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"Kiss me like we die tonight."

- Elbow (One Day Like This)

* * *

"I'm going," he tells her, afterward. The women's locker room is dark and not quite empty, but no one bats an eye at Sam being there. Somehow it's become this expected thing with them. Everybody knows they're buds.

Well, they probably suspect something more, but... She tries not to care what they think.

"Going where?" she asks, even though she knows.

"With Boyd."

Undercover. For a long time.

She doesn't want to look at him, and she's suddenly not sure how to react. Anger is there, under the surface, but she doesn't want it to be. Fear. Something else that makes her fidgety. Something about good candy and bad candy and saving things for later.

Always later.

"It's just been long enough," he says, like he's trying to explain.

Long enough for what?

"I can't just wait around here for..." He doesn't complete that thought.

It makes her stomach do a slow flip though, and she licks her lips. What is she supposed to do? "So go!" she commands. Maybe it comes out a little more petulant than she wanted it to. "What are you waiting for?"

Like they're tossing a ball back and forth, neither of them wanting to be the one caught holding it when... it explodes. Or something.

He sighs. Shuffles his feet. His leather jacket creaks with his movement. "I was serious," he says. "Before."

She grips the edges of the bench she sits on. Waiting for something inside of her to splinter.

He eases himself down beside her, his thigh almost touching hers. Everything inside of her stretches taut.

With a low voice, he says, "Come with me."

The breath bursts inside of her. This time she doesn't laugh.

Or say no.

* * *

Boyd doesn't want her around. He doesn't make a secret of it. But Sam pays no attention to him, so she doesn't either.

"This isn't a high-class operation," Boyd warns her, with more than a hint of condescension in his voice. "You don't get to be a princess this time."

A princess? What the hell? The last time she went under with Sam, she played a waitress. Boyd has some fucked up ideas about royalty, she decides.

"We gotta go in street level," Sam explains to her, though he does shoot a warning glare toward Boyd first. "Bay owns a seedy bar, and he's connected. He's the weak link. But we go in acting rich and established and they'll smell us right away."

She isn't totally sure what he means by that.

Until two days later, when he teaches her how to shoot up.

* * *

“Wait a minute,” she says, when he’s showing her how to use the syringe. The needle is getting close to her vein, and what’s the point? “We aren’t allowed to actually do drugs,” she reminds him.

He has her wrist in one hand, the syringe in the other, and he looks at her and says, “I’ll show you how to fake it, but shit happens, McNally. I do what I have to do.”

That… surprises her. And then it doesn’t. Sam is good at his job. She found that out when she ran him down and arrested him her first day. She ran him down, sure, but he fooled her.

“But…” She softens her voice. “They test you. When it’s over.”

His gaze lifts to hers. Their faces are close. “If it’s between a bullet and a reprimand, which one do you want?”

She stares at him. He makes her feel like a kid sometimes.

He taps the syringe of saline against her vein. “A lot of drugs don’t stick around to show up on a test. It’ll be your word, and mine, against theirs.” He doesn’t even blink as he holds her gaze. “You with me?”

“Yeah,” she says.

Technically, she supposes, he’s asking if she’d lie for him. Technically, it should feel wrong.

But it doesn’t.

* * *

Guns and Gangs gives them new identities (JD and Candace), the lease to a decrepit apartment above Bay's bar (month-to-month, because no junkies last a year) , and a stock of both fake and real drugs. Mostly weed and Ecstasy. The pills of E are ironically cast in the shape of a blue police badge.

"Are you kidding me?" she demands, holding one up, dumb-founded.

Sam laughs at her. "Well, how stupid would we have to be to pass out drugs that look like police badges if we were cops?"

"Apparently, we are that stupid though!"

"Trust me." Sam grins at her. "They'll never suspect. They love stuff like that. Makes them feel like they're sticking it to The Man, or something."

She rolls her eyes but she does. Trust him. They have duffle bags of ratty clothes: faded jeans with holes in the knees, frayed sneakers and scuffed boots, flannel shirts and hooded sweatshirts that are too big, winter coats straight out of the donation boxes for the less fortunate.

She scrubs the make-up off her face and ties her hair back and puts the jeans on and the boots and an oddly misshapen red sweatshirt. She looks in the mirror and she knows she looks too healthy. They're supposed to be addicts. Jobless and hopeless. Desperate.

"You still look too good," Sam says, from right behind her.

She glances at him in the mirror. No gel in his black hair, and it lies down flat against his skull. His T-shirt is too big, but it still doesn't hide his bulging biceps. He has a few days of beard growth on his face.

"I don't know what to do," she admits, helplessly. She has an image of dancing orphans in holiday movies, soot smeared on their cheeks to represent poverty. Is she supposed to go out and roll in the mud?

Sam is very still behind her, and she can feel his heat against her back. She holds his reflected gaze as his hand comes up to the crown of her head and slides over her hair, pulling strands out of the band tying it down. Frizzing the neatness of it all.

It just makes her look younger.

"C'mere," he says, softly, and his hands grab her shoulders and turn her around. He starts to lean down, and she blinks.

"What are you doing?"

"Dirtying you up a little bit." His mouth comes toward her, and her heart pounds, but then his lips are against her neck. They slide down a bit, until he's just above her collar, and her breath has stopped dead in her lungs at the light tickle of it.

She wants to ask him again: what are you doing? But then his mouth opens and it's all heat and wetness against her neck, then a pleasurable pain as he sucks a mark into her skin.

She sucks her breath in. "Sam," she gasps, quietly.

"JD," he reminds her, his voice a low rumble. His hand is in her hair and he pulls her head back, slides his mouth up her throat and marks her again.

It's anything but perfunctory. His mouth is hot and wet, and he moves so slowly, sucks with a gentleness that makes her shiver.

He does it four times, and then he stops. But he pulls away even more slowly, and his eyes meet hers with his hand still in her hair.

"Now you look right," he murmurs.

She can barely swallow, and when she looks in the mirror again, he's right. The marks are dark and will take a week to fade. She looks a little lost. A little beat up. A little dirtied and disrespected.

She looks owned.

"He's gonna come right at you," Sam says, quietly. "He won't be able to resist. He thinks he’s a wolf. Look like a lamb, and he’ll come running.”

She nods, and she gets it. Bay is a predator. He can smell a victim a mile away. She's got to hide her teeth, show her belly. Put a little blood in the water.

It makes her heart pound, because she's had enough experience to know that even her skills can't always be enough. There are always going to be predators who can overwhelm her. One mistake...

"What if I get in trouble?" she asks, and she doesn't even think to include Sam in her question. Even though they are a 'we' on this operation. He does everything on his own...

His hands rest on her shoulders. Warm. Hard. "Don't worry," he says. "I'll be right behind you." Then he shows his teeth in a smile. "I'm a wolf too."

* * *

The dingy room above the nightclub almost makes her second-guess her determination. The floors creak and everything smells musty. The lock is brand new because it’s been broken so many times.

At night, there is too much screaming.

Sam tells her to take the bed and he’ll lay a sleeping bag out on the floor, and she isn’t sure which of them has the better deal.

The sleepless nights will help, Sam tells her. Make her look more strung-out. The sooner they get this guy, the sooner she can go back to her clean apartment and expensive coffee.

She lies on top of the blankets and listens to him toss and turn on the floor, and thinks about the gun they keep hidden behind the dresser. Not under the mattress because that’s where everyone hides their drugs, and if they’re tossed by Bay’s henchmen, they need to look legit.

* * *

She catches Bay’s eye right away, like Sam said she would. Even with her ragged, stained red sweatshirt and her worn, tired eyes.

They go in and sit at the tables, or at the bar, and they look jumpy and they sell a little of the fake E, and they keep drinks in front of them and they watch.

Nobody looks twice at them (except Bay), and she gets to know the waitress pretty well, and asks her if Bay is hiring. The waitress says she'll talk to him.

On the first weekend, Sunday night, Sam pulls her to him in their crappy apartment and remarks her neck. She's tense this time, knowing what he's doing. There are no cameras in the place, at least not yet. Not until the threat of search by Bay's henchmen is gone.

"You with me?" he asks, quietly, absently, as he sucks his brand into her skin with a hot, wet mouth, and she bites her lip. It feels better this time, and she swallows under his breath.

"Yeah," she whispers. "I'm with you."

His teeth scrape her throat.

* * *

At the end of the second week, the waitress comes back one night and tells them Bay wants to see them in his office.

They glance at each other and then follow her behind the bar to a room in the back. She closes the door behind them, and it's a small, dingy office with a desk and a few chairs and filing cabinets.

Bay tilts his head and studies them. "You've been selling in my club," he states. No smile.

And her insides tense up.

Sam's thigh is against hers as they sit in the chairs, and he leans forward to set his elbows on his knees. "So? You want a cut or something?"

"Let me see it."

Sam glances at her, and she pulls the little baggie of police badges out of her pocket. The few real ones they have, and passes one over.

Bay picks it up and looks at it, looks up at them, then smirks. "Where'd you get it?"

"Vancouver," Sam says. "We just got into town a few weeks ago."

Vancouver is too far for Bay's resources.

Bay chews his lip slowly, pensively, before he asks, "You got a lot of connections in Vancouver?"

Sam eyes him back and then shrugs nonchalantly. "Yeah, I guess."

"What are you looking for here?"

"Money," Sam answers. He puts a note of eagerness in his voice. Like... he might not be all that bright. Maybe he'd be easy to take advantage of. Maybe he enjoys the product too much and wouldn't pay attention. Maybe he'd be easy to cut out...

Bay takes them both in. The clothes and the way they both fidget and the marks on Andy's neck.

"You want a job?" he asks Andy, suddenly.

She has to restrain her elation.

“Yes,” she says, trying to look eager and a bit desperate. If he offers her a job dealing, they can maybe tie this shit up by dinner and she can order a pizza tonight.

“I need a new bartender,” Bay says.

Shit.

But she knows even without looking at Sam that a bartending job will be useful. They're gaining a foothold.

"Okay," she says. "I can do that."

"Good," Bay says. "Start tonight. I got a girl called in sick."

She nods, allowing a smile now, and Sam leans back in his chair, slightly more relaxed. "You okay with me selling in the club?" he asks.

Bay eyes him and then says, "We'll discuss that later." His gaze goes back to Andy, and she feels him measuring her. Looking for the soft part where he can sink his teeth in.

It's disquieting. But it's progress.

* * *

The patrons of Bay's bar aren't too imaginative. She draws beer and mixes screwdrivers and Jack and Cokes and the occasional Tequila Sunrise, but not much else.

Nervously, she keeps her eye on the table where Sam and Bay sit and drink and talk and mostly laugh.

Sam comes up to get a refill and she's glad she's the bartender. She can put her thumb over the spout of the Jack and give him nearly all Coke. She lines up so he's between her and Bay, and she looks at him worriedly. "Are you okay?"

He holds her gaze, and his eyes are... intense. "I'm fine... babe."

"Be careful," she says, softly.

He just smiles at her, and then he leans forward and grabs her head and puts his mouth on hers.

She kisses him. Because he's supposed to be her boyfriend. Because she's worried about him.

Because she really, really wants to.

Instead of a quick peck, it turns. He's harder, and his tongue slips along hers. She stops breathing.

Then he's gone, and she swallows, still tasting him.

* * *

A few days pass. She bartends and Bay watches her. Sam comes in and sits for a few hours, watching her back, working the guys at the bar.

She gets to know the other girls, and some of the regulars. It's a little disquieting, like it was during the waitress op too. These are people down on their luck. Maybe some are bad, but some are just unlucky. Some are just trapped, by their own failings, by circumstance, by addiction.

Bay preys on them and keeps them fallible.

Bay is using his own product, she’s pretty sure. Long sleeves to hide his arms, red-rimmed eyes, jittery and distracted. Glassy-eyed in the evenings, as his gaze runs her over.

She talks to the waitresses and the customers, and she lets Bay stare at her and circle, like she's a wounded fawn in the forest.

He's starting to subtly exert some authority over her. He tells her what to do. Gives her a little more responsibility when she lasts a week. Starts to pry into her personal life with Sam and hints that Sam is just a low-brow dealer.

It makes her feel hunted. Uneasy. But it's where they need to go.

He deftly avoids Sam's desire to talk about business. He's still suspicious. He might be on a slow train to catastrophe with his drug use, but he's lasted a long time by being paranoid.

And then, something bad happens.

They're in the bar one night, when some guy Sam arrested last year comes in and sees him. He makes a scene.

"That guy's a fucking cop!" he proclaims to his friend, as everyone turns to stare. "We gotta get out of here."

"You're wrong, buddy," Sam argues, but Andy freezes up inside, and she can tell that Sam is alarmed too. He's sizing up the room and she can see his mind working, and she realizes she's gonna have to be ready to fight. Or run.

"You're a fucking cop!" the guy sneers, before he and his buddy slip out.

The bar is sparsely populated, and no one seems to know what to do with the accusation. Sam tries to play it off as some loon in a case of mistaken identity. So she plays along, rolling her eyes, like crazy people always walk in off the street.

But when she turns, Bay is standing in the doorway to the back room.

And he looks unhinged.

* * *

Nothing happens right away.

Bay goes back in his office, and the patrons go back to watching the grainy TV over the bar and getting slowly soused.

She and Sam look at each other, and she really, really wants to go over and ask him what the hell they're supposed to do, but instinctively she knows not to. That running over to him and bending their heads together in an intimate conversation is possibly the worst thing she can do.

So she washes a few glasses and pours herself some ginger ale to get over her sudden dry mouth, and she waits.

It's quiet the rest of the night. Sam doesn't always stick around until bar time, waiting for her, but he does now. She knows there's no way he's leaving her alone with Bay right now.

Finally, just before bar time, Bay walks out and tells her and Sam to come into his office. They're gonna talk.

She glances warily at Sam, but he gives her a nod, so she sits in the office with them, leaning into Sam's side like a good little bunny.

Bay sits behind his desk and his eyes are red-rimmed and his pupils blown and although he isn't totally gone, he isn't sober.

She feels tense and jumpy.

He stares at Sam.

"Hey, boss," Sam says, apologetically. "If this is about that guy earlier... he was nuts. I've never even seen him before."

"Maybe you have, maybe you haven't."

"Look," Sam protests. "I've been selling good for you, haven't I? I couldn't do that if I were a cop. Besides... we're gonna get you set up in Vancouver and everything."

It's a good tack, she knows. Bay wants Sam for his Vancouver connections, and the value of that will be what sways him. All dealers give in to greed eventually. It is nearly always their downfall. Makes them trust people they shouldn't trust. Makes them do things they shouldn't do.

Bay wavers. For a moment.

"I haven't stayed alive for 50 years out of stupidity."

"He's got one of those faces," she finally cuts in. "You know? He looks like a dumb jock. Sometimes the cops are even fooled!" She pretends she thinks it's hilarious.

Bay studies her for a long, drugged moment, and then snorts out a laugh.

She feels relief.

Then he takes out a couple of syringes from his desk drawer and slides them across the desk top toward them with a rubber tourniquet. "Prove it."

She stares at the syringes, and she feels Sam stiffen beside her. The syringes are filled with a dark brown liquid. Heroin. Every atom in her body feels fright.

"Jesus, boss," Sam says, protesting quietly. "We don't really do that shit too often."

Bay gives him an unyielding stare, and then suddenly reaches into his desk again and pulls out a huge .50 caliber Desert Eagle pistol. He sets it on the desk top next to his hand, and it makes a heavy thunk against the desk. "I said, prove it."

She can barely breathe past the lump in her throat. Sam takes in a long, slow breath. He hesitates a long time, and then he says, "Okay, okay. Calm down. I'll take a hit. But Candace here, she hates the shit. Her sister OD'd a few years back."

She realizes Sam is trying to spare her, and minimize the damage. She tries to stare at the syringes with full-on fright.

It isn't too difficult. The thought of taking heroin is frightening enough, but the needles aren't wrapped. They aren't new. There's no way to know who used them before, and even if the heroin passes through, there's no telling what else might get into their blood.

Bay's gaze flickers to her. Then he waves her off. His male ego can't quite believe she's a threat. He looks at Sam. "Just you. That's all I need."

Sam nods slowly and swallows. Then he slips back into a more confident composure. "I, uh, don't use needles very well."

Bay shrugs like he couldn't give half a shit if he wanted to.

Sam slowly takes one of the syringes, and the rubber tourniquet, and he starts rolling up his sleeve, and she's pretty sure Bay doesn't see it, but Sam is shaking. Just a little bit. He's the one who taught her to fake it, but Bay is right there, with a huge pistol, and who knows what that needle is going to deliver.

Her heart is pounding, and she can't believe Sam is going to have to do this. That he's going to have to stick himself, and even then, she realizes by instinct, it doesn't mean Bay won't shoot them anyway. Bay is half in the bag and angry and unstable.

She just wants to grab Sam by the arm and run for it. Hope Bay can't get his bearings in time and aim accurately.

But as Sam moves slowly, hesitatingly, Bay suddenly picks up the pistol and points it right at him. "What are you waiting for?"

She can see sweat breaking out on Sam's forehead. She feels it on the back of her own neck. She can barely control her breathing. It's hard to swallow her fear.

"I just... don't like needles, okay?" Sam protests, and he's trying to figure out what to do, she can see, but Bay isn't giving them a choice.

She doesn't even realize she's going to act, until she does it.

"He can't do it himself," she suddenly says, standing up.

Bay instantly swings the pistol toward her, startled.

She holds her hands up. "I'm just... I'll do it for him, okay?"

Both Bay and Sam stare at her, but then Bay waves the gun at her to proceed, and she turns toward Sam, and he instantly falls into it. He grabs her by the wrist and pulls her toward him, so she straddles his lap, facing him, putting herself between him and Bay.

Bay leans to the side so he can see.

Then she takes the syringe and the tourniquet from Sam.

Bay is half-wasted and not as sharp as he should be, and Sam is looking at her intensely with that question behind his eyes, and she can feel his thighs, tense underneath her. He has a way of bringing his words back to her, without saying anything.

"I'll show you how to fake it, but shit happens, McNally. I do what I have to do."

Between them, out of Bay's view, his hand is closing over hers, the one with the syringe, and he’s nudging the needle into the pocket of her dirty sweatshirt, his fingers pressing down on the plunger, releasing some of the heroin into the fabric. If she has to give him a dose, it'll be light.

She leans over his arm, putting the tourniquet on, blocking Bay from view, studying Sam’s arm, like she can’t find the vein. Which is ridiculous, because Sam has veins like electrical cables in his arms. But Bay doesn’t notice, and she’s beginning to see how drug dealers using their own product tend to go down in flames quickly.

Bay makes impatient noises and leans forward, his hand tightening on the Desert Eagle. (And really, who the hell needs a fucking 50 caliber pistol? How much deader can you get than dead? It just makes a bigger hole.) She brings the syringe out, and Sam has ejected over half the contents, so only a sliver of drug remains. And that still scares her.

She looks at him, and he looks back, relaxing back into the chair, his hand curling over her hip, his smile falling lazy. “C’mon, baby,” he says, deceptively seductive. “Do it.”

And she has to. He’s telling her it’s okay. And she can do it or not, but if she doesn’t, she has to disarm Bay and they’ll both have to fight their way out.

She can't, she realizes. She has to fake it. Because a sliver of drug might not hurt him, but who knows where the hell that needle has been. And if he picks something up... something deadly...

"Do it," Bay commands, angrily, and he shifts in his chair and suddenly the hard barrel of the pistol is nudging her in the back. "Now."

If he shot now, he could take them both out with one shot. And wouldn't that be all romantic? Parts of them mixed together in a mess on the floor...

She swallows her fear, and a calmness comes over her, and she blocks everything else out. If it's her time, it's her time, and nothing she can do will change that now. It's too late.

She taps the air bubbles out of the vial, brings the needle to Sam's arm and is surprised she isn’t shaking. His hand on her hip, squeezing, is helping. His eyes telling her to do it center her. She keeps the vial at an angle so Bay can't see that most of the drug is gone now.

But then she does it. She pretends she's having a little trouble, so she slips the needle under her thumb, traps it between her thumb and his skin, sprays the heroin over his arm, under her hand and his rolled sleeves, wipes it away when she's done. Takes the tourniquet off.

Sam swallows and squeezes his eyes shut and his body tightens. She rubs at his inner arm, like she's soothing the needle prick.

Bay smiles and relaxes back into his chair.

Air refills her lungs.

Her heart pounds.

But Bay seems fooled, and now it's up to Sam.

He goes limp in his chair and tilts his head back, lips parted, and she sets the needle on Bay's desk and stays in Sam's lap.

"I can't be too careful," Bay tells her, pulling the second needle toward him, along with the rubber rig. "You understand."

She nods, gaze flitting to the Desert Eagle now back on his desk.

Sam swallows thickly and his arms tighten around her, and she says, "Can we go now?"

Bay looks at both of them and then gives a lazy nod. "Whatever."

"I gotta work tomorrow," she explains.

He nods again, already tying his arm off to shoot up.

She gets up and pulls Sam up by his arms. "C'mon, baby," she soothes.

He leans on her and gives her a stoned smile and they make their way out of the office, and she hopes this is it. That Bay is satisfied and there won't be a bullet ripping through the both of them as they walk out the door.

But it's a long, long moment.

They make it out, and she closes the door behind them, and they keep the act up. All the way through the bar, onto the sidewalk, into the side door and up the stairs to the crappy, broken apartment.

But each moment she wonders if Bay will suddenly come charging up after them.

She locks the door behind them, and then they drop the act and stand and stare at each other.

"Oh my God," she says, staring at him. Her heart is still pounding.

"You did good," he says, smiling, and his eyes are bright. From excitement. From the thrill. From winning. "You did fantastic."

"I was fucking terrified."

He laughs at that. Laughs. Just a little. And he backs her up against the door. "And yet we won," he says, softly, his body heat feeling good. His mouth right above hers. "We didn't lose it."

"This is insane," she murmurs back. They almost died.

"It feels good."

His hand is in her hair, and his mouth is close, and she can feel his breath. He wants to kiss her. She can feel it in the air. He wants to kiss her so bad.

She feels a disturbing mixture of relief, arousal, excitement and fear, and it's almost too much. She can't process everything. And she needs him just to reassure her.

She slips her arms around his waist and presses her mouth against his shoulder, and then she can feel herself shaking. The aftereffect of everything. The gun, the drugs, the needles, the fright.

The suspense of not knowing what was coming.

He takes a breath and then his arms circle her and hug her tightly. He presses a chaste kiss to her temple and then he tells her it's okay and he rocks her a bit.

And she exhales everything out into his shoulder, until she feels, finally, tired.

"It can take a lot out of you," he says, quietly, as he moves her to the bed. "I keep forgetting that you haven't done this as often as I have."

"I thought we were going to die," she tells him. She hates the catch in her voice. "I thought you were..."

He lies them both down on the bed, fully clothed, and he puts his arms around her and he kisses her forehead. The bridge of her nose. "I know," he says. "It's okay."

His heat lulls her. His steadiness makes her feel safe. The intimacy of his embrace and his kisses feels right. And reassuring. There is no one watching now. No cops, no criminals, no friends or enemies.

She lifts her head and puts her mouth on his, and he gets still for a moment, not in shock but in... compliance. Letting her do what she wants.

She kisses him, and then he kisses her back. He moves his hands slowly to her hair, holds her head, tilts his head so he can fuse their mouths, slide his tongue against hers.

He kisses her for a while, never escalating, and when she finally lays her head down with a sigh of relief, he doesn't push.

"You with me?" he asks.

"Yeah," she answers, sleepily. "I'm with you."

He makes a wordless, pleased sound, and she closes her eyes.

She sleeps in her clothes, better than she thought she would. And each time she wakes, his warmth is next to her, the weight of his arm across her waist.

It's a long night, but she isn't afraid.

* * *

Things get a little easier after that. Bay is less secretive about his operations, with her especially. And while she still has an uneasy feeling about the whole thing, it doesn't feel... urgent.

They see enough to put Bay away for a good long time, but he's small fish. They want his suppliers, the bigger fish. And now that they're sitting in a better position, they have to be careful not to rush.

She starts to feel like she's not even a cop anymore. She's a bartender with a shitty apartment, and the drugs that people take to get away from the drudgery of their everyday lives suddenly seems... more attractive.

Bay finally invites them to a party at his apartment after the bar closes one weekend night.

At first they circulate separately, trying to figure out who everyone is, trying to make new connections. But it's not a high class thing. The music is loud and bass-heavy. There is way too much smoke in the room, and people drink from a keg in the corner, whiskey bottles on the kitchen counter. It's like a house party back in her school days.

They take sips of alcohol and avoid the cocaine.

It's hot and heavy the first few hours, and then, by dawn, it thins out significantly.

It's right about then that a well-dressed man walks in, accompanied by three obvious bodyguards.

She and Sam glance at each other across the room. Stay sharp, his gaze tells her.

The man looks around a little but then walks into a bedroom that Bay uses as an office, and they close the door behind them.

Andy asks around and finds out the guy's name is Roth, and the way people are reticent to tell her more, to even know more themselves, tells her something.

Sam's gaze across the room says he's thinking the same thing. Big fish.

The guy leaves fairly quickly, and all she wants to do is get out there and follow him, but she knows that'd be the biggest mistake.

Bay trusts them on a low level now, but they've had one strike against them. He is still watching them. She feels it.

So they act like it's no big deal, although she sees Sam talking to Bay casually but in a way that denotes business, so she sits with the rest of Bay's inner circle on a set of sofas, where people are chilling from the party.

Eventually Bay and Sam come over to join them, and Sam grabs her by the wrist, hauling her up and off the sofa so he can settle down in her place. He pulls her back down on his lap, and she shifts awkwardly until he puts his arms around her and tightens his hold, forcing her to still.

He puts his mouth next to her ear, nuzzling under her hair, like he's kissing her, except he's not. "Be patient," he says, low and quiet. It sends a shiver down her spine.

She realizes this position has some specific advantages for communication. Better than glances across the room.

Bay starts handing out pills then, and she tightens up again. She takes the two he puts in her hand with a smirk, and she suspects it's ecstasy. It's in the shape of Mickey Mouse.

She's a little hesitant at how to palm them instead of taking them, but no one seems particularly interested in watching them, and Sam grabs her head and pulls her around to face him and she pretends to take one while actually reaching down and pushing them into the front pocket of his jeans.

She puts a flirtatious smile on her face and she puts her fingers in Sam's mouth. He grins back and then grabs her wrist, holding her hand in place while he makes a show of sucking her fingers clean. He moves slowly, and she feels his tongue against the pads of her fingers.

She has a hard time catching her breath for a moment.

He keeps his eyes on hers and gives her one of those cocky, teasing grins. When she looks around again, no one seems to be watching them. Or alarmed. So she relaxes a bit and starts watching them for effects.

She's getting tired. The sun is coming up, and the party is only starting for this group. If she has to pretend to be on stimulants the next few hours, it's going to get rough.

Slowly, with the music still pounding through the apartment (Doesn't he have neighbors, for God's sake?) the people around them start getting more animated. Some start dancing, and others just talk and laugh. A few make-out in a very public display.

She's not sure what they can learn from a bunch of low-level drug users who are all higher than a kite.

But then, Sam has told her again and again, that it's not always about learning things. Sometimes it's about setting up the role. Getting into position.

So she relaxes back against him and smiles indulgently and tries to listen to the conversation and laugh with the others.

As the drug kicks in more and more though, there is less conversation, more writhing and kissing and dancing and.... what the hell are they supposed to do? She's beginning to worry that there's going to be some significant weirdness soon with sharing partners and group sex.

Sam's mouth brushes her ear again. "Watch them," he says, quietly. "You're the observer here." And then his hands are brushing her hair from her neck and he's kissing down her throat, and she realizes he's trying to put them both into the role, and can't observe, so she has to.

There isn't much to see. A lot of people getting it on, and the morning sun coming through the blinds. Bay walks around the apartment, talking incessantly, but he's not talking about anything important. She thinks he must have done coke instead of E, because he's almost pacing, frantically.

She watches him, but Sam's mouth is warm against her neck. He's moving slowly, licking at her skin, brushing his teeth against her jaw, and she has to swallow and try to turn off her nerve-endings. It doesn't work.

He has one arm around her waist, and the other is in her hair, and in the silence between music tracks, she realizes he is breathing heavily.

With her weariness and the alcohol she's had throughout the night, the beat of the music pounds inside of her along with her pulse. She feels hazy and leaden, drawn to his heat.

Bay disappears into his bedroom with a girl, closing the door behind them.

Sam's mouth sucks a little too hard, marking her just under her collar.

His hand is under her shirt, laying against the bare skin of her side, and she doesn't remember him putting it there, or if he did it deliberately or unconsciously. His thumb rubs up and down in soft strokes.

She closes her eyes then, and the haze grows. It's like a fog moving over her, and all she feels is Sam's mouth and the pulse of the bassline in the music.

She turns her head, just slightly, and her mouth is on his.

He tilts his head back just slightly, looking at her from under lowered lashes, and then his hand is pulling her head forward and he's kissing her. Not a chaste, fake kiss. His tongue slides into her mouth and he goes at her like he wants to eat her whole. She can feel him exhaling, hard, against her cheek. His hand runs a little further up her shirt, his palm spreading flat against her bare back, directing her toward him.

In moments, she is straddling his lap, her knees deep in the sofa cushions, and her hands are cupping his neck, her mouth moving with his. And even with her back to the room, all she can taste is Sam, and her body is full of sparks, her mind saying, Yes, this. THIS. Over and over.

This.

And it's a sharp realization that makes her gasp a little bit into his mouth and then pull away.

His hands keep stroking her back, but she avoids his gaze. She presses her temple against his cheek and pretends she needs a breath. Which she does. More than one.

The feeling is still thundering through her, swallowing her, overwhelming her. This. Despite her choices up to this point. Despite her arguments with herself that Sam was the bad one. The wrong one.

Luke may have turned out to be the wrong one too, but she hadn't spent two years trying to deny her feelings for him.

Things are too real. She doesn't want to be around these people...

"Can we go?" she asks Sam, putting her mouth close to his ear.

She hears him swallow, even over the music, and he says, "Yeah." In a rough, deep voice.

There are others sneaking out the door, so she stands and Sam takes her hand, and he leads her to the front door and then down to the street. They are a few blocks from the bar and their apartment, so they walk in the cool, sunny morning, and it hurts her eyes to look around.

Sam doesn't look at her, but he doesn't release her hand either.

Appearances, she thinks, and she walks with him, briskly, her hand in his.

Clearly, they lost control a bit. The kiss was not a role, and the way he avoids her gaze makes it obvious that he felt it too.

It is... surprising. And yet not.

They make the climb up the creaking stairs to the apartment, and she is suddenly not tired anymore. Now she is jumpy and still hazy and feeling a little lost.

Inside, Sam closes and locks the door, and when she tries to walk away from him, his fingers tighten around her hand and hold her there. She looks at him.

He's staring back, brows furrowed, dark eyes inscrutable and serious, and for a moment she thinks he's angry. Angry at her, or both of them, for slipping up this time, even though it feels like they've been slipping forever. She waits for him to speak, but he doesn't.

Instead, he takes a long, slow, deep breath, and exhales again, and then she sees that she was wrong. He's not angry. He's... commiserating. Resigned, Pained.

We are so fucked. He says, silently.

And she can't look away.

Then he pulls her back toward him, and she goes. She walks up to him and he moves his hand to the back of her head and puts them nose-to-nose, and he says, "Andy..."

And then he seems to run out of words.

So she swallows, and she leans forward, just a little bit, and she doesn't kiss him, but her mouth brushes his, and everything feels still and silent between them.

This.

And then he kind of just... melds into her. His arm slides around her waist, and his fingers bury into her hair, and his mouth slips onto hers, and it just becomes a blur.

She feels him and tastes him and hears him breathing, and she moves with him, backwards into the still-darkened room.

He drops back onto their sofa, pulling her down on top of him, shifting with her until they're in the same position they were in at the party, and it's like they're just continuing on.

She twists her tongue with his, and his hands start pulling her clothing off, and it isn't until the cold air hits her skin and makes her shiver that she realizes they're both completely naked.

The arousal is already there, and the pressure is already building, and he slows her down with his mouth on her neck, his hands on her hips, pulling her toward him, groaning when she moves against him, the hardness and heat of his cock trapped between them.

From there it just rolls on. She slides down on him, letting him inside, and he has her hips in an iron grip, trying to control her movements, his breaths hard and fast.

And then she moves, her head spinning a bit, the pleasure of it all flaring inside of her, running through her blood and her limbs. Pooling between her legs.

He helps her and he groans her name, so quietly she almost can't hear him, and his breathing gets harsher and harsher.

The orgasm just overruns her and drowns her in a wave, instead of rising up and breaking. She's just there, suddenly, and helpless in it. She holds on to him and moans into his shoulder, and he's swearing in a rough whisper and his hands are keeping her hips moving, and then she can feel him coming, and his body is hard under hers.

It lasts a while.

Maybe they're tired or it's all just been too much pressure. But it only ebbs slowly away, and the mere act of breathing moves them enough to make it feel good, still.

As the sex drains away, the tiredness replaces it.

Sam takes a deep breath and blows it out slowly, his arms wrapping around her waist. He rests his forehead on her shoulder and she feels him shaking his head in denial.

"How bad will it be?" she whispers. There were no cameras. No one knows they broke the rules.

He leans his head back and looks at her.

Jesus... he's still inside of her, and now she's looking him right in the eyes, and he slides his hands up to her head and brings her down to his mouth, and he kisses her.

"Screw it," he says, into her mouth. "They won't know anything if we don't tell them."

"But we know."

"We're the two in danger here," he says, backing off and tilting his forehead against hers so he can look at her. "We get this job done, and they won't care how we did it."

She's having a hard time garnering the strength to care what the department thinks of this. Sam's right, the two of them are the ones in danger, and she hasn't been in uniform in over a month. It's hard to care about anything anymore.

Except Sam.

He slides his hands under her rear end and stands smoothly, lifting her up. It's only a few short steps to the bed, and he brings them both down on top of the pile of blankets. They slide underneath, and she looks up at the ceiling and there are bars of sunlight spreading across the cracked plaster.

She is too tired to think about it.

Sam's arm slides over her belly and he pulls her into the warmth of his body, and, sleepily, he says, "I'm going to sleep in the bed from now on."

"Good," she replies, closing her eyes.

Almost immediately, that haze from earlier sweeps over her, and she sleeps.

* * *

It's not awkward when they wake, at sunset. It's not awkward at all. He gives her every opportunity to back off, but when she doesn't, he slides on top of her and inside of her, and as the sun sets, she comes again with his panting groans in her ear.

Then they talk about the case, and she goes to work.

After that, they're much more intimate. After that... she feels more disconnected than ever to her life before the operation. Instead, it feels like she is a bartender, slinging drinks, working in the crevice of humanity that is below the law.

And Sam is her partner and everything else. The one person she can trust with her life. The one she goes home to and finds relief with.

It maybe shows in their day-to-day behavior, because somehow Bay starts relaxing even more. Trusting them even more. They are so deep in their roles, that there is no seam to find, and with Bay's habit, they are invisible now.

Finally, Sam comes home one day and tells her they're ready for the wires.

She is both excited and disappointed in that, and she tries not to analyze that too much.

Instead, she puts her ripped red sweatshirt on and she walks the few blocks down to a McDonalds the next Sunday at noon. Their prearranged weekly meeting. They aren't required to show up every week, but the department has someone there every week in case she and Sam are in need.

She smiles when she sees Oliver sitting at an outside table, sucking a drink through a straw. He's wearing the same shabby clothes he wore during their car sales sting: blue jeans and an old blue sweatshirt. He has never looked much like a cop, so the role fits him.

She slides onto the bench across from him, and he gives her that 'training officer' concerned look, and the first thing he asks is, "You okay?"

"Yeah," she says. "We're both fine."

She glances at his drink, and his empty food wrappers. There hasn't been much opportunity to stock their fridge with healthy food. They mostly eat at the bar, and it can be rough.

"You want something?" Oliver asks. He holds out his drink.

She would love a salad. Even a McDonalds salad, with lettuce and actual vegetables. "No," she says, sighing, but she takes his drink and a long draw on the straw. It's a chocolate shake, and it's delicious. She hands it back.

Oliver yawns and stretches and his gaze flits around the parking lot and the street she came down. "Looks pretty clear," he says.

She nods. She took a few dry runs down to this McDonalds over the past few weeks just in case Bay was having her followed. She's pretty sure he's left them both alone for the last week.

"So, what's up?" Oliver asks, and she looks at him and finds herself silent.

He is asking about the case, but it's so strange, sitting here with him, knowing who he is--knowing who she is, and feeling so completely out of place. Instead of telling him about the case, she wants to tell him everything else. How Bay pulled a gun on them, how she's a bartender now, how she and Sam are sleeping together and she isn't sure how they're going to go back to the way they were after this.

"Um," she struggles. "Sam wants to wire up."

Oliver shoots a satisfied, pleased half-smile her way. "Way to go, Sammie," he mutters, quietly.

She smiles.

Oliver's expression fades a bit, and he studies her. "Andy," he says, his gaze intense. "You sure you're okay?"

She looks at him and hesitates, and then she gives a shrug of indifference. "Yeah, sure. I mean, you know, it's been a while. It's tough. But we're fine."

Oliver watches her for a moment. "Okay," he says, slowly. Then, "You know, Sammie is the best there is at this. You do what he says and you'll be fine."

"I know," she says, honestly. "We're fine."

He watches her again, and then he nods almost absently and smiles faintly. "You know," he says, quietly, in his Understanding Oliver voice. "Just because it happens undercover, doesn't mean it isn't real. You do what you have to do."

She stares at him then, wondering what he knows, what he can see in her. "What are you talking about?"

He shrugs. "You know, just... whatever. I'll get you the equipment. Hang on."

He gets up and walks into the restaurant. She stares after him. He could be talking about her and Sam. He could be talking about the roles they're playing, or the people they're dealing with. She feels so... adrift.

He comes back out with a McDonalds bag and another chocolate shake. He hands them both to her, and then leans in and kisses her on the cheek. "Your uncle loves you, Candace," he says, loudly, in case of eavesdroppers. She almost laughs.

Then he gives her a more serious look, and his volume drops. "Be careful," he says. "It'll be okay. When it's all over, you take some time, okay? You don't do anything impulsive. You just work it out. It'll work out."

She nods, and she watches him almost wistfully as he turns to walk down the street in the opposite direction. She trusts Sam with her life, but she needed this. Oliver's reassurance and his confidence.

She drinks the shake slowly as she walks back to the apartment.

Sam told her the same things before they started. When it's all over, you have to take some time. You have to decompress. Don't do anything rash. You're not yourself. It's like an addict coming off drugs. You cannot make important decisions until you're yourself again.

She feels so twisted and wrong and right and free. It is a microcosm of her entire life. Never knowing how to feel from one minute to the next. Never really knowing what she wants. Going one direction only to realize she should have gone another.

It is uncomfortable and yet familiar at the same time.

She can't decide if she loves it or hates it.

* * *

Roth, the guy from the party, starts coming into the bar on a regular basis, and he and Bay and Sam huddle together over a table each time and talk about starting business in Vancouver. Sam has numbers for them to call, set up by the department, to prove he has contacts. And the Vancouver police have decoy apartments for on-the-ground checks.

She keeps tending bar and pouring Sam clean drinks.

Eventually, Sam is invited to a bigger meeting. Something more formal than the bar, and they waver on whether to put a wire on him.

"No," Sam finally says, as they look at each other in their apartment. "I've got a bad feeling. This guy is much smarter than Bay. He'll search me."

So, they leave the wire off, and Sam is right. Roth's men search him thoroughly before the meeting.

Next meeting is much the same, and then they have to get creative.

They work the mic and the recording device onto the underside of his belt. The thickness of the leather hides it well, and when they search him, they don't run their fingers under his belt.

It works.

The incriminating conversations start rolling in. She takes walks on Sundays down to McDonalds to get a shake and drop off memory cards to whomever waits.

Finally, one day, Boyd is waiting for her. Her distaste fills her mouth, but she walks up and stands in line beside him.

"It's over," he says, looking up at the menu and ignoring her. "Tell Sam to get out and come home. We've got enough to get the job done."

He orders his food and then leaves, and she feels a little numb. It's over. Just like that.

She orders a chocolate shake and then walks home slowly. (And when did she start referring to the crappy apartment as 'home'?)

She feels strangely... uneasy, and forlorn. Like she's moving across the country. Or she's just been fired and is switching jobs.

She doesn't work that night, and she doesn't see Sam right away, so she sits in their apartment and waits for him. She's a bit amazed that she's already worked her last shift at the bar, without knowing it.

Sam doesn't walk in until after 9 p.m. and she says, "It's over." Just as he closes the door.

He stares at her. "You saw Boyd?"

She nods. "He said they have enough. We're supposed to go home."

That's how it works. You get in and then you get out, and then the department sifts through the evidence, builds their case and gets the arrest warrants.

Sam licks his lips and nods and glances around and looks anything but calm and collected. "Okay," he says.

They're silent for a moment, and then he sits down beside her, close. "We can go tonight if you want. Just pick up and get out."

She feels torn. There is a racing fear inside her. That they've made it to the end and they ought to not tempt fate and just get out. That maybe somehow, tomorrow morning, Bay might break in, that ridiculous 50 caliber Desert Eagle blazing, and take them all out.

But the thought of going home is also... strangely foreign.

She shakes her head. "Nah," she finally says, quietly. "Tomorrow is fine."

And they sit there a bit longer, silent and still.

She feels the realization dawning that in going home they will be reverting back to different rules. This is their last night together. And it's been easy to not think about anything complicated between them. For a while it's been just the two of them, and nothing else mattered.

Tomorrow, things will matter again.

Sam shifts restlessly next to her, and he exhales, and she hears the same dawning realization in his sigh. He licks his lips. "You, uh... want to talk about this?"

She doesn't. She really doesn't. There's just so much. Way too much that needs to settle in her mind.

"No. Not really," she says.

He turns his head to look at her, and she meets his gaze. She lets the full force of everything they've been through spin between them. She doesn't think she could hold it back even if she wanted to.

"Okay," he says, softly. Almost a whisper. "I, uh..." He stares at her and stops talking, seemingly at a loss for words, and he's the experienced undercover officer here, but she has a feeling this is a completely new situation for him.

So she leans forward and kisses him. To keep him quiet, and to set the pace for their last night.

He takes the reins from her almost immediately, like she knew he would. He kisses her, and he runs his hands over her neck and up under her shirt. He pushes her back onto the bed and then strips her slowly. Strips himself even slower.

Then he just kind of lets go, and it's a little exciting, a little frightening, a lot consuming.

He uses his mouth everywhere. He marks her neck and her breasts and her thighs and maybe her bones. He holds her down with his hands and his weight, and he brings her to the brink again and again, and never the same way twice. He has enough control, enough of a growl rumbling in his chest, that she feels completely overwhelmed and completely safe at the same time. And it's almost like she's stoned.

They do not sleep.

And in the morning, they get up and she gathers her meager belongings: things she will never be able to wear again. And they go down and tell Bay that they're heading back to Vancouver for a while. That JD's father is sick, and they want to pick up more product, and maybe they'll do some digging for new connections while they're there.

It's a risk. Just walking out without a word could cause suspicion. And if it takes the department a few months to come up with arrest warrants, that could be too late. But by concocting a story, they could be garnering suspicion too.

Bay doesn't seem particularly suspicious, but it's hard to know.

He lets them go with a wave, and instructions to keep in touch about the contacts. There is a dire warning hidden in the orders that if they try to cut him out of the deal with Roth and Vancouver, there will be hell to pay.

They walk out without looking back, and Andy's nerves are on fire the entire time. Waiting for something, anything, to happen.

She doesn't breathe properly again until they climb into Boyd's unmarked squad car at the McDonald's down the street.

Then she feels it all rush out of her, and it leaves her weak.

Sam sits in the back with her and holds her hand, and it's all that keeps her from collapsing.

* * *

The first few days 'after' are surreal.

They let her go home and rest, and it's almost decadent to sleep in her own sheets and eat leafy green vegetables for dinner. She talks to her dad, and Tracy. But she doesn't talk to Sam much.

The debriefings for Guns and Gangs take days upon days, and she sees Sam but not often. He'd warned her it would be this way. That they wouldn't see much of each other right away. So she doesn't feel slighted.

But she does feel lost.

Shell-shocked.

She has to see the department shrink as a condition of going back on the streets for the One Five.

"It takes a while to get your balance back," the shrink tells her reassuringly. "That's normal. You've lived an entirely different life for the past few months. Just keep going and it'll all even out eventually. You're doing fine."

It is reassuring, but doesn't help the overwhelming waterfall of feelings that assails her at night.

She talks to Sam some, but it's... weird. And she's beginning to feel like the whole thing was a dream.

Then the department takes him to Vancouver to help set up a sting for Roth, and that's... that. She hears talk that he's been offered a permanent position, and she tries to call him, but his phone is set to go directly to voicemail.

She goes back to work at the One Five.

For a while, it's sort of a relief. It's joyous almost. Everyone is happy to have her back, and they all want stories, and there are jokes and lots of teasing, and even with the veteran officers she seems to have grown in esteem.

But...

Then things settle down, and she's back to the day-to-day life as a cop. The job she'd wanted for so long...

It feels oddly trying.

"It's too boring for you now," Dov proclaims, because he knows everything ever about being a cop. "Once you've lived the exciting life of a double-agent, you can never go back."

"Double-agent?" She snorts at him, as they do a shot of Tequila at The Penny. "What are you, 80?"

"I'm just saying," he says, sticking to his guns. "If the undercover thing is in your blood, then working the beat isn't going to cut it anymore."

"Well, it's not in my blood," she states, licking the salt from her lips. "Honestly, it was terrifying most of the time. You're surrounded by junkies with guns."

"Maybe you're an adrenalin junkie, like Swarek."

She snorts again, rolling her eyes, but Luke cuts in from across the table at that moment, and he's had maybe one too many shots of whiskey. "Epstein's right. Swarek gets off on that shit. You're not like him, Andy. You're normal."

And that... sobers her.

She's normal. People see her as normal. And isn't that all she's ever wanted?

* * *

But the dreams that plague her at night are anything but normal. They're filled with chases and gunfire and loud music. Dirty apartments and fist fights.

Sam's warm hands holding her down and his wet mouth marking her skin...

She stops calling him when she realizes she doesn't know what she wants to say.

* * *

She's gearing up in the locker room one morning when he suddenly appears again. In jeans and his leather jacket, he comes around the row of lockers and slows as their eyes meet.

Tracy looks between them and gives Sam a faint smile before excusing herself and hurrying out.

Andy sits on the bench and stares up at him.

"Hey," he says, and there's a note of apology in his voice that makes her wince a bit.

"Hey," she says back, trying to keep her tone neutral.

"I'm sorry," he says. "It's always like that after an operation. Too much going on, and they kind of yank you around a bit."

"Yeah," she says. "It's okay." But it's not, really. Because she feels entirely disconnected from him now, and she's not sure what that means. What anything means.

He leans against the lockers, and she takes a silent breath. "We need to talk," he says.

She swallows down the pain that threatens to swell in her throat. "You're not coming back," she states.

He pauses, brows furrowing slightly in question.

She gestures toward him slightly. "You're not in uniform."

He smirks. "Good job, detective."

The humor doesn't move her. It just irritates her. It's too much. "Sam," she protests, and she breaks a little, leaning down over her knees to rub at her face wearily. "Stop. Just tell me."

He gets quiet and hesitates, and she hears the last of the lockers slamming shut behind them and footsteps walking out, leaving them alone.

He steps over and sits down next to her, his shoulder rubbing hers. "I was offered a job," he says, quietly.

"Guns and Gangs," she says.

"No," he says, surprising her. She glances at him. "The RCMP," he says. "Kind of a joint thing with the DEA in the US."

She stares at him. "Jesus..."

"You can only do undercover ops for so long in one area before you're too widely known," he says. "And this operation proved I've reached my limit. I keep trying to go under in Toronto and I'll be dead. I'm not useful anymore."

"Oh." She knows that's the way it goes. It does drain some of her anger away. But it leaves a long, twisting feeling of disappointment in its place. "Well, it's what you've always wanted, right?"

"Yeah," he says, but tentatively.

"So," she says, staring down at her boots. "I'm happy for you."

"Right," he says, sounding dubious.

She doesn't reply, so he goes on, "The thing is... Everyone needs a partner."

She furrows her brows, listening.

"And you're the best partner I've ever had, McNally." His voice is soft now, low. "In more ways than one."

She feels a flush of heat at that. "What, because we slept together?" She's slightly antagonistic in her tone, but he ignores it.

"Yeah," he says. "Because of that. And because you're a natural. You think quick and you don't panic. You get into it. We can get deeper because we're real." He hesitates. "Well, as real as we can be. More real than most agents."

"You want me to go with you and do more operations? Like the one we just did?"

"Yes."

"What, the new bosses are just going to let you drag your rookie along?"

"No," he says. "They want you too. They're impressed with the job we did. I just... asked them to let me tell you."

She isn't sure what to say. Her emotions are a storm. She looks at him. "I... God, Sam. I just... that was the most insane thing I've ever done. And you want me to do it again? We were almost murdered!"

He swallows, and she can see him fighting his desire to argue with her. He keeps his voice calm. "Not everyone can do this job, Andy. Not everyone can handle it. It's hard. But you can. "

She blinks at him and shakes her head and her heart is starting to pound in her chest. "You know, everyone thinks you're an adrenalin junkie. That you get off on this sort of stuff."

He's completely unbothered by the information. He shrugs. "You kind of have to. If you're any good at it."

She remembers the icy fear she felt in Bay's office, with the 50 caliber pointed at them, the needle in her hands, her heart in her throat. "Well, I don't," she argues. "And I can't!" I am normal!

"What are you going to do," he demands, voice starting to rise a little. "Catch speeders and do paperwork the rest of your career?"

"At least I'll be alive to do it."

"If that's what you want to call living."

"Not everyone needs to face death everyday to know they're alive, Sam!"

He looks away from her and glares at the lockers.

She kicks at one boot with the other.

"Look," he says, reverting back to calm and rational. "I'm not saying every operation would be like that. It always takes a lot out of you. It's a big thing. But it doesn't mean you can't have a somewhat normal life too."

She snorts. "Normal how? You get to run home and watch TV for a week in between ops? Catch up on the fall schedule?"

He takes a breath. "No," he says. "I mean, you have time to see your family. You create... bonds. You... find someone who understands and you make it work with them."

She bites at her lip and then glances at him. His dark eyes hold her gaze steadily. "I understand," he says, quietly, and it makes something ache deep inside of her. For a moment, they are back in that dirty apartment, the only two people in the universe, and he is the only one who knows. Who really understands.

"Sam," she says, quietly. Not sure what else to say.

"I want this job," he says. "But I want you too."

She barely takes a breath. "So?" she asks.

"If you want me to stay, I'll stay."

She has to force herself to breathe again. Everything rages inside of her. "You'll stay just for me?" she asks. "And then what? Start hating me in a few years because you never took that job?" She looks down.

"I could never hate you."

She doesn't answer him, and suddenly he is turning, his hand sliding onto her neck, up over her jaw, lifting her head up so she has to look him in the eye. "Hey," he says, in that no-nonsense tone he uses when he's trying to tell her something important. "I'm not kidding. Never."

She swallows thickly and stares back at him. She could keep him here, she realizes. She could keep him here, and this could be a thing. A whole thing where they try to be together. Where they go back to their old jobs and they find a way to make things work.

In her gut though, she feels the truth.

"You can't," she finally says, and her own voice sounds a little strange to her.

"I can't what?" he asks.

"Stay," she says. "Maybe you could live without it, I don't know. But I couldn't live with the knowledge that I made you give it up."

"Andy..."

"I'm serious," she says, and she steels herself. "You've got to go. This is what you've wanted. You have to do it."

He stares at her in silence for a long time. "Then come with me."

"I... " She shakes her head. All she can feel is that burning fear... the rush of adrenalin as her survival instincts kicked in. The turning of her stomach, the tidal wave of emotions afterwards.

Best's voice suddenly intrudes from the hallway, calling her to parade.

She pulls away from Sam and stands up. "I just don't think I can..."

"Andy," he says, and his voice is urgent. "When I walk out of here, I don't know where I'm going. We might not talk... for a long time."

She nods in understanding. "Be careful," she says.

He just looks at her helplessly for a moment, and then seems to resign himself. "Okay," he says, surrendering.

There is a pressure in her head and her chest that is making her feel wired and numb and overwhelmed all at once, and she tries to walk past him then, but he grabs her by the wrist and pulls her down, and then he wraps one hand around her head and pulls her mouth to his.

It's a hard, fierce kiss, and it's so familiar it almost makes her cry.

Then he lets her go, and he doesn't look happy. He looks at her like she's lying to him, and she feels like she's just betrayed him in some way. But he just doesn't get it. How he just isn't normal. How she's had that all her life, and now she just wants to be a grown-up. Because that will make everything better.

She walks into parade and takes a seat by Tracy, and everyone looks at her as if they're confused, including Frank, and she wonders if somehow everybody knows.

"So," Tracy says, slowly. "You're riding with me today then?"

"Yes."

She turns to listen to Frank, and she doesn't even hear his voice. She hears Bay and Roth and all the other people she's been fooling over the past few months. She hears Sam and the creak of the stairs that lead up to their apartment. She hears the pounding music of the parties, the click of the cigarette lighters, the clink of glasses.

She feels the fear of being found out, the rush of success, the heat of Sam's mouth.

Then she thinks of riding in the squad car, catching speeders, taking calls, going to the Penny. Good things, all of them, but...

There is a slowly unwinding sense of dread filling her.

And then Luke's voice. "Swarek gets off on that shit. You're not like him, Andy. You're normal."

Who is she like then? Like Luke? Like her dad? Like her mom?

Like herself... Running into danger, even when it's unwise, because people are in trouble. Or because the bad guy will get away. Or... because she needs it. Because it makes her feel... something amazing. Because she gets to change the world, a little bit at a time, in a way that nobody else does.

You with me?

And there's only one answer to that...

With a start, her heartbeat jumps and she sucks in her breath. Tracy looks at her.

Andy looks back. "Trace... I'm sorry..."

Tracy doesn't even look surprised. She just gives Andy a resigned smile. "If you don't keep in touch to let me know you're alive, I'll kill you."

Andy nods, almost laughs, and then she's standing up and glancing at Frank, and Frank doesn't look surprised either. He just sighs and looks as annoyed as ever and waves his hand in her direction. "Go, McNally. You'd better hurry."

And then she's running, and she hears Oliver shouting something behind her that might be a cheer, or it might be a dig, she isn't stopping to find out.

She's running and her uniform is so confining when she moves. It's always bothered her. Always. And she runs past the locker room and through the squad room and down the hall to the garage, and Sam is there, just about to open the door. The door that goes to the sunlight and the parking lot and his new life without her.

So she shouts his name, as loudly as she can, and maybe for the first time, since all this started, she panics a little. Now, when it's Sam about to disappear.

But he hears her, and he turns around, and she says, breathlessly, "I'm with you!"

And he smiles and waits.

~end~