Safe in These Arms
Summary: Sharon needs Rusty to be safe. But at what cost? Established Sharon/Andrea.
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 my other Major Crimes fics, and follows them, and though it's not necessary to read them to understand this one, you might get more out of this if you do. And, as always, a thank you to my beta reader, lysachan.
Sharon was on her balcony, in a pair of sweatpants and a sweater, sipping herbal tea and enjoying the warm evening breeze. It was only Wednesday, but, already, she felt like the week had lasted forever. There was no way Sharon could deny she was exhausted, and she was pretty certain that, unfortunately, it was beginning to be clear to everyone around her as well.
At first, she'd gotten away with it; as police officers, they were all accustomed to seeing each other tired from time to time, as their job was not the most stress-free profession there was. But Sharon was well aware that, though her clothes were as immaculate as ever, in other aspects, her appearance was showing signs of weariness. She'd started to wear her hair in a messy bun, instead of spending time brushing and straightening it each morning, and there wasn't enough make up in all of Los Angeles to hide the dark bags under her eyes.
It was all because of those damned letters; Sharon had already been worried about the letters that Rusty kept receiving. Once it had become clear that there was more than just one letter sent to Rusty, DDA Rios had raised hell and demanded Rusty be removed from Sharon's care immediately. Even Chief Taylor had agreed, and, for a while, it seemed like Sharon could do nothing but watch as her foster-son was entered into the Witness Protection Program. The only reason the boy was still with her was because the DA's office reluctantly admitted that, despite the clear danger Rusty was in, they had cases with higher priorities; they simply couldn't budget for Rusty to get into Witness Protection.
Sharon had allowed herself to be indignant for a fraction of a second; the mere idea that it all came down to money, that the DA placed so little value on the boy's life, made her blood boil. But then, in the next moment, Sharon had sighed in relief. Never had she expected she'd be happy for a lack of resources, but there it was, first time for everything. Rusty would be able to keep living with her, just as they both wanted. Sharon had almost felt guilty about being so happy that Rusty could stay; his safety was her main concern, after all. But she knew she'd miss the kid like crazy, so, if it meant more security measures, Sharon was happy to accept the situation. Though, Chief Taylor had only ordered an increased number of patrol cars that would drive by Sharon's apartment building, and Sharon knew that really was not a real security measure.
And, as if that hadn't already worried her enough, the latest turn of the events had been the letters addressed to Sharon herself. So far, there had been two, and, thankfully, those had been sent to the police station, so there was still a slight chance that whoever was behind these letters didn't know where they lived. But, as a cop, Sharon knew nothing in life was certain, and she didn't trust for a moment that the person behind these threats wouldn't know how to get to her and Rusty if they wanted to. It certainly wasn't the first time during Sharon's career that she had received threats; her former position as the head of the FID made sure of that, but, for the first time in her life, Sharon didn't feel safe.
In an effort to assure herself, Sharon was doing everything she could to keep Rusty safe and sound, and, thus, she had taken to "accidentally" falling asleep in front of the TV. Staying on the couch allowed her to be closer to the front door, should anything happen, and the gun she placed on the coffee table every night, as soon as Rusty had retreated to his room, provided extra protection. Sharon had hoped Rusty wouldn't be too quick to pick up on her new habit, but he was a smart kid, and she suspected he was already on to her.
Shivering in the cooling night air, Sharon swallowed the last of her tea before going back inside. Rusty was gathering his books and papers, clearly getting ready to go to bed.
"Did you get your assignments done?"
"Yeah, it wasn't really a big deal after all," Rusty answered, fighting a yawn. He'd been having difficulties with his latest history paper; French revolution really wasn't his thing. "Well, I'm beat so I'm going to bed."
"Okay, you have a good night," Sharon wished him with a tired smile and sat down on one of the chairs in the living room. Her back was killing her, and another night on the couch was not something she was particularly looking forward to. But, then, Sharon thought of the letters and her resolve was strengthened. Chief Taylor, and the DA's office had made it clear that it was up to Sharon to keep the kid away from harm, and she was damned if she was going to let anything happen to him.
"You're not going to bed yet?" Rusty asked, a touch of worry coloring his tone.
"In just a while," she promised.
"If you say so," Rusty quipped and then rolled his eyes in a way that told Sharon she wasn't fooling him at all. Oh, well, at least he was still willing to play the charade with her and keep the illusion alive. "Goodnight, Sharon."
Now, sitting alone in the living room, Sharon faced the nightly dilemma of what to do, until she would finally fall asleep. As tired as she was, her mind refused to shut down, her thoughts running in circles, trying to work out who could be behind the letters and what their endgame was. Every possible explanation or answer just led to more questions, and finally only questions remained.
A sudden knock on the door startled Sharon awake. She'd nodded off in the chair, not even making it to the couch this time. Another knock had Sharon retrieving her gun; her cop instincts were kicking in, and all traces of sleep were gone. She approached the front door, slowly, and took the safety off the gun before looking through the peephole.
The person Sharon saw on the other side was not someone she had expected. She opened the door and came face to face with -
The blonde woman smiled until she saw the gun Sharon was still holding. Andrea dropped the duffel bag she'd been carrying and held up her hands in mock surrender. "It's just me, don't shoot."
"Oh, sorry," Sharon mumbled and, after putting the safety back on, went to place the gun on the desk. Adrenalin was still pumping through her veins, and her hands shook a little. Or maybe it was the lack of sleep and poor appetite that were wreaking havoc in her body. She'd have to remember to eat a decent lunch the next day.
"Yeah, no problem," Andrea said as she stepped in and moved her bag close to the row of shoes before closing the door behind. "Hi, Rusty."
Sharon turned around; she hadn't noticed Rusty coming out of his room.
"Hey," he greeted Hobbs. "Thanks for coming."
"Not a problem, thank you for calling."
Rusty nodded and then, somewhat hesitantly, shifted his eyes from Andrea to Sharon and then back to Andrea again. "Well, I think I'm gonna go back to sleep. I'll see you in the morning."
After watching Rusty retreat back to his room, Andrea came to stand in front of Sharon. She observed the older woman for a moment and, then, without saying another word, wrapped her arms around her, holding her close.
They stood there, in Sharon's living room, for a long moment before Andrea finally released her grip. She, then, ushered Sharon to sit down on the couch before settling down right next to the tired woman. Andrea took a hold of Sharon's hand, brought it to her lips and kissed it softly.
"Sharon, you can't go on like this," Andrea beseeched. "I know you're troubled, and I'm not saying you don't have a right to be; the letters are scaring me, too, but honey… You have to sleep, and you have to eat."
"I'm sorry, I'm making you worry, Andrea," Sharon murmured.
"Don't be sorry," Andrea said softly. She reached with her free hand to cup Sharon's face, and Sharon leaned against the hand, closing her eyes and reveling in the gentle touch. "I've told you before; I'm not here just for the good days and fun times. But, having said that, seeing you like this isn't easy."
Sharon finally met Andrea's eyes, seeing the concern she'd known she'd find there. Sharon hated to cause Andrea to worry, but until they caught the bastard who was taunting them, there were very few options available to the Captain.
"I'm the one who needs to protect him. I'm responsible for him. I am. A black and white driving by this building once an hour isn't going to make a difference if someone really wants to get to either one of us. It takes a car less than a minute to drive past us and that means the other fifty-nine minutes are my responsibility. He depends on me alone."
Andrea swallowed; she'd known, of course, that Sharon was worried about Rusty's safety, and she'd deduced that the stress of the situation was to blame for the Captain's exhaustion. But even she had underestimated just how overwrought Sharon had become. "I know he does, Sharon, but I'm here for you both as well. I love you both and I want you both safe. You're so strong, and protective, and I love you for that, but honey, you can't keep this up; you're on the verge of a collapse."
Hobbs reached her arms around Sharon and drew her close; the woman was somewhat tense, but didn't resist the close contact, for which Andrea was grateful. She knew it wasn't easy for Sharon to hear these things, but someone needed to say them. Slowly rubbing circles around Sharon's back and neck with her fingertips, Andrea waited for a few moments to see if Sharon would voice her thoughts, but the older woman remained silent. After giving Sharon another minute to digest what she had said so far, Andrea continued:
"I'm not saying that, under the circumstances, you're not the best person to protect Rusty; with you in your mama bear mode, I pity the fool who even dares to look at him wrong. But you can't protect your cub if, god forbid, you need to actually defend him and you're too tired to even lift your gun.
"You know, you two are a pair," Andrea declared. "Rusty told me he hadn't actually been worried until he saw how spooked you've become. Seeing you so rattled is what's making it hard for him to feel safe, even at home, and on top of worrying what's out there, he now worries about you, too."
Sharon remained mute, but sighed heavily, her breath tickling Andrea's neck, and the younger woman had a feeling she was getting her point across.
"I hate not knowing what the bastard's really after; if he just wants to scare us, or if he's actually planning on doing something," Sharon finally confessed.
Andrea nodded, fully understanding what Sharon meant.
"I know. But, for the time being, we can't do anything about it except wait and see what happens. You can't keep spending your nights on this couch indefinitely, though; it's killing your back, and you're getting hardly any sleep because of it."
Sharon picked nonexistent lint off of her sweater, a gesture Andrea knew to interpret as a sign of her being uncomfortable.
"What is it?"
Sharon sighed again, before raising her head from Andrea's shoulder where it had been resting.
"If I go to the bedroom, I won't fall asleep. I'm afraid that I'll sleep too heavily, that I won't wake up if…"
Andrea closed her eyes, her heart aching for them all. What a hell of a mess this was. Not for the first time since this all began, Andrea wished Brenda Leigh Johnson had just killed Stroh; all their lives would be simpler without him. She opened her eyes and tried to smile encouragingly.
"Well, it's a good thing I'm here then," Andrea stated. "You know I'm an extremely light sleeper and I wake up at the slightest of noises. We'll keep the bedroom door open if it makes you feel better, but you're sleeping in your own bed tonight."
Sharon was about to protest, but had second thoughts when Andrea raised her eyebrow. Sharon distractedly admitted to herself that she must have been even more drained than she thought if the eyebrow act worked on her. In all honesty, though, it was the realization that she could trust Andrea to support her in this, as in everything else, that allowed Sharon to find some peace. It wasn't about Andrea taking up arms and shooting a possible intruder between the eyes; it was the knowledge that she, too, worried and would stay alert, even through sleep.
Andrea untangled herself from Sharon and, getting up from the couch, went to the kitchen. She puttered around for a minute before reappearing with a sandwich and a glass of water.
"I'll go and change," Andrea said as she handed the sandwich to Sharon. "You eat, drink, and then we'll go to bed."
Sharon grumbled, mostly out of irritation, before sinking her teeth into the sandwich. Andrea had made a valid argument tonight, no matter how difficult it might be to acknowledge.
Not five minutes later, Sharon followed Andrea to the bedroom, grabbing her service weapon from the desk on the way. Replacing the weapon on the bedside table, she sat down on the bed and watched as Andrea made sure she had everything ready for the morning. Sharon suddenly felt guilty; Andrea didn't usually stay the night during the week and, now, because she couldn't get her act together, Andrea had had to, once again, be the one to accommodate Sharon and take care of her needs.
"It's a little uneven, this relationship of ours," Sharon voiced her thoughts.
"What do you mean?"
"It just feels like you always end up taking care of me, or us. It doesn't really seem fair to you that-,"
"You can stop that line of thinking right now, Sharon," Andrea interrupted. She took one last look at the suit she would wear the next day, to make sure it hung properly, and then climbed into bed and sat next to Sharon. "No one should ever keep score in a relationship, especially not about these things. And, besides, I really don't mind; if there's anything I can do to make this even a bit easier, then I wouldn't want it any other way."
Sharon held Andrea's gaze for a moment, her eyes shining with emotion. She, then, leaned in to capture Andrea's lips with her own, slowly letting the kiss deepen. As always, the contact left her craving for more, but Sharon knew she wouldn't have the energy to follow through with her desires, not tonight. Withdrawing from the kiss, Sharon settled next to Andrea and savored the feel of the other woman's arms around her, helping her relax.
Andrea cradled Sharon close and listened to the subtle change in the rhythm of the older woman's breathing. She peered down at Sharon's face; Sharon's eyes were closed, and her face had already relaxed from the almost ever-present strain of the last few weeks. Andrea smiled a little and kissed the top of Sharon's head. Yes, her life was more complicated now than it had been a few months before. But even with all the things that were being thrown at them presently, Andrea wouldn't have changed it for the world. She was right where she wanted to be.