Chapter 1: Chapter One : Sharon
The air is cool tonight, the sky clear - or as clear as it ever is in the middle of the city. When I lift my face to the stars I can feel the gentle breeze caressing my skin, stirring the loose strands of my hair and causing me to shiver as it moves around me. Sitting out here on my balcony, where I have been for the last two hours or so, I suddenly hear soft voices coming from within the condo. I turn my head to listen, wondering who could be visiting so late. Then it dawns on me - it’s Andy. Rusty must have called him while I sat alone out here. Obviously, I am more of a mess than I realised.
A hum of annoyance escapes me and I wish he had left things alone - left me alone. All I need is some time, not a hastily arranged intervention. I instantly feel guilty for my reaction but I just can’t help being annoyed that he has called on Andy for help. I really don’t think I can have this conversation tonight, on top of everything else.
I sigh heavily, trying to suppress my irritation. Rusty is only trying to help, I know that and I can’t blame him. The first thing I did when I arrived home tonight was down a glass and a half of wine. Not usual for me and certainly not my most sensible decision. Then, I came outside in an attempt to prevent myself from drinking the rest of the bottle. I have been here ever since. I calm down a little more as the thought occurs to me that of anyone he could have called, Andy is the most thoughtful choice. Usually when he is upset, Rusty would choose to speak to Provenza, or perhaps Buzz. He has called Andy because he knows that I am most comfortable with him and that act alone is enough for the last of my resentment to dissipate.
In its place, I feel the first stirrings of a headache, like a dull drumbeat thumping against my skull and I rub a hand across my eyes, trying to push it away. If I’m being really honest, I would have to admit that the person I am most annoyed with tonight is myself. I did something stupid today. Dangerously so. I allowed a teenage boy to manipulate me and in doing so I put my team in harm’s way. I was so blinded by sympathy for a young boy in a terrible situation that I didn’t see the truth about him - that he was responsible for killing his own parents - until it was almost too late. That was more than a mistake. That was unacceptable.
I touch a hand to my cheek, wincing as my fingertips make contact with the large bruise that covers much of the left side of my face. That I was the only one who was injured today is a blessing - things could have been so much worse.
Leaning back in my chair, I tug my cardigan tighter around my body, closing my eyes and allowing the cool breeze to wash over me. As soft footsteps approach the balcony, I can’t help wishing I had thought to bring the rest of that bottle outside with me…
✻ ✻ ✻ ✻ ✻
As Andy steps out onto the balcony I turn my chair so that I am facing away from him, in a clear indication of my unwillingness to talk. He stops abruptly and I can feel him studying me as he tries to decide what to do next.
I don't have to turn around to know that there is hurt filling those beautiful brown eyes, just as there is every time I push him away. I feel guilty for that - for causing him pain - but better now than later, when we are both more invested than we perhaps should be in what can never be more than a friendship.
Besides, if there is one thing that life with Jackson taught me it is that everyone leaves, in the end. After a while, there seems little point in making that connection in the first place. I’ve always been fine alone. Why invite in more pain?
I sit perfectly still and wait for Andy to leave. Instead, I hear the creak of the empty chair as he folds himself into it. He has chosen to stay and for the life of me I cannot fathom why.
“I don’t want to talk about it.” My voice is deliberately sharp, harsh even to my own ears.
“I know.” He speaks softly, carefully. He is walking a fine line and he knows it, aware that the slightest mis-step could ignite the emotional powder keg that I am barely managing to keep below the surface.
“You can leave. I don’t want you here.”
That isn’t strictly true, actually. I never really mind his presence - sometimes I actually find it a comfort. His friendship is something I value above almost anything else. I’m just constantly afraid of where it will lead if I let my guard down too far - and the longer he stays, the more chance there is of that happening. Then, he will see the real me. The one who is impossible to love. The one who causes people to leave.
That thought alone terrifies me.
“I know.” He sighs, barely audible. “But I’m not going anywhere, Sharon.”
My brows knit together in a frown and unwanted tears begin to prick my eyes. I don’t understand. Why does he still want to be here with me? Can’t he see that I’ll hurt him? Can’t he see that I’m…me?
My hands search for non-existent pockets to hide in before I give up and cross my arms defiantly across my chest as I resolutely ignore him. I am listening for any signs of movement, but there are none, so I huff a little as I shift in my seat, ensuring that I am turned as far away from him as possible.
Still, there is nothing.
Why isn't he leaving?
✻ ✻ ✻ ✻ ✻
I jump at the sudden scrape of wood against stone as he stands and drags his chair over next to mine and I close my eyes as he settles beside me. I may not mind the company, but I am really not in any mood to talk - I’m in too much pain and I don’t trust myself to speak without venom. He seems to sense as much, not saying a word - not even looking at me as he reaches over and takes my hand in his. His touch is warm and strong, his thumb stroking the back of my hand reassuringly.
Suddenly, I am not thinking about the case any more. I am not thinking about Jack any more. God, I’m barely even thinking at all. All I can focus on is the feel of his skin against my own. His touch is electric, calming and exciting at the same time and all at once nothing matters except the fact that he is here. That he was called and he came - for me.
I know he is watching me now as I slowly turn my hand in his so that I can entwine our fingers together and I feel rather than see his smile. He squeezes my hand gently and I sense his position shifting slightly, as he moves even closer to me.
His lips are soft as they caress my hair, his touch barely there at all and yet it causes a thrill to run right through me.
Carefully, I turn in my chair to face him, my eyes desperately searching his face for any sign that he is getting ready to run - and finding none. For the first time in my life, it occurs to me that maybe Jack taught me wrong. Maybe not everyone does leave. Maybe that was just him.
My head is still telling me to make Andy go before he can change his mind, but that's not what I'm doing. Instead, I reach out to him, my fingers lightly brushing his cheek. I trace along the line of his jaw and his eyes darken noticeably with want - it is an innate reaction that I am sure is mirrored in my own gaze.
He doesn't react as I touch my lips softly to his. He is holding back and for a moment I am afraid that I have misread him, that he doesn’t want this. As I search his gaze, however, I realise the truth - he is afraid that I don’t really want this. He doesn’t want to be responsible for hurting me. He is worried that he will be a regret - and that we will be ruined forever.
A smile tugs at my lips as I reach for him again, holding his face between my hands.
“It’s okay, Andy.” My voice is heavy with desire and the way he looks at me tells me that he hears it, too. His eyes are almost black now, and the hand that comes up to cover mine is trembling. I can see how much he wants this - how much he has always wanted this. He just needs to be certain. “It’s okay,” I say again, my eyes flickering to his mouth before moving back to meet his gaze. “I’m sure.”
"This isn't why I came here tonight, Sharon," he murmurs, his voice almost dangerously low.
"I know. That's why I trust you." My reply is a whisper, a single breath before my lips are on his again.
His hands slide into my hair, cradling my head as his fingers comb through the silky strands. I lean further into him, parting my lips as his tongue flicks out, running along my bottom lip before he pulls it gently into his mouth, sucking on it slowly.
My whole body is reacting to his touch, my heart is racing and I can’t breathe. I feel like I’m on fire, like I’m about to implode. I pull him closer, revelling in the feeling of his arms coming around me as I tremble against him, desperate for more.
It is all too much.
It is not nearly enough.
His tongue sweeps the roof of my mouth and I cannot contain the moan that begins deep inside me. My body - my soul - has wanted this man for so long that there is no denying it now.
He pulls me into his lap so that I am straddling him, my arms going around his shoulders as I kiss him frantically. I can feel his length hard and throbbing beneath me and I can't resist the urge to rock my hips, grinding myself against him through too many layers of fabric. A growl erupts from deep in his throat, vibrating through me as his tongue eagerly explores my mouth.
Andy places his hands on my hips, tugging me forwards on his lap so that I fit more securely against him. The action causes him to release another growl and his grip tightens as he assists my movement, rubbing my lower body against his erection. It's a sound I've never heard him make before tonight and I decide that I like it. I like being the cause of it.
His hands have moved to my lower back where they are tugging my blouse free of my skirt, when suddenly everything stops. For a moment I panic, sitting back against his knees, afraid he has come to his senses at last. He smiles reassuringly at me, obviously sensing my uncertainty, before quirking an eyebrow and nodding pointedly in the direction of the open glass door that leads to the condo’s living area.
“We should probably move this to the bedroom,” he says softly. “While we still can. Don’t wanna scar the kid for life.”
I feel a wide grin spread across my face as I rise unsteadily to my feet, my legs shaking with anticipation and arousal. He takes the hand that I extend to him and, together, we make our way to bed.
Chapter 2: Chapter Two : Andy
I knew when the kid called me this evening that he was worried, but seeing Rusty's face as he pulls open the door tells me that I woefully underestimated just how much. His eyes are wide and his relief at my arrival is palpable.
“I’ve never seen her like this,” he mutters in a small voice. He leaves the next words unspoken but we both know what they would be: He’s scared. I take a deep breath in and let it out slowly. He’s right to be.
When Sharon left the office earlier she was shaky, to say the least. I offered to drive her home but she flatly refused, darting away from me as quickly as possible. Unable to think of a convincing reason to follow her - or one that wouldn’t get my head bitten off - I let her leave. I wish now that I hadn’t.
Touching Rusty's shoulder in an attempt at reassurance, I wait for his eyes to find mine before I speak.
“She’ll be okay, kid. Today was a bad one, but she’ll come through it, I promise. Sharon’s tough.”
“I know she will. It’s just…she won’t talk about what happened. Obviously someone hurt her, but she won’t tell me who, or why… She's barely said two words since she got home.” He looks down at the floor and shuffles his feet. “She just drank the wine and then headed outside.”
I feel the anger that has been simmering inside me since the events of this afternoon threaten to bubble over once more.
Seeing what that little sociopath did to her, I had a hard job restraining myself from shooting him. He played us all, but her more than anyone. But that's not even why I'm angry, although I know it should be. I'm angry because he hurt her.
Not just because she was vested in him emotionally, either. No, he hurt her physically - took her down trying to escape the small conference room, once he realised she'd figured out what he'd done. She has the bruise on her cheek to prove it. I shake my head as my mind plays over what might have happened if Julio and I hadn’t been walking past just at that moment…
Finally, I manage to contain the rage, pushing it back down inside as I paste a smile on my face for the kid’s benefit.
“I’ll take care of her, Rusty,” I promise him.
“Thanks, Flynn.” He nods thoughtfully in response and heads towards his bedroom, offering me a small wave as he leaves.
Taking a deep breath, I walk slowly towards the balcony - and Sharon.
✻ ✻ ✻ ✻ ✻
The first thing I notice as I step onto the balcony is how small she looks tonight. I immediately long to reach out to her, to ease her pain somehow, but her walls are up in full force and I honestly have no idea how to even begin to get around them. She makes it absolutely clear from the moment that I arrive that she does not want me here. I know that this comes from a place of pain and not from any real animosity towards me, but still I can’t prevent the hurt from clouding my face and I am grateful at this instant that she refuses to look at me.
She doesn't speak until she hears me take a seat across the balcony from her, and even then it is only to reiterate her desire for me to leave. There is a bitter edge to her voice that I haven’t heard in years - not since she was still in FID and I was still a hotheaded pain in her ass. Certainly, she has never directed that tone at me since we have become friends and again, the rejection stings.
I tell her, with more confidence than I feel, that I am not leaving and she quiets again. I watch her fidgeting for a while before she stills, seemingly resigned to my presence.
Gradually, I begin to sense a change in her, although I am not sure that she is even aware of it. Resignation has given way to a calm acceptance and I decide to take the chance that she is ready for more.
I startle her when I move my chair closer and I am immediately sorry for that, although she doesn't appear angry - just wary and more than a little exhausted. She doesn’t look at me as I reach for her hand and my chest tightens with concern as I realise how cold she is. I had thought the kid was exaggerating, but she really must have been out here for hours.
I feel the next shift in her right away - she relaxes into me, her fingers linking with mine and holding on as I stroke her hand. I almost feel like she has come to a decision and although I don’t know what it is, I squeeze her hand in support. All I know is that nothing has ever felt as good as holding her, being here for her as she gradually lets go of the pain. I kiss her hair softly to let her know that I’m still here. That I’m not going anywhere, no matter what happens.
✻ ✻ ✻ ✻ ✻
Finally, Sharon turns and faces me for the first time. I feel the anger burn again at the sight of her beautiful face, marred by that painful bruise, but it dissipates just as quickly as her eyes seek out mine. She is searching for something and I hold my gaze steady, my heart thumping in my chest as I wonder whether I am meant to hope that she finds it - or that she doesn’t.
Whatever answer she was seeking, she seems to be pleased with the result and I release a breath that I haven’t even realised I am holding. Strangely, I don't become consciously aware of her proximity until the moment that she reaches out and touches me, her delicate fingers brushing my face gently. She is close enough now that I can feel her breath on my skin and I have to fight the urge to lean in to kiss her, but my terror at breaking this spell that we seem to be under prevents my movement.
When she kisses me, her lips pressed tenderly against my own, she absolutely blows my mind.
Suddenly, I have no idea what to do. I have dreamed of this moment for so long, but now that it’s here I hesitate. As much as I long to take her in my arms and spend the rest of my life making love to her, I am afraid that this is somehow unreal - a reaction, rather than a genuine desire. My body is screaming at me to act even as my mind is screaming at me not to - and I am completely torn.
If I take advantage of her now, she will never forgive me - and that is something I cannot live with.
Her eyes are on mine again, her hands cool against my skin as she touches my face.
She is smiling, the look in those emerald eyes positively bewitching and when she releases a tiny hum, arousal mixed with contentment, I cannot control the way my body responds.
I am painfully and obviously hard now and I don't know how much longer I can stall her advances. I only know that I have to be sure she really wants this - I would give anything in the world not to hurt her. However, her voice is steady when she tells me that she is sure and my heart skips several beats at the low timbre that hints at barely-concealed desire. I tell her that I'm not here for this, but she already knows. And when she tells me in that soft, low voice that she trusts me, I know I am lost.
Whatever the trigger, she needs this tonight and as those luminous green eyes alight on mine I am powerless to refuse her any longer.
Finally, I let myself touch her, running my fingers through that perfect hair as I at last return her kiss. She tastes exquisite and as my tongue enters her mouth I am instantly certain that I will never be able to get enough of her.
She lets out a tiny squeal when my arms go around her waist, lifting her into my lap. The weight of her is delicious against me and when she begins to move her hips, her hot centre grinding against my throbbing length, it takes all the self-control I can muster not to let go right there. The keening sounds she is making in her throat only serve to heighten my arousal and I am suddenly overwhelmed by the need to be inside her.
I am in the process of removing her blouse, desperate for skin contact, when my barely-functioning brain realises that we are still in a rather public place - and we are starting to get pretty loud.
I catch Sharon’s eye, smiling reassuringly when I see the insecurity welling up in her gaze again. I don’t want to stop, but we need to move this to the bedroom - before Rusty comes out here to check on her and gets the shock of his life.
We hold hands as we make the journey along the hallway and Sharon stops for a moment, tapping on the teenager's door as we pass.
"I'm going to bed, honey. Don’t stay up too late.”
"I won’t. Are you…um…are you okay?”
“I’m fine, Rusty.” She smiles up at me as she gives my hand a quick squeeze. “Much better.”
“Okay then. Goodnight, Sharon," comes the instant reply. The kid waits a beat before speaking again, a note of mild amusement creeping into his tone. "'Night, Flynn.”
I chuckle at the light blush that immediately colours Sharon's cheeks at his words and lay my arm reassuringly around her shoulders, tucking her into my side.
“Yeah, ‘night kid.”
I lean down to kiss her softly, before she pushes open the door to her bedroom and leads me inside.