ROOKIE BLUE (isn't mine)

COPPER

Thanks you for all your comments and support. You're the best! ;)

-o-

Part 5

What was happening to her? She felt numb. At first, she was infuriated because Sam had been partnered with her, then she had that weird conversation with Luke and felt depressed. Why would he be so supportive of her being partnered with Swarek? Luke had always been honest with her and she had no ground to doubt his sincerity. But on the other hand, he probably watched them do their little dance around each other last week, the candid rookie and her seasoned mentor, and maybe he was only trying to win her back. There was nothing like some unexpected competition to raise the stakes and make the girl worth fighting for. All of a sudden, she was stuck in the middle of a triangle she never meant to create.

Maybe she should reconsider her options. Luke didn't seem so lukewarm to her, right this minute. Maybe with Swarek, it was just animal attraction. She didn't even know why they didn't hit the sack that first day when she asked him for his help. And in a week, even if they engaged in light banter and flirted a lot, he never tried to kiss her or even hug her. Her mind reeling, she went to the parking lot. She spotted Sam Swarek immediately. He was at the car already, seated on the hood, his arms folded on his chest. He was looking at her. She looked down and hurried to the car. He settled inside while she was dropping her gear on the back seat.

"McNally," he cooed.

"Sir," she snapped back angrily. She fastened her seat belt and checked the roster, doing her best to appear busy. Deciding against grilling her, he left the parking lot and engaged in traffic. She leaned on the door, gazing absently out the window.

"You look tired," he finally said, his face turned slightly in her direction.

She scoffed. "Charming!" She examined her face in the courtesy mirror. She was not that bad considering, she thought.

"Andy, I'm just concerned. I've never seen you like that before."

She shrugged but didn't turn around. "Right." She pushed back the mirror into place and sat back, crossing her arms. "We've known each other for a week, that's not so surprising."

He frowned and shot a perplexed glance at her. His eyes went back to the road. Rather an argument than a misunderstanding, he thought. "I saw you talk with Callaghan. Are you okay?"

"Why wouldn't I? Luke is my friend," she said, her eyes shooting daggers. "Not that it is any of your business, sir."

"Hey, hold your horses McNally! I'm just trying to be supportive here!"

"Supportive of what exactly, sir?"

"Well, we don't know each other that much and I wouldn't want to trespass."

What was it even supposed to mean? She winced. "If you must know, I had too much to drink yesterday. And I was with my friend Traci, not with Luke."

"I know," he said gently. He nodded and looked back to the road. His mouth twitched. Like she said, he didn't know her very well but he knew that it was only a matter of seconds before she burst out. One, two, three, four, fiv…

"And how would you know?" She turned to face him.

He grinned. "I was with Jerry and Leo. Jerry's my friend, remember?"

"Oh…" She stared at his profile, her eyes lingered on his mouth and she sensed her anger receding. No, she would not over think this one. She had no clue whether Luke was good for her or not or why they had that talk this morning. She wanted Sam. She had the moment she had set her eyes on him and she owned to herself to give it a try. She won't be derailed by some stupid regulations. "Of course. Sir, my head is killing me, I'm sorry if I was a bit harsh before."

"It's okay McNally."

"So where are we going?"

"How would I know? You're the one who checked the roster. You tell me," he grinned again. That was infuriating. She sucked on her breath, opened her mouth but ultimately chose to stay silent. That was their first time in a patrol car, she shouldn't push her luck. "Eaton Center, sir. Really? Best sent only the two of us? It's like a small town in there!"

He nodded with a smile. "We should get some strength then. Want to grab some breakfast?"

She shot him a puzzled glance. Breakfast? For crying out loud, they just left the Division! "No, thanks, I'm good."

He pulled over. "Okay, you stay in the car then." Her eyes went wide. "See you in fifteen." He casually got out of the car and slammed the door behind him without looking back.

"Seriously?" She watched him stroll to a small coffee shop, his right hand fidgeting with his belt buckle. "You got to be kidding me!" Was it payback? No, he would have done the same with any male partner. Except that any other partner would have jumped at the chance to get out of the car and have breakfast. You're so stupid McNally. Too late to beat yourself up, anyway. Better grin and bear it. That was her own fault, she had no real reason to be mad at Sam. All she had to do really was ask.

-o-

The mall was packed with busy customers, with their hands full of wrapped presents. It was bright, hot and loud. "I'm so bored, it's like watching paint dry," she said, trying on a pair of sunglasses. She looked at her reflection. "Can this day get any more uneventful?" she whined, while she checked the price tag. She made a face and put the glasses down on the rack.

"Don't," he said sternly. "Uneventful is good. Consider yourself lucky. It's not always that simple. You don't want to stumble upon a robbery in progress or get in the middle of a brawl. Especially during holiday season."

"Yeah, you're probably right."

"I am right. I'm your training officer, I'm always right," he grinned. "That's a cardinal rule."

"But aren't you the one who you told me that you didn't have any rules?"

"Right. But this one still stands."

She chuckled. "It's okay, I don't need you to hold my hand."

"I know." He grinned, working his dimples.

Squinting her eyes, she turned to him and stared. First thing first. "Why is Ollie riding with Gail today?"

"Gail? The blonde with the spectacular eyes?" he teased her.

"Yep, that would be her," she sniggered.

"I take it that you two are close friends."

"Don't try to change the subject. Why am I not with Shaw today? He has been my TO from the start and we know each other moves. Not that it's relevant as of today, but…"

"McNally, like I said, I don't want to get thrown behind a desk. But I did not ask to train a rookie. I did not ask to have a partner. And if you must know, I do prefer to ride alone."

His change of tone took her aback. "It's okay, sir, I completely get it," she apologized. "It's just that I hate surprises."

"Excuse me?"

"I mean, last week I thought that," she shifted on her feet, red creeping up her cheeks, "I mean, we…"

"We spent some time together. Really that's your problem McNally?"

She nodded, managing to hold his gaze. "Why did you pick me? You could have partnered with Dov or Chris."

"I didn't pick you. Best picked you. He watched us work together these last few days. And Shaw needed a break from his maverick rookie," he smiled.

"No, he never said that!" she protested.

"No, he didn't, not in so many words. I'm guessing he didn't want me to get bored with my partner so he let me have you."

She bit her lip, her stomach filling up with a large bunch of unexpected butterflies at the very direct double entendre. "Co-workers aren't really supposed to date."

"I am not your boyfriend, McNally."

"I know that."

"Good. Now that we got that out of the way, would you care to participate in this little surveillance? I take North, you take South. Does it work for you?" He turned around and walked away.

As the afternoon dragged along, she couldn't shake the feeling that she was making matters even worse. She couldn't confront him and she couldn't ask him out either. They were at a dead end. The longer she let this situation develop, the harder it will be to get back on her feet and where she wanted to be. Well, you need to figure out what was more important, she thought. But how?

The day finally ended and they were back in the car, riding silently. "Are you feeling any better?"

"Huh?"

"Your hangover. Are you any better McNally," he said again.

"No, not so much," she furrowed her brow, plastering a smile on her face.

"I know I'm your partner but are you going to let me buy you a drink?" He paused. "Hair of the dog, Andy, that's the only cure," he added in a lighter tone.