Mothers And Sons
Rated: PG13, vague mention of Rusty's former life and some strong(ish) language.
Summary: Rusty can't hide those threatening letters from Sharon forever. Eventually all secrets come out.
Disclaimer: TNT's & James Duff's. Not mine. Never was, never will be. If it was, a certain blonde DDA would be featured in plenty more episodes. And there would be no Emma Rios.
Author's Notes: My first venture into writing Major Crimes fanfic. Thank you, to my faithful, hardworking beta, lysachan.
It was getting late, but Sharon Raydor was still in her office with DDA Andrea Hobbs, discussing the disturbing details of the murder the Captain and her team were trying to solve. The victim was a teenage girl who had been beaten and then strangled in her foster home. The case hit too close to home for Sharon to remain completely objective, and, to alleviate her own anxieties, she was keeping Rusty close by. At the moment, the teenager was at the station, only a mere fifteen feet away, doing his homework in "his cubicle".
When the current case had first been brought to Raydor, and she had abandoned all pretenses of not hovering over Rusty by telling him to come to the station in order to keep him close, the boy had protested; Rusty was fully aware he was still in the emergency care and needed 24/7 supervision, but, usually, Sharon trusted others to share the responsibility. It wasn't until Lieutenant Flynn told him the basics of the case they were working on that Rusty understood Sharon's sudden overprotectiveness. It didn't make him feel any less monitored, but it helped him appreciate the reasons behind it. In a way, it even made him feel better, knowing that Sharon worried about him; it was a feeling he was starting to get used to, and it gave him a sense of security he valued.
Sharon was about to ask Andrea to take a look at the DNA evidence they'd just received from the lab, when DDA Emma Rios entered Sharon's office without knocking and looking like she was ready to breathe fire. Startled, both Sharon and Andrea turned to look at the younger woman who was now shaking a file in her hand. Rios was exuding her usual air of superiority which sometimes aggravated, sometimes amused Raydor. The young DDA always thought she had all the answers, even to questions that weren't being asked.
"This is the last straw, Captain Raydor," Rios fumed, shoving the file at Sharon. "It is clear that your conduct as Rusty Beck's foster parent is now endangering his safety, but I didn't think that even you would go to such lengths to keep him with you. He is, first and foremost, a material witness in a murder trial of a serial killer. Just because you want to play house or take it out on me, because you don't like me doesn't-"
"DDA Rios! That's enough," Andrea Hobbs' cold voice cut through the tirade like a knife.
"Andrea, I have every right-," Emma tried to justify herself, but Hobbs was now on her feet, using her courtroom persona to intimidate her junior colleague into silence.
"DDA Rios, I suggest you take a moment to compose yourself and let Captain Raydor familiarize herself with the file and, then, if there's need, I'm sure the Captain can explain what's going on."
Rios looked like she wanted to rebuke, but she held her tongue at the sight of Andrea's raised eyebrow.
Andrea, now satisfied Rios would behave for the moment, turned around to face Sharon – Sharon, who was as white as a sheet.
"Sharon? What is it?" Hobbs asked.
When Sharon didn't answer, Andrea rounded the desk and, standing right next to the older woman, peered over the Captain's shoulder to read the document Sharon had laid down on the desk.
The moment Andrea exhaled the words, Sharon was up like a shot, practically running out of her office with the blonde DDA following closely behind. Neither woman paid any attention to Rios who was left standing in the Captain's office.
Taking a moment to glance around the Murder Room to make sure Rusty was not within immediate vicinity, Sharon strode directly to the murder board where Lieutenants Provenza and Flynn were standing. She thrust the document to Provenza.
"Did you know about this?" Raydor murmured, her voice so low that Hobbs, who was standing right behind Raydor, could hardly make out the other woman's words.
Provenza read the document and then handed it to Flynn who had just ended a phone conversation he'd been having.
"No, Captain," Provenza promised, looking even more serious than he usually did. "I had no idea."
By this time, Andy had caught up enough to know what the issue was. "Sharon, you must know we would've come to you had we had any idea."
Sharon nodded; of course she knew this. The whole team had become attached to the teenager, and, although he lived with her, Sharon was well aware that looking after him was something they all did together.
It was just then that Sharon saw Buzz coming out of the cubicle, empty soda cans in his hands. He was helping Rusty again with yet another school assignment. He was about to walk by when Flynn signaled him closer.
"Buzz, did you know?" Flynn asked, showing the letter that had already exchanged several hands. Even as Buzz was reading, Flynn explained what was going on. "Someone from DCFS sent this to Rios, asking about all the letters Rusty has been receiving. They'd noticed none of them have a return address and were wondering why the Captain hasn't answered their request to shed some light into the matter, which, I'm guessing, is because the kid found and hid the letters, including the one they sent her. And now, Rios is spitting acid, 'cos she's only been informed about the first threat and she's convinced Sharon is keeping things from her. Only, it seems like the kid never told anyone about any other letters. We don't even know how many he's received."
"Lieutenant, I only knew about the one myself," Buzz swore, then looked at Raydor. "Captain, I promise-"
Raydor raised her hand, to halt his assurances. "I know, Buzz. Thank you."
She looked around, wondering what to do; for weeks, Sharon had suspected there had been at least one more threatening letter sent to Rusty, but he'd never said a thing, and she didn't have any real evidence to support her suspicions. Asking him directly would make him think she didn't trust him, and everything with Rusty was a balancing act even the most accomplished trapeze artists would see as a challenge. Now, Sharon needed answers from Rusty right away, but she wasn't sure she could go and talk to him rationally before she'd managed to get a grip on her own fears and anxieties. The case they were trying to solve already had her protective instincts up a notch to begin with, and now this letter business had resurfaced.
A hand gently gripped Sharon's right elbow, and the brunette felt a strange kind of calm take over her. She stole a glance at Hobbs and smiled gratefully; the other woman seemed to sense the inner struggle Sharon was going through and was offering her support.
"It seems your team has the case well in hand, so how about you and I go and talk to Rusty; to see what he's got to say about all this." Though the words sounded like a suggestion, the tone in which Andrea spoke made it clear to Sharon that she wasn't being given any options. Looking at the team, Hobbs added: "I'm sure you'll all make sure my esteemed colleague won't interrupt us."
Receiving nods all around, Andrea steered Sharon away from the group. When they were only a few feet away from the cubicle, the younger woman stopped and turned to face Sharon.
Andrea lowered her voice to a whisper: "Sharon, I know you're worried, but we'll get to the bottom of this, I'm sure of it. Look, I know Rios will come down hard on wanting to have Rusty removed, but the DA needs him. Although Rios may not want to admit it, never mind like it, she knows we only have access to Rusty because of you. She has orders from above to keep the boy where he is, because Rusty has made it painfully clear, on several occasions, that if he's replaced, he will disappear. That's something you don't want, that's something Rusty doesn't want, and that's something the DA can't afford. Rios just hates to be shown that she's not getting the whole picture, and when you pointed it out to her the first time, she was pissed off that instead of putting the puzzle together herself, you were the one who had to piece it together for her."
Sharon smiled tremulously and nodded.
"Okay?" Hobbs checked, one more time.
Sharon nodded again, with more conviction this time, and took a deep breath to collect herself. She turned towards the cubicle, but then whirled back towards Andrea in a heartbeat.
"Thank you." Sharon's voice, deep as it normally was, dropped further with tightly controlled emotions.
Now, it was Andrea's turn to nod. Then, as if of the same mind, the women continued their walk. As they rounded the corner of the cubicle, they saw Rusty bent over a book, listening to music from his iPhone. The boy noticed them immediately and smiled broadly, taking his earphones off.
"Hey, Sharon. Hey, Andrea," Rusty greeted them brightly.
"Rusty." Sharon acknowledged him and saw as Andrea raised a hand to wave a greeting.
"Rusty, DDA Rios is here bec-,"
"Again?" he interrupted, frustrated. "I thought you said I didn't have to talk to her again until next week. We had a time-,"
"Rusty. Rusty?" Sharon tried to get his attention. She loved the boy, but he was still in serious need to learn how to control his impulses. She wanted to go over and hug him, but she knew him well enough to know that when he was panicking, even something as light as a touch would send him running. "Rusty, listen to me."
Finally, the boy nodded, and Sharon was able to continue: "I need you to listen to what I'm saying, and let me explain everything, and not jump to conclusions, all right? Okay. DCFS sent a letter to Rios, wondering about the number of letters you've received. DCFS noticed the letters didn't have a return address and, at first, they didn't think much of it, but as they've kept coming, over and over, they wanted to know why your letters kept being addressed to them and not to the address of your residence. They claim they sent a letter to me, to my home address, requesting we take care to inform the sender of your real address and help them alleviate any extra work this causes them as it's something that now happens frequently. Now, I wonder when they've sent this letter to me, as I have not received it."
As Sharon's speech progressed, Rusty became more fidgety and, by the time Sharon finally stopped, he was chewing on his thumb. This was not how he had hoped things would go.
"The reason DDA Rios is here is because she thinks I'm trying to keep her from knowing things that are pertinent to her case against Stroh."
Rusty glanced at Hobbs, and the small nod he received from her was enough to confirm this was true.
"Is that what she was yelling about?" Rusty wanted to know.
"But I don't want you to worry about that right now. Leave Rios to me, honey. I just need you to tell me two things," Sharon told him, carefully keeping her tone free of any accusations. "Why did you not tell me you'd received more letters, and where did you put them?"
Rusty looked at Sharon pleadingly. He was still having a hard time expressing himself on occasion, and it was especially hard if he felt like he was being forced to deal with emotions he was used to running away from, or if he felt threatened. This was definitely one of those times.
Sharon's heart ached at the sight of him; Rusty was struggling, she could tell, but he was clearly determined to not let her down. She was trying to decide if she should make an effort to assure him more when she felt Andrea's hand against the small of her back. Again, the woman's touch calmed her. Sharon filed the new insight for a later analysis.
Stepping closer to her foster-son, Sharon was careful to brush lightly against Andrea, just to let her know Sharon appreciated the support. Sharon approached Rusty slowly. Now that he'd calmed down, she felt he'd be more agreeable to physical contact and placed a hand on his shoulder. It was a small gesture she knew he'd grown to accept, to even find soothing, and her instincts were proven correct a moment later when Rusty relaxed his stance a little. Then, she just waited for him to open up.
Sharon didn't have to wait for too long. Casting his eyes down and shoving his hands into his pockets, Rusty started to explain: "When the first letter came, you had to go and tell Emma about it, and the first thing she wanted to do was take me away and make me live somewhere else. I don't want that, Sharon. I'd have to go to a new school, again, and I like my school. I like my friends, and even some of the teachers are okay. And I don't want to move in with new people. I really, really don't want that.
"Look, the first place the DCFS placed me… The dad was always asking me questions about how I lived on the streets all those months after my mom left. Even after he knew, he still kept asking, and some of the stuff he wanted to know was, like, really personal and none of his business. And I didn't answer him, and that just made him mad. I mean, he didn't hit me or anything, but he said I was being disrespectful by not answering his questions. And his wife was constantly checking on what I was doing, and I'm pretty sure she went through my stuff regularly; I think she thought I'd do drugs.
"But you don't do any of that. I get to be who I am, and you don't push me to tell you the stuff I don't want to and… And you don't want anything from me. Except to go to school, be kind and stay safe. And I mean, yeah, the emergency care sucks, but I don't really even care about that anymore, 'cos I'd rather deal with that than not live with you."
A trembling, teary smile was all Sharon was capable of giving him; she didn't trust her voice to stay steady, and, as it was, she was having a hell of a hard time not hugging him. Her resolve strengthened as Andrea came to stand beside her and took charge of the conversation.
"And where are the other letters, Rusty?"
"Oh, they're here," Rusty said and opened one of the wall cupboards, pulling out several identical envelopes. "They all say the same thing as the first one, which is another reason I didn't tell anyone."
"I need to see those letters, Captain!" DDA Rios' disembodied voice carried loudly from the other side of the screen wall.
Sharon couldn't resist rolling her eyes. She heard Flynn telling the young woman to back off and it made her grin a little, in spite of it all. She took the letters from Rusty and placed them in a plastic bag she pulled out from one of the desk drawers. Sharon, then, started ushering Rusty out of the cubicle.
"Let's go home," she told him before turning her head slightly towards Hobbs. "Andrea, are you able to come back in the morning to pick up where we left off? I think the implications from the DNA results can wait till then."
"I don't see why not," Andrea replied immediately. "The legalities of the case won't change overnight, and I could certainly use a meal and some rest."
As Sharon walked across the Murder Room and back to her office to get her things, she dropped the plastic bag to Tao's desk. The man nodded, not needing instructions to know what tests should be done.
Rios, for her part, was trying very hard to confront Rusty, only, the officers in the room were making it difficult for her, forming a wall around the boy and her fellow DDA.
Frustrated, the young DDA voiced her demands: "I need to read those letters, Captain. Those letters are witness intimidation, and I have a right to see them."
Raydor stepped out of her office and closed the door behind her, her face a hard, unyielding mask of professionalism as she went to stand by Rusty and Andrea. "And you will, Emma. Tomorrow, once we have the letters back from the lab."
Rios shook her head in disbelief. "You are endangering his safety by not looking into this right now. I still say he shouldn't live with you; you clearly can't be objective when it comes to him."
"You're right about that," Raydor admitted. "I am definitely not objective when it comes to Rusty, but when he tells me those letters were almost identical to the first one, I have no reason to doubt him, which means that, despite the number of the letters, the threat level hasn't risen, and he stays where he is."
"And, if you try to make me go live somewhere else," Rusty fumed at Emma, "I'm gone. Like, you have no idea how fast I'll be gone, and then you'll never see me again, and that's just too bad for your trial."
At Rusty's threat, Sharon and Andrea exchanged a subtle look; there was no doubt Rusty would make good of his threat if it came to that, and everyone, even those above them, were fully aware of it.
"You know you two are unbelievable. I'm surprised you haven't started calling her your "mother". Then your pretty illusion would be complete." Rios finished with clear sarcasm. She had missed the silent communication between Raydor and Hobbs, her focus completely on Rusty, every bit of her being clearly not happy with him or the situation.
"I don't call Sharon that, 'cos that's not who she is," Rusty retorted, but shifted his eyes from Emma to Sharon.
"No, she isn't," Rios replied, thinking she had made her point.
"And how do I know that?" Rusty kept his eyes on the woman who'd taken him in and offered him a home. "'Cos Sharon's here. My mother isn't, but Sharon is."