A/N: Wow! What an incredible reception. Thanks so much to all of you who commented and alerted or favorited. I'm flattered and touched. I knew this story needed a conclusion but I really hadn't planned beyond the first chapter. I'm not a first person writer so hopefully I can do this justice!
I hate writing reports. Can I just say that? I'd rather be out on the streets being shot at than stuck behind a computer all day.
Okay, well maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration but still….
I played second chair to Tracy all day. I was tired and cranky but she seemed to understand my state. Somewhere in my mind I acknowledged that I wasn't the only one faking my way through a relationship or doing things that weren't quite me to make another happy.
I know Tracy. She's my best friend. There is no way that she is content to be a desk jockey. While I'm feeling sorry for myself, she's making the ultimate sacrifice for her family. I could see the toll it was taking on her. Thought back to the night before and thought about how hard it must have been for her to watch from the wings. Tracy is a good cop. She relates to people in a way that I've not seen in many of our co-workers. She has a natural talent and it's being stifled. When I look at her I can't help but wonder if I'm looking at my future.
I haven't seen Luke all day and while Sam was at parade, he disappeared with Boyd as soon as Best dismissed us. Wading through my supplemental report wasn't my idea of a good time—especially without his help. Yeah, I'd written a zillion reports since my first day but this was my first big one on my own. The shooting had been a monster but I'd had a ton of help. This one was kicking my ass.
I lost track of how long I sat at the computer after Tracy left for the day. I hit print and shut down the computer, glad to be getting away from it. I went in search of Boyd and Sam and found them in the conference room with crap strewn from one end of the long table to the other.
"Geez and I thought I was having a bad day," I said sarcastically as I walked in. Boyd, who loves me to bits and pieces (not), just gave me a look. I figured I'd at least get a dimple out of Sam but he flicked his dark eyes up at me before going back to whatever he was working on.
"My report's done," I said after a long, very silent pause. I was starting to feel a little stupid here.
"Good for you," Boyd all but sneered. Jackass. Sam stuck his hand out without looking up at me. I moved to him and put it in his hand. Still no acknowledgment. What the hell?
"Need any help?"
"Not from you." Bet you can't guess who that came from.
"Look, Boyd," I said, starting to feel a little attacked. "I realize you blame me for screwing up your op, which you seem to have had a fantastic handle on by the way, but Sam and I put our neck on the lines to keep the deal in play so maybe you should back the hell off now."
"She's right, Boyd. Knock it off," Sam said with no real fire. I looked at him strangely wondering what was going on with him—what had changed since last night?—but he wasn't looking up at me. I waited for a moment but he steadfastly ignored me. With a huff I spun on my toe and walked out.
Whatever. And people say women are moody? Sheesh.
I went in search of Luke and shockingly (not) found him in his office. He was bent over some paperwork on his desk. I knocked lightly on his door and waited for him to motion me in. Weird right? I never feel quite comfortable walking into his domain without permission. It's like I don't belong there. Don't ask me how I'm supposed to live with the guy. I haven't quite figured that out yet.
Well, actually I have.
"What's up," he asked. I wouldn't call his tone overly friendly but at least it was a warmer reception than what I got in the conference room. Marginally.
"Hey, can you take a break for dinner?"
"Nope. I gotta get this paperwork done and over to Boyd," he said going back to it. I hate that he's so easily dismissive of me. Isn't he supposed to be in love with me? Or at the very least care enough about me not to hurt my feelings?
"I was just over there dropping off my report. They're knee deep in paper with no end in sight. You can manage dinner."
"No. I can't," he said, irritated with me. "Look, I've got some things to take care of tomorrow but maybe we can go to dinner on Friday."
I waited a beat, thinking he was going to smile and say 'just kidding' but he was being perfectly serious.
"Luke, I need to talk to you and it can't wait until Friday."
"Fine, Andy, then shut the door but let's make this quick."
I could feel my brows scrunching together as I pushed his door shut.
"Luke, why did you ask me to move in with you?" I asked, ignoring him when he motioned me to sit down. He leaned back and looked at me consideringly.
"Because it seems to be the natural progression of our relationship."
"Really?" I asked after a long moment. "That's all you've got for me?"
"Andy, look. I have a lot of stuff to get taken care of right now. Can't we do this relationship stuff when we're not at work?"
"I just tried Luke, you said no. You're never not at work. You realize that right? You're either here, or you're taking a call from someone, or you're talking about it. This 'stuff' needs attention. Now."
"I don't know what you want from me. I'm a detective. It takes a lot to do my job. I don't have the luxury of driving around in a car for a few hours and then packing it in for the day."
My eyes narrowed as his words slammed into me. Was he trying to be insulting or did he really believe that?
"Because it's just a walk in the park to be in the patrol division. Any monkey in a uniform can do it."
"That's not what I meant but you don't have nearly the stress and responsibility that I do."
"Really? Homicide, serial killer, my partner being shot, child abduction, ginormous drug bust? All that piddlyshit stuff was just a walk in the park for me while I sat in my unit, right?"
"Don't talk like that, Andy," he said, his aversion evident. Oops, there I go, stepping outside his ideal for what I should be. I didn't want to be ugly so I took a mighty breath, trying to reign in my temper. This is not who I am. Pissed or not, I'm not going to be rude.
"Luke, I'm not okay with being relegated to your to-do list. This is supposed to be a relationship but with the exception of going to the lake and having dinner with my dad, we've not been together except in name only. Are you really okay with that?"
"You of all people should know what it's like to live with a homicide detective."
"Yeah. I do. I know exactly what it's like. I know what it's like to watch someone throw his entire life away for a job only to wake up one day and realize he's got nothing left but a bottle and some dusty awards to show for it. As a matter of fact, I've been a part of the family that was torn to pieces because of that kind of 'dedication'. You can be a good detective without giving your whole life to it and I can tell you from personal experience that nothing is worth throwing away your family for."
"Really? Does Tracy agree with you?" That stopped me cold. He had a point. "I am who I am, Andy. I can't be any different than I am."
Deflated, I sank down into a chair. Maybe I wasn't the only one faking a little.
"Neither can I," I said softly.
"You're not happy," he said just as softly, looking sad and suddenly I wanted to burst into tears.
"I need more than this, Luke. I've spent my whole life waiting for the job to be over and now I'm right back in the same spot. I respect what you do. I know that you're a fantastic detective. I love that you want to make things right by the victims. But I don't want to give up the rest of my lifetime waiting to be important. I've done that and I know it doesn't have to be that way."
"Then I guess that's it, huh?" he asked gently, a sad little Luke smile on his face. I felt my eyes well with tears and I nodded. "Don't cry, Nally."
He pulled me to my feet and into his arms. I held on for a long moment, sorry that I couldn't be happy with what he had to offer. He pulled a way, holding me by the shoulders and ducking his head down so we were almost eye to eye.
"There's someone out there who can be what you need, Andy, and I'll tell you that he cares enough about you to give you up if it meant you being happy."
I nodded, not insulting his intelligence. We both know who he was talking about.
"I know," I said. His hands dropped to his side.
"I'll miss you," he said, with a small smile. "I'll never be able to look at my stairs without thinking about you."
"Or the counter," I said with a smirk, unable to help myself.
"Or the master bedroom," we said together and then laughed. I walked to his door and stopped and turned back to him, trying to think of something eloquent to say but he was already bent over his paperwork again.
I guess that said it all.
I went to the locker room and changed out of my uniform. I wasn't sure what to feel yet but I was able to breathe for the first time in months. I didn't have this unknown something hovering over me. I was pulling on my jeans when Sam came in. I raised a brow at him.
Now he wants to talk? While I'm half naked? I guess I shouldn't be surprised.
"Hey," I said pulling on a tank top. His face was unreadable which meant that he was still grumpy. He dipped his chin. "Did you get the report done?"
"My portion," he answered, leaning against the door, his arms crossed.
"Sam, is there something on your mind. You've done a complete 180 from yesterday."
"I hear congratulations are in order."
"You and Luke bought a house together. You never said anything. Congratulations."
"Who told you?"
"Does it matter?" he shot back, pushing away from the door and moving toward me.
"You're the one who's all worked up so you tell me."
"I'm not worked up."
"You're pissed about something."
"I'm pissed you didn't confide in me. We're supposed to be friends."
"Friends. Is that what we are? Well, friend, care to tell me why you're pissed that I'm moving in with Luke?"
"Why do you care anyway?"
"Hey, you came at me, Sam. You got a problem then you can man up and say something."
Wrong thing to say. I've seen Sam throw a fit—once. I can't say I've ever seen him truly, truly mad.
"Man up? Really, McNally?"
"Give me one good reason I shouldn't move in with Luke."
"You know what, Andy, I could give you twelve but if you can't work that out for yourself then it's not my place to bring you up to speed."
"Then I stand by my statement," I said brushing past him, furious. I'm not sure why, really. He didn't say anything rude but it just pissed me off that he wouldn't fight for me a little. He always stepped aside and pushed me toward Luke and I was tired of it.
Why should I tell him I'd broken up with Luke? That I wasn't moving in with him? Why should I tell Sam that I was crazy in love with him when he couldn't even begin to open up to me about his feelings? He'd been blowing me off about 'us' since the day after the blackout and I'd had it.
When I got home it was clear that it was going to be another sleepless night. I was too wound up to sleep, too pissy to go to the Penny, and too stubborn to make the call that would solve all my problems. I tried watching a movie. I tried reading. I tried flopping around in bed like a dying fish, trying desperately to find a spot comfortable enough to fall asleep in.
A knock on the door had me sitting straight up, my heart pounding. The glowing clock numbers told me it was just after midnight. The second knock had me scrambling across my covers.
"McNally! Open up!" came an irritated voice with a third knock that was more pound than polite concession.
"Knock it off," I said in a loud whisper, pulling him in the door as my neighbor stuck her head out. I waved to her. "Sorry, Mrs. Ruiz."
"Nosy old bat," Sam muttered as I closed the door and fumbled to flip on the lamp. His eyebrows shot comically high on his forehead when the lights came on and he saw me. I had to bite the inside of my cheek to keep from laughing. "That's what you sleep in, McNally? Jesus."
"It's midnight. I wasn't expecting company and you were pounding on the door so loudly you were about to get the cops called on us," I said, yanking sweats on over my blue lacy boy shorts and matching burnout tank.
"I wasn't complaining," he said watching me pile my hair up in a messy bun, his dimples present for the first time since the night of the bust. Feeling much more comfortable in my bulky sweat pants and sweatshirt, I crawled onto the middle of my bed and sat crosslegged, looking at him expectantly.
He looked around my apartment, taking it all in.
"I don't think I've ever actually been in here," he said, looking back to me. "Nice apartment. Very you."
"Thanks," I said, raising a brow. Were we going to make small talk or was he going to tell me why he was at my house at midnight?
"You could have told me I was making an ass of myself in the locker room."
"I could have," I agreed.
"But you figured if I couldn't figure it out, you didn't need to bring me up to speed?" he asked, paraphrasing his earlier statement. My lips twitched as I resisted his smile.
"Something like that."
"Reason number one: because you deserve someone who understands just how lucky they are to have you. Reason number two: because anyone who would rather stay at work than go home to you is an absolute idiot. Reason number three…."
"Sam," I interrupted him, understanding what he was doing. "I had my own reasons not to move in with Luke. A good portion of them involving you. Not once have you told me why you didn't want me to be with him."
"Isn't it obvious, Andy?"
"I need the words, Sam."
"Because I can't get you out of my head, damn it. You're in my blood. I can't stop thinking about the night of the blackout. Or you tackling me that first day. Or our trip and you laughing at my lame jokes. Or the look on your face when the stuff went down with your dad. I can't stop thinking that I could have lost you last night. That one or both of us could be dead and I never would have had the chance to tell you that I'm crazy about you. I can't get enough of you. I want you to be mine and no one else's. Callaghan's a fucking idiot and he doesn't deserve you. I do. I can make you happy—I know it."
"Why didn't you just talk to me after the blackout? I was ready to walk away from Luke then. I knew that I wanted you but you made me feel like you weren't interested."
"Because you shut down like a steel trap when the lights came on. You looked like you'd made the biggest mistake in the world and then Callaghan's so quick to tell me that you were going to that friggin cabin for some non-fishing quality time and it was all your idea! What was I supposed to do? Kick and scream? If he made you happy then I would have gladly stood by and let him have you."
"You're such an idiot," I said, crawling to the edge of the bed and grabbing his wrist so I could pull him to me.
"Thanks," he muttered sarcastically. I took his face in my hands.
"I wanted you but I thought you didn't want me back. Everything was so complicated and the one person I could talk to was shutting me out. Sam, I think I've been in love with you since I busted in that room and you made the smartass comment about the crappy lock."
He grinned at me, his hands going around my waist under my sweatshirt. His fingers ran lightly over my skin sending chills up my spine and making him grin more.
"You're sure," he asked, his voice low. "Because, Andy, there's no going back. I'm not Callaghan. I won't ever let you go."
"Promise?" I asked, losing myself in his dark, serious eyes.