A/N Uhmmm hi again. Me here from 4 years ago? Don't know why I felt the urge to randomly read some McSwarek fanfics and then I got sucked into the writing rabbithole I know and love. Anyone still out there reading this stuff?
"Alright, Dad. Up you go," she instructed, helping her father into the silver truck and buckling him into the seat. He passed out quickly, and she let out a heavy sigh before starting to pull away from the bar. It was a loud drive on a quiet night, the crunching of gravel beneath the tires jarring the silence of the evening. Disruptive. Just like him. She wonders how she let it get this far, when off the wagon became once in a while which turned into every night. She wonders why she's wondering how she let it happen. When she's not the one with the problem. When it should be how he let it happen. She wonders when the roles became completely switched from parent to child. No, she doesn't really wonder, she knows the answer to that.
"Dad, I need you to help me. One foot in front of the other, come on." She needs him to help her help him. She needs him to make this stop. She needs him to put her first, to think about someone else. She needs him to stop killing himself slowly.
"Don't treat me like a child, Andrea. I'm fine."
"Oh, really? Is that why I had to pick you up from Natty's…again?" she snapped back, before softening her tone, "Please, Dad. This is the fourth night in a row. You can't keep doing this."
"I can do whatever I damn well please. I am a grown man. Giving me all this grief because her old man wanted to have a few drinks with the guys," he grumbled angrily, refusing to sit down and instead standing by his worn out couch.
Andy whirled around and gave him a hard stare, exhaustion and irritation making a potent combination as the volume of her voice rose. "Then act like a grown man! Act like a father! A grown man doesn't leave a twelve-year old to deal with her father's nightly hangovers, a grown man doesn't bet money for her college on Poker night. And a grown man sure as hell isn't a drunk!"
"Why are you here? I don't need you here, just like I didn't need you then. If you were tough enough, you could've taken care of yourself!" he shouts back, spewing words he'll never remember the next day. He grabs on to her as he stumbles, his words pushing her away but his hands pulling her towards him. Tears fill her eyes, but she refuses to let him see how off-balance he's made her feel. Pulling her coat tighter around her like a bulletproof vest against his sharp words, she heads for the door. "Fine, Dad. I'm gone."
The truck ride home is blurry-eyed and rushed, but she makes it home. Safe but not steady. The truck, for one, doesn't have a scratch on it.
"Andy?" the question comes from the bedroom immediately after she slips her shoes off. So much for a quiet entrance.
"Yeah, I'm coming." Her voice is slightly scratchy and she knows Sam will not even need his finely tuned McNally bullshit detector to know instantly that something is wrong.
"You okay? What's wrong?" the anticipated question rings out and she doesn't answer before slipping in beside him.
"Andy?" he asks again, wrapping his arms around her as she curls up next to him, head on his chest.
"Yeah, I'm okay," is what she finally answers, all mumbles and uncertainty.
"Uhhuh. McNally, you're bad at lying when you try. Let alone when you don't."
They've been trying to share more. Even when the gut reaction was to bury it and smother it in I'm fine's and false bravado.
"I'm tired, Sam. I can't keep going to pick up the pieces every night," she finally admits to him, feeling his fingers gently graze her lower back waiting for her to continue. "I mean, he's my dad. He's my only family. But he said some terrible things today, and I just…I keep enabling him. I don't know how to let go or how to make him see that he needs help. And I can't be that help. I just can't anymore."
Sam is silent for a moment, giving her space to say more. But instead she just sighs heavily and attempts to roll away from him. "I'm sorry…God, when did I become such a downer?"
He traps her in his arms, holding her in place and nudges his nose with hers. "Hey, McNally, I am no stranger to being disappointed by a dad," he reminds her gently. "No judgement here."
Her lips turn up at that despite her sour mood, and she thinks back to that car ride confession. "I just feel stupid! Like every time he says it won't happen again and then it always does and even though I know all of this, I still get my hopes up. I guess you weren't wrong about being optimistic even in face of experience," she grumbles.
"Hey, I happen to like your big people loving stones," he teases, hoping to coax a smile out of her. When it doesn't work, his tone turns more serious. "Andy, you get your hopes up because you love your dad and you believe in him. You see the best in people, that's just…what you do. It's what makes you such a good cop. And a good person."
She sighs again.
"But you can't control what your dad does. You can only control what you do next. Whether that's letting him fall and making him figure it out or picking him up and taking him home. It's okay to think about what you need every once in a while."
Andy cuddles back up to Sam, just enjoying the warmth of his presence and words. "I think I just need you."
"Then here I am."
That did work to prompt a smile from Andy.
"For two people with such screwed up families…I think we turned out alright," she said, decidedly, as if coming to this conclusion for the first time.
"Messy…but we made it," Sam agreed.
They fell silent again, just reflecting on family and growth and choices. Andy rolled over away from Sam onto her side, back turned away but still holding his hand.
"You're going to make a great dad, Sam. Better than ours were anyways."
Sam just breathed, feeling a mix of awe and panic
"Stop freaking out," Andy said, smile in her voice.
"I'm not freaking out," Sam denied, even though he totally was.
"I can hear you freaking out!"
"I didn't even say anything!"
She rolled back over, both reassuring and teasing, "I'm not saying it's going to happen anytime soon. I'm just saying I think you're going to be a good dad. Don't get weird about it."
Sam dimples made an appearance. "I'm not getting weird about it, McNally. Just think it's a few chapters ahead of where we are."
"Don't worry, we are definitely on the same page about that. No McSwarek's right now," she confirmed, nodding her head emphatically.
"Someday though," he ventures, almost tentatively. "Wouldn't mind a few…McSwarek's."
She smiled even brighter at that. There was a time when this level of commitment and openness would have sent them both running to their respective corners of the ring.
"Besides, I already know the perfect bedtime story."
A/N Man I have not written in YEARS. Hope you don't hate it! It just felt wrong to leave this one unfinished.