Notes: This is sort of a companion fic to "Sleepless" (but it can be read separately) by request of Alexa Jane, who wanted Sharon having nightmares too and Rusty comforting her afterwards. (Things to know about me: I need minimal encouragement to write terrible things happening to my favorite characters.) It didn't quite make it to comforting, but there's a lot of worrying?
Also the first few paragraphs contain some violent imagery that might be upsetting, so if you want to read the story but not that part, scroll down about ten paragraphs.
Thank you, everyone, for reading and commenting! You guys are incredible. :)
Eyes Wide Open
Our days are always numbered, and the life we are given is a gift from God.
The dreams always started the same way.
Waking, as she had the night Jack had come to disturb the order of her life, with Rusty's hand over her mouth and panic choking his whispers. Someone's in the house. Rising, heart in her throat. Ordering him, whatever you do, stay put, and stalking down the darkened hallway with her gun steady in hand.
Her imagination expanded, then, and from there it varied.
Sometimes she was knocked down in the hallway, tripped, legs kicked out from underneath her and she would go down in an undignified tangle of limbs, the gun sliding impossibly out of her reach.
Sometimes there was more than one intruder, and they ambushed her, overpowered her, all of her struggles useless.
Sometimes, the particularly upsetting dreams, she was tasered, stunned, shocked by a cattle prod, and she woke twitching, haunted by phantom pains.
The dreams all ended the same way, too, with Rusty dragged struggling out from where he'd hidden himself beneath her bed, angry hands yanking him along by his hair, and then he was thrown to his knees before her and shot in the head.
Tonight, she was lucky. She jerked awake in the instant before it happened, and lay in bed staring into the darkness, sweaty and agitated, her stomach in turmoil.
How many times, now, had she seen him die?
Sharon closed her eyes and expelled a deep breath to the count of ten. She lost count somewhere around seven. Sitting, she eased herself out of bed. Her joints were unusually stiff and sore, and she swayed on her feet. She steadied herself with one hand on the nightstand, and then went to fetch her robe from its hook on the back of her door.
It was comforting in its familiarity as it settled over her shoulder, and she wrapped it tight around herself before she stole silently through the living room towards the kitchen. Once there, she filled the kettle and set it on the stove, leaning bleakly against the counter as she waited for it to boil. Exhaustion had settled permanently into her bones, and sleep was fleeting.
She couldn't go on like this.
She'd known, of course, that she would worry, when she'd given Rusty her permission. How could she not worry? He was still a child, for God's sake. He was too young for this, incapable of fully understanding all of the risks involved, not just to himself but to all of the officers entrusted with his safety.
Tasked with his safety, maybe.
She didn't trust anyone with his safety these days, not even herself.
She'd half-hoped that the psych evaluation would advise against this.
She could withdraw her consent.
But he wanted to do this so badly.
Sharon knew that if she changed her mind and refused, he would only turn around and lock himself into a vest on his eighteenth birthday. Still. A lot could happen in three months. A lot could happen in a single day.
The world is a dangerous place for little lost boys. Both of you repent of your sins so that you may be welcome in the house of the Lord.
She didn't make a habit of befriending fools.
If she was meant to be frightened, she was. Her fear for Rusty was a living, breathing thing, a constant pain in her heart. When he was gone from her sight for too long, her blood ran like shards of ice through her veins. She had seen him bruised and bleeding once before, and the memory still made her size with fury. She never wanted to see that again.
But if she was meant to cower and hide, to panic and pull Rusty from the witness stand, the letters had missed their mark, because she had no intention of doing either.
Rusty would testify against Phillip Stroh, and if she had to die or shoot someone to get him there, that's what she would do.
When her tea was made, she dropped into the seat at the head of the table and stared down into the mug for a long, long time.
The steam, the smell, the warmth all helped. She breathed deeply from the cup before drinking, and sipped before it was quite cool enough. It wasn't quite hot enough to blister her tongue, but it was too hot to drink comfortably. She did it anyway just for the sake of holding the mug in her hands.
When she was done, she rested her elbows on the table and buried her face in her hands in silent prayer.
Most people are not lucky enough to die at home in their own beds.
She woke with adrenaline singing through her blood and her heart pounding in answer, gasping in panic and all her senses on high alert even in sleepy disorientation.
Dimly, she heard a worried "Sharon?", but she was already turning, so quickly that she nearly knocked herself out of the chair. She caught herself on the edge of the table and gripped it hard, pushing herself upright as she stared at a startled Rusty without understanding what she was seeing.
He watched her with wide, worried eyes, a blanket in his hands.
"Rusty," she breathed, pressing a hand to her chest. She blinked at him several times in quick succession. "Rusty, what are you doing?"
"I-I'm sorry," he stammered. He edged a step back. "I got up to use the bathroom and I saw the light on, and then I saw you, and..."
Sharon's mind finally cleared away the last of her sleepy stupidity, and her eyes landed again on the blanket he held to his chest. "Oh, Rusty."
"I didn't mean to wake you," he offered.
"No," she said. "No, it's okay. I never meant to sleep here."
"Are... are you okay?"
Sharon raised her arms, reaching towards him, and he passed the blanket into her hands. She took it and hugged it close, lowering her chin to her chest even as she nodded. "Don't worry about me."
Rusty looked skeptical. "Did you get another case? I thought you went to bed hours ago."
"No," she said. She tried to smile at him in reassurance. "No case. I got up to make myself some tea and, as you can see, I must've dozed off for awhile."
"It's like two in the morning."
"A long while, then," she said, and rose with a wince. Stiffness had settled between her shoulder blades, and her knees cracked uncomfortably when she put her full weight on them. "Go back to bed."
He stood not quite close enough that she could call it hovering, but just shy of it. "Are you sure you don't... need anything?"
Tears burned her eyes without warning, and it was all she could do to hold them in. She curled her fingers into the blanket, swallowing hard against the choking pain in her throat. He was worried about her. He was worried about her.
"Go back to bed, Rusty," she repeated. It would've taken a greater effort than she was capable of to steady her voice, but she tried anyway.
"Now," she added, gently insistent in a tone she knew he would respond to. "I mean it."
Reluctantly, Rusty nodded.
"Thank you," she said, gentler still. "Good night."
"Night, Sharon," he said, but he turned to give her backwards glances all the way up the hall. Sharon watched him go, not quite smiling at the sight. It would've been sweet, under normal circumstances.
Satisfied that Rusty was where he should be, Sharon returned the blanket to the closet and retreated to her room. Her bed no longer seemed as welcoming as it once did, but she went to it anyway, and then she lay on her side, curled around her pillow, waiting with eyes wide open for sleep that was long in coming.