Notes: This was written for a certain someone who felt that certain other someones were trying to kill her by writing all sorts of terrible things happening to Sharon without her allowing anyone to give her a damn hug afterwards. Which is basically one of the best compliments to get, and I clapped and bounced up and down gleefully for a bit, but it's entirely true that Sharon should have more hugs, so. There you have it. ;)

Also this is set at some vague, undetermined point in the future but I imagine it about six months or so from now.

Taking Care

rosabelle

Worry crept up on him slowly.

Sharon called to say that she would be running late. And maybe she'd sounded a little distracted, and maybe there'd been a lot of shouting in the background, but... well, he'd spent enough time in the station to know that was how it went, sometimes.

Don't wait up, she told him. It was going to be a late night, she'd be home in the morning.

At first, Rusty was just glad for the opportunity to watch Texas Chainsaw Massacre on the TV. (Sharon had instituted a headphones-only movie policy after he'd plopped down one weekend and marathoned the entire Saw series, and ignored his entirely reasonable rebuttal that he was sorry, okay, but her opera CD's all sounded like kittens being strangled to death and maybe she should learn how to work the iPod her children had bought her last Christmas.)

As long as he took care not to spill soda on the throw pillows, she'd never know that he ate dinner in front of the TV, either.

He sent her a text while the credits rolled. You catching bad guys?

He knew better than to expect a response right away, especially if she was actually in the middle of arresting someone, but she did always answered eventually. He sent her a few more messages and cleaned up after himself as he flipped from channel to channel in search of something else to watch. As time slipped by, his attention was dragged towards his silent phone. Sharon didn't just never answer.

Anxiety seeded itself in the pit of his stomach.

When midnight ticked silently by with still no word, it blossomed into cold fingers of fear that burrowed into his skin and rooted themselves there.

Something was wrong.

He couldn't quite explain how he knew—it was a nebulous, niggling little feeling, but the more time passed, the more he was sure of it.

His imagination sang of all the terrible things that could've happened, and his heart danced to a quicker beat—but when Sharon limped through the door at ten minutes to one in the morning, her face set with pain, there was an instant where he truly thought his heart tripped over itself and stopped beating entirely.

She hadn't expected to find him awake, he could tell—she stopped dead when she saw him, so abruptly that when Lieutenant Flynn followed her in, he nearly tread on her heels.

Which were there to be tread upon, Rusty realized, because she was wearing flat shoes for maybe the first time in her life, and instead of the white blouse she'd put on that morning, she was dressed in a t-shirt one size too large. Her hair had been pulled sloppily back from her face; several tendrils escaped and hung haphazardly around her face.

"Rusty," she breathed, her eyes widening in faint horror as she studied him. "You're awake."

"Oh my god, Sharon." He gaped at her, aghast. "What happened?"

"It's nothing you need to worry about," she said, which was clearly total bullshit but she headed towards her bedroom like the conversation was over.

He got a better look at her arms as she passed the couch, and—"Is that blood?"

She paused, one hand coming to scratch at her forearm, and there was a moment in which he thought she might actually answer. Then she shook her head and gave him a look that he thought was supposed to be a smile. It was more of a a grimace. "It's not mine. Go to bed, Rusty," she added, in that gently insistent way of hers.

She disappeared into her bedroom without a backwards glance.

If there was one thing Rusty certainly wasn't going to do now, it was that.

Rusty rounded on Lieutenant Flynn, who was still hovering near the doorway with Sharon's coat and purse in his arms. "What the hell?"

To his credit, the man looked about as happy as Rusty felt. His eyes were fixed on Sharon's closed door, expression dark. "That's the job."

"But is she, like, okay, because—"

"Relax, kid," Flynn said, and despite the scowl, he sounded gentler than Rusty usually heard him. "She's a little shaken up and bruised pretty badly, but her ribs didn't break. She'll be fine. Her vest did its job."

That was only reassuring for a moment, because vest meant bullets and bullets meant that someone had—queasiness swirled itself around and around again in his stomach at the thought—shot at her.

Sharon's things still in his arms, Flynn went to her closed door and knocked. The door opened to him a moment later, and he stepped inside. Rusty stared. He'd known they were, well, dating. Sharon was quiet about it, mostly, but she'd told him about it and he would've figured it out, anyway, because before this her social interaction consisted of dinner and drinks once a month with Brenda and Andrea Hobbs. Every other month, if they had trouble scheduling. The point was, Sharon went out approximately once every never, and to go from that to dinner once a week was a big deal.

And Rusty wasn't sure what Sharon saw in Lieutenant Flynn that made her want to date after twenty years of happily not dating anyone, but that was probably one of those questions that Sharon put firmly in the "none of your business" category, and, frankly, he wasn't sure that he wanted to know. But he didn't think there was anyone who deserved happiness more than Sharon did, so as long she came back from their dinners smiling, he guessed it was all right.

But now Lieutenant Flynn was in her bedroom and that implied a whole host of things about their relationship that he hadn't known, hadn't wanted to know, and wasn't sure what to do with now that he did. He hadn't realized their... relationship was so serious. What if Sharon wanted Lieutenant Flynn to move in? What if she wanted to marry him? What did that mean for Rusty if she did, because he was pretty sure that the condo would be crowded with three of them, and all of these thoughts were terrible and selfish when someone could've killed her tonight.

But that was the hardest thing to think about.

So he tried to concentrate on the trivial things, but the other thoughts wormed their way in. Thoughts of Sharon dead, lying in the street somewhere in a puddle of her own blood, skin and muscle shredded by shrapnel. It was a terrible way to die, and it had almost happened to her.

He wasn't the only one who was worried. The door to Sharon's room was slightly ajar, enough for him to see a thin sliver of light between the door and the frame and enough for him to hear snatches of whatever conversation Sharon was having with Lieutenant Flynn.

"—and the creep had his gun in your face—"

"—wasn't your fault—"

"—nothing else we could've—"

Whatever replies Sharon made were kept to a low, indistinguishable murmur. Rusty could pick out the rhythm and pitch of her voice but not the words, but it was enough for him to know that she was doing the thing that she always did, the one where she tried to make herself sound calm when she wasn't at all.

He wondered if she actually thought that fooled anyone.

When Sharon left her room, Flynn was close behind.

She was wrapped in a robe, a clean set of pajamas hugged to her chest. She stopped again when she saw him still sitting on the couch, and the frown that already creased her face deepened. "Rusty, I told you to go to bed."

"Well." He paused. "I didn't."

"Clearly." She tilted her head in the direction of his room. "Now."

"He said someone shot you."

She turned and glared fiercely at Lieutenant Flynn. "You told him?"

"What'd you want me to do, lie?"

"Well—" Sharon sighed, and weariness slumped her shoulders. "No, I suppose not. But," she continued, "as you can both see, I am fine, and I don't want to see either of you in my living room when I come out of the shower, understood?"

She looked so awful that Rusty couldn't bring himself to do anything but nod his agreement, and Lieutenant Flynn must have had the same idea. He stepped closer and said something in Sharon's ear, something that Rusty was not meant to hear, something that made her smile the tiniest, trembliest bit and nod.

"Thank you," she said quietly. Her hand brushed against his, and then she turned away. "Rusty."

"I know, I know."

"Thank you."

"And I—I'm glad you're okay," he said in a rush. He hardly told her how much he cared when they were alone, and there was someone else right there this time, but... it seemed important to be said, this time.

Sharon found a smile for him too. "Good night, Rusty."

"Night," he echoed.

He stood in awkward silence with Lieutenant Flynn for a moment after Sharon disappeared into the bathroom.

"So," Flynn said, nodding towards the closed door. "How long you think she'll be in there?"

"Uh," Rusty said, because how the hell should he know? "Awhile?"

"That'll give you some time, then." Flynn turned to him seriously. "Okay, kid, I know you want to help her, so here's what you do. Make her something to eat. Something warm, not too much. No wine—chances are she'll want a sleeping pill later. Put it on a tray by her bed and then leave her the hell alone until she comes to you."

"Okay," Rusty said, "and what are you going to do?"

"You live here," Flynn told him. "You think she was kidding about wanting us gone?"

"Well... no," Rusty admitted, because Sharon had several preferred methods of dealing with a bad day and all of them involved curling up alone. "But you're not going to let me do all the work, are you?"

In the bathroom, the shower was running. Rusty tried to guess how much time they'd just wasted talking, and ran through the contents of the fridge in his mind.

"Fine," Flynn relented after another glance at the door. "But if she catches me here, that's on you."

"Deal," Rusty agreed, and went to the kitchen. "And, like, I know she'll have to go over the story a hundred times and she won't want me to ask her too, so... did you at least get the guy?"

"Yeah," Flynn said, after a slight pause. He followed Rusty to the kitchen. "She got him."

That was all that was offered. "And?"

"Unfortunately, it looks like he'll live," he said sourly.

"Oh." And Rusty was glad, mostly, that Sharon hadn't needed to kill anyone, but he knew that meant she'd have to go to court about it now. He felt a major surge of sympathy for her because of that, because Phillip Stroh was the nightmare that never ended and he didn't wish even half that on anyone.

"Yeah." Flynn gestured at the fridge. "What'd you got in there? We don't have all night."

Right.

They hurried. Rusty had the distinct impression that Flynn didn't spend a whole lot of time in the kitchen, but neither did Sharon. She had once told him that she ate more home cooked meals with him than she had since her children had gone off to college. Which was sort of pathetic, really, because they still ate out at least three nights a week, but she was busy and a terrible cook,

He was pulling a tray down from the cabinet when they heard the shower turn off. Wincing, he glanced at Flynn, who was spooning rice and shredded chicken out of the pot and onto a plate.

"What'd I tell you?" he said with a resigned shrug, and held out the plate. "Here."

Rusty took it, and the mug of tea, and set both on the tray. He turned back to find a fork and grabbed a paper napkin, and was wiping down the counter when the bathroom door opened.

Sharon looked better than she had when she'd gone in, at least. Her hair was brushed and dried, and she looked comfortable to be in her own clothes again. Some of the lines had smoothed themselves from her face, but she wore a half-frown as she considered the pair of them. "I thought I heard someone out here."

"Don't get mad," Rusty said. "I asked him to stay, but he's leaving now."

"I swear."

"And I'll go to bed now, really." Rusty pointed at the tray sitting ot the breakfast bar as Sharon came around towards them. "I—we... just wanted to..."

She didn't look angry, he saw. Despite the frown, her eyes were soft, and she watched them quietly with her hands buried in her robe. "I know, honey," she murmured. "And I—I appreciate it. I just—"

She stopped abruptly and cleared her throat with a little shake of her head. Her mouth tightened like she was biting the inside of her lip.

Rusty looked down and away. "I'll just... go to bed, then."

He hoped that she didn't cry until he was in his room. Because then he would have to decide whether or not to hug her, and he didn't know how much she was hurting or if she even wanted a hug in the first place, and... well, he just hoped she didn't cry.

"Wait." She spoke softly, but her voice was even.

She went to Flynn first. Her fingers grasped at the front of his jacket when she stepped into his embrace, and she leaned silently into him for what seemed like a very long time. Rusty thought of sneaking off to his room when the lieutenant whispered something that made her laugh a little. Flynn kissed the side of her head and then she turned to kiss him on the mouth, a sort of soft, lingering brush of her lips on his, and yeah, that was definitely a little weird to see because it was Sharon, but... she hummed low in her throat when they stepped apart, and Rusty knew that whatever else, they made each other happy.

Then she came and wrapped Rusty in her arms, swaying slightly as she held on to him. She was warm and solid and he hugged her as hard as he dared, releasing a deep breath as he lowered his chin to her shoulder. "Be okay, Sharon," he whispered, and her cheek shifted against his when she nodded.

"Don't worry too much about me, Rusty," she murmured when she let go, laying a hand gently against his cheek. "I'll be fine."

"I know," he said quietly. "Good night, Sharon."

"Good night," she said, and she said it with a faint smile on her lips.

Lieutenant Flynn had slipped out when they weren't looking. Rusty went to lock the door after him, and then, finally, he stole down the hall to his room. At his door, he paused and looked back. Sharon set the tray on the table and sank into her seat, burying her face in her hands. He watched her take several breaths so deep he could see the rise and fall of her shoulders from where he stood, and then she straightened and sipped from the tea they had made her.

Rusty waited a moment longer and then, reassured, he stepped inside his room and shut the door quietly behind him.