Setting note: This is sticking pretty close to canon now starting with the blackout except for the fact that Luke doesn't find Sam's name on ice in Andy's freezer. So everything's fine between him and Andy.
A/N: Well, here it is, guys! The final chapter. It's taken a whole lot for me to finish this but your support and encouragement have made it all worth it. And a HUGE THANK YOU to those who voted for this for the Rookie's Choice Awards Best Pre-Series fic. Really can't believe this was chosen when I was up against the brilliant tikvarn. It means a lot to me. Anyways, here you go! I really hope you all enjoy this bit. It's a long one. :)
Disclaimer: Nope. Still don't own Rookie Blue. I also don't own the Castle reference I threw in there.
She jumped him.
Not that he did anything to stop her. In fact, he might've helped her a little. Okay, a lot. But jeez, what was he supposed to do? Push her away? Show her the door? Sorry, Andy, lukewarm beers and Law & Order reruns sound so much better right now?
To be fair, he was fine with just talking when he first saw her at his door, jittery with a thin sheen of sweat forming on her hairline. He was. But then she went and took a step inside and her hands came up hard against his ribs and shit, she was kissing him like it was all she ever wanted to do.
So he took it. And goddamn, it was so much better than he ever dreamed it to be (and he's dreamed about this far too many times than he's willing to admit).
But of course, reality went and smacked them both in the face, the harsh lights and her ringing phone sending them crashing back to earth, and all at once, every reason why they couldn't be doing this came rushing up to meet him.
Which was why he let her walk away, or more appropriately, run away. She needed to figure things out, he got that—she's McNally after all—and after a few days of riding without her at his side thanks to the shooting, he was feeling pretty good about where he stood in her life. She had chosen him after all. Him, not Callaghan when she'd wanted to forget what it felt like to put five bullets in a man's chest.
So when Callaghan tells him to make sure Andy gets out on time on her first day back because they're going to his fishing cabin and it's her fucking idea, he feels it slapping hard against his face. His mind goes blank, blood surges hotly through his veins, and there's a heavy, sickening feeling spreading in his gut. So this is how she was going to play it. Like it didn't matter. Like it didn't happen. Like she wasn't the one who came looking for him, all cried out and desperate to forget.
Fine. He can play that too.
It was what it was.
Even as the words are leaving his mouth, he's regretting it. He hates the way they taste like he wasn't interested in anything but a good lay when she showed up that night because nothing could be further from the truth. But she's standing there looking entirely too apologetic for his liking and he doesn't want, can't bear to hear those words come out of her mouth so he beats her to it instead, keeps his nonchalance firmly in place.
And then the calm wears out, unable to hold back the slow boil of his emotions, and he's absolutely livid. Callaghan's the first casualty, retraining exercise be damned, but of course, the cocky son-of-a-bitch doesn't even recognize his beating for what it is. In the end, he drags Andy and Diaz down with him too and he's feeling like such a shit that he forgets just for a while that he's supposed to be pissed off and apologizes for being an ass. He's about to revise his earlier statement about what had happened between them—because they both know how keeping that up turned out—when she throws them right back at him with such determination and acceptance that it renders him speechless. Her eyes harden ever so slightly and he finds it difficult to hold her cool gaze, knowing that she had every right to be unhappy with him or at least as equally unhappy as him. So he puts his game face on, tells himself he can at least act like a damn professional and do his job even if it tears him apart before waving her off after Callaghan.
He does a pretty damn good job too. It's tense and forced and more than a little awkward, sure but God, it could be so much worse and he knows it. She's skittish around him, at least more so than before, and he finds himself growing adept at dodging her attempts at discussing that night.
Until it's just the two of them. Until they're trapped in the cruiser for hours on end, miles out of Toronto where they might've had the fortune of getting distracted by calls but now have nothing but a static-bursting radio and her nervous rambling to fill the silence. In that space, there's nowhere to hide and with every passing second, he fights to keep the two week-long slow simmer of hurt and anger tamped down. He almost succeeds, almost but then she loses Swann in what has got to be the worst rookie mistake you could ever make and the Bambi eyes are back and he is losing it in front of her. He thinks he can hear it too, the bitter undertone laced in his voice as he's yelling about Swann, the "Why won't you stop pushing me away?" beneath the "You over think every little thing but when something matters you don't think at all," because he knows there's something there, felt it when he touched her, tasted it when he kissed her.
Later, when crisis and further verbal berating have been avoided and he's got his head on straight again, he tells her about his sister as he's bandaging her leg, an apology of sorts for going off on her. He expects to see pity in her eyes but instead he sees understanding and admiration, a soft smile curving her lips, and in that moment, he knows he's falling for her. But there's still Callaghan, Callaghan who has no clue about that night and who is everything she needs and that Sam can't give her. So he makes his choice.
"You know, Luke's a good guy." You shouldn't want me.
"He's reliable. Solid." I'm no good for you.
"And he cares about you. More than he lets on." You can be happy with him.
She looks at him, head titled slightly to the side like she's trying to see right through him and for a second, he thinks she's about to refute him. But she just nods, turns back to the cruiser, and leaves him standing there feeling hollowed out and defeated.
It does it's job though, their truce, and they tentatively settle back into their rapid-fire banter and good-natured barbs. It doesn't, however, make him like Callaghan any more, what with him still strutting around like he owned the damn place but he can finally breathe a little easier around McNally again so for the most part, he's placated.
But the following week Callaghan storms into the station without his usual swagger. He doesn't think anything of it at first—since he tries not to think about Callaghan for any reason anyway—until Andy shows up and dutifully avoids any and all contact with the detective for the whole day, no simple task when their first call out of the barn is a double homicide. He doesn't ask her about it though, doesn't pry even when every trip back to the barn is swirling with gossip about what had happened between the division's "it" couple.
By the next day, however, it's all very clear despite his attempts to ignore the gossipmongers and he suddenly feels the inexplicable need to address it some way or another.
"I'm sorry about you and Callaghan," he says out of the blue as they're cruising the streets. He isn't all that sorry really but she hasn't said too much since yesterday, just sits there next to him, staring out the window, and it's starting to freak him out a little.
"It wasn't gonna work." Her voice is soft and he realizes then that she was the one who broke it off. His heart speeds up at that.
"You wanna talk about it?"
The shake of her head is almost imperceptible and they lapse into silence, the smooth rumble of the engine the only thing meeting their ears, the conversation coming to an abrupt end.
Or so he thinks.
"We're partners, right, Sam?" she asks suddenly. "You back me up no matter what?"
He flicks his gaze quickly over to her, finds her hazel eyes on him. He doesn't know where she's going with this but if the look on her face is any indication, it's something that's been eating her up. So he tells her what he's known ever since she came down those steps in Anton Hill's lounge, looking every bit like she belonged in that uniform. "I'll always have your back, McNally. On the streets and off."
He doesn't answer right away, instead letting the car come to a stop at the light in front of them, before turning to look at her. Their eyes lock and he fights the urge to sweep his thumb across the planes of her cheeks, the swell of her lips. He loves her, he knows that now, and there isn't one molecule of his being that doesn't believe that he will do absolutely anything to stay at her side. Even if she's still off-limits.
"Always," he confirms quietly at last, never breaking their gaze.
And even though the exact words don't come out of his mouth, he promises her something else with that one word, something he hopes she'll one day promise him as well.
She's different with him.
Nothing obvious and honestly, if he wasn't in love with her he probably wouldn't even notice.
But he is in love with her, hopelessly so, so every little change registers and blips on the radar he's devoted entirely to her.
She lingers. Her fingers around the coffee she hands him in the mornings, her gaze when he glances her way in the cruiser. Not for long but just enough that he knows it's intentional and every time he catches her something curls in his stomach, hot and inviting and damn it, he is so in love with her it's ridiculous.
And then there's the banter. It's just as quick, just as biting as before and to anyone looking in it wouldn't seem like anything more than two partners just having a laugh. But he feels the difference, hears it. She pushes it just a little bit further, teases him just a little bit more and he damn well lets her. Because he likes seeing this side of her, this light and mischievous version of the wide-eyed rookie who took him down all those weeks ago.
But they never talk about it, just leave it hanging there, this giant cloud of everything they haven't said out loud and blatantly chose to ignore. And for some reason, he's fine with that. Hell, he's not entirely sure what he'd say anyway because even if he knows what he feels for her, what she's done to him every time he thinks about saying those three words, the air gets sucked out of his lungs and catches somewhere in his throat. So yeah, he's fine with the not talking, for now at least.
October carries on and as he always does during this time of the year, he starts counting down the days until that one Wednesday in November, a habit he's fallen into on autopilot after 11 years of the same. But this time, he isn't the only one counting down nor is that meeting at the waterfront his only reason for doing so.
Because the rookies are all ticking off the days as well and as the days get longer and October heads steadily into November, he feels the quiet nervous energy radiating off of all of them, most of all Andy. She doesn't always let it show but he knows it's there, vibrating just below the surface. Of course, he knows all the worrying is for nothing since he's already filled out outstanding evaluations for her and the rest of the rooks as have the other TOs and despite all the ribbing and hazing, he doesn't expect anything but positive remarks from the others. But he's been where they are, knows what it's like to think you're barely hanging on by a thread and how no amount to encouragement got you over it until Cutting Day so he says nothing.
The Tuesday before Cutting Day, there's a mix up with the schedules and he and the rest of his co-workers find themselves picking up the afternoon shift despite the fact that they're scheduled to work the following morning as well. He's worked worse shifts though so the snafu isn't anything more than annoying but being partnered up with Peck for the ride just rubs it in a little harder. Not that he has anything against the blonde rook; in fact, he finds her to be good company.
But she just isn't Andy.
It's a hell of a night and between the high school rager and the homicide and the suicide scare, everyone has their work cut out for them and he doesn't have to see a whole lot of Andy during those eight hours to know that she takes it hard.
Wednesday finally arrives and he finds it almost comical that for all the nerves it's caused the rooks, it's a day that starts off as uneventful and normal as any other. They're riding together once again and there's almost some unspoken agreement between them to not discuss what had happened the night before nor what was to come later that afternoon. So they cruise the streets tossing jokes and jabs back and forth, playing that game they've been playing where they say everything and nothing all at once.
Finally, finally, the moment comes and the entire division is crowded into the bullpen, clustering around the line of rookies standing at attention. He takes his spot behind her, scissors twisting in his hands, and marvels at the pride swelling in his chest. At Frank's command, he steps forward, catches her eye, sees the determination and confidence staring back at him. And as he takes her tie and passes the blades through it, he knows he's never met a more deserving rookie.
Congratulations are exchanged and as much as he wants to stick around a little longer, the internal clock he's developed over the years specifically for this day starts flashing red and he isn't even finished with his paperwork yet. So he gives the new sophomores one last celebratory handshake, lingering slightly on Andy, before cloistering himself in one of the conference rooms to wrap things up. He's finished in record time, keeping one eye on his watch which was quickly approaching 5 o'clock, then ducks into the locker room to pack up for the day.
15 minutes later, he's exiting through the garage and heading for his truck when he sees Andy leaning back against the building, her face reflecting the soft light from her cell phone as she taps on it. Even in the semi-darkness, the last of the afternoon sun being hidden by the building, she's absolutely beautiful and his breath hitches in his throat as he runs his gaze down her leather jacket, tight jeans, and modestly heeled boots.
"Hot date, McNally?" he calls out as he approaches.
Her eyes flick up from her phone and she looks at him through smoky lids. "Something like that."
He was only half-teasing but his heart sinks at her words, he can't help it, and there's an uncomfortable twinge in his stomach that he knows he really has no business feeling. Hell, it wasn't like they were anything anyway. But maybe they were heading there.
"Need me to rough him up?" he asks instead, forcing a lightness into his voice.
The corners of her mouth twitch in a small smile. "I think he'll behave himself."
He nods, begins walking away. "Well, if he gives you any trouble you just send him my way."
"I'll keep that in mind, sir."
He's scarcely gone a few steps when she calls out to him.
"You going to the Penny? It's Rookie Night."
He turns, looks back at her and he's almost tempted to ditch the waterfront just this once and join her and the rest of his friends in celebrating another graduating class. Drinks were on the new sophomores tonight as was customary on Cutting Day and it's been a while since he just allowed himself to forget about everything except the moment. But then his thoughts drift to the promise he made 11 years ago to the rebellious, self-doubting young woman who found a way into his heart and any ideas he might've had in shirking their agreement instantly disappears. He's already given her 10 years, 10 days, 10 hours at that waterfront; he could give her another and he would. Even if it meant saying no to Andy.
Her eyebrows quirk almost infinitesimally, imperceptibly. "Hot date?"
He hears the teasing in her voice and cracks a smile of his own but doesn't answer her.
"She must be pretty special, Swarek."
A short chuckle escapes his lips at that as he turns around and continues to his truck, shaking his head at the ground more for the fact that Andy read him like an open book than in disagreement.
She definitely is.
His breath clouds in front of him, swirling and curling in on itself, before fading into the thin November air.
It's cold—of course it is, that never changed over the years—but somehow it's one of the last things on his mind at the moment. Because he stands there at the metal railings where this all started, elbows resting on the chilled steel as he looks out across the glassy surface of Lake Ontario, and there are only two things he can even be bothered to think about right now.
Andy and the mysterious young woman he first met all those years ago.
They're both special in their own right, both owning a place in his heart but for very different reasons.
Andy, he loves, has been in love with for quite some time if he's being perfectly honest. He doesn't quite know where he stands in her life anymore, not when she's probably out with some guy laughing over drinks, flashing him that breathtaking smile like he's the only one in the world who deserves it. But they're partners and in love or not, he backs her up no matter what because she deserves nothing less from him. Maybe there'll be a time when she'll finally be ready to let him in but until that day he'll be at her side doing their part to serve and protect.
And then there's the girl from the waterfront. Even now, 11 years later, he still thinks of her as the rebel without a cause, spunky and badass in the face of whatever she had gone through that she determinedly kept hidden away but he had gotten a glimpse of nonetheless. She had earned his respect that day, his admiration, his loyalty. But most importantly, she had earned his faith, her tenacity proof enough for him that she would succeed even if she didn't believe she would, and that was all he needed to keep coming back year after year.
He glances at his watch, reads the illuminated numbers beaming 6:05 back at him. He's been here just over 30 minutes now, waiting as the sun slowly dipped beneath the lake's western shores and played a mix of purple and orange across the sky. There's still time though and he doesn't want to lose hope without the hour completely running out.
He's considering dropping by the Penny after he's done here whether she shows up or not when the sound of his name breaking through the silence stops the thought dead in his head.
For a moment, he freezes. He knows that voice, has heard it thousands of times over the past five months. But why…
He turns, knows his confusion is written all over his face. Sure enough, there she is, leaning casually against the bench a few paces away. "McNally? What're you—" And then the realization hits him with such force that he sucks in a sharp breath through his teeth.
"It was you?"
He sees it now, as she's standing there in the context of where they first met almost 11 years ago, and wonders how the hell he didn't figure it out before. All those months he's known her and not once did the thought even cross his mind. Well, shit she doesn't look anything like her teenage self. Is brown even her natural hair color?
She doesn't say anything, just smiles that playful smile while he tries desperately to get his head around the whole thing.
Another revelation strikes him as he quickly replays the last 20 seconds. "How long have you known?" She must have. She called his name even though his back was turned to her.
Her smile inches wider. "I got a feeling when we shook hands outside the Penny after the Anton Hill case. Then you said something one day and it clicked."
He— "What'd I say?"
"Doesn't matter," she says simply with a slight shrug, her eyes dancing with amusement as she pushed off the bench and slowly made her way over to him.
He stares at her, almost unbelieving as his rookie, his partner suddenly took on a whole new meaning for him. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"What, and ruin the surprise?" She cocks an eyebrow and damn, where has his head been these past five months that he didn't see this? "Besides, I kinda thought you'd figure it out eventually. I did drop you a few hints. Clearly, I was mistaken though."
That pulls him out of his disbelief. Hints? What the hell kind of hints were those that he didn't get them? "Hey, now. I'm not the one who chopped off all my hair and dyed it when I was 17."
"I was 16. And it wasn't all my hair."
"It was less hair than you have now," he mutters rather petulantly.
She tugs her bottom lip between her teeth, clearly trying to suppress another grin. "Is this really what you want to be talking about right now?"
He sets his jaw and attempts to glare at her but fails horrifically as he catches sight of her hazel eyes glinting in the red-orange glow of the setting sun.
"So, here we are 11 years later," she continues. "I suppose you've kept up your end of the deal?"
Her chin juts challengingly at him. "Can I trust you on that?"
"I think you already know your answer," he replies calmly, his eyes intent on hers.
She chews over his words and he catches the shadow that passes across her face, the teasing spark dying slightly in her eyes.
"Why'd you keep showing up?"
His mouth tugs into a faint frown. "That was the deal."
"No, I mean why did you keep showing up? 11 years is a long time. Why didn't you give up on me?"
His heart breaks. Did she really have that little faith in herself that she couldn't believe someone else would take a chance on her? "Andy…" His hand itches to take hers but he stills himself. "I didn't give up on you because I believed in you. That day we met, I made a promise to you and it wasn't that I'd show up every year because I was supposed to. It was that I'd believe in you even if you didn't believe in yourself. And I never stopped. Not once."
Silence falls between them. An image flashes in his mind then and for a moment, he sees the teenage girl he met all those years ago staring back at him, wary and hesitant.
"You put a lot of faith in someone you knew for 10 minutes," she says quietly at a length.
"You were special." Still are.
Her eyes soften at that as if he had just passed some final test and she seemed to let out whatever breath she had been holding.
"I wanted to quit."
The words settle like lead in his stomach, making the urge to reach out and touch her surge in his chest once again, but he lets her continue instead.
"Last night after that woman almost shot herself in front of me. I came so close. Had a speech prepared and everything."
"But you didn't."
She shakes her head, her gaze dropping slightly from his. "I couldn't. Walking away…after all of that…" She looks back up and he sees the fierceness in place once again. "I may not have always believed I had what it takes but I was never a quitter."
He smiles. "I know. The same way I knew you were gonna show up one day." A beat. Then, "And it looks like I was right too. You make a good cop."
"Maybe even a great one?"
Her lips quirk upward. "Thank you, Sam. For not giving up on me."
And as he returns her steady gaze, her eyes boring intently through his, he knows she isn't just talking about his promise 11 years ago or his faith in her as her training officer these past several months.
"You got it, McNally." He holds out a hand, repeating the gesture that has come to mean so much more than a simple handshake. "Partners?"
"Partners," she answers softly, taking his hand.
He doesn't let go right away and neither does she; in fact, she seems to come even closer—or maybe he's the one pulling her in—before gently releasing his hand. It's getting dark fast now but even in the dying light, she's nothing short of breathtaking and he's just about two seconds away from losing all self-control and bringing his lips upon hers. But there's something else that's been on his mind.
"Did you ever think I'd forgotten?"
She chuckles lightly. "I was pretty certain you had. Until earlier."
His brows knit together in confusion.
"You skipped out on free drinks," she points out like it was the most obvious thing in the world. "Sam Swarek doesn't do that. Not unless there's some other pressing issue."
He dips his head and scrubs the back of his neck, smiling. Sometimes he doesn't know why she gets him so well.
"Well, speaking of skipping out, what happened to your date?" At this point, he couldn't give two shits about her supposed date, not when she's here choosing him, but he feels the need to address it nonetheless.
"I'm looking at him."
The light in her eyes burns even brighter at that and he sees a flicker of something else as well that sends a jolt of heat and electricity coursing through his body. "Is that what this is then?"
"Only if you want it to be," she answers, shrugging, playfully tossing his words from that day back at him.
He snakes an arm around her waist, tugs her close but gives her enough space just in case. "Maybe I do."
"I think that can be arranged." Pulling her bottom lip between her teeth, she draws her hands up his sides, fingers skirting lightly over the cold leather of his jacket, before coming to rest on his chest.
"Looking forward to it," he murmurs and nudges his nose gently against hers.
There's a pause, one just long enough for her to toss him a final smirk before her mouth comes swiftly over his and his mind goes blissfully blank of all coherent thought except one.
11 years of waiting damn well paid off.
A/N: I can't really express how good it feels to be done with this. I kinda hate myself for using "Always" just because part of me thinks that word just belongs to Castle but it worked here. I'll be taking a break from writing Rookie Blue for a while. I adore this show and its characters but I've spent 8 months on this story and I really need to clear my head of it and write something a bit different before the semester starts. Rest assured I will return. But feel free to follow me into the Castle fandom as I start on a new story in a few days. Again, thank you so much for all your support. I couldn't have finished this without all of you. :)
Oh, and once again I'm Dany_Jarvis on twitter if you feel like looking me up there!