The One After Dinner
Sharon hummed as she placed her napkin alongside the now empty dessert plate. "That was delicious." She smiled across the table at Andy, "Thank you, so much. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed this place, and the cheesecake." Sharon glanced out the window to her left to admire the relatively empty beach. The sun was beginning to set, a little later than expected, but the view was just as lovely as Andy had promised. He had called stopped her as they were leaving and convinced her that dinner would be nicer than sitting home alone on the couch. Their most recent case had not been particularly intense, but it had taken longer than they had hoped. The extra day or two of tracking down the suspect had resulted in a need to reschedule a few things in her personal life. Always a possibility, but still a little upsetting when there was something she was looking forward to doing.
She shifted her gaze back to the table to look at Andy, thankful that he had been persistent in getting her out of the house after all. The evening had, somewhat to her surprise, been exactly what she needed. A little break from her normal routine. A nice drive to the beach. A nice meal with a friend. Something a little more than dinner on the couch while Rusty played in a virtual chess tournament. She let out another contented exhale and gently pushed herself away from the table to scoot her chair back.
Andy grinned as he watched her eyes trail out the window and back again. He mirrored her movements and also stood, now looking at one each other from across the table. "You're welcome, Sharon. I am glad we were able to finally get that one closed. Too bad it wasn't a couple days ago." Andy allowed his voice to trail, leaving the reason the slight schedule change had been an issue unsaid. She shrugged nonchalantly in response. Her silent movement communicating, that's life, but not offering anything more.
Andy awkwardly rubbed the back of his neck in response, "But, um, still. I hope it was a good birthday, I mean a good birthday dinner at least, here, tonight. The birthday itself obviously was, well we were all there, so." He stammered briefly before he was able to regain his train of thought, "Tonight though, I hope tonight. Well, not that it was anything special… I just mean that I hope you had a good birthday in the end, minus the case and all of the other stuff."
"Minus that of course," Sharon hummed in response, finding the way he still stumbled over his words somewhat amusing. She gently waved her hand to display the empty plates and smiled, "But yes, definitely still a good birthday, Andy, and dinner too. Although, what do you mean not that it was anything special? You did not have to do this. Andy, this was special. I really appreciate what you have done for me. After the change in plans, and not everyone else being able to rearrange their schedules, I really had not expected to do anything this weekend." She laughed to herself before pausing to add, "Besides, it is not like every single birthday is meant to be special."
Noting a small change to her demeanor, he attempted to lighten the mood, "What did you say? Not every single birthday is meant to be special… Are you sure you are feeling okay, Sharon?" The left side of his mouth twitched into a lopsided grin. "Because if you are telling me that Captain -I am just surrounded by people with no sense of occasion- Raydor is saying a birthday is not always special, then something is definitely wrong."
Sharon rolled her eyes at his joke, but could not help but smile at his antics. "Well, this is a slightly different type of occasion…"
"Because it is an occasion for you?" Andy interjected, coolly.
Sharon pressed her lips into an awkward smile for a beat before continuing on as if he had not spoken. "Plus, I do seem to remember someone making fun of me for the whole sense of occasion thing. Hmm? And possibly even more than once." She stood up a little straighter and flashed him a mischievous smirk.
Chuckling softly, Andy placed his right hand to his chest in exaggerated endearment. "Sharon, how could you think that I of all people, would possibly make fun of anything about you?" She raised her eyebrow suspiciously as he stepped around his side of the table to stand just at her side. He gave her another crooked grin and lifted his hand in the direction of the front door. Not answering his question, she held back her smile and turned to weave ahead of him through the other tables. Once they were a couple steps from their table, Andy leaned forward. With his lips near her ear to insure she heard him over the other guests, he whispered, "Besides, that was all, and is always, Provenza."
At the unexpected timing of the reveal Sharon dropped her head forward and snorted, "Of course it was. How could I have ever thought it could be you? It is always, Provenza." She continued to walk only rolling her eyes in amusement at the way two of her lieutenants continued to act like twelve-year-olds when it came to one another.
The enthusiasm of her response caught Andy off guard. He paused for a moment, beaming as he watched her continue her stroll toward the door. Not hearing any kind of response, Sharon stopped and glanced back to where he stood. At her questioning stare Andy shook himself back to the moment and restarted his walk.
It only took him two large strides to meet back up with her. "It really is always Provenza. I am happy to hear that you have figured this out," he answered as if nothing had happened. Andy once again lifted his hand ahead of them, to direct them toward the exit. "You know that old man doesn't like for anyone else to have fun. He is always picking on others. There is definitely something wrong with him, Sharon. It's just not normal to be that grouchy."
A step ahead of him again Sharon considered his reasoning, "Definitely… because no one else on the team has ever had a bad day, or has ever said anything negative about me." She swiveled her head to the side to catch a glimpse of him nervously running his hand over his face. Smiling to herself she returned her gaze to the front and nodded to the host at the stand as she passed.
When she reached the door, Andy came up beside her to open it before she could. Regaining a little of his previous composure he looked at her and shrugged, "Well, over time, some of us on the team have changed."
Sharon smirked up at him as she moved through the doorway. She patted his arm reassuringly as she walked by and exhaled, "Indeed, some of us have."
After she moved on, Andy let out the uneasy breath he had been holding and followed. Sharon lingered just outside the door to wait for him. He rejoined her under the awning, his hand briefly hovering in the space behind her as they strolled side by side toward the parking lot. Always nervous that she did not realize things had changed he clarified, "We really aren't like that anymore. We don't feel the same way. Even Provenza. You know that, right?"
Still facing forward as they walked, Sharon rolled her eyes playfully and bumped him softly with her left shoulder. "I know, Andy." He smiled at the comforting touch before directing his attention to the path. The pair strolled in companionable silence until they reached his car.
At the side, Andy pressed the unlock button on the clicker and opened the passenger door for Sharon. She placed her hand on the door as she sat down into the car, signaling that she would be able to close the door herself when she was ready. Andy strode around the back of the car to the driver's side, but just as he went to open his own door, he let out a loud groan. Bypassing his door and stepping toward the front of the vehicle, he threw his hands in the direction of the front left tire. "They told me they patched it up!"
Hearing his frustrated grumble, Sharon's head snapped up to see Andy standing near the front of the car beginning to fume. Unsure of exactly what had occurred outside, she pushed her door open and stood in the doorway leaning in his direction, "Andy? Talk to me. What's wrong?"
He extended his arms farther out in front of him to point to the tire. "This, the patch."
Sharon stepped around her open door to meet him on the driver's side of the car. As soon as she rounded the corner, she could see that there was indeed something severely wrong with the tire. Yes, it was flat, but it was looked as though a bear had gotten ahold of it. The area where the patch had previously been had either melted, or shredded, taking away any rubber that was supposed to be there and exposing more than a few coils. "Oh," she breathed before looking up at him. "Well, um what about the spare?" She offered.
Andy dropped his head back and closed his eyes. "It's in the garage. My garage." He glanced down to her, his head still back, "I was showing the boys how to change a tire. We lost track of time. I had to rush them back to Nic's. Then there was just one thing after the other, and I have not put it back yet." He closed his eyes again, frustrated with the situation and his lack of preparedness. "But the guys at the shop patched the tire for me, this should not have been an issue."
"Well," Sharon breathed out slowly. "Well, it is not an issue. It is fine. We will just have to call someone."
Andy opened his eyes again and moved his head forward. "No, I don't want you to have to wait around. This was supposed to be a nice and relaxing belated birthday dinner. A stress-free evening. No, I will call someone, but not right now." He pulled out his phone and unlocked the screen. "Right now we will just get home. We have had a long week. I am going to find that um, that phone app thing. All the rage. We can do one of them, um the Uber things. With two of us, it will be fine to try it out, keep tacking on new things to this dinner. I'll just have Provenza bring me back out here tomorrow with the spare." Andy turned to lean against the hood of the car, his phone in his hand.
"We really can wait for triple-A or someone Andy, it's fine." She stepped forward to rest against the car as well. "I don't mind waiting. You know I had nothing planned. And don't worry, this does not ruin anything about the evening. It still has been very nice, and we have all weekend to rest."
Andy shrugged, "Thanks, Sharon, but let's do the Uber thing. I am downloading the app now-"
Before he could say anything else his phone rang. "Speak of the devil," he groaned showing Sharon his phone. The words, The Idiot, flashed across the screen. Sharon let out a single chuckle before covering her mouth with the side of her hand and signaling for him to answer.
Andy squished his nose in annoyance before he swiped his finger across the screen to answer the call. "Yeah?" He muttered into the receiver.
"What? No hello?" Came Provenza's saccharinely sweet rebuttal. "Is that how you answer when your phone? You sound like my grandson." On his end of the phone Provenza shivered. "You really should be nicer to your only friend here Flynn."
With Sharon looking on beside him, Andy closed his eyes in attempt to tamper his response. "Hardly a friend," he cut out. Amused by his response Sharon shook her head to the side, still leaning against the car, but unable to hear both sides of the conversation completely. Andy shifted in his spot, "I am a little busy right now, what do you need?"
"Need? Do I have to need something to call?" Provenza crooned, clearly prepared to torture his pal as long as possible.
On the other end of the line Provenza let the comment slide and continued, "It just so happens that I was going to order pizza and watch the game. And as I was sitting here, I just thought it would be nice to invite a friend over to watch it too."
"A friend who would pick up the pizza and some beers while he was at it?" Andy clarified. He rolled his eyes before glancing in Sharon's direction. Still speaking to Provenza he sighed, "Listen Provenza, I can't. We've, I mean I, I've got something wrong with my car and I am about to call an Uber and head home. Long day."
Andy heard movement over the line as Provenza sat up on his couch. "An Uber? You are going to get into the vehicle with a stranger? Do you not pay attention to anything we do, Flynn? What's wrong with your...?" The Lieutenant hesitated, fully registering everything his friend had just said. "Wait, wait, did you just say the word, We?"
Andy closed his eyes and dropped his head back. "The tire," he began, ignoring the question, "the patch job on the tire is no good. I'll have to get a tow if I want it out of here tonight. Or the other option is coming back in the morning. So, I'm about to Uber home and deal with it tomorrow. The spare tire is in the garage and-"
"Hold it right there. You are driving without a spare and now you and the Captain, because pal I know you said 'We' and I know who the 'We' is. You can trust me, that we are going to talk about this whole Captain business again soon, but back to the point, you and the Captain are going to do the Uber?"
Andy sighed and scooted a smidge away from Sharon on the hood, "Do the Uber? That is not. Nevermind. Great. I can't wait for the chat Dad and yes we are Uber…" just as he was about to put a stop to any further suppositions from his partner, the phone beeped. He pulled the device away from his ear to see a new call coming through. With the phone still lowered in front of him, he raised his voice to make sure he would be heard, "Sorry Provenza, that's Nicole calling on the other line. I'll call you back in the morning."
As he went to accept the new call a harsh digital cry of Flynn you idiot, don't... could just barely be heard over the other noises of beachfront parking lot.
Next to him Sharon pretended to not know exactly what the two men had been discussing and instead looked out to the shoreline. She smiled when Andy returned the phone to his ear, dropping his tone to speak to his daughter. "Hey kiddo, how are you?"
"I'm fine dad, just wanted to check in with you after your case. The boys saw the team, well specifically they recognized you and Sharon, on the news after dinner. So, I thought it would be an okay time to call. Is it? I mean is it a good time to call? I can always call back later."
As Nicole spoke Andy glanced again in Sharon's direction. She was still sitting on the hood, but not watching him speak. She was now simply gazing out over the water, the sun completely set by now. "Yes, we, uh, no, um, not yes. You don't have to call back. Yes, we got that case all tied up and now we are off for the weekend. Just finishing dinner actually."
"Oh just now? It's late, I thought you would have been home in front of the game by now. Wait are you out-out? Are you on one of those definitely not dating dinners you don't ever go on anymore?" Nicole teased, not actually sure if she was right, but still enjoying playing with her father. "Tell Sharon I say, hi."
Andy immediately shot up off the hood and took three large steps away from Sharon cupping his hand over his mouth. "No, but maybe, no it's not one of those. It's just a birthday dinner, Nic. The case went long and..."
Not able to hear what Nicole had said, but sure of the topic. Sharon bit down on her bottom lip. Her eyes followed Andy as he smiled nervously while he spoke into the receiver. She could not make out his words anymore, but it was clear that he was attempting to correct any wrong assumptions. He briefly caught Sharon's eye and gave her an I'm sorry about this shrug.
Sharon mirrored his action, masking any unease she felt in the current situation, or at least pretending to not know exactly what was going on. When he returned his attention to the conversation Sharon once again looked out to the ocean. She stood from her resting place against the car and took a few steps toward the sand. The phone call from Nicole pushed her thoughts back to the last time she had seen the young woman. Her son's comment of, several times a month, rolling through her mind as well.
Now a small distance from the car, a soft breeze prompted her to fold her arms across her chest. Her mind again wandering through this occasionally thing she and Andy had going. A weak smile crept across her face as she remembered the uncomfortable moments her son and his daughter had been a part of, as well as the gentle ease with which their friendship had in fact been evolving into possibly something more. Even though their, for lack of a better word, relationship was still not at the level that Andy had led Nicole to believe, it was still a little more than a typical friendship. She sighed and shook her head at the strange place their lives had suddenly found, while she watched the waves peacefully roll up over the sand.
"Sharon?" A light tap to her left shoulder and soft whisper over the wind pulled her from her musings.
She briefly closed her eyes before turning in his direction. "Everything all right with Nicole and her family?"
"Uh, yeah" Andy glanced down to his phone before meeting her eyes and standing beside her, also facing the ocean. "Yeah, they are all good. She wanted to see about me babysitting this weekend, something about a movie… All good." He held his phone out, "I've got the Uber situation all figured out too, or well, Nicole ordered one from her phone and it will be here shortly. She said she would text us when it is arriving." Sharon hummed and let her eyes fall back to the tranquil ocean. He rubbed the back of his neck with his hand and gazed out as well, "Yeah, she uh, she says hi and she hopes that you've had a happy birthday."
Sharon pulled her eyes from the water and turned to face him, "That's very sweet of her. I have had a good birthday, Andy, truly. Be sure to thank her for me and to let her know that we have had a very lovely evening together."
“I will,” he replied before they exchanged a look and turned to face the sea.