Sitting at her desk late on a Friday afternoon, her head in her hands, Sharon Raydor let out a shaky breath. It had been three hours since her team had come under attack at a crime scene and this was the first moment that she’d had to herself in that time. Three hours of controlled chaos, statements, giving and receiving orders and desperately trying to find the culprit before he could do any more damage. Now, the team was back in the Murder Room, the suspect in custody and everybody finishing up for the night.
She breathed deeply, willing her heart to stop racing.
It had been three hours since Andy got hurt.
He was fine, she knew. He had been to the hospital, had his wound checked and been discharged. It was just a graze across his cheekbone, hadn’t even required stitches. He was already back at the office - although he was currently in with Taylor, who had insisted on seeing the Lieutenant personally, despite her insistence that it was unnecessary. She had tried her best to spare Andy that, even if she had ultimately failed.
He was fine. She knew he was fine. He had dived out of the way in time. And yet, when she closed her eyes all she could hear was the gunshot. All she could see was him falling to the ground.
Her heart had stopped. Everything had seemed to move in slow motion. There was no way to get to him - people were still shooting and her priority was to make the area safe - but oh, God, all she wanted was to be by his side. To make sure he was alright.
By the time she made it to his position he was already sitting up, grousing at Provenza. The bullet had grazed his cheek, causing it to bleed profusely - and hurt like a bitch, apparently - although there didn’t seem to be any serious damage.
Her relief had been palpable. Their eyes had met as she knelt beside him on the gravel, her hand instinctively going to his face, fingertips caressing his cheek as she inspected the - thankfully minimal - injury.
Provenza had rolled his eyes when Andy’s hand came up to cover hers, the older lieutenant pushing himself off the ground and moving away to join the rest of the team in their search for the perpetrator. Sharon barely noticed. All she could focus on was Andy and the fact that she had almost lost him. Again.
That was it, she thought now. That was the problem.
Because she had lost him ten years ago. The evidence of that was still sitting in her desk drawer, out of sight but never completely out of mind. She had lost him, and that time it had been entirely her own fault.
She had never kept the object at home, instead preferring to have it close by her, despite the raw pain of the memories that it invoked. It had moved offices with her several times over the years, always regaining its place in the far back of her top drawer.
It had been a long time since she'd taken it out and looked at it. So long, in fact, that she had nearly managed to forget that it existed at all. Nearly. Almost losing him today had reignited the memory, however - and with it an overwhelming need to lose herself in the past.
Sharon opened the drawer and reached inside until her fingertips connected with a smooth, rectangular object nestled in the far corner. Pulling it out, she set it on the desk in front of her, absently pushing the drawer closed. The white box was fairly nondescript, but it was the contents that were important, not their packaging.
She sat there, absently stroking the soft silk of the box, before making her mind up. Carefully, she removed the lid, fingers gliding over the delicate tissue paper within. Unwrapping it carefully, mindful of its age, she slowly exposed the hidden contents. The delicate ruby petals of the single dried rose looked just as she remembered. Lifting it out of its confines, she held it between her fingers and closed her eyes slowly. She would allow herself to indulge in the nostalgia. Just for a moment…
✻ ✻ ✻ ✻ ✻
Ten Years Previously
She smiled at Andy as his car drew up at the kerb in front of her house. They had been on yet another of their non-date dinner dates - a weekly ritual that had seemingly evolved on its own, out of nowhere, catching them both by surprise with how easily it had become routine.
Sharon studied his handsome profile and wondered, as she often did these days, just what exactly this thing was between them.
They had been friends for a while. He had been Jack’s friend first, of course - until Andy had managed to kick his drinking while Jack had simply carried on merrily, before swapping one vice for another and then indulging in both…and more besides.
Andy had watched from the sidelines as the Raydor marriage disintegrated, eventually moving away from Jack completely to stand alongside his wife instead. As they became closer, Sharon had started to open up to him. He had begun to see the woman behind the mask she wore - and he liked her. Maybe more than he should. They had become casual friends - then close friends. And now…now they seemed to be floating in a vacuum all their own. There was no word to define what they were to each other. They just…were.
Until everything changed.
He parked the car and climbed out, rounding the vehicle to hold her door open for her. Ever the perfect gentleman, she thought as she grinned up at him. She held his arm as he walked her to the door of the home she used to share with Jack. The home that now belonged solely to her and her children.
As she turned to him, ready to bid him goodnight, she realised that he had something in his hand, that he was holding out to her. She took it with shaking fingers, her heart sinking as she studied the single red rose, its beauty lost on her as she drowned in the enormity of its significance.
She felt his fingers against her jaw, tilting her face up so that he could look at her.
“Sharon,” he smiled down at her, faltering when he caught the slight shake of her head.
“Andy…” She looked up at him, eyes shining with tears. “Please don’t say it.”
He pushed on regardless. He had to let her know. If she heard the words, maybe she could put her fear aside. Maybe she would feel the same.
“I love you, Sharon.”
She was silent, staring up at him in horror. He felt his heart shatter at the expression on her face. He knew what was coming.
“I’m so sorry, Andy. I can’t.”
He stepped quickly back, moving away from her. He suddenly had an overwhelming urge to put as much distance between them as physically possible.
“It’s okay, Sharon,” he bit out. “I understand.”
She reached for him but he jerked away, the hurt in his eyes almost destroying her completely. She wanted to explain. To tell him that she cared about him, too, but that she was afraid. That she was hurt. He never gave her the chance.
“I get it, Sharon. It’s fine. I’ll see you around.”
She broke as he turned and left, hurrying back to his car before screeching away from the house. He left her standing alone, clutching the rose to her chest, wondering what she had just done to them - and how the hell she was ever going to fix it.
✻ ✻ ✻ ✻ ✻
The time since that night had been awful as far as their relationship was concerned.
They had their friendship back now, of course, but it had taken many years to repair. And now… Now they were right back where they had been ten years ago. More than friends, yet less than lovers. Dancing carefully around each other, each terrified of making a wrong move, desperately trying to keep their balance. It was exhilarating and exhausting at the same time.
Sharon sighed and glanced down at the rose, still held between the fingers of her right hand.
She had a decision to make - and this time, it needed to be the right one.
A moment later, she was gently placing the flower back in its box. Wrapping the tissue paper so that it covered the contents, she allowed her fingers to softly stroke it one last time, before fixing the lid back in place. Then, she rose from her chair, an air of determination surrounding her. She grabbed her jacket and purse, ready to leave for the night. Exiting her office, she glanced quickly around the Murder Room. The whole team had left while she had been in her office - except Andy, whose jacket was still slung over his chair. He must still be in with Taylor. Making her way over to his desk, she paused for a moment, suddenly uncertain. A quick shake of her head and her mind was made up once more.
She dropped the narrow, white box onto his desk and left the room quickly, heels clicking against the floor as she headed for home.
✻ ✻ ✻ ✻ ✻
She had been home for less than an hour - just enough time to eat - when she heard it. The quiet knock at the door had her heart racing: She knew it was him. The question was - had he understood what she had been trying to tell him? Did he even remember it at all? Sharon moved to open the door immediately and her heart leapt as she confirmed that she was right about the identity of her visitor. She was briefly thankful that Rusty was out for the night - the conversation she was about to have was one that definitely needed to happen in private.
As it happened, there was not much conversation to be had at all.
Andy stood unmoving in her doorway as they stared at each other for what felt like the longest time. As their eyes locked, a thousand emotions seemed to pass between them. Everything that hadn’t been said over the last decade was now screaming to be heard - and all of it was communicated in silence. Her message had reached him loud and clear: I changed my mind. I’m so sorry.
Suddenly, his eyes darkened. He was about to make his move and she was more than ready.
They stepped towards each other in the same instant. His hands cradled her face, fingers in her hair as he crushed his lips to hers in a kiss that he had been waiting far too long to share with her. Sharon’s arms curled up and around his neck as she manoeuvred them backwards into the condo. He kicked the door closed inelegantly behind him as he deepened the kiss, his tongue demanding entrance to her mouth. She hummed as she parted her lips and he moaned in response. His body had always responded to those noises she made, but never more so than in this moment, when he finally had her in his arms.
As his tongue entered her mouth, exploring her, tasting her for the first time in too many years, his hands dropped to the buttons of her blouse. He made short work of undoing them, his actions mirrored by her hands on his shirt. They broke the kiss momentarily as they each shrugged out of their garments, tossing them unceremoniously in the direction of the living room.
They stood still for a moment then, panting, their eyes locked once more. As he searched her beautiful gaze, Andy was looking for the uncertainty that he had become so familiar with. It was gone, replaced with love, longing - and a deep, burning desire that danced in the golden flecks of those piercing green eyes. They grinned at each other, understanding passing between them. This time, they were both sure. He stepped towards her and gathered her in his arms, lowering his mouth to hers once more, both of them making the most of the new-found skin contact. They were frantic again as her fingers moved into his hair and his palms ghosted across the delicate skin of her lower back.
Andy made a half-hearted effort to move them into the hallway, in the general direction of Sharon’s bedroom, but that was abandoned pretty quickly when Sharon broke the kiss and started nibbling at his ear instead, her hands roaming his naked chest and down across his stomach. He glanced down the hall. There was no way they were going to make it that far.
There would be time for slow, sensual lovemaking much later, they both knew. This, right now, was about claiming back ten years of pent-up desire. Ten years of hate-filled glares and yearning looks, damning silences and meaningful touches, vicious words and tender utterances. Complete distance and then impossible closeness.
Ten years of loving someone they had each convinced themselves they just couldn't have.
Andy pinned Sharon against the wall with his body, his mouth immediately dropping to her neck to trail kisses along the sensitive skin there. Leaning her head back, she moaned softly as she offered more of herself to his searching tongue, while carefully sliding a hand down between them.
"I want you so much." His voice was a husky rumble as his lips scorched a path across her shoulder.
Reaching her goal, Sharon grinned as she found evidence of the truth of his statement. She began to rub him through his pants, gratified by the low groan that vibrated against her skin. A hum was her only response, quickly becoming a gasp as he responded in kind, his hands moving straight to her breasts. He palmed them through the soft lace of her bra, thumbs grazing over her hardened nipples as she arched into his touch.
Then, suddenly, she was gone from beneath his hands. She crouched down in front of him, her fingers deftly freeing him from the uncomfortable confines of his pants and boxers. She stroked him firmly as she looked up at him, the deep green of her eyes holding a question. Arching an eyebrow at him as he nodded, she slowly took him into her mouth, her eyes never leaving his.
Andy growled as the heat of her mouth on him, coupled with the look in her eyes, threatened to overwhelm him. He braced his hands against the wall to keep his balance as his brain was flooded with pleasure. She hummed around his length and he moaned loudly, his fingers moving to stroke through her hair softly.
“Oh, dear Lord!” he gasped. He had never felt anything so intensely and it only took a few minutes before he knew he needed her to stop. He didn’t want it to happen, not yet. "Sharon..." he ground out her name on an unsteady breath. She paused in her attentions and lifted her hooded eyes to his once more. ”Not like this… I need to be inside you…"
She smiled softly, pressing a single kiss against him before rising slowly to her feet. Her hands cupped his cheeks, careful to avoid the graze left by the bullet that started all this, and she kissed him hard as he pressed her back against the wall once more. His fingers trailed up her thighs, causing her breath to hitch as they rose higher, pushing her skirt up along with them.
His mouth moved down her neck to her breasts, and he took one hardened peak into his mouth as his fingers continued their journey. Sharon’s cry of pleasure as his tongue worked her breast only spurred him on until, finally, he reached his goal. Andy released an animalistic groan as his fingers slipped inside her underwear to find her more than ready for him. He didn’t bother to remove her panties, instead simply moving them aside before he finally pushed carefully into her.
His mouth left her breast to cover hers as she cried out in ecstasy. Setting a fast pace, his tongue explored her mouth in time with his thrusts, each of them swallowing combined moans of pleasure as he moved within her.
Hands wandered and nails dragged across skin as they rejoiced in each others’ bodies. Teeth nipped at sensitive spots and tongues both soothed and aroused, heightening the sensations further.
Sharon shifted slightly and hooked a leg around Andy’s waist, prompting his hand to come up immediately to support her slight weight. The new position allowed him to push deeper and they both moaned at the new sensations that were being created. Her head fell back against the wall and she cried his name, clinging desperately to his shoulder as her body finally let go. He followed her a moment later, his mouth tender against her neck as his arms pulled her hard against him, unwilling to ever let her leave again.
✻ ✻ ✻ ✻ ✻
As they clung tightly to each other, panting hard, Sharon was completely unprepared for the sudden surge of emotion that swept through her. She tried desperately to push it back down, but she couldn’t contain the single sob that escaped her. Lifting his head from her shoulder, Andy looked at her in alarm, his dark eyes radiating concern.
Crap. What if she was regretting this? What if…
“I’m sorry.” Her words were a whisper that did nothing to calm his racing mind.
“What for?” he asked carefully. He raised a finger to catch the teardrop that was tracking its way down her cheek, using the opportunity to stroke the delicate line of her jaw.
Sharon opened her eyes to look at him.
“We should have had this years ago,” she murmured, cradling his face in her hands. “I was so wrong.”
Smiling in sheer relief, Andy brought his hands up to cover hers, his thumbs gently caressing her soft skin. He brought his head down to rest his forehead against hers and she hummed softly at the contact.
“We have it now.” He kissed her nose gently. “That’s all that matters.”
Tilting her face up to his, he pressed a kiss against her now-smiling mouth, before taking her small hand in his and leading her down the hallway to the bedroom.