Rusty stood across the street from Saint Joseph's and watched as the guests began to slowly file into the church. It was the same church that only a few weeks ago they'd held a memorial service for Gus and Sharon. Neither were Catholic, but Sharon pulled some strings with Father Stan and arranged everything. Rusty hadn't even known where to start, but as usual she knew exactly what to do and what to say. Gus's mother took custody of the remains and brought him out to Las Vegas, it wasn't what Rusty thought he'd want but he had little say in the matter. When he was given a choice where to lay his mother to rest he couldn't decide. Cremation. Burial. He had no idea where the rest of her family was and doubted there was a family plot with her name on it.
"Where do you think she'd like to be?" Dr. Joe asked as they neared the end of their session.
"I have no clue," he replied for what seemed to be the millionth time. It'd be come his default response to many questions over the last few weeks.
"Okay," Dr. Joe paused, "Where would you like her to be, so you can visit her?"
"Somewhere safe," he replied without thinking.
Rusty had thought his response was preposterous after all she was already dead, there was no need to be safe any more. It wasn't until much later that something else made him think of Alice and how he'd wished he could have kept her safe too. In that moment he realized he wanted his mother to be buried near Alice. There seemed to be some strange comfort in knowing the two were together, despite never having known one another. In some ways their lives were similar, essentially two kids that ended up on the streets. Different lives, different paths, but sadly the same tragic outcome. He thought back to something from a case years ago, "if you hang out with criminals, you eventually are going to become a witness, a suspect of a victim." When Sharon had spoken those words to him he'd only thought of himself, as he did so many times. He lived on the streets and had become a witness, who else could she have been talking about if not him. Like many things she'd said to him over the years, the impact would come to hit him later. He looked at the scene unfolding across the street, and he thought back to something he'd told her once "you drop an egg, sometimes it breaks, sometimes it doesn't." Rusty couldn't explain why he was the one who had lived, why it seemed like his "egg" didn't seem to break. It was almost as if when he fell he always landed on something soft, cushioning the drop and keeping him from shattering.
It was a warm afternoon for November, even by LA standards. He'd been worried it would rain when he checked the forecast earlier in the week. It seemed, however, that God would only let light shine down on Sharon and Andy. He saw another black car pull up and watched as his sisters stepped out wearing beautiful purple dresses. Nicole looking back at Emily and smiling, next to her stood the boys his nephews now he supposed. There across the street, mere yards away, was his entire family. He knew of course it wasn't everyone his baby sister had a cold and wouldn't be coming and obviously his mother wasn't. It took him some time to come to some type of delineation in his mind between the two Sharon's in his life. Talking to Dr. Joe had helped of course, but actually it was Nicole's husband Dean who'd said something that stuck with him. Dean's boys were young when their mother died and they had only a few memories of her. Like Rusty did with Sharon, the boys went back and forth between calling Nicole by her name and by "mom." Dean shrugged one day and told him Jennifer would always be their mother, but Nicole was their mom. It didn't make sense at the time, it seemed like he was saying the same thing. The term meant the same thing mom, ma, mother, mama, it was all just variations on the same concept. But it wasn't he realized. There was Sharon who had given birth to him and tried to raise him, tried to mother him. Then there was Sharon who taught him how to be an adult, how to interact with society, how to be part of a family. While she mothered him too, it was different, she "momed" him as she did with Ricky and Emily, and even sometimes Andy's kids.
The light caught on an ivory white dress next to the black town car and Rusty couldn't help but draw his eyes to the sight of her moving up the steps. This was his mom.
He felt a slap on his shoulder and spun around.
"Hey little bro," it was Ricky, "time to get this show on the road before one of them gets cold feet."
"Mom already has cold feet, and I don't think either one of them is going anywhere without the other," he let out a small chuckle as he thought about the numerous conversations he'd unwittingly overheard between his mom and Andy.
"Yeah you're probably right about that," he nodded in agreement and gestured for them to start moving away from his post adjacent the church.
As the pair crossed the street in their matching tuxes, the bridesmaids ushered Sharon up the steps and into the hall. Ricky was going to be walking his mother down the aisle, but she'd asked Rusty to do the reading. She hadn't specified which passage she wanted and it'd made him feel anxious. He'd done the obligatory google search down the rabbit's hole of wedding readings, but nothing seemed right. The words were right, there was nothing wrong per say with what they had to say, but nothing felt right. He'd seen Wedding Crashers enough times that he didn't want to pick something that was so stereotypical that everyone had the words memorized. Sharon asked him to tag along, mostly because she didn't want him out of her sight for the first few weeks after he was released from the hospital, to meet with Father Stan. She said she was just finalizing things, but in hindsight she'd brought him for a reason.
"Rusty can you hang out here for a minute while I go back to car," she left her purse next to him on the pew.
"Yes, it's okay to leave me unsupervised for five minutes," he tried to keep the childish exasperation out of his voice, but knew he'd failed when he caught her expression.
"Oh I'm not leaving you unattended," she pointed, "Father Stan will keep an eye on you."
Once Sharon was out of ear shot the priest spoke, "She only hovers because she cares."
"I know," he sighed and he appreciated it, but he was also feeling a bit smothered lately.
"So I hear you're giving the reading," he stated as he sat in the pew across from Rusty.
"Yeah," he ran a hand through his blond hair, "I'm not sure which one to pick. I don't want to pick the wrong thing, you know?"
He nodded, "I don't think you could pick the wrong thing Rusty."
"I'm not Catholic or anything, and well," he shrugged, "I just want something that says the right things."
"I can understand that, but Rusty," he stood up as he heard the doors open, "it's family they'll know what you're trying to say, just pick from the heart."
It was such a simple thought, he'd scoffed at it initially as just priestly platitudes, but as he flipped through the paperback pages of his St. Joe's copy of the Bible from school he found himself thumbing around actually reading passages. He hadn't really bothered to read much if anything when he was forced to take a semester of bible lit, hadn't cared to get that invested in it. Now though, everything was different, life was never going to be what it had been three months ago. It took him a week, but he'd managed to read the entire thing cover to cover. He was surprised and how many ties he found to his law books and even other literature he'd read. What surprised him even more was that in the highlighted margins he'd found a scribble in his own hand. It must have been a passage they'd been studying in class. He'd scrawled time to get our of here sarcastically.
As the brothers stepped into the church they were overwhelmed by high pitched squeals and giggles coming from one end of the hallway. The women were all lined up, blocking the view of Sharon. In front stood Mark and Ben in their mini-tuxedos. They'd spent the morning pretending they were James Bond, ducking around corners and pulling on their cuffs. When they saw Rusty they bolted from their spot in the line up and ran up to him yelling "Rusty! Rusty!"
"Hey!" He knelt beside them, "Excited I see."
"Yes, we get to walk down the aisle before Grandma Sharon!" Ben said enthusiastically.
"That you do," he watched as they waved the ring pillows around, "Let's be careful with those boys." He put his hand out to still their motion, before Nicole came over to usher them back.
"We're about ready," she said, "C'mon boys back in line."
"But we're talking to Uncle Rusty," cried Mark annoyingly.
"We can talk all night, at the reception, remember," he said giving the boy a pat on the shoulder.
"Okay," he relented and shuffled his way back with the others. Rusty couldn't help but smile, the boys were hilarious at times and he wondered if he was ever like that when he was their age.
He needed to take his place next to Andy and Provenza at the alter, but he couldn't walk away without seeing her. Following Ricky, he passed by photographer and bridesmaids to where Sharon was standing, her back turned. The long delicate veil covered her auburn hair that was pulled into a low knot to one side. She seemed to sense them approaching and turned, her dress twisting partially around framing her just so. Rusty could see her eyes welling up, "Don't cry, Andy will have our hides."
"Yeah, mom, don't ruin your make-up, I'm getting hungry and I know how long it'll take you to fix it!" Ricky deadpanned causing Sharon to break out in a wide smile.
Rusty looked up at him, he always seemed to know exactly what to say to her to get her to laugh. It was a gift that he wish he had, lately it seemed that everything he said or did made her cry. She said they were happy tears, which Emily had to explain for him, but he wasn't always so sure.
"My boys," she placed her mixed bouquet of dark purple calla lilies, scabies pod, lamb's ear, and tiny pastel green hydrangeas and ran her hand down each of their cheeks, "Thank you for being here and thank you for being my sons."
It was a sentiment he'd heard before, but nonetheless caused him to blush. He was getting better at not questioning why she loved him so much and was working on just accepting the fact that she did. Some days were easier than others.
"Let's get this show on the road," Ricky clapped his hands together, "everyone ready?"
Rusty leaned in and gave Sharon a hug, "thank you for being my mom," he whispered and then left the bridal party in the hall to join Andy. When the wide doors to the church opened the beauty of it all struck him, he hadn't expected to get all emotional over seeing some guests and a few flower arrangements. What he saw though wasn't just a few flowers the space was filled with lilies that gave the air a different scent than he was accustomed to smelling during mass. And it wasn't just some guests, it was the team, it was Sharon's parents and Andy's sister, it was their friends - it was family.
Andy spotted him, thankfully, and walked partially down the aisle to meet him, "Ok?" He asked. Andy had been more discrete with his hovering than Sharon, which he'd come to appreciate. They were quite the pair, and he was beginning to realize more and more that they were his pair. Nicole and Nathan had Andy and Sandra. Emily and Ricky had Sharon and Jack. But Rusty, Rusty had Sharon and Andy.
He'd only heard bits and pieces about what happened in the shed, and for once he was glad he didn't know everything, but he had learned exactly what Andy had done for him, and his mother. Naturally Andy never said anything to him, except a few words muttered after the funeral about how she'd never stopped loving him, but nothing else. No it was Provenza, of course, who had pulled him aside and let him read a copy of the after-action report that FID filed. He wasn't supposed to give that to Rusty, but Provenza never was one to like following the rules.
He didn't read it right away, he'd filed it away in his notebook and into his messenger bag. For several days he walked around with it, pulling it out only to put it back. He thought about reading it over with Dr. Joe, but didn't want to put him in an awkward ethical situation. It took two weeks before he finally pulled the file out and kept it out. In a rare moment where Sharon had let him out of her sight, he'd driven the car around LA, nowhere in particular. He found himself up Mulholland Drive looking down the canyon towards the Pacific. The beach wasn't his usual place to relax or think. Unlike Sharon and Andy, he really didn't like the beach — too much sand and too many people. But that fall evening it felt like the right place to be. Putting the car in park at an overlook spot he finally opened the blue folder and read through the contents. There were pages and pages, and he'd eventually read the entirety but his first response was to flip to the end.
The bullet fired from Lieutenant Flynn's gun was determined to be the fatal shot to the victim's head (see coroner's report attached).
Our findings have determined that the use of force was justified and done with the expressed goal of saving the two hostages.
We recommend submitting Lieutenant Flynn for a meritorious service award for his heroic efforts.
He'd read the words several times. Andy saved him. Andy killed Stroh. Andy tried to save his mother. He knew it was the entire team that helped save him that day, but it was Andy who was there. He felt bonded to him, tied in a new way — no one else could understand what happened.
"Here," Andy gestured towards the pew, jarring Rusty from his thoughts. Andy had brought him to the front of the church and gestured for him to sit next to Sharon's parents. He had been so lost in his thoughts he wasn't sure how his body had moved down the aisle without him knowing. He'd just followed Andy. Life was different these days. They were different. Neither spoke about it, but there seemed to be a mutual recognition of the other.
There was life before Stroh and life after Stroh. In his sessions with Dr. Joe he'd come to call them BS and AS. Before his mind could wander back down a darkened alley the organ began playing and everyone turned to look over their shoulders. Rusty mimicked them, as he often did when he wasn't sure what he was supposed to do. He watched as Ben and Mark ran up the aisle, faster than they'd practiced the night before, and hugged Andy before Dean corralled them to the side. Then one by one the ladies filed down until the doors closed. The organ switched over to the bridal march and everyone stood. When the doors opened and Sharon stepped through them, he felt a knot rise from his belly and get caught in his throat. He turned and watched Andy's face as his mom walked towards him, all he saw was love. It was such a pure expression of love, one he'd never seen before that tears formed.
When she and Ricky reached the end of the aisle she turned towards him and gave him a weepy-eyed smile before returning her focus on Andy who was wholly absorbed, as he often was, in Sharon. The organ stopped and they all sat down as Sharon and Andy moved up the alter with Father Stan. His reading would be soon and he felt his leg start to bounce, jittery as his nerves rose to the surface. He didn't usually have trouble public speaking, but since the incident he felt exposed in large groups. He felt Violet reach over and touch his knee, he looked up at her as she whispered, "Everything will be just fine." With a nod he relaxed into her calming touch and took a deep breath, waiting to hear his name being called.
"And now a reading by their son, Rusty," he heard Father Stan say and it jarred him from his introspection.
Rusty looked up, feeling nervous, but Sharon's mom gave him another reassuring nod and slight push. He stood straightening his dark purple tie and moved to the podium. He pulled out his old St. Joe's bible and flipped to the bookmark he'd left and cleared his throat. He hadn't told anyone what he was planning on reading, and oddly no one had asked. He took a deep breath and began, "Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace."
It wasn't a standard reading, certainly not a common choice for a wedding, but as he looked up closing his book he knew he'd made the right one. Both Sharon and Andy nodded, knowing just what Rusty was saying. It was a time for peace, to dance, to laugh, and to mend. They'd been a family for awhile, but now they were official. He hadn't told either of them of the envelope he had in his breast jacket pocket, it was going to be their wedding gift. Adoption papers. He wasn't sure whether he'd ever call Andy dad, but that's certainly who he'd become. It's who he'd been for awhile, it just took a crisis for him to realize it. As he stepped down from the podium and looked around, his heart swelled. He'd experienced so much loss in his young life, he never imagined that he could also experience so much gain. It was something no one ever talked about, something he didn't even get until this very moment. There was a time for loss and a time to gain — now was that time.
AN: I chose to write this final piece from Rusty's POV because it's the one we never heard from throughout the story. While I couldn't stand the character on the show, not because of GPM amazing performance but how he was written, I found yet another surprise moment of healing through this story - that I could like Rusty. Through this story I also found that I could push myself creatively beyond points I didn't know I could push through those blocks and challenges to reach the end. I know this isn't the most popular story in the fandom and I doubt it'll ever garner the mythological status of some other stories who we've brought in as "canon" but I'm glad I wrote it and I'm glad to have created my own head canon ending for this show.
I don't know if and when I'll be able to watch the show again, I hope it isn't ruined forever. Writing this has helped me heal and recognize that it's a time for love and a time for peace. Hanging onto my hatred of Duff isn't what Sharon Raydor preached through her faith nor does it do me any good. I've grieved.
I know many have asked for a sequel or for this to continue but frankly it wouldn't do this justice it was just a path I had to walk and now that I've crossed it I'm ready to move on. I may write a little smutty wedding night piece for our couple because I've realized I haven't done anything like that in months, but it'll be posted as a one-off.
Special thanks to xbleeple and blacktag189 for helping me get to this point.