An early holiday gift to janet, my faithful chat companion. The idea is hers, per a request she made during our chat of Blue Blood last week, and I ran with it.

I have not given up on my story Letting Go. I'm just... stuck. Once I get a few things sorted, I'll do an update. I promise.

The Pathology in the Partnerships

After she'd gotten Hubbard's confession for murdering Tim Martin, Brenda sat in Pope's office, finishing up paperwork and adding her signature to the appropriate forms while he talked about the potential fallout from her investigation. She was vaguely aware of Pope making his preparations to leave for the day and putting on his jacket. He cleared his throat.

"I know it's late, but I thought you might have time for a drink." There was just the slightest pause before the word "drink".

Brenda's eyes flew up from her paperwork in surprise. Oh my God. But she didn't know why she should be surprised at all. Fritz was right. And so was she. As she'd discussed with Gabriel earlier, sexual pathology rarely changes.

Pope continued. "Or dinner, if you're hungry. And as I remember things, you're kind of always hungry, aren't you?" He smiled down at her. She remembered that smile.

She could only laugh a little, both at Fritz's accuracy, and the truth in Pope's statement.

"Well, I am. But, um, well, dinner. I already have plans. Sort of a celebration. With Fritz." She refrained from adding, "You know, the guy I've been dating for nearly a year?"

"Oh. Yeah I heard he might be leaving town. Behavioral Sciences, right? Good for him."

No, Pope's pathology certainly hadn't changed. "No. No, he's not takin' that. No. We're celebratin' because he's movin' in. Next week."

She rummaged through her purse nervously and stood to make her escape. Fear shot through her as she started to realize what she'd just said. Those words had come out almost before she'd even thought them.

Pope looked down in disappointed surprise. "Wow. Ah, well that's great. Congratulations."

"Yeah, well, we'll see. Big step." She tried to steady herself. "But, uh, lunch tomorrow, I could do that."

"I have to meet with my attorney at 1:00 tomorrow. But we'll find a moment. Somewhere."

"Alright then."

As she walked to the door, she turned back. "Thanks for supportin' me. It meant a lot."

"Sure. My pleasure. My job, actually."

"Right. Well, good night."

"Good night. And uh, good work."

"Oh, thanks. Thanks."

It was a fully professional exchange at the end, even though it sure didn't start out that way. The shift was deliberate, on both their parts. Hers, to make a point, and his to cover his proposition. They were both playing the roles they needed to play.

While she waited for the elevator, Brenda tossed the eclair she'd secreted away in her purse into the trash with a smile of triumph, both at rejecting the junk food and a part of her past. But the triumph was quickly replaced with trepidation. Had she really just said Fritz was moving in? Next week? "Oh, God. Am I really doing this?" she thought as panic began to burst forth.

On her drive home, she tried to quell her panic. "Slow, deep breaths," she told herself, trying to physically calm herself before that panic spiraled out of control. Once she could think a little, she mused on trust and partnerships. Martin had trusted Hubbard. It had gotten him killed. In the past, she'd trusted and gotten burned. Her ex-husband. Pope. And a whole host of others. And then there was her. All of her relationships had gone down the toilet. Every single one. And if she were honest with herself, she knew she had played a significant role in the demise of many of them. But she really, really did not want this relationship to meet the same fate as the rest. As she knew from her work, past behavior was the best predictor of the future. But once in awhile, the MO changed. Could her pathology change, with Fritz?

When Brenda pulled up to her bungalow, she saw Fritz's car already in the driveway and lights on in the house. She sat in the car a minute and tried to figure out what she was going to say, and when she was going to say it. She had no idea. Hoping it would come to her, and quickly, she took a deep breath and went into the house. Fritz was sitting on the couch with Kitty, watching what looked like a sports news show. He turned it off as she walked in and he stood up and walked over to her, a smile lighting his handsome face.

"How'd it go? Did you get your man?" he inquired as he greeted her with a kiss.

"Yes. Martin's partner confessed."

"Good for you." Fritz noticed Brenda didn't seem particularly happy or even relieved. "Everything ok?"

"Oh. Yes, of course. Long day is all. Did you still want to get dinner?"

He let her obvious change in subject slide. "Sure. Where would you like to go?"

"Anywhere's good. I just want to change first." Brenda wandered into her bedroom, suddenly remembering dinner was to be a celebration. "I'll think about where to go," she amended.

Fritz followed her and watched as she kicked off her shoes and reached for the zipper on her dress. "Can you…?" she asked, indicating the zipper and lifting her hair out of the way. After he unzipped it and she slipped out of the dress, he watched her move around the bedroom. His mind flashed back to that morning when he'd come in with coffee. He took one look at her and then had far more in mind than just coffee. Brenda looked incredible in that white slip - it hugged her gorgeous curves perfectly - and he'd wanted nothing more than to get her out of it and back into bed. But she had been distracted by her case. She seemed distracted now, too.

Brenda moved toward her closet, trying to decide what to wear. She stopped short when she realized that soon, she was going to have a lot less space in that closet. She was partly terrified and partly warmed by the thought of his clothes hanging next to her own.

"Which side of the closet do you want?", she asked abruptly.

He looked at her in confusion.

"For your clothes," she clarified, "when you move your stuff over here."

To say Fritz was surprised was an understatement. They hadn't had a chance to discuss his moving in further after she'd been called away from their lunch the day before. He'd begun to prepare himself for a long, slow, erosion of her fear-induced resistance and her seemingly sudden change of heart threw him for a loop.

"So you really want me to move in?" he asked, not quite believing it.


"Are you sure? You look scared to death."

"I am."

"You're sure, or you're scared to death?"


He stepped closer to her and wrapped his arms around her. She put her arms around his waist and hugged him tight, almost as if she was afraid he'd slip away, then after a few moments relaxed a bit and snuggled into his chest. As usual, his heart gave a little flip. He held her close and nestled his cheek against her silky hair. "Look, I know it's a big step. But you're not taking it alone."

How did he do that? Her rocky, unstable world always seemed to steady when he held her. And he always seemed to know just what to say. His embrace and reassurance made her feel safe enough to let a confession slip free.

"I've been alone in relationships before," she said quietly.

"I know," he answered just as quietly. He wanted to damn Will Pope yet again for hurting her, but he also suspected he could add a few more men to that list. It made his heart ache. "But you're not alone in this one, ok?"


He held her a little tighter, hoping to reassure her through his touch. He continued to hold her in silence for a few minutes and marveled for the hundredth time at how perfectly she fit into his embrace.

"I can't wait to spend every night with you in my arms," he said.

Ohh, she liked the sound of that. "Can you move in tonight?" she said into his shoulder.

He chuckled, a warm rich sound that vibrated through her and made her want to burrow into him and stay forever.

"Well, as much as I'd like to, there aren't any moving faeries that can magically bring my stuff over here. I think I'll probably need a U-Haul."

"We'll call tomorrow."

When Brenda made a decision, she really dove in, he thought. Fritz gave her a squeeze before loosening his hold and pulling back to look at her.

"Well, that takes care of tomorrow. But we can start on other things tonight..." he said suggestively.

His tone was not lost on her. "What did you have in mind?"

He had in mind the same thing he'd had in mind that morning - getting her out of that slip. He slipped the straps to her slip and bra off her shoulder and kissed the spot where they'd been. "Maybe, we could choose sides of the bed…" He slid his hand over her rear end, copping a shameless feel, and then lower to the hem of her slip.

"What about dinner?" she asked, undoing his tie.

"Maybe later," he murmured against her neck as he trailed his finger tips slowly up the inside of her thigh.

Her breath caught in her throat. "Later's good," she managed to reply.

"MUCH later," he breathed as he swept her up in his arms.

Much later, she looked at him as he slept. Such a handsome face for her to go to sleep with and wake up to every day. But it wasn't his good looks that had swayed her, or that he was good in bed, even if he was the best lover she'd ever had. She had dated good-looking men, men who were good in bed, and good-looking men who were good in bed before. But she didn't think she'd ever dated a good man before. And Fritz was without a doubt a good man. The best she'd ever known.

Pathology is identified by evaluating repeated patterns of behavior. And Brenda realized she seemed to be breaking some old patterns. She was with a thoroughly decent, wonderful man. She was working to overcome sugar. Maybe she could overcome herself as well. Despite her lingering fears, she felt some hope. If she, with him, really could change her patterns, then past did not have to become prologue. And maybe, just maybe, everything would work out ok. Maybe even better than ok. She looked back over at Fritz's sleeping form. As if he subconsciously felt her watching him, he rolled toward her in his sleep, his arm going around her waist. He mumbled something and pulled her closer before his breathing evened back out. She smiled as she nestled into him. This was definitely better than ok. Her last thought before sleep overtook her was that she couldn't possibly have found a better partner. She could only hope that she held up her end of the deal.