A/N: So hope that I managed to get this in before the show airs! Here's the last part, thank you all for joining me on this word journey…. Until the next one…
Chapter eight: A moment of clarity
She pulls the truck into the empty parking bay, a couple of blocks away from the apartment. Lowers her head to the steering wheel, questions her sanity, her rationality. Just for a moment. Runs her fingers through her untidy hair. Peering into the rearview mirror, she wipes the remnants of her mascara from under her eyes. Stares at her reflection: "McNally, it better be worth it," she mutters at the stubborn, determined eyes staring back. Climbs out the truck, slipping her phone and the keys into her back pocket.
Looks around carefully, sees nothing. Makes her way quickly through the quiet streets. It's early, or late, depending on how you look at it, really. She should be at home, tucked up into a warm bed, wearing one of Sam's t-shirts that still, after all these months, hold his lingering scent. (Never knew a man to have so many shirts, luckily. But this was not a sustainable or renewable resource).
Instead, she is skulking around in the early hours of the morning, outside an apartment she has no right to be anywhere near. Hadn't thought this plan entirely through. Now she is here, she has now way of getting in through the front entrance.
Doesn't really want to wake up the doorman, and explain herself. "This is stupid; I am being stupid."
Turns to leave. Probably better this way. Trouble. That is all that was going to come out of this anyway. Trouble.
She is a few steps past the doorway, when a taxi pulls up outside, and three very happy, very drunk women pour out. Andy grins, falls into place behind them, giggling along with them, as they make their way past the sullen, glaring doorman, freshly woken by the commotion.
The girls stagger out on the eighth floor, one in particular an interesting shade of green. Clearly, didn't much enjoy the speed of the elevator.
Andy leans against the mirrored panel, watches as the lights flicker, highlighting the floors as they pass. The doors open. She takes a deep breath. Steps forward, her feet suddenly heavy, cemented to the ground. Shakes her head resolutely. She needs to do this. To say what she needs to say. She knows it's not right. That it's not fair. She knows that there is a hell of a lot on the line. But, if she doesn't do this now, who knows when, or worse, if, she will have another opportunity.
Lifts her hand to the ornate door, raps with her knuckles. Once. Twice. Three times.
Waits. Shifts from foot to foot. Knocks again. This time a little more forcefully. Still nothing.
Well. Gave it her best shot. Shoulders hunched, turns. The door is yanked open: "Alright, alright. Don't get your panties in a bunch….McNally?" Sam mutters blurrily, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.
She turns. Reluctantly. Now that he is here. In front of her. Kind of lost the bravado, that had propelled her out the van after shift and to his doorstep.
"How… why… you shouldn't be here..." His tone low, gruff, confused.
"Aaaaghhh, can I come in?" She asks softly.
He steps back, scratches his chest, wondering if perhaps he is still asleep and his mind is playing mean, mean tricks on him again.
Her shoulder brushes his chest as she slides past him, the ends of her hair tickling his nose as she flicks her head round, looking wide-eyed at the apartment. He closes his eyes for a second, inhales the memory of soft lavender. Yup. His mind is playing mean, devious tricks.
Closes the door behind him. Leans against it as he stares at her, appraising her: sneakers, messy hair, jeans, wrinkled shirt untucked. Wide, watchful, waiting eyes.
She remains standing, in the open space between the kitchen and the living room. Nervously bites down on her bottom lip. "Sa…"
He lifts his hand, silencing her. Closes his eyes briefly. Opens them again. She hasn't moved. Seeing his look, she huffs loudly, narrows her eyes, juts out her chin. Defiant.
Okaaaaay… he scratches his head. Reasons with himself. If this were a dream, a fantasy, McNally would be wearing a lot less. And most definitely not clothes that looked like she has slept in them. Sheer black lace and stilettos, perhaps? He grins lavishly.
She stamps her foot. "Sam!"
Definitely not a dream then.
So many questions filter through his mind… how did she know where to find him…. Why is she here….where's Luke….he finally settles on one. Licks his lips. "So, what makes you so sure that I don't have company?" he asks her slowly, drawing the words out.
She raises her eyebrows to the roof, exasperated. "Really? All this time, and that's the gem you come up with?"
This is going to be harder than she thought. Steps forward towards him, "Boyd had us tagging you tonight." Steps forward again. "First time we have heard, or seen anything of you since you walked out the barn." Another step, this time lifting her hands to bottom button of her shirt, her fingers hesitate briefly, before she gently eases it out of the buttonhole. "Eyes and ears in the club tonight." Makes another determined step; another button. He watches transfixed, eyes fastened on her fingers.
Her words flitter through his sleepy stupor. His eyes jerk up. Meeting her's. Regret. Frustration. "You saw. Heard." it's not a question.
The words hang heavily between them. The space that she had narrowed with every passing step, now seems much wider, despite neither having moved.
Andy nods. Slowly. Tilts her head: "You mean that part when you mistook the red-head for dinner…." His eyes flash… She continues, softer, more gently this time, closes the space between them, places her hand on his bare chest. "Or, do you perhaps mean when you pushed her away…. Why didn't you tell me, Sam? Why didn't you say anything?"
He doesn't deny. Raw emotion flits, flickers across his face. Seeing her opportunity, she reaches up on tiptoe, slips her hands around his neck, entangles her fingers into his hair, slightly longer than she remembers. Pulling down gently, her lips graze his. He gasps, slightly, just enough, the kiss deepens. Short breathes, beating heart, to beating heart. He pulls away, slides her hands from around his neck and he rests his forehead on hers. Tries to bring some semblance of normality back, tries to pretend he doesn't feel that the floor has been ripped from beneath him. "McNally," her name rolls of his tongue. "We cannot… You cannot…This is not who you are…" Pulls her hands between them, rubs his thumb over her knuckles.
Stops. Realisation floods. She lifts her hand, wiggles her fingers…finger…bare. She stares into his eyes; he into hers. Time stops. Growling softly, he pulls her closer. She smiles against his kiss, as his fingers drift down her shirt, finishing what she started.
Frenzied urgency gives way. Each taste, nibble, whispered caress committed to memory. They edge to the brink, before gently easing back again. A meeting of the mind; of the soul. He stares deeply into her eyes; she into his as they both eventually let go, spiraling.
He pulls her closer, bodies slick. Lightly kisses her forehead, rubs her nose with his, before dropping a soft kiss on each eyelid, her mouth, before pulling her in even tighter, burrowing his face in her hair, as she languidly draws circles on his back. Kissing her again, just once, he rolls off the bed. Swaggers into the kitchen as Andy smiles, hugs the covers, pulls her knees up to her chest.
Within minutes he is back, a tub of ice-cream in his hand, two spoons. Motioning her to move forward, he scoots in behind her. Pops open the lid, hands her a spoon. He waits until she has the first mouthful, licking the spoon blissfully. "Right," he says. "Time to spill…"
She halters….falters….over the words; watches as he clenches his jaw as she talks about Luke… and about Jo… She shrugs it off; for the better really, made her realize a few home truths she adds, shyly. Fills him in on the barn gossip: Jerry and Nash – good; Dov, Gail and Chris – not so much…
He regales her with tales from the set, they purposely avoid the real reason he is here, the case he is working on. She tells him how Boyd needed their assistance, how Luke stood up for her. It's not said with malice, there is no regret.
Conversation soon dwindles, the empty ice cream tub lies forgotten.
The sun is just beginning to edge into the bay windows, her eyes flicker open as Sam kisses the back of her neck again lightly, softly, edging across her neck, along her chin. She rolls into his arms, kisses his nose, cups his cheeks, presses her lips to his forehead, before twisting out of his embrace. He watches her emerge from his bed, cat-like. Gathering her clothes, she smiles shyly at him, before scuttling into the bathroom. He contemplates following her, groans instead, gathers the sheet around him, goes to make coffee.
He holds the mug out to her, she walks towards him, clipping her hair. Dressed; composed. There is no uneasiness, no discomfort. It just is.
She gulps down the coffee, watches him with hooded eyes as he finds his discarded jeans by the sofa, tugs them on.
"You checking me out, McNally," he growls, walking back towards her. She runs her hands up the sides of his bare chest. Bends her head, rests against his chest. "Time to go."
He kisses the top of her head. Agrees. Walks her to the door, watching her step through. A chaste kiss, she moves to go. His arm snakes out, pulls her back against her tightly against him. Smiling widely she looks up at him, his fingers gently brushes some loose strands of hair out of her face, cups her cheeks, stares deeply, wordlessly, before resting his forehead on hers.
The words that strangle, choke him, escape: "Wait for me?"
"Forever, if I have too."
They kiss, softly. His lips grazing hers, then a little deeper. There is no frenzy, no urgency. Just promise.
Her hand lingers in his, as she moves off the step. Arms extended, on last touch, fingertips outstretched. Her sad smile echoing his. He juts his chin, she nods. Walks away. Leaving him standing in the doorway, arms crossed.
Andy jogs back to where she parked the truck, not bothering to look around her. She has just 20 minutes to get into the barn and her uniform. She makes it into the locker-room and is dressed before anyone realises that she is still be wearing the same clothes as the night before. Too many questions. Can't share the answers.
She sidles into the squad room as Best calls the room to order. Tunes out as he goes through the routine notices, a smile flits across her face as she remembers, recalls the last few hours…
Feels, hears, rather than sees the seething ball of anger than is Boyd as he barrels into the squad room. "McNally, get your arse into the D's office now!" Face blood-red, eyes bulging, barely controlled, concealed anger. Grabs hold of her elbow, yanks her up. Best and Oliver are both by her side, trying to intervene. "Come along, I think the two of you will want to see this as well." He spits out, dragging Andy along with him.
Pushes her roughly into the small office space. The murder wall, normally covered with suspects and cases, is plastered with a series of grainy photographs. Grainy, but explicit, none the less. Images of her and Sam, outside his apartment. Him; bare-chested, jeans undone. Her, head back laughing. Fingers outstretched. Lingering glances.
She wraps her hands around her waist, doesn't want to see the anger in Best's eyes, the disappointment in Oliver's.
"Congratulations McNally. Royally screwed Swarek again, both literally and figuratively if these pictures are anything to go by," he sweeps his arms across the damning images splayed out for all to see. "Hope it was worth it," he spits out.
The ringing of his phone cuts short his diatribe, flicking it open, he barks hello: "Pulled Swarek yet?"
His eyes darken, he stares at Andy, as he repeats the words. "Too late. Swarek's gone."
Andy bends over, hand still clutching her belly, tries to catch her breath. To press the life back into her chest that seems to be seeping out.
Boyd finishes the call, tosses the phone across the room, bouncing it off the glass partition. "Dammit!"
Turns his anger on Andy. "Swarek's place has been tossed, there's signs of a bloody fight. They have Swarek. And we all know what happens to undercover cops who've been made."
He storms out the room, throwing back "His death McNally, which seems likely, is on your head. As sure as if you pulled the trigger yourself."
Oliver finds her in the corner of the squad room, pouring of the files, Sam's files. "There must be something in here. There must be. We got to find him Oliver, we have to find him. We just have too." She turns her tear-streaked face to his. He places a hand on her shoulder. "It's not over yet, McNally. Doesn't mean that both you and Sammy were damn stupid and should know better. But it's not over yet."
Pats her again, awkwardly. Picks up a file she hands him, scoots his chair over, sits down. Sees the other rookies hovering, uncertainly, at the door. Beckons them in: "What good are you standing out there? Get in here. McNally thinks she has a lead."
Sam had been missing for almost 12 hours by the time they managed to track down where he could be. Turns out Pippin was the mastermind behind the cartel; Paul, the flunky who did his dirty work. Andy insisted, no begged, to be part of the task team, and Best reluctantly agreed, despite Boyd's loud protestation against the idea, his fist slamming loudly into the metal filing cabinet.
"I will deal with McNally when the time is right, and as I see fit…" Best's gaze swings round to glower at Andy, before turning back to Boyd. "But, there is an officer who needs us, right now; and McNally is the one that cracked the case. So let's stop arguing and get on with it…"
Andy stands outside the house, lights flashing all around. Oliver in arm's reach, just in case… Best had allowed her to come along, but not into the house. He claimed it was as punishment, but she knew it was to protect her, just in case. So, she watches, forgetting to breathe, as Dov and Gail enter the house with the rest of Boyd's team.
Minutes tick by like hours, the soft tears she didn't even realise she shed, crystallizing on her cheeks.
Gun shots. Multiple. They duck for cover. Then silence. All clear.
Oliver, shielding Andy, stands up, pulls her off the ground.
A roar, a shout, a cheer. She looks up. Sam staggers towards her. Bloody, bruised, but alive. She makes a hesitant step forward. Stops. Halts. Maybe, he blames her too.
Oliver moves to help him; Andy takes a step back. Relief flooding her body, followed rapidly by guilt. He gives her a half-smile, one eye swollen shut. Crooks his finger, beckons to her. Gulping hard, she walks, then runs towards him. Steadying himself, he wraps his arms around her, leaning on her for support, gently kisses the top of her head.
She eases herself under his shoulder, taking his weight, gently wrapping her arms around his waist, helping him along.
Catches Best's eyes. "Been a long day McNally, can pick this up again in the morning." Gives her a small nod.
"Aaaggghhh… Just want a long hot shower and my own bed," Sam mutters, as Andy helps him to the patrol car: "Yeah, about that…"
And Oliver, walking behind them, chuckles lightly