Author's Note - This is a fantasy, supernatural, mysterious, angsty, romance story involving all your favorite characters from Law and Order: CI and SVU. I tried to keep it as cannon as possible, but this is something you will never see on TV. Still, if the characters can suspend their disbelief for my little adventure, so can you. I hope you enjoy.

"In New York City's war on crime, the worst criminal offenders are pursued by the detectives of the Major Case Squad. These are their stories."

"Eames, can I see you in here a moment?" Alex glanced up from her paperwork. Captain Deakins stood in the doorway of his office, a slight frown on his face, but he wasn't looking at her. He was staring at Bobby's empty chair. She'd been doing the same, on and off, for the last half hour. It wasn't like Bobby to be late. He was usually there before she was.

She stepped inside the office and closed the door behind her. "You're going to have to work with Detective Sledge for today, maybe a couple of days. Your partner just called in sick." Alex opened her mouth, then closed it again.

"He doesn't get sick," she said finally. "He - I don't think he's taken a sick day since we were assigned to each other."

"Or in the four years before that." Deakins shook his silvered head and sighed. "He couldn't have picked a worse time, either. A young woman was found raped and murdered in the apartment she and her boyfriend share. He's nowhere to be seen."

"Sounds pretty open and shut then," Alex said. "But it's not, is it?" Deakins gave her a crooked, humorless grin.

"Let's just say I really wish Goren was here."

"Yeah, the guy was like, this total freak. Never hit her or nothin', least not as I could tell, but he didn't like Sarah talkin' to no other guys, that's for sure." Alex didn't turn as the body was wheeled past in its thick black bag, but the man she was questioning, Sarah Littrel's neighbor, Buck Harris, watched it pass with a single-minded fascination. Once the coroner had disappeared around the corner, he turned back to her. "Sonofabitch nearly broke my wrist just for sayin' good morning to her last year."

"Did you hear anything last night, yelling, screaming?" Mr. Harris shrugged and scratched at the three day's worth of beard on his face.

"I was kind of busy, banging the wife," he said with a lascivious grin. Now Alex really wished Bobby was there. One look from those dark, intense eyes, a quick jerk of the head, almost bird-like, and men like Mr. Harris found more appropriate phrases for their nightly activities. She was relieved when Detective Sledge came striding up the hall.

The man was nearly a stranger around One Police Plaza, only transferred in a few months ago. She couldn't remember seeing the tall, black haired man with the deep, lake blue eyes more than a handful of times - which was a shame. He was nice to look at. Broad shoulders, narrow waist, strong jaw, and he certainly knew how to dress himself. Dark, charcoal gray suits with deep, rich colored shirts, sometimes blue to match his eyes, but often red or burgundy; both colors were very complimentary. He didn't seem to like ties. She had the feeling he took as long preparing his wardrobe as she did. Now Bobby, on the other hand ... he always looked fine, but it seemed incidental.

"Ready?" the tall detective asked with a lift of his eyebrows. Today he was wearing the burgundy, which, coincidentally, matched her sleeveless top almost perfectly. She thanked Mr. Harris for his help and left their card, requesting that he call if he remembered anything else. She turned to her interim partner as they headed for the elevator.

"What do you make of it?" she asked. Sledge shrugged, a stiff gesture.

"Possessive boyfriend suspects victim of cheating," he said, his tone clipped, curt. "He rapes, then stabs said victim twice in the abdomen and writes 'whore' on the apartment wall with her blood before disappearing. He's probably in Arizona by now."

"What's in Arizona?" Alex asked, glancing up at him. He wasn't as tall as Bobby, around six feet was all, but even short men were taller than her.

"Sand and snakes, mostly," Sledge said with another of those mechanical shrugs. "I only lived there for a while, but it's about as far from here as you can get, culturally speaking."

"Ah, I'd been wondering where you bought your tan," she said with a small smile. "Silly me."

Alex pulled the car over and turned off the engine. She left the keys dangling in the ignition in case Sledge wanted to listen to the radio.

"This'll just take a minute," she said, unbuckling her seatbelt. Beside her, Sledge did the same.

"I'll come too, if it's all right." She glanced up through the windshield at the apartment beside them.

"I'd rather you didn't," she said at last, climbing out of the car to avoid looking at his face. "Goren can be..." she let the sentence die, but any cop who'd been in town more than a day knew how Bobby could be. When she looked back in the window, Sledge was fiddling with the radio knobs. She walked around the car and headed up the steps.

"Hey, Eames," Sledge called, leaning on the edge of the window, "do you always take this good a care of your partners?" He smiled and it was charming, and he knew it.

"You better hope so," she quipped back, but then looked up at the building blocking the sun above her. "He's more than my partner, though; he's my friend." She turned away from those dark blue eyes and went inside.

She hadn't expected him to answer when she knocked - he was ill, after all, but she was surprised to find the door unlocked. She had her weapon half drawn as she slowly eased the door open and stepped inside.

"Bobby?" she called, her attention drawn toward the little kitchen off the living room. She could hear footsteps. The steps faltered at the sound of her voice, but didn't stop.

"Eames, is that you?" She nearly sighed with relief as the quiet rumble of her partner's voice filled the room. Replacing her gun in its holster, she headed for the kitchen. "Eames, you... shouldn't be here." She stopped dead at the sight of him, pacing back and forth across the linoleum, barefoot, in faded jeans, his short-sleeved denim shirt buttoned crooked, his hair mussed. He'd been drinking; not a lot, but she could tell.

"What's wrong?" she asked, a cold weight settling in the pit of her stomach. Shoulders hunched, he bowed his head and glanced at her out of the corner of his eye, like he'd done so many times before, but this time, there was a rawness in his eyes, a pain he'd never let her see before. "Is it your mother?" she asked softly. The pain deepened, but he shook his head.

"No... No, she's... fine. You should go." She took a step toward him and he backed away, up against the counter. He pressed his knuckles against his chin and refused to look at her again. "You... You need to go, Eames." She opened her mouth to protest, but a car horn drifted in through the open window, two short and one long. "Your new partner," Bobby said, his tone not quite making a question out of it.

"Temporary," she said. "Very temporary, I hope. Detective Sledge is helping on this case until you get back." She expected at the very least a disparaging remark about the new detective, or a inquiry into the case, but he remained silent, standing unnaturally still, like he was afraid to move. Unnerved, she volunteered the information. "A young woman was found raped and murdered in her apartment. So far, evidence points to the possessive boyfriend, but that feels too simple."

"Nothing is ever... simple," he whispered, then he turned and paced to the far side of the room. "Could you... go, please, Alex, just go... please." It was her name on his lips that set off the final alarm in her head. He never did that unless things were really hairy, like if someone was pointing a gun at her. In the street below, Sledge honked the horn again. If she didn't go down, he'd come up, and she didn't want to see what Bobby would do his least favorite co-worker, not in the state he was in. For someone so big, he seemed very fragile right then. She didn't want to leave but...

"I have to go," she said, "but I'll be back, and then you're telling me what's going on here, Bobby. I'm your partner, remember? It's my job to watch your back." He glanced at her, that scared little boy look, but didn't say anything. They shared a moment of silent communication, him expressing how much he didn't want her there, her replying that she didn't give a damn, that she was worried. She finally turned away. "And lock this door," she called over her shoulder. "This is New York, for God's sake."

Sledge was just climbing out of the car as she exited the building. He looked slightly annoyed, but it was nothing to the worry and anger churning inside her. She was about to lay into him when he pre-empted her tirade with one little word.

"Suicide." She stared at him blankly, so he elaborated. "Captain just called. ME ruled it a suicide. Wounds were self inflicted. Our victim stabbed herself and then played Picasso on the walls with her own blood."

"And the boyfriend?"

"In Sacramento. He's been gone since Tuesday." Alex slowly walked around to the driver's side and climbed in. She glanced over at Sledge as he settled himself beside her.

"So who raped her?"

"That's what Special Victim's would like to know. Apparently, there were three rapes last night, all by the same perp, but only our victim wound up dead. They're waiting at HQ to talk to us." Alex let a slow breath hiss between her teeth.

"Great, SVU, just what I need," she muttered as she started the engine and pulled away from the curb.

Disclaimer - Law and Order: CI and SVU, and the characters protrayed therin, are the property of Dick Wolf and Assoc., but Detective Sledge is all mine, Mwa ha ha ha! Er, ahem ... please don't sue.