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(I Forgot How Long A Day Is) When You Count The Hours In Between

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Sam gapes at the four stuffed grocery bags McNally has dropped on the kitchen counter. "What the hell is this?"

"It's food, Sam. Most people need it to live." She goes to work putting things away, pretty obviously ignoring any kind of system that Sam might have going in his cabinets.

"Pretty sure they don't need this much of it." He picks up a family size box of cereal (wrong kind, too. What is this stuff even? Basically just sugar and flavouring, is what Sam's thinking.). "Or are you just not planning on going ever again?"

She puts away three bags of milk. "Nope."

Sam feels a rush of panic that he doesn't really appreciate, but before he can open his stupid mouth and say something he'll regret ("Please don't go. I missed you") she continues: "I mean, next time you'll be well enough to come." She looks at his t-shirt where it's covering his still healing wound. "Don't you think?"

He smiles wide. Can't really help it. "I hope so. Someone needs to stop you depleting Toronto's chocolate reserves." He picks up a stack of Hershey bars and a jumbo pack of M&M's. "This is going to expire before I can eat it."

She throws him a look, like she's not sure he's joking. "We have chocolate reserves? Like, we could run out?"

He laughs, which kinda hurts, so he stops. Holds up his arms like he did it because he's scared she'll shoot him or whatever. Doesn't want her to know about the pain. (Any of the pain.)

"Anyway, the chocolate's for me," she informs him. Whips out a DVD. "So's this, but you can watch it with me if you want."

He looks at the cover. "The Notebook? Yeah, I'll pass. What makes you think I'll ever let you watch that here?"

"Because I'm your nurse and you don't have a choice. And also I need it."

He doesn't comment on the nursing. She has a look on her face like she might change her mind at any second. "Why do you need--?"

But then it hits him.

How she cried last night and tried to tell him it was allergies and not that segment on the news about a three-legged dog saving its owner from a house fire, the mountain of chocolate, the sappy movie, the thunderous mood she was in before going to the shop.

It's not that she's fed up with taking care of him, it's just... "Communists in the fun house, huh?" he asks, then immediately regrets it when she throws an apple at him.

"Not your funhouse," she points out, stalking away.

He almost doesn't hear her mumbling to herself: "Doctor said another two weeks."

Except he did hear.

Picks up the chocolate she left behind and brings it to the living room for her. Stupid grin still all over his face.

* * *

"Shit!"

Andy swearing is what wakes Sam up. Pulls him out of a sleepy haze he's not really sure how he managed to maintain when reality catches up with him. Because the first thing that hits him is pain. This burning, just-kill-me-already pain in his gut that makes his stiff neck and numb left arm not really matter at all.

First he thinks she accidentally elbowed him and he wants to pull her closer and tell her to go back to sleep. He's pretty sure HE'S not working the early shift, anyway.

But then the pain just doesn't stop, and he's realizing he can't blame it all on Andy's elbow.

Can't blame his couch, either. (Except he can for his neck. The couch is definitely to blame for his neck.)

Andy's body is still sleep warm, pressed all along his side, one of her legs swung over his. Her hand on his chest pressing down just the slightest bit like she's worried she'll wake him.

He pushes through the fog of pain, brings up the hand she doesn't have pinned to the couch to run it through her hair. "Go back to sleep, Andy, it's the middle of the night." (That's probably not true, actually. Even with his eyes closed Sam knows there's sunlight streaming in through the windows.)

He leaves his hand in her hair, trying to keep her in place. Isn't quite sure why, but has the feeling he REALLY doesn't want any of them to wake up right now.

"It's not, Sam. It's like, 9.30. I was supposed to be in parade half an hour ago."

She's still pressing down, trying to push herself up, and he wonders why she's being so careful when it's clear he's awake.

But then she shifts and the pain in his gut makes his eyes water.

"Fuck. Fuckfuckfuck. I'm so sorry, Sam. Shit, are you okay?"

It's the most he's ever heard her swear and a pained laugh escapes. "I'm fine, Mcnally. What the hell did you do to me?" She seems to have given up trying to escape, so he stretches his neck down, kisses the top of her head.

"I guess I fell asleep," she admits, sounding twelve kinds of sorry and he doesn't really get it. It's not like they never fell asleep on the couch before.

She's completely frozen now, body going stiff the second his lips went in her hair. "Uh, Sam. Are you okay?" She lifts her head and his hand falls from her hair to her cheek, thumb stroking her cheekbone absentmindedly.

But then the question sinks in, reaches the active part of his brain. Brings with it the pain that won't go away and Andy's confusion and--basically reality. "Yeah. I mean, my wound hurts like a son of a bitch, and I think you stopped the blood flow to my arm. Other than that, I'm just peachy."

Except I fucking forgot you're not my girlfriend and kissed you, he doesn't add. Shifts instead, to let her get up. "You should probably get going," he points out. Realizes too late how harsh that sounded when he opens his eyes just in time to see her face crumble. "I mean, you're late," he elaborates. His hand totally doing its own thing, not at all sanctioned by his brain, and pulling gently at her hair where she slept on it and it's turned up at a funny angle.

"Right," she agrees, two shades closer to cheerful. "I'm really sorry, okay," she tells him again, indicating the couch and his TV (stuck on the DVD menu now, playing an annoying song on a low volumed loop).

"I do think it'll take a while to forgive you for making me watch The Notebook," he agrees, tries to distract her from the way he goes for the bottle of pain killers on the coffee table with a smile.

"It's a great movie, okay," she insists.

"Pretty sure it's the definition of the OPPOSITE of a great movie, McNally." He follows her to the hallway, watches as she pulls on her boots and her parka.

When she puts on her tuque he reaches out and pulls it down to cover her face. If his fingers brush against her skin as he does it, that's a complete coincidence.

"Don't want you to get cold," he jokes. When she pushes the tuque back up she's grinning. Looks sort of relieved, actually, which he's not really sure what to make of. She makes a move for the door and he takes a few steps to hold it open for her.

She turns to go but then seems to change her mind. Leans in and kisses his cheek, fast and light like maybe he imagined it. "See you tonight?" she asks.

She's down the stairs and on the street before he can open his mouth to answer.

* * *

It's just after 6.30 when Sam realizes what he's doing.

So then he sits down on the couch, turns on the TV. Makes himself count to fifty.

Which is, that's not even a minute.

Still, there's no way he's checking that window again. He's NOT waiting for Andy, okay. He's just not.

Like he's a goddamn puppy.

Except then he hears that familiar sound of his F150 pulling up outside and he has to actually tell himself to not get up. (The window's cracked open because he's HOT, okay. Probably a side effect of these damn drugs he's taking at all hours of the day to numb the pain.)

Just, being cooped up at home all day is maybe getting to him a bit. He has never been this bored in his life.

He did a sudoku online, that's how bad it is. (Alright, he did HALF a sudoku online. Then he realized there were too many fours in the middle box and decided the program must be faulty.)

So he just sits there, staring at the TV like he's been doing it forever. If she asks what he's been watching, he'll just say he only turned it on a few minutes ago, he's actually been reading all day.

Yeah, reading, that sounds plausible.

He smiles, is already pushing himself off of the couch to go get a book-- (Those are NOT old man sounds he's making, okay. They just aren't. They're the sounds of someone recovering from a gunshot wound. So there. Not an old man. A fucking hero, is what he is.

A fucking idiot, is what Shaw called him when he first woke up, but who ever cared about his opinion?)

--But then he realizes that to get to his book in the bedroom he'll have to walk through the hallway.

And his crappy timing being what it is, he'll probably get there just as Andy's walking through the door, and then all this effort he's going to, to (pretend? no:) make it clear that he hasn't been waiting for her will be wasted. Because it'll look like he came to greet her at the fucking door.

So, no reading. Just him watching--he looks at the TV just as the front door is pushed open--fucking brilliant. There's no time to change the channel now (suspicious minds might think he was just turning on the TV for show) and he's watching a goddamn Doctor Phil repeat.

"My Mother Walked Out On Our Family And Now I Keep Loving People Who Abandon Me." Fan-fucking-tastic.

This woman's crying and the doctor's patting her back, trying to hit the tiny patch of fabric covering her, and the audience is applauding like a cue card is instructing them to.

No fucking way. Sam grabs the remote and turns off the TV.

Does it two seconds too late, though, because behind him he can hear Andy's deep breathing in the sudden, deafening silence.

He doesn't turn around. Isn't really sure if he looks happy she's (finally!) here or like he got caught with his hand in the cookie jar. (More like in the snake pit.)

"Doctor Phil, huh?" Andy says, teasing like she thinks this is hilarious. Like she doesn't get that it was basically about her.

"I was going to get a book," he argues. "But then..." He trails off, not really sure then what.

Whatever the what was, she misunderstands it, though. Is by his side immediately, worry painted all over her face. "Does it hurt? Are you okay? This is because of last night, isn't it?" she asks, all rushed and guilty-sounding, like they got up to all sorts last night.

Which they very much didn't. All they did was sleep.

He liked it better when she was smiling.

"I'm fine, McNally," he insists. And he is. Last night was the first time he slept through the night since they took away his IV. "I slept fine, okay. You didn't hurt me."

She nods and he thinks maybe he convinced her. At least maybe he convinced her enough that she won't be scared to sit next to him on the couch.

"Okay," she agrees after a long moment. "But maybe tonight we should sleep in your bed."

She turns and heads for the kitchen. He gets up and follows her.

Just: We?

* * *

Andy's pouring water from the pasta she boiled and Sam's trying really hard not to comment.

Just, she's going to get spaghetti all over his kitchen floor and then they'll have to wait an hour for pizza to arrive.

"I'm not going to drop it," she says. Doesn't even turn around to look at him, like she can sense him judging the back of her head.

"I didn't say you were," he points out. Because he didn't, and he's sort of proud of that.

"I could tell what you were thinking." She turns around and holds out the bowl of pasta for him to inspect like it's her homework and she wants him to know she conjugated her french verbs right.

He looks, nods with a healthy portion of mock approval and she starts bringing the food through to the living room.

"So, what? You're a mind reader now?" Sam can think of maybe three things he would hate more than that. Two of them are flying, the last one he doesn't want to linger on, but his eyes dart to the front door.

(She just cooked him a goddamn meal, she's not going to LEAVE. Unless she really CAN read minds, then she might run for the hills. She probably should.)

"Yup," she says, grinning as she passes him on the way back to the kitchen for more food. "Are you scared?"

He can hear her rummaging through the drawers looking for something. Marlo moved things around once, said it'd be more efficient. From the way Andy's opening and closing drawers (some of them more than once by the sound of it) he figures Marlo was probably wrong.

The last time McNally cooked in his kitchen (She did this before. There was a time he had this life, and he didn't have to almost die to get it. Just damn near killed himself running from it instead.) she seemed to just find everything she needed without having to ask. It's possible that's one of the things that freaked him out a little. How she seemed to just know his home by instinct.

"It terrifies me, McNally," he says, aims for jokey and feels like he probably hit the mark. “Second drawer on the right."

A final drawer opens and shuts and then she appears in the doorway holding up a pair of salad tongs. "Now who's the mind reader?"

He points at the salad bowl on the table. "I took a leap of faith."

She looks at him like he said something weird, or maybe just something really important, and his instincts to back-pedal kick in. "I just mean, it seemed like a pretty logical conclusion."

She nods, looks like she thinks he's full of shit. (She's not wrong, is a thing he's pretty well aware of.)

They sit down across from each other, this silence that'll turn awkward if they let it surround them.

"So how was your day?" he asks and it's both the best and the worst thing he can think of to say. Just, the domesticity of it all. Dinner on the table by seven, that's not where those forks go, honey, how was your day? If he had a lawn, they'd probably be bickering about why he didn't mow it. (Except they wouldn't, because he got shot and that's the only reason she's here.)

"Terrible," she replies like she doesn't get that this is supposed to be weird. "Dov and I caught a third grader smoking pot. We called his dad and the guy didn't even care."

She looks so outraged and he smiles a little. Four years in uniform and the fact that people suck still takes her by surprise, and he loves it and hates it pretty equal amounts.

"I mean, can you imagine how you'd react to something like that?" she rants on.

"I don't have a kid," he points out. A conversation flashes through his mind: psychic in the back of their cruiser, Andy pointing out that he might have a mother-in-law someday. Suddenly he wants this to be his do-over. Wants to get it right this time. (Willing her to tell him he might, one day, like she did back then.)

"What?" Andy demands instead, a look on her face like she's about done with his bullshit. "Just because you don't want a family one day, doesn't mean you can't have some imagination."

"No, it doesn't," he agrees, because clearly this is as close as the universe will let him get.

She looks at him like she's weighing his words, trying to figure out just how heavy she can let them be. Then she just nods and goes back to eating in silence.

He wants to ask what she's thinking, if she got what he was saying, but it seems like too much of a long-shot and he's scared he didn't get the point across.

He spins spaghetti around his fork and stuffs it in his mouth to stop the words from spilling out.

When she clears the table fifteen minutes later, there's nothing left to stop him: "I never told you I didn't want kids."

A pot lands in the sink, loud and heavy, and he's not sure if she dropped it or threw it down.

Either way she doesn't answer.

* * *

Getting ready for bed feels a whole lot like preparing for a second date, is what Sam's thinking as he brushes his teeth. Only doing it with your date getting ready in the next room.

There's a reason Sam never went on a lot of second dates.

Just, if the first date didn't go well, why go on a second? And if it DID go well, well, then why go on a second?

But here he is, brushing his teeth carefully (mostly just to buy some time before he has to go back out there, not because he thinks--) and worrying about the fact that he's wearing odd socks.

Trying to think of things to talk about (all that "So what do you do?" -- "What's your star sign?" crap already out of the way and now you're stuck having to talk about something real, actually getting to know the other person.).

He rinses, splashes water around the basin to wash away the foam and then he rinses again.

Stands up, looks himself in the eye in the mirror, mini pep-talk and a steeling breath, and then he unlocks the bathroom door.

"There's a spare toothbrush in the--" he begins to say but then cuts himself of. She's wearing one of his t-shirts and holding up a toothbrush. The foldable ones they give you on long flights like encouraging dental hygiene will give the illusion of comfort.

So clearly she came prepared, which he tries hard not to dwell on, but also: She's wearing one of his t-shirts.

It used to be her favourite, sometimes she'd even dig it out of the laundry so she could wear it to bed.

She must've gone through his entire dresser to find it tucked away in the bottom drawer where he'd never have to look at it.

He holds the door to the bathroom open for her, watches it close behind her and waits for the lock to click, and then starts getting undressed. It's all slow moves, restricted by the wound that burns every time he stretches too far. It's not like he's clinging on to any kind of illusion that she doesn't know he's hurting, he'd just maybe prefer her not knowing just how bad it is.

Doesn't need her coddling him any more than she's already doing.

It's messing with his head a little bit, has him thinking it MEANS something. Which, that's just not fair. He didn't even pay attention to that Doctor Phil crap, and here he is obsessing about feelings and what they mean like some goddamn teenage girl.

He REALLY needs to be okay so he can get back to work.

Shoot a gun, flash his badge, take down some punks.

Except, yeah, that's not really working, because just the thought of having to take aim and hold that position has him wincing a little.

So obviously that's when McNally decides to leave the bathroom, and obviously she misunderstands.

"Sore?" she asks, all worry and concern and kindness and there's a part of him that wants to punch her in the face and there's another part that just wants her to hold him and promise she'll never leave.

That last part is the one that has him thinking he needs to go easy on the pills.

Sam Swarek does NOT need some girl taking care of him.

Except, as it turns out, Sam Swarek really, really WANTS her to.

Still. "I'm fine."

She smiles a little and he realizes that's usually her line so he smiles back. Just a bit.

"Do you need me to change the dressing or something?" She's all business and he wonders how it didn't occur to him sooner: She's done all this before.

There's some clanking in his mind as the pieces fall into place and maybe his dreams shatter: She's here because she knows how all this works. The pain and the pills and, Jesus fucking Christ, the goddamn mood swings.

And hormonal outbursts not withstanding, she just stands there and takes whatever he throws at her, because she's seen it all before.

He sort of wants to ask her if they can maybe play some poker, he'll download the porn himself, thank you very much. But he shakes his head instead. "It's fine. I really just want to sleep, McNally. Can we do that?"

It's not even a lie. If he could sleep for three weeks and then wake up and be okay, he'd be the happiest man alive.

Or he'd be less miserable at least.

"Sure," she agrees, biting down whatever sarcastic remark she was ready to make, and then she looks at the bed and up at him, like maybe she's not quite sure how to proceed here, either.

Except that 'with caution' seems to be what she's landed on.

It's just that his glass of water and bottle of pills are on the bedside table on the side where SHE used to sleep.

(He spent three nights carefully sticking to the left side of the bed, back when he--, and then he decided he needed a change. Flipped the mattress like the instructions say you're supposed to (and actually kind of getting that as it turned out), bought new sheets and MADE himself sleep on the right side of the bed until he stopped thinking about it and it became a habit.)

He moves without really letting himself think too hard about what he's doing. Picks up his things and walks to the other side.

Feels her eyes on his back the whole time but doesn't turn around. Crawls into bed still keeping his eyes to himself. Lies on his back staring at the ceiling for close to a minute before he feels the mattress shifting as she gets in next to him.

He screws his eyes shut against the pain in his chest as his heart constricts. This feels both achingly familiar and strangely foreign and his brain doesn't know what to do with all these conflicting thoughts and emotions.

She moves around a bit, probably setting the alarm on her phone so she doesn't miss parade again.

Then she stops moving and he assumes she's settled. He can feel just a hint of her breath on his shoulder every time she exhales.

Almost ten minutes go by and he thinks she might be asleep, but then she reaches out, rests a cool hand on his chest, eases the pain there.

He puts his hand on hers to keep it in place.

* * *

Sam wakes up slowly, each part of his brain kicking into gear one by one.

There's no confusion, even in the darkness that surrounds him, reality is clear: Andy is sleeping on her side, curled into him. One leg snaked through his, over the closest, foot tucked under the furthest. The hand he fell asleep holding to his chest is still there, fingers buried in his chest hair. Her head is on his shoulder, her breath warm and soft next to her hand.

His hand is splayed out on her back, the t-shirt she reclaimed last night bunched up above his wrist. Every time she breathes in he can feel her ribcage expanding against his side, the soft curve of her breast pressed against him.

His fingers trail lines on her skin and he's a little surprised by how familiar every part of her feels.

She sighs in her sleep, presses her face into him, like she's trying to burrow through him. The hand on her back pulls her closer and she shifts readily.

Sam smiles into the darkness, closes his eyes and lets himself drift back to sleep. He's aware of all the reality he needs right now.

Sleep returns like and old friend he hadn't realized he missed.

* * *

Sam wakes up to sunlight sneaking through the space between curtain and window, a mattress going cold, and the faint sound of the shower running through the closed bathroom door.

He shifts slightly then stills as the dull ache in his abdomen turns into something sharper, less easy to ignore.

Gives himself a few seconds to recover and then turns to reach for his pill bottle and the glass of water he put out last night in case he woke up.

Instead of the lukewarm mouthful he expected, the water's cool and fresh. He smiles, eyes on the closed bathroom door for a second before he closes his eyes, drinks it all down.

Normally he'd probably just stay put, maybe (depending on his desperation) get up and go to the bathroom and then back to lying down, waiting for the pain meds to kick in.

Today is different, though.

For one thing, the pain's not the only thing on his mind, this cloud hanging over every other thought. There's that shower running and a fresh glass of water on the bedside table. The feeling that he hasn't slept this well in forever.

So he makes himself get out of bed, moves quietly and slowly but with more determination than he's shown since he talked the doctor into releasing him a day early.

In the kitchen he smiles at the coffee machine, sputtering as it forces through the last few drops. Which is, he's smiling at goddamn inanimate objects and just what is up with that, anyway? (Any minute now Noelle's gonna walk through the door, point out the spring in his step. Except of course she won't, there's absolutely nothing springy about the way he's walking these days.)

But yeah, he may tell himself to stop being an idiot, but he still can't wipe the grin off his face. (Whatever Noelle might think to accuse him of, she'd probably be right.)

In the fridge he finds the mountain of food McNally bought a few days ago when she and her hormones went grocery shopping. Thinks maybe she's not as crazy as she looks sometimes as he pulls out eggs, milk and bacon.

(Turkey bacon, though. What the hell, McNally?)

He fries the bacon and then the eggs -- sunny side up, Sam. Because it just makes them sound so happy -- makes toast and distributes everything on two plates.

He's pouring coffee into two mugs when he hears the bathroom door open and McNally tip-toeing a few steps, then walking like she's not the world's worst cat burglar when she sees the empty bed.

"Kitchen," he calls out, just so she won't think he ran away.

"Sam, what are you doing?" She's leaning against the door frame, bare feet sticking out of her white-washed jeans, wet hair leaving dark patches on her green top.

"Building a tree house," he says sarcastically. It's only after the words are out of his mouth that he spots the large oak tree outside his kitchen window, remembers how she told him once it'd be perfect for tree houses.

He turns around, hands her her coffee mug. Really wishes right now that he hadn't dug out the novelty mug she bought for his birthday back then. "Keep calm and love police officers."

She stares at it forever, like she forgot what it's for.

"You drink the coffee, McNally," he jokes.

She just nods slowly, still lost in whatever thoughts have her looking so serious all of a sudden.

"Sit," he instructs because clearly she's not figuring it out on her own. "Eat."

She nods again but then sits down.

"You didn't have to do this," she tells him, finally picking up the knife and fork he put next to her plate.

"I know," he agrees, stuffs half an egg in his mouth so he won't have to say anything else. ("It's the least i could do." -- "It's my turn to take care of you a little bit," -- "Thank you for making me better.")

She wolfs down her food like she's scared he'll take it away, practically inhales the coffee. Never quite lets go of the mug, two fingers permanently looped through the handle. She keeps looking at it, too, throwing him furtive glances he does both of them a favour and pretends not to notice.

He wonders if she's in a hurry to go, but when her own food's gone she sits there waiting for him to finish, too. Doesn't LOOK like she's too eager to move, seems like she's fine just sitting across from him, not talking and stroking that mug.

It's a little unnerving, actually, how comfortable she seems with the silence all of a sudden. It makes Sam want to talk more than anything has ever done before, just because he doesn't like how much time he has to think about every damn thing. Think about every damn thought she might be having.

When he's done eating he gets to his feet to clear the table and suddenly she's moving like she's on fire.

"I'll clean up," she tells him quickly, looks about ready to pull the plates from his hands.

"I'm fine," he insists. "Go get ready for work."

She looks at him for a long moment but then she smiles. "Okay. Thanks."

He smiles back, thinks he should probably move, but then doesn't act on that idea at all.

Enough time for people to meet, fall in love, get married and then divorced passes and then she finally shifts her weights from one bare foot to the other. "I'll just--" she trails off, waving in the general direction of his bedroom.

"Okay," Sam agrees, amused but also somehow not.

Watches her walk away and then turns to do the dishes. Looks at the tree outside, reminds himself she hasn't gone far.

Let's himself believe, just for right now, that she never will.

* * *

Sam's in a good mood.

Said goodbye to McNally in the kitchen, these ten semi-awkward seconds where maybe they both think she's going to kiss him. (In the end she doesn't, takes half a step into the room then stops and just waves instead. Which, actually, Sam doesn't even really mind.)

He's still bored out of his skull, that hasn't changed, but there's less of a desire to throw a chair through the window just for something to do.

So he spends the morning reading a book and pretending he isn't sort of looking forward to his check-up in the afternoon. (Not the actual check-up, obviously, just, McNally took his truck to work, so. So.)

There's a law made up by the universe just for Sam, though, or at least it sort of feels that way when Collins pulls up in a squad car half an hour before Sam's due at the hospital.

Basically that law says, whenever Sam starts looking forward to something, the opposite will happen.

First when he sees Collins he thinks either something terrible happened (Andy, is she safe? Why the hell doesn't he have a police radio at home so he can stay informed?) but then he tells himself he's just here because he heard about the sleepovers and now he's looking for a fight.

Right now, there's no doubt Sam would come out of that fight the loser, and the timing doesn't seem quite fair. Still, Sam can't shake the feeling that he kind of LIKES the idea that Collins thinks he deserves a beating. Sick puppy, we've got a live one over here, is what Sam's thinking as he opens the front door, Collins just about to walk up the stairs.

"Everybody's fine," he says reassuringly, like maybe there's a look on Sam's face that's not too hard to read. (Andy being hurt just seems more likely than Collins lashing out at a superior officer. Military training and the importance of rank and all that.)

Collins has both hands up disarmingly and Sam tries to quell his fight or flight instinct. "Andy and Shaw got caught up dealing with a domestic. Andy called Nash, but she's busy working a homicide. So I said I'd take you to the hospital."

Collins stops listing people more likely to be here (People Sam would rather be sitting in a car with.) and Sam goes back inside to put on his leather jacket and get ready to leave. Might as well just get this over with.

"So how're you doing?" Collins asks as he pulls the cruiser into traffic.

Like small-talk is a thing that's going to be happening here.

"Fine," Sam says curtly. "Shut up and drive," is what he really means.

"Andy said she's really impressed with your recovery," Collins goes on like he has no sense of when to shut the fuck up. Well, there's something he and Andy have in common. Except when Andy does it it's sort of endearing in an annoying sort of way. With Collins it's just annoying full stop.

Also: Where the hell does she get off talking about his recovery with Collins? He wants to tell her to cut it out, but has the feeling she'd take offence - and probably be sort of justified. "Oh," is all he ends up saying.

"I'm sure you'll be back at work in no time," is what Collins comes up with next, and Sam's hoping that means they're getting close to the end of this conversation. except then:

"Look, I don't know what's going on with you and Andy."

Sam's blood feels like it's not sure if it should be freezing or boiling.

"I just wanted to say, whatever it is, it's fine by me. I get it. You won."

Sam feels bad for how good it feels to hear that. "It's not a competition, Collins." (Fucking right, I won, though. At least until you showed up today I sort of felt I did.)

"No, of course not," Collins agrees a little too quickly. "I just meant, no hard feelings."

Which is both douche'y and maybe sort of gracious, so Sam just nods. "How are you doing then?" Right before Sam got shot, this kid did have a gun aimed at him, so it's possible he's got some fallout of his own from that day. Not that Sam wants to play therapist, but a fellow officer is a fellow officer, no matter where any of them spends their nights - or with whom.

"I'm fine," Collins says dismissively and Sam can feel his bullshit meter going off.

"Yeah, well," he says, his words slow and measured. "It's okay to have a reaction to something like that." Sam feels like an idiot saying it. Just pointing out the obvious, no sort of follow-through.

"I was in Afghanistan," Nick reminds him. "I've had a gun aimed at me before."

Sam doesn't answer. Never actually heard Collins talk about it before, just had it thrown in his face what a big damn hero the guy was from day one. Which made it something he could just dismiss, maybe scoff at a bit. "Right."

Collins backpedals about as fast as Sam's ever seen McNally do. "I just mean, I know. I don't need to talk about it, okay?"

"Right," Sam agrees, doesn't really bother sounding like he believes him.

And although Sam feels a bit shitty now, how he doesn't push, make sure Collins is okay, at least this means they're done talking, and Collins drives the rest of the way to the hospital without saying another word. Pulls up in front of the main building and leaves the engine running.

It's not as if Sam WANTS the guy to hang around and wait for him, but he'll be an hour, tops. He opens the car door to get out.

"Andy said she'd come and pick you up when you're done," Collins tells him. He looks like he's aiming for a smile, but still sounds like those aren't words he wants to be saying.

"Sure," Sam agrees, slams the door shut not really believing him.

Still. When he leaves the exam room an hour later, Andy's in the corridor waiting, a smile on her face, a cup of coffee in each hand.

And he's not REALLY surprised.

* * *

They're driving from the hospital in the direction of Sam's place.

McNally's humming along to the song on the radio, drumming the beat on the steering wheel with her index finger. (Some inane pop tune Sam may or may not have heard before, he honestly can't tell. It makes him feel old, but also sort of fine with that, if it means he doesn't have to go places where they play shit like that.)

"That's some quality music we're listening to, McNally."

She keeps her eye on the road, he catches just the edge of a hard glare she's throwing at someone texting and driving. When the guy drops his phone in fear, hands instantly at ten and two, they both laugh.

"You like it? You can borrow the CD if you want," she offers, and he's not really sure if she's joking.

Decides he'd rather not find out, just goes with: "No, thanks."

"Your loss," is all she gets in before the chorus begins and she starts belting along to that.

Sam reaches out, changes the station.

"Snob," she tells him, but he can see that she's smiling.

He keeps fiddling with the settings on the radio, tries to get his own lips to stop curving up. They're just sitting in a car for fuck's sake. She's giving him a ride, being a pal. He needs to stop.

"Do you mind if we stop somewhere for lunch?" McNally turns to look at him while she waits for the light to change to green and he turns away from the radio. Classical is what they'll be listening to from now on. At least there are no words. "Oliver said to come RIGHT back after I drop you off--" she's maybe blushing a little, Sam thinks, but he doesn't really see why she would be, figures he's just imagining it. "--But as long as I haven't done that yet..." She trails off significantly, like she seriously expects him to help her play hooky.

He smiles. "Sure. What are you in the mood for?"

Okay, she is 100% blushing now.

"I don't actually care, as long as the portions are big."

"You really are Oliver, but in a woman's body, aren't you?" Sam jokes and then instantly regrets it. That's REALLY not a comparison he wants stuck in his head.

"Funny," she says, real heavy on the sarcasm. "Just for that, I wanna go somewhere the napkins aren't made of paper. And YOU'RE buying," she adds, just in case that wasn't obvious.

"In your uniform?" Sam asks, reigning her in.

She looks down her front. "Okay, I guess not." Then she looks up at him, this stern look on her face like she used to get in her rookie days when she didn't want him to know she was nervous. "So we'll do that Saturday."

Sam's not sure if it's meant to be an order or a suggestion, all he knows is she just set a time for an actual date. A cloth napkin date, that'll probably require him to dress up to some extent.

"Okay," he agrees easily and her shoulders drop about three centimeters, tension pouring out of her.

"Okay," she repeats, like maybe she likes the sound of the word, and Sam bites his cheek. Starts messing with the radio again for something to do with his hands that doesn't involve touching her. Just, that look on her face is maybe one he'd like to get his fingers closer to. (Get his lips closer to as well, so thank god for seatbelts.)

"So will you be fasting until Saturday, or should we get a burger somewhere?" He sounds more gruff than he needs to, maybe. Except he really fucking needs to bring some gruffness back into the situation. Can't sit here like some high school junior who just successfully asked out the head of the cheerleading squad.

"No," she says, sounding appalled, and for a second he thinks it's because she knows he's picturing her in a cheerleading outfit, but then she continues. "Burger sounds great."

She pulls into the parking lot of a 50s style diner near his house without asking. They used to come here all the time. McNally loved the waitresses' outfits and the retro decor, Sam liked the food and the fact that they never played music made after 1969.

She jumps out of the car and for a moment he's worried she'll come around and open the door for him, but then she just leans against the hood, waits for him to pull himself out of his seat.

"Let's go," he says as he walks past her, and she falls into step next to him, her hand almost-but-not-quite brushing against his as it swings.

The waitress looks surprised to see them, and Sam's not sure if she recognizes them from over a year ago or they just don't get a lot of uniforms.

McNally orders as they're getting seated, not even looking at the menu.

"I'll have the same," Sam says because it just seems easier.

"But with extra cheese," McNally adds as the waitress begins to turn away. Then she looks at Sam. "I mean, right?"

He used to always get extra cheese. It was a thing, how she'd always say it was gross and then steal bites of his burger whenever he put it down.

"Right," he agrees. "Extra cheese."

The waitress makes a note on her pad that Sam's pretty sure won't convey the meaning of the extra cheese to the guy frying the burgers and walks away.

"This place hasn't changed at all, huh?" McNally says conversationally.

"No, I'd say they've been stuck in 1954 for a while."

"'57," she corrects him, pointing at a picture on the wall. "Diefenbaker's prime minister."

Sam stares at her for a long moment and she blushes.

"What?" she demands.

He blinks, tries to wipe away that look of 'I adore you.' "Nothing. You just surprise me sometimes."

"Is that a good thing?" Like it's not completely obvious.

"Yeah, McNally, it's a good thing."

She smiles, probably the same expression she had in school when her teachers put a gold star on her homework.

"Oh," she says, and he realizes their conversation's about to make a u-turn. "Chris was offered sexual favours in return for not giving a guy a ticket this morning."

Sam laughs. "Did he take him up on it?"

"Noo. it's CHRIS, that would be against regulations."

Which, yeah. That's a pretty good point.

The waitress brings over their drinks and McNally entertains him with another story about Diaz and Epstein while they wait for their food. Then, once Sam has his mouth full of meat and bread she starts telling him about the domestic that had Collins playing chauffeur. She doesn't mention Collins, though, skips right to the part where a guy's got a bread knife aimed at her, Oliver with his gun out in no time flat, wife crying in the corner.

Sam wants to get back to work worse than ever, this surge of adrenaline running through him, voice in the back of his mind telling him he wasn't there to protect her.

"Oliver calmed the guy right down. It was kind of impressive actually," Andy continues like she hasn't noticed his reaction at all. Or like maybe she knows EXACTLY what he's thinking and she's putting him at ease.

"I'll but him a beer, sometime," Sam says, as lightly as he can manage.

Andy smiles. All warm and soft and like she read a whole lot into that.

Sam doesn't correct her.

"The guy cried like a baby all the way to the barn," Andy finishes.

"And you felt bad for him," Sam concludes. Can't think of a single other person on the planet who would, but yup McNally nods like that should be everybody's knee-jerk reaction.

"The wife just told him she spent all their savings and was leaving him for his brother."

Sam snorts. "And that makes it okay to beat up your wife and threaten police officers?"

"No, of course not. But he never actually touched the wife. She threw a flower pot at him when he called her a--" she trails off. "He was just defending himself."

Sam shakes his head and chews a fry slowly, still not quite sold on the idea of this guy as a victim.

"So what did you do all morning?" she asks, saves him from having to argue any kind of point.

"Oh, you know. Ran a marathon," he jokes.

"Built a treehouse?" she suggests, eyes on her soda instead of him.

"That too," he agrees and she smiles at the straw like it's her new best friend.

And just like that Sam's back to simply enjoying himself and wondering what it is she does that just makes his life better. He's tempted to ask her (Seems like she has an answer for most questions today.) but instead he lets her go on with her stories from the barn: Gail who's still jumping at every chance to go to the morgue, pretending they don't all know she's dropping off more than samples when she's there; Traci and Steve Peck and their 'who's a better cop?' version of foreplay.

Other than the occasional yes or no, smile or laugh where appropriate he doesn't contribute much to the conversation.

Can't really think of anything to say that doesn't sound dumb even in his own head. He pretty much seems to get stuck on, "This is nice, I wish we could stay like this forever," and there's just no fucking way those words are leaving his mouth.

"This is nice, isn't it?" McNally asks out of nowhere. Sam's pretty damn sure she was talking about the new brand of coffee they got at the barn a second ago. "I kind of wish we could just stay here and I didn't have to go back to work."

He's pretty sure she just means for the afternoon, definitely something less permanent than what he had in mind, but it's still a little unnerving.

Strangely, though, it doesn't scare him.

"Me too, Andy," he agrees.

* * *

Time's doing its special thing where it bends around a single person, making a minute go on for an hour, an hour taking about six days.

Sam's trying to convince himself that he's not a six-year-old and he's not waiting for Christmas; he's a fucking grownup and McNally isn't Santa Claus. (Which, yeah. YEARS of therapy would've been needed if Sam had ever had the kind of thoughts about Santa that he's been having about McNally.)

He has a feeling like waiting for her is all he does these days.

Even when she's there.

He gets the feeling sometimes that she's waiting for something too, and his entire vocabulary to describe this pattern they're in is very "cold war" and doesn't really seem appropriate at all.

It doesn't FEEL like they're headed for mutually assured destruction, anyway.

Except: Last time. So yeah, maybe McNally SHOULD be building a fallout shelter somewhere.

In the meantime Sam's trying to figure out what the hell HE'S supposed to be doing. Instinct to find some shelter of his own lurking right underneath the surface somehow getting drowned out by this NEED he has all of a sudden to do--something. (Needs and wants getting all mixed up in his head, tied together by the memory of her smile, how she looks at him sometimes, feelings he's been fighting for so long he isn't sure he really knows why he started. Knows even less how to stop.)

Figuring out what 'something' is turns out to be harder than solving a homicide in Regent Park.

So Sam figures he'll do some laundry, remembers what his mother used to say when he was a kid: If you look too hard for something, you'll never find it. Soon as you stop looking it'll be right in front of you.

Which maybe explains more about how he lives his entire life than what she meant when he asked her where his History book had gone.

Doing laundry is pretty much the opposite of thinking about McNally and what everything MEANS. (These pills, Sam's not even kidding. If there's permanent damage he'll sue the hell out of the hospital. All the feelings crap, no one bothered to warn him about THOSE side effects. (Mood swings, sure, but this isn't a goddamn swing. Women have gone through menopause with fewer reactions to all things feelings'y, Sam's pretty sure.)

Except it's not the opposite at all, Sam realizes as he divvies up the contents of his hamper in white and not-white. McNally tried to explain how colours and fabric matter, but his wardrobe was always pretty denim/cotton blend, and it's not like he wears a lot of pink and orange.

Which, McNally does. Underneath the uniform she's all about the colourful underwear. And also sports bras, which meant Sam spent a LOT of time at work trying to guess what he'd find when he unwrapped her once they got home. A LOT.

If unwrapping McNally had been a thing he still did, yesterday he would've found something brightly orange with bees printed on the front. Bees. Yup.

Sam tries to decide which is worse: getting all happysadconfused about the fact that she feels comfortable leaving her dirty laundry in his hamper, or the thoughts he's having about how she'd look WEARING these.

Which is not a call he's really qualified to make, and anyway he's realizing just how much bending down to stuff clothes into the washer is NOT going to work for him, so he leaves the two piles of clothes on the bathroom floor. Buries the panties under one of his t-shirts. If she asks about it he can just pretend he never saw them. Mostly he just doesn't want to look at them anymore.

Which is such a blatant lie he's actually laughing at himself a little as he closes the door firmly behind him.

So that took about five minutes. Oh, how time flies when you're having fun. And how it just drags on forever and ever when you're (not) waiting for something. (He's NOT waiting for McNally. He just isn't. So that beat his heart skipped when a black F150 did a u-turn in front of his house can just take a flying leap off a cliff.

Except that's pretty much what it feels like his heart did, so. So. Damn pills.)

Sam gives himself a tour of his own house, like maybe he forgot where the kitchen is. Like maybe he's completely desperate for something to do. Something that'll have him looking like he's REAL busy in about, oh, three hours or so.

There's a calendar pinned on the fridge with a magnet. Fake badge Sarah got him holding up a vista of St Catherines, some dogs playing in the foreground, the whole year stretched out underneath them. Sarah filled it in before giving it to him, resignation or a subtle point she's trying to make, he'll never know. Whatever she meant to say, all major family events have been marked, neat handwriting reminding him of 'Mom's birthday,' 'Sarah's birthday,' and 'wedding anniversary (Mom & Dad)', all looming in the next few weeks.

To Sam it's mostly useful because it reminds him when he should be requesting overtime.

As much as he loves his sister, birthdays are a family package deal, parents included free of charge. (Well, there's SOME sort of charge.)

Phone calls and 'Sorry I had to work, we'll do something next month. Oh, dad's got his thing with the guys, must've slipped my mind,' is just easier.

He looks at the calendar more closely, realizes Andy has pencilled in his appointments at the hospital, time and date of each check-up, some with little stars next to them. Today has a star. It takes him a couple of minutes to figure it out: She marked the days she's on shift.

He scratches his chin, tries to decide what to do with this information. Andy playing nurse and just doing all this stuff is a thing he both loves and hates. Loves the assumptions SHE'S making, hates his own.

Just, it's all adding up in his head, the sleepovers, the cooking, the dirty underw--clothes, and now his calendar. She's invading every single part of his life, and it's just hard not to put it all together and get... something, is all.

And Sam isn't sure what the something's supposed to be and it's driving him up a fucking wall. Unless it's just the drugs and the boredom.

Two appointments (one star) into the future is Sarah's birthday. It's andy's weekend off, too, if he's got this right.

("When do I get to meet YOUR family?")

Sam sighs, this loud, exaggerated noise in the quiet that surrounds him.

There's a family dinner in a couple of weeks, in a couple of hours McNally will be home (Back, Swarek, not home), and in between the two he's pretty sure he's going on a date.

Turns out you CAN spend more than three hours reading restaurant reviews. Sam's just putting down the phone after making reservations for a table for two when the door's pushed open and McNally walks in.

* * *

Sam spent all of Thursday night trying to figure out a way to tell Andy about the reservations he made that wouldn't be embarrassing. (How pleased he hoped she'd be, how obvious it'd probably be that he was. How much it'd disappoint him if she didn't actually care, made plans to go to the Penny with Nash.)

He tried to get the words out over the coffee she brought him in bed on Friday morning, but still didn't really--somehow the words just weren't making their way from his brain to his mouth, and the feeling was so familiar he couldn't make himself break pattern.

Around noon it came to him: He added the time and place to the calendar in the kitchen. Permanent marker, no going back. "With Andy" taking up half of that date next month, a necessary addition to the when and where. Basically the whole point. Of everything.

In the end it doesn't actually matter (the entry, all the planning. Not Andy, she matters, he can't really escape that reality.), text rolls in just after five: "Working late, Traci caught a homicide. U okay to fix dinner or should I send Dov to cook for you?"

Which, the idea of Epstein coming over is what has him annoyed (disappointed, stupid voice in his head corrects, Sam ignores it), it's not that he was looking forward to her coming home and seeing the calendar and--"Pretty sure I can still order take-out."

She sends back a smiley face and nothing else and normally he hates when people do that, but he still isn't past the stage where the fact that she's smiling at him at all is something he's ridiculously grateful for, so.

He wakes up Saturday morning to a house that's too quiet and a day that's too long.

Resists the urge to call McNally and ask her what she's doing. He's not some invalid who needs her to help him with every damn thing.

It's not like he can't go 24 hours without talking to her.

Except at 11 he realizes he never told her where they're going. And then straight after that: She might not actually have meant it, she's been spending most of her time with him, might be looking forward to a night off.

Except. She LOOKED happy, was never real subtle with that. Emotional sponge sucking up everything, but always dripping all over the place, too. (Back in the day, it never took him more than a couple of minutes to work out if she'd seen Callaghan the night before or he'd stood her up for work.

But that was a different lifetime and there's no denying that she's a lot more guarded now.)

Either way, she has the truck (The, not his, as if he no longer has exclusive ownership of a vehicle he bought and paid for.) so he can't even just show up on her doorstep at seven and expect her to be ready.

At 11.21 he sends her a text: La Fontaine 7.30, we have a reservation so don't be late to pick me up.

Which is probably not how any books on courtship recommend that you relay that sort of information, but Sam never read a book on courtship in his life and he has no intention of doing it in the future, so screw that. (Doesn't really plan to do much courting in the future, either, once he gets that ring on--shower. Sam needs a shower.)

Half an hour later she still hasn't replied and he's trying to decide if he should be worried that something happened last night, or if he should be worried that he screwed up in some way, misread a road sign and drove himself off a cliff.

And then, while he's doing the physio exercises they gave him at the hospital (This is how desperate he is for something to do), he hears his phone chirping.

Forces himself to go through the entire regime, kills the time telling himself it's Oliver sending him a dumb joke. There's no reason to assume the text is from McNally. He gets two more texts before he's done.

They're all from her.

"Sam????"

"SERIOUSLY?"

"Check your porch. See u tonite." The first two make him smile but the last one... What?

He does it, though.

There's a bag on the doormat, the logo from her favourite coffee shop on the front. Next to the bag a lidded paper cup is letting out a thin trail of steam.

Back inside he almost has the paper bag torn open to find out what's inside before he realizes she scribbled something on the bag.

"I was going to bring you this but I have to go do girly things now. See you tonight."

Underneath is a massive smiley face, triple-lined blue ink grinning back at him.

Sam would like to think the drawing looks goofier than him but he honestly isn't sure. He eats his peanut butter cheesecake on the couch, trying to come up with a reply to McNally's texts. When all of the cake is gone, the message field is still blank.

Sam takes a deep breath, ignores every idea he has about written communication.

Sends her back a smiley face.

* * *

This is officially the worst night of Sam's life.

He's sitting here wearing a goddamn shirt and TIE, waiting for McNally.

And she's late.

Two decades of being late for dates because of work or indifference or forgetfulness have caught up with him in about ten minutes and he's checking his phone and the window in turns every five seconds and there's NOTHING about this feeling that he doesn't hate. (Also, he's beginning to wonder how all of those women didn't just dump him then and there.)

If the suffragettes had pulled a stunt like this they would've been given the vote in five seconds. Or been chained to the stove to make sure they never left again, one of the two.

McNally's already a VERY conscientious voter (reads the stupid leaflets and watches debates about things she never really cared about and everything) and she's not close enough to the stove for him to chain her to it, so Sam's left to just check his watch for the hundredth time.

He TOLD her not to be late. Was actually pretty clear about that. Reservations, McNally. He planned all this out, even read the wine menu and read some reviews online so he'd have some idea of what to order.

He spent a LOT of time preparing for this and then she just doesn't show up when she said she would. Well, when he TOLD her to, but he got the impression that she agreed.

Smiley faces his ass.

His heart does a thing that feels disgustingly like it's skipping a beat when he FINALLY hears the sound of the truck pulling up outside.

He can hear the engine being turned off, the sound of a car door being slammed and stays very, very firmly in place while he waits for the door to open. No way is he running to the door to meet her just because she finally decided to show up.

He wants to so fucking badly.

It's quiet for a while and he wonders if maybe it wasn't her at all, just someone with the same truck randomly deciding to use his driveway as a parking lot.

Then the doorbell rings.

(Just, McNally has a key, what's going on here?)

He counts to three, tries to decide if he's more worried it really isn't her or that he's turning into such a girl, then he gets up. Walks SLOWLY (well, it's not like he'd be running anywhere these days) to the door and opens it.

It's McNally.

She's wrapped in a coat, a bit of red dress sticking out at the bottom. Her hair's up in some elaborate do that makes him want to pull out the bobby pins and watch it fall down.

She holds out a red corsage, the exact same colour as what he can see of her dress, hands it to him.

“Sorry I'm late, I had a shaving accident and--” She trails off, looks embarrassed for a second or two but then she catches the look on Sam's face, how his eyes trail to places his eyes should NOT be at, and starts laughing. (Just, she never did before and... Well.)

“No,” she tells him when she's able to talk again. Lifts up her leg, shows him a tiny cut, still red and bloody under the sheer tights he didn't even realize she was wearing.

“Sorry,” he says, not sure if it's for the injury or the inappropriate ogling. Takes the corsage, wonders what the hell he's supposed to be doing with it.

“I think I'll live,” she answers lightly, not really clearing up anything. She points at the box in his hand. “I just figured, I'm the one picking YOU up, I should be the guy and bring you a flower or something.”

How appropriate, Sam doesn't say. “I'm not putting this on.”

She grins, walks past him into the house like they're not 20 minutes late already. Grabs the corsage and walks to the kitchen. He can hear the fridge open and close and then nothing.

They really are SERIOUSLY late, what the hell is she doing? He follows her.

Finds her standing in front of the fridge, just staring at the closed door. When she hears him shifting in the doorway she turns around to look at him, one hand moving to the calendar. The smile grows slowly, like she wants him to see that he put it there.

He scratches the back of his head, says: “Didn't wanna forget,” sounding less gruff than he maybe intended. Smiles back.

When she moves to go back outside she pauses in the doorway as she squeezes past him, that smile still on her face as she just stands there, looking at him. (Wearing ridiculous heels that put them exactly at eye level, which Sam both doesn't like and really, really does.)

He reaches up with both hands, grabs the collar of her coat to pull her closer. “We're late.”

She nods, stuck somewhere between mock-serious and--a different kind of serious. “Sorry.”

“It's okay,” he assures her, his fingers brushing lightly over the skin on her neck. “We should get going, though.”

She shivers although she must be melting under that heavy coat. “Yeah.” She doesn't move.

Reservations, wine reviews. He's wearing a TIE.

Also, if he stays like this for one more second he's going to pull them both off a ledge and there'll be no getting back up.

He clears his throat and lets go of her at the same time, sidesteps into the living room and nods in the direction of the half-open front door.

She catches up with him on the front porch, walks ahead of him down the stairs, and goes to hold the passenger side door for him. When he opens his mouth to object she shakes her head. “I'm the man, remember.”

The drive is quiet and it's a little unsettling. Mostly because of how aware he is of every move she makes, how he keeps thinking it's him she's reaching for, not the radio (She's found a station that plays only 60s music, and he thinks it must be for his benefit.) or her handbag on the dashboard.

It's fine, though. He stays just as quiet, practises timing his stolen glances so he doesn't accidentally catch her eye.

At the restaurant he approaches the maitre'd. (She may 'be the man' but HE'S the one who made the reservation, so.) The guy gives them a look like he doesn't appreciate their lack of time management skills, inspects McNally's hair a little too carefully as he takes her coat, like he's got some ideas about why they're late.

Her hair's immaculate, though, and Sam wants to tell the geezer that's probably the real reason.

But then McNally's not wearing her coat anymore and he gets to see the rest of the dress that stupid corsage was bought to match.

It's new, he's pretty sure. New enough that he's never seen it before, anyway. Which is not--they never actually did this before, dressing up and going out, but he's seen the inside of her wardrobe and nope.

He would definitely have remembered this dress. Or maybe it's only because she's wearing it. It looks a little bit like it's painted on, the way it hugs her body. It's not like it's all that revealing, really, but with the spaghetti straps and how it dips low in back it's still a LOT of skin all of a sudden, Sam can't help noticing.

He realizes she's blushing a little under his stare and clears his throat (again. Must have a cold coming on or something), turns to the maitre'd, waiting for him to lead them to their table. The guy's hugging two menus looking supremely bored, like men gaping at women in slinky dresses is something he sees every day.

It probably is.

All that time spent going over the menu at home means Sam already knows what he wants, so he spends about five minutes looking at McNally over the top of his leather-bound menu while a nervous-looking waiter brings them bread and a bottle of water.

In the end she pulls an “I'll have what he's having,” and he almost tells the waiter to give her extra cheese (she's the man) but he doesn't look like he'd get the joke.

Also, it's duck, so.

“So how was your day?” Andy asks once the waiter's gone. She's fiddling with that cloth napkin she was so excited about, like maybe she doesn't exactly know what to do with her hands. Maybe she would've been more comfortable with take-out from Wong's when you got right down to it.

“It was fine.” He did nothing today, can't add to the small-talk with any kind of fun anecdotes about what he got up to. Not unless she's REALLY interested in how he spent half an hour practising twirling a pen in one hand.

(Spent another half hour – maybe two – thinking about tonight, how it might go, what it might mean, how it might end. Then he took a shower. A long one. But it's not like he's going to tell her about THAT.)

“What did you do?” Talking about her seems like a safer bet.

She shrugs, this self-deprecating gesture that's stupidly endearing. “Girly things,” she reminds him. “Bought a dress, spent about an hour doing my hair...”

“It looks nice,” he tells her, because it seems like the right thing to say. It doesn't NOT look nice but he really doesn't have much of an opinion beyond that if he's completely honest. Mostly it looks like the process was potentially painful.

“Thanks,” she says, sounds like she knows exactly what he's thinking and she's equal parts amused and exasperated. Which he'll happily take.

The waiter shows up again, flashing the bottle of wine Sam picked out beforehand like he's David Copperfield and he's about to make it disappear. He pours a bit of it into Sam's glass and Sam picks it up, swirls it around a little, like he knows what the point of that actually is. Then he takes a slow sip, carefully tasting the wine.

Across the table McNally's trying real hard to suppress her amusement and not doing a very good job of it, which makes taking this whole charade seriously pretty hard.

He nods at the waiter, who fills both their glasses halfway and flicks the bottle to stop a drop from spilling before he sets it down on the table and leaves.

“I like the dress, too.” God. He feels like an idiot. How is conversation suddenly this hard? He DOES like the dress, though. Also, buying a dress before a date, doesn't that imply some sort of 'big deal' business? And shaving her legs?

Sam's not an expert on these things, but he's pretty sure he's been told once that women only bother with that if they expect someone to be touching their legs in the near future.

(It could've been Oliver, and therefore complete bullshit, but he's thinking it wasn't.)

All of a sudden Sam's regretting ordering a starter for more reasons than that's more time they'll have to fill with words none of them seem to be able to find. Because now it's also more time for him to obsess about why she bought a dress and why she shaved her legs, and is the whole significance of the leg-shaving negated by the fact that she TOLD him about it?

Sam drinks a large gulp of wine, and then another. Decides he needs to come up with something to talk about real quick or he's gonna get drunk on ridiculously expensive wine.

“How, uh,” she hesitates, seems unsure of how to phrase her question, but then she plunges in. Or, slowly dips her toes to test the water, is probably a more appropriate metaphor, Sam thinks. “How's physiotherapy? Are you getting better?”

It's not something they've really discussed at all. Haven't actually discussed much of anything at all. Sam's been craving some answers pretty desperately lately, but at the same time he's scared to ask the questions, force any kind of issue, because the way they are right now, the way she's THERE, is something he's enjoying too much to risk losing it.

Is just enjoying too much, basically.

It's also possible she TRIED bringing up his recovery on the first day, what he should and shouldn't be doing, and he made it sort of clear he wasn't up for discussing it. So she'd talked to the doctor and he let her, which maybe surprised her a little. But then she seemed to take it as a sign that he was okay with her taking over his home care, buying his groceries and making sure he got to his check-ups.

And also sleeping in his bed and going on dates with him, apparently.

She wasn't wrong.

“I'm doing fine,” he tells her. It's true. It still hurts, he's not going to be running any marathons in the next couple of weeks, but it hurts LESS.

Part of him thinks maybe it's because there's less of him that's hurting with her around – he's left with just the physical pain, which is somehow a lot more manageable than what he's been living the past year.

Another part of him realizes it's just because he's healing.

There's a very real possibility the two are related, though.

“I'll be back at work in no time,” he says lightly. He wants to TALK, but he doesn't want it to be about how he can't lift a sack of potatoes off the ground.

She nods, leans back in her seat a little as the waiter places the first course in front of them.

Apparently Andy decides his refusal to talk about his recovery means he doesn't want to talk about anything deep, and with a look and tone on her like maybe he's being 'handled', like he's some witness she's trying to put at ease, she prattles on about what's happening at the barn, dinner with her dad and his girlfriend. (So apparently THAT'S a thing. Sam wants to ask her how she feels about the whole step mom part of it, wonders if there's an age where that's no longer an issue and you're just happy for your parents that they found someone. But this is ANDY, she probably would've always felt that way.

Or would've insisted that she did until everyone believed it, including her.)

The waiter takes their plates after the main course and then leaves them alone. It may just be that it's that kind of place, but Sam has the feeling the guy's being extra discreet, careful not to interrupt them. Has another feeling it's because of the way McNally keeps twirling a stray strand of hair around her finger and he keeps looking at her and maybe doesn't have a lot of attention left for the words she's saying.

(She bought a new dress, she shaved her legs, they're on a DATE. There are a LOT of other things he can be thinking about here, is the point.)

After what's probably the appropriate amount of time, the waiter returns, asks them if they want to see the desert menu.

McNally's shaking her head but has a look in her eyes like maybe they're secretly nodding, so Sam tells the guy yes.

She smiles at him, and he feels like whatever else happens tonight, he got THIS part right.

After she's spent at least five minutes memorizing the menu (Sam took one look and decided to go with chocolate fondant, fully expecting her to be the type to order something boring and then eat half of his) she looks up at him, teeth digging into her bottom lip. “Do you think we could get our dessert to go?” Her face is transforming into something childish and adorable he wants to look at every day and also doesn't, because it makes him think nothing else really matters and there's no way that's healthy.

“You leave the iron on or something, McNally?” he asks sarcastically. It's what he does, when he feels like she could see right into his soul if she looked a little closer.

“I just want to see if they'll make a tinfoil swan,” she admits.

He laughs. Wonders if she'll ever not surprise him. “I'm sure they will if you ask.”

She shakes her head. “No, they have to just do it, it has to be a surprise.”

Sam shakes his head at her, looks up to find they're being watched by a guy who's really eager to find out what they've decided on.

After the waiter leaves Sam excuses himself and goes looking for the men's room. Catches up with the waiter around the corner and pokes a finger into his shoulder to get his attention.

* * *

McNally carries her tinfoil swan to the car, cradling it carefully like it's a newborn baby. There's practically a bounce in her step.

(Sam left a pretty generous tip and the waiter winked at him as they walked out.)

She hands the thing to him when she has to get out the car keys. Does it hesitantly, maybe isn't sure he'll take proper care of her new pet.

He holds it carefully in both hands, moves into the seat back first and she doesn't stop smiling the whole drive back to his house.

When he gets out he brings the swan without really thinking about it and she follows him.

They both pause on the front porch, Sam not really sure how to proceed. Judging from the way McNally's scraping one stiletto'ed foot along the veins in the wood under her he thinks maybe he's not alone.

“So I think traditionally this is the part where the guy's walked the girl to her front door, and...” She trails off, a nervous smile on her face.

Traditionally, this is the part where the guy kisses the girl goodnight and leaves, is where he figures she's headed. He'd be totally fine with HALF of that happening.

And it's not the 'leaving' part.

So: “Do you wanna come in for a cup of coffee?”

She laughs softly, a sound that travels in through his ears and all the way to his fingertips where it leaves a tinkling sensation that touching her skin will either stop or multiply a million times.

He grins, feels himself moving closer to her – or maybe she's the one doing the moving, he's not sure. “Too slutty?”

“For you? Nooo,” she assures him, grin growing wide and teasing.

He dumps the swan on the porch railing, grabs her coat by the collar, pulls her closer. Does it all rough like he's gonna wipe that smirk off her face. But smiling, too, and maybe the roughness only looks that way from the outside, slow-motion moves that take any kind of threat out of them, have McNally's eyes going wide and expectant for a whole other reason, he's pretty sure.

Just, she's not a very convincing end-of-date guy. Unless it was a BAD date, of course, in which case--

He lets go of her, takes half a step back, reaches behind him for the door handle. She almost stumbles and he realizes she was leaning into him pretty far. Plus she's wearing those ridiculous heels.

She steadies herself with a hand on his shoulder. “Coffee would be good, thanks.”

He smiles, puffs some air out through his nose, which might be considered a laugh. Fumbles with the door some more before realizing he never actually unlocked it. Smooth moves, Casanova.

He turns around, does the whole shaky hand, key in lock thing and tries to remind himself that he is in fact NOT a seventeen-year-old boy about to get laid for the first time.

He's probably not even about to get laid, so...

When he finally manages this complicated task he's been doing for decades without any kind of trouble, he pushes the door open and waves a hand for her to walk in ahead of him. She does, smiling like she needs to be reminded they're not seventeen, too. She's fiddling with the swan, it's gone lopsided from its rough landing on the railing.

Sam would feel bad, but it's a tinfoil swan so he's struggling a little.

She still hands it over with no reluctance before shrugging off her coat. Looks down at her shoes like she's considering her options (Preparing for a quick getaway, McNally? Should I leave the door open?) but then she steps out of them with a sigh of contentment. “I won't be able to put them back on now,” she informs him.

“What, ever?” There are shoes you can only wear once? What the hell happens to them?

“Tonight.”

Okay, then. Sam locks the door.

*

Andy's trying to figure out a way to get to the contents out of her swan without actually destroying her swan and Sam's making coffee, trying to decide how long it'll be before the fact that there's chocolate cake in there makes her not worry so much about the tinfoil.

He's ALSO trying to figure out why there's suddenly this tension in the air that wasn't there when he was making coffee LAST night and she was pouring M&M's on a slice of buttered toast and doing her best to convince him it was delicious.

“You can just leave them in there,” he suggests, stretching carefully and pulling two mugs from a cabinet.

She shoots him an unamused glare and he shrugs.

She's right in front of the cutlery drawer and he needs a spoon. He pauses, considering his options, then steps right up to her and nudges her with his hip. Which, depending on how badly he wanted that spoon, backfires a little, because she doesn't step aside like he expected, she turns toward him instead.

“Tonight was great, Sam,” she says, leaning her hip against the counter. Looks at him, eyes bright and sincere. There's a mascara smudge under her left eye and he sort of wants to reach out and rub it off.

“The night isn't over,” he points out. It's not even ten o'clock, they're about to have coffee. And dessert.

She laughs, sounds surprised and maybe kind of pleased and definitely like she thinks he's insinuating something else.

And maybe kind of pleased.

“Oh, really?” Which, that was not the 'oh really' of someone thinking about coffee, he's almost sure. Sam's a detective, after all, pretty good at reading people.

The thing is, she's practically living here, grocery runs, overnight nursing duties and whatnot. Where's the line between date and normal evening? He'd sort of like a manual, because she's still looking at him like she's waiting for him to DO something.

Like all the dancing around any kind of real issues has suddenly stopped and they're standing still, so close he can feel her soft breath on his chin when she exhales.

“Yeah,” he agrees, tries to hit the same tone without sounding like he's got expectations or a plan or any kind of clue.

He has a feeling they've been here before, him throwing out a casual comment and her reading something into it he maybe didn't quite realize he meant until she called him on it.

That time she turned him down.

This time she's reaching for his tie, running her thumb down the strip of blue silk. “I can't believe you wore a tie,” she says, part amusement, part fascination.

Her knuckles brush against his shirt, warmth from her hand seeping through the fabric and spreading to every part of him. He shrugs, looks down at her hand that doesn't let go.

“Thank you.”

He cracks half a smile. “For wearing a tie?” Seriously? You get points for ties? Suddenly her and Callaghan makes a whole new kind of sense.

“For all of it,” she explains, tugging on the tie so lightly he's not really sure she means to do it. “I mean, you really didn't have to.”

“I know,” he agrees, secretly thinks he probably sort of did have to.

Her eyes are still on his tie, like it's the most interesting thing she's ever seen, and he's beginning to think this obsession with formal wear is probably going to become an issue when she suddenly looks up, meets his eyes, and he realizes she's not thinking about his outfit at all.

He's seen that look before, somewhere between a blackout and a cover apartment, and this is it. He can feel his heart rate speeding up, fight or flight instincts kicking in: He can't escape the idea that the rest of his life is being settled RIGHT NOW.

“Andy, I--” He stops himself, not really sure what he wants to say. There are a million things, all trying to hide behind each other so they won't be what he spits out.

She smiles, nods slowly like she heard all of them. He reaches for her, one hand wrapping around her head, fingers digging into her hair, nudging a few strands loose. He wouldn't be surprised if she did hear.

He pulls her in gently, slow enough that he has time to think about how they got here and all the ways he can still screw this up.

In the end she's the one who closes the distance, leaning up slightly and touching her lips to his. She does it gently, as if in spite of everything she still isn't sure this is what he wants and she's just testing the waters.

It lasts for maybe two seconds but it's enough to send everything he's been suppressing and trying to forget rushing back and then floodgates have been opened and his body remembers EVERYTHING about this woman and how good she used to make him feel.

He steps into her, his lips crashing against hers, and she responds with an urgency he thinks just might match his own.

After what may have been forever but probably wasn't, she pulls back a little, her breath coming out in short puffs on his face. “Sam. I want my cake first.”

He laughs, sneaks in a quick peck on her lips and pulls back reluctantly. Keeps his hand on the small of her back because breaking contact completely just doesn't seem possible right now. He might blink and she'd be gone.

She tears the tinfoil swan apart and eats her chocolate fondant on her way to the bedroom, carrying it at an angle to stop the cooling goo from spilling out. Before she has even swallowed the last mouthful she turns on him, suddenly serious. “The doctor said not for two weeks. That wasn't two weeks ago.”

He licks a bit of stray chocolate from her chin, pushes the strap of her dress off her shoulder for better access as he kisses a trail down her neck and along her collarbone. “And how would you know that, McNally?”

“Because I asked.”

He grins against her skin. “Really? And just how specific did you get?” he asks, nibbling at the warm skin of her shoulder, pulling back a little to let her undo his dress pants.

“Uh--” She hesitates, her hands crawling up under his shirt, skirting along the edge of his bandages. “I dunno.”

“Did baseball metaphors come up?” he asks, slightly mocking T.O. voice on.

She pulls at his tie, loosening it and then pulling it off. She discards it on the floor like maybe she's not all that fussed about ties after all and gets to work unbuttoning his shirt. “Saaam.” Like she can't quite believe he'd ask that and what is he, fifteen?

“I'm just wondering what sort of activities the good doctor told you I should stay away from,” he says, reaches around her to unzip her dress, which is left hanging loosely off her body, held up by the straps around her elbows.

She releases her arms and lets the dress fall to the floor, then flicks the last button of his shirt through its buttonhole and pulls at the shirt until he moves and lets her push it off.

She takes a step back, her eyes travelling slowly down his chest and back up again. Sam feels exposed but also like he doesn't mind it at all.

“I guess we'll figure it out,” she says, dragging her gaze up to meet his eyes.

He gets the feeling she's talking about more than just the doctor's orders. “Yes,” he agrees. “We will.”

She smiles, leans in to kiss him again.

 

END