A Year in Life
by Kayryn

Rated: G
Summary: Sharon contemplates what a change a year in life can make.
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.
A/N: Takes place in the same fic universe as "Mothers and Sons", sort of prequel to it. Also an episode addition to 2.03. Very, very pre- Sharon/Andrea. And, as always, a huge thanks to lysachan for beta reading.

Captain Sharon Raydor was at home, uncharacteristically slouching in one of the chairs in her living room. Rusty had retired to his room sometime earlier, voluntarily complying with the bedtime Sharon had set for him when he'd first arrived.

Sharon was glad he had settled in so well; it had been rough in the beginning, and not just for him, but with time, they'd both gotten used to each other. Sharon had to admit that if the worst were to happen, and DDA Rios got her way in getting Rusty replaced, she would miss the kid like crazy. And, if Raydor was brutally honest with herself, in a way, she was more worried about him than she was about her own flesh-and-blood kids. Of course, as a mother, she'd always worry about her children, no matter where they were, and how well they were doing – it came with being a mother. But she was painfully aware of the risk factors regarding Rusty: the higher than average suicide numbers for boys his age who lived, or had lived on the streets, and the even higher numbers for the boys who earned their money the way Rusty had.

His life had left him with issues: anger, trust (or lack of it), and the impression that none of the grownups around him had any idea how life actually worked. At first glance, his way of thinking didn't really differ from that of any other teenager, but, in his case, it was all colored by his mother's substance abuse, her abusive boyfriends, and Rusty's life on the streets. All of it had made simple things, like communicating, a balancing act. Rusty was quick to jump to conclusions and was then finding it hard to focus well enough to listen to reason – something which had caused problems, until Sharon had learned how to present things in a way that didn't make him feel threatened. And, of course, one could not forget about the boy's, almost compulsory, obsession with not lying.

But those were the keys to understanding Rusty, and once Sharon had grasped this knowledge, things had started to run a bit smoother. Rusty had been used to taking care of himself, even before his mother had abandoned him; he had been trying so hard to be a tough grown up, to prove he didn't need anyone, when he really just wanted someone to want to take care of him. Only, before Sharon, he hadn't deemed anyone to be trustworthy enough to get the privilege.

Sharon's heart ached for him, but she was careful not to smother him too much. Sometimes, she couldn't help herself, but, usually, those times were about school issues, or house rules. In fact, on those occasions, when Rusty whined about Sharon being unfair, the mother in Sharon just smiled at the sound of a normal teenager in her house; it made her immeasurably happy to know that Rusty felt comfortable enough around her to act like any other kid his age; he no longer worried that she'd send him away.

They'd come such a long way this past year, from Rusty alternately threatening to run away and demanding someone to find his mother (and one should not forget him telling Sharon that he didn't like her), to Rusty actually wanting to stay with Sharon and wanting to make her proud. Sharon thought about the day, and Mike Tao's TV writer friend who actually thought Rusty was her son. The thought brought a smile that she didn't even try to fight. She'd grown to love the kid as much as she loved the two she'd given birth to, and she was pleased that he'd finally found a home with her. It gave her a huge amount of satisfaction to know that Rusty felt safe with her, and that he trusted her. It was a bad world out there, and he depended on Sharon to keep it at bay as much as she could.

Sharon thought about the case they'd just closed and sighed; it would be a while before she would even attempt getting any sleep. This latest case had truly been testing her faith in humanity; a mother and son had been caught trafficking drugs across the Mexican border, and the mother was willing to throw her own son to the mercy of the cartel in Mexico. Sharon had never seen a mother be so callously willing to send her own child into what would only mean certain death. Only Raydor and DDA Hobbs had, then, decided to turn the tables, as they'd released the mother in order for her to be extradited instead of the son. Watching Rosa Vega scream and plead for them not to send her back, knowing what was waiting for her, had been one of the hardest things Sharon had ever done during her career. It was certainly the hardest thing she'd done since taking over Major Crimes.

Sharon's thoughts lingered on her friend, the DDA. She knew the woman had been just as shaken as Sharon by the turn of the events earlier – if not even more so. They'd both held on to their professional masks while they'd making a deal with Ahmed, the son's lawyer, but even while the defense lawyer was in the room, Andrea's mask had slipped when he wasn't looking. It hadn't escaped Sharon, though, and the sight had scared her; she'd never seen Andrea looking so defeated. Even when, nearly two years previously, the cartel had placed a hit on Andrea, the woman hadn't looked as overwhelmed as she had now. It made Sharon wonder if her friend was in for as rough a night as Sharon was.

After playing with the idea for a few moments, Sharon decided to text Andrea and fished her phone from her pocket. Taking a moment to consider her wording, Sharon then typed a short message to Hobbs.

Going to be a sleepless night. Could use the company if you're having the same problem.

In less than half a minute, she got her answer. You wouldn't happen to have a bottle of red? Though, I'll be there in 20 either way.

Sharon went to the kitchen and selected a bottle of red wine she knew Andrea had taken a liking to. As she looked for the bottle opener, Sharon was struck by the thought that, these days, she always had Andrea's favorite wine reserved, in case the DDA would come over. Opening the bottle to give it time to breathe, Sharon's eyes then landed on a box of Rusty's cereal – another item in her kitchen reserved for someone other than her. Looking at the two random things brought a smile to Sharon's lips; it was a mere year ago that the only things in her home that weren't hers belonged to her kids and her estranged husband, and they were all neatly tucked away in the spare bedroom.

A year in a life, and so much had changed; a new job, Rusty, Andrea… It felt good to have people in her life again, people who didn't cringe when they saw her, but, instead, actually wanted her around.

As much as Sharon had respected Brenda Leigh Johnson, and still did, and as much as she had strived for the woman to see they were on the same side, Sharon's life was infinitely easier without Brenda's constant presence.

Sharon had always been emotionally exhausted from dealing with the Deputy Chief, sometimes to the point of being physically drained. Even Rusty, with all the baggage he brought with him, was not nearly as difficult to handle.

Then again, having Rusty stay with her, and looking after him, had its rewards. That was something Sharon had never really experienced with Brenda, not really. When it came to Brenda, the battles had been long and difficult, and even when it was over, there had been no rewards at the end of the day. She had rarely gotten positive, or even neutral, feedback of any kind. She'd had to settle for snide remarks from both, the other woman and her team, which now, ironically enough, were Sharon's team.

Back then, Sharon had always been too tired after work to go out and spend time with her friends, never mind invite anyone over for dinner. Whatever energy she'd had left went to staying in contact with her kids and, ashamed though she was to admit it, even that had seemed like a struggle at times.

As a result, Sharon had gradually lost touch with most of her friends.

All of this highlighted how grateful Sharon was to have Andrea in her life. They'd, of course, met while Sharon was still in FID, and Brenda was still around. The Captain had felt a connection to the DDA, but due to the aforementioned lack of time and energy, their interactions had always been limited to working together and smiling when crossing each other in the halls of the police administration building. Then, during their first joined case after Sharon had become the head of Major Crimes Division, Andrea had suggested meeting up for lunch one day; an offer which Sharon was only too pleased to accept.

Soon after, they'd discovered that, in addition to having a penchant for the rules, they had a lot more in common as well. When it was clear that Rusty didn't mind the occasional dinner guest, Andrea had started to come over quite often.

It wasn't until a few months later that Sharon had finally confessed how much she'd been enjoying Andrea's company. She'd explained to the other woman how she'd slowly drifted away from most of her friends, due to her ever increasing work demands, which had, surprisingly enough, lessened now that she was in charge of MCD. Andrea, in turn, had admitted that, before befriending Sharon, she'd been feeling quite lonely, having just broken up with her girlfriend of nine years.

A soft knock on the door stirred Sharon out of her thoughts. She quickly reached the door and opened it to welcome Andrea. The DDA looked just as emotionally and physically drained as Sharon felt, and, for a moment, Sharon wondered if asking the younger woman over had been such a good idea after all. But, then, Andrea fell into Sharon's arms, her solid body offering and drawing comfort in equal measures, and Sharon was assured she had done the right thing.

"What a day, huh?" Sharon asked when Andrea didn't let go.

Sharon closed her eyes as her friend held on to her even tighter. They stood by the door for what seemed like a lot longer time than what it probably was, but Sharon wasn't complaining; she was perfectly happy to hold on to her friend.

The End