A/N: This is the long-promised post-Season Ten story from which my oneshot What Might Have Been was born.
Unlike many cops, Bobby Goren didn't mind stakeouts. Usually, they graced him with quiet downtime in which to think about whatever case it was he and his partner, Alex Eames, were working. He found such downtime to be invigorating, giving him an opportunity to work his way deeper into the mind of their quarry. As much as his partner hated losing him to whatever criminal he had in his sights, she understood his need to go...as long as he came back to her, which he always did.
It had been quite awhile since they'd been on stakeout together, and Goren found that something had changed, which came as a huge surprise to him, though it shouldn't have. The something that had changed was him. Physically, he was much leaner, down to the healthiest weight he'd seen in years. Pushing 50, it had been more of a struggle for him to shed unwanted pounds than it used to be, but he'd applied himself and one more obstacle tumbled out of his way. The way he dressed and the frequency with which he shaved of late reflected his satisfaction with his healthier physique, but it was an outward sign of a much more profound transition. The biggest change was taking place within him.
His therapy sessions with Paula Gyson, which he continued of his own free will after her evaluation of him for the department was complete, had sent him spinning. He had always avoided self-analysis as much as he could, uncomfortable with the man he had become. Gyson was helping him to become the man he wanted to be. For the first time in his life, he was healthy inside and out.
At the current moment, scrunched down in the passenger seat of their department-issued SUV, he was experiencing a significant amount of downtime, courtesy of the suspect for whom they were waiting. He couldn't complain though. He found a way to entertain himself. As much as he relished the challenge of figuring out the mind of a criminal, he was far more intrigued by the challenge of figuring out the woman seated in the car beside him. And right now, he was successfully annoying her.
No one trusted him more than Alex Eames did. She trusted him to keep an eye on their surroundings, to let her know if and when their suspect made an appearance, to behave himself. Okay, in hindsight, she had to admit she was pushing it with that last expectation. She held her coffee cup in both hands and sipped the sweet liquid as her eyes scanned the street around them.
It wasn't a good neighborhood. Three streetlights were out, making it harder to see through the darkness. A small group of teens sat on a stoop halfway down the block, smoking pot, not even trying to hide it. In the four hours they'd been watching the neighborhood, they had not seen a single cop, not one patrol car.
Beside her, Bobby was bored, and he started being playful. His hands strayed over various parts of her body, trying to get a reaction from her. She fought to suppress her response to each move his hands made, but she didn't try to stop him. Her mind strayed to a mental list she had begun to compose recently, a list that continued to grow steadily. Reason number 137—or was it 138—of why I love my partner. It was the same as reason number 2, but it was also important enough to warrant repeating. He makes me laugh.
There had been a time, not too long ago, when the opposite was true. Instead of making her laugh, he made her want to throttle him. What was the technical term for killing one's partner? In the absence of one, she had been ready and willing to coin a term, if not to put it into actual use. Partnericide, maybe? What other words might apply, synonyms for partner...friend, buddy, chum, pal, mate... no, not mate... soulmate...How the hell had that happened without her even being aware that it was?
Okay, so he'd been through a rough patch. Several of them, in fact. But to her mind, that did not give him carte blanche to do what he'd done, to treat her as though she were, what? Expendable. Or inconsequential, maybe. Neither was a term she particularly liked to have applied to her. Forgiveness had been a long time coming.
She wasn't even sure what had triggered it. One bright morning, it seemed, she woke and dragged herself into work to find a different man had hijacked her partner's body. Okay, so it hadn't been that sudden. He had worked hard to redeem himself, with Gyson's help, no doubt, and he had earned the forgiveness she had initially been so reluctant to give.
Reason number 139, uh 8—oh hell, it doesn't really matter that much, does it? He makes me feel young again.
How long had they been partners now? More than a decade. Back in the beginning, it had been a struggle, especially for her. Goren wasn't the easiest man in the world to get along with back then, and she was still working through the loss of Joe. Back then, she gauged everything in her life in terms of her life with Joe. She still remembered the grief she felt when the day came that Joe had been gone longer than they had been married, and then the day he'd been gone longer than she had known him. She also remembered when Goren figured that out. He was tuned in to her, even back then. Both times, he took her to dinner, let her get drunk and made sure she got safely home. He tucked her in to bed and slept on the couch, nursing her through her hangover, and her grief, all the next day while he sat in her living room and used his laptop to work their open cases. Something between them had changed that first time, and hindsight told her that was when she had finally begun to step away from her grief and fall in love with him.
They settled in to watch for their suspect, a dealer named Gus Jarden, who was suspected of ambushing the adult children of two senators, a city councilman and the mayor, leaving them beaten half to death, bruised and bleeding in filthy alleys, robbed of cash, credit cards and dignity. He was a nasty slimeball in a very high-profile case, and they needed to get him off the streets sooner rather than later. And so they waited.
He began playing with her hair. She didn't protest much.
His phone chimed and he fished it out of his pocket. A text from Logan. Busy?
Stakeout, he replied.
Are you bored yet?
Not at the moment. I'm managing to keep myself entertained.
Behave. The walls have ears. Besides, if you steam up the windows, you'll out yourselves.
He laughed softly. She took his phone, and he let her. Seeing it was Logan, she smiled. Logan had proven his friendship time and again, and she was glad he was still around, that he stayed in touch with Goren. He had proven himself to be just the friend that her partner needed.
Eight years ago, on the night he and Logan had been caught in lockdown at Brooklyn Fed, Goren had left the squad room with Logan once the paperwork was done. Around four in the morning, she had received a call from her very drunk partner, asking for a ride home. She never figured out why, once he reached a certain stage of inebriation, he forgot how to call for a cab and called her instead. But she had gone to get him, surprised to find Logan still with him. She took them both back to Goren's place. Logan crashed on the couch and she guided Goren back to his bedroom.
His tie was long gone, tucked away in his jacket pocket. As she helped him undress, she gradually became aware of his closeness, of the scent of his cologne mixed with beer and cigarettes. He placed his hands on her hips and leaned in closer. Before she knew what was happening, he was kissing her. She started to pull away, but he resisted, and she found herself lost in his kiss. She slid her hands into his hair, kissing him back, entirely overwhelmed by his passion. He pulled her down onto the bed with him and continued to kiss her. When he broke the kiss, he gently nuzzled her hair and pulled her into a close embrace. Softly, he whispered into her ear, "I love you." Then he drifted to sleep.
She'd remained where she was, trying not to notice how comfortable she was in his arms. Once she was certain he was sleeping soundly, she slid from his arms and the bed. Standing in the dark room, lit only by the glow of the streetlight outside his window, she watched him. Finally, she slipped off his shoes, covered him and left the room. Retrieving a blanket from the hall closet, she covered Logan, too, and then she left.
If he remembered that night, he never brought it up, and she often wondered what would have happened if she hadn't left before he woke up. Although she followed his lead and never mentioned it either, she had never forgotten it. She could still hear his voice as it whispered the three words she most longed to hear from him, "I love you." Another six years would pass before he said them to her again.
He had surprised her when he began showing an active interest in her beyond the job, about six months after he began seeing Gyson. When his interest continued, she began to respond to his shy advances. Things progressed from there, and she soon discovered something she had suspected for years: he was very physical with his affection. He craved physical contact. He could be demanding, but he was sweet and gentle as well. Once they stepped into a physical relationship, there was no going back for either of them, and if Joe Hannah suspected anything, he never gave a clue.
Her eyes constantly scanned the street, looking for their suspect. His hand slowly slipped under her shirt. She swatted it away. Over and over. He had unending patience for some things. She struggled not to laugh, preferring not to give their back-up anything about which to gossip.
He moved his mouth closer to her ear, whispering his intentions to her. Distracted, she forgot about his hand. He switched off her mike and tickled her side. "Dammit, Bobby," she laughed. "This isn't a drive-in. We're supposed to be watching for Jarden."
"I am watching," he insisted.
"Not if you're doing that, you're not."
"I can multitask."
She laughed as he nuzzled her ear, slowly working his way to her mouth. With a soft groan, she briefly allowed herself to be lost in his kiss. When he withdrew, he softly whispered, "I love you."
Those were three words she never tired of hearing. "I love you, too," she replied.
"Marry me," he insisted.
She smiled. "Again?"
"Again and again," he answered, returning her smile.
She gently caressed his cheek. "You know, if we steam up these windows, we're gonna get busted."
He sighed softly and leaned back in his seat. "Tell me you don't appreciate the thrill of risk."
"I know how much you appreciate it, but I'm still not letting you ravage me in the car. Save it for later. Now I'm turning my mike back on, so behave."
"I'll make it up to you later."
He showed no disappointment, and she offered him a warm smile as she turned her mike on, then reached over to turn on his. He stole another kiss and she poked him.
Reluctantly, he settled back in his seat, but he continued to stroke her hair, which she allowed. He had to do something with his hands.
He spotted their suspect turning the corner at the end of the block, shortly after two a.m. Jarden saw them get out of the SUV and he took off at a dead run. Goren didn't hesitate to pursue with Eames right behind him, calling the situation into her mike to mobilize their back-up team.
Goren was gaining on the guy, and Eames cut to the right, down an alley, to head him off. As she got to the end of the alley, the rapport of gunfire rent the still air. She slid to a stop, her heart pounding hard from exertion—and fear for her partner. She drew her weapon and cautiously turned the corner out of the alley. She caught sight of the suspect turning the corner at the end of the block, but Goren was no longer in pursuit. She ran toward the corner as she radioed the suspect's location and direction of travel, trusting the back-up team to continue the pursuit. Then she allowed her loyalty, and her heart, to dictate her actions and rounded the corner to backtrack the route the suspect had taken. The neighborhood was criss-crossed with alleyways and she quickly checked each one.
She came to a stop when she saw him at the far end of an alley half a block from where the suspect turned. He was struggling to his feet. She broke into a run and reached his side as he staggered, unsteady. "Bobby?"'
He waved his hand. "'M'okay, Alex," he said, looking around at the ground.
She found his gun, which had fallen from his hand when he went down, and she tucked it into the waistband of her pants. "There," she said. "I have your gun."
He took two steps in the wrong direction. She grabbed his arm, turning him a quarter turn to the left. She guided him out of the alley toward the SUV in which they'd spent most of the night. Something was wrong and she wondered if he'd hit his head when he went down. As they got to the Explorer, their back-up radioed that they had the suspect in custody. She instructed them to take him to Major Case as Bobby leaned against the vehicle, breathing heavily.
"Bobby?" she asked, her voice thick with worry.
He waved his hand again. "Just...give me...a min-minute," he huffed. "To...to catch...my breath."
She saw four bullets buried in the Kevlar of his vest, two in his chest and two in his abdomen. She had counted at least that many shots, maybe more. It was not uncommon for the impact of bullets against a Kevlar vest to fracture ribs. She needed to get him to a hospital to be evaluated. When she reached past him with the keys to unlock his door, he shifted to his right, clear of the door. His vest rode up a little. She noticed an odd shadow on his otherwise white shirt. Thinking the shadow was cast by the nearest streetlight, she reached out to touch it. Her heart lurched at the dampness beneath her fingertips, which came away sticky. Blood...
Struggling to remain calm, she unlocked the car. "Get in," she said urgently.
"Alex," he murmured, still short of breath.
"Shh," she whispered. "We're going to the hospital."
"But..." he began as she leaned across him to fasten his seat belt.
He leaned forward a little and pressed his lips against her cheek. She turned to look at him. Even in the deep shadows of the car's interior, she could tell he was pale. Somewhere, he was losing blood. She knew she had to hurry, and hurry she did.
In some places across the nation, traffic slept with the city in the deep of night, but New York was not one of those places. She switched on the dome light and wove her way among the omnipresent taxis that filled the streets. She spoke into the microphone on her wrist with urgency. "This is Eames, enroute to St. Clare's with my partner. He was injured in an exchange of gunfire with the suspect; the extent of his injuries is unknown. Let them know we're coming!"
"I don't need a hospital," he grumbled.
"Then humor me," she insisted.
Her attention remained on the vehicles around her as she weaved in and out among them, grateful for the ones that pulled out of her way when they saw the flashing red light and silently cursing those that did not. Her attention shifted to her partner when he moved to unfasten his vest.
"Leave it alone," she chided gently.
"Why?" he asked.
"Because you're hurt," she answered.
Whatever his injuries, she knew that removing his vest would be a catastrophic mistake. Right now, the stiff firmness of the kevlar was helping to control the bleeding from the injuries he suffered.
He fell silent, struggling to remain alert. She reached over to grasp his arm. "Are you still with me?"
"Where else..." He scowled as his train of thought wandered. He redirected himself. "Where else...would I be?"
He placed a cool hand over hers and lightly stroked her fingers, a gesture that was meant to reassure but did not. She pressed the accelerator closer to the floor.
When she pulled into the ambulance driveway, a trauma team stood waiting for them. Goren turned his head toward her as she stopped the car. He grasped her wrist and looked into her face. "I love you," he said with sudden conviction.
"I love you, too," she replied.
Satisfied, he nodded as they opened his door and took off his seat belt. She whispered a silent prayer as they rushed him into the hospital. Once she moved the car and parked it down the block, she slid out of her seat. Her seatbelt caught in the door. As she turned to tuck in her seat belt, she noticed a wet glimmer on his seat. Climbing back into the Explorer, she touched his seat and looked at her fingers. Her heart jumped into her throat. His seat was saturated with blood.
Jumping out of the car, she slammed the door and ran back down the block to the hospital.
Joe Hannah was already there when she hurried through the doors. She stared at him. "How long did it take me to get here?" she asked, her mind clouded in a fog of worry.
"Not long at all," he assured her. "I was in the area when they called me. I got here just before you did."
Hannah slipped a meaty arm around her shoulders, guiding her into the waiting area. "They're working on him," he assured her. "I need you to tell me what happened. He was vested, right?"
She nodded as he eased her into a chair and sat beside her. "Yes, he was vested," she confirmed. "But I don't know what happened. He exchanged fire with the suspect. At least four bullets hit his vest, but...there was blood, Captain. A lot of blood."
"When they hauled Jarden to the car to be transported to Major Case, they realized he'd been hit, too. He's being treated at Bellevue. Goren hit him in the lower abdomen."
"Oh, here," she said, handing over her partner's Glock, as was policy for any officer-involved shooting. It would be returned to him after IAD completed their investigation. She wasn't worried about Internal Affairs. Bobby never used his sidearm unless it was a last resort. "Bobby's a good shot," she murmured.
"Apparently, so is Jarden."
Eames got up from her seat. "I need to check on him," she said.
Hannah followed her to the information desk, but the only information they could get was that he was being worked on and they should wait until someone came out to get them.
Eames looked like she was going to shoot the messenger until Hannah took her arm and gently tugged, guiding her back into the waiting area. "They'll let us know," he said.
She glared at him, but her look softened when she saw the worry in his blue eyes. That worry reminded her that Hannah was more than their captain. He was one of the few longtime friends Bobby had in the rank and file. His old partner was now comforting his current partner.
"Captain..." she began, stopping when her voice wavered. She took a deep breath. "I can't...This can't...happen again..."
"What can't happen again?" he asked.
"I can't lose another...partner..."
He wasn't aware of any partner she had lost, and then he remembered Joe Dutton. He looked toward the door that led into the depths of the emergency room, and all the pieces fell into place. "Wait here," he said.
He strode to the desk and spoke to the clerk. Minutes later, he and Eames were walking through those doors.