Author's Note: Wow! Thank you all so much for the response to the excerpt! That was really overwhelming and I just hope I can meet your expectations. Also, thank you to those of you who were honest and said that AU wasn't your thing but you were willing to give it a shot... I hope this doesn't disappoint. I am looking forward to writing this story and as I'm getting all my ideas down I'm getting more and more excited about it! Oh, and the scene in the excerpt will actually come later in the story (chapter two) so I hope that doesn't confuse anyone. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I do not own Rookie Blue.
Andy sat on her couch and stared at the blank wall in front of her. It stretched out before her, almost mocking her in its vast barrenness. She tried to imagine what it would look like with the various canvases and picture frames that were scattered across her floor, each waiting for a spot on the wall.
Taking a sip of coffee, she tilted her head to the side, hoping the new angle would give her a fresh perspective.
All it gave her was a crick in the neck.
Finally, she sighed and set her coffee mug down on the side table. She stood up and eyed the wall menacingly as she turned some music on. The eclectic, colorful melody of Florence and the Machine filled her living room and she jerked her head from side to side, swung her arms and cracked her knuckles, mentally psyching herself up to take on the daunting project.
She picked up a hammer and a nail. Moving to the very center of the wall, she held the nail about half a foot above eye level and then pounded it into sheet rock, stopping when she felt like it was deep enough.
Her nose scrunched as she considered the artwork that littered the floor. She picked up the largest one she could find, an abstract painting with soft, muted colors that she had spied at a flea market, and hung it on the nail, maneuvering it until it balanced perfectly.
Stepping back, she admired her work with a satisfied smile. Emboldened by success, she picked up another nail and hammered it in to the right of the picture. She added another frame and then another and her smile widened, pleased with the progress.
She continued, filling the wall with an assortment of art and framed photographs. Lost in her own little world, she didn't hear the knocking at first and it wasn't until there was a break in the music that she realized someone was at her door.
Quickly turning the volume down, she scurried over to open the door, hammer still in hand.
She threw the door open to find a man standing on her porch, his hand poised to knock again. He was a little bit taller than her with dark brown hair. Behind the glasses he wore she could tell that his eyes crinkled at the edges and were just as dark as his hair. His jaw had a shadow of stubble covering it and she thought that he could possibly be handsome if it wasn't for the scowl across his face.
"Good morning," she said, plastering on a pleasant smile despite her initial assessment of the man.
"Morning," he replied gruffly. He pointed to the townhouse next to hers. "I'm your next door neighbor."
"Oh hi," she greeted, holding out her hand. "I'm Andy, its nice to meet you."
"Sam," he said, taking her hand and shaking it firmly. He looked vaguely familiar, but she couldn't place him. "You must be new."
She nodded. "Moved in just a couple days ago, actually."
He poked his head in the door and looked into the living room. "Art project?"
"Yeah," she replied, taking a step back and uncomfortably scratching at her arm, "I'm just trying to get settled in. Sorry it took me so long to answer, I didn't realize anyone was at the door."
Sam raised an eyebrow. "Yeah," he said, adopting a tone of false empathy. "Its probably hard to hear over the music."
"Oh, sorry," Andy apologized hastily, feeling herself blush. "I didn't realize it was so loud."
"Don't worry," he replied sarcastically. "All the banging drowned it out."
Her eyes widened in surprise at his blatant rudeness. "Um…"
"Lady, just so you know, we share that wall," he informed her, pointing into her living room at the wall she had been working on. "And it's not thick."
She started to speak but he interrupted her.
"It's the weekend and it's not even eight o'clock in the morning," he continued. "Some of us are trying to sleep."
She looked down and took in his bare feet and pajama pants. "Sorry," she apologized again, flustered. "I work the early shift so I'm always up…" she tried to explain but he held a hand up, stopping her.
"Save it," he said. "Just give us a couple more hours before you go at it again."
Andy narrowed her eyes, completely put off by the man's arrogance. "Fine," she said, straightening her back and folding her arms in front of her chest. "Anything else I can do for you?"
"Nope," he replied sharply, turning to leave. As he was descending the porch steps he called back, "Welcome to the neighborhood."
"It's great to be here," she snapped back, watching as the he rounded the wall between their adjoining porches.
She slammed her door and it shut with a satisfying bang that she hoped he could hear. "Well," Andy muttered to herself, "He was charming."
Sam rolled his eyes when he heard her door slam. Maybe he had been a little rude, he admitted to himself as he made his way into his house, recalling the way her big doe eyes had widened first with hurt and then with indignation. She deserved it though. Who in their right mind made that much noise so early in the morning?
He stopped in his tracks when he saw his niece, Lindsey, standing in the foyer, a large gray robe pulled over her pajamas. It dusted the floor and hung loosely from her thin, preteen shoulders, the sleeves falling past her hands.
Sam's chest tightened as it always did whenever he saw her wearing it, knowing it didn't originally belong to her.
"Did you make the banging stop?" She asked, her eyes still bleary with sleep.
"Yeah, Linds," he replied, smiling fondly at the young girl, "I made the banging stop."
She just nodded her head and yawned, turning to walk up the stairs to her room. "Thanks."
Sam watched her until she disappeared from view and then sighed, rubbing a hand over his jaw. Knowing he probably wasn't going to be able to go back to sleep, he padded into the kitchen to make some coffee.
Andy was able to successfully avoid her neighbor for the rest of the weekend and the better part of the week. Every time she thought about him she got mad all over again; there were so many things she wished she had said to him but was unable to come up with in the heat of the moment. It was frustrating, infuriating even, to come up with the perfect comeback days after it was actually needed.
However, as she sat at a table tucked into a corner of the Black Penny waiting for her friends, it wasn't her rude neighbor she was thinking about. It was her jackass of a training officer. When they had first been paired up she thought it was understandable that he seemed to be wary of her. She was a rookie after all and knew she needed to prove herself. She had hoped she could win him over as time went on and show that she wasn't as incompetent as he seemed to think she was.
It hadn't gotten any better in the two months she had been working. If anything, it had just gotten worse. No matter what she did, her TO seemed to find and exploit every single one of her faults. It was exhausting having to walk on eggshells and knowing that at the end of the day it wouldn't matter because he would still find something to yell at her about.
She sighed heavily and sipped her beer, wondering once again why she had chosen to go to a different division than her friends. When she was looking at jobs it made sense; she didn't want to be at fifteen because her dad had been at fifteen. She was hoping that going to a different division where she wasn't "Tommy McNally's daughter" would provide her with some much-desired anonymity.
But as she sat there, alone, she couldn't help but think that maybe being anonymous wasn't all it was cracked up to be. Sure, in the couple months she had worked there she had made friends at twenty-seven, but no one like Traci, Chris and Dov. She even missed Gail on occasion. They had all gone through the academy together and she missed being a part of their everyday lives.
She was also sad she wasn't working with her boyfriend, Detective Luke Callaghan. The two met at her father's retirement party and, after dating casually while Andy was in the academy, had become more serious in the last couple of months. They were still taking things slowly and Andy rarely felt completely comfortable with the relationship, but she was willing to see where it was headed.
Andy brightened when she saw Traci walk into the bar. She called out her name and waved her over, standing to give her friend a hug. It wasn't long after that Dov and then Chris joined them, excitedly telling Andy about the first high-speed chase they had gotten to go on.
"It was awesome," Dov said, too keyed up to sit down. He gave them a play-by-play of the events leading up to the chase and then animatedly described driving through the streets of Toronto in hot pursuit of the stolen vehicle.
"Well, I wasn't driving, Swarek was," he admitted, referring to his training officer, "But still, it was such rush."
"You got to cuff the guy though," Chris chimed in, the first time he had gotten to speak since Dov started to tell the story. "It's going down as your arrest."
"Oh yeah," Dov said, nodding enthusiastically. "Swarek was real cool about it. He talked me through the whole thing."
Andy's eyes widened. "That's great!" She said, congratulating her friend while trying to ignore the pang of jealousy that she felt. She had never met Dov's training officer but Dov seemed to enjoy working with him and had learned a lot. Whenever her friends spoke of their training officers it was obvious that the TOs held them to a high standard and expected a lot out of them but, on the other hand, were good about teaching them and guiding them through new, difficult situations.
Andy supposed that it must be nice to work in an encouraging environment.
Her string of thought was broken when Luke walked in the bar. His eyes scanned the space and when they found her, he grinned. He moved with long strides over to her and she angled her face up, waiting for the kiss she knew was coming. His leaned down and brushed his lips against hers. "Hey." he said, bracing one hand on the tall table and the other on the back of her chair.
"Hi," she replied easily, settling her free hand at his waist.
Luke nodded to the rookies at the table. "Guys," he said by way of greeting. He waited for their quiet response before turning back to Andy. "How was your day?"
Andy forced a smile. "It was great," she said. She had tried to tell Luke about the problems with her training officer but he had simply brushed them off as par for the course, so she didn't even bother any more. "You?"
Luke considered the question and tilted his head from side to side. "Fine," he said, "I can't stay very long though. Jo and I have got some work to finish up."
"Okay," Andy said neutrally, her smile tightening at the mention of Luke's partner. The other rookies had started talking amongst themselves, but she lowered her voice and tugged him closer to her. "I'm just glad you came. I feel like it's been forever since I've seen you."
Luke sighed and reached out, threading his fingers through her hair. "I know, I'm sorry. We're just swamped right now."
His eyes met hers and she offered him a small half smile. "I know. It's fine."
He grinned and leaned down to whisper in her ear, "I'll make it up to you. Promise."
Andy's smiled widened hesitantly. "Well, you can start by buying me another beer," she said, holding up her empty bottle.
"I'm on it," Luke said, kissing her forehead before pushing himself away from the table and walking swiftly over to the bar. Andy watched him walk away and her gaze wandered in front of him, landing on the dark haired man sitting with Oliver Shaw.
Startled, Andy recognized him immediately. No wonder she thought her neighbor looked familiar the other day, she had seen him once or twice before at the Penny. He must have noticed her looking because he met her eye and smirked, holding up his bottle. Andy felt a blush creep up to her cheeks, embarrassed to have been caught staring at him, but she smiled any way and held up her own bottle.
"You know Swarek?" Dov asked as Andy turned back around to the table.
Dov nodded back over to Sam. "Swarek, my TO."
Andy's eyes widened in disbelief. "That guy is Swarek?" She asked incredulously, trying to reconcile the surly neighbor she had met with the tough but fair training officer her friends often spoke of.
"Yeah," Dov confirmed. "Sam Swarek." He looked at her and quirked an eyebrow. "How do you know him?"
Andy quickly glanced back at the man before jutting her chin out and admitting, "He's my new neighbor."
Unlike Andy, Sam had noticed his neighbor sitting by herself as soon as he walked into the bar. Ever since getting custody of Lindsey, Sam had only ventured to the Penny a couple of times. Usually after work he raced home so he could be there when she got back from school. She had plans that day though, so when Oliver invited him he decided to tag along.
Andy had been staring at the drink in her hands and wearing a solemn expression, obviously lost in thought, when he and Oliver entered. They had chosen a table on the opposite side of the room and he watched as, one by one, the rookies from fifteen joined her.
Oliver realized that Sam wasn't paying attention to him and instead kept glancing over at something across the bar. "What are you looking at?" Oliver asked, turning in his chair to follow Sam's line of vision. His eyes landed on the pretty brunette sitting with the rookies. "Oh," he said, raising a knowing eyebrow. "Guess who that is?"
Sam played dumb. "Who is it?" He asked, taking a pull of his beer.
"Andy McNally," Oliver answered, turning his attention back to Sam. "Tom McNally's daughter. She's a rookie now over at twenty-seven."
"McNally?" Sam repeated. He remembered seeing a picture of her on her dad's desk and was sure he had met her at a Christmas party at some point. He hadn't recognized her the other day but now, knowing who she was, he could see the similarities to the young girl he had met many years before. To say that she had changed somewhat since then would have been an understatement. "Wow. She's all grown up," he observed unnecessarily.
Oliver nodded in agreement. "Yeah, don't get any ideas though," he warned. "Guess who she's dating?"
Sam was about to inform Oliver that he couldn't care less who the rookie was dating but about that time he saw the bar door swing open and watched as Luke Callaghan walked in, making his was over to Andy and the other rookies. "Callaghan?" he answered, taking a wild shot in the dark.
Oliver looked impressed. "How'd you know?" Sam pointed his beer bottle, directing Oliver's attention back to Andy who, at that very moment, was being greeted with kiss from the detective. She tilted her head back as he leaned down to kiss her and her hair spilled over the back of the chair. "Oh."
Oliver watched the scene with a subconscious sneer until Sam asked, "I thought he and Rosati were on their way down the aisle?"
Oliver turned back around, his face lighting up at the thought of unshared gossip. "They were," he confirmed, lowering his voice. "They got into a huge fight at work though and she called it off. There was yelling and screaming and I think at one point she threw a chair. It was all very dramatic."
"How'd I miss this?" Sam asked, looking confused.
"It was a few months ago. You were either undercover or…" he trailed off uncomfortably, tilting his head to the side and shrugging. "You know."
Sam nodded quickly and then asked, "They're still partners though?" He thought he had seen Callaghan and the tiny, scary detective working together. He couldn't be certain because, as much as possible, he tried to avoid working with Callaghan. Even though he would be hard pressed to put his finger on exactly what it was, there was just something about the guy that made his skin crawl.
Oliver just nodded his answer and tipped his bottle back, taking a long sip.
"That's…" Sam paused for a beat and leaned back in his seat, crossing his arms in front of him. "Awkward."
"Yep," Oliver agreed. "But Callaghan seems to have moved right along to rookie pastures. I don't know man, it's strange." He shook his head. "I don't like it."
"Why do you care who Callaghan's screwing?" Sam asked gruffly, raising an eyebrow.
Oliver's nostril's flared slightly at Sam's question. "Just protective, I guess. And don't talk like that," he admonished his friend. "She's McNally's daughter."
Sam grunted an apology, knowing how fond Oliver was of his former training officer.
A silence fell between the two men as Sam watched Luke tweak Andy's hair between his fingers before leaning down to whisper something in her ear. A small smile graced her lips as she nodded quickly, holding up her empty bottle. Luke pressed a kiss to her temple and then made his way over to the bar, signaling the bartender. Andy followed him with her eyes as he went and then she looked past him, her gaze landing on Sam.
There was a moment where he watched as her brow furrowed in confusion and she squinted her eyes, making sure it was really him she was seeing across the darkened bar. Catching her eye, he smirked and raised his drink in acknowledgement, tipping his head slightly. After a moment she smiled, seeming somewhat stunned at his presence, and raised her own drink before ducking her head and turning away.
Sam ran his tongue over his front teeth and then shifted his gaze back to Oliver. "She's my neighbor," he admitted.
Sam stuck his chin out, gesturing over towards Andy. "McNally. She moved in next door to me a week or so ago."
Oliver's eyebrows shot up at the information. "Have you met her yet?" Sam nodded sharply and then pursed his lips, running a hand under his jaw. Oliver eyed him skeptically and then sighed, "What'd you do?"
"What makes you think I did something?"
Oliver just stared at him.
Sam exhaled and ran his hand around to the back of his head, rubbing his hair furiously before answering, "She was hammering something early one morning and I went over and asked her to stop."
"And I'm certain you were polite about it," Oliver guessed sarcastically.
Sam just shrugged, admitting he had been a little harsh. "I didn't want her to wake up Lindsey," he said, looking down. He cleared his throat and then confessed, staring into his empty bottle, "I don't think she's been sleeping lately."
Oliver's expression became serious. "How's she doing?" He asked, approaching the topic with caution. Sam very rarely opened up about his niece and he knew that he had to tread carefully.
Sam sighed. "I don't know man. Sometimes she seems fine and other times…" He trailed off, unable to find the words. "I don't know."
"How's school going for her?"
"Good, as far as I can tell," Sam said, checking his watch. "I actually need to head out, she had some sort of tutoring thing and I need to pick her up."
"Okay," Oliver said as his friend stood from the table. As Sam walked by him he clapped his shoulder. "You know we're here if you need anything brother," he told him sincerely. "Zoe wants to have you guys over and the girls would love to meet Lindsey."
"Yeah," Sam said, "I know. Maybe in a few weeks, I don't want to overwhelm her."
Oliver held his hand up. "I completely understand," he told Sam, and he did. Or at least he tried to. "Whenever she's ready."
Sam just nodded. "Thanks man. Goodnight."
Oliver's lips twisted into a half smile. "Anytime. See you tomorrow."
Sam walked over to the bar to pay his tab and was unsurprised when he felt someone come to stand next to him.
"So," Andy said, sidling up beside him. "You're a police officer."
Sam looked over at her, eyeing her up and down. "So are you," he replied after a beat. Just because Oliver had a soft spot for the woman didn't mean he had to like her.
"Small world," she mused. When Sam just shot her a look of bored indifference she cleared her throat and tried a different tactic. "Look, I feel like we got off on the wrong foot."
"Yes," she persisted. He had to give her credit for being stubborn. "I'm sorry I disturbed your morning."
"Me too," Sam replied smoothly. When he saw the way her shoulders sagged he softened, knowing he was being hard on her. He held out his hand and her eyes brightened slightly at the gesture. "Sam Swarek, I work at fifteen."
"Andy McNally, twenty-seven." She grinned and shook his hand. "So can I buy you a drink?" she asked, motioning across the bar. "Make up for waking you up so early?"
Sam glanced over at Callaghan, noting that he was watching their interaction closely. "Your boyfriend lets you buy other men drinks?"
Andy felt tingles of irritation creep up her neck at his implication that she had to have permission from Luke to do something. "Luke doesn't let me do anything," she told him. Sam raised an eyebrow and she realized what she had said and how it sounded. With annoyed sigh she rephrased, "I mean, I don't have to get permission from Luke to do what I want."
"And you want to buy me a drink?" He clarified, clearly skeptical.
"Sure, why not?" she answered, forcing a smile. "We are neighbors."
"That we are," he agreed. He got the bartender's attention. "Unfortunately," he said, not sounding the slightest bit regretful. "I'm on my way out."
Andy bit the inside of her bottom lip and pushed herself back from the counter, tired of trying to be friendly to the obstinate man. "Fine," she said. "I'm sure I'll see you around."
"See you around," Sam repeated, watching her walk back to the table of rookies. He sighed and threw a couple of bills onto the bar before making his exit.