Author: Scribere Est Agere
Spoilers: After Loyalty
Disclaimer: These characters do not belong to me.
Summary: We were always saying goodbye.
A/N: In honour of my three-year (plus a few days) CI Fanfic Anniversary, I humbly submit the following to my devoted readers. Thanks to alicat713 for providing the angst-ridden prompt, found below. Love you.
Do not remember me
nor as the keeper of secrets
I am a fellow rider in the cattle cars
you move slowly out of my bed
saying we cannot waste time
~ Movement Song, Audre Lorde
Bad things happen when you’re tired and preoccupied: You drop things, bang into doorways, fall down stairs. Worse things happen when you’re tired and preoccupied, and a cop.
The transfer was smooth, seamless, and very speedy. Less than a week after Bobby walked out of the office (out of her life), she accepted an assignment, a temporary assignment, she kept reminding herself, at the Midtown North Precinct. Senior Detective, paired with one Richard McDonald, 43 years old, married with three kids, partner out for six months with a heart attack. She needed to work, she knew this. She needed to not sit around her apartment and stew and dwell and wait for phone calls from a former partner that were just not going to come.
The answer rolled off her tongue like it had been sitting there waiting for this precise moment: Yes. Yes, of course I’ll do it. It sounds…perfect.
Richard was fine. He was friendly, skilled, smart. He possessed not a shred of humour (or genius), did everything by the book, called her Alex, but he was fine, and he deferred to her experience respectfully, cordially. He seemed a bit in awe of her actually, and she wondered, from time to time, if it had anything to do with Bobby (She survived 12 years with Goren? She’s tougher than she looks). It was all fine and safe and it felt so good to be working again.
But, no matter how much she threw herself into the cases, buried herself in the paperwork, how hard she ran (mornings before work, every weekend), no matter how much sleep she got and how much coffee she inhaled, she was always tired, she was always distracted and her other life, her previous existence, was always there, glimmering and hovering on the periphery. And it looked exactly like Bobby.
“This Sawidan character.” Alex stared at her computer screen. The room bustled around her and for a moment she could imagine she was back at One Police Plaza, and when she looked up, he’d be sitting across from her, head down, scribbling in his notebook, already miles ahead of her. “There’s something not sitting right with me. This navy yard warehouse…I think we need to revisit it. I think that’s where he would have stashed the money. There are still three areas we haven’t checked.” She paused. “What do you think?”
“It’s possible.” Richard pushed back from the desk, scratched his chin. “I don’t know, though.”
“Must be hard, huh?” Richard said suddenly.
“Going from…Goren to…” He waved his hand absently. “You know.”
She shrugged. She didn’t want to talk about Goren, with anyone, and certainly not with Richard.
“What’s he doing now, anyway?” Richard asked. She knew he was merely being polite, courteous even, but for some reason it rankled her, and she had to bite her tongue to keep from snapping at him. “Did he…you know—” He lowered his voice. “Did he have another breakdown?”
She closed her eyes, counted to three. “No, he did not.” She took a deep breath. “He’s…uh…he’s…looking for work, actually. Taking some time off, first. But, yeah. Looking for work. I mean, he’s had offers, of course. Lots of offers. He’s…considering different things. Any department would be lucky to get him.”
Richard leaned back a bit, nodded.
“He was good, from what I heard. Really good.”
You’re the best. You always will be.
“Yeah.” She nodded and realized with some horror she was going to cry if they didn’t stop talking about this right now.
“But, I mean, a detective is only as good as his partner, you know? He must have…really relied on you. I mean, no offense, you’re great, and I like working with you, but Greg and I, well, you can’t just toss aside 10 years of partnership, you know?”
She slammed the desk drawer very hard, and smiled tightly. “I know.”
The warehouse was cold and damp and poorly lit and their footsteps echoed like gunshots when they walked.
She knew where she wanted to look, but Richard, for some reason, wanted to check somewhere else, and for the first time she felt a bit abandoned, that maybe he was irritated with her or, you know, missing his partner.
She wandered then, physically, but mentally, too, which she never did, never had done. She’d always been so focused and so aware of her surroundings, but lately…yeah. Lately.
She found, at one point, she wasn’t even looking where she was going, that her flashlight was just making odd circles here and there as she listened to Richard doing the same thing somewhere else. She was beginning to think they’d made a mistake coming back here, that there was nothing to be found, when she realized yes, it had been a mistake, but for a completely different reason.
There was sudden movement behind her and because she was distracted and thinking about her previous life, her Bobby-shaped life, she wasn’t paying full attention to her new life, and she was tired and preoccupied and a cop, and bad things can happen, and there was suddenly an arm across her throat and a gun jammed into the side of her head.
How many times? How many times, over the years, had they almost died? How many stray bullets, perps who could have snapped and grabbed for their throats or their guns and didn’t? How many near misses?
There was no way of knowing, really. And, who would want to?
In this particular instance, everything slowed, and there was no movement, nothing, except for the sound of Richard’s footsteps, so far away. She felt Sawidan’s breath, hot and heavy and slow, in her ear, moving wisps of hair against her face, and he was holding her so tightly it hurt, and the gun hurt; he was, like, grinding it into her head, and she thought, she knew, that any second, his greasy, sweaty finger would slip and that would be it for Alexandra Eames.
“Alex?” She heard Richard’s voice, now, far away, but coming nearer, and Sawidan pulled her even closer, if possible, and tighter, and she couldn’t breathe and she couldn’t move and it didn’t matter anyway because she was going to fucking die in a minute.
“Alex?” And of all people, it was Richard Fucking McDonald, her partner of barely one month, who was going to be the one who found her broken, smashed and bloody body on the floor and he’d be upset, of course, but he wouldn’t really care, not like Bobby— (stop it stopitstopit), and Richard was the one who was going to have to tell her family, her colleagues, Bobby—
And that thought, that image, that was the one that galvanized her into calm and practiced action because fuck if she was going to let that happen because
It didn’t really bear thinking about, until it did, because
(No job is tough enough for you.)
For Bobby life went on, in a way, and he fell into a familiar, comfortable routine of reading and sleeping and drinking and taking long walks, and spending hours and hours in book stores and the library, and trying very hard to not think about anything or anyone, and especially not work, but there was only so long that could go on, so when Bobby bumped into one Detective Dave Dietrich, a colleague of a colleague, outside the library on a cold, windy Sunday, late in the day, he was forced to look reality right in the face.
“Goren! Where you been keeping yourself?”
Dietrich knew, of course, about the firing. Everyone knew, and Bobby didn’t care, but when Dave launched the usual boring-as-hell uncomfortable shoptalk about shit Bobby cared nothing about he listened for as long as he could without being completely rude, and was about to make some excuse and walk away when her name came up.
“So Eames had quite the scare the other day, huh?”
Bobby stopped fidgeting, stopped staring at a spot over Dietrich’s left shoulder, stopped breathing.
“What…what do you mean?”
“You didn’t hear?”
Bobby could have happily strangled him right there, right on the sidewalk on a Sunday afternoon.
“Uh…no. No. We haven’t…” He cleared his throat. “It’s been a few…weeks, I guess. I was letting her get settled in, get ready for the Captain’s exam…”
“Well, she’s not at headquarters anymore, right? She…transferred to Midtown, a month ago now. Works with Richard McDonald.”
“…what?” He knew he should have played it cool, should have just pretended this was old news, that he and Eames had discussed her (what the hell fucking bizarre) decision over drinks, but the news was like a punch in the gut, a twist like a fish hook, cold like a bucket of ice water and his reaction was completely genuine. He couldn’t have faked it if he tried. He just wasn’t that good an actor, he supposed.
“Yeah. She and McDonald. Bet she’s giving him a run for his money. He’s such a fucking pussy.”
“Yeah. Yeah…I’ve heard that…” For a moment he felt he actually might have to sit down, right in the middle of the sidewalk, lay his cheek on the cold pavement and take some deep, steadying breaths. He really, really did not want to be having this conversation right now. “But…what about…Eames—”
(No job is tough enough for you.)
“Oh. Shit. Well, Sami Sawidan, right? Fucking maniac! Five kills in the past six months, one of them a cop, Vanderkirk from 71, and she managed to knock him out cold, broke his nose in the process, but still. From what I heard it was pretty fucking intense. A mandated week off, plus counseling, which is pretty standard, considering. I’ve been working, what, 23 years, and I’ve only had a gun pulled on me, what, three times, and never shoved into my head—”
Bobby closed his eyes, felt his world tilt, take on a kaleidoscope of bizarre colours and sounds. When he spoke his voice was high and slow and far away in his ears. Time became very slow and very fast and he was caught somewhere in between. For a moment he simply could not move.
It was full dark by the time he got to her apartment, even though he ran most of the way.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” It wasn’t the way he’d planned to start the conversation, but when she opened the door and he pushed his way in, none of the other opening sentences he’d practiced on the way (How are you? I’ve missed you! Don’t ever scare me like that again because I fucking love you!) would come out. He knew his voice was too loud and too angry but he didn’t fucking care. He was fucking mad, mad at the situation, mad at life, mad at her, for fuck’s sake. She was a cop, a good cop, and somehow she’d managed to let something really bad happen—
“Where was he? Where was…what’s his name? Roger? Where the hell was he?”
“It’s Richard. And he was right where he was supposed to be. It was…me. It was my fault, I wasn’t paying attention—”
He had slammed the door behind him and locked it rather viciously, and now he stood staring down at her, his hands locked in tight, sweaty fists at his sides.
“Bullshit! You never…you would never, in all the years we were…you would never let yourself get into a situation where—”
He was kind of yelling at her now (What the fuck am I doing? I don’t want to yell at her, I want to hug her, I want to kiss her, I want—), but he couldn’t stop, and she was standing a few feet away, her arms crossed tightly over her chest, her hair swinging in her eyes. There was only one light on in her apartment, so everything was in shadow and he couldn’t really tell what her expression was.
“What are you doing here, Bobby?” Her voice was low and quiet, without a hint of rancor. It caught him off guard because he’d expected her to yell back, maybe, or tell him to get the hell out. He found he didn’t know how to answer her, because it seemed so obvious.
“What…what am I doing here?” He huffed out a breath, realized how tight his chest was, how his throat hurt. “I just…I just found out from fucking David Dietrich that my…that you…I ran into him on the street, Eames, and he tells me that he heard this…that you—”
She just stared at him.
“Why…why didn’t you tell me?” He knew how it sounded, how he sounded, desperate and sad and almost pathetic in the needing to know, but he couldn’t help it, because he actually felt all those things and more.
She just stared at him.
“Why would I tell you, Bobby?”
“Why would I tell you, Bobby?”
“We’re not partners anymore.”
“I know…I know, but, fuck—”
“And, I’m fine. See? I’m fine. I’m standing right here, so obviously, I’m fine.” Her voice was hard and brittle and balanced on the edge of something sharp and thin, and things were starting to become clearer to him. He nodded.
“I can see that, but—”
He moved very slowly, so as not to startle her. She crossed her arms harder.
“I’m fine, Bobby.”
“Yeah? Good.” He paused. “Because, I’m not.”
“So?” Her voice was shrill, uncontrolled, even as she held her small frame still and tight, taut as piano wire. “So what?”
What to say to that?
“Let me see.”
He took a step towards her. She took a step back.
“Let you see what?”
Another step forward, another back.
Another for him, another for her. An awkward school dance. A bizarre mating ritual.
She was going to be right against the wall in a minute.
“Let me see.”
“Eames. Let me see.”
Thud. There was the wall.
“Eames.” He was begging now, near tears. She was fighting them too, but while his were desperate, pleading, hers were angry, panicky. Was she actually thinking of running from him? He lifted his hands, placating. “Eames. It’s…it’s me.”
Still she stood, stock still, frozen in his gaze. He reached for her, the tips of his fingers grazing the soft fabric of her shirt. He could sense the trembling beneath. He reached further, touched the skin of her arm. She flinched.
“It’s…me,” he said again, softer. She nodded, two swift, sharp nods. She bit her lip, tossed the hair back from her face and took one step towards him. She turned her head slightly to the right and waited. He pushed her hair, soft and straight and slightly damp (sweat?) back from the side of her face and saw it: angry red welt, round, branded into the soft, pale spot beside her eye. Dark, deep red and starting to bruise around the edges and angry and painful. He knew it hurt her, and he knew it was more than physical.
He kept his face completely still and placid but felt a swelling in his chest, a roiling, red and angry as the mark, because he could now see it all happening, it was a reality now because he was standing here staring at it, his fingers were tracing it and fuck the fucking bastard who had done this—
(No job is tough enough for you.)
Stupid stupid he’d cursed her, cursed her by saying that stupid dumb shit thing to say—
I should have been there. Should have should have should have —
He pictured it all in his head, unwittingly. The gun, cold and oily, pressed, jammed into the side of her head and her stock still, frozen, waiting, waiting for just the right moment to distract him, to rear up and slam her head back into his nose, and the sickening crunch of bone and spurt of blood and rush of adrenalin and where the fuck had RogerRichard been—
He let his fingers trace the mark and this time she did flinch, the tiniest bit, but she exhaled, too, long and hard. And now she was crying, he noted, silently. Tears sliding down both cheeks, her face immobile.
“I’m…not fine,” she said slowly.
“I’m about as far away from fine as I can be.”
“Yeah.” He smiled. “Me, too.”
“I thought…I was sure…”
She shook her head slightly. His fingers moved on her skin. He didn’t want to take them away.
“I should have died.”
“Yes. He was going to kill me. Would have.”
“I thought I was going to die, right there, with my brains splattered all over the floor, and I never, I never would have seen Sam again, or Liz, my parents…I never would have seen…never would have told them, or you—”
Still the tears fell, one after another after another. She didn’t seem to notice, though her tongue did flick out and up, caught one on its tip.
“And I wondered…I wonder…if that’s how Joe felt. Or Ross. If they saw it coming and had time to think any of those things at all.”
Bobby took her hand then (cold, damp) and pulled her, slowly, gently, to the couch. He pulled her down, pulled her onto his lap. He put his arms around her and held her. She gave a long, wet sigh and went completely limp after a moment, deflated almost, and fell against him, melded into him. He pressed his lips to the mark. Her skin there was warm and he kissed her very lightly because he knew it hurt, but she leaned into his mouth, pressed the side of her head against his mouth as if giving permission to erase or heal, and if only he could do both those things for her.
But, he couldn’t, so he started kissing her instead, and it wasn’t the kind of soft and sweet gentle kisses he always imagined he would use the first time with her. These kisses were hard and fast and frantic as he tried to cover all of the skin he could find, like if he stopped for just a second she would pull away, slap him, scream at him, break his nose, knock him out cold, because she was capable of that, he knew.
No job is tough enough for you.
“Bobby,” she said, pulling back slightly, her fingers digging into his jaw. “Bobby, stop.”
He did, immediately, tried not to breathe too hard, failed.
“I’m sorry. Sorry, really,” he babbled. “I don’t know what I was—”
“Bobby…I need…I need more than that right now.” She forced him to look right at her. “Okay?”
It took a moment to process exactly what she was saying, but then he nodded, because he knew, he understood, and god, he needed more, too.
“Are…are you sure?”
But, instead of answering she was kissing him with hardness and haste and desperation that caught him off guard, but made him so hard it hurt. Then they were kind of ripping each other’s clothes off; he actually heard some of his shirt buttons hit the floor across the room, and he managed to make a sizable tear in the collar of her sweater as he yanked it over her head.
“Maybe we should…slow down,” he panted at one point, but she shook her head and there was no way he could argue with her.
He knew they should, probably, move from the couch, which was barely containing their frenzied tussling, but that thought was far away, and seemingly unimportant, because then they were off the couch, they were on the goddamn floor, tangled and gasping and grasping.
He looked down at her, when they were almost completely naked, when they both paused to catch their breath, and he spread one hand on her bare chest, fingers splayed beneath her breasts, along her ribcage, because he needed to feel the heavy, hurried beat of her heart, because she was still alive and she was here. She let him do that, but only for a moment, because she needed more right now.
And then she was on top of him, easing herself over him, easing him into her, and for a moment she looked so intense and beautiful balanced there that he couldn’t even move. But she could move, and she moved quickly, her hands on his chest and her head dipping low so her hair brushed his skin. And finally they were both moving and pushing against one another, searching for that spot, that moment when everything rose and expanded and exploded and melted and she cried out as she came, and then he did, too, and she fell against him, wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed her face into him, hard, so she could barely breathe.
She was crying, he realized, really crying, so he rolled them onto their sides and he put his arms around her for awhile, wondered if they should finally move to her bedroom, or if she was going to kick him out, but she wasn’t done.
“I…I still need more. I need more, Bobby.” She was kissing his mouth and his neck and oh god, he was getting hard again, which hadn’t happened to him in so long he kind of thought it would never happen again. “You’re the only one…the only one who can...” She kept kissing him and stroking him, her hands moving up and down, her breath against his neck and she was moving under him, spreading her legs and guiding him to her, and god, everything was just softer this time, and wetter and slower, and she barely moved beneath him, just held on as he rocked back and forth and up and down and in and out, then tilted her hips up and pushed against him, but didn’t cry out this time, and he didn’t either. It was a quiet gasp, hardly any movement at all, really, just very slow and sweet and exactly as he had imagined, when he allowed himself to imagine such things.
“I should have been there,” he said. His heart was still pounding, but so was hers, and he was still inside her, but she wouldn’t let go of him.
“I should have been there.”
She kissed him.
“I should have been there, Eames.”
She kissed him again.
“You’re here now.”
They didn’t move.