1109
By Telanu
Fandom: Major Crimes
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: TNT, not me.
Notes: Bonus points to anybody who figures out the title!

Summary: Rusty and Sharon have always known that life isn't fair, but hope is a hard thing to kill. Set between episodes 1x07 and 1x08.


He got the wrong Sharon. Rusty knows that now. There was a mistake somewhere. A slip. He was supposed to get the Sharon who has the nice condo, the steady job, the cushy car. The one who showers and eats and gets dressed every day. The one who asks him about school.

His Sharon, the one he got by mistake, doesn't have and can't do any of those things. That's just messed up. But what's even more messed up is that Rusty loves his mother anyway. He misses her. Some days he'd give anything to see her again, show her what his life is like now, that he's doing really well-just in case she's worried about him. Which she might very well be.

Or not. After all, she knows where to find him, and she hasn't exactly been beating down the door. Rusty would like to mention this to the right Sharon, but her lips will flatten as she presses them together, and she'll need a minute to figure out what to say. She might not say the right thing, either. Sometimes she doesn't. She's not perfect.

After all, a perfect person would definitely not tell him that he should get a striped blue tie and a plain white dress shirt to go with his new suit. Sharon could not be more uncool if she tried. Has she ever even looked at GQ? Or does she think that all men have to dress like her mysterious husband, whose clothes she still keeps in the guest closet? Rusty might not know everything about fashion, but he definitely knows he doesn't want to dress like Sharon's ex-who-isn't.

"It's a classic," Sharon cajoles as she waves the striped tie in his face. "Really. You can't go wrong with this."

"I could go to Wall Street with it," Rusty says. "That sounds pretty wrong to me." Her lips twitch. Score. She doesn't laugh much. "Come on, you can't make me wear that. Check this out!"

He holds up the blue-and-brown plaid shirt and the brown checkered tie he has selected to match. Her eyes widen. She hasn't looked this alarmed since she caught him getting ready to make bananas flambee last week. "Um," she says. "Well! That's-um."

"It's awesome," he says. "Buzz has a shirt like this."

"Buzz?"

"Yeah. Don't you notice anything?"

He immediately regrets saying it. That happens sometimes: the words come out like knives in the dark. He doesn't expect them-he can't predict these sudden urges to hurt her. He just knows that they're wrong. She's not that Sharon. It isn't fair.

She doesn't seem bothered, though, as she lifts an eyebrow and says, "I can't say I've ever made note of Buzz's fashion sense, no."

"Just let me try them on," he says, relieved that she's not offended, and before she can reply, he whisks the plastic garment bag out of her hands, hightailing it to the dressing room with the suit, the shirt, and the tie.

Five minutes later, he is convinced that he is the sharpest guy on the planet. She is not. They're both standing in front of a three-way mirror, with her peering over his shoulder as she says, "It's just a little...loud?"

He rolls his eyes. Beyond uncool. She probably wants him to accessorize with a pocket calculator. "You said I got to pick," he reminds her. "I mean...since I'm agreeing to..." He meets her eyes in the mirror and shrugs, stuffing his hands into the pockets of his new pants. They're too long. She said she'll hem them to fit. Nobody has ever hemmed anything for him before.

"You are," Sharon says, nodding, "and I did. All right. Get changed." Her sudden smile is too bright. "Let's get these clothes and grab some dinner, okay?"

He manages his own smile to cover the sudden roiling in his stomach. He does not want to think about why she's buying him the suit, why she just caved in to his wishes. "Sounds great."

Dinner is in the mall food court. Rusty hopes they don't run into anybody he knows-any kids from school, any teachers.

Or any former johns walking around with their wives and children. Awkward.

"What do you want?" Sharon asks, checking out the options. He knows what she's seeing: greasy pizza, greasy lo mein, greasy burgers and fries, and salmonella sushi. She's right-it's not fine dining. Fine dining is two nights from now, when his sperm donor takes them out for Italian.

"Anything's fine," he says, no longer hungry. "We don't have to-we can go home if you want."

"No, no, no," she says, still looking around. "We didn't have time to run to the grocery store yesterday. There's almost nothing in the house."

'Almost nothing,' for Sharon, means that they're out of kale and shiitake mushrooms. Rusty rolls his eyes because she's not watching. "I want a gyro, then."

"Get one for me too." She opens up her purse and withdraws a twenty dollar bill. The first time she did this, gave him money like it was no big deal, he nearly passed out from shock. How could anybody be so trusting? So stupid? He'd almost fled with it, just to teach her a lesson.

But he hadn't. And when his mom, the wrong Sharon, did-when she took major bank from Major Crimes and never showed her face at the bus stop-he was so thankful he'd done the right thing. That he'd even known how.

Now he grunts an affirmative and takes the twenty without looking at Sharon, heading off towards the gyro counter. Chicken for him, lamb for her. He gets his change, takes the tray, turns around, and can't find her in the crowd.

His skin crawls. His fingers go numb and he nearly drops the tray. He doesn't see her. Anywhere.

Rusty tries to tell himself he's being an idiot, that he's overreacting. She's got to be somewhere out here, she's got to, she's the right Sharon- But he wades through the mass of tables, and the people sitting at them, and she isn't here. She's gone. She's-

"Rusty?"

The voice carries over from the other side of the room, and it sounds worried. He whips around so fast that one of the drinks spills, sloshing her Diet Coke all over the food. It soaks through the thin paper wrappers. He doesn't care. Sharon is hovering at the edge of the tables, looking around anxiously as she calls his name. Just behind her, he sees the door to the women's restroom. Oh.

Then she turns her head in his direction and sees him. Her eyes widen in instant recognition. I will always know you.

He sets the tray down with a clatter on the nearest table and heads towards her, unable to believe how badly his knees are shaking.

She looks no less worried when he says, "I spilled some drink all over the food, I'm sorry, it got messed up, we can't eat it."

"That's okay," she says, crossing her arms and sizing him up like he's a murder suspect. He used to hate that, but has since come to learn that she can't help herself. She looks at everything like that when she sees something she doesn't yet understand. By now, he knows just about every face she makes.

"You wanna go home?" she asks.

"Yeah, let's do that," Rusty replies, even though her place can't be home for much longer. Someday soon, he'll probably have to go 'home' with his sperm donor.

And then what? Will the donor let him see Sharon? Can she get...visiting rights, or whatever? Rusty can't bring himself to ask. Especially not after that shitty thing he said two days ago, when he accused her of wanting to get rid of him, when he made her cry. He'd almost forgotten-almost-what it was like to hate himself so much.

But she forgave him. He said he was sorry, and she said it was okay, and then he went to look the donor in the eye like a real man would. Then he ran back to her like a scared little boy, and she let him, she took him back.

Now she touches him on the arm, just barely, as if she's hoping he won't notice. "Okay. Let's go."

"Sure," he says, and she moves her hand back immediately before leading the way out of the food court.

She hardly ever touches him, and when she does, there's so much apprehension in her eyes that she looks like a different person. What the heck does she think he's going to do? Push her away? Maybe that's what her real children did. Rusty still doesn't know their names. She doesn't talk about them. They never call.

Maybe the mix-up wasn't all on his end. Maybe when Rusty got the wrong Sharon, Sharon got the wrong kids.

Why did it turn out this way? Somehow everything always ends up sucking. Everything goes bad, the good stuff never lasts-like his last day at the zoo with the wrong Sharon, like his new life with the right one. Why should this random guy, a stranger, get to have the final say? Rusty's lived in the streets, he's been on his own in the worst situations. Surely he has earned the right to sign some sheet of paper, somewhere, that says he's his own master.

They drive home. She asks him about his latest math test. She wants to know how chess club is going. The wrong Sharon didn't care about that stuff very much.

"Are your kids good at math?" he blurts.

Her smile freezes, but doesn't vanish, as she says, "A little." She doesn't look at him. Then she asks, "So are you thinking about joining math club too?"

Rusty gulps. "I don't think so. I don't think I have time." She nods and hums, and he dares to try a joke. "I mean, I have to be available to help you guys solve crimes in the murder room, right?"

Her laugh is brief and a little breathless, as if she is surprised by it. "Not if you're getting fashion tips from Buzz."

Whew. That could have been worse. "Come on! I am telling you! The suit looks great. It's edgy!"

"Okay-okay-" She holds up a hand in surrender, smiling. "If you say so."

"Trust me," Rusty says, serenely confident in his good taste. She just hums again, but it's enough.

When they get home, they rummage through the fridge and the cabinets and decide to make sandwiches. Sandwiches, for Rusty, used to revolve around bread, mayo, and lunch meat. Now they incorporate things like pesto and gruyere. Sharon always seems impressed by the range of food's he's willing to experiment with-unless it involves open flames, and then all of a sudden it's safety this, and do you even know where the fire extinguisher is that.

He finishes up his last bite before he has the nerve to say, "Sharon, have you ever heard of, um, emancipation?"

She's not finished with her sandwich yet. In a rare display of poor manners, she mumbles around her current mouthful, "You mean Lincoln? History class?"

"No. I mean...I mean emancipation of minors." She stops chewing. "Do you know anything about it?"

Sharon puts her sandwich down, swallows, and looks at the table, gathering her thoughts. "Some. Not a lot."

Rusty squirms. "Maybe, uh, maybe we could learn more."

"Rusty, I think you're being a little hasty here. You haven't even spoken to your father-"

She knows he hates it when she says that. "The donor!"

"Just give him a chance. You might even like him." She finally manages to meet his eyes, and is wearing a hesitant smile. "As impossible as that may seem."

Rusty crosses his arms, hoping she won't see the tremble in his hands. "So what if I like him? It doesn't mean I want to be his son. It doesn't mean I want to-go live with him."

"Rusty..."

"Didn't he tell you he's getting married? To some woman who already has kids? Sharon, he's not gonna want me on top of all that," Rusty pleads. "Is that the kind of environment you really think I ought to be in?"

Her smile turns wry. "Rusty, it sounds complicated and maybe a little awkward. Maybe very awkward," she amends. "But it doesn't sound like hell on earth. And if-" she adds more loudly, just as he's about to protest, "-if he doesn't want you 'on top of all that,' then what's the problem?"

Then she looks surprised, as if she hadn't meant to say that at all.

"There isn't one, I guess," Rusty says slowly, watching her face. "If he doesn't want me."

"I didn't mean it like that." She bites her bottom lip. "But it wouldn't bother you?"

"No. Yes. I mean, it would, sort of, but..." He doesn't want to go with the sperm donor. Seriously. But-that doesn't mean he wants to be rejected. Again. "I just want to make the choice, okay? For once, I want to be the one who gets to make the choices about where I am and who I'm with."

She is sitting very still in her chair. "And where would you choose to be? If you could?"

All of a sudden, Rusty shrinks inside. He feels very small. He knows he should tell her the truth, that he can always tell her the truth. She's the only one in the world he can trust. And isn't this what he was really leading up to? But every time he opens his heart to somebody...every time...

"I don't know," he mutters, looking at the crumbs on his plate. "Nowhere. It doesn't matter."

He can't look up. After a second, she says, "No, I suppose it doesn't."

Crap. Her voice is the fake one, the bright-and-breezy one that's never fooled him. Sharon doesn't lie to him, but she sure likes to hide.

Then she stands up and says, "You go and finish your homework. I'll clear the table."

"No," he says, looking up to see her tight smile. God, why did he even say anything? "Let me clean up. I finished all my homework already at the station."

She narrows her eyes. "Even your essay?"

"Yes. I swear. Come on, I'll clean up."

She shakes her head as she says, "You're the only teenager I've ever had to order not to do the dishes."

"Well-I-" He doesn't know how to respond to that. He shoves his hands in his pockets again. "I guess maybe we can watch a movie or something? Since I finished my homework?"

She thinks about it and nods. "Pick something."

He listens to her moving around in the kitchen while he curls up on the sofa and starts streaming Netflix. They haven't done this a lot, watched TV. They're not home all that often, and when they are, Rusty usually has to study and Sharon has to work on a case or fight through some red tape or something. Once they sat down to try out the first episode of Downton Abbey,but she fell asleep in the middle of it. She works too hard.

And now she's washing the dishes because he said the wrong thing, somehow, in a way he doesn't really understand, but he knows it's his fault.

What kinds of movies does she even like, anyway? He looks at the watercolors on the walls (he finally got her to admit that she painted them herself) and at all her books on ballet and opera. She probably likes fancy foreign stuff. It's almost enough to make him groan, but he can put up with it for a couple of hours-less, if she falls asleep again.

When she comes into the living room, unbuttoning her blazer, he points to the screen and says, "How about this one?"

She blinks. "The Four Hundred Blows. Truffaut?"

What's Troofow? "Uh, do you know it already?"

"I do. Probably not what we're in the mood for tonight." She takes the remote and starts clicking through the menus. "But if it's Truffaut you want..."

"Oh, um, I don't really know about-"

Too late. Her eyes are already alight with enthusiasm. "How about this one? I haven't seen it in years, but I remember loving it."

Rusty droops. "Cool."

It's called Pocket Money. It's about French children. There doesn't seem to be a main plot, just a lot of smaller stories with a ton of kid characters. One of them falls off a balcony. Another one gets a bad haircut.

One of them latches on to another child's mother because he doesn't have one of his own. Another one lives in an abusive home. When they get to those parts, Sharon seems to stop breathing and the awkwardness in the room becomes palpable.

In the end, the abused kid is rescued when his teachers discover his bruises, and the abuser-his grandmother-is led away by the police. She insists, "My kid's happy. He goes to school."

Then a teacher stands up and addresses a room full of other kids, telling them that injustice against children should never be tolerated, that their rights should be protected. Eventually, Rusty can't even pretend to ignore it and he says, "Wow, talk about relevant."

Sharon rubs her hands over her eyes. "I forgot this part."

"I figured."

"I remember it being funnier." Sharon sighs. "Sorry."

They don't speak again until the credits are rolling. Rusty says, looking at the screen and not at her, "Hey, I'm just asking-if my dad-the donor-if he turns out to be a bad guy, like a secret junkie or an abuser or whatever..."

"Rusty, don't assume the worst at the outset."

"But if he does, what will you do?" He turns to see her profile. "If we know he's a bad guy, but he wants to take me away anyway, what happens?"

Sharon turns to look at him then. In the flickering light of the screen, he can see that her eyes are hard. She says quietly, "I'll take care of it."

He wants to press her for details. He wants her to tell him exactly what she'll do to protect him, to drive a bad man away from him. He wants to hear out loud, just once, that someone is ready to fight for him, because he knows (now) that she will, and he only wants her to say so, is that so wrong, just this once...

But he's pretty sure she's said as much as she ever will on the subject. And there are things he can't tell her either, even if she needs to hear them. Clearly a match made in heaven.

So he won't say to her, I want to stay here with you, this is where I'd choose to be; and he won't hear her reply, I will do whatever it takes to keep you safe.

Even though both of those things are, he knows, completely true.

He and the right Sharon continue to sit on the sofa, unmoving, until the credits are over. She clears her throat and says, "Time for bed. Have you set your alarm?"

"Yeah," Rusty says, getting to his feet. "I'll be ready to go tomorrow."

FIN.


A/N: For those who are still guessing, "1109" is the number on the door of Sharon's condo.

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