The flowers are a dead giveaway.
They appear, a burst of purples and whites in fisheye view through the peephole, following an unexpected knock at Sharon’s front door. She’d left the couch and her warm blanket and a cable replay of Moonstruck for this, wine in hand, only to find what can only be a wrong address knocker. She grinds her throat clear before voicing a sharp, “Yes?”
“Uh, it’s me.” The voice belongs to Andy Flynn, there’s no question. But his presence and his cargo leave her thinking instead of moving. The combination of him, her condo, his surprise visit, the late hour, and the bouquet nudges the situation toward surreality, leaving a pause long enough that he eventually adds, “I can’t say I’m not armed, but I’m not here to make trouble. Promise.”
God, the neighbors… Nosy Mrs. Brampton across the hall will have gossip fodder for weeks if she hears him. Sharon unlocks the door and pulls it open, exposing the scene in wider view.
In these hands, there’s no doubt the flowers point toward antics large enough to require an apology. They leave her folding her free arm over her chest and planting herself in the middle of the doorway, studying him. “What did you do?”
Andy’s reaction is the second clue. On any other day, a question this direct would earn her an eye roll at the least, possibly a mini-rant if not a long stretch of yelling. Instead, the world tilts further off its axis when he does nothing more than crook one of those hopeless, lopsided smiles that rarely fails to steal her resolve. “What, I can’t just do something nice?”
“Historically speaking, no.” Still, against her better judgment, she moves, letting him inside. Whatever he’s here to confess, he doesn’t need to do it in a public hallway.
His suit — more than a little wrinkled — and loosened tie point toward a long night in the office. That’s another hint at the truth. He holds the flowers in her direction. “Uh, these are for you.”
A dry laugh escapes when she says, “Well I’d hope so.” The arrangement is a decent one, hefty in her hand, filled with daisies and tulips, irises and, yes, roses. Sharon can’t quite flatten a grin, though catching sight of Andy’s measuring stare pushes it further away.
Her path to the kitchen allows enough distance for a hit of rational thought. He’s not sitting in an interview room, she thinks. Or, worse, a drunk tank. He’s here of his own accord. Surely it can’t be that bad.
Not that he needs to know she’s easing off the concern. “It’s been a while since I had flowers foisted upon me.” She directs the words over her shoulder.
“‘Foisted,’ wow.” This, at least, nears his usual sarcastic delivery. “And here I thought I was just giving them to you.”
Uncertainty twists along Sharon’s spine as she abandons her wine and sets to filling a vase. Andy might not be in a legal sort of trouble, but two other possibilities lay before her, and she isn’t sure which is worse. In the first, he believes flowers and God knows what other kinds of affectionate displays are something they do. The second is that he has massively screwed up at work, in a way he hasn’t screwed up before, and he believes a gift will help soften the blow he receives in return. This, in practice, points right back to scenario #1, which is a special kind of troubling.
As she rearranges the bouquet in water and fluffs a few of the blooms, she lets the distraction push her into asking, “So what’s the occasion, then?”
“Occasion?” His shoulders climb to his ears and drop back into place. “No occasion, really. Just…” The fading trail of his words ends with him clearing his throat. “I mean, no holiday or anything. I know you like purple, though, so…”
One of the most useful things their ongoing arrangement has given Sharon is the knowledge that Andy has the capacity for awkwardness. He is not shot through with smooth, brash certainty, the way he no doubt wants everyone at Parker Center — PAB, rather — to believe. And sometimes his floundering is charming, even disarming.
Tonight, though, it leaves her stare narrowing. She keeps it fixed on him as she moves around the counter, toward the living room, where opera music now blares from the TV.
A forced chuckle follows her. “Oh, hey. Moonstruck! Y’know, that’s a great Brooklyn movie.”
“Wow, I must’ve been channeling you when I turned it on,” she deadpans, before stabbing at the remote and restating the question at hand: “What’s happening?”
This cuts the ruse, leaves Andy’s shoulders slumping. “Okay, look.” He runs his fingers over his hair. “We might have a problem.”
We? Sharon nearly echoes the word out loud, but bites it back. Whether or not they’re capable of having collective problems is a topic for another night. Instead, she pulls her cardigan tight against her torso and sinks onto the edge of the couch. The suddenly cool air pricks at the bare stretch of skin below her shorts. “What kind of problem?”
He’s a ball of nervous movement, looking around the living room while he heaves a sigh and then nods to himself. But he must reach some level of inner consensus, going calm as he lowers into the nearest chair. “What would you do if someone at work found out about us?”
The question dries Sharon’s mouth. It sends her heartbeat echoing through her body as the exact nature of their, yes, shared problem comes into focus. Despite the decent odds of it happening, she hadn’t braced for this kind of surprise… at least not for a while, now.
Somewhere along the way, everything between them got too easy, too normal for constant paranoia. She’d let her guard down.
Her voice cracks when she says, “Why do you ask?”
They can sit here and trade questions back and forth all evening, as two people with far too many interrogations under their belts, so she’s almost relieved when Andy leans forward and breaks the rhythm of it. He plants his elbows on his knees and rubs at his brow as he explains. “Uh, last week. In the park. We— I managed to flip the lights on… when we were in my car.”
His emphasis on that final word carries a lot of water, when it comes to setting the scene. Their first mistake was meeting up at the end of a long, stressful day, when Sharon was desperate for both satisfaction and dinner, in that order; a perfect storm of events that left her feeling like a cruiser quickie en route to Thai Town was a good idea. The second was not taking the time to climb into the backseat before unzipping.
The third? She gets the sense Andy’s about to tell her. Of course it would come to this.
For now, she says, “Right,” while an image of Chief Johnson, casually watching the Major Crimes Division’s share of dashcam footage, perhaps with a snack cake in hand, elbows to the front of Sharon’s mind. There’s a karmic element to the tableau, but she can’t quite put her finger on who took the brunt of it. She finds herself muttering, “So it was video review week.”
“I gue—” Andy’s head pops up, revealing his pure confusion. “Wait, what?” The question hangs for a moment, as his surprise fades to annoyance. “So you knew the Chief might see that?!”
“I watch my own division’s video, so I knew it was possible.” At the drop of his jaw, she adds, “But only if she followed regulation, which frankly made it much less likely.”
“Well, I guess maybe you’re rubbing off on her, because she definitely saw it, and she has no illusions about what we were up to.”
This time, the thought of shock-slackened fingers sending a Ding Dong splatting, creme side down, onto the Chief’s desk has a snort of laughter escaping Sharon. She doubles over, covering her mouth, as if that could hide the reaction. “Oh God,” she mumbles into her palms.
Her composure is several long, controlled breaths in coming. Once it returns, she finds him watching her, head cocked. “So, you knew this could happen, and you didn’t say anything?”
“Why did I need to tell you what could happen? Didn’t you go to the training?!”
“No, no.” The frown Andy wears is deep, but thoughtful. “I mean, you didn’t cut things off. Between us.”
It’s a fair point. How many variations of ‘No one can ever know’ has she spun for him, through the years — God, entire years! — of this? From that first, desperate, frantic, yet stunning night at a downtown motel, Sharon’s plan was simple. They could enjoy each other’s company in private, and none of their coworkers would have reason to find out. Just some much-needed release between not-quite friends. No explanations necessary, no ribbing to be endured, no uncomfortable questions from humorless men with stars on their collars.
Of course, her plan was built for that one time. Then it became the time after that, and the one after that; the ridiculously cliche fleet car encounters, yes, but also the weekends she holed up at his house — in a neighborhood teeming with other cops, no less; the occasional overnight trip up the coast or into the mountains. It turned into him having a set of keys to her condo, for late nights he didn’t want to drive all the way home; more and more evenings that didn’t involve undressing; dinners shared just because; meandering conversations and hand holding and chaste kisses and now, apparently, flowers.
What Sharon had planned to destroy upon discovery was a handful of tawdry hook-ups. It wasn’t this.
With that in mind, she shrugs. “No, I didn’t.”
“And now,” Andy squints, as if that might clarify her reaction, “you’re laughing about it.”
“It’s not that I think this situation is funny, per se. It’s just the perfect amount of absurd, given… everything.” She curls her legs along the cushion at her side, leaning heavily onto the couch arm. Having backed into a non-answer for the question at hand, she steels herself for its counterpart. “What would you do? If your squad found out, I mean.”
A flash of surprise crosses his features, then he lifts a shoulder. “Tell ‘em to mind their own fucking business, probably.”
Her exhale is half laugh, half sigh. She rubs at her eyes. “Andy…”
“I’m serious. What does it matter at this point?” A rustle marks him shifting nearer to the couch. “After all…” The certainty drains from his voice. “You were the one who came in with all the rules.”
Ignoring his well-worn, now mostly endearing jab, Sharon says, “I recall it being more of a two-way street.” When he rolls an exasperated look at her, she flips the scenario back in his direction. “You’re saying you’d be fine with Provenza knowing about this?”
“He’d get over it.” The answer might be too quick to be believable, but he parries right away. “What about your minions?”
“I don’t have minions.”
“If you say so.” Andy rubs at his chin. “You’re pretty good at avoiding questions. If I was a trained detective, I might think you’re hiding something.” A devious smile parts his lips. “Are you about to tell me I’m your side piece?”
“Well, yes.” The answer is so obvious, she can’t help but to gape at him like he’s grown a second head. “Considering I’m married.”
He rolls his eyes, waves her off. “That doesn’t count.”
That this is essentially what they do — casually dismiss her infidelity — every time they’re together somehow makes discussion of the professional risks more approachable.
“I have investigated you specifically and your division more generally, how many times in the last few years?” The query is rhetorical, for once in this conversation. Sharon only waits long enough for its truth to snag in his attention before she says, “If PSB found out we’re…”
Here, she fumbles, knowing ‘sleeping together’ doesn’t quite cover their position, even if that alone would provide plenty of rope for her colleagues to string her up. She ignores Andy’s smirk and pushes onward. “If they found out we’re doing this, I’d most likely be placed on administrative leave while each of those cases was re-opened and re-investigated by another detective. To start with.”
She looks over to find his mouth hanging open. “Oh,” he eventually says.
“Look, Sharon.” Andy’s elbows move to his knees again as he leans in. “For what it’s worth, I really don’t think you need to worry about the Chief.” He gestures toward the door. “I mean, after she let me stew in the awkwardness for a few minutes, she said she doesn’t want to be in my business and that she doesn’t want to talk or think about that video ever again.”
Upon third consideration, her mind fixes on the story’s mortifying angle. Her cheeks burn, picturing him trapped in that office, sweating out his boss’s reaction. “I don’t envy you.”
“It was painful.” He shrugs. “But I’d go through it a hundred times, if it meant I still get to meet you in bed every now and then.”
At her age, Sharon should be immune to lines of this quality. But she’s gone and gotten herself tangled up with the most aggravating man in the world — or in the LAPD, at least. So it pushes a warm wave through her, instead. It leaves her trying to cover a smile with an eye roll that sends her head dropping backward.
He’s irredeemable. Truly hopeless. What that makes her, she doesn’t waste time considering.
She scoots off the couch to stand over him. “You.” Her finger plants onto his chest, pushing his posture straight. “You think you can just charm and strut your way out of anything.”
Andy’s face twists into a grimace. “I don’t strut.” Despite the show of outrage, his mood takes a rapid turn when she joins him on the chair, straddling his lap. Still, a curious line forms between his brows as his palms travel up her thighs. “Anyway, you make me earn my pardons. I like that.”
This shift toward the serious straightens Sharon’s spine. “Do you?”
After all, that habit, that principle, has earned her a lot of ire through the years. Personally and professionally, she’s heard it all. Stubborn, rigid, uncompromising. Cold, bitchy, heartless.
“Sure.” His eyes are dark, holding hers in place. “Anything worth having is worth working for, right?”
The sentiment is so simple, so clear, and it’s somehow exactly what she needs to hear. Their relationship — their arrangement — it might not be normal, but what they have, they’ve earned. Tonight is a choice, on her part, to acknowledge the very real risk before them and continue regardless.
Sharon leans into him, drawing her mouth to his. Chest to chest, her fingers trail to the nape of his neck, thread into his hair. When he groans and parts his lips under hers, she thinks she could keep kissing him forever, anywhere; the stars and bars be damned.
When she breaks the contact to draw a deeper breath, Andy’s voice rumbles through her. “Besides, I’ve caught on to an interesting pattern.”
The lines his thumbs trace just above the waistband of her shorts hold most of her focus, but she manages to ask, “Hm, what’s that?”
“Well, you’ve set all these high standards for yourself,” his nose nudges into her hair, “and you’ve got the policy manual damn near memorized…” A chill shoots down her back when his lips brush along the shell of her ear. “But I’m still here.”
Perhaps being called out this way, given the news he brought, should give her pause. But it only enfolds her in peace, to know they’re on the same page.
Wanting his full attention, she pulls back, cups his face in her palms. “Yes, Andy.” She brushes a soft kiss to his lips. “You are.”
A glimpse of purple from the kitchen catches Sharon’s eye. She allows the flower-induced smile she fought back earlier to break through. “Given that we are equally responsible for tonight’s events,” she sets to work on the knot in his tie, “I’m thinking this apology should be a little more mutual and a little less decorative, hm?”
“You know, I’m a big fan of your conflict resolution skills.”
Her answering laugh shifts toward a squeak as Andy stands, carrying her with him on a beeline for her bedroom. On catching a glimpse of their wholly unglamorous reflection in the patio door, she understands that anyone seeing them in this moment would call her insane. This man — with his sometimes questionable judgment and tendency to cram his foot into his mouth — and their careers being what they are. With her life being what it is.
So be it. They’re not meant for anyone else to understand. They’re meant for each other’s joy and comfort, to be a stable baseline in a shaken world.
For tonight, at least, it doesn’t require an explanation.