Notes: This was prompted by my desperate desire that Sharon Raydor get a promotion. I imagine this as being set three-ish years from where we currently are in canon. I've also got another story that immediately follows "Poster Boy" that I'm finishing up right now, and I should post that in the next week or so.
The digital frame had been a gift from Rusty last Christmas. It cycled through her favorite photos and on slow, rainy afternoons like this one Sharon found her attention drifting towards it. There was the picture of her with Ricky at his wedding, the one where he smiled Jack's smile with an arm flung around her shoulders. In the next, she held his daughter, her first grandchild, weary-eyed from the long night in the hospital but her face so bright she hardly recognized herself. There were pictures her daughter had sent of her newest class of little ballerinas, of her parents on their sixtieth wedding anniversary, of Rusty at his high school graduation.
The last one gave her pause, and she shook her head. Time was a funny thing. That picture taken two years ago seemed like yesterday, while the last fifteen minutes of her work day ticked by second by second.
Footsteps at her office door startled her to attention. The file in her hands slipped, scattering papers to the floor. Sharon bent to retrieve them, and the door opened before she could call "come in!". She straightened with the intent to convey precisely what she thought of the intrusion, but when her head came up she found herself watched by a familiar figure and instead, her initial irritation faded to resigned exasperation.
"Will you ever learn to knock?"
"Knock knock." The words were accompanied by a disarming smile.
That was likely a no, then. Sharon leaned back in her seat. "And to what, may I ask, do I owe this... happy surprise?"
"Oh, hush." Brenda Leigh Johnson shifted from foot to white-heeled foot and tugged absently at the tail of her braid. "You have a minute?"
Sharon found herself mimicking Brenda's motion. She lifted a hand to tuck her hair behind her ears, then quickly dropped it back into her lap when she realized it. "For you?"
Her eyes slid past Brenda to the window. Andy was downstairs and nothing short the building collapsing into itself would stir Provenza from his crosswords, but the rest of her unit stared in open curiosity. At her glance, Buzz and Amy had the grace to look sheepish and turn back to their desks. The others had no such compunction; Mike waved cheerfully, and Julio acknowledged her with a bob of his head.
Sharon rolled her eyes and motioned them back to work. "I suppose."
"Oh, for heaven's sake. I'd forgotten how much it felt like bein' in a fishbowl."
Brenda shook her head and drew the blinds. When she turned, she was fiddling with the belt of her pale pink coat. Sharon folded her arms and raised questioning eyebrow. In her experience, fidgety and Brenda were not an ideal combination.
"Deputy Chief Raydor, I have a complaint."
"And elsewhere," Sharon said dryly, over the echo of a thousand conversations, "all is right with the world. Usually you just call."
"Well." Brenda readjusted her grip on her purse. She was holding it tighter than was strictly necessary, though who she imagined might steal it from her, Sharon had no idea. "This couldn't wait until you were free for a drink."
"Then it must be serious," Sharon said, and folded her arms in consideration. "All right. What is it this time?"
Brenda lowered herself into the chair before Sharon's desk, sliding the purse down to rest at her feet. "An informant—who is very reliable, by the way, so don't you think of denyin' it—tells me that you are shortlisted to replace Will as Chief of Police."
"Ah," Sharon said slowly. "Well. Whatever Special Agent Howard may have heard from Assistant Chief Taylor, I've heard no such thing and I certainly haven't been offered the job."
"That not not denyin' it." Brenda crossed one knee over the other and shifted slightly in her seat. Still restless, then. "Were you going to tell me?"
"Absolutely." The assurance pacified Brenda, but was a look that quickly faded when Sharon added, "In the event that it was offered and I accepted."
Brenda made a face at her. Sharon responded with the lift of an eyebrow and a shrug.
"So you haven't decided then? Whether or not you'd take it?"
"Oh now, I didn't say that." Sharon pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose. "Come on, you can't possibly be upset I didn't tell you. You didn't tell your own husband."
"Okay, okay." Brenda held up her hands. "It's just that—you'd take the job, then?"
"Even if you didn't want it?"
"Yes." Sharon regarded her seriously. "It would be shirking my duty to the people of Los Angeles to turn it down. But let me assure you, I do want the job."
When Brenda said nothing, Sharon continued, "I always expected to retire as a captain. I thought having once chosen internal affairs I would be there for the duration of my career, and I was... content with that. But this—oh, this would validate all those choices, and I would find that immensely satisfying."
Brenda didn't look mollified. "And if Taylor gets the job? What then?"
"Then," Sharon said, "in five years I'll retire as Deputy Chief with no complaints."
"None of those, either."
"I had complaints," Brenda said. "But no regrets.
"Well," she amended. "Besides the one, and the other."
Her face clouded, lips thinning. For a moment, the two women regarded each other in quiet contemplation. Sharon knew both regrets and could say nothing for either of them. Then the shadow lifted from Brenda's face and she gave her head a little shake as if to clear it, and when she smiled it looked only a little forced.
"I've gotten all sidetracked," she said. "That's not what I came here to say."
"Just this," Brenda said softly, and just seriously enough that Sharon dreaded what was coming. But when their eyes met, Brenda was still smiling, genuinely and with a touch of embarrassment. "I thought you ought to know that you... you are the most honorable woman I know and that when you're sittin' in that office across the street, I—" She offered Sharon a rueful look that said she remembered exactly where her next words had come from. "Will feel very proud to have a chief that I can truly admire, and I will be even prouder that you've bestowed upon me the honor of your friendship. "
Whatever Sharon had expected, it certainly wasn't that. Her eyebrows disappeared into her hairline as she blinked in surprise and some other, unexpected emotion that made her fingers tighten on the edge of her desktop.
"Well," Brenda said delicately and stood, shrugging her purse into place. "I've said what needed sayin', and now I'll be on my way."
Sharon had to clear her throat twice to speak normally. "Or you could take me to dinner," she suggested. "Where, if you're very, very lucky, I will consume an extraordinary volume of wine and admit that the feeling is... mutual."
She'd never expected to like this woman. But somewhere down the line, as their lives had crossed and grown intertwined, respect and professional admiration had bloomed into friendship and a keen awareness of the fact that neither of them would be where they were now without the other.
Brenda hesitated with her hand on the doorknob.
"Fritz isn't due back into town until tomorrow night, and it's been awful lonely just talkin' to the cat," she said at last, turning back with a smile on her face. "And I've learned to know a good offer when I hear one. So—after you, Chief."
Sharon rose, taking her purse in one hand and her coat in another, and Brenda came around to fall into step beside her.