AN: I am so sorry it has taken so long for me to get this final chapter up. I am in my last semester of uni, doing 'design in visual communication', and had my final, major project due last week. One semester's worth of work. So that was taking up a lot of my time. However, this chapter is the longest at approx 3,500 words. So maybe that makes up for the wait? It was a tricky chapter and I've been editing, adding and fussing over it for a while. Anyway, I hope you like it! It is set at the end of 2x13. I will be doing a sequel, so look for that in the coming weeks! Make sure to add me to your author alerts if you want a heads up when I post it. It will be a new fic, so story alerts for this one won't let you know. Thank you so much for all your support and kind reviews. I am amazed at the response this fic has had, so thank you all so very much! Catch you soonish with the sequel! Much love x Mara
A light flake of snow ticked her cheek, the still air letting it linger. She remembered a childhood Christmas where she and her mother, all rugged up in their warmest clothes, had stood in the backyard in the snow and counted the snowflakes as they fell on her rosy-cheek, upturned face.
Andy dropped her head and studied her boot-clad feet, nostalgic for the ease of her early childhood. She was unsure of what to do with the situation she'd found herself in. It was not one she'd planned for. She heard the gentle chug of Sam's truck as it idled at the side of the road. The sound was somehow comforting, rhythmic and consistent.
She looked up, meeting Sam's dark eyes through the truck window. He was mere metres from her but the distance between them felt vast. When that had happened, she wasn't sure.
As she looked at him, Sam looked back and studied her face. Her eyes were red and puffy, evidence of tears. Tears he knew probably had been pushed back rather than spilled. Her nose was red from the cold. If she'd been closer, he'd have warmed it with his. Her brow was furrowed a little, her expression troubled.
'Sam,' she began again, still struggling with what to say. The thoughts raced through her head.
I'm sorry. I'm glad you're okay. Really glad. I was so scared. Everyone knows about us. Not that I care. I'm not ashamed. I don't regret it. I understand if you do. I almost got you killed. Does your face hurt a lot? Of course it does. I still don't want to go back. Please don't say that you do. I would understand though. Sam. Do you have a concussion? I love you. I'm coming home with you.
Her eyes fell to once again examine her dark boots, sprinkled with snow like icing sugar on a chocolate cake.
'McNally,' he pulled her from her thoughts. Her eyes met his and she wasn't sure if he was going to say anything more or if he was in the same boat as her, lost for words.
Apparent not. 'Get in,' he concluded simply.
She smiled a little. 'Is that an order?' she teased weakly, but not without effort and deliberacy.
He glanced towards the road out the front windscreen, a grin forming on his face.
He looked back at her. 'If it needs to be,' he said with a shrug.
His smile remained, but she read a vulnerability in his eyes. She stepped off the curb with a small smile. She pulled open the heavy passenger-side door of the truck, her gloved hand stealing wet snow from the cold metal.
She climbed into the passenger seat, feeling a little self-conscious under his gaze, despite the number of times she'd sat in a car beside him. But this was different. Those other times were, well, at the very least, they were before.
'It didn't need to be, by the way,' she replied softly after he pulled out onto the road.
'What?' he questioned.
'Getin,' she reminded, quoting his words back to him. 'It didn't need to be an order,' she confessed with a small smile.
'Well that's good. If it were an order you probably wouldn't have followed it,' he said teasingly.
Andy felt a pang. His words were playful. Yet an element of truth was there. She took a deep breath and told herself not to be so sensitive. But it had been a long day, and the welled-up tears in her eyes were resurfacing, burning for escape. She held them back in a way she'd come to perfect many years ago.
'Andy,' he began when he registered her silence and, out of the corner of his eye, saw her take a deep breath.
'I'm sorry,' she replied shakily.
'You don't have anything to be sorry for,' he said matter-of-factly.
'Have you forgotten the last 24 hours?' she said, her sorrow leading to frustration.
'Andy, listen to me,' he began, eyes briefly leaving the road to look at her pointedly. He looked back ahead as he continued, speaking definitively and leaving no room for negotiation. 'I'm okay. And what happened was notyour fault. You hear me? It was not your fault. End of story.'
His tone suggested that any rebuttal would be fruitless. She gave a feeble nod, wholeheartedly unconvinced. She looked down at her hands, fidgeting on her lap. She felt anger at how the skin of her hands, unlike his, was undamaged and pristine.
'I was just kidding, before,' Sam said. 'You know when to follow orders and when you gotta take some initiative. You're a damn good cop, McNally.'
'Sam,' she murmured slowly in protest.
'Hey, I am just telling it like it is,' he looked over and gave her a quick grin.
She shook her head. He didn't comment. He knew, that in that moment at least, he wouldn't be getting through to her.
'Where are we going?' she asked quietly after a moment.
'Home,' he said simply.
'Unless your new place has furniture,' he joked.
'You can drop me at Traci's,' Andy commented weakly, loosening the scarf around her neck.
'And why would I wanna do that?' he asked.
'I don't know,' she said softly.
'Andy. I want you with me.'
She was glad, and more than a little relieved. 'Okay,' she said.
'Unless you wanna be at Traci's?'
She shook her head silently, staring straight ahead like a valiant soldier heading into battle.
'Well okay, then.'
Frank had made it clear that suspended officers were not to be in contact throughout the course of their suspension. 'Usually, that is effective immediately…' he'd said to Sam. With eyes staring at Sam and a slight nod of his chin, Frank's unspoken meaning was clear. Sam had nodded appreciately. 'Got it, Boss.'
Andy was quiet beside him. Once upon a time, Sam would have been grateful for her lack of chatter. Now, it bothered him.
A little while later, Sam was pushing open the door to his musty apartment. He'd stopped briefly at the corner store to grab some necessities. Andy had insisted that she be the one to go into the store. 'You're hurt. I'll go,' she'd said.
She'd returned bagless, carrying the items pressed to her chest. He'd wanted to assist her, but knew she'd be annoyed. She had managed. He'd settled for leaning across and opening her door for her, feeling the expected pain in his side. He must have hid it well, for Andy hadn't commented on it.
She had got back into the truck and lowered the groceries onto her lap, the milk carton cold through her jeans when it landed where her coat had parted. She'd then moved the milk to the space between the seats. As she'd done so, Sam had glanced a toothbrush poking out from beneath the loaf of bread. He'd smiled.
As they walked into his house, Andy studied the interior. Warmly lit with dark floors and light walls, with the odd vintage band poster adding character. Rush, she noticed with a nostalgic smile.
A long sideboard was pressed against the wall, neatly storing newspapers on the lower shelf. A few books were stacked on the top shelf, with some knick knacks beside them. There was an empty black vase, some oversized wooden dice, a few shot glasses and a card she didn't peek into, despite it being easily possible as the card stood open. She took everything in, fully aware that she'd never gone past the front room - his bedroom.
'Bathroom and laundry,' he said - pointing to two doors on his left ad he walked ahead of her down the hallway. The doors were shut, so there wasn't much for her to observe. 'Living room and kitchen down here at the back.' He didn't point out the bedroom, she noted. He remembered that she already knew where it was and assumed that she remembered. Of course, Andy thought. On both counts. She was strangely touched by the first one.
She trailed after him, tugging off her scarf. The kitchen was modern, but not overly so. With clean white benchtops and a large fridge, the space was small but perfectly suitable. A large wooden table stood in the centre of the open-plan space, separating the kitchen from the living room.
The living room was larger, extending further towards the front of the house. A large television stood against the wall, on a TV stand that almost matched the sideboard in the front hall. A large, dark couch and two lighter, modern arm chairs offered ample sitting space. That, combined with the huge table, made her wonder if he often had people round. She hadn't imagined him being one to entertain. Perhaps poker nights sometimes take place here,she thought.
'It's nice,' she said simply, as she placed her scarf over the back of the couch and let her coat join it. She suddenly felt a little nervous – exposed even, despite her long sleeve shirt. It was a feeling like she had felt that first night, only this time it joined the truckload of tangled feelings that she was already experiencing.
'It serves its purpose,' he said in reply, wandering into the kitchen and pulling the fridge open.
'You want a drink?'
'I'm good,' she said, taking a deep breath.
'Andy,' he said, turning to face her and seeing her standing awkwardly near the couch. 'Just relax. It's over. It's done.'
'Sam,' she began. 'We can't just ignore the fact that I… I almost got you killed.'
He read the shame on her face. He looked at her and her eyes fell, as if holding his gaze was suddenly too much. Almost as if she wasn't worthy. He swallowed emotion, her vulnerable brokenness making his heart hurt.
He took a languid step towards her. 'The story Boyd gave me? It was flawed. That had nothing to do with you.' he said. Her brow relaxed a little, but he still read sorrow on her face. 'McNally,' he began, moving closer after placing his beer on the table. He dropped his forehead to hers. 'Sweetheart. You did great.'
A whimper left her lips and a tear escaped. 'Damn it, Andy,' she thought to herself, annoyed that her resolve was slipping.
'You kept your cover, stuck to your story. And hell, let's be honest, I would've been stuffed without you,' he laughed feebily. 'They wouldn't have had anything to go on when it came to looking for me.'
'Yeah and they wouldn't have had to come looking for you if I hadn't got in the way.'
'No. Wrong. It would have happened anyway,' he said firmly.
'You got hurt,' she said simply after a second or two, as if the fact had only just dawned on her, despite this not at all being the case.
'It's the job, Andy.'
She nodded feebly and leaned back a little to study his face, their foreheads parting.
She lightly brushed shaking fingers below the red cut under his eye. She didn't touch it, not wanting to hurt him.
'Maybe it'll scar. Make me look tough,' Sam said with a grin and a one-shouldered shrug.
She tried to smile. But his pathetic attempt at lightening the mood somehow had the opposite effect. Her lip wobbled and a second sob escaped.
'Come here,' he said, pulling her to his chest and wrapping his aching arms around her.
One of his arms felt heavier against her, and she realised it was the weight of the cast and brace, protecting his broken wrist. Her own arms hung by her sides and she stubbornly held her head above his shoulder.
'I don't bite,' he teased.
'You gonna hug me back?'
'You're hurt,' she reaffirmed, her voice quiet.
She was worried about hurting him, he realised. It was unecessary, but left him feeling touched. 'A hug won't kill me,' he said.
Tentatively, she lifted her arms and placed them under his, her hands coming to rest lightly against his back. After a moment, her hands loosely bunched the fabric of his shirt, clinging with increased confidence.
He held her close, ignoring the dull pain in his torso. It was worth it. She felt a few tears spill down her face onto his shoulder. She hoped he didn't notice. He ran a comforting hand down her hair, indicating that he probably had. She took slow, deep breaths.
'You do, by the way,' she mumbled into his shirt after a long moment of comfortable silence, less her deep breathing.
'What?' Sam asked, confused.
He grinned. Touché, McNally,he thought. 'Only with love, McNally,' he said with hammed-up dreaminess.
It wasn't quite 'I love you,' but it was close. Close enough to make her heart skip a beat, but far enough to be taken lightheartedly.
She lifted her head and made a 'pfft' sound with her lips, 'Dork.'
He smiled. He'd tell her properly some time soon.
'You hungry?' he asked, tugging
'Ugh, I dont know,' she said, while running a hand over her forehead, thoroughly overwhelmed. 'Kind of, I guess,' she said with a bewildered laugh, lifting her hand.
'Pizza?' he asked.
As he walked over to phone, Andy gestured towards the bathroom. Sam nodded slightly as he placed the pizza order, holding the phone to his ear with his good hand.
Andy wandered towards the bathroom. She flicked on the light and leant against the vanity. She pulled a hair tie from her wrist and messily put her hair in a ponytail. Her hands gripped the back of her neck and she let her head drop forward, rolling her shoulders to loosen her tired muscles.
Her eyes stung with lingering tears. She closed her eyes and let them fall, knowing that - ironically - it would make her feel better. When her silent tears had ceased, she turned the sink's taps and let the water run lukewarm. She leant forward and splashed some water on her face. Drips ran down her neck and arms and she dried them with the fluffy navy handtowel hanging from the side of the vanity. She dabbed at her face, the skin tender from crying and the chill of the night air.
She tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear and reluctantly met her own gaze in the mirror. 'Wow. Stunning, Andy,' she thought sarcastically. She flicked off the light and left the bathroom.
Sam was sitting on the couch and kicking off his boots.
'Pizza's on the way,' he said, looking up at her.
'Sam,' she began with a seriousness that surprised him. Something else was bothering her. What it was, he had no clue. 'I don't want you think that we have to this.' she continued, fiddling with her shirt sleeve.
'Us,' she said, causing his brow to furrow. She continued in a rush. 'I mean, maybe it was a sign, you know? Maybe I am just bad luck. I know you said it wasn't my fault, but even if that is true, it could easily have been my fault. And I, I'd be okay if we let this go. I'd understand. I mean, you were undercover and you were lonely, but that doesn't necessarily mean - '
He'd heard enough. 'Stop,' he said firmly as he slowly lifted his sore body from the couch. Andy noticed him wince ever so slightly. She glanced away, almost wincing himself. 'Stop talking,' he said as he came to stand in front of her.
'Sam, I need to - '
'No. Andy. It wasn't some kind of fear-driven, meaningless fling. You know that. I know that. I didn't just call you because I wanted some warm body to hop into bed with. And it wasn't some "it was what it was" kind of thing either,' he said with impressive calmness. 'It wasn't back then either, for that matter,' he added softly.
She swallowed, slightly surprised by how open he was being. Not in a bad way, however.
He softly placed a hand on the delicate skin where her face met her neck. 'Andy. Where is this coming from?'
'I'm probably just over thinking things, again,' she tried to get out of it.
He gently lifed her face. 'Hey,' he looked her straight in the eye. 'Tell me.'
'I guess I just,' she began. She took a deep breath, dropped her eyes and continued in a rush. 'I kind of got worried when you came out of that house and I couldn't read your expression. I had no clue what you were thinking. And then you walked past me and, I don't know. I figured you might be, maybe, that maybe you were thinking this was a mistake.'
Sam let out a shaken breath, realisation sinking in and bringing with it, guilt. 'Andy.' He said slowly, then waited until she met his eyes. 'Do you really think that?'
'I don't know.' She jerked a shoulder anxiously in a semi-shrug. 'Maybe?' she concluded honestly, doe eyes wide with anxiety.
'I'm sorry for making you think that. Because Andy, I swear, you couldn't be more wrong.'
Her eyes relaxed a little, but the concern was still there.
'I felt stupid,' he said.
'I did,' he affirmed. 'Stupid that I screwed up and needed rescuing. Stupid for getting you caught up in it all, risking your job. Your life. You looked so worried and I'd caused that. And I didn't want you seeing me and thinking it was your fault. Because I knew you would.'
There was truth in his eyes. She nodded slowly after a moment, relieved and now feeling a little stupid herself. 'How come you know me so well, when I seem to not be able to read you at all?'
'Because I'm mysterious and intriguing. Obviously,' he said with a grin. She did that adorable 'pfft' sound again, in such a beautifully innocent way.
'Andy, you're honest and you wear your heart on your sleeve, that's all. It's a goodthing. Plus, I have spent a lot of time paying attention to you.'
'Have you now?' she teased.
'Mhm,' he affirmed.
He leant down and pressed a single, lingering kiss to her lips. He pulled back reluctantly and nuzzled her nose with his.
'You good?' he asked.
'Yeah,' she replied softly.
'I'm sure,' she said a little louder.
He believed her, but that wouldn't stop him from bringing it up again later. But for now, that was enough.
'You were right about one thing,' he pulled back a little to meet her eyes. She looked confused and knew if he waited too long before continuing, confusion would likely be taken over by worry. 'You were over thinking it.'
She smiled and rolled her eyes. He grinned back at her. Then, she dropped her head into her hands as if embarrassed or exhausted. Both, quite possibly.
'Ugh. I'm sorry,' she groaned, her mouth semi-covered byher hands. She looked up and let her hands fall. 'God, you're exhausted and in pain and I'm putting you through all my drama.'
'Yeah, well. I'm used to it,' he teased smugly.
'Hey…' she defended with a smile.
Suddenly, the doorbell rang, followed by a knock.
'Why do they always do that?' Sam asked. 'Seriously,' he thought, 'Isn't the doorbell enough?'
'They don't do it to me. Maybe they think you're just too slow to get to the door,' she teased as she walked backwards towards the door.
'There was one second in between!'
Andy laughed as she opened the door, probably confusing the young, delivery boy. She handed over the cash and took the pizza.
She walked back to the living room and found Sam back on the couch, legs outsretched on the coffee table, his beer back in his hand. Head cocked, she gave him a look.
'What? I'm injured remember?' he defended with hands - and beer - in the air.
She put the pizza on the dark coffee table and wandered into the kitchen in search of plates. She never normally bothered with a plate for pizza, but she wasn't eating alone or in the parade room at the barn. There was nothing classy about slopping pizza toppings in her lap, or on Sam's couch, while sitting together in his living room for the first time.
'About this suspension -' she said, the depressing thought creeping back into her head. She couldn't help it.
'Tomorrow, McNally,' he said semi-firmly as she sat down beside him and handed him a large, white plate. Too large, really, but it had been what she found first. Sam continued, 'Right now - food and bed.'
'Just sleeping, Sam. You're hurt,' she said seriously, just in case he was getting any ideas.
'Hey, did I suggest anything else?' he said with a smile. 'There's tomorrow for that.'
'You'll still be hurt tomorrow,' she pointed out.
'I think I'll manage,' he promised.
She rolled her eyes as he grinned proudly at her. She leant forward and picked the pizza box up off the coffee table. She raised the lid and observed his toppings choice, pleasantly surprised with what she found.
'My favourite,' she thought with a smile.