to the door, stopped and said "I'm sorry, Brenda. I..."

Brenda interrupted him, "Just go, Will. Please. Go."

So he left. Brenda noticed that he didn't look back at her. He just got in his car and drove away.

Brenda didn't remember climbing the stairs to her bedroom. But she picked up her favorite photograph of Will in its heart-shaped frame beside her bed, held it close and just let the sobs overwhelm her.

Throughout the following week Brenda kept a smile on her face but struggled to carry on at work. She felt she was moving in slow motion. She couldn't concentrate and every little thing made her want to either scream or cry. She had no appetite and she couldn't find solace even in chocolate, her nurturing, wonderful chocolate. Every time she saw Will, or even heard his name, the bottom fell out of her being and she thought she'd die. At night when she was finally home alone her emotions continued to claw at her, shredding her soul. She alternately hated him and loved him still. She raged and wept until she thought she would shrivel up and die. Sleep was fleeting and filled with dreams of Will and every morning she awoke in worse shape than when she had finally fallen asleep.

After two weeks of grieving and avoiding Will whenever she could, Brenda knew what she needed to do. She filled out a vacation request form, put it in the inter-department mail drop, and called the airlines. She had to get out of DC. She would go back to Atlanta to be with her family for a few days. Her life would be better in Atlanta.