The characters and situations in this story are the property of Dick Wolf, NBC, and probably other entities I don't know about, and I do not have any permission to borrow them. No infringement is intended, and this story is not for profit.

Author's note: This is a sort of mirror piece to Open Your Eyes. Thank you, Autumn, for giving me confidence; thank you, Penn O'Hara, for keeping my vocabulary on track, and suggesting the nurses! Any errors are mine, all mine, no you can't have any. Feedback is most appreciated.

This is it for the moment, folks. I still haven't seen most of the series, though I hope to soon; further stories must wait on further inspiration. Thank you, all of you who have responded to my first two stories. I am honored!

******

Alex was yelling. It amused Bobby a little; she didn't yell often, usually she left it up to him, but now she was really getting into it, sounding utterly furious as she demanded someone's attention. Furious and...and...something else, but it floated just beyond his grasp, and he was too tired to try to catch it.

In fact, he couldn't remember ever being so tired in his life. Even the sound of Alex's voice was fading, and while he wanted to figure out what had his partner so riled up, he wasn't sure he had the energy. Even though it seemed to be his name she was yelling.

******

A theft-homicide wasn't all that unusual, but a theft-homicide that involved a couple of million dollars' worth of 17th-century art was, so Alex and Bobby found themselves in the middle of the museum, trying to figure out how the perpetrators had pulled off the heist.

Alex went back for another look at the emptied display cases; she was getting a little tired of Bobby's asides about the artwork in the big display room. East Asian art just wasn't her thing. She leaned over to look at one podium a little more closely, tuning out the echoing murmur of voices and footfalls around her.

"Eames?"

It was his tone of voice that did it. Alex spent a large part of her working days listening to her partner, as he thought out loud or talked with witnesses or interrogated suspects, or when the two of them meshed minds in that inexplicable way that brought such remarkable results. She'd heard his voice range from persuasion to threats, heard him sound insinuating, friendly, angry, sad. But she'd never heard that particular tone before, that mixture of pain and surprise. Later, she thought it was perhaps the surprise that caught her attention the most.

Alex turned when Goren spoke her name, saw him start to straighten from the crouch where he'd been examining the dead security guard, saw his eyes widening and his lips parting in distress, before he fell--crashing down onto the marble as though someone had pushed him.

The first thought that whiplashed through her mind was that he'd been shot, even though she'd heard no gunfire. She ran towards Bobby where he lay, so very still, a few yards away. His unmarked back was to her, one arm flung out over his head, the long fingers in their latex casing just slightly curled, and she bent over him, alarm turning rapidly to fear.

Bobby's eyes were open, staring hard at nothing, and his forehead was wrinkled with distress. "Goren?" Alex asked, but when he didn't answer she knelt and turned him carefully--and not without some effort--onto his back. No blood stained his shirt or jacket, but his lips were tinged blue and his chest heaved. Something was obviously very wrong. "Goren!"

Other figures gathered around, voices broke out in a babble above her head--officers and museum officials. "Goren, answer me," Alex ordered, fear tightening her muscles. She swore out loud and grabbed his wrist, finding his pulse rapid. Sweat was pouring down his face, and Alex looked up. "Call back the ambulance!"

One of the uniforms nodded to her, already in the midst of the call. Her attention snapped back to her partner, who still hadn't answered her. "Bobby. Bobby, can you hear me? Tell me what's wrong."

She worked at the knot of his tie until she could pull the cloth loose. Goren's gaze wandered over her face, pained and bewildered, and when he spoke she had to lean down to catch his words. "Chest hurts."

It felt like someone had replaced her blood with ice water. He's having a heart attack? She appended a few choice oaths, silently this time. "You're going to be okay, Bobby, the paramedics are on their way."

But his gaze lost focus and slid from her to the patterned ceiling above, and fear gripped her throat with spidery fingers. "Bobby. Bobby, pay attention." Alex felt for his pulse again. It was fainter, faster, and her own heart skipped as she thought she felt his rhythm falter. "Bobby!"

She leaned over, logic giving way to instinct under the pressure of fury and fear, and took his jaw in her hand. "Robert Goren, don't you dare. Don't you dare!" He blinked slowly, dark eyes beginning to glaze, and then his lids slid shut. "Bobby!" She shook his head a little, winning no more than a flicker of response. "Bobby, you stay with me, do you hear me? Stay with me!"

His skin was clammy under her fingers. Alex looked up again. "Where are they?!"

"They're coming," said someone over her head, and two young men pushed their way through the small crowd. They dropped down next to Bobby, and Alex scooted back a little, all the ground she was willing to give.

The resultant spate of medical terminology meant little to her. What was important was their urgency, and the third man wheeling in a stretcher and lowering it to the ground so that they could transfer Goren onto it.

"Myocardial infarction--" Alex felt nausea rising at the paramedic's words. No. No, how can it be that, he's too young--

But he wasn't, not really. She could only be grateful that the ambulance, called to the scene when the body was discovered, had not gotten far before being summoned back.

The paramedics raised the stretcher back to its full height and moved out through the crowd. One of the officers put a hand on Alex's shoulder as she stood.

"You go with him, Detective," he said, giving her the look that cops had in situations like this. "We'll keep an eye on things until Headquarters sends someone else."

Somewhere in the back of her mind, responsibility was telling her to stay, that she was in charge of the crime scene, that Bobby would certainly not thank her for abandoning the investigation to another. Screw that. "Thanks," she said, the only word she could manage to get out of her tight throat, and ran after her partner.

******

Alex hated hospitals. Most people did, she supposed, except presumably for the people who worked in them; and on reflection, she had to assume that some of those must hate them too. But the ironic thought didn't raise even a hint of amusement.

She huddled in one of the waiting room chairs, remembering. A hasty scramble into the passenger seat of the ambulance; watching nervously as the young men worked; Goren, an oxygen mask obscuring his face, and never moving. Too, too still.

They'd halted her firmly at the door to the emergency trauma room. She'd stood there a full three minutes before it had occurred to her that she had better call Deakins.

Some part of her wanted to spring up and pace, to work off some of the trembling urgency and the adrenaline. But fear churned her stomach and she just stayed where she was. It wasn't the first time, after all.

So much of a cop's life is waiting. Waiting for information, for action, for something to break, for an idea to dawn. I should be used to it by now. But some things, it seemed, simply didn't become routine.

"Eames?"

She flinched. Deakins loomed up next to her, looking apologetic. "Sorry, I didn't mean to startle you," he said.

"No problem," she replied, her voice coming out rough.

He sank into the chair next to her with a sigh. "No news?"

She shook her head. "I don't know if they'll tell me much anyway," she said sourly. "I'm not his next of kin."

"I am." She looked up, taken aback, and Deakins shrugged. "He listed me when he joined the department. I didn't ask why."

Their captain looked a little embarrassed. Alex wondered just how much he knew about Bobby's family situation. "Well, that'll make things easier," she replied.

Deakins regarded her uncomfortably. "Alex--" She raised her brows encouragingly, but he shook his head and shrugged out of his jacket, and surprised her greatly by draping it awkwardly around her shoulders. "You look cold," he said.

It hadn't crossed her mind. Deakins being sentimental always made her twitchy, but it was obvious that the captain was struggling for his footing in this situation, and if being solicitous made him feel better, it was the least she could do to go along. "Thanks," she said, and managed a little smile.

Deakins nodded, and lapsed into silence.

The fabric of the coat was still warm from his body, and it smelled pleasantly male, aftershave and cloth and a hint of perspiration. But all it did was remind Alex of how her partner smelled--the faint whiff of spice when he sat next to her, the soap he used, his aura of warmth and bright-burning life. It was one of her touchstones for him, one of the ways she identified him, defined his presence. A presence that now trembled on the edge of vanishing.

The possibility of death was something every cop faced. But they tended to think of it in terms of violence. Not like this. Not from the inside.

She couldn't think what work would be like without him. Being partnered with another was so often a unique relationship, and being partnered with Bobby was unique by an order of magnitude. Cops might never see their partners outside of work, they might be yoked with someone they would never choose if choosing were an option, but still, out of that linking spun an utter trust, a mutual dependence forged by the work they did and the risks they assumed.

Working with Bobby...to a certain extent it was explicable, but sooner or later it went beyond psychology and compatibility and they just meshed. She couldn't imagine that sparkling mind snuffed out, gone elsewhere.

Bobby was erratic, sly, often frustrating; he was possessed of a deep-seated compassion and an old-fashioned courtesy; and he listened to her. Any other partner would be...would be...

Alex rubbed her eyes wearily. Goren, you idiot. Under the fear was an irrational anger at her partner for falling ill, and she struggled to push it away. It was unfair, and useless.

Unfair... Deep inside her a small voice was wailing that emotion. She remembered it from childhood, the inevitable sense of justice that the young possessed, before they learned mercy. Unfair. Someone healthy and strong, someone so intelligent, someone not looking for disaster from the inside. How could it have happened?

Alex pressed her palm to her mouth, and waited.

******

Voices rang in his ears, muffled, indistinguishable. The words echoed and bounced and rolled away before he could catch them and order them into sense. He made out his partner's voice, and tried to open his eyes, but he hadn't the strength. Everything hurt, and he was still so tired.

A fleeting warm pressure on his hand, and then the voices were gone, and oblivion took him again.

******

The beeping was going to drive her crazy, she just knew it.

Alex sat by Bobby's bed, alone. Deakins had hovered for about a minute and a half and then fled, muttering about having to get back to work; Alex figured that he'd deal better when Bobby woke up. For the moment, though, it was just Alex and the ECG machine, chirping to itself.

He's so still. It made her a little queasy, to see her ever-restless partner unmoving. He looked a mess; hair mussed--at least as mussed as hair so short could be--face still deathly pale, deep-set eyes even more sunken. They'd stripped away his clothes and peppered him with monitor pads; an IV ran into one muscled arm and an oxygen line was fitted to his nose. He looked chilled, but Alex didn't pull the sheet up over his chest, lest she disturb the wires. And she didn't even want to look at the bruise in the center, just over his heart, let alone think about what it meant.

So she took his big hand in hers again, closing her fingers over his lax ones. She needed the connection.

The nurse had told her she should talk to him, but words didn't come, just as no one else was coming. Eventually department folks would stop by, when Bobby was feeling better, but there was no one else who knew him to watch over him now. Only Alex. And she would stay until they made her leave.

******

To: yesnurse_222@yahoo.com

From: tlfranklin@mshospital.com

Dear Dani:

You won't believe the new patient we got in ICU this week. I mean, he's unbelievably gorgeous, in this really different way. MI, but he's kind of young, and he's responding well to treatment. And he's a cop. I'd pay a lot to see him in a uniform!

He makes us call him Bobby. He's huge, and older than he looks, and he's just the sweetest guy, though he is a little weird. Dark eyes and really short hair, and a chest to die for. He's not one of those guys who complains all the time, but we do have to keep an eye on him 'cause he tries to do things he shouldn't do yet.

I know what you're thinking. Yes, he's single. There's this one woman who comes in to see him every day, but I think she works with him, though it's obvious that they're pretty close. She was there all the time at first, until we knew he was going to be okay, and it was pretty real the way she wouldn't leave even when we kicked her out of ICU. I saw her face when he first woke up and started talking, and I almost cried right there. He's lucky to have her, whoever she is.

Too bad he'll be gone before you come back, you'd like him. Half the staff has a crush on him. Have a great time, and don't forget to send me a postcard!

--Tanya

******

"There you are."

His voice was still annoyingly weak, but Bobby grinned at his partner nonetheless as she strode into his hospital room. Work might call downtown, but she was there without fail at 5:30, just as she promised, brisk and matter-of-fact and gently teasing. It was always a relief to see her, she knew just how to treat him--no fussing, no false cheerfulness.

"Here I am." She put her hands on her hips and regarded him critically. "No more heparin?"

"Finished it this morning." Bobby fiddled with the bandage that covered the IV puncture, and then reached for the controls of his bed so he could sit up. "Eames--you have to see this."

"See what?" Alex asked, halfway to sitting down.

Bobby nodded at the latest vase of flowers on his crowded bedside table. The influx of cards, balloons, and plant matter had startled him considerably; he hadn't realized how much people in the department cared. But this one just took the cake. "Read the card."

Alex shot him a what-are-you-up-to look and fished the card out of the profusion of mixed blossoms, opening the tiny envelope and reading the contents. As Bobby expected, she choked on a laugh.

"Carver sent you flowers?"

He held back his own chuckle, wary of pain. "Very nice ones, too." He watched Alex replace the card carefully on the little plastic stake buried in the bouquet. "I--I'm lucky he didn't visit."

Alex rolled her eyes and sat down. "You sure are. The captain been by yet today?"

"Lunchtime." Bobby put out one arm towards the drawer of the table, but Alex smacked it lightly away and opened the drawer herself. "I saved you my pudding."

He watched with pleasure as Alex retrieved the cup and spoon and peeled back the foil lid. At least someone got some enjoyment out of the stuff.

"The doctor said I can go home in two days," he added casually.

Alex took the spoon from her mouth and regarded him, surprised. "Already?"

"It's been almost a week, Eames."

She set down the cup and spoon. "So?"

"So...what?" he asked, puzzled.

His partner regarded him for a long moment, face tight and expressionless, then rose to turn her back on him and stare out the window. There wasn't much to see, just a bit of sky and roof, but he didn't think she was interested in the view.

"What is it, Eames?" he asked finally.

Alex had her arms folded, he could tell by the angle of her back, and every line of her spoke of something held in. "You nearly died, Bobby," she said at last, so quietly he almost didn't understand her.

"I know." It had scared him. He didn't want to die, he had too many responsibilities, too much to do yet. But he was getting better rapidly. He'd expected her to be pleased.

"Yeah, and I know you," she said dryly, and turned back around. "The minute you get home you'll be just itching to come back to work. You drive yourself too hard, Bobby. I mean, look at you!" She bit her lip, and her gesture encompassed him, the bed, the room, the situation. "How long will it be before this happens again?"

He blinked. "Medication--"

She cut him off. "It's not enough." Her eyes were wide and dark with pain. "It won't be enough. You'll push yourself, you won't rest, and I--I can't--"

She choked off the words abruptly and turned away again. He considered her words, handling them with deliberate care before formulating an answer. "Alex."

She made a restless movement, but didn't face him, so he sat up the rest of the way and swung his legs down, grateful that he was wearing pajamas now instead of the too-small hospital gown. Carefully, he stood and laid a hand on her shoulder.

"Get back in bed, Goren," she said, her voice cool.

"Not...not until you look at me," he replied. He'd already been cleared for light exercise, but he'd use what he had.

She sighed, and turned. He sat back down and pointed wordlessly at the chair, raising one brow at her until she lowered herself into the seat. Whatever emotion had made her hide was now wiped away, except for the strain around her eyes.

Bobby took the controls for his bed again and made it sink until they were nearly eye to eye, and then reached out to pick up one of her hands. He laid it in one palm and covered it with his other hand, encompassing it in his own warmth. "Have you asked for a transfer?" he asked calmly. She jerked in surprise, but he didn't let go. "I wouldn't blame you if you did."

He looked up at her, cocking his head to one side. "Of course not!" Alex said, sitting up straight and staring at him, utterly taken aback.

"Then you're still my partner." He knew it; he just wanted to make her see it.

"Yes." She frowned, obviously frustrated.

He looked down at their hands again, lifting one and turning hers palm-up in the other, before wrapping his fingers around hers in a gentle grip. "Partners take care of each other."

He raised his head to meet her gaze. "Eames...I have faith in you."

Silence filled the room for a long moment as she searched his eyes. Then at last she returned the pressure of his fingers, a small wry smile touching the corners of her mouth. "Get back in bed, Goren," she repeated, and pulled her hand away.

He let the grin out, and did as he was told.

End.