City Lights Lay Out Before Us

by Kyllikki (kyllikki8@hotmail.com)

Disclaimer:  I'm just along for the ride.

Set mid-"Tomorrow" (aired 11/10/02 in US); spoilers for that episode herein.  Also, for my own nefarious purposes, I'm fudging with the timeline and moving the action in this episode back to mid-September.  It'll be worth it, I promise.

Summary:  Four words:  Alex.  Bobby.  Road trip.

Notes at the end.

***

Alex sighed as the door to Carver's office closed behind them.  Not enough probable cause for a warrant.  No warrant, no psych files; no psych files, no real leverage.  And without leverage, their case was no better than supposition.  On top of which, they received the toned-down version of the riot act from Carver, who managed to remind them to stay on the straight and narrow without actually having to say it.  Did they teach that in law school? she wondered.  But Carver was clear about one thing: she and Bobby would have to find another source of information if they wanted to put the nanny away for murder.  She glanced over at Bobby to catch his reaction; given his contentious relationship with Carver, she wouldn't be surprised if he had used the moments walking out of the office to work himself up into a snit of righteous indignation.  Judging by his thousand-yard stare, though, bitching about the injustices of the system was the last thing on his mind. 

"What?" she murmured, already afraid of where this was leading.  She could practically see the wheels turning in his head.

Bobby looked meaningfully at her, a familiar, hey-this-is-crazy-but-it-just-might-work look.  "You heard what Carver said:  'some other way.'  I can think of another way." 

She was a sucker for that look.  He didn't need to know that, though, and she knew deep down in her gut that whatever he had come up with was going to be a Bad Idea of epic proportions.

"Bobby, no," she said, shaking her head to cut him off.  "Whatever you're thinking -- no."

He grinned at her.  "Another way.  I have another way ... wanna hear what it is?"

Her inner six year-old wanted to close her eyes, stuff her fingers in her ears and sing "La la la la I can't hear you!"  Of course, if she let her inner six-year old have her way, she'd also punch Bobby in the arm, yell "Cooties!" and run away.  And since she was a professional with a reputation to uphold, there would be none of that.  She settled for quickly brushing past him and refusing to meet his eyes.

He caught up with her easily and planted himself in her path.  He leaned down to peer into her face, grinning a grin worthy of the Cheshire cat.  "We're going to Meadville," he whispered.

"Bobby--"

"Nonono, hear me out, okay?" he said. "We'll go to the institution, see if there's anyone there who remembers her." 

She stopped short.  "Bobby, listen to me.  First of all, there's no way that evidence would hold up in court."  She began ticking the reasons off on her fingers.  "Second of all, there's no way the department is going to spring for two same-day round-trip tickets to Pittsburgh; and third of all ..."  Her voice trailed off and she frowned.  "I don't even have a 'third of all.'  It's just too ridiculous."  She tried her best to glower sternly at him, but his resulting smirk made her question her success.

"Alex.  Who says the department has to know about it?  We can leave now and be back by tomorrow morning.  No one has to know." 

His use of her first name surprised her.  Boy, he must really be desperate.  She snorted.  "Yeah, you say this because I'm the one who has to drive."

She gave him credit for at least attempting to look apologetic.

She tried one more time.  "We're still on the clock, and this little adventure of yours has to go below radar.  And even if we leave right after work, it's still a long trip to western Pennsylvania and back again.  You wanna be the one to explain this to Deakins?" 

"This could be our best chance of figuring out what's driving this girl.  As for the rest" -- he waved his hand in a dismissive gesture -- "it's just logistics.  We can manage it."  He gave her his most charming smile, the one he reserved for uncooperative female witnesses whose help he really needed.  The guaranteed-to-make-'em-melt smile.  She knew what he was doing, she knew that smile -- but knowledge and resistance weren't even in the same ballpark.  It was too late.  He was into full-on wheedling now, and she reluctantly admitted to herself that any resistance she put up from this point would be largely token. 

She saw his charming grin widen into one of triumph.  Dammit, he had her.  And what's worse, he knew he had her.

"Fine," she said somewhat petulantly.  "But only because this is our best shot of getting a break in the case, okay?"  Then, realizing that the middle of One Hogan Place probably wasn't the ideal location to be discussing their forthcoming less-than-departmentally-approved adventure, she began steering Bobby to the elevators.   

While they waited for the elevator car to arrive, he refused to stand still, instead bouncing up and down on the balls of his feet.  She noted this behavior and caught the gleam in his eyes and then put the two pieces together.  "You just want to play hooky, don't you?" 

His eyes widened at her question.  "Eames, I'm surprised you would think that.  My motives are pure as the driven snow, I assure you."  But something in his voice belied his innocent manner. 

The elevator dinged and she followed him onto the crowded car.  "Whatever you say," she muttered, assuming the tone of the unconvinced.  She thought she heard him snort derisively, but there were so many people sharing space with them that she was uncertain.  Even more people looking to escape the confines of One Hogan Place joined them at the next floor down, and thus Alex found herself crammed between Bobby and a wheezing bald man who was not-so-surreptitiously trying to look down her shirt. 

Their close proximity did nothing to diminish Bobby's zeal for finishing their discussion, but the glut of people forced him to lean down and murmur -- or share their entire conversation with a bunch of strangers, including Wheezing Guy.  "I promise this is legit," he said.  Pressed up against him, she could feel as well as hear the rumble of his voice.  "I wouldn't have suggested it otherwise.  But anyway" -- and here his voice dropped to a whisper that, in another setting, would almost qualify as sexy -- "how long has it been since you've taken a road trip?"

She looked up sharply at him and saw his eyes dancing with mirth.  Bastard, she thought, even as she felt the corners of her mouth turn up at the prospect of running away from the city for a few hours.  Mercifully, the elevator finally reached the lobby, freeing Alex from Wheezing Guy and hiding her burgeoning grin from her partner.  As they escaped the crowd, it occurred to her that a trip below radar in an NYPD fleet car was inherently paradoxical.  And that meant...

"If we're going to Pennsylvania, we can't take the SUV," she said.  "Fleet car equals accounting for mileage, remember?"

Bobby frowned but appeared otherwise unfazed by her declaration.  "I figured we'd take your car," he said.  Apparently realizing she might not take too well to his presumption, he added, almost as an afterthought, "Unless that's a problem, of course." 

She stifled a low growl of frustration.  This was just Bobby being Bobby, she reminded herself.  Steamrolling people was second nature to him.  But man, one of these days...  She wondered if grabbing your partner by the scruff of his neck and giving him a good hard shake was against departmental regulations.  She bit back a sarcastic remark about why didn't he just help himself to all her possessions while he was at it, but in the interests of partnerly harmony all she said was, "No, that's fine."

"Okay then," he replied, apparently oblivious to her irritation.  "I'll drop you off at home and then return the SUV.  You can follow me back to One PP."

She shook her head.  "Nope, that'll take too long.  Go return the SUV and get our stuff from upstairs.  I'll take a cab to get my car and then pick you up, okay?  That way we can be efficient in our hooky-playing."  She uttered the last sentence without a trace of irony. 

He nodded.  "All right, then -- see you in a little while." 

She nodded curtly and reached out to hail a cab.  You're gonna regret this, the voice in the back of her head warned.  But that didn't stop her from indulging in a small smile; after all, Bobby had never seen her car.

***

Bobby returned the SUV to the One PP garage with little fanfare, barely batting an eye as he glibly told the attendant (who wondered why one partner picked up the vehicle and the other was dropping it off) that Eames was off "pursuing a new lead."  It wasn't until he was on the elevator that he realized that the more formidable task lay before him:  retrieving their coats and Eames' briefcase from the squad room without having to explain himself to the captain.  He'd need the change of clothes he kept in the gym bag underneath his desk, as well -- if he was going to spend the better part of the next 24 hours in the car, he sure as hell didn't want to be wearing a suit.  No wonder she sent him to do the job.  She probably hoped he'd get snared by Deakins and she'd be off the hook.  He considered that for a moment before dismissing it.  No, once he had managed to talk her into their little mission, she seemed almost ... enthusiastic.  Okay, so she wasn't setting him up to get caught, and given the smile on her face as he left her, he thought she might be more than a little pissed off if he did get caught.  And there would be no disappointing Eames today, he decided.  So.  Where did that leave him?  He didn't really think of himself as particularly self-aware, but he wasn't stupid; he did look in the mirror every day, after all, and thus knew that he couldn't exactly tiptoe in and hope his presence wouldn't be noticed, especially not with the armful of stuff he had to leave with.  Hiding in plain sight, then.  In very plain sight, he decided -- and grinned.  This was going to be fun.

When the elevator doors opened, he burst through them.  He dashed across the short hallway going full-throttle, almost flattening one of his coworkers as he rounded the corner.  "Sorry!" he called back over his shoulder, hearing unintelligible expletives in response.  He swooped over to their joint desk space, making a show of rummaging  through the piles of papers and muttering to himself.  While he was bending over to look, he quickly reached down to retrieve his gym bag.  Still muttering, he pulled a paper from near the bottom of a stack and shouted "A-HA!" triumphantly.  He didn't really care what he was holding -- it was the show that counted, and out of the corner of his eye he could see Deakins standing at the door to his office looking somewhat bemused.  Stuffing the "precious" document in his gym bag, he grabbed Eames' briefcase and started tearing off from whence he came.  Halfway to the elevator, he did a quick 180 and returned for their jackets.  Deakins was still standing in the doorway watching him.

"I forgot ... our coats," he said apologetically to Deakins, shrugging.  "She hates it when I do that."  Then he dashed back to the elevators, sparing a quick glance over his shoulder to see Deakins shake his head and retreat into his office.  The elevator arrived and he quickly ducked in, not bothering to keep the grin off his face.  Mission accomplished.

Five minutes later and much more comfortably attired in a black t-shirt and jeans, Bobby waited in front of One PP for Eames and calculated the logistics of this trip.  For all that he professed to her that the details would work themselves out when he was trying to talk her into this, he was a bit concerned with the timeline.  It was twenty 'til eleven already, and it would probably take them just over six hours to get to Meadville, which would put them at the institution shortly before five.  He doubted anyone there was going to be especially receptive if they came waltzing in at 4:45 asking lots of complicated questions; they'd simply have to shave off some travel time.  Eames wasn't a slave to the speed limit, but he'd never seen her go more than a couple miles per hour over, either.  Not that speeding was generally an issue, given the heavy traffic they inevitably ended up driving in; maybe she drove differently on the open road. 

It was then he realized he had no idea what kind of car Eames drove.  No, that couldn't be right.  She must have mentioned it at some point.  But nothing came to mind.  She always took the subway in to work (doing her part to save the ozone layer, she joked) and if they needed a vehicle for a case, they used fleet cars.  Her nose wrinkled the first time he requested an SUV -- they gave him much-needed leg room -- but she never said anything else about it.  He could probably safely rule out SUV from the list of candidates, then.  As for anything else...  He frowned slightly, trying to imagine what she would drive.  Since she had never said anything about it, he presumed it to be an unremarkable car.  And Eames was practical to the bone, so she'd probably want something with a long life and good gas mileage and safety features.  A Volvo or a Honda.  Probably a smaller model, since she didn't really have anything or anyone that needed transporting on a regular basis.  Satisfied with his profile, he began scanning the street for cars fitting the pattern ... which is how he missed seeing her until she honked.

But this... this was not the practical car he envisioned.  How had she failed to mention this to him before?  He tried to mask his shock as she pulled up to the curb.

"So I hear you're playing hooky," she called as she pulled to a stop. "You want a ride?" 

A '65 Mustang.  Eames was driving a pristine, candy apple red '65 Mustang convertible and wearing -- what was she wearing? -- describing her v-neck white t-shirt as "snug" would be generous, since it left exactly none of her curves to the imagination, and she had a pair of faded jeans that sat low on her hips.  Her expression of wide-eyed innocence notwithstanding, he suspected she knew exactly the reaction she was going to get.  He obliged her with a low whistle. 

His suspicion was confirmed when she said slyly, "What, you've never seen a pony car before?" 

"Something like that," he said.  "Now I see why we always drive on the city's tab."

"You want me to waste this beautiful piece of machinery on driving to and from crime scenes?" she scoffed. "Fat chance."

"We'd certainly get a lot more attention," he murmured, taking in the car. 

She gave him a strange look and he couldn't quite figure out why until he realized he was still standing on the sidewalk staring stupidly at the Mustang.

"Well, this was your idea," she said. "So why don't you throw your stuff in the back and let's get the hell outta Dodge." 

"Right.  Sorry," he replied, still a bit off-kilter.  But he obediently tossed her briefcase and their jackets in the backseat and climbed in.  Eames gunned the accelerator and they sped off into the bright fall morning.

*****

Notes: 

(Slightly revised with the Chapter 2 update to make Bobby sound more Bobby-like.)

I fully intend to get Bobby and Alex to Pennsylvania and back again -- it's just going to take a while.  Have patience.  :)

The title is lovingly robbed from Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car."

jael gets the betacakes, as always.