The Natural
by B. Cavis


The Natural
by B. Cavis

Alex drools quietly against his back as the street comes alive outside of the cool glass barrier formed by the balcony doors. The moment of peace that comes over the city at around five thirty every morning breaks wide open and shatters into powder on the street. There is noise. There is life brewing anew, starting once more in the city on this beautiful Saturday morning.

The coffee machine in the kitchen starts to percolate the life blood of both of their veins, and the air wafts into his nose, full of caffeine and dark roast. Coffee, Alex's skin, the musky smell of sex, the lavender massage bar she used on him last night…

And little girl hair.

Damn.

"Daddy," Eliza whispers softly by his elbow. Or, more aptly, yells in a soft voice. Five year olds don't whisper.

Alex plays dead. He so hates her right now.

"Daaaaa-deee," Eliza complains, "I know you're awake. I can see your eyes twitching."

Perceptive little nymph.

"You said we'd go for a walk," she reminds him patiently. He fake snores. "Daddy!" Her cool hand touches his face, smelling faintly of Barbie Princess Soap and the Sparkle Fairy Powder that Grandma and Grandpa just thought was so cute (read: impossible to get out of anything it spilled on) and bought for her when they came to baby sit on Thursday night.

Hm. Inlaws. So cute.

"Daddy," Eliza's voice comes softer and tinged with a hint of sadness now. "You promised. Aren't you going to keep your promise?"

Alex snorts softly into the cotton of his t-shirt, and he is going to get her back for this if it's the last thing he ever does. He will plan his revenge and take steps to implement it, and when she is least expecting him to strike, that's when he will do so.

She is going down.

And so is he. Because if there's one thing that their little girl knows with perfect clarity, it's that she has her daddy wrapped around her little finger.

Sigh. So much like her mother.

He opens his eyes and looks up into her clean face, offering a yawn and a few sleepy blinks. "Eliza Bee, what time is it?"

She looks over at the clock on his night stand, her eyes taking in the position of the hands for a brief moment as she runs through the information stored in her head. When her answer comes, it is spoken without doubt or hesitation. "Six fifteen. AM."

He runs a hand over his face. Six fifteen. What time did he and Alex get to bed last night? It couldn't have been before one. God, since when does he only sleep for five hours a night?

Since he's had a daughter, snarks the voice in his head that he swears wasn't there before he married Alex. Children alter everything. Eliza changes the equation he adds up to. Now one (him) and one (Alex) don't equal two anymore, they equal three, and that has somehow become part of his life.

"Sweetheart, why don't we wait a while to go for our walk?"

The idea has obviously not occurred to her before now. She stands by his side, her brow furrowed and her lips pursed as she runs the concept through her mind. Dark brown eyes squint in an effort to understand.

"Oh." She says, still confused. "But daddy, aren't we allowed on the street now?"

Oh…

God damn it.

If Eliza Goren were any other five-year-old girl, he could lie to her with ease. Tell her some cute little story about how no, they weren't allowed on the streets right now because the streets had to be cleaned up by the Invisible Trash Monster and gotten ready for people to walk on. He is good at spinning tales-- it would be easy to use the noise of the garbage trucks as the noise of a beast with giant teeth and bad eyesight, who only got you if he stumbled across you in the street.

With any other five-year-old little girl, it would have worked too. But this was his little girl; his and Alex's. And if he told her that there was a monster outside, it was more likely that she would first wake up Alex to confirm the story and then call 911 like responsible children of detectives did when there was something scary that meant others harm, than run and go back to bed.

(She hadn't learned her Miranda Rights before The Twelve Days of Christmas for nothing, after all.)

And while her Uncle Deakins loves her (read: is also wrapped around her little finger), he will not look too kindly on Bobby for being the catalyst behind the phone call.

Bobby rubs his eye sockets with his fingers until he sees bright colors and sighs. "Yeah, Eliza Bee, we are, but it's still a little bit early in the morning. Don't you want to wait until there are more people on the street?"

His daughter looks down at her feet, rubbing at her nose and sniffling. Oh God no… "Don't you want to come for a walk with me, daddy?" she whimpers, and he is out of bed in a second.

"Of course I do, Bee," he pronounces gaily, and her head perks back up with a large smile of innocent love. "Why don't you go brush your teet-"

"I did it already," she annunciates proudly, head bobbing with every word.

"Course you did," he grumbles. "Okay, go on out into the kitchen and have some breakfast while I take a quick shower, okay?"

"O-kay!" She squeals cheerfully, and bounces out of the room on her tiptoes, door closing behind her.

Alex giggles into her arms, and he glares at her. "Evil woman."

"Guilty as charged," she yawns, rolling over into his warm spot lazily, smiling up at him from half opened eyes. "Your daughter loves you, Bobby."

"I love her too. But at six thirty in the morning after the night we just had," he whispers to her, "I don't love her quite so much." She laughs softly, and his attitude changes. She's always been able to lift him up out of his own negativity when she laughs. "Do you want me to swing by Zabars? Get some croissants or something?"

"Pick up a baguette on your way home. Gimme a kiss."

"I've got morning breath," he warns cheerfully, before leaning down and pressing his lips to hers. His lover. His wife. His Alex.

She stretches lazily up at him, breasts rubbing against him through the barriers of both of their shirts. Since Eliza, neither one of them sleeps in the nude anymore.

He pulls away reluctantly, and she smiles even as she drifts into a pre-sleep stage. "Have fun with your daughter, Bobby."

He touches the bright red bite mark on her stomach, tracing the imprint of his teeth upon her skin with more than a little joy. "Go back to sleep."

She nods and settles in, moaning softly at the promise of more rest. "You wore me out last night," she complains prettily.

"Like you didn't do the same to me," he responds playfully, and gets up from the bed with a groan.

Eliza smiles widely at him when she sees him heading towards the bathroom, then focuses her attention back on the morning news she has put on the little TV in the kitchen. The plastic, color changing cereal spoon makes a soft patting noise against the My Little Pony bowl that she takes all of her meals in.

He'd once pointed out to her that there were other bowls in the kitchen that would hold her pasta and Goldfish with just as much reliability as the My Little Pony one. Why not try one of them? He had asked gently.

The pitying look he received in response confirmed all of his father in-law's stories about fathers and their utter stupidity in comparison to their five-year-old daughters.

"Daddy," she had argued, sipping at her chocolate milk through a bendy straw and wiping her mouth daintily on a paper napkin. "You always drink your coffee out of the same mug. Wouldn't the glasses in the cabinet hold it just as well?"

And, convinced in her own superiority, she had nodded firmly to herself and speared another "twisty noodle" on her Barbie fork.

He'd stopped questioning after that. His suspects made sense. Obviously, five-year-old girls didn't have to.

Bobby closes and locks the bathroom door behind himself, turning the water on and laying his fresh set of clothes on top of the toilet seat. He disrobes and puts the old clothes in the dry sink, careful not to overturn the two Reach tooth brushes or the smaller Mighty Morphin Power Rangers one, before stepping into the shower.

The water pounds through his scalp and scours away the sleepiness from his back. Awake, he tells himself, you are now awake. He waits to believe it, doesn't and sighs.

Heat fills his skin and sluices away all of the aches in his joints that wouldn't have been there just ten years ago when he woke up in the morning. He is getting older, and he knows it, and unlike most of his comrades he is not afraid of it.

His mind is as sharp as every; razor edged and laced with steel. He remembers what needs to be remembered, and when he forgets something, it's because he wasn't really paying attention when it was mentioned the first time around.

He doesn't forget much.

His body twinges with more frequency now because it's the natural thing, and he knows that. As he gets older, so do his muscles and internal organs. It's only natural that something that has been working non-stop for over forty years suffers from a little lag time every now and then. Doesn't work as well now as it did thirty years ago.

Hence the one hundred sit ups he does a night. Hence the large amount of time both he and Alex spend at the NYSC, working away all of the sag and fat that appears on their bodies. Neither one of them can afford to get soft around the edges, and neither one of them really wants to.

She looks at him and still gets that light in her eyes-- that illumination of want and desire and love. There is still the come hither message in her posture when she calls to him silently. She whispers how sexy he is against his neck when she kisses her way down his body, and he is the only one who can see his love handles forming after each Thanksgiving dinner.

He knows that she is not, physically, the same person she was when he married her. Childbirth, especially for a second child, leaves marks. Six years of detective work leaves marks. There are scars on her that weren't there when he first met her, and he knows that and is fine with it. Her skin may not be as perfectly smooth in some places and there may be a few white marks painted across her back. But he knows where each and every one of those marks came from-- they are written reminders of their time together, and he treasures each and every one.

They work hard to "stay attractive" because that's what society tells them has to be done to keep a spouse's interest after so many years, but really, truly, they know that they could be missing an eye and ten teeth, and the other would still look at them like they are Venus de Milo and David respectively.

It's a good feeling.

And then there's Eliza, Bobby thinks as he lathers the shampoo in his hair. Never let it be said that raising a child is not a job, because he can attest to the fact that both he and Alex have two careers now-- Major Case and their Baby. If the NYSC didn't keep their limbs clean of fat and their muscles toned, chasing after her on a regular basis would do a pretty good job on its own.

When Alex had told him that she was pregnant, four months after their wedding, he had immediately gone into crunch mode. Looked up all the articles he could find. Planned for every single possible scenario that could complicate the birth. Gone with her to all of the doctors and gone back into his family tree to find every disease, genetic or not, that every one of them had had and told it to anyone it might have concerned.

He had talked into her stomach while she rolled her eyes at him, and cheerfully gotten out of bed at two in the morning to go get her kosher pickles and whipped cream. He had wanted to know everything and understand everything, and she had tolerated it because she understood his fears and his insecurities. He hadn't been able to save his mother from her fate; he wasn't going to fail his wife and daughter as well.

He had planned for everything.

And then Eliza, all screaming six pounds three ounces of her, had come into their lives, and he had realized that children defied planning.

Alex had sat in a pool of her own sweat, holding a screaming, red faced bundle in her arms while tears rolled down her cheeks in relief, and he had looked down at the child he had created with the woman he loved, eyes wide.

"She's beautiful," he had whispered, and she had smiled up at him.

"Hold her," she had offered, and then his hands were coming down to pick this little ball of energy and fresh life up. She had fit in the cradle of his big thick hands, and he had looked down on eyes that couldn't focus on him yet with tears building in his own.

There was nothing in the world that could possibly go wrong; none of his research meant anything. He was this child's father, and that meant that he could and would protect her from anything and everything that could go wrong.

"I'm here," he'd whispered hoarsely to her, and she had balled up her fists in reply. Alex had laughed, exhausted, and dropped her head back onto the wet pillow.

"You're a natural, Bobby," she had whispered.

"I don't know what I'm doing," he had confessed.

"No one does. That's what's so natural about it."

There had been the normal worries at first, of course. Could he really do this? Was he really the best person to have around a child? His father had left him and his mother had been emotionally and physically unstable. Bobby was a profiler; he knew that kind of childhood left marks on a person, marks that were all too often imprinted again on the next generation.

He had stared down at his little girl while she slept and felt the fear chewing at his stomach even as he smiled at her and touched her forehead with the tip of his finger. Could he really raise a child? Even one conceived with Alex; the other half of his soul?

It had been her who had eventually pulled him out of it (the way she pulls him out of everything he gets into that really should be left alone). Alex had taken his hand one night while he stood over their daughter's crib and pressed it against her breast. Her heartbeat had run strong and hard up his arm, and he had looked over at her calm face.

"Bobby," she had whispered, "she is happy just to have you near her. This little girl worships you and loves you. The same way I love you." And the kisses she had trailed across his cheeks were the answers to all of the questions he was afraid to ask. "Come to bed. Stop worrying."

And, of course, because she was Alex and because she knew best… he did.

Bobby tilts his head back and lets the stream of water wash the soap from his scalp and away from his eyes. The dried body fluids that had decorated his lower half have long since cracked off of his skin and pubic hair and washed down the drain. There is nothing left to betray what he and Alex did last night in their bedroom but the memories that dance across his mind and tongue.

Mmm… Good memory.

Their lives had taken a little bit of time to get back to normal after Eliza's birth. Alex's sister, who lived about thirty blocks away from their apartment was more than happy to take care of Eliza from nine to five, and in case of emergencies, there is a sixteen-year-old down the hall who they soon discovered would stay for as long as they needed her too as long as they were paying her the seven dollar an hour fee.

When they had told Deakins of their engagement and the relationship that had preceded it, he had groaned low in his throat for a long moment before nodding and waving his hand. "I'll take care of it," he had muttered, and true to his word, he had. Their partnership in Major Case is one of the constants in their existence-- they go in to the building in the same car every morning, and at night they both go to the same "home." When Eliza had come into their lives, they had made the mutual decision to spend less time at work if it could be helped. With the purchase of a new desktop and a few favors from the tech guys, they were paperwork enabled at home.

Life is different now in more ways than one, more deeply effected than Bobby had thought possible.

But life is good.

He has a little girl who can recite the Bill of Rights because she wanted to learn them, and he has a wife who makes his heart swell at the very sight of her. He has this life. He likes this life.

Bobby turns the water off and sighs. Six thirty in the morning. He has got to teach Eliza the difference between mommy and daddy hours. "Mommy hours" are everything from midnight to eight AM. "Daddy hours" are all the other ones.

He drags a towel through his hair and snorts. Alex would have him sleeping on the couch for the rest of his life while she invested in a good vibrator.

The razor is scorned for the time being-- he usually doesn't shave on the weekends; Alex likes the feeling of his stubble under her hands and in between her thighs. He shoves the heather gray shirt over his head, proudly proclaiming him Property of Russell Athletics, and pulls the worn jeans up his legs. He can hear Eliza babbling to herself through the door, singing little songs as she watches CNN. She's getting restless.

He brushes his teeth and gargles with something appallingly strong and minty before opening the door and facing his little girl as a fully alert individual.

She looks at him and shifts the pink backpack on her shoulders. He nods. "We're going, just let me get some coffee." She turns her attention back to the television. There was a bombing somewhere in Israel. A plane crash over Brazil. A new proposal for a 9/11 Memorial in Times Square. Her brow furrows.

"Why is all of the news bad, daddy?"

He sips at the black coffee that promises to keep him alive for the next few hours, blinking. "I don't know, Eliza Bee. That's what interests people, I guess." It's actually a very good question, and the fact that his daughter asked him it makes him inexplicably proud of her. She'll never grow up to be a New York City detective-- he won't let her waste her talents like that-- but he can picture her carrying a gun and wearing a G-Woman suit. Doing something she's not allowed to tell him about. Saving the world.

Or maybe that's just what all fathers think of their daughters. That they are destined to save the world and enact great change upon the people of Earth.

Eliza tilts her head to one side. "But if everyone thinks that these things are bad," she reasons, "and make them all cry and act very sad, why would they want to hear about them all the time?" She looks up at him with her dark and serious eyes, and he wants nothing more than to know all of the answers to every single question she has-- to be able to make the world make sense so she doesn't have to be confused by it anymore. He wants to go out and purify the streets and cleanse the world of evil so that she never has to face any of it. So that it never touches her.

He sits down in the chair next to her and props his chin up on his hand. She does the same, eyes carefully scanning him for new movement for her to learn and mimic. "People want to hear about the bad things because even if they don't hear about them, they'll still be there," he says, talking slowly to try and control the words that come out of his mouth. "You see," he says, pointing a trembling hand at the television and looking at her quite seriously. If she wasn't five years old, he could be talking to a fellow detective; to Alex or Deakins or even Carver. "If I didn't know about the plane crash, the plane still would have gone down. But now that I know, I can tell the families of those people that I feel sad about the people who died. Now that I know, those people who died aren't forgotten, they're lives and deaths are remembered by me, and now by you. Do you understand?"

She nods. "Yes." She fidgets idly with the bones of her wrist, feeling her fingers and veins gently. "So people want to hear about the bad stuff so that they know it happened and can feel bad or sad about it, right?"

"That's more or less it." He agrees, and feels that overwhelming sense of love and pride within his chest once more. "Do you want to go for our walk now?"

She tilts her head to the other side, weighs her options, and nods. "Yes," she declares firmly. "Let's go for our walk." She jumps down from the chair and walks over to the door, pulling her pink sneakers on and attaching the Velcro strips tightly. He follows, his size 13 feet dwarfing hers.

He runs a hand through his hair, and she mimics the action, her small hand a pale slip of ivory through her blond hair. "Where do you want to go today?" he asks her, and she sucks on the end of her finger for a moment.

"Can we go see Uncle Deakins?" she asks hopefully. "I want to ask him about the news too."

He takes her small hand in his and leads them out into the hallway, locking the door behind them quietly. "You don't trust my interpretation?" he asks gently, and she looks up at him with that look of "boy are you stupid" that he has a feeling will only get more intense with age. He squelches a grin.

"Daddy," she explains patiently, "a second opinion is a very valuable thing." She tosses her hair over her shoulders in a move she obviously must have gotten from her mother (because he never tosses his hair over his shoulders) "Now come along," she commands, and pulls him towards the elevator.

He laughs as the doors open.

FIN


So? Have I decended into Fluffy Bunny Hell?

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