I'm back again! This time with something a bit event oriented, considering Valentine's Day is not far off. (And I realize this is up a tad early, but it seems slow here as of late, so I figured now is as good a time as any!) So I humbly offer this little one shot. I want to thank the amazing purplecleric for her invaluable beta abilities, her support, and her encouragement. Your advice and suggestions really made this little piece a lot less of a hot mess! While this probably could have gotten a "K" rating, I stuck with "T" because of some cursing, just to remain on the safe side. As for when this takes place? I'd say anytime within the first five seasons, as it's not too specific, except for a Deakins mention. Finally, I classified this as both friendship and romance as I tried to leave it vague enough to go either way.
I hope you all enjoy. Feel free to comment! As always, just be kind. Read on!
Bobby Goren growled for what seemed like the hundredth time that day, and it wasn't even ten in the morning. Sometimes there were distinct disadvantages to being tall, and today was proof. It was February; to be more precise, it was February 14th, and he kept getting smacked in the face by paper hearts of red, pink, and white, adorned with gaudy paper lace, that seemed to be hanging in every fucking doorway. "It's not even a real holiday!" Bobby grumbled to himself.
Of course, his irritation would probably be less if he had a date for the evening. Bobby wasn't averse to the female form or its company and he didn't think it vain to consider himself reasonably attractive. But his drawback was simple: He dated, he did the occasional bed gymnastics, and he moved on. The white picket fence was an anathema to him. And on the off chance he did meet someone who lasted more than a few weeks, his job made sure that they ran far and fast in the other direction. For those of a more hearty constitution, if they could hack the demands of his job, they would start making noises about the future, about promises – and a family. Genetic issues aside, the thought of a screaming baby was almost enough for Bobby to race for the nearest snip-snip!
There was also the fact that he had a partner. A female partner. The turnaround speed of women seemed to increase once they always noted his dedication to her. But they were partners. It was in his job description to care about Eames' well-being, to have her back. And when he made that clear, any prospect usually faded away quickly. Which didn't bother him, to be honest. What that said about him, he wasn't sure. But at least he was honest. To a point, his little voice mocked. But Bobby shut it down in a hurry. This was all because of Valentine's Day, these sudden thoughts. If Cupid existed, Bobby would love to take that arrow and shove it up his…
He was still mumbling under his breath as he approached the men's room and saw that someone had taped a decorative Cupid on the door. Oh, the cruel irony. "Christ," he muttered. "A man can't even piss in peace!"
He stomped in to the bathroom and encountered Detective Jeffries.
"Heya, Bobby, how's it goin'?"
Bobby shrugged and made a noncommittal noise in response.
"Didja get a load of the squad room? I tell ya, I cannot wait to haul ass home tonight. Amy and I are headin' down to Atlantic City, no kiddies!"
Jeffries didn't seem fazed when Bobby didn't respond. He finished up and made for the sink.
"But hey, I'm sure you have some 'fun' of your own planned, am I right?"
Bobby was soon standing at the sink next to the other man, trying to wash his hands and get out.
"You still bein' single, I bet there's a line, you lucky bastard."
With a clap on Bobby's shoulder, Jeffries laughed and parted with, "Don't overdo it. You're gettin' older, takes more time to recover, if ya know what I mean." Jeffries chuckled at his own wit and gave a mock salute. "Later!"
Jeffries didn't have a clue. At least he had Amy. Bobby remembered last year and the desire to connect, to say he had plans on Valentine's Day. For some reason, all of the female company he usually had never seemed to be around for this particular day. Probably for the best, all in all, but a man does have needs. So last year, while out having a few drinks, he met a woman named Pamela, and he blew his paycheck on one of the fancier restaurants in the city, trying to make a good impression. He knew he was odd, but he was also a guy, and she was a cute redhead with curves so Bobby decided to roll with it. Just have fun. He thought back to that restaurant, to the lovely Pamela, to asking her if she liked Glenlivet. (Hey, it was an acquired taste!) And her response reminded him why wanting a woman with looks and brains was so important to him. He groaned as he recalled her smiling reply.
"Oh! He's a great singer!"
Eames had laughed for a solid ten minutes when he got the balls to share that with her. And he decided that being single wasn't the worst thing in the world.
Bobby stared into the dirty mirror. Everyone was overcome with pheromones all of a sudden. People ate chocolate, people went out to eat, people got laid the other 364 days of the goddamned year, so what was so fucking special about this particular day? Shaking his head, Bobby grabbed at the paper towels and dried his hands. He aimed the wadded-up ball at the trash can and missed. For a man stuck in a jock's body, he never was good at sports. With a sigh, he fetched the towel off the floor, tossed it and made a quick getaway before any other happily-married colleagues decided he needed to know every facet of their love lives.
Weaving and bobbing among more paper hearts on the attack, he spied Eames sitting at her desk, staring death rays at Christine Ramsey. This fellow detective had just had a special delivery of roses sent to her desk, and she squealed like a teenager, preening and showing off her bounty.
Eames spied Bobby and rolled her eyes. She whispered,
"I hope she gets scratched to hell by the thorns!"
Finding a kindred spirit, even an unexpected one, Bobby smiled a full-wattage smile and sat down.
Bobby shook his head, the grin still on his face.
"I think someone's jealous," he sing-songed.
"Please." Alex scoffed. "Besides, I have a date with Russell tonight, and it looks serious."
"Who's Russell?" Bobby demanded. "If it's so serious, why haven't I ever met the guy?"
He was proud of keeping his voice steady, even as his stomach fell to his feet. Don't be stupid, Bobby thought. We are partners. And friends. And, okay, maybe Eames is my best friend and I'd go balls to the wall for her, but friends. Platonic. Buddies. Even if she does smell good today…
Damn it, no. FRIENDS. Safer that way. No muss. No fuss. I'm glad for her. Glad. Glad. So. Fucking. Glad. Fucking greeting card holiday was even getting to him. Eames could do whatever she wanted with whoever she pleased. And Bobby was no fool. He meant it when he told himself that Eames was his best friend. He had his circle, but she had gotten closest without him even realizing it, even closer than Lewis, who Bobby had known since they were kids bumming around the streets of Brooklyn together, and he valued that far too much to complicate it with his bullshit. With sex. It just wasn't worth the risk. He'd rather have her friendship than a night of fun in the bedroom, especially if the latter meant she would head for the door as all the others had, never to be seen again. Which was simply unacceptable. So, "friend zone" it was. Even as the darkest, deepest part of his subconscious called him a coward and reminded him of the adage - best friends make the best lovers. Maybe she's why you're still alone. No one else measures up to Eames.
Alex, unaware of Bobby's fight with himself, let him wonder for a bit before letting him off the hook.
"Stover. His name is Russell Stover."
She gave a grin as she saw realization dawn on Bobby's face.
Chocolates. Bobby gave a mock growl. "That was mean, Eames." But then he grinned, suddenly feeling lighter.
"I had to get my jollies somehow since I have no date tonight!"
Alex sighed, turning pensive. The last date she had a few weeks back had the guy talking about his ex all night even as he claimed he hated her. That thin line… Rebound! Get out now! Her mind warned her.
Another before him had seemed like a good prospect until Alex had seen what a tightwad he was, from the menu to sharing a taxi, telling Alex they wouldn't melt if they walked home ten blocks in a rainstorm. She passed, hailed a cab and let that rat drown on his own. And the guy before him ranted about politics all night and Alex had ended the night with a migraine from secondhand government rage. She sure knew how to pick them lately. She wouldn't know a good guy if he bit her in the face.
"You know what is mean?"
Bobby raised an eyebrow, waiting for her to continue.
"A holiday designed to make unattached people feel like lepers." Alex shrugged. Her face clouded as her voice softened and Bobby had to lean forward to catch what she said above the din. "It's days like these I really miss Joe. Just miss someone telling me that they care…"
Before Bobby could say anything to lighten the mood, Deakins walked over.
"Looks like not everyone's in the mood for hearts and flowers…" As he gave the specifics of their latest case, their latest dead body, Alex switched her mind to the case and snatched the keys to the SUV with Bobby hot on her heels, all thoughts of love and romance on the backburner.
After a day of riding around the streets of New York, greasy hot dogs from one of the corner stands for lunch, never good for the digestive tract, and braving the cold breezes off the Hudson River, Bobby and Alex made it back to the squad room fairly late. By then, the place held a few lonely hearts just like them, the rest of the squad no doubt now reveling in wine, women (or men!), and song. Bobby thought of Jeffries, probably halfway to Atlantic City with his wife by now.
They had thought of also calling it a day but decided to tie up some loose ends first. As they finished the day the same way they had started, at their desks surrounded by the tacky decorations, Alex groaned.
"My feet are killing me. Don't people shovel their sidewalks anymore?"
She'd almost slipped at least twice and thanked God that Bobby – tall, sturdy Bobby – was there to catch her before ass met cement.
Her partner, who'd not fought the elements as much, was fighting the beginnings of heartburn and grimaced.
"I think my hot dog is getting its revenge."
He fished out a roll of chalky antacids, which reminded him of those nasty candy word hearts that seemed to have made its way around the office during the week. But at least the hearts had trite platitudes to distract from the taste - unlike the Rolaids. He held out the roll to Alex, who waved it away.
"I was smart; I chucked three quarters of it in the trash while you were interviewing that store clerk uptown." She grinned sheepishly. "Rather be hungry and feel good than have a round of Botulism Bop."
"Always knew you were more practical than me."
Bobby smiled, and popped an antacid in his mouth. He grimaced, then decided he needed something, anything to wash out his mouth.
"Be right back."
Alex, now once more on the laptop, gave a wave as she concentrated on the screen. Bobby got a paper cup filled with water and gratefully drank it down, chasing away the chalk. As he started to go back to his desk, he remembered his coat and what he had in it. During the day, there hadn't been much time between interviews, scouting, and driving, but he'd remembered Eames' earlier words, and wanted to salvage what he could of the day for her. He went to where his coat hung and scrounged for its contents, peeking to check if Eames was looking.
She wasn't. Good.
Alex was still trying to locate a file when, to her surprise, a large light-blue bag of Skittles was dropped on her desk along with a red envelope with "Alex" scrawled in Bobby's barely legible chicken-scratch that he claimed was handwriting. She looked up, then behind and saw Bobby grinning.
He smiled, pride tinged with a hint of shyness.
"You said earlier…you said you missed having someone tell you they care. So I managed to smuggle that out after my interview in that store," he explained.
He suddenly turned serious, even a bit hesitant.
"Eames…Alex. I know it's not the same thing and I'm not Joe, but…" Bobby gave a shrug, "I do appreciate you putting up with my crap. I know it's not easy, I'm not easy, but I'm glad you're my friend."
Don't you dare cry in front of him! Alex grabbed up the card, opening the envelope to see a picture of Snoopy hugging Woodstock on its front and opened it to read about the value of friendship as only Hallmark could put it. She stood and, deciding to go with it, kissed Bobby's cheek and hugged him.
"Thank you. You've made my day. And putting up with crap is a two-way street!"
She pulled back, suddenly feeling awful again.
"Bobby…I didn't get anything for you! You shouldn't have…"
He placed a long finger against her lips to silence her.
"You're here. It's enough."
Realizing he had left his finger there, he slowly dropped it and didn't quite meet Eames' eyes.
"Makes work a lot more tolerable." He sighed. "Even if you never let me drive."
"Well, if you weren't channeling Mario Andretti, maybe I'd let you," she quipped. "But I just value my life too much."
Bobby put up his hands in an "I know when I'm defeated" gesture, and Alex smirked. She yawned and finally moved to turn off the laptop.
"We're not going to get anything done now."
Bobby circled to his desk, putting things in order.
"So, what are your plans, Eames? Besides Russell," Bobby asked. "It's actually not that late. Maybe you can go out and make the most of things."
"I've had enough of the city and its inhabitants for the day, thanks."
Alex grabbed her coat and they went to leave when she stopped, as if suddenly struck by an idea.
"There's a place I know that serves pretty decent take-out, Italian. It won't be near as good as what you said your mom used to cook, and I may not be your idea of a hot date, but if you feel okay now and don't have any plans…"
She stopped, letting the question hang.
"I'd love to," Bobby said, quietly. Handing Alex her candy and card, he added, "Provided we share..."
"I hope you're not going to suggest we share the chocolate!"
"Now you're just talking crazy, Eames."
They walked out of the squad room, their footsteps echoing, and their minds held the same thought.
Maybe this Valentine's Day wasn't so bad, after all.
*A/N: I figured I'd add this little note for the benefit of the non-US readers here. Russell Stover is a brand of chocolates here hence the little joke within the story.