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Endear You To Me

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Morales had volunteered to fire up the grill and take charge of the burgers and vegetable kabobs to afford Sharon a bit more time to relax and socialize, and Andy had been surprised to find himself rising from the chair he had pulled closer to the hot tub to assist.  He had been in the kitchen, retrieving the covered basket of buns when the doorbell rang.

Approaching the door, Andy could see Provenza’s glowering face through the decorative glass.  He was wearing a loud Hawaiian print shirt and was cradling a maroon box in his arms.  Andy was familiar with that box - it contained a bottle of 12 year old Macallan sherry oak scotch.

Flynn flipped the deadbolt and opened the door to let his partner in.  Provenza didn’t even bother with a greeting, just stepped past him into the house, nearly handing off the box, but thinking better of it.

“Where’ve you been?”

“At Liz’s with the grandkids.  Then I stopped to pick up a little housewarming gift.”  He waggled the box at Flynn.

“For you or for the Chief?  Does the Chief even like scotch?”

“No clue.  But I have it on good authority that the Captain does.” 

“Did Louie Provenza actually make an effort?” Flynn asked, mockingly aghast.

“Shut up.  Now where is everyone?”

“In the back yard talking.  Morales and I are getting the burgers started.”  Provenza chuckled derisively and made a whipping motion with his free hand.

“You know, I’ll gladly man the grill and set up the food if it means the Chief and the Captain stay in their bikinis instead of changing to cook.” 

Provenza snorted.  “You say that like I want to see a 60 year old woman in a bikini,” he grumped.  Andy rolled his eyes and led the way into the kitchen.

“You know, you really are an idiot sometimes, Provenza.”  Andy picked up the basket of rolls to take outside to the table.  “Drinks are outside in the cooler.”  He stepped outside, leaving Provenza to his own devices.  Andy didn’t really want to be around him if he was going to be a downer.

Provenza rolled his eyes at his friend’s departure.  Did Andy really expect him to be hearts and flowers about anything?  Ever?  Left alone in the house, he decided to snoop a little.  Laziness restricted his efforts to peeking in the pantry (filled with wine and booze and a plentiful amount of dry goods, including a giant bag of miniature Reese’s cups and two boxes of ding-dongs) and examining the photos and mementos on the refrigerator.  An impressive row of cookbooks weighted down the refrigerator; they all looked well thumbed, which fit with the amount of delicious-looking leftovers that the Chief had been eating lately.  Pictures were clustered on the freezer door - the Captain with a tall young man, a younger Captain with a dark haired young lady, hardly more than a girl; her children he guessed, as they both wore the Captain’s most impish smirk.  Next to a picture of an elderly woman reaching into an enormous turkey, her face stretched into a grimace, the Chief and Willie Rae lifted their glasses to the photographer at the impromptu Christmas gathering they had held a few years back.  A picture of the Chief and the deceased Kitty rounded out the collage.  On the refrigerator door, held in place by a bright red magnet marked ‘IMPORTANT’ was a reminder from a dental office close to police HQ, that Brenda Johnson had a cleaning on December 14.  A similar card reminded Sharon Raydor of an upcoming gynecological exam and mammogram.

It was so disconcerting to find out one’s nemesis was an actual human being who had a family that she loved and a woman that she was meshing her life with and hobbies that she was good at and health that she took care of.  It was all so mundane - not to mention mildly disappointing - to find out that Captain Sharon Raydor didn’t sleep in a coffin.

Provenza was greeted warmly as he stepped out on to the deck.  Morales waved a pair of tongs at him from his place at the grill; Julio and Kevin Tao took a timeout from whatever game they were playing in the pool with a ball and a pair of inner tubes; David and Mike waved him over to the hot tub where they were lounging with the Chief and the Captain, and Cathy on the sidelines.

Depositing the box onto the table, Provenza’s first order of business was to procure himself a beer.  He plunged his hand into the bitter, stinging cold of the cooler and surfaced with a bottle of Sam Adams.  Thank god the Chief had taken his advice on beverage selection - a beer or two was exactly what he needed after a long morning of wrangling grandchildren under the watchful eye of his former wife Liz.  Helping the Chief move probably would have been much more relaxing.  Using the church key fastened helpfully to the side of the cooler, Provenza popped the cap off his beer and took a long swig.  Beer and burgers would make for a perfect afternoon if he wasn’t also expected to be sociable.  There were perfectly good college football games on, for Christ’s sake.

When he sat down at the end of a lounger close to the knot of people in the hot tub, Provenza was reminded of just why he did these social sorts of things he didn’t particularly want to do: cheeks flush from the heat of water, honeyed curls piled on top of her head, the Chief turned to beam at him.  She was happy that he was here with all of them in a pleasant setting that had nothing to do with murder or any other sort of crime.  Eager to not dwell too long on his feelings, Provenza opted for humor:

“You know,” he remarked conversationally to the occupants of the hot tub, “this is a lot nicer than a boat filled with water in the front yard.”  He was gratified when a laugh burbled up from Brenda’s throat and David started chuckling.  Raydor looked slightly askance at the lot of them.

“Do I want to know?” She asked.

“Oh, it’s nothin’ bad, Shari.  During the course of an investigation a couple years ago we came across a gaggle of gangsters that had pulled a boat onto their front lawn and filled it with water and were using it as a pool-cum-soakin’ tub or somethin’.” 

Provenza took up the thread of the story: “And after such a long day of chasing down leads, I decided that I just had to soak my feet.”

“Lieutenant Provenza rolling up his pant legs to dip his toes into a boat pool full of gangsters is one for the history books,” contributed David, raising his bottle to Provenza.

Completely straight faced, Sharon turned to Provenza and said, gravely, “Lieutenant, I am a little concerned that you were having foot pain even with your orthopedic shoes.  I do hope you’ve consulted with your doctor about this.”

Brenda snorted and under the roiling surface of the tub, poked Sharon gently in the ribs. 

“Score one for the Captain with an age joke,” crowed Mike and Sharon smirked at him.

Smooth as your please, Provenza piped up again.  “You might think about trying some orthopedic shoes, Captain.  The pinched toes of those heels you wear can’t be good for your temperament.”

“My personality is pinched regardless of footwear, Lieutenant.  And where’s the fun in having a pleasant temperament?” Sharon asked with an expression of exaggerated disgust on her lovely features.

Having dragged herself from the relaxing warmth of the hot tub in order to change back into her jeans before dinner, Sharon noticed something on the table amid the pitchers and glasses and bottles of beer.  A familiar, elegant red box with the label picked out in gold.  Macallan’s sherry oak was her father’s favorite, and the two of them always shared a glass after meals when Sharon visited her parents.  Provenza must have brought it with him.  She picked up the box and left it on the kitchen counter as she passed through.

Once again in her jeans, with a thick cream cardigan pulled over her henley, Sharon paused in the kitchen to open the box of scotch.  She set the bottle of amber liquid on the counter and reached into the cabinet for two short tumblers.  Four ice cubes went in each glass and Sharon poured a generous measure of scotch over the cold rocks.  She capped the bottle and picked the glasses up and took them outside.  Provenza was still seated next to the hot tub - without saying anything, Sharon handed him a glass.  He looked up at her in surprise but took the offered drink.  Sharon smirked and gently clinked the rim of her squat glass tumbler to the rim of the one Provenza held.  Provenza smirked right back and took a long, grateful swallow of the scotch, letting it coat his tastebuds on the way down.

“Just don’t drop my glass,” Sharon said over her shoulder as she walked back to the deck, where Brenda was exiting the house after having done her own quick change out of her bathing suit.  Provenza snorted.

Dinner was a surprisingly raucous affair - fanciful and enormous burgers were assembled (portobello burgers for Andy and Cathy) and consumed with relish.  Kevin, David and Julio even had seconds.  Sharon joked with Julio that maybe he should sign a waiver in case he dislocated his jaw on his combination of beef, mushrooms, cheese, lettuce, tomato and onion.

Darkness had truly fallen by the time dinner was packed away and leftovers prepared for those who wanted them - mostly Kevin, as all those not currently in the middle of a teenage boy’s growth spurt were much too full to think about more food just then.

Sharon deftly lit a cheerfully crackling fire in the stone and wrought iron fire pit.  Julio and Kevin and Mike and David eased themselves back into the warmth of the hot tub and Provenza slipped his shoes off to dip his toes in the water.  Cathy, Andy and Tomás chatted amiably at the table.  Brenda had commandeered a big lounger for the two of them and was curled on her side, watching Sharon work.  Sharon caught her eye and the blonde smiled drowsily.  The combination of a big meal, the hot tub and the sangria meant that her Brenda Leigh would be sleepy and sweet for the remainder of the evening and suddenly Sharon wanted to shoo their guests out and away to their own homes so she could have Brenda all to herself.

As soon as Sharon eased herself down onto the lounger, Brenda cuddled up against her, snaking a possessive arm across Sharon’s middle and burying her hand under the unbuttoned wool of Sharon’s cardigan.  “Don’t need a fire when you’re around,” she murmured and Sharon chuckled.

“You can’t toast marshmallows on me, Brenda Leigh.”

“I’ll keep you anyways,” she said and laid her head on Sharon’s shoulder with a contented little squeak and Sharon’s heart thumped a funny beat in response.

“No falling asleep, Brenda Leigh.”

“But I’m so comfortable and you’re so warm,” Brenda whined.

“And if you nap now you’ll never fall asleep later tonight,” Sharon admonished.  She felt like she’d said the same thing to her children dozens of times, but now it was harder to actually mean it because Brenda felt so nice pressed up against her side and Sharon felt replete and drowsy and quite ready to doze off herself.

“Would that be so awful?  We could fool around for longer.”

“Someone is awfully sure of herself.”  Sharon teased, mind already drifting to the pleasurable activities she was sure they would get up to once their company had gone.

“We always make love on the weekends,” Brenda groused.  And it was true; they usually spent a significant amount of time on the weekends in bed together decidedly not sleeping; reaffirming their physical connection with long, slow lovemaking that they didn’t necessarily have the time or energy for during the week.  It amused Sharon that sleepy Brenda was gullible enough to believe that she was serious.

“We will,” Sharon reassured her, not wanting the blonde to start making heart wrenching pouty faces and touching Sharon in not so innocent places in order to ramp up their arousal.  Because she would.  “But I don’t think we should kick our guests out just yet.”

“No,” agreed Brenda.  “We still have to make s’mores.”  As if Brenda would ever forget dessert, even blissed out and half asleep.

“I wish I had one of my cameras with me,” Mike remarked, discreetly eyeing the two women relaxing on the lounger, Sharon’s hand stroking Brenda’s blonde head.  Julio raised a questioning eyebrow at him.

“And I thought I was supposed to be the perv, Mike,” he snarked.

“That’s not what I meant,” Tao huffed back.  “A long exposure with the fire as the only light would be cool - the Captain’s hand would be blurred and the whole picture would look sort of soft and out of focus.  And I was thinking that it would make a nice Christmas present or something - they can’t have very many photos together yet.”

“Oh, so you were only brown nosing then.”

“I can’t win,” Tao grumbled and Sanchez flashed him a cheeky grin.

Kevin piped up helpfully: “Buzz would have brought a camera.”

“Where is Buzz?” asked Provenza from his seat on the stone edge of the tub.

“Playing designated driver on his mom’s annual gambling weekend.”  Buzz had been bitching about the trip to Vegas for weeks, prompting Mike to avoid spending too much time working on their usual projects and upgrades.  Maybe things could get back to normal now that the impending doom was no longer impending.  Though he couldn’t imagine that Buzz would be in a very good mood on Monday.

“Ouch,” Provenza winced visibly.  “His mom is off her nut - it’s a wonder he turned out as normal as he did.”

“You barely know the woman, Provenza.  We’ve all met her once.”

“Instinct, Tao.  Gut instinct.”  Everyone laughed at that.

Andy couldn’t help but be a little envious, watching Sharon Raydor bury her fingers in Brenda Leigh Johnson’s thick blonde hair.  Not too many weeks ago, he would have said without hesitation that he wanted to be in the Captain’s shoes, but now, Sharon was nearly as enticing as his pretty Chief.  He was very aware that his crushes were just that - nothing serious - and he was genuinely happy for the both of them; sometimes two people came together at the right time and for the right reasons and Andy felt like he was watching it happen.

Out of nowhere, Morales sighed, and Andy noticed that the doctor’s eyes were pointing in the same direction his were.

“I’m so jealous of them all happy and falling in love,” he said wistfully.  “Sharon Raydor and Brenda Leigh Johnson cuddling.  Who knew.”

“Sometimes I feel like I should be on the lookout for the apocalypse,” quipped Andy and Morales laughed.

“Somehow I was not that surprised.  You know what they say about the line between love and hate.”

“Kevin said something about sublimation earlier that stuck with me,” said Andy with a smirk and Morales threw his head back and let out an honest to goodness guffaw.

“Smart kid.”

“I need to take those psychology books away from him,” Cathy murmured.

“That’s probably not far from the truth though - there was probably some recognition from both of them from the word go.”

“You’re probably right,” Andy agreed.  “I still want to know how it happened.  Did they start with a date?  Who asked who?  Or did they just sort of…” he trailed off, but brought his hands together sharply and made a soft ‘explosion’ noise.

“You’re terrible,” Cathy admonished, narrowing her eyes at him.  Andy responded with an unrepentant smirk.

“We’ll probably never know,” Morales said mournfully.

“I hate not knowing things,” grumbled Andy, which earned him an amused and exasperated look from both his table mates.

Brenda Leigh Johnson liked her marshmallows an even golden-brown, but she was utterly incapable of producing one that wasn’t crusted black as a lump of charcoal.  Julio and Provenza happily consumed her first two failures, though after the third, now a rapidly disintegrating heap on the bottom of the fire pit, Sharon gently took the wire hanger from her lover.

“Let me,” she murmured, plucking a fresh bit of sugar and air from the bag and easing it on to the hanger.  Brenda smiled blithely at her and popped another marshmallow into her mouth, one cheek bulging briefly as she chewed.  They were sitting at the end of their lounger, pulled close to the fire, huddled together more to be close than for warmth.

“Thanks,” Brenda said and bumped Sharon with her shoulder gently, affectionately, then tilted her face towards Sharon’s, asking for a kiss.  Sharon obliged, bringing her lips to Brenda’s and sucking the sweet stickiness of marshmallow from them.  Purring in satisfaction, Brenda tried to deepen their lip-lock; her tongue snaking out to curl behind Sharon’s teeth, but Sharon pulled away.

“Do you want a s’more or do you want to make out?” She asked as reasonably as she could with Brenda’s hand on her thigh, fingers skittering along the inseam of her jeans.

“I wanna kiss on you,” was the petulant answer.

“Your window of opportunity for a real toasted marshmallow s’more is right now at this very second.  Your window of opportunity to make out with me is every other hour of the day.”

“You and your rationality and common sense.  I’m holdin’ you to what you said about makin’ out, Sharon,” Brenda said, utterly serious.

“I’d be disappointed if you didn’t.  Now get the chocolate and graham crackers ready for this marshmallow.”

Brenda scrutinized Sharon’s marshmallow toasting technique - it shouldn’t have surprised her that Sharon played it safe and didn’t thrust the thing into the heart of the fire; she rotated it slowly at the edges of the flames and let it turn an even golden-brown.  Always in a hurry, Brenda would let hers catch on fire and then blow it out and hope for the best.  She doubted she was patient enough to pull off Sharon’s method, but watching Sharon toast a marshmallow for her?  Brenda definitely had the patience for that. 

“Ooooo,” cooed Brenda when Sharon presented her with the marshmallow to sandwich between her four squares of Hershey’s and two halves of graham cracker.  “It’s perfect.  Thank you.” 

“You’re very welcome.  I’m glad my marshmallow toasting skills are appreciated.  Even if you are a hazard around open flame.”

“Hey!” Brenda exclaimed around a mouthful of melted chocolate, crunchy graham and too hot sugar.  Her eyes watered and she sucked in air in an attempt to cool her scalded tongue.

“And apparently a hazard around too warm desserts,” Sharon quipped, smiling affectionately at her sometimes haphazard lover.

“They’re better when the chocolate is still melty,” the blonde groused, then blew a little on the treat before taking another bite.  She moaned a little as she chewed, eyes rolling back.  Sharon popped a marshmallow in her mouth in an attempt to keep herself from kissing away the chocolate clinging to Brenda’s upper lip.

  Brenda and Sharon escorted the last of their guests out the front door and down the driveway.  With a wave and a thank you, David and Julio hopped up into the truck carrying Sharon’s old furniture away.  Brenda clasped Sharon’s hand in her’s and they walked back into the house.

“Shari, you wanna deal with the fire pit now or tomorrow,” Brenda asked as she walked into the kitchen to start the dishwasher.  She was thankful that Sharon’s efficient planning and judicious use of paper plates meant that dirty dishes were minimal.

Sharon flipped off the lights around the pool and flipped the lock on the back door.  “Tomorrow definitely.  It’s a messy job.”  She moved to the refrigerator and pulled out a tightly zip-locked bag of coffee beans.   

“Getting ready for bed already?  It’s only 9 and it’s Saturday,” teased Brenda as she shut the dishwasher with a click and pushed the start button - the machine hummed to life.

“Well, someone was quite clear earlier about how they wanted to cap off their evening.  Did you want to get out of bed later to get the coffee set up?”  She looked over at the blonde, who gave her a sidelong glance that said clearly that neither of them would be getting out of bed for any reason - whether to satisfy their daily caffeine needs or to put out a house fire.

Sharon dumped a heaping portion of beans into the grinder.  As the little machine whirred, the potent, hypnotizing  aroma of excellent Hawaiian coffee filled the kitchen.  Brenda sidled up, sliding arms around Sharon’s waist, hands clasping over the button of Sharon’s jeans, to get a face full of the scent before Sharon dumped the grounds into the filter, shut the machine and set the timer for 7 am.

Feeling Brenda nosing along the bare skin above the collar of her sweater, Sharon leaned back, tilting her head to allow Brenda easier access to the side of her neck.  Soft kisses were placed delicately along the tendon at the side of Sharon’s neck.

“So beautiful,” Brenda whispered, nuzzling at the tender, sensitive spot behind Sharon’s ear.  Sharon shivered at the sensation, and flushed at the compliment.  “Can we talk a little more about the dream you mentioned earlier?” she asked in a quiet voice.  Sharon stiffened in Brenda’s arms, and try to pull away, to distance herself from the potential of Brenda’s judgment or ridicule for her neediness.  Instead of letting her pull away, Brenda held her more tightly, murmuring soothingly into her ear:

“Hey now, hey.  Just listen a second, baby.”  Sharon froze, but didn’t relax back into Brenda.  “For the most part, I’ve been feelin’ absolutely ecstatic about bein’ with you, about there bein’ an ‘us’, and all my dreams about you have been wonderful.  But every once in a while, I’ll be so wrapped in somethin’ - usually somethin’ ugly at work and for a minute I’ll forget my happiness and the world just goes monochrome, like the old movies I used to watch with my Grammy, but flat and ugly.”  Brenda’s voice was a low, heavily accented burr, which wasn’t unusual when she was feeling emotional or vulnerable and this simple fact, and Sharon’s ability to recognize it, gave her quite a bit of comfort.  She took a deep breath and let the tension go from her body.

“That’s better,” Brenda husked.  “I didn’t mean ta’…”

“I know, Brenda Leigh.  I know you didn’t.”  Sharon sighed heavily.  “Sometimes I get panicky because between my ex-husband and my daughter and all the shit that happened at work and with Helena when I was forced out of the closet, I was convinced that not only would I never find someone who made me feel wanted and content and joyful and in love, I was convinced that I didn’t deserve any of it.”

“And here I was thinkin’ that I didn’t deserve someone as wonderful as you after all my abject failures.”  It was Brenda’s turn to sigh.  “I’ve never wanted to be ‘that person’ that compares relationships, but Shari, I’ve never, never felt so strongly or been so connected to someone before.”  Sharon turned in the circle of Brenda’s arms, bringing her hands to rest on the blonde’s thin shoulders and looked into liquid dark chocolate eyes.  A tear was coalescing in the corners of both and Sharon reached up to dab them away, ever so gently, with an index finger.

“Don’t cry, honey.” Sharon implored in a voice that throbbed with the threat of tears.

“I’m tryin’ not to.  I’m not sad - just kinda emotional.”

“Me too.  There are so many things that I feel for you that I struggle to put into words, so I try my best to let my actions speak for me, but that doesn’t always work since I said some things to you in the past that I needed to correct with words.”

“Like the clothes thing,” Brenda interrupted with a wry smile.  Sharon flashed her a matching smile.

“Like the clothes thing.  I remain apologetic for that misunderstanding, by the way.”

“I appreciate that.”  And Brenda did - and she knew that Sharon kept apologizing in little ways for that failure to communicate, like wearing the shirt that Brenda had picked out for her that morning.  “I shoulda realized after gettin’ to know you better that you would never be shallow enough to care about something as silly as clothes.”

There was a lapse in the conversation as they each took stock of what had been said, and considered what else, if anything, remained unsaid.  Brenda opened her mouth to speak, but Sharon got her voice started first.  Then stopped and looked expectantly at Brenda, waiting for her to continue.

“No, you go ahead.  I have no problem with you goin’ first sometimes,” teased Brenda.

“That was terrible, Brenda Leigh,” Sharon murmured with a shake of her head - though her words were belied by the smile tugging at the corners of her mouth.  “There’s something big I want to talk to you about, and my head keeps telling me it’s too soon, but we’ve already defied conventional expectations about ‘soon enough’ and ‘enough time’ that I should go with what feels right for us and broach the subject.”  She paused and swallowed nervously.  She had no idea if Brenda even wanted to formalize their relationship beyond cohabitation.

“Really?” Brenda asked breathlessly, wide-eyed but beaming up at her.  Sharon smiled back, her anxiety about Brenda’s reaction disappearing, melting away as if it had never been.  “You’d wanna ask me somethin’ like that?”

“Most definitely,” Sharon heard herself purr.  She felt almost as if she was watching this unfold from a point near the ceiling - like it was an out of body experience.

“We can’t, though, in California.  Not legally, anyhow,” Brenda bit out.  And then she flushed a little.  “I did a little research,” she confessed.

“We have options, Brenda Leigh,” Sharon soothed.  “Do you want to talk about this now?”

“I want…” She paused, considering.  “I want to know what you want.  What your best case scenario is.”

That was an easy one for Sharon, because she wanted it all, and in a fit of honesty shot through with hope and a little bit of fear, she decided to share that with Brenda.

“I want, as soon as your divorce is final, to register as domestic partners.  That would give you all the rights of a spouse and allow us to do things like share health insurance and file joint taxes.  It would also give you legal recourse if something happened to me,” Brenda opened her mouth to protest and Sharon laid a gentle finger over her lips.  “Please let me get this out.  Domestic partnership would give you standing in the courts in case one of my children or my ex or the state tried to get greedy.  It would give me the same rights and protections, too, of course.  But in the mean time, I want you to meet my parents and I want them to love you; I want you to meet my children, even the one that hates my guts and will probably heap abuse on both of us for being together; I want to meet your parents again and have them accept our relationship and even be happy for us; I want, when we come out at work, for it to not even cause a blip on the radar; I want Fritz to move on and leave you alone.  More practically, I want to file a medical and legal power of attorney so that you have some rights in case of an emergency; I want to put you on my car insurance so you can drive the Jag; I want us to talk about combining our finances.  I want you to wear my ring.  I want to call you ‘wife’,” she finished softly. 

She wouldn’t mention her plans to put Brenda in her will or on the deed to the house or to give her access to her trust.  Sharon would probably do those things even if Brenda objected - she wanted, in the worst case scenario, for Brenda to be able to keep their house if she wanted, at the very least.

Brenda was crying in earnest now; tears slipped down her cheeks and curved around the corners of her mouth and down her chin.  “You,” she began, then stopped, and lifted up a hand to cup Sharon’s cheek, a look of wonderment on her face.  “That was very thorough, my Cap’n Raydor.  And the most romantic thing anyone has ever said to me.”  She leaned in for a kiss, raising up on her tiptoes a bit, bringing her lips to Sharon’s. 

Brenda tasted of salt tears and sugar and her lips were the only lips Sharon wanted to taste for the rest of her life.

“I like all of those ideas, though we might argue about the finances.  I don’t know if I’m comfortable jumpin’ about a dozen tax brackets in one fell swoop.”

“It’s not a dozen, Brenda Leigh,” Sharon admonished with a smirk.  “I’m very, very privileged in that I’ve never had to worry about money, and I can be very blasé about such things, which might seem strange to you.  Will you think about what you’re comfortable with?”

“I don’t want you, or your family, to feel that I’m taking advantage.”

“Brenda, if I put you on my accounts right now, at this very minute, would you go on a crazy shopping spree?  Or go gambling?  Or fund terrorism?”

“Well, the first one sounds kinda fun,” Brenda joked, “but a big no to the gambling and the terrorism.”

“Sometimes I don’t think you realize that I trust you just as much as you do me.”

“I just…” Brenda began, and then stopped.  Sharon could see her searching for the right words.  “Maybe I don’t feel like I deserve your trust yet, not after all the shit I put you through at work.”

“Brenda Leigh, all of that is forgiven on my part.  What about you?  Do you forgive me for using Pope like a sledgehammer when you were driving me crazy and for sneaking off with evidence or interviewing suspects before you were prepared?”

“‘Course I do.”

“Then you’re just going to have to trust that I trust you, personally and professionally.”

“You might be infuriatin’ when you’re all logical,” Brenda groused, burying her face into Sharon’s neck.

“I count both among my many skills.”

“Jerk,” breathed the blonde, then she moaned, a shiver traveling down her spine that Sharon could feel through the other woman’s sweater and t-shirt.  Brenda clutched at Sharon’s back and whispered in her ear, practically panting: “Say it.”

“Say what?” Sharon was confused, but caught up in the press of Brenda’s body against hers; the shift of a slender thigh between Sharon’s, the stiffened nipples Sharon could feel even through a few layers of clothing.

“Call me your wife,” Brenda growled, pressing her thigh against Sharon’s apex.  Sharon gasped.  She was certain that Brenda would be able to feel the warmth of her, denim or no denim.

“Let’s go to bed, wife.”  Sharon thought her voice must be impossibly husky in that moment.  Her Brenda Leigh was apparently quite enamored with the idea of being Sharon’s spouse - of Sharon being her spouse.

As Brenda practically dragged her up the stairs, Sharon’s pleasantly arousal fogged mind mulled over just what sort of ring she could put on that slightly stubby ring finger that would make her ‘wife’ happiest.