Author: Scribere Est Agere
Spoilers: Post Loyalty.
Disclaimer: These characters do not belong to me.
Summary: And he realized it was like a puzzle, or a map, but the best kind of map, because all the roads led to her.
A/N: Was lost for awhile, but, like Bobby, am finding my way back, slowly, surely.
A/N #2: This is for my dear CSINut214. Happy Birthday. Sorry it’s not Grissom/Sara, but I hope this will do. You’ve been there for me in more ways than I care to count and I love you muchly. And, I thank you.
There’s a fine, fine line between a lover and a friend;
There’s a fine, fine line between reality and pretend;
I guess if someone doesn’t love you back it isn’t such a crime,
There’s a fine, fine line between love
And a waste of time.
“Well. See you around, I guess.”
After that, there was a quiet time, and they didn’t speak for weeks.
It didn’t sink in right away, not for her, the enormity of her actions. The repercussions. She’d never actually resigned from a job before and she certainly hadn’t planned to resign from this one. But when she realized what they wanted (I know you have strong personal feelings, but Detective Goren has become a liability), what they had planned, what they expected her to do with her career, her life, and when she thought about the reality of that life, of working for years and years without Bobby by her side, the decision simply appeared in her head, fully formed, and she didn’t question it for one second.
She wouldn’t work without him. Nothing worked without him.
Driving home she didn’t think about much at all, not about money or her future, her mortgage and various other bills, the inevitable shocked reactions from colleagues and family. She especially didn’t think about where Bobby was, or what he might be doing. She did think she should probably call someone, just to let them know. Then she laughed out loud when she realized there wasn’t anyone. No Frances, no Frank. No Ross. No friends. No one. Bobby could be anywhere by now, and if he chose not to contact her, chose to cut her out of his life, well, that was it. She was, to put it mildly, fucked.
(I know you have strong personal feelings, but Detective Goren has become a liability.)
Strong personal feelings.
She tried not to think about how her fingers trembled on the steering wheel.
When she got home she stood in the quiet and dark and wondered what to do next. It was late, but not late enough for sleep. She felt exhausted, but knew sleep was not going to be her friend tonight. Getting drunk seemed like a viable option, but she was fairly sure she didn’t have a drop of alcohol in the place. Too tempting. Far too tempting these days.
Instead, she cleaned the fridge. She scrubbed her bathtub and sink until the fumes made her dizzy and she almost passed out. She swept and vacuumed. She reorganized her closet. She pushed her work clothes to the side and moved up her plain shirts, jeans, flannel, hoodies. She took a long bath and stared at her feet, then at the ceiling. Cobwebs in the corners. Hmm. She thought about shaving her legs but couldn’t reach the shaver so decided not to.
She put on pajamas and made tea and drank it in the shadows. She didn’t watch TV, she didn’t read, didn’t answer the phone when it rang (her sister, probably calling to say goodnight or complain about the kids, or both). She listened to the traffic, far below her, people driving with other people, to other places not here.
It wasn’t until she was in bed, late, blankets pulled up to her chin, face pushed into her pillow, that she allowed herself to think about what she’d been avoiding thinking about for hours: Bobby. Bobby staring at her as if he’d never seen her before, would never see her again. Bobby leaning down, way down, kissing her, pressing his lips to her cheek, and the smell of him so close (cologne and coffee and cigarettes, damn him, he promised he'd quit). Bobby wrapping his arms around her, strong and warm, he was so warm, and holding on as if he’d never let her go. She didn’t want to let go, and she certainly didn’t want to cry, so she patted him, and chewed on the inside of her cheek and focused on the sensation of actually holding him and of him holding her until he let go and walked away from her.
Well. See you around, I guess.
She wondered what the hell that meant.
She wondered if any of it had really even happened at all.
Her first two days at home were spent in her pajamas and robe, wandering from her bed to the kitchen and back again. She kept her cell on her bedside table, drank a lot of tea and slept often and deeply, and every single time she woke up she was groggy and disoriented and sat staring at nothing for several moments before she remembered with a violent start that she had no job and she didn’t know where Bobby was.
Every single time.
Twice she dialed his number, but chickened out after the third ring, knowing, knowing he wouldn’t pick up and for some reason she just couldn’t bear hearing a recorded version of his voice. She just couldn’t.
He didn’t call her. Big fucking surprise.
On her third day she decided to get dressed, stay dressed until bedtime, and not nap at all so she wouldn’t have to keep remembering the same horrible truth over and over. She drank more tea and sorted papers, piles of papers stowed in cardboard boxes on her kitchen table. Bills and work stuff, junk mail, letters and cards. It was mindless work, soothing. She made neat piles, things to keep, things to recycle. Then she came across a work memo, some nonsense about a change in vacation policy. She’d never even read it. Now she scanned it, saw it was signed by Ross, dated three weeks previous.
She ran her fingers over his signature, burst into tears, slid to the (very clean) floor and cried for 10 minutes straight.
Bobby, to his credit, didn’t leave right away. He waited until the following morning.
He spent the evening after his firing watching TV and drinking Cutty Sark and wondering how it had all come to this.
He thought about calling her, did, actually, twice, and hung up before it even started to ring. What would he say? What could he? Nothing that hadn’t been said a thousand times before. And none of it would be followed this time by, See you in the morning.
When he finally staggered into bed at 2 a.m., his mind was loose with liquor and fatigue and all he could think about was how it had felt to actually wrap his arms around her for the first time. She was so damn small, but she felt so solid in his arms. He remembered the sensation of her breasts pressed against his chest (soft and yielding and oh so sweet and arousing, too), of the curve of her cheek when he’d kissed it, the smell of soap and detergent and tears and the gentle rise and fall of her breathing. He hadn’t wanted to let go, not then, not ever. And why, why, hadn’t they done this sooner?
Well. See you around, I guess.
What the hell had that meant? It was something to say, he supposed, and he had to say something. Not good-bye, too formal and too permanent. Not see ya, too flip. This see you around nonsense, well, yeah, he would see her around. Wouldn’t he? Not at the precinct, of course. He pretty much planned to never set foot in the building as long as he lived. But not see Eames again? He’d just as soon chop off his left arm, cut up his library card, stop breathing. It was…ludicrous.
So, he closed his eyes and felt the room spin a little and thought about her face, about how tightly she’d held him, like she hadn’t wanted to let him to go, either, and all those years and cases and looks between them.
Sometimes he forgot how long they’d been together, how far they’d come, how old they were now. And, now she was on her way to making fucking captain. And, he was fucking fired. Again. What would she want with him, now? She’d be too busy to even make time for lunch, he supposed. She would work her ass off, as always, and in time, in time, she’d forget all about her crazy, shit-disturbing, potentially career-ending former partner.
That thought made his chest ache and his gorge rise. He made it to the bathroom just in time.
His knees hurt and his head hurt and his mouth tasted like an ashtray and he knew had to get out of there. Now. Or, as soon as he was sober.
He rented a car (How long, sir? How long what? How long do you need the car for? How long can I have it?), and familiarized himself with the act of driving again. He threw a bag in the backseat and just…drove. She’d done all the driving for so long and he’d forgotten how relaxing it could be once he got out of the city.
He had no clue where he was going, but that seemed oddly fitting for his situation. He stopped in a small country store, bought water and a sandwich, egg salad wrapped in plastic, a pack of cigarettes, lighter. Beer. A road map, because Eames would approve.
He stayed that night in a long, low motel with sagging beds and threadbare curtains. He sat up late and smoked and sipped a beer and flipped through channels that played nature shows or snow or nature shows about snow. He thought about Eames.
The next day he drove, and drove and drove. The map sat folded on the seat next to him. He rolled the window down and let the cold air fill the car. His head was starting to clear for the first time in…well, a long time. Occasionally he even smiled, just a little.
Another motel, another day of driving. And again. He thought about Eames, how she was doing, her job, her life. He wondered why she hadn’t called, realized he didn’t know what the hell he’d say to her if she did.
Late one night he pulled out a photo of her, tucked in the back of his wallet, folded and creased, weathered with age and repeated handling. Taken at some mind-numbing Christmas police function they’d both attended, standing with…what was his name? Gordon? Maybe. She was holding a drink (bourbon) and her hair was up, but tendrils had escaped. Her face was flushed and she was smiling. Grinning. Who had snapped it? It didn’t matter. Afterwards, a bunch of photos had been pinned to the bulletin board (none of him) and when no one had been looking, he’d taken it. She was so young. He remembered her looking exactly this way, but that memory was somehow combined, morphed, with how she looked now. She was interchangeable, she was beautiful and she was just Eames. She was unlined then, smooth, bright-eyed and eager. He knew she had lines now, fine lines around her eyes, creases between her eyebrows, but somehow they only made her more lovely. His own face, when he dared glance in a mirror, plainly puzzled him these days.
Who the fuck was that? The grey hair, the rounded face, the heavy stature. He had changed so much more dramatically than she. What the hell happened to his face? His body? His hair? He looked like an old man. Life, he knew, would be kinder to Eames, and she would continue to age gracefully, would probably outlive him by at least 20 years. Thank god. He simply couldn’t imagine her going before him. The notion of existing, breathing in a world where she was not was…ludicrous. He knew, had known for a long time, that if she should die before him, he’d last about two weeks without following, in any manner possible.
These are the kinds of things he thought about as he drove.
On the fourth day he finally unfolded the map, propped it up over the steering wheel and stared at it.
I am here. He pointed. And, she was there. So much space, now, between them.
His finger traced the lines, the intersecting reds and blues, roads and rivers spread across the creased paper like veins under the delicate skin of her wrist.
Here, he thought, I could go here. Then here, and here. I could just keep going until…
Something filled his chest then, something tight and unyielding, something that felt like panic, so he shoved the map onto the passenger seat, jammed the car into drive and drove.
On the fourth day she stopped by his apartment. She waited until it was late, dark, hoping he’d be home and maybe asleep, ha ha. She used her key to get in, the “emergency” key he’d given her many years ago and had used only once before.
But, she already knew as she walked down the hallway, knew when she slid the key in the lock, knew when she pushed open the door, that he was not there, that he had gone, God knows where, and wouldn’t be back any time soon. She just knew and what the fuck are you doing then, stupid foolish girl, what are you looking for, a note, an explanation, a map to his whereabouts?
And fuck him, anyway.
She wandered around in the gloom and staleness for approximately three minutes, trailing her fingers over books and sticky countertops, dust and scribbled notebooks, before the shakes started.
He’s not here. He’s really just not here.
He had gone and she didn’t know where. She didn’t know when or if he’d ever come back.
And why do I care so much, anyway?
But she knew the answer to that, and for the second time in as many days, she slid to the floor in tears. This time, however, she cried a lot longer and a lot harder.
Her therapist Laura — the same therapist she’d been seeing on a monthly basis since GageGate, as she called it — knew something was different the moment Eames plopped down in the chair, the same chair she sat in every month, the red wing chair, the red corduroy wing chair with the impossibly soft brown pillow and brown throw for wrapping around her during chilly afternoon sessions.
“What’s up?” asked Laura. Alex hadn’t had anything of great interest to talk about for some time and the news burst out of her like a gunshot.
“Ah.” Laura nodded and expelled a great sigh, which is what she did whenever Alex told her something she considered Very Important. She hadn’t sighed like that in a long time. “Wow.”
“Those are two huge events for you.”
Alex nodded and bit her lip. She hadn’t cried during a session for a long time. But this. This was just…She hadn’t even said those words aloud until now. Fuck. She could feel the tears gathering, brimming, falling. She let them fall.
“Which of these things is upsetting you more right now?”
She wanted to deflect, to shrug, but that seemed so juvenile, and Laura would see right through it, anyway.
“Bobby.” Her voice sounded very tight and small.
“Do you think maybe it’s time we talked about Bobby and the relationship you have with him?”
They never really talked about Bobby. They talked of him and around him and Alex related funny, quirky stories that made Laura show both her dimples, and she aired her endless, petty irritations (How on earth can a man get suspended so many times?), but so far she’d always managed to successfully conceal any real and true feelings she might have in relation to the man.
Or, so she thought.
“What do you mean?” She blew her nose and avoided Laura’s penetrating gaze.
“I mean, you’ve been evading any serious discussion about your partner for, well, as long as you’ve been coming here. And now he’s gone. And, from your reaction, I’d say the feelings you have for him are much deeper than just friendship.”
Shit. She knew. She knew!
“We’ve been together…worked together for a long time.” Alex mashed her wet tissue in the palm of her moist hand and stared out the window, the same damn window she’d been staring out of every single time she’d come here and avoided talking about Bobby Fucking Goren.
She really wished she’d stop crying.
“And I miss him, all right? I really miss him. Are you happy now?”
“I am. But, the real question here is, are you?”
“Not right now, no, not particularly because I have no clue where he is.” She said this much louder than she needed to.
Laura smiled. “And…”
Alex bit her bottom lip hard and tasted blood. She let the thin, iron tang seep across her tongue and fill up her mouth. She swallowed twice before she trusted herself to speak.
“And I love him. I love him and I want him here. With me.”
There was a long, long silence, filled with quiet light and deep dimples.
Finally Alex sniffled and said: “Fucking therapy.”
Laura leaned forward, spoke very deliberately: “That, Alex, is what we involved in fucking therapy like to refer to as a breakthrough.”
Her sister and brother-in-law owned a cottage, a cabin, really, two hours outside the city. In her second week of unemployment, they offered it to her.
“Go. Please. Recharge your batteries,” her sister said. “Take some books, journal, groceries. Everything else is already there. Bring warm clothes, though. And stay as long as you like.”
As long as you like.
Suddenly a retreat from the world and everything — everyone — in it sounded terribly, terrifically appealing.
Thinking about Eames was a usual state of existence for him, but this not working with her, not talking to her on an almost daily basis, was not.
He’d lasted much, much longer than he’d thought he would. In the middle of the second week, he broke down and called her cell. Voice mail. He clutched his phone for a very long moment and dialed the precinct.
“Hey Zach,” he said, clearing his throat, which was suddenly dry.
“Goren!” Zach sounded genuinely pleased. “It’s certainly been boring without you around.”
“Yeah. Huh. Well…glad to know I’m missed. Can I talk to…uh…Captain Eames?”
“Eames?” A pause. “You mean Alex?”
“Yeah…” He laughed a little and pushed the squirming panic down in his gut. “Who else?”
“Well, she’s not here, Bobby. She quit.” Another pause. “Didn’t she tell you?”
“Uh...no. No, she didn't mention it.” Bobby felt the phone slide along his wet palm and switched it to his other hand, which was equally moist. “I don’t...understand. When?”
“Well…the day you got…”
“Yeah. That day. Cleared out her stuff and left. I’m really surprised she didn’t—”
But Bobby had already hung up, was already dialing her number again, and already knew she still wouldn’t answer.
The cabin was exactly as she’d pictured it: small, neat, clean, equipped with a woodstove, kitchen table and chairs, a couch and loveseat, two bedrooms with beds and dressers, an outhouse. She dropped her backpack on the floor and looked around. She didn’t feel any less lost here, but she figured it was as good a place to find herself as any.
She took long walks in the cold, under heavy steel-coloured clouds. She sat by the lake. She watched snow fall and thought about how quiet she felt here. She hadn’t felt quiet for a long, long time.
She took deep breaths and marveled at how her heart didn’t ache quite so much.
In the end he simply called her sister and asked where the hell Eames was. But, more politely.
“Uh…I’m not really sure she wants anyone to know where—” Liz said. There was a lot of noise in the background. Kid noises. Bobby pressed the phone hard against his ear.
“You…you mean me, I know but—”
“Bobby.” Liz’s voice was very gentle, a little like Eames but a lot like every grief counselor he’d ever been forced to talk to. “She really needs some time alone, you know? She’s having a bit of a rough go—”
“I know. I know…and I…I really need to talk to her about—”
“She quit her damn job for you, her career—” Now she didn’t sound gentle at all. Now she sounded angry, like every boss he’d ever had, or his mother, for god’s sake.
“I know! I mean…I didn’t know until just recently, and believe me, I never would have let her do that, if she’d just told me—”
“Let her? Jesus, Bobby, you really are as full of yourself as everyone says.”
“…everyone? Does…does Eames say that?”
There was a long, gusty sigh on the other end and a long, angry silence. “Listen. She can’t be reached where she is anyway, so I strongly suggest…no I order you to just leave her the hell alone. For once in your life, do what’s right for Alex, okay?”
And that’s when he knew exactly where to find her.
She took more long walks. She read. She wrote. She took photographs. She even fucking chopped wood. She chopped until her arms ached and the heavy thwack filled her ears and echoed off the trees around her.
She went to bed when it got dark and woke up when it got light. She took off her watch and turned off her phone. She didn’t miss the sound of anything, including the sound of her voice.
And everything was all right and she’d just gotten used to being completely alone and quiet when Bobby showed up.
It wasn’t such a long drive from where he was, but because she was waiting (or not) at the other end, it seemed interminable. He calculated the route, following the lines, the blue and red lines, and pictured her, her face, waiting, but his gut roiled with trepidation and longing and fear. He drove and drove and kind of hoped she didn’t have a gun with her.
It was a car she didn’t recognize, and she assumed it was her sister or brother-in-law in a rental or one borrowed from work. But, it wasn’t either one of them who emerged from the driver’s side (who the hell is that?) and when she finally figured out who it was, her mouth dropped open, and her hands went slack, and the axe she’d been swinging fell to her side, slicing neatly and sharply through the fabric of her jeans into the skin of her shin.
“Hey.” He approached with his usual hesitant shuffle, his head tilted a little, a small smile playing around his mouth. He looked happy to see her.
She finally found her voice. “What…what are you doing here?”
He shrugged, one-shoulder, and looked suddenly boyish, unsure. “Should I not have—?”
“I mean, I’m…I’m glad to see you and everything.” Glad. Had she just said she was glad? It was taking every ounce of self-control to not throw herself at him, wrap her arms around him, wrestle him to the ground—
He just nodded and kept staring at her.
“How did you find me?”
He kicked at the snow under his foot. “Used to be a detective, you know.”
He grinned. “You used to talk about this place, a lot. When your sister would bring Sam here.”
“Yeah.” His gaze changed then, became darker as he watched her. “You always sounded so…wistful.”
She looked away.
“Plus, I, you know, called your sister and asked her.”
She laughed. “You did?”
“And she actually told you?”
“—used to be a detective.”
“Right.” She smirked. Couldn’t help it. She tried to picture the two of them in a pissing contest on the phone. Poor Liz hadn’t stood a chance.
“Yeah. Yeah…Turns out she’s…she’s not a big fan of mine.” He laughed.
“Yeah.” That was putting it mildly.
“Said you…wanted to be alone.”
Alex cocked her head. “Yeah, well…contrary to popular belief, my sister doesn’t know everything.”
“I think she might disagree.”
He looked down then and his eyes widened in shock.
“Blood,” he said stupidly.
“What?” She looked down. The lower half of her right jean leg was dark and wet, and a small trickle of red had made its way into the snow around her foot.
“What the hell did you do?”
“Uh…cut myself?” She lifted the axe a bit, then let it drop to the ground beside her. “Doesn’t hurt.”
And, it didn’t. She felt absolutely nothing but numbing shock at the sight of this man standing in front of her. The blood in the snow couldn’t belong to her. She laughed a little at the absurdity of it all.
“Jesus, Eames…you’re really bleeding.” He knelt then, one knee in the snow, hands tugging up the bottom of her jeans. He sucked in his breath. Her shin was coated in blood, red and shiny against her pale skin and the white snow. When he looked up at her, his face was just as pale. “How can that not hurt?”
He scooped her up easily in his arms and carried her into the cabin before she could even open her mouth to explain.
Turned out it was a small cut, deep, but probably, according to Goren’s professional assessment, wouldn’t need stitches.
He made this pronouncement after carefully pushing the leg of her jeans up to her knee and leaning in for a close look. Alex leaned back in the uncomfortable kitchen chair and stared down at the top of his head, wondering, for the hundredth time, what he was doing here.
“It’s a good thing you don’t have to be at work anytime soon,” he said solemnly, not looking at her, and so conveniently missing her expression of astonishment.
Of course, she thought. He used to be a detective, after all.
He found a first aid kit in the kitchen and went to work cleaning her up. As he dabbed and wiped he tried not to think about the fact that he was touching her bare skin. Her bare, bloody skin.
“Am I hurting you?” he asked at one point. She shook her head. It felt odd, to have him touch her this way, but oddly intimate, soothing.
“I can do it, you know,” she said, to say something.
“Just as well. It’s all your fault, anyway.”
“What?” He looked up at her startled, hands stilled. Her heart leapt.
“Well, when I realized who it was, getting out of the car…”
“Ah.” He bent his head once more, his hands making long, gentle strokes on her leg. He smeared the wound with Neosporin (You don’t have an allergy to this? No. Not that I know of. Okay. Good.) and very gently pressed a bandage over it.
“All done.” He stayed sitting where he was, not looking at her. She wondered if she should thank him, but she didn’t trust her voice. Instead, she raised one hand and placed it on the top of his head. He sighed. He grasped it and moved it to his cheek, leaned into it. It was completely still and quiet in the small room. Eventually he moved her hand once more, held it in his, still not looking at her. Time spun out. Then he said:
“What happened here?” He traced an angry welt on her palm.
His fingers moved to her wrist.
He kissed both spots, his lips barely brushing her skin. Her eyes welled. She blinked, hard. Then he finally looked directly at her and smiled.
“Good god, Eames. This country living’s gonna be the end of you.”
Now what? she thought as darkness fell and the winds picked up. They were adrift, the two of them, bobbing in the dark with no fixed destination on the horizon. She didn’t mind.
Her leg throbbed.
They were sitting side by side on the couch, not touching, but acutely aware of one another’s presence. Outside the window the trees bent and swayed and snow whirled and danced.
“I don’t have to…stay,” he said. “I just…”
“What? Drove all the way out here to bandage my leg?”
“I missed you.”
"And it wasn't that far, really, from where I was."
“Oh.” She shifted. “Where were you?”
He shrugged. “Around.”
“I…called work.” He glanced at her, saw her frown.
“I really don’t want to talk about that right now, okay?”
“Okay. Sure.” He paused. “It’s just, I don’t understand—”
She stopped him with a kiss. It was awkward and ungraceful, completely unplanned, but she kissed him and he responded, immediately, naturally as if they’d been practicing for this moment for years. Suddenly she knew something: she wanted him, completely and utterly, and maybe this desire had always been there, just beneath the surface, and maybe she’d finally stopped fighting it, stifling it, because, really, what was the point? She could see no point and she wasn’t going to stop and look for one. She kissed him and he kissed her and their hands were moving, touching places they’d never touched before (the back of her neck, beneath the fall of her hair, his jaw line, her hips, his hair, her—), and he was pulling her, pulling her, and she ended up straddling him, her knees sinking into the soft, old couch cushions on either side of his thighs, pressed up against him, and she could suddenly feel him, his hardness, and she made a small sound in the back of her throat and in response he clutched at her back, beneath her worn, fuzzy hoody, and pulled her even closer and she ground down on him harder and it felt so fucking good—
Then they were in the bedroom, on the rumpled, unmade bed, barely big enough for her and now the two of them were entwined and gasping and clothing was being unbuttoned and shoved aside and she could tell where this was going.
“I don’t know how sturdy this bed is,” she breathed as the mattress sagged and springs groaned beneath their weight. His hand was under her shirt, moving up to her bare breast. He spoke with great effort:
“S’okay. We’ll go slow.”
And they did, at first.
She couldn’t remember the last time she’d been completely naked in front of another human being. The gym, maybe, which didn’t really count. But it wasn’t just being unclothed that was unnerving: it was the awe with which he was staring at her. It was the most fitting word she could come up with. Awe. Like he’d just been handed a gift that he didn’t quite believe he deserved.
There was a kind of electricity in the air, something super-charged, making the fine hairs on her arms stand on end. She lay back on the bed. She didn’t feel nervous or intimidated, or embarrassed or unsure (even though she hadn’t made love with or fucked anyone in so very long); she felt right, she felt that things were finally, completely right and no matter what happened, there would always be this and that knowledge was enough to make her sigh and laugh and kiss him hard, and she did all three, in quick succession.
And when he slid into her, he realized she was made up of everything he’d ever cared about, Frances and Frank and Declan and every case they’d ever solved, she was their arguments and their failures, their laughter and sorrows, she was his life, and this, doing this, felt as natural and right as sleeping and waking, as walking and breathing.
For a moment, when he was fully inside her and she’d hooked a leg over him and her fingers were digging into his shoulders and she was staring up at him, watching, waiting, he could only lie and stare at her, thinking all these things and wondering how he could hold on to this, this moment, this first-time moment that would pass so quickly and never come again. But, that’s what life was, he knew: fleeting first-time moments that he could only memorize and catalogue and recall later, and then she made a movement, pushed up against him with her hips and he gasped and dipped his hand into her neck and plunged into her over and over and didn’t think about much else except it was Alex, finally, at last, and that was pretty much all that mattered in the end.
Don’t let the fire die, she thought as she drowsed. Don’t let it go out. It’s too cold. Don’t—.
“What if I go crazy?” he said and she jumped.
She rolled over. “What?” She wasn’t sure she’d heard him correctly.
“You know. It could happen. I could just—” He snapped his fingers sharply, startling her. “—at any time.”
She just stared at him.
“Happened to my mom. It could happen to me,” he said again. “It could, you know, it could—”
She sat up, put one hand gently across his mouth to make him stop. His lips were very soft under her palm.
“All right. I guess it could. All right? And I could get hit by a bus tomorrow. Or, you know, have a horrifying and fatal incident with the axe.”
“Don’t say that. Stupid thing to say,” he mumbled under her hand. She took it away. Her skin tingled. “Besides. There are no buses up here.”
She put her hands in her lap and held them together very tightly. “Look, you want a guarantee or something? Is that what you want?”
“Would be nice. Yeah.”
She expelled a long breath.
“So what? What? You go crazy. So?”
“You don’t…get it.” He swallowed. “But I guess if I was nuts at least I wouldn’t notice your leaving.”
“You think…you think I’d leave? Leave you? If that happened?”
He stared at his hands. Flex. Relax. Flex. He laughed. “You’d what…you’d…stay?”
She made sure he was looking right at her.
He looked at her.
“I went to your apartment. When…I didn’t hear from you. You…you weren’t there. I went there to find you, because I knew…I thought you’d be there, because you’re always there. But this time…you weren’t.”
“I went…away for awhile. Thought I could…find something.”
She put her hand on his chest, felt the steady bump of his heart.
“Eames. Alex. Your…job.”
“When did you quit?”
“About a minute after you walked out the door.”
She laughed at his obvious bewilderment. She’d seen that look on his face so many times. He was trying to work out a puzzle. And the answer was so astonishingly simple. It was so obvious.
“I left, Bobby, because you did.”
And underneath it all was the fact, undeniable, that he loved her. He loved her and had loved her for a long time and would most likely continue to love her until he died. And he didn’t just want to fuck her (but oh god he did want to so badly over and over again) and walk away, like he’d done with women before. No. Eames — Alex — was a part of him in some elemental, fundamental way that he couldn’t, or wouldn’t, even come close to explaining, to himself or anyone else.
And it didn’t even matter, really, whether or not she loved him in return (but oh god he hoped against hope that she did, even a little bit because god it would kill him if she didn’t) because he couldn’t stop loving her, even if he wanted to.
And, he didn’t want to.
“What do you think Ross would say about this?”
“I think he’d approve. Eventually.”
“What do you think your sister will say about this?”
“She doesn’t like me.”
“Well, she’ll have to learn to, won’t she?”
And a heave and a gasp and a crying out of names and a melting, a falling apart, just a little. Then, a coming back together and realizing everything was better than it was before.
“We’re crossing a line here.”
He nodded. “Between, you know, friends and co-workers…and…” His fingers spread along the lines of her ribs, slightly sticky with sweat.
“We don’t work together anymore.” She laughed. “We don’t work at all.” It seemed terribly funny, just then.
Bobby shook his head. She wondered if he’d even heard her.
“We can’t go back, you know. To what we were. Just…working together and…not touching and not…any of this. We can’t ever go back.” He paused and spoke very quietly. “I can’t ever go back.”
She reached up then, cupped the side of his face in her hand. He leaned into it, closed his eyes.
“Good,” she said. “I don’t ever want to.”
“I love you, you know.” She wanted to say it before she fell asleep, and she could feel sleep inching close, threatening to swallow her whole. She needed to say it before she slept.
He swallowed audibly. It made her smile.
“I love you, Bobby, and it’s okay if you don’t, you know, feel the same way, but I just need you to know—”
“I love you.”
“—because, in the end…what?”
He loved catching her off guard. It so rarely happened.
“You heard me.”
“Say it again.” She was crying.
“Say. It. Again.”
“I love you.”
He kissed her forehead.
“I love you.”
“I love you.”
“Okay. Good. Good. Good.”
As she slept he traced her, by the light of the moon streaking through the bedroom window, splashing across her skin. The marks in her skin, the silvery stretch marks of pregnancy, the delicate veins in the crooks of her arms and along her breasts. Her scars, her battle wounds, both seen and unseen. He found a few that puzzled him (beneath her chin, behind her right ear). He would ask her about them when she woke. His finger moved, hovering, afraid to wake her. Red and blue, silver and white, healed and raw. He bent and kissed her collarbone, the top of her breast and thought that her body was a beacon. A guide, a means to find where he needed to go.
And he realized it was like a puzzle, or a map, but the best kind of map, because all the roads led to her.