... ... ...
Sharon unlocked the door of her apartment but paused before opening it. The day had taken its toll. She was mentally and emotionally exhausted and she was sure if she could feel beyond that, she must be physically exhausted as well.
All the way home her mind had flitted between two topics of tension. One, she was dreading telling Rusty about the day's events. The only saving grace was that she could at least end the story on the positive of Julio being cleared. She had considered skipping the details, but he would read her obvious exhaustion and know there was more she needed to talk about. Plus, it was better he hear it all from her now than snippets in idle comments from others in the future.
The other worry on her mind was Andy's mysterious disappearance several hours ago. He had left word with Provenza that he had to leave on a 'personal matter'. While the Lieutenant had given him permission to go, he claimed not to know any details. Sharon wasn't sure she believed that, but if he did know, he wasn't saying. Concerned about what could have happened - was it Nicole? The boys? His son? - she had called Andy three times but only his voicemail had picked up. She had resolved to try him again after she had spoken to Rusty - if her son was still up.
As she pushed open the door, she guiltily prayed that he wasn't still up.
When she stepped through the doorway, though, she found that he was still up and, in fact, Andy was standing next to him. The solemn expressions on both of their faces did nothing to alleviate any of her concern though.
Assuming that Andy had come round because he needed to talk about whatever had happened, she let the door swing closed behind her and walked towards them. Apprehension churned her stomach.
"Andy... Is everything all right? Are Nicole and -"
Andy cut her off to try to reassure her. "They're fine. They're fine..."
She glanced between him and her son trying to find some sort of clue.
"Don't worry," Andy continued. "And all your kids are fine."
Alarm bells were triggered by that statement. It had not occurred to her that anything might have happened to one of her children. Her eyes darted to Rusty seeking confirmation of what Andy had said. Rusty tried a smile but she could tell he was nervous.
"Is it your mother?" she asked him.
"No, no. She's fine," he replied quickly, glancing at Andy as if for support.
She directed her next question to Andy, well aware that there was an ice to her tone that she had not used with him since her days in FID. "Then what is going on?" Considering everyone was apparently okay, there was a heaviness to the air around them that filled her with unease. She needed to be brought up to speed. Immediately.
Andy took a couple of steps closer to her and Rusty shuffled nearer, his fidgety hands giving away his anxiety.
"Rusty?" She stepped nearer to the couch that separated them.
"I'm fine," he promised her.
"Sharon..." Andy waited until her eyes returned to him. "Jack is here."
"What?" There was no sign of Jack; that explanation didn't seem to make sense nor did it fully explain their odd behaviour.
"He showed up around nine o'clock, asking for you. He was drunk and not -"
Her eyes shot to Rusty. "Did he hurt you?" That being more important than anything else.
Rusty shook his head emphatically. "No he didn't. He pushed his way in and he wouldn't leave. He insisted he had a right to be here."
"Why didn't you call?" Her heart ached at the thought of him dealing with Jack on his own.
"I knew you were in the middle of something important. I didn't want to -"
"Rusty, you can always call me. Always."
"Okay," he nodded.
"You called Andy?" she asked him, gradually piecing together what had happened.
"I thought -"
He was defending himself but she hadn't meant that as an accusation or reprimand. "No, I'm glad you did. Thank goodness you did."
"I thought we could get him out of here before you came home."
"But he wouldn't go." It was a resigned statement. She knew Jack well. It had just been a long time since she had seen this side of him.
"I could have made him leave," Andy pointed out, and she knew he could have. "But I didn't think you'd want the scene."
"No. Thank you... So, he's asleep?" That was his usual pattern on these occasions.
"Yeah. He's in Rusty's room."
"Oh, Rusty, I'm sorry. About all of this."
"It's not your fault."
"I was naive to think that the divorce would be the last we saw of Jack."
"Well, Rusty and I have discussed this," Andy interjected, "And we can understand why he is finding it hard to let go." He smiled after that, that warm, bordering on mischievous, smile that always prompted one of her own. It still worked, despite everything, and she let her smile convey her gratitude to him - for trying to lighten the mood, and for being there in the first place.
He gave a barely perceptible shrug as he smiled back.
Sharon held his gaze for a second then drew a deep breath and took control of the situation. Starting with the fact that Rusty looked worn out.
"Rusty." She looked again at her son. "You're sure you're okay?"
"I'm fine, Sharon. If you're okay."
"Oh, I'm fine. Why don't you get some sleep? I'll get rid of Jack when he wakes up and then tomorrow I'll fill you in on Julio."
Rusty looked like he didn't quite believe her assurances so she widened her smile, hoping it didn't look quite as forced as it felt.
"Well Lieutenant Flynn told me that he's in the clear."
"Oh of course. Well, if you think of any questions about what happened we can discuss those tomorrow."
"Take my room," she told him.
"I can sleep on the couch, Sharon -"
"No. I'll take the couch. I don't know when Jack will surface. I don't want to disturb you... I'll just grab a few things before you get settled."
Rusty seemed to know there was no point arguing this with her. He nodded his acceptance of the arrangements.
She turned to Andy. "Andy -"
"I'm not going anywhere."
She could tell from his stance and the firm set of his jaw that she wasn't going to dissuade him any time soon. So she would wait until they were alone to initiate that discussion. She shot him a look that told him they would talk more about it later then she walked round him and approached Rusty.
"Come on, you look exhausted."
... ... ...
Sharon got Rusty set up in her room and returned to the living room carrying clothes and the items she would need in the event that she did actually get some sleep. She knew that wouldn't be happening while Jack was there, regardless of how tired she was.
Andy had apparently sat down while she had been gone but he stood when she walked in.
"You're okay," she told him, placing the pile of sheets and clothes on the couch. "You can sit down."
"You should sit down as well," he told her, no small amount of concern in his tone.
"I don't think I could sit still, she admitted with a self-conscious shrug.
"Then I'll stand with you."
She rolled her eyes at his misplaced chivalry. "Andy, I appreciate what you've done tonight and I'm glad that Rusty felt that he could call you..."
"He thought I would know what to do. And he knew that you couldn't leave."
"I know. Thank you for helping him."
"But I've got it from here. I can handle Jack."
"Oh I know you can... But I'd like to stick around."
"You've done enough. It's late -"
He moved closer to her and lowered his voice. "Sharon, the first thing you asked when we told you Jack was drunk was if he'd hurt Rusty -"
"That was protective instinct, Andy, Jack has never hurt me or the children."
"Still, I'd like to stay. You're not going to sleep anyway. I can keep you company."
She felt simultaneously touched and annoyed that he knew her so well - and that she wanted to accept his offer. She had told him the truth about Jack. He had never physically hurt them. But it would be nice not to have to face him on her own. She suspected that was the tiredness talking.
"Please?" Andy pouted at her. Actually pouted.
"Oh if Provenza could see you now," she quipped, imagining the older man's emphatic eye roll at seeing his partner practically pleading to be permitted to stay.
"He'd be proud that I won't leave you on your own."
She considered that for a moment and found that she agreed. "How times have changed," she remarked, thinking back on her early days with Major Crimes.
"You're not so bad when you're on our side," he smirked in response.
She knew he expected her to argue that she had always been on their side. So she deliberately didn't.
"Okay, you can stay for a little while," she relented, ignoring the knowing smile that crept across his lips. "But as soon as I see your eyes drooping -"
"You'll make me drive home?" he asked with melodramatic incredulity.
"I'll call you a cab."
He chuckled at that and nodded. "Deal."
"So sit down," she instructed, softly.
"I will when you do."
"You may be standing for a while then."
He shrugged. "So be it."
Sharon pursed her lips but couldn't stop them from curving into a smile. "You're very stubborn," she commented.
"Fight fire with fire," he defended himself with a grin.
Rolling her eyes again, Sharon moved towards the kitchen. "I'm making coffee."
"Or..." Andy followed her, "I could make coffee and you can sit down."
She paused in her task of gathering what she needed, and regarded him over her shoulder. "Nice try."
"I will never stop trying to look after you."
She ignored the feeling of warmth that infused her at those words, now was not the time to acknowledge how happy that notion made her.
She turned to face him, leaning back against the counter. "Andy, I don't need looking after. I haven't even seen Jack yet. And, even when I do, I have dealt with him before."
"I know. I know. But you have had a hell of a day, the last thing you needed was to come home to this."
That was true. "Jack does pick his moments."
"I was planning to hang around at the end of the case, anyway. Before I got called away."
"You don't have to do things like that."
"I know," he grinned. "But it's the least I can do after everything you've done for me."
"Oh, yes, going to dinner and the ballet has been a real hardship," she quipped, turning back to prepare the coffee.
Andy stepped up beside her. "You've done more than that and you know it."
"And so have you. You don't owe me anything."
He placed his hand on hers and her heart skipped. Her mind started racing with all the possible things he could say next and how she should react. She absolutely did not want him to choose now to admit to feelings she had not properly admitted to herself. She was ninety-nine percent certain that there was no way he would choose that moment given everything that had happened that day. She was also ninety-nine percent certain that part of her did want him to choose that moment. She found herself holding her breath as she waited for him to speak.
"Actually," he began, softly, "I'm pretty sure I do owe you a cup of coffee."
The laugh she released at that took with it relief and disappointment and probably came across as totally out of place. She couldn't believe her mind had actually thought he would say anything else.
"Let me make the coffee," he implored. "Go get changed, or take a shower, or whatever you do to relax after a day like today. I'll keep an ear out for Jack."
A shower did sound inviting but it didn't sit well with her sense of decorum to leave a guest on his own while she indulged.
"I'll be fine," he added, as if reading her mind. "You have a TV, right? There's bound to be something on to entertain me."
She hesitated a moment longer, assessing whether or not they were at a place in their friendship where she could accept this gesture from him. She thought about if their roles were reversed. She would expect him to do as she suggested. It should work both ways.
"If Jack wakes up -"
"I will come and get you. Or, at least, I'll knock on the bathroom door," he smirked.
"I'll be quick," she told him, tentatively stepping out of the kitchen backwards so she remained facing him.
"Take as long as you like. Just, don't fall asleep in there. That could get awkward."
"Andy," she admonished him, playfully.
"Go on. There'll be coffee waiting for you when you return."
She stopped at the threshold of the living room and allowed herself a moment to smile at Andy in a way that told him exactly how pleased she was that he was there. He held her gaze, grinning himself. When she felt the overwhelming urge to hug him and maybe never ever move from his embrace, she turned, collected her change of clothes from the couch and walked to the bathroom.
... ... ...
Andy sprang to his feet and swept into the kitchen as soon as Sharon approached the living room. He had a cup of coffee poured, just the way she liked it, by the time she reached the counter.
He presented it to her with a flourish, then she watched his eyes take in her appearance.
"That's what you relax in at night?" he queried, referring to the jeans and soft knit jumper that she had put on.
"Not usually, no. But I'm not letting Jack see me in anything else."
"Oh but you would have happily let me see it if Jack weren't here?" he teased, heading back to the couch, and obviously expecting her to follow. She did.
"If Jack weren't here, you wouldn't be here," she pointed out as she sat down between him and the pile of her things.
"We can't know that for sure," he responded, using the control to mute the television at the same time.
"Oh I think we can know that for sure," she replied, her eyes smiling at him as she took a sip of her coffee.
"Spoilsport," he murmured before taking a swig of his own.
They fell into a comfortable silence, both watching the movie that was playing out on the screen.
"Do you want the sound on?" he offered.
"No... Unless you do."
She really hoped that he didn't, there were things she wanted to ask him, her mind having had time to process some of tonight's information during her shower.
"No, I'm good."
She let a further minute or so go by, sipping her drink, letting the warmth soothe some of her remaining anxiety.
When she next spoke, her voice was quiet, with emotion and with not wanting to be overheard. "Andy, was Rusty okay when you got here?"
"He was," Andy assured her, "He had it all under control, actually."
Her heart broke at the thought of the years of practice he had probably had, dealing with his mother and her boyfriends. "He wasn't supposed to ever face that situation again," she sighed, anguished.
"It's not your fault, Sharon. Jack makes his own choices. And we know from the fact that he left you that he makes very very poor ones."
She managed a small smile at that, more for Andy's benefit than her own. "He never believed that I would actually divorce him."
Andy turned on the couch so he was facing her more directly. "Hey, if the divorce prompted this, that is Jack's fault, not yours."
"I know," she whispered, tears prickling at her eyes.
She nodded. "Logically, I know." Emotionally, she felt guilty. "Did Rusty tell you that he knew Jack was drinking again?"
Andy's eyes widened with surprise. "No."
"He hasn't told me either, but there was something going on with him and Emily and Richard over Christmas. Emily tried to claim it was news about her contract, but I knew there was something else. I should have pushed for it."
"And spoil their Christmas? No, you shouldn't. You did exactly what you should have done."
"Andy, I do sometimes make mistakes, you know."
"No, I don't believe that."
She smiled at him, marvelling at the fact that he could make her worries melt away so easily - if not eradicating them completely, at least making them seem more manageable.
"You're sure Rusty was okay?"
"Absolutely. He just didn't know what to do next."
"Hmm," she sighed, "What do we do next?"
"I'd suggest getting some sleep but I know you're against that and you're drinking coffee... So, my other suggestion is to take it one step at a time. See what happens when Jack wakes up. He might go to rehab of his own accord."
That seemed highly unlikely, but she knew she couldn't just let him leave, not knowing where he was going or what he was going to do - not so much for his protection, but for her children and the members of the public he might endanger. And, okay, if she was honest, a little for his protection as well. She wondered if she would ever shake that sense of responsibility for him.
"And if he won't?"
She needed Andy to echo her own thoughts. She needed to know that she was thinking logically and not just emotionally.
"Then we make him go."
"We," she echoed.
"You have to admit that you would need help with that."
"You have no intention of getting in that cab when I call it for you."
"I'd get in. Then pay him to park outside your building until you need me."
"Quite the waste of money."
"Best not to call one, then."
"But I'm all out of beds."
"We won't be sleeping anyway."
She watched his lips quirk as he realised how that might have sounded under different circumstances. God, how she would love to be under different circumstances: Maybe she should consider sleep.
"He won't take kindly to finding you here."
"I didn't take kindly to finding him here... Sharon, I'll go if you want me to. But send me away for your benefit, not Jack's."
"I'm not sure I can untangle the two right now," she admitted.
"Then I'll stay at least until you can."
As much as she felt terrible for letting him stay up all night, she was truly grateful that he was there.
"I will definitely owe you after this," she insisted.
"Oh I agree. Let's say... Three dinners, two ballets and a movie."
She felt her lips slide into a warm smile. "Sounds positively painful."
He held her gaze, smirking back at her, as he told her, "Well then we'll definitely be even."