Sharon knew that she was going to be missed by people pretty quickly, but she didn't want them to see her in her current state. The church had a lovely retiring room attached to the bathroom, and she had disappeared there as the first wave of unnecessary sorrow had swept over her. And here she was, ten minutes later, still in tears as she contemplated the future that stood in front of her.
Slowly, the door swung open, and she swiped at her eyes before looking towards it, wondering if Andy had finally gotten around to looking for her. She loved her husband, with all her heart, but she still knew that when he and Louie got to talking, the rest of the world could fade away. It was one of his many endearing qualities, honestly. To her surprise, though, her eyes caught sight of the dark purple dress that her bridesmaids had worn, and she blinked hard to try and stem the flow of her tears.
"Hey, I was wondering where you had disappeared to," Andrea said as she glided over to the low chaise and took a seat next to Sharon, reaching out to rest her hand on her knee. The warmth of her skin bled through the material of Sharon's dress, and that seemed to settle her heart a little. "Is everything all right?"
She shrugged a little as she fished around in the pocket of her dress for the silk handkerchief that had been her great grandmother's. Sharon lifted it to her face, only to hesitate at wiping away her tears, since she didn't want to stain the delicate fabric. Andrea noticed immediately, and she grabbed out her own handkerchief, reaching out and delicately brushing away the tears. "You don't have to take care of me."
"I kind of do, Sharon. After all, isn't that what a best friend does?"
Sharon nodded as she reached her hand out and touched Andrea's arm gently. "I know that I'm being ridiculous here, Andrea, but I just can't help but feel my life hanging on the brink of a precipice that I might not be able to come back from. You know that I'm having…issues…with my heart."
"Are these issues more serious than you've led me to believe?" she asked, concern tinging her words as she used her other hand to cover Sharon's, holding it close against the cool skin of her upper arm. She didn't know how to answer that question without having Andrea ask a million follow up questions, and the longer the silence stretched out between them, the more piercing it seemed Andrea's gaze became. "Sharon?"
"I need a transplant," she whispered, hating that she wasn't brave enough to speak louder.
The hand over hers pressed down all the harder, and Sharon looked away from Andrea, but not before she saw the woman's large eyes fill with tears of her own. "Sharon, that is extremely serious! I take it that only Andy knows about this?" She nodded. "May I be selfish?"
"You are anything but selfish, honey," she murmured, the endearment easily slipping from her lips. "If anything, I suppose that I would be the selfish one. After all, I've been keeping you out of this particular loop for quite some time. I just, I didn't want anyone to regard me as weak."
"You could never be seen as weak." Andrea moved her hand cup her shoulder, squeezing tenderly as she swallowed. "I just wish that there was a way I could give you my heart."
"But then I wouldn't have you in my life any longer! That would be hell for me."
Sharon turned her head so that she was looking at Andrea once more, seeing that she was still close to crying. "And it doesn't help my heart any to know that Stroh is in the background of our lives once again. I worry that if I were to die before I get a transplant, then everything would go off the rails, and Rusty or Andy might take justice into their own hands and do something stupid. Without me around to tell them no, who knows what might happen?"
"I'm certain that they wouldn't run off half-cocked and take him down in cold blood," she replied, letting her hand run down Sharon's arm until she was clasping her hand. "I mean, they have more sense than that!"
"Sometimes I wonder," Sharon murmured as she scooted closer to Andrea's side, letting her head come to rest on her shoulder. "I've only been able to mold Rusty for a few years, after all. The formative years that he spent under Sharon Beck's dubious parentage are still a large part of him, and I worry that without me here to guide him any longer, those base instincts will take over. Will my motherly influence be enough to hold him in check? Or will he become that scared, feral, child again, looking to protect himself in the only way he knows how?"
"I don't know. I wish I had answers for you, to take away those fears, but I don't. All I can do is be there for you, and tell you that even though you're worried, you have Andy and me. We will never turn our backs on you. Okay?"
Oddly enough, the tender words did make her feel much better, and she nodded a little before taking a deep breath and standing. Heading over to the mirror in the wall, she shook her head at the damage her tears had done to the makeup Emily had so carefully applied to her face. "It is totally obvious that I've been crying, Andrea. Everyone will know that there's something bothering me."
"Here, I'll fix it as best I can. Do you still have your lipstick in your pocket?"
Sharon nodded as she fumbled around once more, fishing the tube of lipstick out and handing it over to Andrea. "I also put the mascara in my pocket, too."
Andrea gave her a soft smile, and Sharon smiled in return, allowing the younger woman to guide her over to chaise once more. As she sat, Andrea knelt in front of her, taking hold of her handkerchief and gently dabbing at her cheeks. It was adorable, really, watching the tip of Andrea's tongue peep out of her mouth as she worked, and Sharon found herself relaxing a little as the other woman began to hum under her breath.
"It is infinitely harder to apply mascara to another person. How have I never realized this?" Andrea murmured as she dragged the wand up Sharon's lashes.
"Isn't it?" she finally said when Andrea had finished with one eye, not wanting to jostle the wand and get black marks all over her skin. "You're doing a fine job, though."
"Thanks." They shared another soft smile before Andrea started on the next eye. "And now for your lips."
Sharon licked them as she watched Andrea's eyes focus in on them, the movement totally unconscious as she anticipated feeling the creamy lipstick press against her skin. It seemed that she was drawn to Andrea, leaning in as she started to color her lips once more. "Thank you, Andrea," she said, her voice huskier than normal. The other woman didn't seem to notice the tone as she continued to steadily smile at Sharon, offering her support.
"You are most welcome, Sharon," she replied before leaning in and pressing her lips against her cheek in tender comfort. "Now, let's get you back to your guests. The beautiful bride should be adored by all who came to celebrate with her." Sharon nodded and held her hands out to Andrea as together they stood and then she pulled her friend into a tight hug, grateful that she had someone like Andrea in her life as she moved into the uncharted waters of a new marriage.
"I cannot believe that you actually allowed the team to finish up that case, Sharon," Andy said as they sat down to breakfast in the dining room of Coolakay House. The bed and breakfast had been her first choice for their honeymoon, since it was only an hour's drive from Dublin, and yet seemed to be close to the countryside. Plus, there was a national park nearby to explore as well, which would allow them to commune with nature on a level that they didn't have the time or resources for back in Los Angeles.
She shrugged a little, smiling at him before digging into her oatmeal. "I decided to listen to my doctor this time. Lower my stress levels, be with the people I love, and try not to worry about what's happening back home. I hope that the beautiful surroundings can settle some peace into my soul."
Andy reached across the table and covered her hand with his, squeezing it tightly until she glanced up at him. "That's all I want for you, Sharon. To be happy and settled." She nodded and tried to blink back the quick tears that flooded her eyes, but a few fell before she could look away from him. "And tears are not allowed on our honeymoon."
She chuckled a little as she shook her head. "Maybe these are happy tears. Are those not allowed, either?"
There was a short pause before Andy responded. "I suppose that I will allow a few happy tears."
"I am so glad that you have deigned to give me your permission to shed happy tears, darling," she drolly replied before tucking back into her breakfast, listening to the choked laugh that came from his side of the table. Towards the end of their meal, she looked up at him, feeling like she wanted to just head upstairs and make love with him the entire day. Knowing that they couldn't wile away the hours in that pleasant a manner, she cleared her throat to catch his attention. "So, I was thinking that we could head to Powerscourt House and Gardens. There's a golf course nearby, if you don't want to walk around looking at all the old art and flowers with me. I mean, we don't have to spend every waking moment together while we're here, right?"
"I suppose that, as long as we spend the evening together tonight, we can have a little time apart today. As long as this is the only day we spend apart. We do enough of that when we're home." She nodded and leaned across the table to caress his cheek lovingly, taking in the way the corners of his eyes crinkled when he smiled at her. And before she could stop the thought, she was comparing the way he looked at her with the way Andrea always looked at her. "What is it?" Andy asked as he covered her hand with his.
"I was just homesick for a moment," she quickly responded, hoping that he would drop it. His eyes narrowed a little and she forced her smile to be a little wider, to try and discourage his asking any further questions. "Now, I'm going to run up to our room and grab my purse and a sweater. Do you need me to get anything for you?"
He shook his head as they got up from their seats, and Sharon reached out her hand for his as they walked out to the lobby area. "I'll just wait for you down here."
Sharon gave him a small smile before making her way up the stairs, taking her time in order to keep from taxing her heart too much. Her doctor's admonishments rang in her head when by the time she reached the head of the stairs she was out of breath, as it normally wouldn't have winded her so. Trying to control her slight bout of dizziness, she set a steadying hand on the balustrade and took a few deep breaths.
Thankfully, their suite was extremely close to the door, and she unlocked it with a slightly shaking hand. Once in the room, Sharon crossed over to the bed and took a seat, trying to even out her breathing and calm her too quickly beating heart. Once it was a little more under control, she stood and grabbed her purse, slinging it over her shoulder and heading back down to Andy.
He gave her a concerned look as she slipped her arm into the crook of his shoulder and guided him outside into the cool, clear, morning. "You were up there a long time," he said as he opened the car door for her.
She slipped into the passenger seat and fastened her belt before glancing up at him, giving him a tender smile. "I had to use the facilities, darling. Don't worry about me!"
"I think that you should know me well enough by now to know that I'll worry about you until the day I die. Because you are the other half of my heart, Sharon." Reaching down, he caressed her hair softly before closing the door and walking around to the driver's side. While he started the car, she tapped the address of the house into her phone, and then started the directions.
Listening to the disembodied voice give out directions allowed her to avoid talking to Andy too much, though she did smile at him every so often, giggling when he'd pull off into a photo overlook, and allowing him to take a few pictures of her. "I suppose that you'll want me to put those up on Facebook."
"Rusty did mention that he wanted to see pictures of our trip, but I was thinking of something a little more secure than Facebook. I know that we can just use our Google Photos account, and then email the link to Rusty and the team."
"And Andrea," she murmured, taking the camera from his hand and snapping a few pictures of the countryside. Then she turned the camera on him, and he gave her a cocky grin which she captured on film, knowing that Andrea would get a kick out of it. "Everything is just so full of life here," she said as he came over to her side, wrapping his arm around her waist and holding her close.
"I want you to remember that well," he said before kissing her temple. "Now, we should probably stop lollygagging and actually arrive at our destination before it closes for the day."
Sharon knew that he was teasing her, but she still rolled her eyes before taking a few more pictures, trying to shrug off the looming spectre of Phillip Stroh that had reared its ugly head shortly before they had left on this trip. She knew that there would be time to deal with that when she returned, but a part of her heart was still divided, especially when Andy brought up the need for added security with their pictures. She truly wished for a day when they could relax and love and not have to worry about madmen that were intent destroying any sort of everlasting joy that she wanted to have present in her life.
Shaking her head to clear away the intrusive thoughts, she rejoined Andy in the car and dug out her phone, taking a selfie and sending it to Andrea before slipping it back into her pocket and focusing her attention completely on her husband, hoping that the next two weeks would bring her nothing but happiness and love.
Sharon decided not to look at her phone for the last four days of their honeymoon, turning all her focus on Andy, since she had found herself thinking about Andrea and Rusty too much when she should have been dreaming of Andy and all the things they were doing together, all the memories they were forming.
And it had almost worked, until she had stepped foot on the plane and realized that despite all the love she held in her heart for Andy, a tiny part of her mind and soul was looking forward to being home, and being around Andrea once more. She had missed the woman more than she had expected, and it had discombobulated her much more the longer she was away. Andy stowed her carryon bag in the overhead compartment before taking his seat next to her as she buckled her belt. "Ready to head home?"
"Yes and no?"
Andy chuckled as he patted her shoulder softly. "How did I know that would be the case? Louie said that he has some news for us, though, once we land. He and Andrea are picking us up from the airport."
"It must be serious, then," she said quietly as she fought the urge to pull out her phone and send a quick text to Andrea, in hopes to hear back from her before the plane took off. Turning her gaze on Andy, she tried to determine if he knew exactly what was going on, but his face, for once, was an inscrutable mask. "Andy?"
"He wasn't very forthcoming on the phone, said that this was something that needed to be done in person, not through a call." She nodded and felt her brow furrow as her mind began to mull over what could possibly be happening back home. She knew that if something had happened to one of her children, Andrea would have called her in a heartbeat, letting her know that they needed to come home immediately. So what else could it be? she mused as she tried to listen to the safety announcement.
Andy seemed to notice that she was distracted, and he tried to engage her in conversation, to take her mind off what was happening back home. She gave halfhearted replies to him, until he finally fell asleep about an hour into the flight. Gratefully, she turned her thoughts back inside, and mulled over what could possibly be happening at home.
"Can I get you anything to drink?" the flight attendant asked, and she looked up, giving him a warm smile as she nodded.
"Some juice would be nice, whatever you have open."
"All right." She watched him head up the aisle and turn into the galley. To her surprise, when he returned, he had also brought a basket of snacks. "I brought you apple juice, and you also can choose whatever you'd like from here. And did you want to put in your lunch order?"
She had forgotten about the perks of first class, and so she plucked a bag of chips from the basket before glancing at Andy. "We'll both have the chicken option."
"Very good." He gave her another smile before heading to the next row, and she slowly ate her chips as she thought about Andrea and Louie and home. She made certain to wake Andy up when it was time to eat, and once she had finished her meal, she turned on her side and closed her eyes, trying to get some sleep of her own before they landed. She'd forgotten, in the two weeks since they'd flown to Ireland, that the flight was that long, and she knew they would hit the ground running, so to speak.
The next thing she knew, Andy was gently shaking her shoulder. Blinking a little, she gave him a groggy smile as he leaned in and kissed her gently. "We've landed, Sharon."
She sat up with a stretch, and then twisted her back to crack it, trying to loosen up her stiff muscles. Thankfully, they were able to get off the plane with little hassle, and then heading off to find their luggage corral. "Sharon!"
She whipped her head around to see Andrea standing by their place, and she gave the woman a tremulous smile before quickening her pace and throwing her arms around her waist. "Why do you look so sad?" she asked lowly, totally ignoring the reunion between Andy and Louie as she focused on her best friend.
"Emma, Emma Rios is dead," she replied in a strangled voice, and Sharon felt her blood run cold as she hugged Andrea tightly to her. Glancing over at Andy and Louie, she saw that they were in an intense discussion, and she knew that Andrea had told the truth, that the world had gone pear-shaped in the two weeks that they had been away. "She was swimming in her pool, the morning after she informed Provenza that Stroh had been spotted in Los Angeles, and she drowned! Mason wants to think that it's a terrible accident, that there wasn't anything nefarious about her death, but she was a champion swimmer, Sharon!"
"I know," she murmured as she stroked Andrea's back gently, trying to calm her. "And I know that you're probably worried out of your mind."
"Just a little," she replied, sounding a little more in control of herself. "I suppose that we should get your luggage before they confiscate it."
Sharon nodded as they turned and looked at the luggage moving around the carousel. Thankfully, she picked out the bright pink loofahs she had attached to their cases before they had left home, and with Andrea's help, they were able to collect all three bags that had been checked. Louie and Andy took control of the largest ones, and Sharon tried to protest when Andrea picked up the third, trying to ignore the looks she received from all three. "I am perfectly capable of carrying a little suitcase."
"Let us take care of you, Sharon," Andy said, giving her a winning smile before turning around and resuming his conversation with Louie. She rolled her eyes affectionately, causing Andrea to stifle her giggle as they knocked their arms together.
"Has there been any talk of getting you a protection detail?" she asked, feeling her thoughts turn more serious as they crossed the street and headed into the P-6 parking structure. Andrea shook her head as they stepped into the elevator, and Sharon frowned at Provenza, trying to imagine what could possibly be going through his head that he hadn't thought about this detail.
"I can feel your glare boring a hole into the back of my head, Sharon. We've already talked to Chief Mason, and he informed us that there is not enough money in the budget to have a protection detail on every single person that Stroh ever threatened. It was hard enough trying to get him to place a detail on Rusty, and we all know that Stroh will be after him, given that he is the one who got away."
She let her shoulders slump a little, trying to find a way around her Lieutenant's words. "I'm glad that at least one part of my family is safe," she muttered as she reached out and clasped Andrea's hand, wanting to offer her comfort as they went along, knowing that she would have to do something to change Mason's mind as quickly as possible, since there was no way she was about to lose another person dear to her at the hands of a madman.
The memorial service for Emma had been well attended, and Sharon had made certain to sit next to Andrea, letting her lean on her shoulder when she had started to cry. Unfortunately, none of the others had been able to take the time to attend the funeral, so it had just been the two of them there. Which, in the end, had suited Sharon just fine, since none of them had been particularly close with Emma.
"Rusty still isn't talking to Gus," Andrea said as she drove them back to the squad room following the luncheon.
"That doesn't surprise me. His pride is a large stumbling block in his life, and even though he had a good thing with Gus, once trust is broken, it can be a difficult thing to get back, especially when one is so young and stiff necked."
Andrea nodded and reached over, patting her shoulder lightly before refocusing her attention on the road ahead of them. "I don't ever want to be that age again. To think that I have life completely figured out, and not want to listen to someone who does have a little more experience in life." She let out a soft sigh. "At least his trials and tribulations have made dealing with all this a little easier."
"I can only imagine," Sharon murmured as she watched Andrea blink rapidly. Before she could stop herself, she reached over and swiped her fingers beneath Andrea's eye, whisking away the tears that had fallen before her friend could stop them. "At least we have each other here, right?"
"Right. I don't know how I'd cope if you hadn't listened to your doctor and taken a step back from work. I know that it was so hard for you, but…selfishly, I'm glad it means that you're still here."
She slid her hand down Andrea's face to rest on her shoulder as she murmured her assent. "I'm glad I'm still here, too. I mean, I did ask my priest for last rites, but you can ask for that at any time." Andrea let out a tiny laugh, and Sharon smiled a little, knowing that she had made her best friend happier, even if only for a brief moment. "And if Stroh is intent on causing panic, maybe it's a good thing that I did so."
"What? I'd take a bullet for any one of you, and you know that's true."
Andrea nodded as she pulled into her reserved space, turning the car off before shifting her body so that she could look at Sharon. "I know it's true, but there's no need for gallows humor. Not yet."
"All right, I'll try to be optimistic for you." She gave her friend another small smile before leaning in and hugging her tightly. "You know, other than Andy, you're the only person I've told that about myself. So now you have to keep my secret."
"Okay." They pulled away and Sharon watched Andrea's lips tremble a little before she took a deep breath and very obviously centered herself. "Let's head in, now. I think that I have to collect my intern."
"Rusty did mention something about being here today, yes." They climbed out of the car and began the trek inside. Sharon couldn't help but take second and third looks around them as they entered the building, every sense heightened, as a small part of her assumed that Stroh was behind every corner. Andrea did give her an odd look, but she shrugged as the door closed behind them. "If Mason isn't going to protect you, I'm going to do my level best to ensure your safety."
They exchanged another tender smile as they got into the elevators, and she couldn't help but notice how closely Andrea stood to her on the way up, even though there was no one else riding with them. It was comfortable, though, to have her presence so close at hand, and she smiled again as she allowed their hands to brush at times.
By the time they got up to the squad room, Sharon found her heart to be racing a little, but it wasn't from overexerting herself, and so she tried to push that feeling to the back of her mind, trying to concentrate on the case that they were currently working on. Stepping off the elevator, she took off down the hall for her office, giving Andy a small wave as she disappeared behind the door.
Rusty was behind her desk, his head buried in his hands, and she cleared her throat to get his attention. "Oh, you're back from the service already!"
"Yes, and you should have gone. Emma was fond of you."
He shrugged a little, giving her a frustrated look. "Yeah, but I was helping Andy and Provenza try to nail down where Stroh is right now. We have to be three steps ahead of him, you know that from experience!"
She let out a long breath as she nodded, prodding him out of her chair so that she could take a moment and collect herself before heading back into the main room. "You are right, I do know this from experience. However, you are also not in the position to assist on the Stroh case, given that you were one of his main targets not that long ago."
"But I'm going to the shooting range, and I'm getting better! I can take care of myself."
"Just because you can use a gun in a controlled setting does not mean that you are ready to use it in defense of yourself!" She pressed her hand against her chest, knowing that she had to calm down, so as not to overexert her heart and cause another issue that would land her in hospital. "Look, I know that you want to see yourself as being self sufficient here, but you also need to trust my judgement. You are not ready to take on Stroh by yourself. Please, let us deal with that."
Rusty gave her a concerned look as he sank down into one of the chairs opposite her desk. "Mom, I know that this doesn't feel right to you, but I also know what I know. I will be ready for whatever Stroh throws my way."
Sharon sighed, knowing that she wasn't getting through to Rusty. "I don't want you to have to live with any blood on your hands," she finally said as she got to her feet, noticing a small commotion in the outer room. Brushing past Rusty, she stepped outside and noticed that Gus had appeared, looking forlorn. Before she could reach his side and ask him to go, he was taking a long look at the murder board, staring at the pictures on it.
"Sharon, Andy, I know this guy!" he exclaimed as he prodded Stroh's picture with his index finger. He was a guest at my restaurant the night after you left for your honeymoon. He asked me a bunch of questions about that last case you were working on, and I tried to be vague with my answers, but he kept pressing me for information. I had thought that he looked familiar, since Rusty…"
Her son had managed to reach Gus's side before she could, and Sharon watched as Rusty roughly squeezed his upper arm, cutting off that line of thought. But before she could begin to scrutinize exactly why Rusty was trying to shut the young man up, the thought hit her that this confirmed that Stroh was indeed in Los Angeles, and they had the proof they needed for Mason to take them seriously, and perhaps now she could finally get a security detail placed on Andrea, too.
Sharon found herself beginning to hyperventilate as she looked around the room. The others seemed to also realize the importance of Gus's outburst. Turning to Andy, she gave him a stiff nod before pulling her head towards her office, taking hold of Andrea's hand and dragging her along with them, making certain to close her door with a dull thud, so that no one would think to interrupt them.
"You realize what this means, don't you?" were the first words out of her mouth as she went over to her desk and took a heavy seat, feeling suddenly tired and old. Andy nodded, but it was Andrea who seemed to pick up on the fact that she wasn't feeling as well as she tried to portray, as she gave her a concerned look. "With this evidence, I can go to Mason and make certain that you are protected, along with Rusty. I won't have to worry so hard about you while I try to focus on doing my job. And since we know that Stroh has unfinished business with a number of the people on my squad, I don't think that he'll disagree with me when I call this a major crime."
"Sharon, I can take care of myself. I don't need anyone to lurk outside my door, watching every move I make. Besides, I prefer to keep my life private and sedate. With an escort on my heels? There goes all my mystique." Andrea gave her a wry smile as she took a seat on the edge of a chair, staring at her intently. "Besides, you need to worry more about your health, not mine."
This got Andy's attention, as he finally took a good, long, look at her face. "You are looking rather pale, Sharon. Maybe you should go home and rest? Louie and I should be able to handle everything here."
"I'm fine, Andy," she said, hoping that she didn't sound cross or short. He gave her one of his patented 'I know you're lying' looks, and she shook her head a little. "Really, I'm going to be okay. I know when I'm pushing myself too hard, and I'll make certain to take it easy when I feel like it's getting to be too much." She turned her eyes on Andrea, pinning her with a calculating stare until the younger woman started to squirm a little in her seat. "As for you, Andrea. I know that you enjoy your privacy, but I enjoy your company more than that. Which means that I am going to go to Mason, and I am going to secure you a detail, and you are going to indulge me. Do I make myself clear?"
"As crystal." They continued to stare at each other, and then Sharon ticked one eyebrow upwards, feeling like she finally had the upper hand in regards to this situation. A small smirk curved Andrea's lips, however, which made Sharon falter a little, though she tried not to let it show on her face. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to take my intern back to the office and put him to good use. There is an incredible backlog of case work that I need to get done, and he can handle the grunt work for me."
Andrea got to her feet and glided across to the door, giving Sharon a soft smile before she slipped out of her office, closing said door behind her. "Really, Sharon, you shouldn't needle her so. I know that you're best friends and all, but that doesn't mean you get to make her life choices for her."
"When she's making a poor life choice, then I most certainly do have the right to make those decisions for her! Really, Andy, I am not about to lose another person at that hands of that madman!"
He chuckled as he shook his head. "If I know you, you'll have Stroh in custody by the end of next week. Andrea won't need a security detail if you're that quick."
She knew that he was trying to lighten the mood, and she allowed her mask to crack a little, giving him a small smile as she pushed away from her desk. "Be that as it may, Andy, I do need to set this up before things get too serious. I'll be back shortly."
He looked like he was about to say something as she headed for the door, and she paused by his side to bend down and give him a tender kiss. "Just, be careful, Sharon. I don't want you to do anything to upset your relationship with Andrea."
"I know, and that's why I love you, Andy. I'll be careful, and I'll be right back." Caressing his face, she smiled a little and then made her way out of the office. Tao and Sykes were in a deep conversation, while Louie was looking at something on Buzz's computer. Her team was working as such a cohesive machine, and she was grateful for that, since it made her heading up to see Mason all the easier. Smiling to herself, she went over to the elevators and pressed the up button, using the time she waited to go over what she was going to say to her boss.
Finally, the doors opened, and she stepped inside, pressing the correct button to get to Mason's office. As the elevator rose, she tapped her foot almost anxiously, knowing that this had the chance of ending badly for her, that she would have to keep her cool in order to get Mason to see her point of view. After all, if she laid into him, there was the distinct probability that she could have another attack in front of him, and then Mason would want to know the true state of her condition. And she wasn't about to get into that with him that afternoon, not when Andrea was possibly in danger.
The doors slid open, and she stepped out, heading immediately towards Mason's office. Thankfully, he wasn't on a call as she slipped inside, though he did give her a searching look as she closed the door behind her. "What can I do for you, Commander?"
"We've had an update on the Stroh case. An outside observer has identified him, and placed him in Los Angeles, specifically asking questions about myself, the major crimes unit, and DDA Hobbs. I know that you've said before that we don't have money in the budget to protect all and sundry, but I would like to request that we at least allocate enough funds so that Andrea has some sort of protection."
Mason steepled his fingers together, and it was with that move that she felt herself deflate a little, knowing what was coming without him even having to say so. Nevertheless, he opened his mouth and gave word to her bad feelings. "I'm sorry, I wish that there was better news to give you on that front. There really just isn't enough money in our budget, especially since Rusty insists on being out in public spaces so often. And she does have some modicum of protection when your son is interning with her."
She let out a long sigh, knowing that there would be nothing to change his mind. Nodding her head, she gave him a small smile, biting her tongue so that she wouldn't say that Andrea's blood would be on his hands if she was injured without the protection she so desperately needed. "But if we do, somehow, manage to get those funds…?"
"DDA Hobbs will be the first to receive a detail, yes."
"That's all I ask." Mason gave her a small smile before turning his attention back to the file on his desk, and she took that as her dismissal. Leaving the office, she slowly walked towards the elevators, trying to think of another way out of this situation. Dejectedly, she headed towards the stairs, knowing that the climb down wouldn't exert her quite as much as going up, and that going slow would allow her more time to think.
It all came back to Rusty, she mused as she pushed open the door to her floor, stepping out into the hall. And he was home more often than not, with the protection detail stationed outside their building, watching over them. Andrea didn't…
Sharon bumped into a warm body, and she looked up into her husband's eyes, giving him a startled look. "How did it go with Mason?"
"It was a no go, there is no money to be allocated. But…" A hopeful look spread across her as inspiration overtook her.
"What is it, Sharon?" he asked, sounding skeptical.
"I think that I might just have the solution to my problem. All it will take is you giving me the yes that I want." Smiling a little more widely, she spread her hand out on his upper arm, guiding him towards her office so that she could lay her plan out to him in private.
Sharon found that allowing the rest of her team to do the majority of the field work while she tried to rest and come up with plans of interrogation was a little harder than she'd initially thought. And she also caught up on some of the backlog with the closed cases, along with following up on how Sharon Beck and her new baby were doing. That would only use up so many hours of the day, she knew, but this was much better than the alternative, something Andy and Rusty would never be able to deal with. And neither would Andrea, if she was honest. But they were having lunch together that afternoon, and she could spring her brilliant idea on her best friend.
Humming to herself, she tried to focus on getting the case at had completed before she had to head off to collect Andrea. And she very nearly reached the end before Buzz caught her attention, gesturing angrily at his computer. Shaking her head a bit, she stood up from her desk and made her way out into the squad room to see what was going on with him.
"Is there anything that I can help you with, Buzz?" she asked kindly, going up to his side and resting her hand on his shoulder. He let out a frustrated breath as he looked up from his monitor, giving her a sheepish smile.
"I hope that you couldn't hear anything in your office, ma'am," he said as she sank down onto the corner of his desk, and she shook her head, trying not to giggle at the look of relief on his face as he nodded a little, gesturing towards his monitor. "It's just, my computer is running really slow for some reason, as if there was an external source accessing it, which I know is impossible, our security is too good for anyone to hack their way in, and it just frustrated me to no end."
Reaching out, Sharon patted his upper arm as she smiled. "You're the best one to handle this situation, Buzz, given your experience with technology. I know that you'll figure out what the issue is in no time at all. And I want to thank you."
"Giving me an excuse to get out of my office for a few moments. I have to go meet with DDA Hobbs soon, and needed to make certain that I didn't run late. You have managed to ensure that didn't happen." Sharon smiled a little wider before standing up and making her way towards her office. "I don't know what time I'll be back, so if anyone needs me, have them call or message my mobile."
"Will do, Commander."
Buzz bent over his keyboard once more, and Sharon turned and scurried over to her office, plucking her purse off the hook on the door and shrugged into her coat as she headed towards the elevators. Buzz gave her a small wave as she passed, which she returned, and then she was waiting for the elevator to arrive. While she waited, she pulled out her phone and checked her messages. There was nothing new, so she decided to fire off a quick message to Andy. About to pick up Andrea for lunch. Wish me luck? Or rather, wish that she has the common sense to say yes to my proposal?
She pressed the send button and stepped onto the elevator, pressing the ground floor button. When it arrived, she heard her phone jangle, and she pulled it out, expecting to see a text from her husband. Mom, Andrea has been giving me the third degree about this lunch! What is going on? I think she thinks that you're going to lay into her about me and my workload here.
She shook her head as she tapped out a reply to him. Tell her it's nothing like that. I just want to have lunch with my best friend Pressing send, she slipped the phone back into her purse and rode down the rest of the way in silence. Stepping out into the lobby of the police department, Sharon made a quick beeline for the parking lot and went to her car, sliding behind the wheel and placing her purse on the floor of the passenger seat.
The drive over to the Civic Center was surprisingly short, as the usual traffic was lighter than normal. That pleased her, since it meant that she'd be able to surprise Andrea, which also meant that there would be no gracious way for Andrea to call and say that she had unexpectedly gotten lost in work and couldn't get away for lunch. Whistling happily, she parked and entered the building, heading towards the elevator and joined a group waiting there. It was nice to be quiet and listen in on the conversations going on around her, since it seemed like no one recognized her.
Finally, the elevator stopped on Andrea's floor, and she stepped between two talking men to exit, briskly making her way to Andrea's office. Rusty looked up from his desk, giving her a small smile as he made to stand up. She shook her head a little before gesturing towards the door. "She's free," he said quietly, and she nodded as she went over and opened it, slipping inside.
"I'm here for our lunch!" she sang out, watching Andrea closely. The woman paused her writing and licked her lips almost nervously, which surprised Sharon a little. And then Andrea was looking up at her, her blue eyes reflecting a look of soft yearning that was quickly hidden away behind her normal smile. "And you can't wiggle out of it by claiming you have work to do!"
"I know that you would drag me out of here, anyway, Sharon," she retorted with an eyebrow quirk before getting up from her desk and grabbing her phone, slipping it into her pocket. "Where are we headed to?"
"I made reservations for us at Petit Trois." Andrea's eyebrows shot up, a wide grin spreading across her face as she shrugged into her coat and grabbed her purse. "I know, so, you can't back out on me."
Andrea laughed lowly as she slung her arm through Sharon's and led her out to the elevators. There were a number of others heading down at the same time, so once more, Sharon was perfectly willing to ride in silence, just pleased to be in her friend's presence. And that quiet extended to their car ride, since she had to listen to her GPS on her way to the restaurant. But once they were seated, menus in hand, Sharon felt a little freer to speak.
"So, I did ask you here with an ulterior motive in mind. Mason has told me, multiple times, that there is no money in the budget to add a protection detail to you."
"Good, because I don't want one."
Sharon felt her eyes well up as their server returned to their table, quickly taking their orders before disappearing from the table once more. Blinking a little, she tried to hold the tears in as she looked at Andrea. "But I need you to have one. Why don't you understand? I almost lost Andy to a heart attack. My health is in a precarious position. Rusty is in danger from Stroh. Emma is dead. And you want to refuse something that could possibly keep you safe? You've already been shot once, damn it! I can't afford to lose another person I love."
Andrea looked away from her, and Sharon watched a few tears roll down her cheeks before she swiped them away with her fingers. "I'd rather that money be used for Rusty's protection than mine, Sharon. He means more to you."
She reached across the table and took hold of Andrea's hand, squeezing it tightly. "Andrea, you mean the world to me, too. Which is why I'm going to make this suggestion. I know that you won't particularly like it. That you'll think I'm overreaching the bounds of our friendship. But if you can't or won't have a security detail, the only logical conclusion is for you to move in with us until we bring Phillip Stroh in. That way, you fall under the umbrella of Rusty's security detail when you're home and travelling to work. Everyone wins. Yes?"
Andrea blushed a little as she raised her eyes, looking at Sharon carefully. "I can't impose on your family like that. You and Andy have just married. It just wouldn't be right or fair."
"And it wouldn't be right or fair if I lost my best friend at the hands of a madman! Please?"
They had left the restaurant without Andrea giving her a firm answer, which had bothered Sharon more than she had thought it would. In her mind, when she had been running through the conversation with Andrea, it had been a very easy yes coming from her best friend. She knew that Andy would have told her that things would not go as smoothly in real life as it had in her head, but she still had hoped that she would have had a yes before they had to go back to their jobs.
Andy had known that something was wrong the minute he and Louie had returned to the precinct later that day, since she could barely muster up a smile for them. Her husband had brought her into her office, closing the door behind them before resting his hands on her shoulders. "She said no, didn't she?"
Sharon shook her head as she stepped closer to him and rested her head on his chest, listening to the beating of his heart. "I would probably be angry if she had straight out said no. You know me. I didn't get an answer."
"Well, no answer is better than a no, right? That means there's still the opportunity for Andrea to say yes. Maybe you just need to wait and gently work on her, like rain on sandstone."
She let out a watery laugh as she nodded, welcoming the feel of his hands pressing against her back, holding her close. "I suppose that you do have a good point there, Andy. I just wanted it to work out like I had planned. What if in the time it takes her to think about it she ends up getting hurt because of Stroh? I don't think I could ever forgive myself for not pressing harder."
"She's an adult, Sharon, who makes her own decisions. You can't control everyone around you, just because you want to keep them safe. Didn't you tell Rusty that the butterfly who can't stretch out his wings is doomed to die?"
"Don't remind me of death, Andy, not now," she bit out, even as the truth of her words parroted back at her wormed their way into her heart. "But thank you."
He nodded and bent his head to kiss the crown of hers. "You are most welcome. Now, we could either spend the rest of the day in the office, or you could bring work home for us to do, and we can focus on something other than the Sword of Andrea hanging over your head."
Sharon laughed a little as she shook her head. "No, we have to finish our shifts here, and I only have a little more to work on before I'm caught up with our caseload. Unless you and Louie brought me something interesting to look at."
He gently pushed her away, giving her a boyish grin as he shrugged. "Maybe. I guess that you'll have to come out into the main room to find out." Letting out a little sigh, she shook her head before gesturing to the door, letting herself be drawn out into the busy world of her detectives once more.
And then, they were headed home, Andy behind the wheel of her car as she curled up in the passenger seat and scrolled through her Facebook feed, liking a few things that Emily and Ricky had shared. She was just about to read an article Gus had posted when her phone began to ring, Andrea's face showing up on her screen. "Hey, honey, did you give more thought…"
"Can you come to my place?" Andrea's voice was small and frantic, and she tugged on Andy's sleeve to catch his attention. "Sharon? Are you there? I need you."
"We'll be there as soon as we can. I promise."
She went to disconnect the call, only for Andrea to anticipate her once more. "Don't hang up until you get here. Tao and Sykes are already on their way here. I just need to know that you're here for me, too."
The blood drained from her cheeks as she nodded silently. "Anything you want, Andrea," she breathed out, meeting Andy's eyes. "We need to head over to Andrea's. Now."
Without asking anything, Andy turned the car in the direction of Andrea's home, and slipped one hand off the wheel to hold onto hers as he drove well above the speed limit, taking side roads and shortcuts to avoid traffic as he rushed to get to Andrea's side. Once he was there, Sharon looked around the scene, taking in the ambulance and the vehicles of her colleagues. And then, her eyes fell on Andrea, and she felt her breath sucked from her lungs.
Andy rolled to a slow stop, but she was out the door of the car before he could put it in gear, running as fast as she dared to her best friend's side and wrapping her arms around her waist. "We got here as soon as we could. What happened, Andrea?"
"He came out of nowhere, when I was distracted by dropping my mail. And I should have been prepared for this, Sharon. But all my self-defense tactics went out the window the minute his hands closed around my throat."
Her voice was raspy, and Sharon shook her head a little as she held her all the closer as she rubbed her back, daring the paramedic to come any closer before she had the chance to calm Andrea down. The older man raised an eyebrow before gesturing towards the back of the ambulance, and she nodded, leading Andrea over and having her take a seat. "The paramedic needs to check you over and make certain that you weren't more seriously injured. And Louie needs to take your statement. I won't leave your side unless you tell me to."
Andrea nodded and let her head bump against Sharon's shoulder before looking the paramedic in the eye. "I'm ready, but I don't think I'll need to go to hospital. Thankfully, one of my neighbors was able to scare him off before the worst happened."
Sharon took hold of Andrea's hand, threading their fingers together as the paramedic did his work, taking notes and eventually concurring with Andrea's self-assessment. "I really do wish that you would head in, just to be observed overnight…"
"I'm going home with Sharon. She or Andy will look after me. And if something happens to make me worried, I'll head in to a med center."
"All right, I suppose."
Andrea nodded and then looked up, taking in a shallow breath. Sharon followed her gaze and saw Louie ambling up to them, an encouraging look on his face. "I just have a few more questions right now, Andrea, and then you can give me a full report tomorrow. I know that you'll be in good hands with Sharon, but I can only give you a little extra time."
"I know," Andrea said, her voice sounding jagged and rough. Louie met Sharon's gaze, and she could read there that he was hoping she would take care of their DDA. She had always known that he had a soft spot for the lawyer, and it was sweet to see it in action. "Can we go now?"
"Yes." Andy came up to their sides, too, and he helped Andrea to her feet before leading them over to the car. Sharon tried to get in the passenger seat, but Andrea shook her head and tugged on her arm, pulling her into the back with her. She gave Andy a quick look, but he only shook his head with an understanding smile, and she relaxed in the back, allowing Andrea to sit as close to her as she felt comfortable with, knowing that they would have to talk once they were home.
"Do you want anything before we settle in on the sofa?" Sharon asked, trying to keep her voice light and sweet. Andrea shook her head a little, shooting Rusty a quick look before glancing back down at the floor. "Andy, why don't you and Rusty head into the guest room and make certain that it's all nicely done up for Andrea's stay. And then, Andy, will you see if you can find one of my long sleeve nightgowns? We didn't exactly take time for things like that."
"Of course, Sharon. Come on, kid, let's get this done for your mother."
Rusty looked ready to protest, but Andy just tugged sharply on his sleeve until he took the hint and followed Andy from the room. "All right, we're alone now. You can tell me whatever you like."
"I just feel so stupid, Sharon. Your instincts were correct, I am in danger, but I thought that I could fend for myself. I've always been self-reliant, you know that. If I hadn't lost my parents when I was in college, it might have been different. But now there's no money to give me a protection detail."
"And I told you, we would be more than willing to have you here. Andy's not in the guest room any longer, since we're married, and there's room for you here." She caressed Andrea's shoulder softly. "Now, I know that you don't want any ice cream, but I think that I am ready for something sweet to end this sour day on."
Andrea gave her a small nod as Sharon got up off the sofa and crossed into the kitchen. She didn't fail to notice that Andrea kept her eyes on her the entire time, and she started to hum a bit, trying to soothe the woman's obviously frayed nerves. "I suppose, if you put a little extra in your bowl and bring me a spoon, I might be tempted to try some."
A tiny giggle slipped from Sharon's lips as she added a third scoop to her bowl and fished out two spoons before putting the carton away. Traipsing back over to Andrea, she gracefully sank down on the couch, curling up close to Andrea and holding the bowl on her left leg. "I sort of figured that would be the case."
"You know me well."
"You're my best friend, why wouldn't I know you well?" She winked at Andrea before digging into the sweet treat. They ate in silence for a while, and Sharon knew that that was most likely the best thing for her in that moment. "All right, so, I hope you don't feel like I'm pushing you or anything, but I want you here with us. I want to keep you safe."
"I know you do. And that makes me love you all the more." A wide yawn split Andrea's lips, and she blushed a little. "I didn't realise that I would be this tired."
"Trauma of any sort takes a lot out of a person." They looked up to see Andy standing there, an open look on his face. "The guest room is ready, and I can take care of the dishes while you head up."
Andrea nodded and popped to her feet, swaying a little. Sharon reached out to steady her, and Andrea gave her a grateful look before making her way over to the stairs. Sharon lingered a little, though, feeling like Andy had something more to say to her. "Andy?"
"I think it would be better if you fell asleep talking to her tonight. I know, if she had gone to the hospital, you probably wouldn't have left her side. And she's just as vulnerable here as she would have been there. Besides, we get to sleep together every night, I suppose that I can give up one evening in your arms."
Sharon felt her heart clench with love at those words, and she rose to her feet slowly before making her way to his side and hugging him tightly. "I love how well you understand my heart, Andrew Flynn." Rising up on her tiptoes, she kissed him slowly, winding her arm around his neck to hold him close as the kiss lingered on. "I will never know what I did to deserve you."
"We were two souls that happened to beat on the same frequency at the same time," he said, his breath washing across her neck before he pulled away from her and kissed her forehead sweetly. "Now head to the guest room. I laid out a nightgown for you, too."
"Thanks, Andy," Sharon replied as she tucked a piece of hair behind her ear. They shared a small smile before she turned on her heel and made her way upstairs. Knocking softly on the door, she slipped inside and found Andrea on the bed already, her knees drawn up to her chest, tears coursing down her cheeks. "Oh, Andrea."
"I took one look in the mirror, saw the bruises and couldn't stop crying."
"Give me five minutes to change and take my makeup off, and then we'll talk, okay?"
Andrea nodded absently and Sharon grabbed the nightgown still at the foot of the bed and scurried over to the guest bathroom. After stripping off her clothes, she took her glasses off and stared at her suddenly soft reflection, trying to smile and look confident. It was a failing feeling, however, and she shook her head as she pulled out a few makeup wipes and cleaned her face before tugging on her nightgown and running the brush through her hair.
Finally satisfied with her reflection, she replaced her glasses and traipsed back to the guest room, pulling back the covers and sliding in, turning on her side so that she could look at Andrea. Her best friend was very stiff, as if she hadn't been expecting this turn of events, and Sharon reached out, resting her hand on Andrea's knee to get her attention. "Stretch out, get comfortable."
"O-okay." It took her a beat longer than Sharon expected for her to comply, but then Andrea was also on her side, her eyes refusing to meet Sharon's. "I just don't want to be a burden."
"You could never be a burden on us, Andrea. Ever. And just think, we can have working evenings where we can go over my testimony and make certain that things are correct. And I get to be with my best friend more often. What working woman can say that? You know we've both been so busy lately, unable to keep lunch dates or coffee meetings. I've missed this."
"I've missed this, too, honestly. So, even if I work quietly on cases here, you won't mind?"
"No, because I'll get to be with you. And Andy. What woman can be so lucky?" Andrea shook her head a little, and Sharon smiled at her before leaning in and resting their foreheads together. "Does your neck hurt much? Your voice still sounds a little odd."
"It's probably just bruising. The paramedic said that it would be likely. But the ice cream helped."
"Good," she whispered as she reached out and began to run her fingers through Andrea's hair. There were a few snarls there, and she tried to be gentle, but she could hear Andrea hiss with pain when she tugged a little too roughly. "I'm sorry. I don't mean to be so rough."
"It's fine, Sharon." She unconsciously snuggled closer to Sharon, letting her arm come to rest low on her waist so that her fingers were just brushing against Sharon's hip. "I don't ever want to feel so scared again. But as long as he's out there, that's all I'll feel."
"Not when you're with us," Sharon whispered fiercely, her hand sliding down to spread out on Andrea's back. "When you're here, you're safe. I promise you." Andrea nodded a little and then let out a deep sigh, her eyes closing. "Sleep now, my friend. I'll be here when you wake."
"I know you will," was the soft response as Andrea's hand closed around the curve of Sharon's hip, as if she was holding on for dear life.
Sharon felt the delicious warmth and heaviness of a protective arm wrapped around her waist as she woke up the following morning. Blinking her eyes open, she slowly came to awareness, and she frowned a little to realise that she was not in Andy's arms. Focusing her gaze on the form next to her, she saw that Andrea was awake and gazing at her, an open look of fondness on her face. Sharon's shoulders relaxed a little as she breathed in deeply, learning new insights about her friend.
"I, I didn't mean to wake you up," Andrea stammered as a bright blush stained her cheeks. Sharon didn't know why she would be embarrassed, nothing out of turn had happened in the night. "I just found that I couldn't get back to sleep once I'd woken up."
"And how long have you been studying my face?" she asked quietly, trying to keep her facial expression just as open as Andrea's was.
"Maybe an hour or two."
Again, the blush returned to Andrea's face at the admittance, and Sharon let out a soft sigh as she leaned in and pressed her lips softly to Andrea's cheek. She could hear the sharp intake of breath that the woman took and wondered if she had overstepped some boundary, but then Andrea was relaxing, almost melting, against her, as she closed her arms around Sharon's waist. "You are thoroughly welcome to study me at any time you wish, Andrea. I'm rather flattered that you would think my face interesting enough to hold your interest for so long."
"There were other things that held my attention besides just your face."
The soft admission seemed to be slip from her lips unbidden, and Sharon felt her brows furrow a little as she wondered what Andrea meant by them. "What could you possibly find interesting in the quiet of my sleep?"
"How trustingly you sleep, your features placid and lovely, even though Stroh is out there, lurking. How deeply even your breaths are. The way your face lights up with expressive motion when you're in the depths of a dream. And I allowed myself to feel jealous that you could have this peace, when my own heart is so very troubled."
"You don't have to make excuses for your heart, Andrea. You went through something horrific yesterday, and it stands to reason that you aren't feeling up to peace. I just expected you to be a little angrier than you are."
"I know I would be angry if some asshole tried to kill me just because I wanted to put him in the prison he so rightfully belongs in. And I would lash out at anyone who was around me, regardless of how close they were to me, since anger makes sense and masks how vulnerable I might feel."
"Oh. I had thought I might skip that stage of grieving. I don't like being angry."
"Sometimes, we have to be very angry."
Andrea's face crumpled as she nodded, and Sharon sighed regretfully. This was not the reaction she had been hoping to provoke in the woman, but she knew that it was a normal response to trauma. So, she did the only thing she could think of in that moment and cuddled Andrea close to her chest, running one hand up and down her back in an effort to calm her. Sharon felt the warm tears soak through the thin fabric of her nightgown and felt her own eyes well up in sympathy. "I did not expect to start crying this early in the morning. My eyes are going to be a puffy mess at work."
"You cannot possibly go to work today, Andrea."
"What am I supposed to do? Sit here all day twiddling my thumbs? I need to be doing something, or else I'll go mad!"
That small spark of anger actually pleased Sharon, since it told her that in a small way, Andrea had started to move on and work through her feelings over what happened, and she smiled into the other woman's hair as she continued to rub her back. "Well, I was thinking that Rusty could run over some files that you need to review to my office, and you could work on that while I work on finding Stroh. The sooner we have him in custody, the sooner you can start to move on."
"I don't think…"
"I won't hear anything in protest. You were in a violent encounter yesterday, and while I should think that your doctor would prefer that you stay home entirely and rest, this small compromise shouldn't hurt you in the long run. I mean, I can always call her and have her consult?"
"That was a low blow, Sharon."
"I'm perfectly willing to deal them if it keeps my friend from just throwing herself into her work and burying the feelings that surround the incident deep inside. Don't think that you can try to hide that from me, Andrea. I know you."
"Too damn well at times," the other woman muttered as she pushed away from Sharon to look into her eyes. There were still tears pooling there, and Sharon reached up and brushed her fingers beneath them, clearing them away. "I really need to shower. I was too tired to do it last night, since everything was so fraught. And I guess that last night's clothes will have to do. Do you think the others will notice?"
"If they do, they won't say a word. I promise you that."
Andrea let out a watery laugh as she pulled away from Sharon and got to her feet. "Or you'll strike fear into their hearts?"
"Something like that." Sharon slipped from the bed as well, brushing the nightgown down around her knees from where it had ridden up in the night. She couldn't help but notice that Andrea's eyes tracked her movements, and when their eyes met once more, the blush had returned to her cheeks. "All right, I'm going to head down to the master bathroom, so we can shower at the same time. Andy or Rusty will probably be making breakfast."
Andrea nodded hurriedly as she looked down at the carpet. "All right."
Sharon opened the door and kicked her foot into something soft. Looking down, she saw a small suitcase sitting outside the room, and smiled a little wider. "And I don't think you'll have to worry about clothes, dear. One of my boys took care of that for us."
"I see," Andrea said as she picked up the bag, slipping past Sharon to head down towards the bathroom. The feel of her body sent a small shiver down Sharon's spine, and she tilted her head to one side as she watched Andrea step into the bathroom and lock the door behind her. Shaking her head to clear out the fog that seemed to settle around her senses, she slowly made her way down the stairs, knowing that she shouldn't overtax herself so early in the morning. She was quickly coming to learn how to measure out her reserves of strength, and what was important to use more resources on.
Finally, she was in her bedroom, and Andy was just putting the finishing touches on his tie. "You slept in a little later than I thought you would. Was Andrea glad to have fresh clothes?"
"I think so, yes. She's showering right now, and I need to get in our shower, too." He nodded and as she passed by him, he caught her around the waist and pulled her in close, giving her a tender kiss. "And she's going to stay, until we catch Stroh. One less thing for me to worry about." He gave her a small nod before kissing her once more, and Sharon sighed against lips, happy that he was as comfortable with this decision as she was.
Sharon looked up at Andrea, studying her almost as intently as Andrea had studied her that morning. The woman was chewing the end of a pen as she stared at the file open in front of her, and Sharon wondered what was going through her mind. Ever since they had arrived at the precinct, Andrea had closed herself off to Sharon, retreating back into the shell of privacy that she normally wrapped herself in.
Even in the beginning of their friendship, Sharon had known that it would be like pulling teeth to learn anything about her or her past. It had been four years before she learned about how Andrea's parents had died, after all. But still, she was hoping that the usual aloofness wouldn't extend to this place, as she wanted Andrea to feel free enough to know she was in a safe space.
Just before lunchtime, Louie came up to her door and knocked softly, catching her attention. "Sorry to interrupt, Sharon, but I was hoping that Andrea had a moment to give us a more complete statement. I want to pick her brain before the trail starts to grow cold."
"We already know that it was Stroh."
He shook his head a little, and Sharon frowned, beckoning him inside. "Stroh doesn't fit the description of who was seen running away from Andrea's place last night. So, I need to know if they said anything to Andrea, or if there was anything distinctive about them."
"All right, I understand. Do you want me to go out and give you some privacy?"
It looked like he was about to say something, but Andrea's head shot up and she was taken aback by the slight look of panic on her face. "I'd rather Sharon stay here, too, if you don't mind, Lieutenant Provenza."
"That would be fine." He ambled over to Andrea's side and took a seat in the chair next to her, and Sharon found that she wanted to get up and be by Andrea's side as she gave her statement, but she didn't know if that would be welcomed by her friend. It wasn't until Andrea gave her another desperate look that she got up and went to her other side, taking a seat there as she watched Louie set a tape recorder on the table in front of Andrea along with a pad of paper and a pen. "All right, what can you tell me about what happened last night?"
Andrea haltingly began to share the details that she remembered about everything that had occurred the previous evening. At some point, she reached for Sharon's hand, and their fingers became entangled. Sharon didn't mind the touch, since she knew that it soothed Andrea, and her comfort was all she could think of in that moment.
They both must have started crying silently at some point, as Louie looked vaguely uncomfortable as he pulled out a handkerchief and held it out in their direction. "I don't know which one of you wants this, but you both need it," he muttered, looking away from them. Andrea let out a soft laugh as she plucked the square of fabric from his hand and dabbed at her eyes. "You know I hate probing like this, but I need all the details so we can catch this asshole and throw him behind bars! Attempted murder of our DDA will not be taken lightly."
"Oh, I didn't realise I was your DDA," Andrea said, some of her normal bite returning to her voice. This made Louie chuckle a little, and Sharon gave him a small smile as she used the sleeve of her jacket to swipe away the tears that had gathered in the corner of her eyes. "But thank you for wanting to defend my life. I suppose that I should listen more closely to my friends who want to keep me safe."
Andrea's hand squeezed Sharon's in three steady motions, and she nodded a little before focusing on Louie once more. "Will there be anything else, Lieutenant?"
"I think that I have all that I need here, Sharon, Andrea. Now you just need to focus on not letting that bastard get under your skin."
"That's the hardest part, isn't it?" Louie gave them a wry smile as he nodded and left the room. Once the door had been closed once more, Andrea turned to Sharon and focused her gaze on her chin. "I think that I have let this get under my skin. A little too much."
"It happens to us all," she whispered in response as she slowly disentangled their hands. "Now, I have a briefing to run in the murder room, so you're free to use my office as you see fit."
"Okay." They shared a small smile as Sharon got up and left her office, hoping that she could give Andrea the support she needed to get through the rest of her day. It was hard to focus on what Amy and Mike had to say, since her attention was so divided, but Andy seemed to be the only one who picked up on her distraction, which pleased her. And even though there wasn't that much to do with the rest of their work day, she and Andrea still managed to leave her office late.
"I was beginning to think that I'd have to send Rusty home to get some fresh clothes," Andy joked as Sharon turned the lights out in her office. She shook her head as Andrea chuckled, slinging her arm around Sharon's waist as if it was the most natural thing in the world. Andy furrowed his brow a little at the familiar move, but Sharon gave him a small shake of her head, letting him know that she was all right with the touch.
"Oh, we weren't that late," she said teasingly, smacking his chest lightly with her free hand as they got into the elevator. "And besides, this gives us the excuse to stop for supper."
"I wouldn't do that, if I were you, Sharon."
She nodded, frowning a little as they made their way out to the parking lot. Andy slipped behind the wheel, and Sharon managed to take the passenger seat this time, leaving Andrea alone in the back. For some reason, she felt almost guilty at leaving her alone, but tried to reason that such thoughts were silly, since Andrea was a grown woman who could take care of herself. Still, the vulnerability that had been on display that afternoon led Sharon to think that there was some undercurrent to the situation that Andrea was refusing to speak about with her.
There was an almost peaceful silence on the way home, and Sharon turned up the radio, listening to the jazz hour that was playing on their local public station. The music soothed her at times like this, and she could only hope that it did the same for Andy and Andrea.
Finally, they were home, and Andy let them off at the door of their condo complex. Sharon opened the door for Andrea, and they made their way over to the elevators, loitering there while Andy seemed to take his sweet time parking. "So, if we weren't allowed to stop for food, I wonder which one of us is cooking?"
"I think that honor should fall to Andy, since he was the one who insisted we come straight home."
"Hey, I, for one, fully intend on relaxing on the couch, once we get upstairs," her husband said as he copied Andrea's earlier move and wrapped his arm around Sharon's waist. This move, though, seemed to be a little more possessive than Andrea's had been, and she tried to keep the irritation off her face as they rode up to their condo.
Sharon handed Andrea the keys, letting her open the door for them, and the delicious scent of food wafted out to meet their noses. "Rusty! Thank you so much!" she called out as they entered, and Rusty gave them a small shrug before he turned back to the pot on the stove, and stirred it once more, and everything just seemed to feel right in that moment, even though she knew that there was a very long shadow being cast over them in the form of Phillip Stroh.
It didn't seem quite possible, but life had seemed to fall into a new normal for them, Andrea fitting into their family routine easily. Sharon found herself grateful for another feminine energy in the condo, as it helped balance things. And so, it seemed so easy to let their guards down, since there had been no further attempts to harm any of them.
The morning of the second Saturday Andrea had lived with them dawned bright, but cold, and Sharon found herself wanting to head out to the park and take a leisurely walk there. Sitting up, she stretched a little before leaning down and pressing her lips against Andy's cheek, hoping the touches would wake him up. He blinked his eyes and gave her a lazy smile as he reached up and stroked her cheek before pushing her hair behind her ear. "What time is it?"
"A little after eight," she replied as she slipped out of the bed and padded over to the dresser, rummaging through it to find the appropriate clothes. "I'm going to get dressed and then see if Andrea and Rusty want to join us."
"Where are we going this early on a Saturday?" he asked, trying to sound grumpy, but failing.
"The park. I know that it will be cool out, but I have this itching desire to take a long walk. Things feel safe at the moment, even if I'm not ready to call off the security detail on Rusty yet. You never know when things might change."
He nodded and flopped back on the mattress once more. "How about we compromise? I'll stay here and cook us a nice brunch, while you, Andrea, and the kid head out for that walk?"
"If you're offering to cook, I will definitely take you up on that offer," she replied as she pulled the last thing she'd need for that morning. Heading into the master bathroom, she made certain to catch Andy's eye before winking at him and tugging off her nightie, throwing it at him with reckless abandon before closing herself inside the bathroom.
It didn't take long for her to change, and then Sharon went to Rusty's room, knocking on the door firmly. "Come in!"
She pushed the door open and rested her hip against the jamb, smiling to see that her son was already up, though still dressed in his pyjamas. "What do you say to joining me and Andrea in the park this morning? I want to take a relaxing walk while the sun is out, and Andy's offered to make us all brunch while we're out."
"And you don't want to be alone, just in case Stroh rears his ugly head?"
"Something like that." She grinned at him, hoping that she was encouraging him to come along. "You don't even need to really clean up more than that, if you didn't want to."
"Quit twisting my arm, Mom. Of course, I'll come. Go wake Andrea while I change."
She laughed as she nodded. That had been the one hard thing to get used to. As soon as Andrea had felt comfortable in the guest room, she had apparently also fallen into the bad habits she was accustomed to at home, which included sleeping in until the last possible moment. Sharon wondered how she managed to look so put together at work when everything was so frenetic in the morning. Turning on her heel, she went over to the guest room and slipped inside without bothering to knock. It was a risk, to invade Andrea's privacy in that way, but somehow she knew that the woman wouldn't mind.
The shade on the window was drawn, and Sharon went over and opened it, letting light stream inside and touch Andrea's still sleeping form. Her blonde hair haloed her head and Sharon smiled as she crossed over to the bed and sank down on the edge, reaching out to brush her fingers along Andrea's shoulder. The other woman let out a deep groan as she frowned and turned on her side, curling up into a tight ball.
"Andrea, wake up," Sharon sang out, tugging gently on a hank of her friend's hair. "It's a gorgeous day outside!"
"Good for you. It is a gorgeous day in my bed, and I don't want to wake up from the happy dreams I was having."
"Not even to go walking with me? There's the promise of brunch afterwards!"
Andrea let out a rough breath as she stretched out and then sat up, hugging her knees as she glared at Sharon. "Do you really want to make me exercise on my day off?"
"Yes!" Sharon leaned in as close as she possibly dared to Andrea, thumbing her nose softly as she tilted her head a little, a warm smile on her lips. "Please, humor me?"
"I suppose," she sighed out as she pulled away from Sharon and slipped out of bed. "And there's not time to shower, is there?"
Andrea rolled her eyes a little as she padded over to the dresser and began to rummage through. "Give me ten minutes to change and make myself look halfway decent. If you want, you could fill a bottle of water for me?"
"I can totally do that!" Sharon sang out as she turned and left the bedroom. Rusty was in the kitchen, sipping a mug of coffee, and she gave him a soft smile before going over to the cupboard next to him and rummaging through the cups there until she touched the small Nalgene bottle towards the back. "Andrea just needs to get dressed, and then we'll be ready to go," she said as she filled the bottle with ice and water from the fridge.
"So we'll leave in an hour?"
"Hey! I can get ready quickly when I want to," Andrea replied, giving Rusty a small glare. "I am more than ready to go if you are."
"Please, after you," he replied smartly as he indicated towards the door. Sharon let out a long breath as she shook her head, closing the bottle and taking a good look at Andrea. Her hair was up in a ponytail, and Sharon realized that this was only the second time she had seen it pulled back, as that wasn't Andrea's usual style.
"Now children, I don't want to have to separate you, am I clear?"
Andrea laughed as she nodded. "I'll be good, Mother," she teased as they trouped down to the elevators. Rusty busied himself on his phone while they rode down, and Sharon couldn't seem to find any decent small talk that would fill their time, though she did keep glancing at Andrea, noticing that she was giving her glances, too. "Are we just going to walk to the park? I mean, it's only a block!"
"I think I can handle that."
They nodded in tandem as Rusty opened the door to the building for them, giving his protection detail a small wave as they passed by them. Sharon heard the door to the car open as they walked on, and felt herself relax a little, knowing that they would be protected from anything bad that could happen.
Rusty made certain to keep about a hundred feet ahead of them as they walked, and Sharon was grateful for the privacy that lent. "So, how are you finding it? Being with us, I mean. I know that you prefer privacy, but I am so glad that you're with us, even beyond the need to protect you."
"It is a bit difficult, yes, getting used to navigating around three people, but there's a sort of comfort that comes with it as well. I didn't think that I would get used to it so quickly, but I think that your being here has helped smooth the transition. I'm not chafing nearly as much as I thought I would be…"
Andrea's voice trailed off as she focused her attention on Rusty, and Sharon followed her gaze, seeing the early morning sun glint off something distinctly metallic. It took a second to register what was happening, but before Sharon could react, Andrea was breaking out into a run, quickly catching up to Rusty and pushing him out of the way, even as the loud bang of a gunshot broke the stillness of morning.
"Andrea!" Sharon screamed as she watched bright red blood blossom from the woman's shoulder. The security detail pushed past her as they also ran towards the sound of the gun, and she felt her heart begin to rapidly beat in her chest as she tried to push her body into a run, knowing that she couldn't tax herself too much, as she didn't want to fall victim to another attack. Not when Andrea was wounded.
Rusty was kneeling beside her when Sharon reached them, his hands pressing tightly against the hole in her shoulder. "I was on the phone with Andy when the shot rang out, he's already called 911. And he said that we weren't to go anywhere until either he or the paramedics reached us."
"That's good advice, Rusty," she murmured, trying to exude the calm that she needed to feel, even as her heart was breaking at the sight of so much blood oozing from the wound. "Andrea? Sweetheart? Can you hear me?"
"Yeah," she said weakly, looking up into her eyes. "I don't want to alarm you, but I'm really cold. The ground is still frozen, or so it feels."
Sharon nodded a little, letting out a watery laugh as she sank to the ground, stretching her legs out and gently lifting Andrea's head into her lap, to at least offer her some comfort there. "You're right, the ground really is cold. But try to focus on the sound of my voice as we wait for help to arrive. It looks like brunch is out."
"Yeah, and I was really looking forward to tasting Andy's cooking," she joked through a cough. "Oh well, maybe now that I've been injured, he'll be more likely to cook for us. Or we could invite Gus over. He's a great chef."
"I'm certain we could get him to do that for us," Rusty said lowly, looking at Sharon. He was trying to humor her, she could see that in his gaze, but she knew that it was a kindness to Andrea nonetheless. "And you could ask for his banana nut pancakes. They're amazing."
"I'll have to do that, yes." Andrea coughed again, and Sharon frowned at the sound, trying not to let her mind run down rabbit trails. A warm hand on her back had her looking up, and she smiled to see Andy there, a blanket in his hands. "Hey, that didn't take you long."
"You made me jog, Andrea. On a Saturday morning, no less. I don't know if I'll be able to forget this," he said jokingly as he covered her with the blanket. For the first time, Sharon clued in to the fact that there was a large crowd starting to surround them, and she tried to protectively shield Andrea from their gaze, not wanting her image to end up plastered all over social media before lunchtime.
The sound of sirens rent the air, and Sharon's shoulders slumped with relief as they came to a stop near them. "All right, everybody, get back. Let the paramedics do their jobs." Louie's voice sounded so welcome in that moment, and she gave Andrea a shaky smile as she ran her hand over her head, trying to soothe her as much as possible. "Sharon, Andrea, how do you manage to get yourself into such situations?"
"I guess that I'm a bullet magnet, Lieutenant," Andrea joked, her laugh sounding more like a deeper cough than before, and Sharon frowned a little more, reaching out for Andrea's good hand and holding it tightly. "I couldn't see who it was, but I know that the bullet was meant for Rusty. I wish that I had been a little faster, though. I might not have gotten hit, then."
"Save your strength, Hobbs. I'll need to take yet another statement from you, once you're settled in the hospital."
Andrea nodded as the paramedics approached them, one of the women taking over for Rusty. "Are you wounded anywhere else, ma'am?"
"Just my pride? Does that count?" she quipped before hissing in pain as the paramedic pressed down a little harder.
"Joan, can you help her to sit up?" The other paramedic nodded, and Sharon tried to not be in the way as she watched the women work in tandem. "How does the wound look?"
"It's a through and through, though it looks like the bullet might have nicked one of the bones. I don't think that any major arteries were hit, though. Let's get her up to the rig." They all got to their feet, and Sharon shot Andy a questioning look.
"I have Rusty, Sharon. You ride with her to the hospital, we'll be by once we know more here."
"Thank you, Andy," she murmured as she trailed after the paramedics. The ambulance wasn't very far away, but it felt like the walk took forever as she trailed uselessly after them. "I hope you don't mind my riding along," she said as Joan helped her up into the rig.
"It's fine, ma'am," the woman replied as she closed the doors and went around to the front, getting behind the wheel.
"You could have stayed home, Sharon. I don't need my hand held."
"Phillip Stroh just tried to shoot Rusty, and managed to shoot you. I know that Andy will take close care of my son so that I can ensure you're being properly taken care of. This is the second time in two weeks that you've been in the line of fire, and I feel like this is my fault."
Andrea fumbled for Sharon's hand, threading their fingers together and squeezing tightly as she held her gaze. "None of this is your fault, Sharon Flynn! Do you hear me? Phillip Stroh is a loose cannon who is trying to destroy someone you love, and of course there is going to be some collateral damage. As long as your family ends up all right in the end, whatever happens to me is just what happens."
"Please, don't talk like that. You're my best friend, Andrea, and I don't know what would happen if you did something stupidly rash and got hurt once again, trying to protect me and mine. Because you are mine. Okay?"
Andrea blushed a little as she looked away from Sharon, giving a small nod in response as they fell quiet, allowing the other paramedic to do her work. "We're going to have to cut that sweatshirt off you, and probably your bra," the woman said as she pushed the blanket down around Andrea's hips. Pulling out a pair of scissors, the woman quickly ran them up from the bottom of the sweatshirt to the neckline before cutting along the sleeves and then gently removing it from Andrea's body. Sharon tried to keep her gaze averted, but it was difficult, because then her eyes kept darting to the angry wound in her shoulder.
"Talk to me, Sharon."
She nodded and trained her eyes onto Andrea's face, smiling even though she could feel tears start to well up. "What do you want to talk about?"
"Anything. Tell me about Emily's first dance recital. Or Ricky's first tee ball game."
"All right, I can do that. Emily's first recital was so adorable, she was a rabbit, as they were doing a Peter Rabbit show. Mind you, I had her in as many classes as possible, since she didn't know what kind of dancer she wanted to be. It was the next year that she really clicked with ballet, so I allowed her to drop all other forms and focus solely on that. But I'll always remember her as my little bunny." Andrea gave her a small nod, and Sharon took a deep breath as she launched into the story of what happened during that first recital.
"And I'm only a phone call away if you need anything, Sharon. Make sure you call, okay?"
She smiled at her husband as she nodded. "Yes, Andy, I will. But I think that we have everything under control here. And we won't leave the apartment, either. We don't want a repeat of what happened Saturday." She glanced over at the staircase before looking back at him. "I know, this isn't how you planned on our first few months of marriage going, but I love you all the more for allowing me to take care of my friend in this way."
"I know your heart, Sharon. And I'd rather have you home and taking care of Andrea, then shuttling between her home and here all the time." He leaned down and pressed his lips against her forehead. "I should head out now, since I have to drop Rusty off at work, rather than Andrea driving him in. Be careful."
"I will, I promise." Sharon shook her head a little as she pushed away from the table and wrapped her arms around Andy. "And you stay safe out there. I don't want to play nursemaid to two patients."
He chuckled a little as he nodded, and they kissed once more, just as Rusty came traipsing in. "Again with the PDAs, Mom?"
"It's not a PDA when it's in your home, Rusty." Turning, she favored her son with a small smile before beckoning him over and wrapping him in a warm hug. "Now, I know that it's going to be weird, interning at the DA's office without Andrea, but I want you to listen to whatever you're told to do, and not worry about what's happening here at home. Okay?"
"Yes, Mom," he replied before pulling away from her. "I thought I heard Andrea trying to get up and about."
"Thanks for letting me know, I'll check in on her once you've gone." Rusty nodded before letting Sharon hug him once more. "Now, you should probably leave before you're late. I love you, both of you."
Rusty shrugged a little as he picked up his satchel, slinging it over his shoulder before heading outside the room. Andy stepped closer to her once more, wrapping his arms lowly around her waist and holding her close as he swayed them back and forth a little. "Is there anything that you want me to bring home for supper?"
"I know Andrea likes Thai food. You and Rusty could bring that home for tonight. And thank you for understanding that I'm not up for cooking just yet." He mumbled something that she didn't quite understand, but his warm hand on her back was enough to let her know that he understood well enough. Pulling away from Andy, she leaned up and kissed him once more before gently pushing him towards the door. "Really, it wouldn't look good if you're late."
"I know, Sharon. And don't worry, we have you covered with Mason, too. Louie and I, we have your back."
"That's the best thing to know," she whispered, giving him a small wave before watching him leave the apartment. Once she heard the lock engage, she turned and let out a deep breath as she glanced upstairs, knowing that she had to make her way up there sooner or later. "I don't know why you're making me nervous this morning, Andrea."
Shaking her head a little, Sharon made her way to the stairs and slowly climbed them, her body still feeling extraordinarily heavy from the exertion she had put it through on Saturday. Somehow, she made it up them without having to stop and rest for a small period of time, but she still took a moment to catch her breath at the head, resting her hand on the bannister as she did so.
Squaring her shoulders, she plastered a smile on her face, hoping that Andrea wouldn't notice the slight strain behind the expression, or the way her eyes had heavy bags beneath them. Because even though she had been released to come home early Sunday afternoon, Sharon had not gotten good sleep the previous evening, her worry eating at her brain until well after Andy had finally nodded off.
Without bothering to knock, Sharon let herself into the room, her smile widening as she saw that Andrea was still in bed, though the covers were pushed down towards the foot, with only the thin sheet covering her legs. "Did you come to help me to the bathroom?" she asked a bit acerbically, and Sharon felt the smile slip from her lips.
"Did, did you need me sooner? I thought that you deserved some privacy, the doctor said that you were perfectly capable to do everything but shower, even though he wanted you to be off for the week, in order to heal." Sharon didn't know why her eyes filled with tears, other than the fact she felt like she had failed her friend. "I, I can just go…"
"Dammit, Sharon, no! I'm frustrated with myself, I shouldn't have taken it out on you, not when you've been so kind as to open your home to me when you should be focusing on the honeymoon stage of your marriage."
She nodded a little as she closed the distance between them, plopping down onto the bed and pulling her knees up tight to her chest as she struggled to keep her tears from falling. She knew that her lack of sleep was causing her emotions to be more volatile, but she didn't want to overwhelm Andrea when she was just starting to recover. "I should never have thought that life would go smoothly for us. I've never taken the easy path. I've fought and clawed and scraped my way through life for everything I have. And Andy doesn't mind you here, he knows how much your friendship is a part of my life."
She slowly licked her lips, trying to think of what else she could say to convince Andrea that she needed to be in their apartment, that Sharon needed to watch over her until Stroh was taken down. Nothing seemed to be coming to mind, and then, she felt Andrea's hand closing around her shin, and Sharon darted her eyes over to look at those long, slim, fingers resting on her yoga pants. "I just want you to be happy. And a large part of me feels that you can't truly be happy with me here."
At that, Sharon lifted her head and looked into Andrea's eyes, immediately feeling like she was being drawn into their depths. Time seemed to stand still as they stared at each other, and then, Sharon was leaning in and covering Andrea's lips with her own, kissing her delicately, with a yearning she hadn't even acknowledged until that point. It felt right, which she knew was so wrong, and yet she couldn't find the strength to pull away, instead deepening the kiss as she listened to Andrea whimper a little.
"I, I'm sorry," she breathed out when Andrea had finally pulled away from her, her blue eyes large and luminous. "I'll go make us breakfast, come down when you're ready." And before Andrea could respond, Sharon had slipped off the bed and scurried from the room, shutting the door behind her a little more firmly than necessary, her brain racing as she tried to figure out why she had just did something so unbelievably idiotic.
Somehow, Sharon had managed to avoid talking about the kiss she had given Andrea for the rest of the day, even though things were incredibly awkward between the two when her best friend had made her appearance for breakfast and lunch. It had been a blessing when Ricky had called during the middle of the strained lunch, talking her ear off while they picked at the food on the plates in front of them. While she was still talking, Andrea had cleared the table as best she could before disappearing back upstairs, and Sharon let out a deep sigh of relief.
"Mom? Is everything okay?"
She waited until she heard the door to the guest bedroom close before she answered her son. "It's been rough on Andrea, her having me hover over her as I watch her recover. But this is the second time in a month that she's been attacked by Phillip Stroh, and I just want her to be happy. The only way for that to happen is for Stroh to be out of our lives, once and for all."
"But she's okay living with you? She seems too independent to just sit back and allow another person to take care of her."
"We're having a few bumps along the way, I'll be honest. I think part of that comes from her living on her own from the time she started law school. She's never had a long-term partner, or at least not in all the time I've known her. But I adore her strength of character, I feel like we were both formed from the same fire, in a way." Sharon let out another sigh. "I love her."
It wasn't until the words were coming from her mouth that she wondered how Ricky would respond to them. "You love all your friends, Mom. It's probably your best and worst character traits."
"Yeah. Sometimes you just so blindly love that you see nothing else but the best in people, or rather, the ideal best in your friends. It's hard to be human and live up to an ideal, because we're only human, in the end, and there are so many people who do not want to fail you. Try to keep that in mind if she gets short with you. Okay?"
"Okay. How did you get to be so smart?"
"By watching you. Now, I should probably get going, this was just supposed to be a quick check in call, and I'm late to meet up with Claire."
"Go, I'll be fine. I love you."
"Love you, too, Mom," he replied before hanging up, and Sharon hugged the phone tight to her chest as she tried to digest his words. There was a truth to what he was saying, she did have a tendency to have high expectations for her loved ones. Still, though, she shied away from thinking too much about their kiss, since in the scheme of things, it didn't change her relationship with Andrea. Or at least, that was how she was going to think of things.
Letting out another sigh, she got up from the table and carried her water glass over to the couch and took a seat, curling her legs under her as she pulled a blanket off the back of it, wrapping it around her as she stared at the wall. It didn't take Sharon long to completely fall asleep, even though it wasn't an ideal bed. In the daze of her sleep, she could hear feet padding near her before someone's warm hand tugged her legs out on the couch, covering her with it before pressing lips against her forehead.
The next thing she knew, Sharon was being kissed awake by Andy, and she smiled lazily as she let out a deep sigh. "Are you just getting home?" she asked, her voice still thick with sleep.
"Yeah. I tried calling earlier, to see what you wanted, but Andrea mentioned that you had finally fallen asleep and I told her not to wake you. Somehow, she managed to wash all the clothes that were in the laundry, and start the dishwasher. It's like she feels she needs to earn her place here."
Sharon frowned a little as she sat up, stretching before getting to her feet and looking around him to glance into the dining area. Andrea and Rusty were setting the table and talking lowly to each other. Andrea glanced up at them, the open look on her face quickly shuttering as their eyes met, and Sharon looked away quickly before threading her fingers together and tightly holding on to herself in order to keep from reacting in a way that would arouse attention.
"Come on, guys, the food will get cold if we wait much longer for you!" Sharon nodded absently and allowed Andy to lead her to the table, pulling her chair out for her before doing the same for Andrea, who murmured a small thank you to him before looking studiously down at her plate. "So, Mom, did you really sleep the day away?"
"Not the whole day, no. Andrea and I managed to make it through lunch before I passed out."
"You've been pushing yourself too hard, Sharon. I think that I am more than capable of taking care of myself now, so that you can focus on your own health."
She narrowed her eyes as she shook her head. "Andrea, do you really think I'm going to agree to that after what's happened to you? You know what, I'm not hungry, I'm just going to head up to bed." Pushing away from the table, she ignored everything that they were saying to her, tearing her wrist free from Andy's loose grip as she stormed away from the dining room and went into the master bedroom, taking care not to slam the door behind her as she tugged off her clothes and let them fall to the floor before she made her way over to the dresser and pulled out a nightgown, tugging it over her head before throwing herself onto the bed and pulling the covers up to her chin and curling up into a ball.
"Sharon? Is everything okay?"
Andy's voice was welcome, but she didn't turn to look at him, instead listening to his footsteps pad over to their bed. The mattress sank beneath his weight, and she tensed a little, knowing that he would be trying to pull out of her what was wrong. She let out a long breath as she shrugged, and a moment later, she felt him spoon himself around her body, his arm coming to rest around her waist. "I think that Andrea was right in one regard," she finally said lowly, the memory of their kiss playing back in her mind.
"And that would be?"
The kindness in his voice hurt her heart, and she bit her cheek a little to stop the tears before responding. "I have been pushing myself a little harder than I should. I just don't want to let any of you down, and I want to protect Andrea and Rusty from whatever Stroh might have in store for them. But I know that I have to be around to protect the people that I love. Please, go out and entertain them, I'm going to try to catch up on my sleep. Maybe that will put me in a better mood."
The little white lie ate at her heart, but it was really for the best. Andy didn't need to know that she had made a mistake so early into their marriage. After all, he was the love she had waited for, the rest was just her chasing pavements she had no business walking on.
Much to her disappointment, Sharon's sleep was restless and fitful, and she woke earlier than Andy the next morning, padding into the bathroom and taking a long, warm, shower in an effort to wake herself up. At some point, Andy had peeked his head in the shower to check on her, and she gave him a small wink in return.
"You might want to think about getting out of there soon, Sharon. I married a woman, not a raisin," he teased, and she shook her head as she reached out and turned the water off. "Do you want anything in particular for breakfast?"
"Waffles, if there's time," she murmured as she held her hand out for a towel. Andy shook his head as he held it out lengthwise, his grin slightly lascivious. Sharon laughed lowly as she stepped out and allowed her husband to wrap the towel around her body before he pressed his lips to her bare shoulder. "If you linger here, there won't be time to make me waffles."
"Yes, Sharon." He pressed another kiss against her skin before leaving the bathroom. Letting out a long breath, she plugged in her hairdryer and quickly blew out her hair before applying a light layer of makeup and then dropping the towel into the hamper before padding out to the bedroom and quickly dressing.
When she made her way to the table, she saw that Gus had joined them at some point, and she gave him a small smile as she took a seat next to Andrea, noticing the way she stiffened slightly. Deciding to ignore the movement, she looked to Andy, a gentle smile curving her lips upwards as she watched him plate the waffles onto a large platter.
"Gus made the bacon for us," Rusty said, and Sharon nodded absently as she picked up her glass of juice and sipped at it. "We've been waiting for you to come out and join the family."
"I feel like I've been sleeping for years," she softly said, letting her eyes dart towards Andrea, feeling like the younger woman was looking at her, too. A slight blush was the only hint that she was right, and Sharon slipped her hand off the table and into her lap before reaching across the small distance that separated them, resting it atop the other woman's thigh. She could feel the muscle jump beneath the touch before Andrea was brushing her hand away.
Sighing a little, Sharon grabbed a slice of bacon off the platter before nibbling at it, trying to settle the roiling of her stomach. And then, Andy was placing two fluffy waffles on her plate, and she gave him a brief smile before digging in, noticing that Andrea did the same as soon as she was served. Sharon listened to Gus and Andy talk, as she felt like she couldn't find the words to say to anyone at the moment.
"Well, we have to get going, before Rusty is late to work. I'll call you before I leave, to see if there's anything you want for supper, ladies," Andy said as he bent to press his lips to the crown of Sharon's head. "Enjoy the day!"
She nodded absently, feeling like Andy knew everything that was bothering her. Keeping her attention on her food, Sharon listened to three sets of feet leave the apartment, leaving her and Andrea alone. A stilted feeling fell upon her, and she struggled to find something, anything, to say to her friend. "I, I think I'm going to head to church for a little while this morning. Would you like to join me?"
"No, that's okay. I'll be fine here."
"Okay." She let the conversation die a quick death as she finished the food before her, barely choking down the last few bites. "I, I'll be heading out now."
She mentally kicked herself for stammering like a tongue-tied schoolgirl, pushing away from the table before heading over to the door and stepping into a pair of flats before shrugging into a coat before slinging her purse over her shoulder and opening the door. She lingered for a few beats longer than necessary, hoping that Andrea would change her mind or stop Sharon. When no voice was forthcoming, she straightened her shoulders and tried not to let it bother her.
The drive to her church didn't take long, and she climbed the steps slowly, thinking about what she was about to do. She knew that whatever she said in the confessional was kept completely private, but a small part of her wondered just how true that would be, given how intimately her priest knew her and Andy. Pushing open the door to the church, Sharon stepped inside the narthex and looked around to see if there were any other parishioners in the nave. Seeing no one there made her a little more relaxed, and she squared her shoulders as she made her way to Father Stan's office, knowing that he would be there.
"Excuse me, Father?" she asked, peeking her head inside the door.
He looked up from his notepad and gave her a wide smile. "Sharon! I didn't expect to see you today! What brings you here?"
She tried to smile back, but found that her lips trembled a little too much to be a true expression of happiness. "I need you to listen to my confession."
"Now? This can't wait until my regular confessional times?" She shook her head, and he sighed a little as he spun towards her in his chair. "Have a seat."
"We aren't doing this inside the confessional box?" she asked, panicking at the thought of looking at him while she spoke of what she had done.
"If you feel that would be easier for you, then we can do it that way, yes." Father Stan stood and came out into the hall with her, resting his hand in the small of her back as he led her to the confession booth. "You realise, doing it this way, we can't pretend that there's any sort of anonymity, right?"
"I know, Father." She slipped inside the wooden booth and slid open the partition between them before taking a seat and folding her hands in her lap. Once she had heard his door close, Sharon took a deep breath and began to compile her thoughts. "Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. It's only been a few weeks since my last confession, but I needed to figure out my penance for this."
"And what have you done that's so terrible, my child?"
"I kissed someone who is not my husband. I didn't mean to do it, it just happened. We were just talking, and I wanted to comfort them, since they were hurting, and one thing led to another. It was just a kiss, but I feel like I betrayed Andy, and my vows to him."
"Surely you know that the Church does not consider a kiss to be adultery, Sharon."
"Yes, but I still feel the way I do. Please, Father, what is my penance?"
"Twenty Hail Marys and five anonymous acts of charity."
It didn't feel like nearly enough, but Father Stan was the one who knew what was appropriate, and so she nodded in response. "Yes, Father. Thank you."
"You are most welcome, Sharon. Go in peace and sin no more."
"I will," she whispered as she stood up and left the confessional booth, trying to figure out what her first act of charity would be.
Sharon decided to run a few errands before she returned to the apartment, wanting to spend a little time away from Andrea as she tried to figure out where they were going from here. There was nothing to be done about the kiss, now, since it was over, but they needed to avoid such intimate contact in the future. Which was a ridiculous thought, since there weren't any romantic feelings between them. And didn't best friends kiss every once in a while, anyway, she mused as she wandered up and down the aisles at the grocery store, making certain to pick up things she knew Andrea liked along with their usual staples.
Finding herself no closer to an answer then when she had started, Sharon checked out and drove home, her mind still roiling with chaotic thoughts. The bags in her hands gave her the excuse to ride up in the elevator, and as she waited, Sharon tried to think of what she would say to Andrea, knowing that the time had come for them to talk about what had happened between them, so that it wouldn't cause a rift in their friendship.
Stepping off the elevator, she went to her apartment and unlocked the door, humming a little under her breath as she opened the door and set the groceries on the counter. "Andrea? Are you downstairs?" she called out, listening for the other woman's reply. When one was not immediately forthcoming, she shrugged a little and began to put away the groceries, almost certain that Andrea was taking a nap. After all, being shot took a lot out of a person, and this was Andrea's second time experiencing that.
Once that task was finished, she padded into the living room and picked up the book she was reading, deciding to try and use the distraction to calm her rapidly fraying nerves. Soon, she was sucked into the world of the story and quickly lost all track of time until her stomach growled hungrily. Placing an envelope to mark her place, she got up from the couch and went into the kitchen, seeing that it was after two. Frowning a little, Sharon looked in the dishwasher and saw that there were no lunch dishes in there, which meant that Andrea hadn't eaten yet, either. Shaking her head a little, she closed the dishwasher once more before making her way upstairs to the guest room.
Knocking softly, Sharon waited to hear an answer from Andrea, but when one was not forthcoming after twenty seconds, she opened the door and went inside. The first thing she noticed was that the bed had been remade neatly, with fresh sheets, and she frowned as she turned and went over to the closet, peering inside to see that all of Andrea's clothes were missing. A cold feeling of dread began to fill her stomach, and she drifted down to the bathroom, hoping beyond hope that there was still some evidence of Andrea being there.
A small sound of sorrow slipped from her lips as she reached out and pressed her hand tightly against the doorjamb in order to keep herself upright. Biting her lip a little, Sharon turned and made her way back downstairs, slumping down onto the couch, food now the last thing on her mind. Reaching into her pocket, she called Andrea's phone, only for it to go right to voicemail, which told her that the woman had either turned her phone off or put it on do not disturb. Refusing to give in to the anger that was sparking up in her chest, Sharon tossed the phone onto the coffee table and curled up into a ball in the corner of the couch, allowing herself to cry a little.
A small part of her brain kept telling her that it was useless to wallow in self-pity, so she forced herself to get up and head into the kitchen. Pulling out all her old cookbooks, she looked for something that would keep her occupied and would taste delicious for her family when they came home. Finally, she settled on something that was healthy and that she had all the ingredients for, and she began to put everything together for the casserole.
As that was baking, Sharon rummaged around in her cupboards and found that she had enough ingredients to make an angel food cake. A small smile curved her lips as she gathered everything up, taking out her tube pan before getting to work on the cake. The steps necessary to complete the cake helped to take her mind off everything, and the front door was just opening as she was exchanging the casserole for the cake, and she looked up to see Andy and Rusty walking in. The moment Rusty saw her, a guilty look passed over his features, and she narrowed her eyes as he looked anywhere but at her.
"Where's Andrea?" she asked off-handedly as she gently closed the oven door, knowing that any shock would cause the cake to fall, and she didn't want that. "Rusty?"
Andy looked between the two of them, confusion marking his features. That told her he had no idea what was going on, and she favored him with a smile before turning her attention back to Rusty, motioning for him to take a seat at the table as Andy pulled out plates and utensils for them. "Is it just the three of us then, tonight?" he asked.
"Yes, Rusty, is it?"
Sharon hadn't meant for her voice to sound so sharp, but there was a piece of her that just wanted to lash out at her son, knowing that he knew something about where Andrea was, and she was bound and determined to find out what. He sighed a little as he looked down at the table. "She called me while you were at church, and said that an agreement had been reached. She said that she'll be fine getting a visiting nurse to come and check in on her, and that she doesn't want to be underfoot anymore."
"And she couldn't think to tell Sharon that? Did you at least tell Andrea that we didn't mind having her in the home, because she's family, in a way. I'll call her after we eat and tell her that she needs to come back."
"She wasn't answering my calls earlier, so I'll just head over later, and see if I can talk some sense into her."
Andy reached out and touched her wrist lightly, causing her to look up at him. "Are you sure that's wise? If she wasn't answering calls, do you think that she'll answer the door for you?"
"She doesn't have to. I have a key." Sharon smiled a little wider, trying to reassure him that everything would be all right if she just had a moment to speak to her best friend. "Don't worry, I'll get to the bottom of this."
He nodded and she began to serve the casserole, digging in with a fury that betrayed her current mental state. Andy seemed to notice that she was upset, as he leaned in and whispered in her ear, "There doesn't need to be any anger over this, Sharon. Everything will be all right, once you're able to talk to her." And though his sweet words were heartfelt, she knew that his optimism was a bit misplaced, and if he knew the real reason Andrea had left, she mostly likely wouldn't be under the same roof as him for some time to come.
Sharon shot Andy a look as he began to carry their dishes over to the washer. "Feel free to have a piece of cake while I'm gone," she said as she pushed away from the table and went over to the door, slipping her feet into flats before shrugging into a jacket and grabbing her purse.
"Don't forget your phone, Sharon. I don't want anything to happen to you and have you unable to get ahold of me."
She nodded and turned around to take the phone from his hand, slipping it into her purse before lifting up on her toes and pressing her lips to his cheek. "I love how you take care of me," she murmured as she patted his chest lovingly. "I'll never know what I did to deserve you."
"I'm just taking care of you the same way you took care of me. I hope that I'm doing well."
"The best, Andy." His words helped to calm her a little, and she gave him a full smile as he brought his head down to kiss her once more. "I hope I come home with good news."
"I hope so, too."
Sharon nodded before turning and making her way from the condo, running into Gus on her way to the elevators. "We just finished supper, but there's fresh angel food cake to eat, if you're hungry." He shrugged a little, and she tilted her head a little as she looked closely at him. "Are things okay between the two of you? I know that there was a rough patch with how things happened…"
"I slept with someone else. He has a hard time forgiving that, as well he should. I betrayed him."
His words were like a slap in the face, and Sharon fought to keep her expression neutral as she gave him a long, slow, nod. "But if you love him, I know that you'll make things work out."
"Hopefully," he murmured, a forlorn expression on his face. "But if you're going somewhere, I don't want to hold you up."
"You're fine, Gus. I'll always have time for you." She squeezed his shoulder lightly before brushing by him and stopping in front of the elevators. Pressing the down button, she tapped her foot absently as she waited. "If only I could say the same for myself," she murmured as the doors opened, and she stepped inside the car, pressing the button for the lobby.
Sharon made certain to wave at Rusty's protection detail as she drove past, so thankful that they were there, making certain that he was safe. As she drove, though, she found the calm from earlier evaporating away. After all, she had broken her vows to be true to Andy with Andrea, and the least she could do was humor Sharon and stay at the condo and be safe.
Somehow, she managed to find a parking spot close to Andrea's place, and she slammed the door forcefully before locking it and stalking down the sidewalk to the front door. Taking a few deep breaths, Sharon pressed the doorbell, the tip of her finger stinging a little. She waited to hear something, anything, from behind the door, but none was forthcoming in the first thirty seconds. Rather than knocking, or ringing the bell a second time, Sharon dug into her purse to find the spare key set that Andrea had trusted her with, letting herself into the home and hanging her jacket and purse on her usual hook before stepping out of her shoes and stalking into the study, knowing that Andrea would most likely hide out there.
Sure enough, the woman was bent over her laptop, headphones covering her ears, though the thumping bass of David Bowie still managed to pour out from beneath them and filter into the air of the room. Shaking her head a little, Sharon strode over to her friend and tapped her roughly on the shoulder.
Andrea jumped up, her good hand quickly pressing to her chest as she glanced up at Sharon. A look of confusion passed across her features, and Sharon held up the keys, dangling them in front of Andrea's eyes for a moment before shoving them back into her purse and tugging the headphones off her head. "Just what made you think that it would be all right to slink off like a thief in the night and go home? Didn't you think I'd worry about you? I tried to call!"
"And I didn't answer. I would have thought that would have driven home the point quite clearly to you."
"No, I rather think that you getting killed here, because you're too stubborn for your own good will drive home the point that you don't think about anyone other than yourself! God, Andrea, if I lose you now because you're a coward? Because we kissed once? I will never be able to live with myself. And what am I supposed to tell Andy? That I'm pining away for my best friend?"
As she came to the end of those words, Sharon felt her chest suddenly start to seize up, her lungs not able to draw in enough oxygen. Gasping for breath, she reached out and rested her hand on the back of Andrea's office chair, certain that her skin had gone quite pale, even as the edge of her vision began to blacken.
"Sharon? Sharon! Stay with me! Oh, god, this is why I didn't want to stay. Dammit, you do not get to leave me like this!"
Vaguely, Andrea's panicked words began to filter into her brain, and Sharon desperately tried to focus in on her as she fumbled around in her purse for her phone, knowing that time was of the essence. "Call. Andy."
"I have to call 911 first," was the short reply as Andrea maneuvered them both to the floor, taking care to rest Sharon's head in her lap as she took the phone from her hand and pressed it to her ear. The heavy feeling in Sharon's chest wasn't going anywhere, which told her that this was a particularly bad attack, and she struggled to press her hand against her heart, trying to stop the odd way it felt as she listened to Andrea talk to the 911 operator.
She must have blacked out for a few minutes, because the next thing she knew, she could hear the voices of Andrea and Andy talking in loud tones to an unfamiliar person. "She's my wife, I will go in the ambulance with her to the hospital. Andrea, you go to the apartment and bring Rusty and Gus along afterwards. It's what she would want."
"This is my home, I should rather think I can do what I want here!"
"Not at a time like this!" Andy shot back, and Sharon tried to chuckle, only for it to come out more like a moan. Instantly, they were both at her side, and it was then that she noticed she was on a gurney. "Babe, make her see reason."
"If three near death instances don't get her to see reason, I don't know what will," she whispered, every word hurting. "But please, Andrea, at least for tonight be with my son. And let Ricky and Emily know I'm okay, but back in the hospital. Please."
She searched Andrea's face for some sign of relenting, and when she saw it, she gave the woman a small half smile before turning her attention on Andy. "We're going now."
"I know." Sharon took one last look at Andrea, feeling her already hurting heart break a little more for the defeat evident in her stance, and vowed that when she was out of the hospital once more, she would do everything in her power to set their friendship back on the right track.
Sharon tried to protest the use of an oxygen mask at first, once she had been placed in a private room in the cardiology department. But once the ease of breathing with it became apparent, she relented and instead, tried to turn her focus onto Andy. He was talking to Doctor Jacobs, and she frowned at them both, trying to get their attention without speaking to them, since it was so difficult to make noise while wearing the mask. Finally, she resigned herself to pulling her heart monitor off her finger, causing the machines to beep erratically, drawing both of them to her side.
"Sharon, you need to leave that in place," the doctor said gently as Andy sank down onto the bed next to her, picking up her free hand and threading their fingers together. "Now, I need to ask you a few questions to determine our treatment plans from here on out, since it is clear that our current approach is not working."
She nodded and he looked over his shoulder at the nurse in the room, speaking lowly to her. It bothered Sharon that she wasn't strong enough to focus in on his words, since that meant things were a little more serious than she wanted them to be, and she frowned up at Andy. "The nurse is getting you a nasal cannula so that you can talk with Doctor Jacobs." She nodded a little and squeezed his hand. "Andrea said that she and the boys will be here in about thirty minutes, but I don't know how many visitors, if any, you'll be allowed tonight, since it is technically past visiting hours."
"I'll let them see Sharon for about ten minutes, but then you'll all have to leave. She needs her rest, first and foremost," Doctor Jacobs replied as he turned his attention back on them. "All right, Louise is getting the cannula and will be back in a few seconds, as the cart is just a few doors down."
The woman reappeared very quickly and efficiently set Sharon up with the other oxygenation device, allowing her the freedom to speak. "Thank you," she murmured at the nurse before looking at Doctor Jacobs. "All right, Doctor, what do we need to discuss?"
"I need to know what precipitated this attack. This one seemed much more prolonged than your previous ones, and there are a few things that are giving me pause as I look at your vitals."
Those were never good words to hear, and Sharon glanced up at Andy, hoping that there was something he could do to ease her mind a little. All he did, though, was smile a little at her before turning his focus on Doctor Jacobs once more. Letting out a slightly frustrated sigh, she drew in a deep breath and closed her eyes. "What do you need to know?"
"Were you feeling all right today? Was there anything unusual that happened before you had your attack? Andy mentioned that you weren't at home when it occurred."
"I thought that I was doing all right, honestly. If anything, I would have thought that the incident a few weekends ago would have brought about an attack, since that was more fraught than what happened this evening."
"I did hear about the shooting. Is your friend doing all right?"
"It was a through and through shot, so she didn't have to wear a sling, though she is favoring that side a little, which is to be expected. I was actually over at her home when the attack happened."
Sharon knew then that she had been neatly drawn into revealing what she had been doing before she had taken ill. "Yes. We ended up arguing about that, because of who shot her. He's still out there, and she needs to listen to the voice of reason and stay where we can have a protection detail on her."
"And I take it that you're the voice of reason?"
There was a slight tone of amusement in his voice that she took umbrage to, and she arched one eyebrow as she stared him down, watching the way he shrugged his shoulders in quick succession before clearing his throat. "In this case? Yes, Doctor Jacobs, I am. You might be the voice of reason when it comes to my heart health, but when it comes to keeping people safe? Especially those that I love? I am the voice of reason. Now, how long before I can get out of here?"
Doctor Jacobs exchanged a quick look with Andy, and that clued Sharon in to the fact that she was about to receive news that she didn't want. "If something as simple as an argument can cause you to have this severe of an attack, then you are in a much worse position than I had previously thought. I have already put your name on the organ transplant list, and because of your current health status, I feel confident that you will be moved right towards the top of it. However, there are a few things that we'll need to go over."
"And what's that?" Andy asked, squeezing her hand a few times.
"Andy, stop. There's nothing to know. Doctor Jacobs is going to take my name off the transplant list, as there are many other people who need and deserve a donor heart before me."
"And I am not about to lose you before we get the chance to have a married life together. Also? I think that your children would like to give you grandchildren before you die. There's so much to live for, Sharon!" He let go of her hand and brushed his fingers through her hair, and she gave him a watery smile as the first of his tears splashed down on her face.
"Sharon?" She turned her face to focus on her doctor once more. "Do you really want me to take you off the list?" She shook her head no, and he gave her a small smile. "Okay, then the other thing that we're going to need to happen is you will remain here until we have a match for you."
She blinked a few times as she tried to process what he was saying to her. And when the full implication of what he had said hit her, tears began to roll down her cheeks as she shook her head slowly. "I can't live here for God knows how long! My family is in danger. I have to protect them!"
"I know that's what you want, Sharon, but you need to put your physical health at the forefront right now. Your loved ones will be not any good dividing their attention between you and whatever they need to be doing." Doctor Jacobs reached out and patted her shoulder softly, causing her to cry a little harder. "Andy, if you want to bring some clothes and things for her here, we'll have Sharon set up in a private suite. Once we know that her condition is stabilized, she'll be free to have as many visitors as she likes."
"About that," Andy started as he stood up and began to lead her doctor out of the room. Sharon knew that her husband was filling him in on Stroh, and how there would have to be security measures taken, she just knew it, but in that moment, she didn't want to be alone. And then, the door to her room swung open, and Andrea stepped inside, worry marring her fine features as she rushed over to Sharon.
"I thought that you would probably be kept overnight for observation, so I quickly threw together a bag for tonight and tomorrow. And don't worry, I'll stay with you until we catch Stroh and deal with him. I won't worry you needlessly, I promise." Tears trembled on her eyelashes before she looked away from Sharon and took a few deep breaths. "I have to go now, Andy was very insistent that we couldn't spend too much time here tonight, and I know that Rusty wants to see you, too. I'll come by tomorrow, Don said I could take as much time as I needed after getting shot, after all."
Andrea bent and hugged her gently before getting up and scurrying from the room, though Sharon thought that she heard her sob as the door closed behind her. Letting out a little sigh, she waited for Rusty to come in, most of her attention on her departed friend.
Sharon woke up in an awkward position, and she frowned deeply as she sat up and stretched, trying not to dislodge any of the wires that were monitoring her health. Managing to get out of the bed, she slipped her feet into the slippers that Andrea had been so thoughtful to include in her overnight bag and made her way over to the bathroom. She was surprised to find that she was a little more winded than she normally would be, but if Doctor Jacobs was to be believed, that was a result of her latest episode.
Still, she managed to take care of her needs and shuffle back to the bed without sounding too much like a leaky windbag, and she settled back on the too thin pillows as she pulled the rough blanket up around her hips, wishing that she had something from home to wrap up with. Reaching over, she picked up her phone and scrolled through her messages, only able to answer Andy and Rusty before noticing that her battery was low. Sighing a little, Sharon set it aside and turned her attention to the television, hoping that something interesting was on.
Even that failed to keep her attention, so she turned the television off and waited for the next person to visit her room. It was a nurse, different from last night, and she watched the man cross over to the whiteboard and write his name there before turning to smile at her. "Hi, I'm Charlie, and I'll be your day nurse for the next few days. Breakfast will be by in a short while, you are up rather early, after all."
"Do I get a choice for breakfast?" she asked a bit peevishly, and Charlie shook his head, his optimistic smile never leaving his lips. "Why not?"
"You're in the cardiac wing for a reason, and as such, will have a healthy set of meals for as long as you're here. At least you'll get to have visitors today!"
Sharon nodded and flopped back against her pillows, watching as he took her vitals and then wrote them in her chart. "Everything look okay?"
"Yes," he replied as he tapped the tablet with his pencil and then looked up at her. "Expect breakfast in twenty minutes. Until then, is there anything that I can get you?"
"No, I'm certain I can find something to occupy myself until food arrives." She smiled at him, though she knew it was an expression that didn't reach her eyes, and he gave a halting nod before turning and leaving the room. Once she was alone again, Sharon let out a deep sigh and tried to figure out how to use the remote and change the channel to something a little more intriguing than gameshows. Finally, she landed on BBC News and focused on that until an orderly arrived with her food.
As she ate, she hummed to herself a little, feeling all the better for having some food in her stomach, even if it was bland. Sharon went to take another bite, only to hear soft knocking on her door. "Come in!" she called out before eating the next bite, a wide smile crossing across her face when she saw Andrea come in. "You are such a sight for sore eyes! Please tell me that you brought a charger for my phone and my tablet?"
"Andy helped me put together a better bag for today. There was a lot that I forgot yesterday, wasn't there?"
"All that mattered was I had my own pyjamas to sleep in, Andrea. Come, sit down." She patted the side of her bed, and the woman gave her a small smile as she complied, watching Sharon finish the last of her meal. "All right, I can't help but hope you read my mind and brought me a blanket from home? The ones here are a little…itchy."
"Andy thought I was crazy for grabbing the one from the couch before I came, but…these are things that a best friend knows about, yes?" Sharon nodded as she watched Andrea unzip the bag and pull out the aforementioned blanket. "Did you at least sleep well?"
"As best as I could, I just don't do well away from home. And there was no one here to talk to. I suppose there's a guard posted outside my room?" Andrea nodded. "Great. I know, it's necessary…"
"It's what you hounded me on, Sharon."
She looked guiltily at her lap, only for Andrea to touch her hand gently, causing her to look up. "I'm not very good at taking my own advice, am I?"
"Are any of us?" Sharon waited a beat before shaking her head. "I, I have something to talk to you about, and I know that neither of us are going to be particularly comfortable speaking about it. But the elephant in the room needs to be addressed before it tramples all over our relationship. Why did you kiss me the other day?"
Sharon blushed deeply as she continued to stare steadily into Andrea's eyes. "I care about you, I should think you know that by now."
Andrea nodded and reached out, taking hold of Sharon's hand, threading their fingers together. "Just as I care about you. Or rather, I love you. Care seems so ephemeral, especially right now, when I thought I was going to lose you. But that still doesn't answer my question, really. Because that wasn't a friendly kiss."
A long sigh slipped from Sharon's lips as she absently tapped the back of Andrea's hand with her thumb. "It wasn't, I know. But I wanted to keep you in the apartment, with us, and I was willing to do anything to achieve that goal, even if it meant doing something drastic. And the worst thing, Andrea, is that it felt right. I love Andy with all my heart, so why did it feel so right to kiss you, too?"
They looked at each other again, and Sharon felt like she was being pulled deeper into Andrea's being as she leaned forward, closing the distance between them until there was only a fraction of an inch left. "We can't keep doing this," Andrea murmured, her sweet breath fanning against Sharon's face, the delicious scent of her coffee tickling her nose as she shrugged. "Oh, Sharon…" And then, Andrea leaned in, pressing her lips softly against Sharon's as Sharon closed her free hand into the soft fabric of Andrea's sweater, pulling her close against her body as she leaned back on the pillows, relishing the warmth that her friend provided as the kiss lingered on.
The air seemed electrified as Andrea broke the kiss, breathing heavily as she looked anywhere but at Sharon. "This is what I don't understand, Andrea. I asked my priest for what to do, he said to do Hail Marys and some acts of charity. Instead, I've repeated the same action."
"I share some of the blame here. This is why I didn't want to remain in the condo, with you and Andy. Because the last thing I want to do is hurt either of you, and that is where this is going to lead if we're not careful." Sharon scooted over and made room for Andrea on the bed, allowing the younger woman to stretch out as a stillness spread through the room, the quiet of it seeping into the marrow of Sharon's bones as she tried to think of where they would go from here.
It had been five long, boring, days in the hospital and Sharon found herself already itching to get out of the hospital and into her own home. She understood the need to be in a place that could help her immediately if she had another attack, but as she was accustomed to doing something, this enforced quietude was beginning to grate.
And if she was honest with herself, the secret that she was keeping was also beginning to weigh heavily on her heart. She knew that she needed to tell Andy, sooner rather than later, but there was this heavy feeling of trepidation that crept into the pit of her stomach every time that she had gone to tell him about the kisses. Still, there was a part of her that wanted to keep everything a secret, because she didn't want to lose Andy, not when her health was so precarious.
The door to her room opened without preamble, and she knew that her husband had arrived, since everyone else made certain to announce their arrival by knocking. "Hello, Andy," she called out when she saw him appear, a large bouquet of flowers in his hands. "Those are lovely."
"Yeah, Gus did a good job picking them out. I figured that you would want something pretty to brighten up this room. Everything's a little bland."
She laughed a little as she nodded, pointing towards the window sill. Andy nodded and set the vase down there before coming over to her side and taking a seat on the bed. She gave him a small smile before scooting over a little to give him more room. "Still, it was very kind of you both to think of me. How is the case going?"
"Nowhere fast. We all know that Stroh is behind all these attacks on Rusty and Andrea, but Mason doesn't see it that way, and now that the man has gone underground, our attention is divided between other cases and working on taking down Stroh in our limited free time. It's grating on me, and Louie is just as on edge."
"And how is Rusty doing? I'd imagine that Andrea is running him ragged, since her shoulder is still bothering her."
"He hasn't complained too much, but I think that might be because Andrea has taken to being a little mother hen in the apartment. I think that it's because you aren't home to be a more calming influence. There's just something a little frenetic about her these days."
"Ah," she murmured, threading her fingers together as she looked away from him, staring at the flowers she had brought. "I'm really bored here."
"Andrea figured that would be the case. She's going to stop by after work with Rusty, so that there's no need to split up the guards." He patted her hand softly, causing her to look up at him. "How are things between you? I know that you haven't really talked about what happened the night of your attack, but things seem to be working out a little better, yes?"
Sharon could tell by the look on his face that he was not fishing for information from her, and that somehow made her feel all the worse. Letting out a long breath, she nodded in response to her husband. "Things have been awkward, yes, because I think she feels a bit guilty about my being here. It's not her fault that I have a bad heart, just like you."
She pursed her lips together to try and stifle her sob as Andy reached over and placed his hand over hers. "That just makes us a perfectly matched pair."
A small whimper escaped her lips as she nodded, feeling like his words were cutting her heart to ribbons. "That we are. Andy?"
She didn't know why she was about to tell him now, only that she knew it had to be right then, before the words got too stuck in her throat and would never agree to come out. Taking a deep, calming, breath, she clasped his hand, needing to feel like he was connected to her in some small way before everything went to hell. He squeezed reassuringly, and Sharon nodded, trying to screw up the courage to tell him what was weighing on her heart and mind.
"Sharon? Everything is going to be okay."
"No, it's not!" she finally managed to get out, looking up at the ceiling as she felt the first tears start to prickle her eyes. "I've been less than faithful to you. I didn't mean to do it, but I've kissed someone else, twice now."
"Let me guess, Andrea?"
She gasped a little as she whipped her head down to look at him. "How did you know? I didn't breathe a word about it, except to our priest to receive absolution."
"You've been close for some time now, and there are certain things that people know, Sharon. Andrea's been half in love with you for years, I can't believe you've never seen that."
"She's just always been my best friend, Andy. I've never looked at her like that. Until we kissed."
He let go of her hand to reach up and cup her cheek, his thumb running along the edge of her cheekbone, absently flicking away the tears that were falling. "I had always assumed that things had gotten a bit physical between the two of you, based on how close you allowed her in your sphere. Emma and Linda were never as close with you as Andrea."
"Well, Linda was always on the opposite side of the table, you know that. And Emma was so much younger than Andrea and myself. We don't have anything in common."
"And you and Andrea do?"
"Yes," she replied quickly, and then stopped to think about things. Truthfully, they didn't have that much in common, seeing as how they came from much different backgrounds. But they had always clicked on a level that seemed to be beyond commonalities. "Or maybe I just feel like we have a lot in common because of how well we get along?"
Andy nodded at that before he leaned in and kissed her forehead tenderly. "You love deeply and well. And that's why you probably didn't notice that the way Andrea feels for you is a little different than how you look at her. I probably wouldn't have noticed it, either, if Andrea hadn't started staying with us."
Sharon swallowed thickly as she leaned closer to him, resting her head on his chest. "Where do we go from here? I love you, but…"
"But you don't want to lose either of us." Sharon nodded. "Well, I know that I don't want to lose you, either, so I guess that it will be up to you to decide where you want to go from here. Knowing that you've kissed Andrea doesn't bother me, honestly, because I love you."
"I kept it from you until now. Are you certain that doesn't bother you in the slightest?" She was having a hard time wrapping her mind around the fact that he wasn't upset with her, that he wasn't demanding a divorce, and that he was acting in the complete opposite way that Jack might have reacted, and so she couldn't help but probe and question a little more.
Andy seemed to know what her heart was getting at, as he wrapped an arm around her and pulled her close, rocking them back and forth gently. "Yes, I'm bothered a little. But I'm not going to be like Jack and berate you for this. And, if you allow me to be slightly off color for a moment, the idea of you kissing Andrea is an unexpected good thing."
Sharon knew he was teasing her, so she lightly smacked his chest before chuckling and kissing his jaw lightly. "Don't think that it will ever happen where you can see, Andrew Flynn. Andrea is deeply private, and the fact that I've told you this about us would embarrass her so much. Let me break it to her that you know? And try not to tease her about it when you see her tonight."
"Of course, Sharon," he replied before kissing the top of her head, and she sighed with pleasure, so glad that she had had the courage to tell him before things had gotten out of hand.
Doctor Jacobs bustled into her room the next day with a happy smile on her face. "I have the feeling that you are going to love and hate me with this news, Sharon."
She looked up from the tablet in her hand and raised an eyebrow as he approached her bedside, looking through her chart with that same bright grin. "I'm waiting, Doctor."
"Yes, you are. And you can do the rest of your waiting at home."
It took a moment for her to understand his words, and then her own smile was spreading across her lips. "Truly? I can go home?" He nodded, chuckling a little as he did so. "Then why would I hate you? I've been wanting to go home for almost a week!"
"Well, there's a rather large condition that I'll be asking of you. And I will task your husband and son to with holding you to this condition, and if you don't, they're to report to me, and you'll be back here, waiting until your heart comes in." She rolled her eyes a little and motioned for him to get on with it. "So, your condition of going home is that you are not allowed to even think about work until I clear you to go back. If I hear even so much as a hint that someone on your squad brought you over a file to look over, I will have you brought back here. Now, I know you're going to talk about it with Andy, since he's your husband, and a part of Major Crimes, but I am trusting him to know enough to not cross the line into pushing you."
"As long as I can be at home, I think that I can live with not being able to work for a few months, Doctor Jacobs." She smiled largely at him, watching the grin his face dim a little before returning to its former wideness. "Doctor?"
"Your recovery might not be as quick as that. I don't want you to get your hopes up and think that in four months, you'll have your new heart and be back to chasing down the scum of the city. We're looking at something along the lines of a year to eighteen months before you could even look at desk duty again, and that's after you go through the transplant procedure."
Sharon felt the bottom of her stomach drop out as she began to realise the magnitude of how ill she was. In the back of her mind, she had known that she had been minimizing things, however, knowing that she would be sidelined for so long was a blow she hadn't been prepared to take at that moment. "Would, would it be all right if I ran by work today, after you release me, to speak with my boss and explain what's going on? I promise not to do any work, but this is something that I can't keep from him any longer."
"That would be fine," he replied as he signed off on the tablet. "All right, who are you going to call to pick you up?"
She hadn't thought about that and she let out a deep sigh. "I can't bother Andy at work," she murmured, "and Andrea isn't supposed to drive yet because of her arm. I suppose that I could call Rusty and have him pick me up."
"Well, whoever you ask to do so, tell them that they can expect you to be ready to go in an hour. Oh, and no caffeine."
"I sort of figured that when I didn't get any coffee with my breakfasts," she said with a smile. "All right, I'll call Rusty and then get ready to leave." Doctor Jacobs nodded as he left the room, and Sharon climbed out of bed and pulled out fresh clothes before padding to the bathroom and quickly changing into something that was more professional for meeting with Chief Mason. While it wasn't exactly the image she wished to present, it would have to do, and she shook her head a little at her reflection before slowly making her way back to her bed and picking up her cell.
Rusty picked up on the second ring, which surprised her, since she knew that he was supposed to be working at this time. "Mom! Is everything all right?"
Sharon chuckled a little. "Everything is fine, and I have some very good news for us. Doctor Jacobs has released me to come home and wait for the transplant, as long as I agree to abide by his rules. And at this point? I would do anything to be out of this hospital room and see something dear and familiar."
"That's wonderful! But why did you call me?"
"I need someone to pick me up. And since I don't want to bother Andy in the middle of a case, I thought that you might like to do the honors."
"Sure thing. When do you need me?"
"As quickly as you can get here. I'm to be released within the hour."
"All right, just let me tell Andrea what's up, and then I'll be on my way."
"See you soon, then." They hung up, and Sharon collapsed on her bed, not wanting to admit to herself that she was more winded than she was used to. After she had caught her breath, she stood once more and packed up her belongings before moving over to the chair in the corner of the room and making herself comfortable until Rusty arrived.
Once everything was squared away, and Sharon was stepping out into the fresh air, she felt immeasurably better, and as she settled into the passenger seat of his car, she turned to Rusty and gave him a wide smile. "Yeah?"
"There is one stop that we need to make before we head home. I really need to update Chief Mason on my health, since things are going to take longer than I initially thought they would." Rusty nodded and pulled out into traffic, and Sharon watched out the window as the scenery passed them by, her soul feeling immensely better for being free from the hospital. Once they were at the precinct, she allowed Rusty to let her out near the door, and she smiled as she greeted the woman behind the desk before making her way over to the elevators and riding up to Mason's floor.
Thankfully, he was in his office when she arrived, and rather than knocking on the door, she slipped inside and took residence in the chair in front of his desk. He blanched a little as he looked up from his report and saw her, and a wide smile spread across her lips at the sight. "Sharon! I wasn't expecting you!"
"I was released from hospital this morning, and had to come right here. There are some things that we need to discuss about my future with Major Crimes." His brow furrowed a little as he nodded, and Sharon took a deep breath. "I have been less than forthcoming about my health these last few months. It is something much more serious than a lingering flu, and it will be consuming more of my time than I thought it would. I'm going to need a heart transplant."
Mason leaned across the desk and reached out for her hand. She allowed him to clasp it tightly, and they looked at each other. "What do you need?"
"Time. My doctor said that once I have the transplant, I'm looking at a year to eighteen months in recovery. I know that that's not entirely feasible to expect that I can just jump back into my previous position, as you're going to need a commander to replace me in my absence, and then asking that person to step back down when I return would make things awkward. But I don't want this to be my swan song, either."
She didn't realise she was crying until Mason was handing her a tissue, and she took it with her free hand, dabbing at her cheeks as she gave him a wobbly smile. "We'll work with you to get you whatever you need, Sharon. Your health is what matters most right now."
"Then, will you give Andrea her own protection detail?" she asked, trying to joke about something in her life, knowing that his answer would be no. Mason shook his head a little as he laughed, and Sharon laughed in return, grateful that at least there was something good to come out of this meeting.
Sharon hummed under her breath as she set the timer on the oven before padding over to the sofa and taking a seat, curling up with her blanket before picking up the stack of mail from the table next to her. She didn't know how so much mail could pile up in such a short time, especially when it seemed like they didn't normally receive that much in a month. As she opened another card from Emily, she heard the door open, and she looked up to see Andrea and Andy enter the apartment, Rusty at their heels.
A warm smile crossed her lips as she set aside Emily's card and beckoned them over to her side. "I just put our food in the oven, so it will be about thirty minutes until we eat." Rusty frowned a little before heading up to his room, while Andrea took a seat in the chair nearest her, while Andy took a seat on the sofa, pulling her feet into his lap and starting to rub them as he continued his conversation with Andrea. The soothing sound of their voices lulled her into a light sleep, and the next thing she knew, she was being prodded awake gently by Andrea.
"Andy's getting everything ready at the table." Sharon nodded as she held out her hand. Andrea took hold of it and tugged her to her feet, her arm slinging around Sharon's waist as they made the short walk into the kitchen. Rusty gave them an odd look, but Sharon just shrugged a little as she took a seat in the chair Andy pulled out for her.
"This looks delicious, Sharon. But should you really be cooking when you should be resting? After all, the doctor did say that you were supposed to rest. And cooking is not resting."
"No, but I needed something to keep myself occupied, dear. Though I made certain to take my time and not overexert myself. And whatever groceries I needed I had ordered in, so I didn't waste any energy shopping. I learned well from my enforced stillness in the hospital." She gave him a small smile before turning her attention to her son. "And how did you help Andrea today?"
"I had to do a lot of research, which was boring…"
"None of that, now. A lot of what we do as district attorneys is research and preparation. It's not a glamorous job, but someone has to do it. And you did get to run a few errands for me, so it's not like you were cooped up in my office all day." Sharon shot Andrea a dark look, and the other woman just shook her head. "He didn't leave the building, but I know that a short leash can get tiresome after a while. Which is why you were cooking today, rather than resting. You needed to test your boundaries of what you could do and not get too tired."
Sharon blushed a little as she looked down at her plate, stabbing into a chunk of carrot with a little more force than necessary. "As long as he's safe, I suppose that's all right."
Rusty smiled almost smugly, but Sharon shook her head at him, a stern look passing across her features as she continued to regard him steadily. "So, Mom, I was thinking. Tomorrow's Saturday, and since the DA's office doesn't work on Saturdays, usually, I won't have anything to do. Do you think we could go to the shooting range together, and maybe you could give me a few tips? I need to learn how to shoot better if I'm going to learn how to protect you and Andrea."
"What? It's true, you don't know how to fire a gun, and with Mom not feeling the best, it shouldn't be all on her and Andy to do that job, someone has to have your backs." He turned his focus on Sharon once more, giving her an almost plaintive look. "Please?"
"I know that I am not going to feel up to a trip like that tomorrow, Rusty. I'm sorry. Why don't you and Andy do that? I can get some rest that way, and Andrea can keep me company. Would that be all right for you?"
Rusty slumped in his chair as he gave a halfhearted nod. "I suppose."
"Do you want your mom to be around for a long time or not?" Andrea retorted hotly, and Sharon glanced over to see that she was frowning at her son, almost shaking with her anger. "If she says she needs time to recover, you should give her time to recover."
"Whoa, didn't mean to touch a raw nerve there, Andrea. Sorry." Rusty held up his hands for a few seconds before turning his attention back to his plate. Sharon glanced over at Andy, seeing the look of amusement on his face. She gave him a small nod and smile before finishing up her meal, listening to Andy and Andrea talk, offering the odd comment where appropriate, and watching Rusty sulk from the corner of her eye.
"Is there any big case coming up soon for your office, Andrea?" she finally asked, wanting to find a topic that she could include Rusty in as well. Andrea gave her a surprised look before nodding as she swallowed.
"I'm not working on it, since I've been trying to get smaller cases, just on the off chance I need to be free to prosecute Stroh, but Williams is in the middle of a drug trafficking case that I would have loved to been a part of. That's what I was having Rusty work on today, since more information came to light while he was in court."
"Oh, that is very interesting," Sharon said lowly as she set aside her fork and looked at her son. "Well, did you learn anything today?"
"Drugs are bad?" he said, sounding a bit bored with the whole conversation. Shaking her head a little, Sharon let out a soft sigh, turning her attention to Andy in an effort to get him to engage Rusty in conversation. He took the hint, giving her a small nod before looking at Rusty.
"Did you talk to Gus today at all?" he asked affably, and for a fraction of a second, Rusty relaxed, a silly smile slipping across his lips before the surly scowl returned.
"We talked during his lunch break. Things are still awkward between us, but they're getting better." Once those words were said, Rusty pushed back from the table and picked up his plate, carrying it over to the sink and cleaning it off before sticking it in the dishwasher. "I'm going to head up to my room now. I have to study for the LSATs."
They all nodded to him, but it wasn't until his door had closed that Andrea looked between the two of them, frowning a little. "Did I do something to piss him off? Because that was a decidedly cold shoulder he was giving all of us."
"I don't think that it was you, Andrea. I think that I ticked him off by refusing to go out tomorrow. And I really wish that I could, but I don't think it's wise to test those sort of boundaries so soon after being released from the hospital."
"That is probably the wisest words I've heard come from your lips in some time, Sharon," Andy said as he got up from the table and took care of their dishes. "Why don't you head into the living room and I'll bring us something sweet."
"There are cookies in the freezer," Andrea sang out as they moved to the sofa. Sharon laughed as she curled up in her corner, pulling the blanket around her waist as Andrea sat down next to her, tugging a corner of the blanket over her own legs as she did so.
"I didn't realise that having limited use of my non-dominant arm would tire me out as much as it does, but there you. I think I'm going to turn in for the night. And before you say it, no, this does not make me old!"
Sharon laughed a little as she shook her head. "I would never suggest that, Andrea. And I think that I might be following you shortly. Having a bad heart also wears a body out."
Andrea frowned a little as she reached out and stroked her shoulder softly. "If we're keeping you up, tell us."
"I will, and you're not. Go to sleep, Andrea, we can talk while the boys play with their toys tomorrow." They both giggled as they looked at Andy, and he rolled his eyes as Andrea got to her feet and went over to the staircase. "Wake me up at eight, if I'm still asleep!"
"Okay!" Andrea called out, and then Sharon turned her attention back to her husband, seeing that he was giving her a warm smile.
"What?" she asked as she snuggled back into the couch, trying to stifle the yawn that was threatening to escape her mouth.
"You shouldn't worry about what time you wake up, Sharon. This is your time to do whatever you want, within reason, so allow yourself to relax a little, even if that means sleeping in until noon."
"I will never be able to sleep in that long. Even asking to be woken up at eight is pushing things, you should know that by now."
He winked as he gave her a roguish smile, and Sharon sighed a little as she patted the place that Andrea had just vacated. Andy got up and took a seat, tugging her gently over so that she was curled up on his chest. As his fingers started to card through her hair, Sharon felt herself relax a little, her guard coming down as she wrapped an arm around his torso, let out a soft grunt of contentment. "Can I let you in on a secret?"
"What is it?" she whispered.
"I love watching you and Andrea talk. There's an ease to things between you, something so different from what we have. I was expecting to be a little angrier with your confession, and with seeing things for what they are between you and her, but I know that you love me, and being secure in that has allowed a certain fondness to creep in for her. And that's why I want you to do something for me."
"What's that?" she asked as she rubbed her cheek against his shirt, trying to make herself more comfortable, since she planned on staying there for a good long time.
"I want you to spend the night with Andrea, talking and laughing. She's been uptight and worried ever since you went into the hospital, and I could hear her crying sometimes, when she thought we had all fallen sleep. She blames herself for your condition getting worse, even if she didn't come right out and say that. Though she didn't have to say it, what with the morose looks and sharp words she reserved for us all."
"That is Andrea," she murmured as she pushed away from his chest a little to look into his eyes. "I was hoping to spend tonight curled up in your arms, dreaming about the possibility of a future with you." Andy smiled a little when she said that, leaning forward to kiss her forehead sweetly. "I mean it, tonight should be about you."
"And I received some instructions from Doctor Jacobs that would make that slightly impossible, knowing both of us." He reached down and brought her hands up to his lips, kissing them softly. Understanding filled her being, and she nodded, even as a slight blush rose up in her cheeks. "Perhaps, in a few days, when you're cleared for being slightly more active fun, we can share a bed again. But I just want your safety to be first and foremost."
"I do love you, Andy."
"I know." He kissed her once more before gently pushing her off him. "Go."
"Yes," she replied, standing up and leaning down to kiss him tenderly. "And at least this way, I'll wake up when I want to." She made certain to put a teasing tone in her voice as she sashayed over to the staircase, listening to his deep laugh as she started up the stairs. Sharon headed to their room first, getting ready for the night as quickly as she could before shoving her feet into slippers and making her way over to Andrea's room.
Sharon knocked softly on the door before opening it and standing in the threshold, looking shyly at Andrea. "Come to say goodnight, then?" Andrea asked, her voice sounding strangely thick.
"I wish. Andy kicked me out of our room for a few nights, until he can get the doctor to agree that things are allowed to get slightly physical between us." Andrea coughed a little, and Sharon watched the tips of her ears turn a bright red. "He trusts that you'll be able to take care of me until then."
It was a bit mean of her to tease Andrea when she knew that her feelings were more than platonic for her, but it was good to see that she could affect her so. "I will do my best to take care of you, for him," she replied as she scooted over in the bed, making room for Sharon there. She nodded and quickly crossed the room, letting the door close softly behind her as she climbed into the bed, fluffing the pillow slightly before stretching out and pulling the sheet up to her chest as she turned to look at her friend.
"You know, I feel like I haven't told you this enough, but what happened wasn't your fault. I have a bad heart. I'm on the transplant list. You had no hand in knitting me together in my mother's womb, since last I checked you're a little bit younger than me, and therefore, not God." Andrea laughed nervously, and Sharon reached out to cup the other woman's face, running her thumb back and forth along the woman's cheekbone. "And Andy knows that I've kissed you, and he seems to think he knows something about all of us that I haven't discovered yet. But I think that we'll get there soon, don't you?"
Andrea nodded as their faces drifted closer and closer together, their lips finally touching in a petal soft kiss. "I think that we will," Andrea murmured as she pulled away a little to look at Sharon once more. "Though I'm not too certain we should share too many kisses like that before we really talk to Andy. Okay?"
"I can live with that. And I am going to live," Sharon replied as she, too, pulled away a little, smiling tenderly at Andrea as they settled into the bed. "I had thought, at one point, I might just take the Last Rites, and live out the rest of my life as I was given."
"What changed your mind?"
"So many things, but mostly, seeing my children at the wedding. Knowing that I had the chance to see my grandchildren. And I had the opportunity to love so many people, too," she said, thinking of Andy. And then, she looked at Andrea, seeing the soft, open, look on her face. Unable to stop herself, Sharon wrapped her arm around Andrea's waist, pulling her closer once more as she let out a soft sigh. "Now, I want to hear all about how you cowed Andy every night I was in the hospital."
Andrea giggled a little as she nodded, launching into a story, and Sharon let her head come to rest on Andrea's pillow, listening intently to just what her husband had been put through while she was stuck in an antiseptic hospital room.
Their days fell into an easy rhythm, and Sharon began to feel a little better, despite knowing that her health was still in a precarious position. Stroh had seemed to faded into a deep cover, and that frustrated Andy to no end, though he tried not to let that show too much when he was home, since it was clear that he didn't want to upset her too much. Andrea also seemed shorter, but Sharon chalked that up to the fact that despite having overwhelming evidence on her side of the case, the jury had decided to find the person not guilty.
"I can't believe that people can be so dumb as to fall for a flashy lawyer," Andrea moaned as she plopped down onto the sofa next to Sharon, shoving a bowl of ice cream into her hands as she picked up the remote and started the movie.
"There are some seriously dumb people in this world, Andrea. You know that!"
The other woman nodded as she let her head thump heavily down on Sharon's shoulder. It seemed like, since Sharon had said that Andy knew about their kisses, the woman had been freer with her affection, not that she minded. It felt nice to have gentle touches from both the people closest to her in her life. "I just assume that people are smarter than they are when they're serving for jury duty."
"In a perfect world, eh, Sharon?"
She looked up at Andy and nodded, a wide grin slipping across her face as he took a seat in the chair next to the couch. "Yes, exactly. I don't know if you'll like this movie, Andy. I'm not even certain I'll like it."
"I am trying to bring some culture to this household, thank you very much," Andrea said tartly, before turning her attention back to the television. "And if you'll be quiet, we can watch and learn something!"
Sharon stifled her giggle as she nodded, digging into her ice cream as she focused on the movie that was playing. It felt so good to have a lazy Saturday with them, while Rusty was out with Gus. Andrea soon relaxed against her once more, and Sharon absently started running her fingers through Andrea's fine hair as the movie played on.
It seemed like this would be a perfect day, and Sharon let out a contented sigh as Andrea slid down her body until her head was in Sharon's lap, making it easier for her to play with her hair as she continued to watch. Towards the end of the movie, Andy's phone rang, and he stood up quickly, jogging over to the kitchen to answer, and Sharon allowed her mind to wander as she tried to focus on two things at once. Though she couldn't hear Andy's words clearly, she could tell by his tone that it was nothing good.
"Pause the movie, Andrea," he said seriously, and the woman hurriedly complied, sitting up so that they were both looking at him. "There's been a sighting of Stroh, and Buzz thinks that he's figured out where to find him or his conspirator. He wasn't really clear on which. I need to get to the precinct now, and I don't know when I'll be home. Take care of her, Andrea, and I'll check in when I can."
They nodded in unison, and Sharon let out a shaky breath as she watched her husband step into loafers before shrugging on his jacket and heading out the door. "Tell me it's stupid to be nervous, Andrea."
"I wish that I could. But we both know that Stroh is a son of a bitch who doesn't care about who he hurts. All we can do is pray for his safety." Sharon nodded as she decided that she would be the one to curl up against Andrea this time, resting her head on the woman's chest as she listened to her strong heartbeat. "But I will do my best to take care of you."
"I know that, Andrea. You've done it so well this far."
A pleased sound slipped from her lips, and then Sharon felt her kiss the top of her head. "Are we going to finish the movie?"
"Yeah, I think so. Andy wasn't too interested in it, but I really like it." Andrea nodded and reached out for the remote and started the movie up once more. It had a good ending, and she found herself sighing happily as the credits began to roll. Sitting up, she stretched before rolling her head on her neck a little, trying to work out the kinks. "Um, let's go take care of the dishes, and then maybe we can go for a small walk in the courtyard."
Andrea nodded as she stood up, grabbing their bowls and making her way to the kitchen, following her, and taking occasional looks at her rear. After all, if Andy were to be believed, Andrea had feelings for her, and that meant she had probably casually checked Sharon out, too, once in a while. "You're staring at my ass."
"I am not!" she protested, only for Andrea to burst into laughter as she turned to look at Sharon. "Shush!"
"You give yourself away every time, Sharon."
She nodded guiltily as she leaned against the counter, staring at Andrea. "I figured that I was allowed certain liberties."
"You might be," she replied coyly, and it was Sharon's turn to laugh as she continued to watch Andrea. "All right, let's get ready for this walk."
Sharon nodded and pushed herself away from the counter, taking a few steps towards the front closet, only for her phone to ring loudly. It was the ringtone she had selected for the transplant center, and she gasped loudly as she looked at Andrea. "This can't be happening. Not on today, of all days."
"They found you a heart when half of your heart is running after a madman. It does make a sick, ironic, sense." Andrea grabbed the phone, since she was closer, and answered for Sharon. "Hello? Yes, give me one moment."
She crossed over to Sharon's side, holding out the phone to her. "Doctor Jacobs?"
"Yes. I know, this probably isn't how you wanted to spend your Saturday, but I have really good news for you."
"You found me a perfect match."
"Yes, and I need you to get to the hospital right away."
"There's probably not time for me to call Andy and have him meet us there, is there?"
"Not really, no. There is a lot that will go into this procedure, and the sooner we start it, the sooner you have a new lease on life."
She took a deep breath and met Andrea's eye, seeing a deep well of love shine back at her, as if she was trying to be strong enough for the both of them in this moment. "All right, Andrea and I will be there as soon as we can. Thank you, Doctor Jacobs."
"My pleasure, Sharon."
They hung up, and Sharon took a few shaky breaths before bursting into tears. "I don't want to do this without both of you."
Andrea wrapped her in a tight hug, stroking her back gently as she hummed in her ear. "I'm the best you have, Sharon."
"And you're a good best, just not my only best." Pulling away, she stroked Andrea's face before taking some deep breaths. "All right, can you run upstairs and grab my hospital bag? I made certain to keep it stocked after my last incident."
"All right, darling."
The endearment must have just slipped out, since Andrea didn't react other than to spin on her heel and hurry up the stairs to get said bag from Sharon's room. It didn't take long to step into her shoes, and then Andrea was hurrying back down to her side, breathing heavily as she tugged on her jacket and stepped into her sensible flats. Meeting eyes once more, they nodded to each other, and then they were out the door to face this next step in Sharon's recovery.
Sharon was surprised to find that a nurse and a porter were waiting by the door when Andrea pulled up to hospital doors. Sharon didn't want to have Andrea leave her side, and she was grateful to find her friend talking lowly to a valet before hurrying over to her side. "We're all ready here," Sharon said the moment she grabbed hold of Andrea's hand.
The nurse nodded and led them into the hospital and over to a bank of elevators, going to the middle one and pressing the up button. While they waited, she found herself focusing intently on Andrea, letting her soothing presence settle around her as she tried to keep her poor, tired, heart from racing too much, not wanting to wear it out so close to the finish line.
"All right, we're still waiting on the heart to arrive, but it shouldn't take more than a few hours. During that time, you'll be prepped for surgery, and Doctor Jacobs will go over any last questions you might have." The nurse gave her a reassuring smile and stepped into the elevator, the porter pushing Sharon inside before Andrea followed.
The ride up was quiet, which Sharon was grateful for, and then they were heading towards a room before being left alone once more. "You're probably not going to be able to stay for everything, Andrea, but I need you to stay for as long as you're able."
"I don't think a herd of wild horses could drag me away from your side at this point, Sharon. Since Andy is busy, I'll pick up that slack. And I'll call him and Rusty as soon as we get you settled." Sharon nodded and climbed up onto the bed, letting her legs dangle as they looked at the nurse expectantly.
"Well, I am going to need to get Mrs Flynn checked in and changed here, so if you want to make those calls now, the family waiting room is just down the hall. Give me ten minutes, and then you are free to come back and wait with her here."
Andrea nodded and squeezed Sharon's hand tightly before exiting the room. Once the woman was gone, the nurse helped her to change into a hospital gown and then got her into the bed. "What's the next step here?"
"I have to insert your IV, and then draw some blood. We'll have to take you down for a chest x-ray before the surgery, as well."
"Will Andrea be able to accompany me to that?" she asked as she watched the woman draw two vials of blood before getting the IV situated in her arm. The nurse shook her head, and Sharon frowned a little. "But I don't want to be alone."
"I know that, however there is no room for her in the x-ray room, and she will be more comfortable here. I know, this is overwhelming to you, but this is the procedure."
Sharon frowned as she nodded, a knot of anxiety forming in her stomach as she waited for Andrea to reappear. Relief made her visibly relax, and Andrea rushed over to her side, concern on her face as she carefully sat on the edge of the bed and reached out for Sharon's hand, holding it tightly. "What's wrong?"
"I have to go get an x-ray, and you have to stay here."
"That's okay, at least this way I can tell Rusty or Andy what's going on, if they get here before you get back. Try not to worry, darling."
Another term of endearment from Andrea, and Sharon pursed her lips as she nodded. "I'm trying. This is just…"
"A huge life change, I know. And we'll be here to take care of you, I promise."
The nurse cleared her throat, and Sharon looked over at her. "We need to get that x-ray taken care of now."
"All right, I suppose." Andrea squeezed her hand tightly before the porter helped Sharon back into a wheelchair, pushing her down the hall as the nurse explained what was going to happen in the next few hours. So much of the information was what she knew from researching what would happen on the internet, but it was still overwhelming to have it all coming at her in one moment, with no time for her to take a break.
Once the x-ray was completed, Sharon only wanted to be back with Andrea, and she mentally urged the porter to walk a little quicker, to push her a little faster, back to her friend. As they entered the room, Sharon smiled to see Andrea curled up in an uncomfortable looking chair, scrolling on her phone. Coughing a little, she watched Andrea's head shoot up, a small smile curving her lips upwards as Sharon climbed into the bed.
"I am. I don't know for how long, because there is so much to do to get me ready for this surgery, but I'm glad you're here for this. Did you hear from Andy or Rusty yet?" she asked as Andrea stood and came over to her side, sitting on the bed and picking up Sharon's hand once more.
"Andy can't get away to be here, since he's out in the field with the rest of the squad. He wants me to take care of you until he's here with us."
"As if there was any worry of that." They shared a smile as Sharon scooted close to Andrea, letting her head come to rest on the woman's upper arm. "Andrea?"
"So, Andy knows this, I've told him numerous times, almost every day, if I'm honest, but I want you to know, too. I love you. I don't know what type of love I hold here," she said as she pressed her free hand against her chest, "but I do know it's love. I don't want things to be awkward between the three of us, especially since Andy has been so understanding so far, but I do know that we're going to have to probably have a long talk once I'm home."
"Hush, Sharon, now is not the time to think about what might happen in the future, now we have to focus on getting you centered for your surgery. Just know that we'll both be here to help you recover. And I also called Ricky and Emily, so that they're in the loop, as well."
"You're so good at taking care of me," she whispered as she rubbed her cheek against Andrea, listening to her sigh. "I know I have to go through with this, that this will give me more time with you and Andy and my children. But I'm scared, too. There are complications, you know."
"I do. But we're not going to focus on that."
"Yeah. Everything is going to be fine."
Andrea pulled away from Sharon to look into her eyes. "After we lost Emma, I knew that I would do anything to keep you around, because I could at least see you, even if I couldn't be with you. These last few weeks have meant the world to me, and even if we go back to the way things were before all this, before Stroh tried to kill me, I will have so many precious memories to hold in my heart." Softly, Andrea leaned in and kissed her, seeming to pour out all her love and adoration in that kiss, and Sharon relaxed into her, closing her arms around her beloved friend as the kiss lingered on, neither seeming to find the will to pull away.
The doctors had warned Sharon that she would be in and out of consciousness for the first few days after her surgery, and that it was completely normal. And while she had also known that no one was allowed to visit her for those first few days, she had found herself missing Andy and Andrea. The other woman she was rooming with in the ICU was nice enough, she supposed, but she was also about twenty years younger than Sharon, and they didn't share any common interests, which had made talking and connecting to her very difficult.
And then, the day she had been looking forward to finally came around, and Doctor Jacobs had come to take her to her own private recovery room. "Your family will come see you tomorrow, Sharon. I'm certain that you are quite anxious to be near them once more."
"You know me too well, Doctor," she murmured as she took a look around the spartan room. "Though I could do with a spot of home tonight."
"That's what Andrea figured, since she made certain to drop off a blanket from home. Your nurse, Cora, will help you arrange it, since we want you to spend one more night not moving around much." He gave her a warm smile. "You have made wonderful progress so far, and I hope…"
His voice trailed off, and Sharon found herself frowning a little, wondering if he was holding something back from her. "What do you hope?"
"Nothing, Sharon, it will all be taken care of tomorrow. Until then, I just want you to focus on resting and getting stronger." The smile was back on Doctor Jacob's lips, though this time, Sharon could tell that it didn't quite reach his eyes, which were sadder than Sharon had ever seen them. She gave him a small nod before settling back against the pillows and fumbling for the remote, wanting to catch up on the news she had missed in the last few days. However, the remote wasn't there, and she frowned as she looked around the room, trying to see if it was there. When she couldn't find it, she shook her head a little and stretched out in the bed, letting her head come to rest heavily on the pillows, her energy reserves totally sapped from the transfer of rooms. The last thing she knew that evening, before she completely fell asleep, was the feel of her blanket coming to rest warmly around her body, reminding her of home and everything she held dear.
When she woke up the next morning, her throat felt parched beyond measure, and she sat up, reaching for the glass that was normally on her nightstand. The move hurt, since it tugged at her incision, and she winced as she struggled to sit up. Hearing two sharp gasps, she turned her head carefully to see that Andrea and Andy were seated in chairs near her bed, holding hands. The tender gesture made Sharon tear up a little, and she sighed before flopping back against her pillows.
"Would one of you mind getting me a glass of water?" she managed to croak out, hating the sound of her voice. Turning her head to see why neither of them was moving, she saw that they were giving her anxious looks, and Sharon began to feel a bit self-conscious, her hand fluttering above her incision as she tried to figure out why they were both so still, so quiet. "Andrea?"
"How are you feeling, Sharon?" Her friend tried to smile at her, but it turned out a bit wobbly, and Sharon frowned a little as she shook her head a little. "I, I'll go get that water."
Andrea's voice was much too thick for Sharon to believe that everything was all right, but Andrea popped to her feet and hurried out of the room before Sharon could answer her question. Turning her gaze onto Andy, she saw that he was now worrying his wedding ring, his eyes focused on the floor in front of him. "Andy, what is going on?"
"Nothing, Sharon, we're both just so glad that you've pulled through the surgery all right, and that everything is looking on course for your recovery."
There was something he wasn't telling her, and if she had to put her finger on it, it had to do with Stroh. A small part of her wondered if they had taken Stroh down while she had been incapacitated, and that was why they were reticent to tell her everything that had happened. But if Stroh was no longer an issue, that would be the best news she had heard in a while, so it didn't make sense that they were keeping it from her.
Andrea returned with a pitcher of water and a few glasses, and she crossed the room to sit on the edge of Sharon's bed, pouring them all a glass before helping Sharon to recline on her as Andy pulled his chair closer to the bed, reaching out and taking hold of her hand. "Okay, you guys are both kind of freaking me out, and it isn't nice to do that to someone who has just been through major surgery."
"A lot of things happened while you were in your isolated ICU. Ricky and Emily are both coming here to stay for a few weeks. Since Andrea's not really using her place at the moment, we've decided to let them stay there for their visit. That way, they won't get under foot, but are still close."
"That's good. And what about Stroh?"
Another odd quiet fell over the room, as if Andy and Andrea were trying to decide how much of the story to tell her, how much she could handle in her state. Taking a glass, she drank down the water and narrowed her eyes at Andy, trying to get him to crack and tell her everything that was going on, everything that they weren't saying. She heard Andrea draw in a shallow breath, and Sharon decided that perhaps she would be the one to work on. "Sharon…"
"What? I deserve to know what is going on out there. Is Stroh still alive?"
Andrea wrapped her arm around Sharon's waist, and she closed her eyes at the embrace. It felt like it had been years since she had last been touched, even though she knew that it had only been a few days. There was an odd quality to the air between the three of them, and she had the feeling that she wasn't going to like the answer, even if it was good news. "Sharon, something happened while you were recovering from surgery."
Andrea's words were soft and heavy, falling from the air to land against Sharon's skin like sleet. Shivering, she snuggled closer to the warmth that Andrea's body gave off, trying to leech some of that into herself as she tried to formulate her next question. "Is that something the death of Phillip Stroh?" Andrea's arm tightened around her stomach, the grip almost becoming too tight, and she winced a little as she met Andy's eye. "And where's Rusty? He should be here, too, since he doesn't have to travel or make arrangements with his boss to get time off. Your silence is frightening me!"
All she received in reply to her plea were tandem sighs from her two Andys, and the cold that seemed to be all to pervasive in the room settled over her still bruised heart as she realized that all the time in the world would not prepare her for the news she was about to receive.
"Where is my son?" she finally managed to get out, every word biting the air between them. Staring at Andy, she watched as he made eye contact with Andrea, appearing to carry out a conversation between them without ever speaking. "Well, Andy?"
Her husband was not the one who spoke first, though. "To answer your first question, Sharon, yes, Stroh is dead. However, the price that was paid to take him down was much too steep, especially with you unable to protect your loved ones."
Those words brought Sharon's worst fear to life and she pulled away from Andrea a little to stare up at her, not failing to notice that silent tears were rolling down her cheeks. "I have a feeling of what you're going to tell me, Andrea. I don't want to hear it from you. I don't want to hear it from Andy. Is that why there wasn't a remote in my room last night? So that you would be here to tell me the news in person?"
Andrea nodded, a guilty look crossing over her broken face. "Doctor Jacobs felt that the stress to your heart, without us being here to soften this blow," Andy said slowly. "I suppose that one of us should begin at the start, since I don't think either of us will be up to telling this tale more than once."
Andy's voice had the same thickness that Andrea's had, and when she looked to her husband, she was shocked to see that he was in tears, too. Usually he held it together a little better than she did, especially lately when her emotions had been all over the place. "What happened to my child?"
"We didn't catch Stroh that first day, when you went into the hospital for your transplant. Louie was so upset that he slipped through our fingers once more, and I felt like part of that came down to the fact that I was distracted in my efforts to catch him, since more than half of my mind was on you and Andrea and the surgery. I've never, in all my life, wanted to be two places at once as much as I did in that moment.
"I was just coming back to the precinct to work with everyone when I got Andrea's call saying that you had come out of surgery, and that everything had worked out just like Doctor Jacobs had hoped. She informed me that she would be waiting at the hospital until you were off the breathing machine, even if she couldn't be at your side. She was able to be me when I had to wear my police hat, and I will never be able to repay her for that."
"Andy, you would have done the same for me, were our situations reversed. And we both love her, in our own separate way."
Sharon was surprised to hear Andrea speak so openly about her feelings, and that further cemented the idea in her head that she would not like where this story was leading. "I am blessed to have such a beautiful family," she whispered as she fumbled for Andrea's hand, needing an anchor of some sort in that moment.
"You are," Andy replied hoarsely before swallowing and focusing his attention on her once more. "The next day, while you were recovering, and Andrea was in the office, catching up on paperwork, Louie and Tao made a breakthrough as to where Stroh would be hiding out. Seems that the last name we were looking for wasn't a person, but a thing, a boat. Only problem was, Rusty had also figured out the same thing, and something in him just snapped. I think it was the stress of having you in the hospital, and Andrea being targeted, and feeling like he would never be free of that long shadow."
"You're getting ahead of yourself."
"I know, Andrea, everything is just muddling in my mind as I try to get it out." Andy sniffled and swallowed before taking a deep breath. "So, Louie and Buzz head out to the marina where Stroh's boat was docked, not realizing that Rusty was on his way there as well. Our son thought that because he had a little time on the range with me, and an instructor, that he was invincible. Isn't that what youth are so good at believing?"
Sharon nodded, reaching up to swipe at the tears that were clouding her vision, moving back so that she could disappear into Andrea. "I have you," the woman whispered in her ear before pressing a kiss to the side of her head and holding her close once more.
"So, Louie made it to the boat around the same time as Rusty, and while he was confronting Stroh, almost talking him into surrendering, since Louie had him cornered, Rusty burst in, trying to ensure that Stroh was no longer a stain on our lives. What neither of them planned on was Stroh having a backup gun on his ankle. Before either of them could react, Stroh had pulled it out and shot Rusty twice. Louie reacted on pure instinct by that point, and got off three rounds, hitting his target every time.
"By the time that EMS arrived on scene, despite Louie doing everything to stop the bleeding, to keep Rusty alert and talking to him, there was nothing anyone could do to save him. Stroh not only hit his heart, he hit the artery in Rusty's leg, and there was just so much blood. It was everywhere."
He broke off at that point, sobs shaking his body as he looked away from her and stared out the window of her room. "My son is dead?" she asked stupidly, having known that truth before he began to tell her what had happened. Still, it didn't seem possible, that she would never see Rusty again in this life. They had come so far, he had graduated college, he was going to go to law school, he was going to make something of his life. "Andy? Andrea?"
"I am so sorry, Sharon," Andrea whispered against her hair, and the first cries slipped from her lips as she turned to Andrea, burying her face in the crook of the woman's neck, seeking out the solace of comforting arms. Against her back, she felt Andy crawling into the narrow bed next to her, and somehow they made room for all of them there. Sharon was grateful for the cocoon of love she found herself in, and she reached behind her to grab hold of Andy's hand, bringing it around to rest lightly on her incision.
"Have, have we made funeral arrangements yet?"
"Andrea and I are taking care of that while you focus on your recovery. We've been talking with Doctor Jacobs this morning, to try and see where your recovery will be by the time we need to hold the service. He feels like you should be strong enough in four days to go to the funeral, but you're going to have to come back here afterwards. Also…"
"We have to keep you on as even a keel as possible. In order to ensure that your recovery goes well, we can't stress you out." Sharon nodded, understanding what he was trying to say and knowing that despite receiving a new heart, it would never be whole ever again. Her cries turned to sobs, and they hugged her all the tighter, as if they knew that they were the only ones keeping her together at that time.
Somehow, Sharon managed to get through the four days before Rusty's funeral, even though much of it was spent in a daze of sorrow and pain. When her physical therapist had tried to go easy on her that first day, after she had found out the news, Sharon had put her foot down on that, knowing that she had to be strong for the funeral, for Rusty, for the future she had to face without her son. Andrea and Andy had both cautioned her to take it easy, but she had only scaled back when they were present, going through the exercises over and over when they weren't in the room.
And then, the morning of the funeral arrived, clear and bright, and Sharon felt like the weather was so out of place with the rain in her heart. Andrea showed up shortly after breakfast was finished, and she was already in tears, which set Sharon off. "I'm sorry, I'm trying to keep it together, but this is the second funeral I've had to attend this year, and I don't want to think about how close we came to losing you, too."
Andrea swiped away a few stray tears as she took a seat on the edge of the bed. Sharon reached out for her hands, taking the garment bag from the woman's suddenly limp grip and setting it to the side as she pulled Andrea close to her, letting her head come to rest on Sharon's shoulder as she carded her fingers through her blonde hair. "But I'm still here. I won't leave you, I promise." Turning her head slightly, she pressed her lips to the crown of Andrea's head before gently pushing Andrea away. "And I suppose that I have to get dressed now. How long do we have before…?"
"Andy said that he'd be back for us in about thirty minutes. So that doesn't leave us much time, if you want to put makeup on."
"I don't think I can wear mascara today, of all days. I'd cry it off before the service ends. But maybe some lipstick and a muted eyeshadow? Just something to make it look like I'm not knocking on death's door."
Andrea looked like she was going to disagree with her statement, but then she shook her head a little as she helped Sharon to stand. Once they were on their feet, Sharon wrapped the other woman in a warm, tight, hug and tried to keep herself from shattering as she took a few deep, slow, breaths. "I expected him to be waiting for me yesterday, when I went into the office. I went to wave at the watchers who were no longer there. The world has shifted so quickly beneath my feet, that I feel like I'm a foot away from death's door myself some days."
"Oh, don't say that," Sharon breathed out as she gazed up at her friend. The tears were falling faster now, and she reached up to brush a few of them away, rubbing her fingers together as she leaned up on her toes to press her lips against Andrea's in a loving kiss. "I don't want to think that about you."
"Then don't let me think that about you, either," she whispered before resting her forehead against Sharon's, letting their breathing sync up before they both made their way into the bathroom. "I asked your physical therapist, and she informed me that it would be for the best if you didn't wear a bra, since it would put the wrong sort of pressure on your incision. I thumbed through your clothes until I found one of those chemises with support built into it. It's white, though, so hopefully it won't show through your dress."
"I'm certain it will be fine," Sharon murmured as they went into the bathroom. "How are Emily and Ricky?"
"They're settling into my place just fine," Andrea replied as she helped Sharon out of her top before taking a seat on the toilet and looking anywhere but at her body. There was still this odd sense of propriety that the other woman wanted to keep between them, which Sharon thought was sweet but unnecessary, though she would abide by what Andrea wanted, since she knew she couldn't bear to lose her at this point. "Emily wondered why I was staying at the condo, but I told her that we both were looking after each other, and she seemed to buy that, at least for the time being. Ricky's just glad that someone is here to look after you and Andy."
"Those are my children," she whispered as she struggled to pull the chemise over her head. Andrea jumped to her feet and helped her to put it on, the back of her hands brushing against Sharon's chest absently, as if Andrea didn't realise she was touching her, though a peek at the woman in the mirror told Sharon that she had noticed, as her cheeks were a bright pink. "We're all coming back here after the service, yes?"
"That was what you wanted. Gus said that he would take care of the luncheon, his boss was providing the food for us."
"That's so kind of him," she said as she brushed out invisible wrinkles on the chemise. Andrea nodded a little before drifting back to her seat and watching Sharon once more. She rummaged through the small bag of makeup Andrea had brought, finding what she wanted quickly and applying it before unzipping the garment bag and pulling out her dress. The last time she had worn it was for Mariana's funeral, and that brought bad memories to the forefront.
A shaky breath escaped her lips as she pulled the garment out and run the zipper down the back before stepping into it. "Here, let me," Andrea said as she got to her feet once more, coming up behind her and closing the zip, her hands lingering on Sharon's shoulders as they looked at each other in the mirror. "All right, let me brush your hair, I remember that yesterday that movement was still hurting you somewhat."
"It is," she replied as she allowed Andrea to lean against her back and grab the brush, relishing the feel of her body pressed against hers. There was a comfort that familiar weight brought, and she had to remind herself that the thoughts running through her head were wholly inappropriate in her current situation. "Andrea, can we do this on the bed? I still get a little weak at times, even if my strength is slowly returning."
They went out into the other room, and Sharon collapsed on the bed, allowing Andrea to sit behind her and slowly run the brush through her hair, arranging it neatly before setting the brush aside and hooking her chin over Sharon's shoulder. "I don't want to face a world without my son. I know that makes me a weak person, but I just thought that we could escape the shadow of Stroh without losing someone. But life always manages to strike a balance."
Her words slipped off into silence, and she leaned back against Andrea, needing to be close to her as they waited for Andy to arrive.
There were a few people milling outside of their church when Andy pulled up to the sidewalk. Buzz seemed to know they were coming, as he rushed over to the car and opened her door, helping her out. She clasped his hand tightly as Andrea climbed out of the back and stood next to her, waiting for Andy to park the vehicle and come back to them.
"We were waiting for you. Mrs Beck is already here, though Father Stan made certain to inform her that she was not to sit in the front pew. She gave up her rights to him as her son a long time ago."
Sharon pursed her lips together as she nodded, adjusting the sunglasses on her face as she hooked arms with Andrea. "I need to go in and sit. Will you please direct Andy to me when he finished parking?"
"Of course, Sharon," Buzz said as he leaned in and kissed her cheek softly. The kind gesture touched her heart, and she had to fight back tears, knowing that she had to save her breakdown for close to the end of the service.
Andrea guided Sharon up the stairs and into the sanctuary, helping her to genuflect before they made their way to the very front. She could hear people trying to talk to her, but all she could focus on was the casket in front of her, knowing it contained the body of her son. Her legs trembled, threatening to buckle beneath her, and Andrea tightened her hold around her waist as they met Ricky and Emily at the first pew.
"Mom!" Ricky said as she stepped away from Andrea to embrace her tightly. The hug hurt a little, but it was a good hurt, since it reminded her that she was still alive and surrounded by loved ones. As they took a seat, she looked for Andrea, wanting her close at hand, but found that Emily had pulled her down next to her, leaving room for Andy next to her. It made sense, since she was married to the man, and loved him, but she wanted Andrea on her other side. "What's wrong? Do we need to call Doctor Jacobs?"
"I'm as fine as I can be, Ricky. This day is going to be very hard on me, is all."
Her son nodded and squeezed her hand tightly. Sharon listened to the organist play, and a small smile fluttered across her face when she heard that the man was playing one of her son's favorite songs. She didn't know who had made certain to include that in the service, but she was so grateful that it wasn't all dour, slow, music. That wasn't her son in life, so it wouldn't make sense for that to be him in death.
The first few tears began to roll down her cheeks as she removed her sunglasses and slipped them into her purse, searching for a tissue. Andrea seemed to know her need, as she watched the woman pull out a travel package of them and pass them down to her. Taking one out, she dabbed at her eyes before twisting the tissue between her fingers and waiting for Andy. As he took a seat next to her, she sighed and leaned on his shoulder, wanting to be in close contact with him, at least.
The service passed by in a blur, though she did notice that there wasn't as much of the usual up and down of a Catholic funeral, even though the parts remained unchanged. She knew that was for her benefit, since Father Stan knew of her condition, having visited her in the hospital two days ago. Her voice shook on the final hymn, but she made it through, somehow. At the end, Andy and Ricky stepped forward, along with Gus, Buzz, Julio, Wes, Mike, and Louie, acting as the pallbearers.
Sharon was no longer able to control her sobs, and Andrea rushed over to her side, hooking her arm around Sharon's waist as they began to follow Father Stan behind the casket. Emily followed closely behind them, which eased Sharon's heart a little, since she knew her daughter would catch her, should she faint. They had reached the back of the church, a small commotion to her left caught her attention, and she looked over to see Sharon Beck pushing her way through people to get at her. She shrank into Andrea as the casket continued on without them, and unconsciously, her heart started to pound a bit heavier.
"You! You killed my son, you bitch!" the woman hissed, getting right in her face. The anger radiated off Sharon Beck in waves, and Sharon took another step back, feeling Andrea stop her movement, even as Emily stepped up to try and block the woman from getting further into Sharon's space. Sharon Beck pushed Emily away before reaching out and roughly grabbing hold of Sharon's shoulder, shaking her a little. "It should be you in that coffin! He had his full life ahead of him!"
She heard Andrea draw in a sharp breath and felt her maneuver Sharon behind her as she made herself as large as she could, trying to intimidate Sharon Beck as she stepped forward, making the woman retreat. "Sharon very nearly was in a casket of her own today, as you would know if you had bothered to contact any of us to find out what was going on. Instead, you allowed yourself to play the martyr in this situation, not taking any one else's feelings into consideration. Now, I am going to kindly ask you to leave before I have Chief Mason escort you out. You are not welcome at the graveside service, and if you even think about harassing Sharon as she recovers from her heart transplant, I will slap a restraining order on you so fast that your head will spin quicker than the sun!"
Sharon Beck opened and closed her mouth a few times before glaring at Sharon and pushing through the small crowd that had gathered around them. She slumped against Emily before searching out for Andrea, needing her and Andy in that moment more than ever. Andrea turned and gave her a sheepish smile, to which she shook her head and stepped forward, wrapping her arms around Andrea as she struggled to catch her breath.
"I love you," she breathed into the woman's ear before they made their way out of the church and into the waiting limousine. Emily followed them inside, but it was only when she felt Andy's hand on her knee that she realized how long Sharon's rant had held them up. "I'm sorry to keep you waiting," she said as she pulled her head away from the crook of Andrea's neck, looking to her husband and son.
"I was getting a little worried," he replied, looking between her and Andrea. "Is everything okay?"
Before either of them could answer, Emily spoke up. "I wish that you would have seen it, Andy. Sharon Beck tried to guilt trip Mom, and Andrea was like some avenging angel who came down from heaven to protect Mom when she needed it. I would love to have a friend who defended me with that fervency!"
"Mrs Beck simply shared her belief that I should have been in that casket, rather than Rusty. I can't say that there isn't a part of me that feels the same. Rusty was so young," she choked out as the limousine got under way, the movement of the vehicle causing her to sway and thud against Andrea. The other woman instinctively closed her arm around her waist, holding her upright as they went along. "I do hope there are chairs for the graveside service, though. I don't think my legs are strong enough to hold me for much longer."
"That's why our meal will be in your room, Sharon. I already cleared it with your doctor, and made certain to follow the diet your supposed to stick to. I would do anything to make this day easier on you, I hope you know that."
She looked at Gus and gave him a grateful nod, the tears still streaming down her face as she huddled close to Andrea and Andy, thankful to have them there, helping her, on this awful day.
Sharon found her days falling into a mundane rhythm, the only highlight being her release from the hospital. Andrea had been the one to take her home, since Andy was helping Louie with doing her job, as Chief Mason had decided they would be her replacement until she felt ready to return, and that was a burden lifted off her shoulders. Still, she felt like she was doing nothing with her life and sliding into a grey existence.
And so, it took her a little while to recognize that something was wrong with her heart, and that she wasn't feeling as good as she had been at Rusty's funeral. Waking early one morning, she was surprised to find that Andy was already gone, and wondered just how bad a case he had been called out on. Her heart started to race a little harder than she knew it was supposed to, and she pressed her hand tightly to her chest as she struggled out of bed and started to head to the guest room, only to remember that Andrea had gone home after Ricky and Emily had left, claiming that she needed to give Andy and Sharon room to grieve and be together without her underfoot.
"Dammit," she hissed as she winced, turning back to her bedroom and struggling to get onto the bed before she collapsed, feeling winded and tired. Sharon fumbled for her phone and blindly pressed the first name on her recent calls list, pressing the phone to her ear and waiting for the other person to pick up.
"Sharon? Is everything okay?"
Andrea's voice was a relief to hear, and she flopped back against the pillows as she tried to catch her breath. "I don't think it is, Andrea. Is there any way that you could come and help me?" she managed to gasp out, the uncomfortable feeling returning to her chest as she drew in a few short breaths.
"I'll be there as fast as I can, traffic permitting. Rest and relax, Sharon, try not to worry." There was a slight pause before Andrea spoke once more. "Just know I love you, no matter what happens."
"I know, Andrea," she whispered as the line broke off, and she turned onto her side, curling into a ball as she waited for Andrea to arrive. At some point, she must have fallen asleep, since she felt the bed dip beneath Andrea's slight weight rather than heard her enter.
"I called out for you, but I think you were sleeping, since you didn't answer. Are you feeling any better?" As she asked that, Andrea reached out and rested the back of her hand against Sharon's forehead, before running her hand down her face and along her arm until she reached her wrist, picking it up and checking Sharon's pulse. "Sharon?"
"I think you can feel that my heart is still racing. I've tried every exercise that my physical therapist gave me, and all the prayers and meditation that I could think of, but I can't get this under control. I'm terrified," she whispered as she looked away from Andrea. The woman stretched out along her body as she reached for Sharon's phone, typing in the passcode before starting to scroll through the contacts. "Who are you looking for?"
"Doctor Jacobs. I need to call him to see if this is normal."
"And if it's not?"
"I'll take you to the hospital and then pack a bag. There's no way that I can leave you and Andy in a lurch like this." Andrea stroked her hair gently before pressing her thumb on the right name. Bringing the phone to her ear, Andrea pulled away from Sharon a little to sit up, and she used that as opportunity to turn over and scoot close to Andrea, curling her body to fit around Andrea's as she let her fingers play with the woman's hair, listening to her side of the conversation. "All right, I understand. I'll bring her to the hospital as soon as I can. Do you want me to head to the emergency room or…? Okay. Understood. See you shortly."
Andrea hung up and rubbed Sharon's arm gently before prodding her to sit up. "I don't want to go back. What if there's something really wrong with the transplant? What if I went through all this just to die anyway?" she asked, feeling tears start to gather in her eyes.
"You're not dying, Sharon, but you do need to have this checked out. You've been under a lot of stress since the transplant, and Doctor Jacobs just wants to make certain that your health hasn't been too negatively impacted by that."
Sharon nodded as she made her way over to the closet. "Did Doctor Jacobs mention if I was going to be in there for a while?"
"No, but if you still have your bag packed up, we can bring it along, just in case." Sharon nodded and began to thumb through her clothes, wanting to change before she had to leave. "There's not too much time, dear, just throw on something comfortable, okay?"
"All right," she muttered, knowing that the woman was right. "Grab my brush out of the master bathroom. I'm not going to let my hair look crazy, you know."
"I know," Andrea replied, her voice sounding distant. Sharon used the short absence of the woman to tug off her nightie and then pull on a comfortable oversized sweater and a pair of jeans before picking up her bag and then going to sit on the bed once more. Her heart felt a little better, now that Andrea was there, so she was hopeful that that indicated she had just been overreacting, but she knew that she couldn't take that for granted. "Are you ready to go?"
"I suppose," she said, turning to look at Andrea. Her blue eyes shone with tears, and Sharon slipped off the bed, padding over to her side and hugging her tightly. "You'll call Andy?"
"Once we get there, and know what's going on, yes. I don't want to worry him needlessly." Andrea bent her head and kissed Sharon gently before leading them over to the door. "You're not alone in all this, you know."
"Yeah, well, you left us." She didn't mean to sound bitter, but that's how they came out, and Andrea gasped deeply as her arm tightened around Sharon's waist. "I didn't mean…"
"You did. And I did. I never meant to hurt you, but it's obvious that I did. I'm sorry."
The words were jagged, and Sharon shivered a little to hear how broken Andrea sounded. "You were doing what you thought best, so I can't fault you for that. And it's my fault for not telling you that I missed you, and needed you by my side. I have to ask for what I want, right?"
"Right," Andrea said as they got into the elevator.
"Well, then, I want you to stay with us. Please?"
There was a short pause before Andrea answered, and Sharon hung on her response. "I will, as long as Andy is okay with that." Sharon sagged against Andrea, relief making her boneless as they rode the elevator down.
The ride to the hospital seemed to take forever, though Andrea did sing along to the music, which made Sharon smile a little, easing the anxiety that was threatening to overwhelm her the closer they got to the hospital. She stiffened a little to see that Andrea was pulling into the emergency room, despite what she had said back at the condo. "Andrea?"
"There's a chance that you could be rejecting the transplant. Doctor Jacobs didn't want me to worry you too much, so we decided it was best if I told a small lie to get you here. I'm sorry." Andrea stopped by the doors, and Doctor Jacobs himself wheeled out a chair towards them, an orderly opening her door and helping her into it. "I'll be in as soon as I've parked the vehicle."
"We have valet parking for that, ma'am," the orderly said, and Andrea sighed in relief as she put the car in park and stepped out, grabbing Sharon's bag as she took the ticket from the valet, shoving it in her pocket as she hurried over to Sharon's side and began to push the wheelchair over to the private examination room that Doctor Jacobs stopped next to.
"We'll just get you hooked up to the EKG, and run a few blood tests. I will be keeping you in here overnight for observations, and then we'll assess the situation in the morning. Your pulse is a little high for my liking, so you'll stay down here for a few hours as we try to get that under control. Once it's a little better, I'll have you moved up to a bed on the cardiac ward."
Sharon nodded, feeling like the floor was opening up beneath her as she was helped onto the bed. Andrea sat carefully on the edge of it as a nurse began to hook her up to the various machines that were too familiar to her from her previous stay. Finally able to focus a little, she listened as Andrea called Andy, telling him where they were, and then the call she made to her boss, explaining how she would be out of the office for the rest of the week, as she had a family emergency, but that she would be working from home.
"You don't have to babysit me, Andrea. I'm certain that I could get Ricky to come home for a bit, and he could do that. Your job is important."
Andrea slipped the phone back into her purse and smiled down at Sharon, letting her hand come to rest on her shoulder and squeezing it lightly. "And you, right now, are more important to me. I can work from home just as easily, you know. And on days that I have to go to court, we'll find someone to look after you. You have a good team, I'm certain that one of them wouldn't mind picking your brain about the cases they're working on."
Sharon nodded, a tiny smile spreading across her lips. Andrea did have a point, her squad had been asking to visit her multiple times, even though she had only relented once in a while. They would make this work, somehow. "I don't know what I did to deserve you and Andy, truly I don't," she said as she let her eyes flutter closed. "I'm not tired, I just can't stand these lights. Will you talk to me, keep my mind awake?"
"Of course, though I don't know what I can talk to you about."
"Tell me a story about your youth. I know that you haven't opened up much, but you were loved. Right?"
"Yes. I suppose that I could tell you about my favorite summer camp experience." Andrea made herself a little more comfortable as the nurse went about her work, the soothing sound of her voice drowning out the noises of the machines. Just as she was finishing up her tale, Sharon recognized the sound of her husband's feet enter the room, and she opened her eyes to look at him, tears springing up when she saw how ashen and tired he looked. "Andy, I told you everything was under control."
"I know, I just had to see for myself."
"I can't look after two irascible patients. Your health isn't the best, Andy, as you well know." Sharon frowned a little as she looked at Andrea, seeing the outright affection and concern on her face. "Sharon, you're a package deal, I get that. If I'm afforded the luxury of loving you, I can damn well find it in my heart to care for the one you love so dearly."
"Oh," they said in unison, and Sharon reached out for Andy's hand, threading their fingers together and squeezing tightly as she took a few long breaths. The horrid knot that had been constricting her chest began to ease a little, and as she listened, the machines started to sound more normal to her ears, and she smiled first at Andy and then at Andrea.
After about ten minutes of companionable silence, Doctor Jacobs came back into the room, a pleased look on his face. "While I don't have your blood test results back yet, I am quite pleased that your heart rate has gone down so much. I'm going to have you transferred up to the cardiac wing now, and if Andy wants to push you, I don't think there's any need to have a porter take you up, is there?"
"No, doctor," she softly said as he and Andy helped her into the wheelchair that the nurse had brought round, and she smiled up at Andrea, reaching out for her hand as Andy started to push her towards the elevators. On the ride up, Sharon was content to listen to Andy and Doctor Jacobs talk, knowing that she had two people she loved and adored so close to her.
"All right, this is where I leave you for the day. We'll take stock of where you are tomorrow and go from there to see if you need to be admitted for a longer stay or not. The nightshift doctor will check in on you around ten, and then you're free to sleep. I made certain that your room had a sleeper recliner in it, if either Andy or Andrea wanted to spend the night."
"Thank you, Doctor Jacobs. I am so sorry to worry you."
"I'd rather you come in with a slight twinge and we catch something before it becomes a problem than have you ignore something and it create a larger issue. We already dealt with that once, didn't we?"
Sharon blushed guiltily as she nodded, and then Doctor Jacobs was leaving the room. Andy helped her up onto the bed, while Andrea stowed her bag in the closet before taking the seat next to the bed, pulling out her phone and texting someone while Andy took a seat on the bed, picking up her hand and holding it softly. "Which of us would you like to spend the night?" he asked lowly, glancing over at Andrea.
"Both of you, honestly, but I think it would set her heart at ease if Andrea was to stay tonight. If I have to stay tomorrow, you can stay then, okay? There are a few things that we'll need to discuss, just the two of us, and once I know that, then we can talk. I think that things are coming to a head, and I don't want to lose either of you."
Andy nodded and leaned down, pressing a kiss to her forehead before he stroked her hair, gazing at her lovingly as the noises of the hospital settled around them. It was much too normal for Sharon's liking, and she hoped that one day soon they could put all this nonsense behind them.
Sharon sighed with relief the moment she walked inside her condo. Everything felt so much better to her as she looked around at her home, seeing things that were in slightly different places, and wondering how much of that was Andrea's hand and how much Andy's. "I know, I didn't put everything where you usually have it. I was more worried about you, Sharon."
Andrea was looking at the floor as she spoke, and Sharon chuckled a little as she shook her head, taking hold of her hand and squeezing softly so that she would look at her. "It's perfectly fine. Once you've been here for a while, you'll get used to how I like to have things."
"There is that. Now, I hate to drop you off and run, but I really need to be in the office today, prepping for this case. Andy, I'll be bringing Gus over for supper, he promised to make us something wonderful." Andrea stepped forward and kissed Sharon's cheek before waving at Andy a little and scurrying from the condo.
"She knows that she doesn't have to feel awkward around me, right?" he asked as he closed the door and then followed Sharon into the living room.
"I think that she thinks you'll get angry and leave me. The last thing she wants is to separate us. I honestly think that she would have quietly pined for me from afar had she not gotten shot, and I not gotten a heart transplant. Because she knows how much we love each other, and I truly feel like she believes my happiness is more important than hers would ever be."
"It's because you make her feel complete, Sharon." She looked up at Andy, feeling her brow furrow a little. "It's one of the songs that Rusty listened to all the time. That lyric has always stood out to me, because it's how I feel about you. And that's why I recognized it in Andrea."
Sharon nodded a little as she wrapped the blanket around her legs, never taking her eyes off her husband. "And that's what I have to talk to you about. I've been trying to formulate how I want to tell you this, because I don't want to hurt either of you. But you are my husband, and the one I love first and foremost, so you are the one I want to discuss this with first."
He smiled roguishly at her as he took a seat next to her, putting her feet in his lap. "I'm glad to know that. I'll try not to lord it over her when she comes home tonight."
"Andrew Flynn, you will do nothing of the sort!"
"I know, I just had to tease you a little. This is going to be a serious talk, so we needed to break the ice before we really dig into this discussion."
Her smile softened a little. "And you know that's one of the reasons why I love you so much." He nodded. "All right, so, when I went into hospital, I realized something very important about all of us. I cannot afford to live without either of you. I'm selfish, Andy. Both of you have my heart, and I don't think I can choose."
"I don't think that I could ask you to choose," he softly said, his hands starting to absently rub her feet. The touches felt so good, and she relaxed a little as she waited for him to speak once more. "There's more to it, isn't there?"
"Yes. I want her to live here, permanently. Having both of you by my side again for this hospital stay has made me aware of how much I rely on both of you for very different needs. And I watched how the two of you interacted these last few days."
Andy blushed a little as he dug his thumb into the ball of her foot a little more forcefully than necessary. "I've always liked Andrea, you know that, Sharon."
She nodded and raised an eyebrow as she looked at him. "I have the feeling that it might be a little more than general liking, Andy. There was real affection there."
He shrugged, the tips of his ears turning bright red. "It's not hard to like her, when I really think about it. She's kind, very kind, and she has good taste. I mean, she fell in love with you, after all." Sharon chuckled as she nodded. "And I think that I've put extra effort into liking her because you love her. But…"
He cleared his throat before tugging at the collar of his shirt. "This whole situation weirds me the fuck out, okay? I've been putting on a good face so that you wouldn't have to deal with my issues on top of recovering from your transplant, and Rusty's death, and seeing your best friend nearly killed, twice. I feel like I'm being the selfish one here, because I don't get all of this."
Sharon nodded, even though she wondered why he hadn't mentioned it sooner, before she had the chance to completely lose herself to the fantasy that she could have all this love and not pay some sort of consequence. "You probably wouldn't believe me if I told you that I don't completely understand all of this, either. But it's the truth. If Rusty were here, he might be able to help us put a name on this, and help us navigate rough waters."
"He probably could. He was really good at that, wasn't he?" She nodded as she started to cry a little. Andy dropped her foot and shifted her body so that he could get closer to her, picking up her hand and running his thumb against her knuckles. "I can only imagine how much you miss him. I wish that I could feel that same depth of sorrow you have, but we weren't as close, you know that."
"I know." She swiped her hand beneath her eyes to clear away the tears and looked at him. "I also know that I can't lose either of you. I keep coming back to that, because I am terrified that you and Andrea will just look at me one day and decide that I'm not worth the effort. And then I'll be alone, again. It took me so long to open up after what Jack did to my heart, you know that. I'm tender, beneath this mask that I've worn for so long, and that tender heart of mine is starting to tremble."
He sighed sadly, and she broke his gaze, feeling like her heart was going to shatter depending on his next words. "I never want to hurt you, Sharon. I think, though, that I'm going to need some time to wrap my brain around everything that's going on right now. Can you give me that?"
"I would give you anything that you asked of me, as long as I know you love me." Tears trembled on the corner of her eyes, and then Andy gently cupped her face with one hand, lifting her chin so that they were looking at each other once more.
"I do love you, Sharon. That will never change, believe me." He gave her an open smile before leaning in and capturing her lips in a gentle, sweet, kiss. She nodded before kissing him again, needing the reassurance of the embrace as they both forged ahead on this dark road of uncertainty.
Sharon looked up from her laptop, giving Andy a small smile. He smiled back before heading upstairs to their room, leaving her and Andrea alone once more. "Is everything okay, Sharon?" the woman asked as she set aside the file she was looking over, a frown furrowing her brow.
"We're getting back to fine, Andrea. It's just going to take some time to adjust to this different dynamic. I mean, you do leave a lot of dishes in the sink!" she teased, trying to deflect Andrea from digging deeper and trying to pull out an answer that Sharon didn't want to give. "So, did you want to order out for supper or make something with me?"
Andrea glanced at her watch before looking back at the file. "I suppose that I could be persuaded to leave this for a while. What did you have in mind?" she asked as she stood up, going over to Sharon and holding out her hand. She clasped it and used Andrea's height to swiftly get to her feet, wrapping her arm around Andrea's waist and heading into the kitchen.
"I was thinking that we could make that shrimp dish you were telling me about? Since Andy and I have to be so careful about our sodium intake now, I know that you've found a lot of our meals to be bland. I'm trying to find dishes that will appeal to you, too, since you're a part of our family."
"We could always hire Gus away from his job, Sharon. I mean, isn't it every chef's dream to be a personal chef?" Andrea teased, and they shared a quick laugh before Sharon leaned against the counter and stared at the woman, drinking in everything about her. "What are you looking at?" she asked self-consciously, tugging on a hank of hair as she looked everywhere but at Sharon.
"You. I'm just trying to learn you."
A soft blush rose up on Andrea's cheeks and she shrugged a little as she began to get out the pans necessary to make the dish. "There's not much more to learn. I've been an open book to you on your cath days."
"It's easier talking to you or Andy than it is to read a book. I never seem to be able to focus on much of anything while I'm waiting to get everything done. Hearing the quiet voices of my loved ones centers me in a way that reading or playing word games on my phone can't." Reaching out, she rested her hand on Andrea's shoulder, using the barest hint of pressure to draw her forward. Andrea settled her hands on Sharon's hips, looking deeply into her eyes, and she found she couldn't resist the opening, leaning up until their lips touched in a soft kiss.
There was a gentleness to this kiss, but soon she tasted tears on her tongue, and she pulled back from Andrea to look into her eyes once more. "Sharon…"
"What is it?"
"Andy's upstairs, and I know that he feels uncomfortable around me, around us. If you're going to kiss me, I'd like it to be in the privacy of my room. I, I don't want to be on display just yet. And I know that's not what you're doing, not at all, but it feels like it, here." Andrea took hold of Sharon's hand and rested it on her chest. She nodded and then stepped closer to Andrea once more, resting her head on her shoulder as she closed her arms around her waist and held her close. "I love you, he loves you, you love us, but how can love survive this weird setup? I don't want to be an asshole, but…"
"You could never be that, Andrea. And maybe I'm the asshole for putting you and Andy at odds here. I just…there's a part of me that wants to believe the way I feel isn't a sin, that you can love more than one person, in a physical and emotional sense, and that one of them can be the same gender as you. Do you think that this is easy for me?"
"No, and I didn't mean to imply that, either." Sharon felt Andrea kiss the top of her head and they sighed in unison. "But I suppose that I should start to make supper. After all, wouldn't want to make us wait to eat."
Though Andrea was trying to be jovial, Sharon could hear the tremor in her voice that told how close she was to breaking down. She nodded and reluctantly stepped away from Andrea, going to the fridge and pulling out the shrimp, setting them on the counter before starting to gather the rest of the ingredients that she remembered from the other night.
They worked together in a stilted silence, and Sharon kept trying to find a way to open up a conversation with Andrea, wanting to distract them from the previous thorny topic, but nothing came immediately to mind, which bothered her more than she thought it would. Finally, the dish was going in the oven, and they drifted back into the living room while it baked.
Andy was seated in his spot on the sofa, and she smiled as she curled up next to him, welcoming his arm around her shoulder as he pressed a kiss to the side of her head. "Whatever you put together smells delicious," he murmured, and Sharon glanced over at Andrea, seeing the quick look of pain that flashed across her features before she locked her emotions under control once more.
"Andrea should take the credit, really, since she was the one who found it for us. I just handed her the ingredients in order." She smiled widely at Andrea, waiting for her to return the expression, but it seemed like there was no lightness in her heart at that moment. Part of Sharon wondered if she was jealous at the affection Andy was showing her. That would make sense, and Sharon's smile slipped from her lips as she snuggled closer to Andy.
That was entirely the wrong thing to do, she realized, as Andrea hurriedly picked up her tablet and began to studiously look at it, deliberately ignoring them. Andy's grip on her shoulder tightened a little, and she looked up at him. "Is everything okay?" he asked lowly.
"Yes. We're just trying to iron out a few wrinkles. This is going to be a little harder than I had originally anticipated. Life is messy, complicated, and even though I know that in my heart, a part of me assumed that this one time, everything would fall into place."
He nodded and relaxed his hold on her shoulder, rubbing it absently as they listened to Andrea tap away at the screen of her device. "So, Andrea, I think that Sharon may have forgotten to mention that there is one tiny rule in our household."
"What would that be?" she asked absently, never looking up from whatever she was doing.
"When we're together for supper, there's no screens until we finish eating. If we're to be a family, we can't let technology separate us. Isn't that right, Sharon?"
Andrea cautiously glanced over at her, and a small smile flashed across her lips as she nodded. "I did make that rule for us when Rusty seemed more enamored of texting with his friends than talking to us. I mean, we are all adults, so we don't have to follow the rule, but…I'd rather have your presence here with us."
Andrea gave her a small nod before turning her tablet off and setting it on the coffee table and letting out a soft sigh. "I suppose that I could be persuaded to do that, as long as I get to finish this up after we eat."
"That will be fine," Andy said, and even though the tension in the room only dialed down a few degrees, Sharon hoped that this was only just a start of them coming together.
"Have you noticed anything weird about Andrea?" Andy asked as he set the table for three. Sharon frowned a little as she nodded, trying to keep from crying. She had been on tenterhooks for two weeks since their tense supper, and ever since then, Andrea had been coming home later and later. Sharon was surprised that she was even coming home at all, truthfully, but it was nice to know that she was there, at least.
"I know that she's trying to give us some space in order to grow closer once more. She doesn't want to make you jealous, or to pull away from me."
"I thought that it might be something like that. I keep setting a place for her at our table, to let her know that she's welcome with us. What else can I do?" He came over to Sharon's side, cupping her cheek and running his thumb along her cheekbone.
"I don't know at this point, and that's what is bothering me. She's pulling away from me, too, and I miss her. Just like I would miss you if you pulled away from me. I just want her back."
He nodded and hugged her close to his chest, stroking her back as they both took a few deep, long, breaths. As the embrace lingered, Sharon heard the welcome sound of the lock turning in the door, and she pulled away from her husband to look up into his face, seeing the wide smile that graced his face, too. "Looks like someone was listening to your prayer," he murmured before kissing her forehead.
"Yes," she whispered as she turned to look towards the door, watching Andrea enter. She looked beautiful, her hair wind tousled, her cheeks red, and the hint of a smile on her lips. "You're home early, Andrea."
"Yes, well, I was looking forward to a hot, home cooked, meal for a change, rather than leftovers." She shrugged out of her coat and hung it next to Sharon's, giving her a tiny smile. "How did your day go? I hope it was just routine, like it has been the last two weeks."
"Everything is still looking good with my new heart. In fact, Doctor Jacobs said that since things are looking so good with me, I will be allowed to return to more physical activities right on schedule." She winked broadly at Andrea, and watched the woman blush a little as she stepped out of her shoes and padded over to the table, taking her usual seat. Andy chuckled in her ear, and she reached back to smack his side gently. "I do hope that you both are prepared for long, vigorous…walks in three weeks."
"That sounds lovely," Andrea choked out before she poured herself a glass of water from the pitcher on the table. "And how was work today, Andy?"
The nonchalant, breezy, sound of her voice belied the tension in her shoulders, and Sharon winked at her husband before coming up behind Andrea and rubbing her arm softly. "Yes, Andy, how was work?" she purred in Andrea's ear, feeling her stiffen even further as she focused her attention on her plate.
"Work was hell. Though it was nice to see Andrea there for a short while. Provenza was closing a deal with a particularly nasty piece of work. And somehow Andrea managed to make twenty five years to life sound like the sweetest deal in the world," he replied as he brushed past both of them, pinching Sharon's rear and pressing a quick kiss to the top of Andrea's head before he pulled the food out of the oven and set it on a trivet.
"You were the ones who did the hard work of bringing the perp in, I just did the legal footwork of making certain he'd never see the light of day again. Because while he took the deal from me, I don't think the federal government will be too quick to cut a deal with him, given the amount of blow he's been trafficking into the country for the last ten years."
"I've never told you, I love this side of you," Sharon said as she took a seat in her chair, reaching out to caress Andrea's arm before pouring her own water. "There's just something so deliciously feral about it, and it lends something to you…" She let her voice trail off deliberately, watching Andy for his reaction to her words, knowing that she was pushing both of them to a breaking point. Her husband cleared his throat lowly, and Sharon wondered if that was his signal for her to pull back. As her eyes trailed down his body, however, she saw that was not the case whatsoever, and a wicked little smile danced across her lips as she settled back in her chair, sipping at her water.
"Did you put something in the water, Andy?" Andrea questioned, and he shook his head as he took a seat, a genial smile on his lips. "Then have I fallen into an alternate reality?"
"No, I think that this is the same universe, since I have my zipper scar still," Sharon replied, dragging her fingers along her chest, watching Andrea following the move. Andy cleared his throat for real this time, and she looked up to see him holding out his hand for her plate. She nodded and gave it to him, watching him fill it before handing it back.
After he had filled Andrea's plate and then his own, Andy reached out both hands for theirs, saying a quick blessing over the food before they began to dig in. "Andrea, I did want to talk to you about something, and we're going to do it in front of Sharon, because she's the one caught in the middle of all this."
Sharon glanced over at the woman, watching the blood drain from her face as she nodded, looking to Sharon for answers she didn't have. Shrugging a little, she once more reached out for Andrea's hand, holding on tightly as they both looked to Andy. "All right, go ahead."
"My wife seems to think that you're pulling away from both of us because you think that you're coming between us, and that you don't want to hurt her. But by avoiding us these last two weeks, you have hurt her, and me. It's taken me a little while to wrap my brain around how this would work, how I could share my wife with someone else and not feel like I'm losing. But these last two weeks, when I've seen her without you, I know that that's what I've been doing for longer than I knew, and I missed who my wife is around you. And I also found myself missing you. You're a force of nature, which I think you know, and I rather like having that force on my side."
Andrea looked between her and Andy, a confused look on her face. "And where are we going with this?"
"It's simple, really. You love Sharon, Sharon loves me. Together, we are a whole, though I never expected those words to come from me. And I think that it's time for you to come home on time, and we can start acting like a real whole." He swallowed and Sharon looked at him, wondering what he was going to say next. "Which is actually why I've talked to Chief Mason and to the DA, and arranged for us to take a long weekend in Tahoe. This way, perhaps, we can bond a little better, Andrea."
She nodded slowly, and Sharon smiled at her husband, so grateful that he had finally gotten to this place. Perhaps things would finally start to go smoothly between them from now on.
"I wish that Doctor Jacobs would have allowed you to go skiing with us for a little bit," Andy said as he and Andrea traipsed in the door. Both their faces were flushed a healthy red, and Sharon felt a twinge of regret at being stuck in front of the fire, reading. "Though that does mean you were able to make hot chocolate for us all?"
She rolled her eyes a little as she got to her feet, letting the blanket she was curled up in fall to the floor as she made her way over to the kitchen of their cabin and picked up the carafe. "I know you too well, Andrew," she said lowly. "Andrea, would you like to get the marshmallows out of the cupboard?"
"Just give me one second to get out of these snowpants," the woman responded, and Sharon turned to watch her, smiling to herself as she took in the curve of Andrea's ass. Andy came up to her side, leaning against the counter as he followed her gaze.
"You are a little too obvious, sweetheart," he said under his breath, and she shrugged. "I know, it's a nice view."
"Isn't it?" she said before she could stop her words, and Sharon clapped her free hand over her mouth as she felt her cheeks heat up in a deep blush. "You didn't hear that."
"Oh, but I did," he said with a chuckle, turning to pull out three mugs. "Don't worry, you're completely normal. And I'm assuming you talk about my ass with her?"
"Yeah," she said as Andrea stood up and jogged over to their sides, kissing Sharon's cheek before rummaging around in the cupboard next to the fridge and pulling out the open bag of marshmallows, handing it to Sharon before grabbing her mug from Andy and holding it out. Sharon filled the cup and watched Andrea take a seat at the table. "Here, Andy, let me fill your mug."
He nodded and Sharon poured the drink into their mugs before joining her at the table, the marshmallows in Andy's hand. Sharon popped a few in her mouth before sipping at her mug, watching Andrea and Andy pile them into their mugs. "What, Sharon?"
"I am not going to be the one who deals with your sugar crash," she murmured.
"Everything will be all right, Sharon. We don't sugar up like this often."
"That's what worries me," she said with a smile. Andy rolled his eyes a little as he quickly downed his drink. As he stood, Sharon shook her head a little and turned her focus on Andrea. "Well, what do you think? Will all that sugar give you a buzz?"
"Maybe. But I can always run around the cabin to work off the excess energy."
A risqué reply danced on the tip of her tongue, but Sharon was careful to not say it, since she didn't want to press her luck in that regard. "I suppose that would be one way to do that, Andrea." The woman simply smiled at her as she nodded, sipping slowly at her hot chocolate. Andy reached out and grabbed a handful of marshmallows, popping a few in his mouth as he got up from the table. "Where are you going?"
"I'm going to soak in the hot tub for a bit. Feel free to join me at any time, ladies," he said, waggling his eyebrows at them. Andrea burst into a fit of giggles, burying her face in her hands, while Sharon just shook her head a little as she motioned for him to go. As he passed her, Andy bent down and kissed her, which made her sigh happily as she looked across the table at Andrea. There was open longing in her face, and Sharon gave her a tiny nod as they listened to Andy leave the room, his footfalls heavy on the stairs.
"Did you notice if he packed swim trunks?" Andrea asked lowly, and Sharon shrugged. "I know we're supposed to get closer on this vacation, but I don't think I'm quite ready for that level of close."
Sharon giggled as she nodded. "If he doesn't have trunks, I'll make him wear his boxers if we're in together. Because I wouldn't want to offend your sensibilities," she teased. Andrea blushed as she took a long drag from her mug. "I mean, I'm sure you'd like to get me naked in the hot tub."
"Well, yes, but that will never happen."
"Never say never," Sharon said lowly, making certain her voice turned husky, hoping that it would drive Andrea as wild as it did Andy. From the way that her breathing picked up, her mouth opening slightly, Sharon knew that she had hit the mark. Getting up from the table, she picked up the marshmallows and sealed the bag, going to put it away.
With her back to the table, Sharon listened to the sounds Andrea was making, her smile widening as the chair scraped against the floor. Anticipation began to rush through Sharon's body as she waited for Andrea's next move. From the corner of her eye, she watched the woman put their mugs in the sink before moving away, and she let out a soft sound of discontent at having misread the situation so badly.
That was the moment that Andrea chose to make her move, stretching her body along Sharon's as she closed her arms around her waist, pulling her back. A small whimper escaped her lips as felt Andrea's breasts press against her, and she shivered before trying to turn around. Andrea tightened her hold on Sharon before sliding one hand up underneath her shirt to cup a breast, her thumb swiping against her nipple insistently. Another low groan tumbled from her lips as she threw her head back against Andrea's shoulder, turning her face so that she could kiss the first bit of skin she could find.
Andrea groaned as Sharon nipped at her jaw, the momentary distraction enough for Sharon to turn and wrap her arms around the woman's neck, pulling her in close for a blistering kiss. As they continued to kiss, Sharon felt Andrea's hands fumble with her oversized sweater, pulling it up her body, and Sharon allowed her to tug it off as she tried to maneuver herself onto the counter. Andrea laughed a little as she helped boost her up, dragging her hands down Sharon's thighs as they broke the kiss, and Sharon shrugged a little as she reached out to pull on the hem of Andrea's sweater. "If I'm going to be in the kitchen with no shirt on, you have to as well," she said breathlessly.
Andrea nodded and hastily removed her sweater, letting it come to rest atop Sharon's. She felt her breath sucked from her lungs as she looked at Andrea for the first time in a thoroughly carnal manner, and suddenly wanted more. "We can't let things get too out of hand, Sharon. Remember, there's still three weeks…"
"But I have this thirst that needs slaking, Andrea," she replied as she reached out and slipped the straps of Andrea's bra off her shoulders. "Let me drink my fill of you." Andrea stepped forward, and once she was close enough, Sharon reached behind her back and unclipped her bra, pulling the garment from her body as she looked down at her pale chest. "You are beautiful," she breathed out as she buried her hands in Andrea's hair, kissing her again as she untangled one hand and ran it up and down Andrea's back.
And then, she was moaning and gasping as Andrea began to drag her lips down the column of her neck, letting her tongue tease along the lace edging of Sharon's bra as her hands fumbled with the front clasp, finally undoing it and Sharon welcomed the feel of soft lips kissing her nipples in reverent worship. Andrea began to fumble with the button on Sharon's trousers, and she braced herself against the counter as she lifted her hips, allowing Andrea to tug them from her legs.
Just as Andrea began to fit herself between Sharon's legs, they heard a noise come from the doorway, and they both froze. Sharon lifted her head to lock eyes with Andy, taking in the smirk on his lips as he tugged his head towards the door, indicating that he was heading out to the hot tub. She wordlessly nodded before bending her body over Andrea's, her breaths ragged to her ears even as she vaguely heard the back door close.
"I, I completely forgot he was still in the cabin," Andrea panted out as she stood once more, hugging Sharon close as they both tried to get control of themselves. "Did he look upset?"
"No, he looked like he wanted to join in," she said, resting her head on Andrea's shoulder. "But getting caught just killed the mood for me. I'm sorry."
"Don't be, we're not supposed to be this physical yet." Sharon murmured her agreement, slipping from the counter and walking over to the table on shaky legs as she smiled at Andrea, loving how everything had felt right about the entire encounter.
Sharon woke up to the familiar kiss of her husband, and she blinked her eyes open as she smiled at him, stretching as she sat up, allowing the sheet to pool around her hips as she reclined against the headboard. "So, what is on the plan for today?" she asked as she watched Andy get dressed, soaking in the sight.
"Andrea and I are going to do some downhill skiing. I thought that you might like to go to the lodge with us, and we could have a nice lunch there. I promise, we won't walk too fast, I don't want you to get too worked up."
She could tell that he was goading her, and she just arched her eyebrow as she got out of bed and went over to his side and pulled out fresh clothes for the day. "I think that I could do with a nice walk. I've been so invigorated while I've been here." Leaning up, she kissed his cheek quickly before squeezing his ass. "Now, I'm going to take a quick shower. Make a good breakfast for us?"
"Of course, Sharon," he said before tugging a shirt over his head.
She could hear Andrea singing lowly in the shower when she reached the bathroom, and her smile widened a little as she opened the door and slipped inside. Andrea was standing in front of the mirror, brushing her hair as she danced to the sound of her voice. A towel was wrapped around her body, but all Sharon could focus on was how flushed her body was, and the sweet curve of her breasts above the towel. "Hope you don't mind, but Andy wants me to come up to the lodge with you today, so we can have lunch together."
As Andrea whirled around to look at her, Sharon slipped out of her nightgown, letting it pool on the floor as she set her clothes on the counter. The woman shook her head slowly, and Sharon smiled as she leaned in and kissed Andrea sweetly before stepping into the shower, shutting the door and turning the water on. After she had washed her hair and body, Sharon stood beneath the water for a little while longer, starting to sing the same song Andrea had been, finding that the song made her happy.
Finally, though, she knew that she had to get moving, and she turned the water off before stepping out and grabbing the towel Andrea had left close to the shower. Wrapping it around her body, she stepped out onto the rug and shook her head a little before raking her hands through her hair to remove some of the excess water.
Taking a look at her reflection in the mirror, Sharon dried her face off before wrapping another towel around her hair so that she could do her makeup before getting dressed and then running her brush through her hair, fluffing it out so that it looked nice. Smiling at her reflection, she slipped her lipstick in the pocket of her jeans before heading down to the kitchen.
Andy was standing in front of the stove, cooking bacon and eggs by the smell of things, and she grinned as she took a seat next to Andrea, reaching out for her hand and squeezing it softly. "I forgot to tell you good morning, Andrea."
"Morning," she whispered as she tucked her chin into her chest, a bright blush brightening up her cheeks.
"All right, ladies, if we're to get on the slopes at a decent time, we're going to have to get moving," Andy said as he loaded up their plates with food. He went to Andrea first, setting hers down in front of her before leaning down and kissing her cheek tenderly. Andrea giggled from nerves, and Sharon squeezed her hand once more before smiling up at her husband. He shrugged before resting his hands on her shoulders, caressing them softly before sliding his hands down her chest to cup her breasts. Sharon arched into his touch, catching Andrea's eye and giving her a wicked smile. The other woman gulped a little and Sharon nodded, bringing her hand over to join Andy's.
"We have to keep your condition in mind," Andrea murmured as she swiped her thumb against the hard rise of Sharon's nipple. "We've waited this long, what's three more weeks?"
"My sanity," Sharon and Andy shot back in unison, and they all burst into laughter as he went to get his own plate from the counter and took a seat across from them.
"You learn to go without when you're pining," Andrea said almost shyly, and Andy nodded a little before digging into his food. "Though, I must say that reality is much sweeter than any fantasy I had."
"I felt the same way after the first time I touched Sharon."
Sharon felt awkward listening to this conversation, since she was the one being discussed, but it was also really sweet that they were bonding in this fashion. "Her skin is so soft. I wasn't expecting that, Andy. How do you keep from touching her all the time when you're at the precinct together?"
"It was hardest when things first turned physical between us. Sharon, though, just had to follow her beloved rules."
She looked up at him and glared, watching him smiled and chuckle soundlessly as he continued to eat. "Yes, well, those rules allowed us to stay in a relationship and not have one of us transferred to another department. Because if I couldn't work with my two favorite people, I don't know what I'd do."
Andrea knocked shoulders with her, and Sharon glanced over and smiled at her. "That's why I'm glad you took over for Brenda Leigh. It meant I got to see more of you." That shy smile fluttered on her lips once more, and then Sharon quickly leaned in and kissed her. "We definitely cannot do that at work. Like you, I want to keep my private life private, especially since this is…"
"Unorthodox?" Andy supplied, and Andrea nodded. "We're used that in our household. You'll fit right in."
The rest of the meal didn't take too long, and then they were getting their coats on before traipsing outside. Andy went over to their rental car, and Sharon frowned a little. "I thought we were going to walk?"
"We could, but I think that it would be nicer if we drove. You and Andrea can huddle up in the back, and I can feel like a proper chauffer."
She nodded, hooking arms with Andrea as they walked over to join him. He was right, the drive only took a few minutes, and then they were parking close to the entrance to the lodge. "Would you head in with me? I didn't have time to look through it earlier, and I'd like to find a good meeting place for when you've come off the slopes."
"I can go get our skis if you'd like, Andy," Andrea said lowly, and he nodded gratefully. Sharon smiled at her before kissing her cheek. "We'll see you in a few hours!"
She nodded and watched Andrea head out, curving her body to fit Andy's as they began to head through the main part of the lodge where they were staying. It felt so good to know that things were gelling so well between all three of them, and that this morning had not been as awkward as she imagined it might be. For the first time, she thought that this might really work out for her.
Somehow, they had reached the last day of their vacation, and Sharon found herself wishing that they had longer to spend together before returning to the real world. Andrea was putting away the dishes from supper, while Andy was packing everything that they wouldn't need in the morning, so that there was less to do before they left for home.
She sighed a little as she relaxed on the sofa, her tablet in her hands, even though she had abandoned her book a few minutes ago in order to listen to her loved ones working around her. Her phone rang, and she set the tablet aside to answer it. "Hello?"
"Mom! You are the hardest person to get ahold of these days! I tried calling the apartment, but there was no answer. Where are you?"
"Oh, my gosh, I never told you or Ricky! Andy and I went on a short vacation to Tahoe. You've just caught us on our last night here." Andrea came into the living room, and Sharon patted the sofa next to her. She nodded and took a seat, leaning against her as she wrapped an arm around her waist and rested her cheek on Sharon's chest. "My recovery has gone so well that we decided to celebrate that, even as I work on my grief over Rusty."
"Rusty was stupid," Emily muttered bitterly.
"Em, don't say that!"
"He was! If he had let your squad do their jobs, you wouldn't have to deal with grief for him. He went against your wishes, and he paid the ultimate price for that. So, yes, he was extremely stupid. He left us, before we could really be a family, and I don't think I'll ever forgive that."
She stroked Andrea's hair as she fought to remain calm, knowing that her daughter had a right to be angry with Rusty, since that was part of the grieving process. Still, though, it made her sad, and she didn't want to be sad this weekend. "I know that's how you feel right now, but your feelings might change in time. Just, try to remember him kindly, for me?"
"I'll try, Mom. Anyway, I wanted to call and see if it would be all right if I came out for a visit in a few weeks. I know that your recovery is going well, I keep seeing the updates you post on Facebook, but I want to see you."
Andrea hissed a little as her fingers tugged too sharply on a snarl, and Sharon soothed the spot by gently rubbing the pads of her fingers against her scalp. "As long as you give me a call beforehand, that will be fine, Emily. I might be at the doctor's for my weekly check-up."
"Shouldn't you be headed towards monthly check ins? I mean, it's been a few months since the transplant."
Trust her daughter to remember that and call her out for it. "Yeah, I think we're going to monthly with this next check-up. But, I have to let you go. Andy planned a special late supper for us, and he's giving me that look. I'll talk to you soon, okay?"
"Yeah, of course. I, I love you."
"Love you, too, Emily."
They hung up, and Andrea sat up a little to look into Sharon's eyes. "Why did you lie?"
"Because my daughter can talk my ear off, and when I tell her that I need to go to sleep, she tends to tell me that she can talk at me until she knows I'm fully asleep. And I really wanted to spend the last night here with you and Andy, not talking to her."
"She's going to catch you one of these days, you know."
"But not yet," she responded, tilting her head down and kissing her. Andrea hummed under her breath as the kiss deepened, and then Andy was clearing his throat a little as he joined them, moving Sharon's tablet as he took a seat on the coffee table. "Emily is making plans to visit us soon. I don't know how I feel about that."
"Because of me?"
"No. Never that. But I selfishly want just a little more time alone with you and Andy, so that we can solidify this new facet of our relationships." Andy grinned as he nodded. "I'm glad someone agrees with me here."
"I just know that you need some space to process things. Events have happened in quick succession, and I know that your equilibrium might be a little off."
Sharon nodded as she yawned, and Andrea sat up, smiling at her. "You should get a good sleep, we have a seven hour drive ahead of us in the morning."
"Don't remind me of how long it is, Andrea," she mumbled through another yawn, standing up and shaking her head. "But I think that I will slip into something more comfortable. Andy, my tablet?"
He handed it to her, and she kissed him before kissing Andrea and heading up to their room. Tossing the tablet on the bed, she quickly stripped before padding over to the dresser and picking up her nightie, letting it fall down around her thighs as she went over to the bed and crawled in, opening her iBooks app and picking up her story where she'd left off.
Andy joined her about twenty minutes later, and Sharon watched him change over her tablet, finding herself thoroughly distracted by the sight. "I know that you're watching me, babe."
"It's such an enthralling sight to see, why would I deny myself that pleasure?"
He turned and gave her a playful smile, tugging his shirt into place as he came over to her side and plucked the tablet from her hands, setting it aside as he bent down and kissed her soundly. Sharon hummed with pleasure as she hooked an arm around his neck and pulled him closer, relishing the feel of his body coming to rest over hers. "I want you to spend the night with Andrea."
"Excuse me?" she asked as she continued to look up at him, trying to suss out what he was driving at. "Andy?"
"I was expecting you to spend the night with her last night, after what I walked in on." She looked away quickly, trying to keep the blush off her face, and he gently turned her face towards his once more. "Don't be ashamed, we all have needs. But I want you to sleep in her room tonight. For me."
"All right," she finally whispered, reaching up to caress his cheek lightly. "I love you."
"I love you, too." Andy kissed her once more before gesturing towards the door. She nodded and slipped out from beneath him, padding over to the door. Taking a deep breath, she looked back at her husband, a soft smile on her lips. "Sleep well."
"You, too." She gave him a small wave before heading across the hall, going into Andrea's room without knocking. Andrea was dancing around in a pair of shorts and no top, and Sharon giggled softly at the sight. Andrea gasped a little as she turned to face Sharon, holding an oversized shirt up to her chest. "I've seen you topless before, there's no need to be modest."
"You just surprised me." Andrea quickly pulled the shirt over her head, and then smiled at Sharon. "What brings you here tonight?"
"So formal, my dear. Can't a woman see her best friend at night?"
"I, I suppose," Andrea stuttered as Sharon stalked over to her side, wrapping an arm around her waist and pulling Andrea close to her. "Sharon?"
"Andy wanted me to be here tonight. Nothing more, nothing less. So, come to bed with me?"
Andrea nodded, finally relaxing in Sharon's arms as they went over to the bed, collapsing on it before entwining their bodies together. Sharon sighed happily as she rested her head on Andrea's chest, reveling in the feel of her large hands spreading out on her back, holding her close as sleep slowly stole over her.
Andrea had chosen to take the first leg of their drive home, and Sharon was pleased to see that Andy had chosen to sit up front with her, allowing her to stretch out in the back. As she listened to them talk, Sharon flipped through the pictures on her phone, taking a few new ones to keep the memories of this lovely weekend close at hand.
Everything was all right until she came across a picture of Gus and Rusty that she had forgotten she'd taken. They were smiling joyously at the camera, Rusty's arm hanging around Gus's shoulders, and Sharon felt her heart clench painfully in her chest as she cried out. "Sharon?" Andy asked as he twisted around to look at her in the backseat. "Honey, what's wrong?"
Wordlessly, she handed him her phone, and listened to him murmur something in Andrea's ear. The woman nodded and Sharon felt the car begin to slow as they pulled into the right-hand lane. Unable to stop her tears, Sharon tried to focus on where Andrea was taking them, as she had left the highway, and the sight of tall trees enveloping them became a welcome sight.
"I was getting a little hungry, anyway," Andrea said as she parked the car in the first spot she found. "Let me get the bag from the back, and you and Andy can find a good place to sit?"
Sharon nodded as Andrea got out, and then she looked to her husband. He wore a sad smile, and she could see the tears pooling in his eyes. "You heard Andrea, let's find a good spot to eat." She drew in a deep breath as they got out of the car and made their way over to some picnic tables. There weren't very many other people around, but a quick glance at her watch told her that they were a little early for lunch. Still, the kind consideration spoke volumes, and Sharon was never more grateful for Andrea in her life than she was at this moment.
Taking a seat at the table, she buried her head in her arms as she continued to cry, feeling Andy sit down next to her. He rubbed her back gently, and she heard him murmuring something to her, though she couldn't make out distinct words. It felt good to just allow the litany to wash over her until Andrea got there.
She took a seat on Sharon's other side, letting her arm come to rest low around her hips as she rested her cheek on Sharon's arm. "We won't leave your side," she whispered fiercely before nuzzling her cheek against her arm. It seemed like once both her loved ones were there, some of the sorrow fled her body, and she began to gain control of herself once more. Taking a few deep breaths, she sat up and wiped her eyes clear of tears, looking first at Andy, and then at Andrea.
"It just suddenly hit me, how much I miss him. In all the fight for survival, I looked past this grief, and now, I don't know how to move on."
"That's why you have us, Sharon. We'll help you find a way to move beyond these stages of overwhelming grief and into our new normal." Andrea lifted her head and leaned in, pressing her lips to Sharon's cheek. "It will be hard, but that's life."
"She's right," Andy replied as he set out their sandwiches. "The only way we can move on is together, as a family." Sharon nodded and smiled a little as she felt his lips touch her hair. "Now, after we eat, how about we take a short walk and enjoy nature before getting back underway? I'm itching to drive some."
She let out a sigh as she unwrapped her sandwich and began to slowly eat. Though Andrea had gotten her favorite, Sharon found there was no flavor to it, as if the depth of her sorrow had leeched the sensation of taste away from her. Andy rubbed her back softly, as if he could read her thoughts, and she released another sigh as she continued to eat, knowing that it would do no good to wallow in self-pity and sorrow.
"Sharon? Do you want to take a walk after we're done eating?"
She looked up suddenly at Andrea, realizing that she hadn't given an answer to Andy. Shaking her head to clear away the dust of her thoughts, Sharon looked first at Andrea, then at her husband, a small smile on her lips. "I think that would be fine. There's something so lovely about being in the fresh air. It reminds me that I'm still here."
Andy nodded before patting her arm lovingly. The rest of their meal passed by quietly, and Sharon found that the warmth of the sun combined with the fresh air made her feel more content than she had thought possible after her crying jag, but the even keel that it brought to her felt good, as if she was releasing some of her grief to the world, knowing that Nature could handle that burden.
Andrea gathered up their rubbish and threw it away before coming back to them, holding out her hand expectantly. Sharon took hold of it, standing up and threading their fingers together as Andy started down the trail closest to them. Their walk was quiet, and she let the songs of the birds seep into her soul, carrying away more of the grief she had been left with in the wake of everything that had happened.
"Do you think that being happy after you lose your child is a sin?" she asked softly, not really expecting an answer.
"No, Sharon. If God meant for us to lose ourselves in sorrow after the untimely death of a child, no one would have made it past the first death of a baby. No, He knows that sorrow will sweep over us in waves, like on the ocean, but think about the beauty of the ocean, too, and how the sun shines on it, making us smile. So that same ocean that brings sorrow also brings us joy." Andrea stopped them beneath a tall tree, looking into her eyes. Sharon was surprised to see tear tracks running down her cheeks, and she drifted towards her, dropping her forehead against her chest as she wrapped her arms around her waist. Andy completed the circle, his hands spread out on Sharon's back.
"I love you, both of you, so much." Her voice was thick and rough, but Andrea didn't seem to mind, since she just nodded and allowed Sharon to hold her closer. "We're going to be stronger for all this. Even if it takes a long time, we will make it through to the other side."
"Of course, because we're stronger, together," Andy said, his voice just as gruff and thick as hers had been. His hands moved up and down her back in soothing motions, and she let out a long breath, feeling Andrea copy her. Once they had all gotten control back of their emotions, they walked on, Andrea ensconced between them, and Sharon wondered if the rest of their lives would be like this, coming together and supporting each other when they needed it. Sending a quick prayer up to Heaven, Sharon tightened her hand on Andrea's hip and smiled, eager to see what was in store for them.
Sharon hummed with pleasure as she climbed into the car. Andy noticed her good mood, and gave her a quizzical look, to which she just smiled all the wider. "I take it that you got good news at your check up today?"
"You would be right. Do you think that we should bring Andrea out with us to The Palms?"
"Oh, it's that good of news, is it?" he teased as he leaned over and pecked her cheek. She nodded and buckled her belt, slipping on her sunglasses as Andy drove them home. "Well, I'll call and see if we can get in once we're home. If it's a go, then you can ask Andrea."
"All right," she said, watching the cars go by from her window. "After all, I'm afraid that Andrea will be decidedly left out this evening. What with my health being deemed as perfect as can be, given the circumstances."
He glanced over at her, giving her a knowing grin as he nodded quickly. Sharon noticed that their speed increased, and she chuckled lowly, knowing exactly what was making his foot heavy as a brick. While Andy called about reservations, Sharon pulled out her cell and dialed Andrea, wondering what she was doing at that moment.
"Sharon! Did everything go all right today?"
"Perfect. And that's why I was calling. Andy's making us all reservations at The Palms tonight, I hope that's agreeable to you."
She heard the soft gasp of pleasure that slipped from Andrea's lips and knew that she'd get a yes from her. "That is more than agreeable, Sharon. I just don't know if I'll have time to get ready."
"Oh, that's all right, I can pick something out for you. If you don't mind."
"I trust you." There was a short pause. "I need to take this call, I'm so sorry."
"Don't worry, we'll talk tonight. I love you," she said before she hung up, not wanting to take up any more of her time. Smiling widely to herself, she climbed the stairs as quickly as she could, feeling better than she had in ages. Her heart really was taking care of her better, which made her almost giddy with joy. After compensating for her poor health for so long, she'd almost forgotten what it was like to be healthy, and the news she had gotten today just made that all the clearer to her.
Heading into Andrea's room, she made a beeline for the closet and began to thumb through elegant dresses that hung towards the back. Knowing that she would most likely end up in the red dress she'd purchased for the ball last year, she decided to find something that would compliment that. A loving expression softened her features when she came across the bridesmaid's gown from her wedding. Knowing that that would go well with the dress she had in mind, Sharon took it out of the closet and laid it across the bed before picking out the matching shoes and jewelry.
"Well, our reservations are for seven," Andy said as she came out of Andrea's room, and she grinned up at him. "I suppose that means I'll be wearing my wedding suit tonight, since it matches Andrea's dress."
"You read my mind, darling," she said as she kissed his cheek. "Now, I'm going to pick out what I'm going to wear and then take a long bath. Those bath bombs that Emily bought me from Lush are calling my name."
Andy nodded and gave her another kiss before following her into the bedroom. As she buzzed around, gathering what she'd need for that evening, he watched her, the smile never leaving his lips as she set out their clothes and then arranged what jewelry she'd wear with her dress. "And just what am I supposed to do?"
"Sit there and look pretty," she teased before winking at him and disappearing into the bathroom. Deciding to take a little extra time, she picked out her makeup before disrobing and turning on the water. While the tub filled, she cleaned off her earlier makeup and then selected her bath bomb, dropping in the water before climbing in herself and leaning back, watching as the water turned a lovely shade of pink.
A part of her wished she had brought her tablet in, so that she could read while she soaked, and then Andy was appearing with the device in his hands. "When did you learn to read my mind?" she asked as she took it from his outstretched hand.
"I've lived with you long enough to know your habits. And if you're going to be in her a long time, well, you want to read."
"I do. Thank you." Sharon watched as he took a seat on the toilet. "Are you going to stay the entire time?"
"I think that would end up distracting us both to no good end, don't you?"
"True. And I'll be a boring companion soon enough, since you know how it is when I get to reading." He nodded and she made herself more comfortable, turning her tablet on and selecting the book she was almost finished with. "Now, I am so close to finished, and I know that we won't have time to relax tonight, at least, not in that way, so please…"
"Quit distracting you further?" She nodded. "All right. Try not to become a prune, though."
She laughed and shook her head, turning her attention onto her book. Andy gave her one last kiss before he left the room, and then she became engrossed in the story, losing all sense of time until it was finished. As she read the last word, she looked at the time and realized that she had just enough time to get ready.
Draining the water, she stepped out of the tub, setting her tablet on the counter before wrapping a towel around her body as she did her makeup. Once she felt like she was ready to go, she padded out into the bedroom and over to her clothes, dropping the towel and rolling hose up her legs before pulling on her lingerie and then her dress. The last thing she did was step into her heels and pick up her clutch, sliding her phone inside it before making her way downstairs.
Andrea and Andy were waiting for her, and she smiled to see them, looking like a matched pair. "You look gorgeous, Sharon," Andrea murmured as she came to a stop in front of them.
"So do both of you. How am I to cope when I have two angels on my arms."
Andy chuckled as he rolled his eyes a little. "You need smoother lines, Sharon. But I suppose that since you don't need to catch either of us any longer, you don't really need to be better."
"Ah ah ah, I need to keep you both interested in me, now don't I?" she said as she slipped into her jacket, allowing Andrea to smooth it down her back. "Now, are we ready?"
"Yes," Andy said as he took her arm and led her out of the condo. Sharon smiled as she breathed in the familiar scent of Andrea's perfume mixing with Andy's aftershave, and found herself very eager for the evening ahead of her, knowing that it would end in pure pleasure for her.
"That dessert was beyond amazing!" Andrea exclaimed as she settled in the back seat next to Sharon. She nodded and took hold of Andrea's hand and started to play with the ring on her pointer finger. "You're in a good mood tonight."
"Yes, well, it's going to be a long night for me. I've finally been cleared to get more intimate with people again. This first night is for Andy, but…"
"Then we get to finish what we started in Tahoe?" she whispered, and Sharon nodded before leaning in and kissing her softly. It was easy enough to push her back against the seat of the car, Sharon's hands running up and down her body as they made out like schoolchildren afraid of getting caught. As her husband continued to drive, Sharon began to kiss along the line of Andrea's jaw and then down her neck, nipping at her skin delicately before continuing down along the curve of Andrea's breasts. The younger woman let out a low moan as Sharon drew her tongue along the neckline of her dress. "Sharon, don't tease me so, not when we can't finish this tonight."
"I know you can take care of yourself. And I promise not to be too loud tonight. Though that might be to your benefit." Her voice was tight and high, and Andrea shivered a little at the sound of it. Sharon smirked as she cupped one breast and swiped her thumb over Andrea's nipple, watching as it pressed against the taut fabric of Andrea's bodice. "Am I right?"
Andrea mewled as she nodded, and Sharon looked up in the rearview mirror, taking in the look of pure lust on her husband's face. It was enough to almost make her come undone, and with great regret, she pulled away from Andrea and helped the woman to sit up. "Don't stop now, Sharon."
"I have to, honey. I don't want our first time to be in a car. Forgive me?"
"Always," Andrea breathed out as she squirmed in her seat, trying to get comfortable. Sharon watched her the entire way home, their hands always touching as Andy drove. When they reached their condo complex, Andy parked first, and then held out his arms to them, leading them inside. The elevator ride was mainly silent, though Sharon could hear that both her lovers were breathing heavily. A wicked smile spread across her face as she stepped away from them and then motioned for them to move closer together. "Sharon?"
"I just need you close so that I can easily kiss you both, Andrea," she said lowly as she stepped forward and pressed her lips to Andrea's first. Then she turned her head and kissed Andy, welcoming the feel of his hand on her ass. She kept alternating kisses between the two of them until they reached their floor, and then they stumbled out of the elevator, somehow making it to their condo without tripping or falling.
"I'll just lock up down here," Andrea said breathlessly, and Sharon gave her a languid nod before stepping out of her heels and following after Andy, feeling like she was under a sensual spell of raw passion. Every time she had felt that hunger burn in her belly had built up to this moment, and she found that everything was starting to coalesce into one single thought – she wanted Andy.
"We'll see you in the morning, Andrea," her husband said as she started up the stairs, and Sharon waved to her before Andrea climbed the stairs as quickly as she could. The bedroom door closed heavily behind them and Sharon shivered a little as she felt Andy run the zipper of her dress down her back, pulling it from her shoulders. She allowed it to pool on the floor, intent on undressing her husband as well.
Somehow, they both managed to disrobe without tearing anything, and Sharon drew in a long breath as she moved back towards the bed, bracing herself as Andy pushed her down onto the mattress. "Do you know how hard it was to keep my self-control in the car as I watched you and Andrea make out? A part of my brain wanted to find the closest hotel, check in, and watch you two all night. But I don't think Andrea is that much of an exhibitionist just yet. So, I had to be content with the small glimpses I got."
"She tastes so sweet, Andy. I feel like I'm drinking from the clearest water when I kiss her. And you might be able to still taste her on my lips." He took the hint and kissed her deeply. Sharon felt his dick against her thigh, warm and hard, and she groaned as she parted her legs, eager to feel him inside her once more. "Please, Andy."
"Please what, Sharon?" he murmured as he peppered kisses along her jaw and neck, his tongue tracing her collarbone. She arched up against him, letting out a guttural moan as his chest hair teased her overly sensitive nipples, hoping he would take the hint. Instead, Andy shook his head a little, his lips trailing down her body until he was kissing one of her nipples, letting his tongue lap and tease at it as he sucked gently.
Her hips ground against air, and she found that she couldn't close her legs, as he had fitted himself between them when she hadn't been paying attention. "This is too much," she wailed as she turned her head back and forth on the pillow, sensations crashing over her in wave after wave of pleasure. "Please, don't make beg. Fuck me."
She knew that she was so close to the pinnacle, and she whined again as his lips left her breast. Opening her eyes, she saw that he was looking at her, love and lust mingling on his features, and Sharon nodded as she hooked one leg around his body, pulling him down closer to her. He took the lead once more, sliding into her body in one smooth stroke, and she cried out as he filled her. "Does this feel good, Sharon?"
"Yes," she gasped out as he thrust in and out, his cock bumping against her clit with almost every stroke, building the pleasure up in her body as she climbed ever closer to the peak of her desire. And then, he leaned down and captured her lips in a torrid kiss, one hand cupping her breast and rubbing her nipple until she finally slipped over the crest into her orgasm.
Flopping back against the mattress, Sharon breathed heavily as she smiled. "Was it worth the wait?" Andy asked as he drew patterns on her stomach.
"Yes., Andy, oh my god, I don't think it's ever been sweeter. You were perfect." She turned onto her side and looked at him, cupping his face with her hand as she kissed him softly. "Did you finish?"
"Yeah, it would have been hard not to, honestly. Now, let me go get the washcloth."
Sharon nodded as she sat up, resting against the headboard of their bed. A small part of her had wondered if sex with Andy would be the same, after she had discovered her desire for Andrea, but the fact that it was better than ever told her that maybe, just maybe, God was smiling upon this highly unorthodox situation she had found herself in.
Sharon found herself feeling deliciously lazy the next morning, having been awakened with a kiss from Andy. He was heading out on a case, which meant that she and Andrea would have the entire day to themselves, and Sharon knew exactly what she was going to be doing with that opportunity. Once she had decided to set things into motion, she got out of bed and made her way over to the bathroom, slipping out of her nightgown and into the shower, quickly washing off the dust of her slumber.
As she opened the door after getting dressed, the deliciously smell of waffles wafted up towards her, and she smiled widely as she quickly headed down to the kitchen. Andrea was standing in front of the waffle maker, hips twitching to the song that she was humming under her breath, and Sharon joined in as she came up to the woman, wrapping her arms around her waist and hooking her chin over her shoulder. "Good morning, Andrea," she murmured before turning her head to kiss her cheek.
"Morning, Sharon. You missed Andy, he was heading out the door when I came down to make breakfast."
"I know, he woke me with a kiss and told me there was a case. Which means that we'll be all alone here. Maybe after we eat, we can feed another hunger that's been growing inside me?" She slid her hands up Andrea's torso to cup her breasts, squeezing them gently. Andrea groaned lowly as she pushed back against Sharon, trying to get in closer contact with her. Sharon bit her lip lightly as Andrea ground her ass against her body, a light sigh slipping from her lips.
"As long as we can eat first," she gasped out and Sharon nodded as she kissed her neck. "Great, then set the table and quit distracting me. The longer it takes to make the food, the longer we have to wait to thoroughly satiate ourselves."
"Yes, Andrea," she purred as she moved away from her and began to pull plates out of the cupboard. Gathering the rest of their necessities, she set the table and then poured orange juice for them, setting the bottle on the table along with the maple syrup.
The meal was short, their silence heavy with anticipation, and Sharon couldn't help but lick her lips every time Andrea looked at her. The resulting squirm and flush were enough to tell Sharon that she was getting to Andrea, and she giggled a little. Until she felt Andrea's foot rub up and down her leg, stirring up a fever in the pit of her stomach. "Two can play at your game," Andrea said lowly, the sound of her voice making her shiver and squirm, just as Andrea had.
Finally, the last bite was taken, and Sharon put the orange juice and syrup away while Andrea filled the dishwasher. Taking a deep breath, Sharon turned to the woman, seeing that Andrea was watching her intently, an inscrutable look on her features. Slowly, Sharon stepped towards her, wishing that she hadn't put on nearly so many clothes before coming down to breakfast. And then, she was in Andrea's space, her hands coming up to bury themselves in the woman's hair, tugging her close for a bruising kiss. Short, sharp, breaths escaped her nose as they kissed, Andrea's hands cupping her ass and pulling her all the closer as the kiss deepened, their hips moving against each other as they made for the stairs.
Reluctantly, she broke the kiss, knowing that they needed to focus to get up the steps safely. Taking firm hold of Andrea's hand, she led her upstairs, heading towards her own room without thinking. "My bed, Sharon," Andrea said lowly, and she nodded, allowing Andrea to take the lead, bringing her into her bedroom.
"While we were in Tahoe. I asked Gus if he would do this for me. I needed my own bed. Don't worry, the other is in my place, I knew it wasn't right to just get rid of it entirely." As she nodded, Andrea smiled at her and then leaned in, kissing her once more as she brought them over to the bed. "And I don't think this will be quite so awkward in my bed. Right?" she whispered as she began to pull off Sharon's shirt. She nodded and raised her arms, suddenly glad that she had forgone a bra, since it meant one less thing to take off. Still, Andrea had to fumble with her yoga pants and panties, rolling them down her legs before kneeling on the floor and looking up at Sharon, a look of pure adoration and love on her face.
"Andrea," she said lowly as she reached out, carding her fingers through the woman's hair as she leaned in and rested her head on Sharon's stomach. Her breathing started to become shallow and rough as she turned her head and began to kiss her skin, sending almost violent shivers through her body as Andrea's lips moved lower and lower. Gently, Andrea pushed her down onto the bed, and she parted her legs, knowing what the woman wanted instinctively.
There was a small pause, and when Sharon lifted her head to look, she saw that she had quickly stripped before she moved in close to Sharon once more. Her hands came to rest on Sharon's thighs, pulling her closer and closer to the edge of the bed until she was almost falling off. And then, she drew in a sharp breath as Andrea blew softly on her labia. Sharon lifted her hips in supplication, wanting to feel her mouth there, not just her breath.
Andrea let out a soft sound of pure want before Sharon reached out an arm and tugged on her hair. Taking the hint, Andrea moved in closer, running her fingers along Sharon's vulva, touching her gently, building up the desire in her. Lifting her hips off the mattress, Sharon tried to get in closer contact with Andrea, only to have those gorgeous hands press her back down on the mattress before she leaned in and kissed her mound almost reverently. They sighed in unison before Andrea began to eat her out. Sharon found that she couldn't concentrate on anything other than the sensations that Andrea was giving her, the way her tongue teased between her labia to find her clit, how she gently fitted two fingers into her channel, curling them just so. Sharon arched her body off the mattress as the first orgasm swept over her body, and she smiled with pleasure as she struggled to catch her breath, her body gently flopping back down onto the bed. Andrea joined her, curling her body around Sharon's as she also breathed heavily, her breasts moving against Sharon's arm.
Turning, Sharon looked into her eyes and saw the pure joy in her expression. "You were perfect, Andrea," she said huskily, running her fingers up and down her arm, "but now I should reciprocate the pleasure you've brought me. I want to taste you, since you've tasted me."
Leaning in, she kissed the woman deeply, the musky flavor on Andrea's lips ramping up her desire once more. Using the element of surprise, she turned Andrea onto her back and began to kiss down the elegant column of her neck, resting her hands on Andrea's hips as she continued to drag her lips down her chest and then, finally, reaching her breasts.
She found herself more than a little nervous at this point, since she was charting new waters. But then, Andrea was slipping her fingers into Sharon's hair, guiding her to one turgid nipple, and she latched on, sucking and licking at the taut peak with the same fervor Andrea had used. It was an overwhelming sensation, and Sharon whimpered a little as she continued to kiss down Andrea's body, almost needing to finish this before she chickened out.
Andrea's legs parted beneath the light touch of Sharon's hands, and she smiled a little before leaning back on her haunches and drinking in the sight of her Andrea. The woman's body was flushed and her hips moved up and down with clear want. Taking a deep breath, she leaned in and began to reciprocate how Andrea had brought her pleasure. Sharon once more lost herself in pleasure, only this time she was giving it, and she listened to Andrea moan and keen out as she drove the woman closer and closer to an orgasm.
It was a wonder to feel Andrea's thighs tighten around her head as she came apart, and Sharon ran her hands up the woman's torso until she was holding onto her breasts, her thumbs running over Andrea's nipples as she continued to eat Andrea out through her orgasm. Finally, the woman let her body thump back onto the bed, tugging on Sharon's hair to get her to attention.
"Yes?" she panted out, her body feeling so beautifully heavy, like it always did after good sex with Andy.
"Come up here, I want to cuddle with you as we come down from our orgasms," Andrea said, her voice thick. Sharon nodded as she shimmied her way up to the pillows, letting her head come to rest next to Andrea's as she entwined her arms and legs with her lover's, letting their foreheads touch as they quietly stared into each other's eyes, finding the peace that came after the storm in each other's arms.
Sharon had expected there to be a bit of awkwardness between the three of them after she and Andrea had finally taken that next step in their relationship, but it just wasn't there, and she allowed herself to relax, settling into the rhythm of their relationship. It seemed like they fit together well, and she welcomed the ability to slip between their beds, finding love wherever she was.
"Are you going to keep staring in the mirror or are we going to get going to church?" Andy said as he popped his head into the bathroom. Turning, she gave him a soft smile before nodding and taking one last look at her reflection, smacking her lips together before turning the lights off and following him downstairs.
To her surprise, she found Andrea dressed in a light spring dress, looking thoroughly ready for church, too. "Andrea?"
"I figured, since I'm with you and Andy, that I might give this church thing a whirl? It means that I get to spend more time with you two, and…" Her voice trailed off, and she looked down into her lap, a shy expression closing her feature off from Sharon.
"Oh, honey, I will always take more time with you," she replied as she went over to her and reached out for her hand. Andrea clasped it and Sharon tugged her to her feet, wrapping her arm around Andrea's waist as she went out the door, trusting Andy to grab her purse and phone as he trailed after them, locking the condo up as they made their way to the elevators.
Andrea drove that morning, allowing Andy and Sharon time to chat in the back seat. "Chief Mason wants to know when you're ready to come back. Louie's good at certain things, but he's not you. I never thought I'd say this, but the team needs your steadying hand to guide and lead it."
"Doctor Jacobs has said that I may return to light duty after my next checkup, which luckily enough, is tomorrow. If you'd like, you can tell him the good news yourself when you get into the office tomorrow."
He gave her a knowing smile before leaning over and kissing her temple as Andrea pulled into a parking spot. Together, they all entered the church, and from the corner of her eye, she watched as Andrea watched her intently, genuflecting a split second after Sharon did. She smiled sweetly at her lover as she took hold of her hand and led her up to their normal pew. Andrea slid in first, and then Sharon, followed by Andy, and she watched as Andrea tried to inconspicuously look around, gathering in every detail she could.
Reaching out, she rested her hand on Andrea's knee, squeezing softly to get her attention. "I'm sorry, I just don't want to embarrass you."
"You could never do that, darling," she replied, giving her a small smile as she pulled out the order of service, handing it to Andrea, so that she would feel a little more comfortable with the service. And though it took Andrea a little while to get the hang of everything, it seemed to finally click into place towards the end, though she abstained from taking Holy Communion.
As they left, Father Stan stopped them by the door, and she gave him a wide smile as she took both Andy and Andrea's hands, holding on to them tightly. "It was a lovely homily today, Father Stan."
"Thank you, Sharon," he replied before turning his attention to Andrea. "And you are?"
"Andrea Hobbs. You met me at the wedding, but I know that your focus wasn't entirely on the wedding party that day." She reached out her free hand, shaking his firmly. "This is my first time with Sharon and Andy, but I hope to be back."
"We welcome all here at my church, and I look forward to seeing you again next week."
They all nodded, and Sharon led them down the steps and over towards the car. "Actually, Sharon, I was thinking we could walk to that little trattoria a few blocks from here. It's a beautiful day, and why not walk when we can?"
She glanced over at Andy and nodded, pleased at the idea. Their walk was nice, the birds singing louder than the sound of traffic, and Sharon found herself drifting between Andy and Andrea, bumping hips with them at steady intervals. The wait for a table was only about fifteen minutes, which Sharon didn't think was too bad. Andy went to use the restroom, which allowed her and Andrea some private time while they waited.
"What did you really think of the service? I like Father Stan, he never spoke an unkind word about Rusty, even though I know the Catholic church as a whole isn't the best with regard to anything outside of traditional families. Which I hope means that he doesn't judge me for falling in love with both of you."
"If he does give you grief, I just won't come. Because this makes you happy, and I don't want you to be unhappy." Sharon tsked a little, and Andrea shook her head. "I mean it, your happiness will always come first to me. Okay?"
She finally nodded before leaning in and kissing her cheek. Hearing a familiar gasp, she turned her head and saw Amy standing there, almost rooted to the spot, staring at them. Andrea gasped a little as she hurriedly stepped away from Sharon, but the damage was already done. The spell over Amy seemed to snap, and she took a few steps forward towards them.
"Amy! How good to see you!" she said, false cheerfulness in her voice.
The younger woman nodded a little, confusion still marring her features as she came to a stop next to Andrea. "I wasn't expecting to see you here, ma'am. Is Andy around?"
"He's using the facilities while we wait for our table. Are you here with someone?" she asked, trying to deflect attention away from Andrea and herself.
"Yeah, I was meeting friends here for lunch. It's good to see you, too, Andrea," she said, smiling at her. "I didn't realise that you two ran in the same circles."
"Yes, well, ever since the heart transplant, I've been sticking closer to her side. I hate to think of the deep friendship I would have lost had she died." Andrea glanced over at Sharon, a slight blush on her cheeks. "She's my best friend, and I cherish the fact that I've been able to spend more time with her."
Sharon nodded before looking back at Amy. She still looked skeptical, and Sharon desperately wished that Andy would hurry up and come back to them. "Amy!"
Sharon's shoulders slumped with relief as she turned to see Andy ambling over to them. Though a smile curved his lips, she could see that he, too, was quite surprised to see Amy there. Still, he took a spot between her and Andrea, his arms coming to rest around their waists as he gazed evenly at Amy. "Hey, Andy! Out on a…date?"
"Yes," he replied evenly, just as their name was called from the podium. "If you'll excuse us." He nodded at Amy before turning and guiding them to the front of the group. It was a close call, and a rude awakening, as Sharon hadn't given a second thought to what her team might say. All she knew is that she was so proud of Andy for shutting down any inquiries Amy might have for them, giving her a little more time to come up with a proper answer.
The first morning she returned to desk duty, Sharon found her office filled with flowers. There was a bouquet of red roses from Andy, a colorful arrangement from the team, and a small bonsai tree from Andrea. A warm smile stayed affixed to her lips as she took a seat at her desk, looking over everything that she would have to get caught up on.
Around eleven, Mike knocked on her door, and she looked up at him, nodding a little. He entered her office, closing the door behind him before taking a seat in front of her desk. "Let me just say, it is so good to have you back, ma'am."
"Surprisingly, it is good to be back, despite all this paperwork that Louie and Andy have let slip through the cracks in my absence. It's a good thing that Doctor Jacobs wants me on light desk duty for the next seven weeks." They both laughed, and as Sharon looked at him closely, she could see that he had something else that he wanted to say. "Mike? What is it?"
He cleared his throat a little as he looked around the office before finally focusing on the bonsai tree. "There is a rumor going around the office, that your personal life is a little more, shall we say, colorful than we previously thought?"
Trust him to be so diplomatic. Sharon took a deep breath as she rested her hands atop a file, looking at him intently. "Though there might be some validity to that rumor, I would prefer if that rumor was squashed as quickly as possible. While I might be able to handle whatever was said, I wouldn't want any nastiness to come back to the third party. Suffice it to say, my marriage to Andy is as strong as ever, and all of us are quite happy with things as they currently are."
He nodded and got to his feet. "Then that's all that matters, in the end."
Sharon gave him a warm smile as she nodded, watching as he left her office. She supposed that it only made sense for Amy to talk about what she had seen Sunday, but it still rankled her a little to be the butt of office gossip, especially when she didn't see anything wrong with what had naturally risen between Andrea and herself. Love came in many forms, and if she would be so lucky as to have two loves at once, then God was indeed smiling upon her.
Letting out a soft sigh, she picked up her phone and dialed Andrea's office number. It didn't take long for the woman to answer, and Sharon's mood immediately picked up when she heard her voice. "Are you finding it that difficult to get back into the swing of things, Sharon?"
"Maybe I just wanted to hear your voice," she said tartly. "But I should let you know that Amy was less than discreet with what she saw on Sunday. Tao just diplomatically asked me if I was having an affair with you, even though he didn't name any names."
"I see. And how did you answer him?"
"I asked that he quash the rumors, and that while there was a truth to them, I didn't want it bandied about, since our private lives are just that, private. I love you, Andrea, and I love Andy. There's no other way to describe this feeling in me. But I know how much you crave your privacy, so I want to make certain that this isn't aired for all to know about."
There was a short pause before Andrea answered, and Sharon wondered what was going through her mind. "Thank you for your discretion, Sharon." Another pause had her heart leaping up into her throat, and she worried her lower lip between her teeth as she waited to hear what else Andrea had to say. "Would you mind terribly if our friends knew about our relationship? I mean, we have to talk to Andy about it, of course, since he is as big a part of this as I am, but if you're amenable, I wouldn't mind it being slightly more public."
Her breath caught in her throat, and she tried to swallow away the ebullient joy that rose up in her chest. "I have no problems with that, no. I would love to let our friends know the love we share. I mean, we'll have to come up with a way to tell them, without shocking them too much. But I think I'd feel just the tiniest bit freer with this secret off my chest."
"Yeah." Another silence fell between them, this time, more comfortable, and Sharon hummed a little under her breath. "So, do you want me to bring something home for supper?"
"No, I think that I'll cook for us tonight. There's this new lamb dish I've been waiting to try out. Gus thinks that I'm good enough to make it."
"Sounds delicious," she purred, listening to the strangled sound that came from Andrea's throat. "I'll see you tonight."
"Until tonight," Andrea managed to get out, and Sharon hung up her phone, a warm smile on her lips. The rest of the day passed uneventfully, though she did notice that Amy and Mike gave her questioning looks at various times, and she just smiled and nodded as she went to the printer and made copies, paying her fee to Louie. "Where's Andy?" she asked at five, wondering where he had disappeared to
"He had to run some errands," Louie said, handing over the keys to their car. "He said that you were to head home without him."
"Huh, I would have thought…oh well, I'll see him in a little bit." Louie rolled his eyes a little as she turned to make her way back to her office, and she chuckled as she shut the door, taking a seat behind her desk. Pulling out her cell, she texted Andy, asking what was going on.
Andrea asked me to come with her to pick up some groceries for tonight. We'll see you soon? Supper will be ready in an hour.
I'll try to be there! Just have to finish up a few things here, and then I'll be out the door. See you soon
Sharon pressed send and then slipped her phone back in her purse before focusing on the last few things in the current file that she hadn't done yet. That only took a few minutes, and then she was setting it on her out box before pushing away from her desk and slipping into her coat. She waved to Mike on her way out, and he gave her an open smile before waving back, and her shoulders relaxed as she pressed the down button on the elevator bank.
The drive home was relaxing, and she sang along to the radio as she drove, finding herself looking forward to being home with her loves. Her body felt so light as she made her way up to their condo, and she went inside humming the last song she had listened to. Delicious scents tickled her nostrils, and she grinned as she closed the door softly, toeing out of her shoes and hanging up her jacket before padding into the kitchen.
Andy and Andrea were in front of the stove, and Sharon felt her expression soften when she saw that his arm was around the other woman's waist as he murmured something in her ear. "Now this is a sight I love to see," she said lowly as she approached them, kissing Andrea and then Andy on the cheek before bending over the pot on the stove and breathing in deeply. "This smells so good."
"Set the table, then, since it's almost ready to serve," Andrea said, and Sharon nodded, deciding that there was no other place that she would rather be in this moment than with her loves.
Sharon smiled up at the sky as she slipped her sunglasses into place. She had gotten another positive report from her checkup, and the need to worry about having a relapse or her body rejecting her heart seemed to fade with each good report. Humming, she got into her car and drove home, since there was no way that she could get anything done in the office, given that it was after four.
Since she had a little bit of time on her hands when she arrived home, Sharon decided to start supper for them, and she pulled out the cookbooks, looking for something that sounded good to her. The recipe she found required a few ingredients that she didn't have on hand, so she ordered delivery online, and put together as much as she could while she waited.
Once the groceries arrived, it didn't take her long to complete the dish, and then she was popping it in the oven, setting the timer before going into the living room and curling up on the sofa. And though she hadn't done anything all day, she still felt exhausted, since she had spent most of her day waiting for her appointment. Unable to keep her eyes open any longer, she allowed herself to fall asleep, knowing that she would either be woken up by the alarm on the oven going off or by a kiss from one of her loves.
It was the oven that woke her up, and she stretched as she got off the couch, looking around to see if Andrea or Andy had appeared. The door was just unlocking as she went into the kitchen, and she smiled as she opened the oven and took out the casserole, setting it on top of the stove before turning to watch Andy and Andrea walk in.
"Hey! This is a welcome surprise," Andy said as he came over to her side, kissing the side of her head as he went over to the sink and poured himself a glass of water.
"I had the time to make us food," she replied a bit inanely, and Andrea smirked as she nodded, coming over to her side and wrapping her arm around Sharon's waist. "How were your days?"
"I've had better, honestly." Sharon looked up into Andrea's eyes, seeing a harsh look there. "Try not to dwell on it, Sharon. I just had some asshat call me a bitch today, and it still stings. I can tell that he wanted to call me worse, but he didn't know anything worse. I should be used to that, you know. How many times does this make?"
"But when you're called a name that isn't true, it does hurt," she whispered before leaning up and kissing her softly. Andrea groaned softly against her lips, burying her free hand in Sharon's hair as they let the kiss linger on.
"There will be time for kissing after supper, ladies. Let's eat while it's still warm," Andy said, and she nodded, reluctantly pulling away from Andrea to see that he had already set the table for them, along with pouring them water. "Shall we?"
She nodded and took a seat at the table while Andrea set the casserole dish on the table before taking her own seat. Just as Andy was going to sit down, his cellphone rang, and Sharon groaned a little, recognizing that particular ringtone. "Andy, really?"
"You know that our job sometimes gets in the way of our lives outside work. Make certain you save me leftovers." He stood up and bent down, kissing Sharon softly. As she watched, he bent over Andrea, and rather than kissing her cheek, he kissed her lips delicately, and she and Andrea sighed in unison as he walked out the door.
"You're getting a little familiar with him," she teased, and Andrea blushed as she shook her head.
"It won't get any more familiar than that. I've only ever like women, and just because I love Andy, it doesn't change that part of me. Despite all the naughty fantasies he might have, I will never join you in your bed with him, nor will I sleep with only him." Sharon nodded as she reached out and squeezed Andrea's hand firmly. "I really hope that wasn't one of your fantasies, too, Sharon."
"No, honey. I actually didn't want to share you with him, if I'm honest with myself. What we have is special, just like what I have with Andy is special. I don't think there's a box that you can easily fit this relationship in, is there?"
Andrea laughed as she shook her head, serving them before taking a sip of water. "If you can find a label for us, I would be your slave for a year."
Sharon rolled her eyes a little at the statement before leaning across the table and pressing her lips against Andrea's. "I think that you'll be my slave for much longer than that, don't you?"
She nodded slowly before they turned their attention back to their food. "So, does that mean you'll start the night with me?" Andrea asked as they took care of the dishes, and Sharon tilted her head to one side as she looked at her lover. "Sharon?"
"Do you really want me…" Her words were cut off when Andrea wrapped her arms around her waist and pulled her in close for a long kiss. Sharon groaned against her lips, kissing her back as they fumbled their way over to the stairs. Somehow, they made it to the top without breaking the kiss or stumbling down the steps, so Sharon counted that as a win.
"I rather think that you know what I want, Sharon," she said a bit airily, and Sharon nodded as she started to pull off her blouse. Andrea stopped her hands, sliding them underneath the fabric to spread out on Sharon's back, pulling her close once more. "And one of the pleasures that I take in this world is undressing you."
"Andy enjoys that, too," she murmured, watching as Andrea's eyebrow cocked up a little. "What? I must attract people who have very similar tastes. Though I do appreciate the fact that you both love on me so well. With Jack, it was all about his pleasure, and while sex was good, it was nothing like what I've found in your arms, and Andy's." Reaching up, she cupped Andrea's face tenderly, letting her thumb swipe across her cheekbone. "I love you so much."
"I love you, too," Andrea whispered before she kissed Sharon once more. As Andrea began to place light kisses all over Sharon's face, she felt the woman's fingers start to undo the buttons on her blouse. Sighing a little, Sharon reciprocated the movements, pushing the blazer off Andrea's shoulders as she made quick work of the buttons on her shirt. They both stepped back a little bit, allowing their tops to fall to the floor.
In a frenzy of movement, they stripped off the rest of their clothes, and then Sharon allowed herself the luxury of staring at Andrea. "Even after all the times we've made love, I still find new facets about you that I love." Stepping forward, she traced the scars of where Andrea had been shot, smiling sadly. "And despite all our earlier passion, I'd like to be selfish."
"I just want to cuddle with you tonight, to learn your body with my fingers and know that you're mine, unconditionally. I've done the same with Andy, and it's always been a wonderful way to bond."
Andrea nodded as she bent down, kissing Sharon softly as she led them over to the bed. Pushing the covers down to the bottom of the bed, Andrea stretched out on her side, her hair falling down to cover the upper swell of her breasts. Sharon took a moment to memorise the sight, feeling a mischievous smile spread across her lips as she claimed her side of the bed. She could feel Andrea's eyes roam up and down her body before she reached out one hand and traced it up and down Sharon's side, her fingers skittering over her bumps and curves, and she smiled as she joined Andrea, learning the way her body felt beneath her fingertips.
"We have to be a little quiet, Andrea. Andy went to bed early, since he couldn't get rid of the headache that's been plaguing him for days. If we're creative enough and quiet enough, we could take care of our needs down here before going upstairs to sleep. After all, I think that even across the hall from him, I'll be a little too loud. And we both know that when you orgasm, you can wake the dead."
"Sharon! I'm not that bad. Am I?" She bit her lip as she nodded, watching Andrea blush deeply. "I take it that means he knows every time we…"
"Have sex? Yeah. I've tried to muffle things a little, but there are times when even I forget."
Andrea nodded wordlessly, and Sharon used the opportunity to lead Andrea outside onto their balcony. "We are not…"
"No, I'm not that much of an exhibitionist, darling. But I do want to start things out here. It's romantic to kiss beneath the sky, and after all the rain we've had for the past couple days, well, I want that treat." She gestured with her head to the sky, and Andrea nodded as they gazed out at the rapidly setting sun. There was a lovely red tint to the horizon, and Sharon sighed with pleasure as Andrea hooked an arm around her waist, holding her close as they watched the sky together.
From there, it seemed only natural to turn towards each other and Sharon closed her eyes as Andrea bent down and covered her lips with her own, kissing her sweetly as Sharon curled one hand in her hair, holding her close as the kiss lingered on. She whimpered a little as Andrea nipped at her lower lip, her hands sliding up her back to hastily unclasp her bra before using her thumbs to brush lazily against her nipples, causing Sharon to gasp sharply, tugging on a hank of Andrea's hair as they made their way back into the apartment.
Sharon sat heavily on the sofa, her hands scrabbling at the buttons on Andrea's blouse, vaguely hearing a few pings on the floor when one tore off. Still, the passion that burned hot and bright in her chest didn't allow for her to pause and hunt for the errant fastener, and Andrea shrugged out of her shirt before pushing Sharon down on the sofa and making quick work of the buttons on her own blouse, and she shivered to feel the cool air of the apartment lapping at her skin.
Arching her back a little, she allowed Andrea to pull the shirt off her and toss it onto the coffee table before she pulled Andrea down onto her body, kissing her wildly. Through the haze of her desire, she thought she heard the door to their condo rattle but she shoved it to the back of her mind as she felt Andrea's mouth close around one of her nipples, sucking on it softly as she snaked her hand beneath Sharon's skirt, her fingers stroking her delicately, building the fire in her to even higher heights.
"Mom?! What are you doing?"
Gasping a little, Sharon sat up on the sofa, her hands covering her chest as she threw a panicked look to Andrea. The woman hurriedly grabbed their blouses, shoving one at Sharon. "I didn't know that you were planning on visiting," she said lowly, slipping her arms into the sleeves of the blouse, only realizing it was Andrea's when she went to button it and found two missing.
"That doesn't matter. Why are you having sex with Andrea in your home with Andy? Does he know what you're doing here?" Emily's voice was loud and harsh, and Sharon shrank into Andrea, watching as Ricky stared at her. "I can't believe that you would fucking cheat on him, Mom! Not after the way that Dad treated you!"
Emily burst into sobs and ran from the apartment, slamming the door behind her. Ricky barely gave her a second glance as he focused his anger on Andrea. "I knew you were Mom's best friend, but I can't believe that you would get her to cheat on her husband like this! This is disgusting, and totally unethical! You call yourself a good lawyer?" Andrea shuddered against Sharon, and she felt her hand scrabble against Sharon's thigh. She took hold of it, threading their fingers together as her son glared at them in disgust. "And what happened to your rules, Mom?"
He looked like he was going to say more, but a door slamming open upstairs caught all their attention. Andy appeared at the top of the steps, fury on his face as he stalked down the stairs towards them, not saying a word until he was in front of Ricky. As Sharon watched, her husband drove his finger into the middle of her son's chest, pushing him back towards the wall. "Why are you yelling at your mother and Andrea?" he bit out.
"Andy, she was having sex with my mom, your wife! They're stepping out on you! Don't you care about that?"
"Kid, if you think I didn't know what was happening under my own roof, especially when I'm upstairs sleeping, you have another thing coming!" He looked at Andrea and Sharon over his shoulder, giving them a small smile. "Andrea and I both love your mother very deeply, and after everything Sharon has been through in this last year, I couldn't deny her any happiness. And over the last few months, I've found myself loving Andrea, too. Now, you need to leave. We'll speak with you tomorrow, when you're thinking a little more rationally."
Ricky shook his head a little. "Where are we going to go? We had planned on staying here."
"Andrea's apartment is still empty, we haven't put it on the market yet. The keys are hanging on the wall by the door, I trust you're smart enough to figure out which ones they are. We'll meet you at Sunny's Café at ten. Don't call before then."
Her son glanced at her once more before nodding and turning on his heel. It wasn't until Sharon heard the door shut firmly that she allowed herself to relax, collapsing against Andrea as Andy came over to them, taking a seat next to Andrea. To her surprise, Andrea turned and wrapped her arm around Andy's neck, holding onto him tightly as she began to sob once more. "I, I can be out of here in two days," she whispered, and Sharon shook her head desperately as she scooted closer to Andrea, throwing her arm around her as she rested her chin on Andrea's shoulder.
"If you leave us now, I will be lost," she whispered, feeling Andy's arm come to rest atop her own. "You've become part of our family, and we both love you so much. There would be an Andrea sized hole in our lives, and Andy wouldn't know how to console me when I cried at night." A small bubble of laughter spilt from Andrea's lips, and she glanced at Andy, seeing the tender smile on his face. "So please, stay?"
"If you truly want me."
"I truly want you to stay, Andrea," Andy said, his tone gentle and warm. Andrea pulled away from him, looking up into his face. He ran his thumb beneath her eyes, clearing away the tears, and she sighed a little before turning to Sharon and looking at her. Despite how red and puffy her eyes were, Sharon thought she'd never seen her more beautiful, and she nodded before leaning in and kissing her softly. "Now, why don't you two head up to bed? I'm going to take some more aspirin and try to get rid of this headache."
"All right," Andrea said lowly, rising to her feet and holding her hand out to Sharon. She clasped it without hesitation and allowed Andrea to pull her to her feet. "Andy?"
"Yeah, babe?" he answered, and Sharon arched an eyebrow at him as she smiled.
"I love you, too," she said in a rush before making a beeline for the stairs, Sharon trying to keep up as she blew a kiss to her husband, grateful for his love and understanding.
It was a beautiful morning, and Sharon woke with a smile, firmly enveloped in Andrea's arms. Stretching, she let out a little sigh before leaning in and kissing her lover gently to wake her up. Andrea fluttered open her eyes and looked up at her, looking thoroughly exhausted. "What time is it?" she asked through a yawn.
"A little after eight. We slept so hard last night," she murmured in reply, drawing her knees up tight to her chest as she tried to wake up. "I am going to have to take a shower tonight, there is not enough time to do so this morning."
"I know. Maybe…"
"I like the train of your thoughts, and my answer is yes, even if I will probably end up with Andy tonight." Andrea nodded a little as she slipped out of the bed and padded over to the closet, picking out a fresh suit to wear.
"I won't be able to go to breakfast with you, I have court at 10:30. I hope that Ricky and Emily don't feel like I'm being cowardly by not facing them."
"If they say anything about you not being there, I will cut them off. They're my children, but they don't know my adult life, and they don't really know you all that well, besides what I've told them. They just need to be less judgmental. Toss me your robe, I don't feel like traipsing across the hall naked."
Andrea smiled as she nodded, grabbing the plush robe and coming over to Sharon's side, kissing her cheek before helping her into the robe. Sharon welcomed the feel of her hands running down the length of her arms and she leaned back against her, breathing in deeply. There was something just as soothing about Andrea's familiar scent as Andy's, and she loved that she knew how Andrea smelled without her makeup or perfume. "Get going now, otherwise, we'll end up falling back into bed. And we cannot afford that this morning."
"Yes, dear," she said as she turned and kissed Andrea's cheek. "I'll call you if anything weird happens today. Just know, I love you."
"I love you, too," she replied as she pushed Sharon towards the door. Heading across the hall, she slipped into her room, unsurprised to find that Andy was already up and dressed, brushing his hair in the mirror as she dropped the robe and wrapped herself around him. "You didn't come wake us up."
"I figured that you needed the sleep more. Is Andrea almost ready?"
"Yes, but she can't come with us this morning, since she has a court case starting at 10:30. Which means that we have to speak on her behalf all the more vehemently."
He nodded and turned a little to kiss the top of her head. "All right, well, if you want to get dressed, I'll make us a pot of coffee."
"That sounds wonderful." She watched him leave in the mirror and then she went about her morning routine, finding something soothing about the movements. She wasn't particularly looking forward to this meeting with her children, especially after the way Emily had reacted. Deciding to wear something more severe than normal, Sharon put on her black suit, wearing a dark purple blouse beneath it to match Andy.
She met Andrea on the stairs, and they walked down hand in hand. Andy had two mugs of coffee in his hands, and he pressed them into their hands. "It is so good to see you smile this morning, Andrea. After last night, I wasn't certain that it would be a good morning for you."
"Waking up to Sharon's sweet smile has definitely made it all the better. Now, I hate to drink and run, but I still have a bit of prep work to do before I go into court." She pressed a kiss to Sharon's cheek and then to Andy's before hurrying over to the door and grabbing her purse.
Once she had left, Sharon looked at Andy, sipping at her coffee. "I didn't want to say anything while Andrea was still here, but I am furious with my children, I just want you to know that before we get to the restaurant. I might say a few things that I regret, you're going to have to hold me back."
"I'll try, but I'm just as angry. At least when Nicole comes, she won't react like that."
"Let me guess, you were smart and told her about the mutation in our marriage." He nodded, and she sighed deeply. "I just wanted to tell my kids face to face, since this is such a sensitive topic." Finishing her coffee, she set the mug in the sink and then looked at her husband. "All right, let's get over to the café. Better to be early at this point, and maybe stave off some of the drama."
Andy nodded and helped her into her jacket before they went out the door. She was quiet the entire drive over, trying to find the right words to say to her children. She kept drawing a blank, however, which bothered her. After all, she wanted Ricky and Emily to know, beyond anything else in this world, that she loved both Andy and Andrea with all her heart.
Her steps were shaky as they went inside, snagging a corner booth, despite the relative busyness of the café. Andy ordered coffee for both of them, while they waited, and Sharon looked over the menu, trying to find something light that wouldn't be too heavy. Finally, she settled on strawberry crepes, and set the menu aside as they waited.
"You do know that no matter what happens today, I love you, and the only thing that matters is how Andrea and I feel about you, right?" She gave him a small nod, and he squeezed her shoulder. "Then we will work through whatever issues your children might have with this."
"Okay," she murmured as she looked towards the door. Ricky was pacing the sidewalk next to the café, an upset look on his face, which caused her stomach to start flipflopping once more. Andy followed her gaze, and then took hold of her hand, holding it firmly as they waited for him to enter. "He's upset. That's never a good sign."
"Emily isn't with him, that might be why he's upset. Try not to read into the situation until we know more."
"I know," she said as Ricky entered and spoke to the host. And then, he spotted them, making a beeline for their table and sliding in on the opposite side of the booth.
"Sorry I'm running a little late. Emily decided that she still wanted to pout this morning. I can't believe that she's being such a drama queen about this, Mom. I mean, you are happy and doing better after the transplant, yes?"
"Yes. And this is something that none of us expected to happen, truly. However, we all decided that if we were open and honest about our feelings, that we could make something as unorthodox as this work. Because love, in any form, is too valuable to let slip from our hands."
Ricky grinned at her as he nodded, reaching across the table to pat her hand before pouring himself a cup of coffee. "Well, at least I know that I'll still be loved and accepted if I find myself falling in love with someone who might not exactly fit the expected mold."
"Always, Ricky. I'll love you no matter what." They nodded to each other as the server came over to take their orders, and Sharon tried not to feel anxious as she worried about her daughter and how she was still reacting to the news of the relationship between her and Andrea.