This timeline is my own. Standard disclaimers apply.


If you are a fan of this show, skip to the story below. You already know this stuff.

Detectives Robert Goren and Alexandra Eames are partners in NYPDs Major Case Squad.

Goren is eccentric and genius-esque in the connections he is able to make in a case. He is a profiler of the first order with handy encyclopedic knowledge. We know that he had a chaotic childhood, his father distant, his mother a schizophrenic. He fears inheriting this disease himself. He visits his mother regularly in her nursing home.Eames is cool, collected, and dry. She recently gave birth to a boy as surrogate for her sister. She is the daughter of a disgraced cop and grew up in a large family without a lot of money. Her husband, also a police officer, was killed in the line of duty in her past. Eames and Goren have an interesting unspoken chemistry which, of course, hack writers like myself wish to pervert into romance. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

She preferred cashmere in the colder months.

It was her first choice. Even with a suit. She was shrewd about it though. Bought from Blue Fly Dot Com. Sometimes seventy percent off. Even with this one luxury she allowed herself, she wasn't foolish enough to pay full price. Also, it saved her from hitting the department stores—her own personal idea of hell.

She had the blouses too, of course. Plain, muted, a stripe now and then to mix it up. All as asexual as possible. The necessary uniform of the female detective who has risen through the ranks. Whether or not you were 'a man's woman', you had to pass as one. Had to look as serious and tough as any of them. Had to look just male enough to relate to.

Misogynistic anachronism or not, it was the way of things.

She had no problem with that really. Understood it even. In fact, it simplified things, this unofficial uniform. But the cashmere allowed her to cheat a little. To revel in its warmth, in the silky hand of the weave against her skin. To take comfort where there often was none.

There were days when even this small thing helped.

Silk or fine cotton knits were for the warmer months.

But could not compare to cashmere in her book.

And she was especially glad for it (with a silk thermal beneath, and the jeans she'd allowed herself to wear as it was Sunday) on this bitterest of mornings. There was a little sleet in the air, and the wind by the river had its way of boring straight to the bone.

She felt the cold more acutely these days. Perhaps it was age. She didn't do things as briskly as she once had in her life. At almost forty, she had found her center as a professional, and as a woman.

There was with this, however, the knowledge that though she and her partner had a strength and balance in their work together, there was something now missing. Something gone from within her.

And it wasn't really about the baby.

And, damn, she was tired.

She parked the SUV and thrust her hands into her gloves as she got out, albeit a bit stiffly, and headed toward the throng of bundled uniforms. CSU stood to one side waiting. And, surprise, Deakins was there as well.

"Captain," she nodded as she approached.

"Eames, where's Goren?" he asked in lieu of a greeting.

She took in his unusually grim expression and tried to squelch her irritation at being found insufficient.

"It's Sunday. He'll be almost at Carmel Ridge by now. Do you want me to call him back?"

Deakins sighed, his breath puffing out in a cloud.

"No. He'll be back this afternoon?"

She nodded.

"Okay, you can fill him in later then. Come on over and have a look."

"You know who she is, I assume? They don't call out a Captain on a Sunday morning for a plain ole' Susie Jogger."

"A singer. Classical or opera, or something. Headlining in a program at Lincoln Center. Name's Christine Larkins. The Mayor's wife is on the Opera Gala Committee and knows her. She's clothed. It doesn't look outwardly like rape."

She walked around the evergreens shielding the body as she exchanged her warm gloves for latex, and knelt next to the beautiful dark haired woman, sighing a little at the frozen hazel eyes staring up at her.

Poor thing. Poor beautiful thing, she felt the usual wave of empathy hit.

Well-practiced in hiding this though, she gave herself a mental shake for focus and began her assessment.

"Shot almost directly in the heart. No make-up. Dressed casually, though well."

"It's a sweatsuit," frowned Deakins from above her.

"By Prada. These yoga shoes are easily three or four hundred dollars a pair. She was wrapped in this comforter when she was found? It's a high thread count. Down. No label, but definitely high end. No coat or gloves. How was she identified?"

"Guy walking his dog found her. Said he saw her show last week."

"No one's reported her missing?"

"She performed last night. The Car Service records say that her usual driver dropped her off at her apartment about one this morning. No purse found in the area. No keys, wallet, or cell phone either. I've still got the guys out digging through the trash cans. Doubt they'll find anything though."

She nodded her head in agreement.

"They won't. She's definitely been moved here—look at the lividity. And the blood's on the comforter, not seeped into the ground as warm blood would on a cold night," Alex concluded before going on, "No defensive marks. Just the clean shot. Relatively close range, I'd guess. The exit wound is lower behind. Whoever shot her was taller. And cared about her. He made sure to bundle her up against the cold."

"I've got her apartment sealed off."

She nodded at that as well.

"This is interesting..."


"Her navel is pierced."

"That doesn't fit with my idea of an opera singer."

"Lovely diamond on the ring," she noted.

"So, no robbery then."

"Maybe the perp didn't have time to check her navel. I'll go to her apartment next. Not a lot here."

"Too bad we don't have Goren to sniff her hands."

Alex eyed him wearily at this, "I could call him back to do that and deduce what he might if you like."

Deakins sighed again, "Alex, I'm sorry..."

She waved his apology off then lifted the singer's bare left hand and sniffed at the manicured fingers.

"Sandalwood soap," she concluded. "Ralph Lauren."


"I'm still forty-five minutes out," he told her.

"That's fine. They've packed Miss Larkins off to the coroner. I'm at her apartment now. No signs of a struggle or forced entry. The comforter is gone and the bedding matches the one found wrapped around the victim."

"Is her purse there?"

"Purse, id, keys, everything. Looks like she came in, bathed, and changed into some comfortable sweats, then had a cup of tea."

"So, she must have known him."

"That's what it looks like. Knew him. Let him in probably too. I'm going down to talk to the doorman now."

"I'll get there as soon as I can."

"Well, be safe about it," she glanced out the window. "This sleet is not looking good. How was she today?"

"She was doing pretty well, actually," she heard his voice brighten slightly. "I told her that you suggested the lotion I brought and she even remembered who you were. Says thank you."

"Oh, that's nice."

"She wants me to bring you to meet her."

"Really?" she asked in surprise.

"Yeah, well, we'll see if she remembers that next week."

She didn't miss the hollow drop in his voice at that.

"I'm sure she will, Bobby," she told him gently, then regretted it immediately as a resulting quiet moment stretched between them.

"I'll be at the tunnel in twenty minutes," he finally told her.


She clicked off her cell and sighed as she pulled her notebook out of her purse. She shouldn't have offered up even the merest breath of sympathy. He didn't like it. She knew that. It only served to silence and sever him from her. Something she understood more keenly than he was probably aware.

Rest assured they would connect again, as they always did, when he arrived. But not over anything as personal as his mother. They would go about their work quietly, intensely, surprisingly few words needed to figure things out. He ruminating. She clicking the links together. Their rhythm a low thrum they both could hear and take comfort from.

Was a time though when she had been a little noisier in her life.

Had had a temper too. A noisy, Irish, red-headed temper, her dad had tsked. It didn't flare often. But when one grows up the fourth of five children, one has to be able to spit sparks now and then. If only to survive.

Her husband had found it amusing. He'd grin when she'd lay into some perp.

"Hey, Andy, your wife's going toe to toe with a two hundred pound dealer in interrogation," Castleman would tell him.

"She can take care of herself," he'd say.

And everyone on the squad knew it was true.

But after Andy's death. After the loud report as the bullets entered his body. And after three days of dying, consciousness never regained, breathing shallow and hoarse, and then the silence that comes after the shrill monotone of the heart monitor has been turned off. After that, temper seemed superfluous and self-indulgent.

Oh sure, she still got angry. Just... more quietly so.

And the only identifiable red in her hair these days was artfully applied by Tanya every ten to twelve weeks.

She flipped open her notebook and headed to the elevator in pursuit of the doorman.


"Alex is a woman, right?" her forehead creased as she tried to penetrate her own fuzzy thoughts.

"That's right," he assured her softly. "My partner."

"It's good they let women do that."

"Yes, it is."

"It smells like vanilla."

"She thought you might like it."

"I do. You must thank her for me. Or bring her to see me. I'd write a note, but..." and her voice drifted off as she turned her head to look out the window.

"I'll tell her for you."

"These dark winter days," she shook her head sadly.

"I know, Mom. I know," he nodded in understanding.

"I keep having this thought that they're putting something in my medicine to make it seem darker out than it really is. So I can't see what's going on. And then I realize that that is an irrational thought, because I know it is Winter, as my calendar plainly shows me. And it is always darker in Winter. But it's the medicine which makes it possible for me to see that the thought is irrational. Thus making the whole thing rather ironic, don't you think?" she smiled wanly, and looked up at him from her recliner.

He tried to smile for her in return.

"You know no one is tampering with your medicine, Mom."

She looked away from him again and shrugged.

"Only a crazy woman would think so, I suppose."

"Mom..." he began, aware that a slight pleading note was creeping into his voice.

"Is she pretty?"

He blinked, but caught right up, "My partner?"

"Yes. This—Alex. Is she pretty?"


"I am surprised to hear you say so."

"Why is that?"

"What is she like?"

"Intelligent, strong... dry," he answered dutifully, and then went on, struggling a bit for more, "And..."



"Quiet? That sounds like a bore."

"Not a bore. Still waters run deep, Mom," he smiled.

"Well, cliches don't," she returned.

"Why do you ask, anyway?"

"It really doesn't matter," she shook her head. "What does matter is that it is Winter and that is why it is so dark out. It was dark like this the day I turned in my thesis, you know."

"It won a prize for excellence," he made the appropriate show of pride, well-rehearsed for many years now.

She nodded, "Yes, it did. And then my article was in The New Yorker. That, my lad, is something."

"Something great. You were only twenty-six."

She smiled up at him in gratitude, as he leaned down to tuck her afghan around her more closely.

"Let's eat lunch in here today shall we, Bobby? Room fourteen is on her high horse again and I will not dine in the same room with her when she is like that."

"Oh, I don't know, it's pretty cute when she starts to sing," he teased.

"Oh, you are naughty!" she giggled. "That poor old lady has lost her marbles and we mustn't joke about it."

"No, you're right. We shouldn't. I'll go get us some trays. Pudding or cake today?"

"Surprise me," she grinned..


It was going to snow.

No doubt about it. He didn't really mind, as long as it held off until tonight. He didn't like driving in it, and he didn't like to think of Eames driving in it either.

Only a few weeks off of maternity leave now, he knew she was still tiring easily. This concerned him a bit. Not that he could let that on, she'd probably flay him alive if he did. But that she was still struggling was apparent to him if not to anyone else.

He was usually aware of her, for lack of a better word. As she was him.

They never spoke about it—this awareness. Had both consciously avoided doing so, in fact.

It just seemed that she should be more, well, robust, for lack of a better word by now. She was still pale and ever so slightly ginger as she moved. Not like her old self yet. Not that he expected a thirty-nine year old woman to just bounce back from childbirth, but it niggled at him and he wished he could express his concern to her for once.

Comfort her even, should she need it.

Then again, he thought for probably the thousandth time during their few years as partners, it was probably not really a good idea to go there.

He maneuvered slowly through the Manhattan traffic, plotting his next move. If he dropped his car off at home, he could grab a cab to the victim's apartment. It was on the way, and then he could ride with Eames back to the office.

He tugged at his tie then. A suit was second skin to him but he could never fully accept the constraints of a tie. He wouldn't have bothered with it on a morning off of work, but he knew it pleased her to see him show up dressed in a suit and tie, bearing flowers and gifts. It wasn't much to do to be the highlight of her week. Putting on a suit, eating an institutional lunch, shaving. These were nothing to the list of lifelong accommodations he'd made for his ill mother, after all.

And she did seem more consistently lucid on this new cocktail of meds. He just hoped it would stick and no unpleasant side effects would rear their ugly heads again, forcing them to reorganize and start over. Prozac had made her tired and disconnected. The zoloft gave her dry mouth and took away her appetite, and so on.

He leaned forward to switch on the radio then to distract himself from this always depressing thought progression. The newscaster was already talking about the Larkins murder. Her matinee for later that afternoon cancelled, as there had been no understudy for her one-woman eclectic performance of Art Songs and Middle Eastern laments.

They played one then as homage to the young singer who, until last night, had only a brilliant career ahead of her.

Goren turned into his parking garage as the mezzo's strong voice sang defiantly out.


"Okay, I'll need the number of the agency then," she told him.

"I've got it over at the desk. Be right back."

"Thanks," she replied as the manager walked away.

She turned then to see Goren coming into the lobby.

"Whew! Sleets's fierce!" he called out to her with a smile, as he brushed off the shoulders of his coat. "My cab practically skated over!"

She looked up and saw a sort of exhilaration in his eyes as he first looked at her, then swept the area, quickly registering the details—CSU taking prints, uniforms questioning neighbors. She wondered idly which took precedence in his mind; the fun of the icy trip, or the anticipation of the new case. Probably a combination of both, she thought wryly.

"What have you got?" he turned his intensity back to her.

"The doorman last night was a temp, has been on the job for two weeks, though is off right now. The regular guy was rear- ended and has been recovering at home. The Building Manager's getting me the temp. agency number and the guy's full name now.

Deakins sent a uniform over to the car service to pick up Miss Larkin's driver for preliminary questioning. He'll be here in a few. There are security cameras in the lobby and the elevator but, our luck of course, they are both new and not in service yet."

Goren nodded.

"Neighbors see or hear anything?"

"Not yet. Older lady—A Mrs. Clark lives next door and just got back from church. I thought we could go up and talk to her now."

He nodded and stood aside for her to lead the way to the elevator.

Once within, the doors slid shut and button pushed, she looked over at him again.

"Salisbury steak or pot roast today?" she asked.

"Salisbury steak," he sighed in mock resignation.

"Sorry about that," she smiled and lifted her eyes to watch the floor numbers blink as they ascended.

His turn to observe her out of the corner of his eye.

"You look a little tired," he commented. "Late night?"

"You might say that," she frowned. "For my book and I."

"Couldn't get any rest?"

She shook her head.

"Too wicked," she tossed over her shoulder as the door dinged open.


"So, let me get this straight: The temp doorman is M.I.A., and the driver who dropped her off promptly at one saw nobody and nothing?" checked Deakins.

"That's pretty much it," sighed Eames, as she wearily sank into her chair. "The driver did say she was carrying a large mailing tube, like for a poster, but otherwise seemed perfectly normal. Mrs. Clark is deaf as the proverbial post but does think that something was going on between Miss Larkins and her accompanist... a Mr. Drew."

Goren, flipping through his notebook, looked up then.

"A mailing tube?" he queried.

Alex flicked her eyes to his instantly.

"There wasn't one found in the apartment," she stated for him, their conclusion mutual.

"So perhaps there was a robbery after all? We need to talk to the staff at the opera house. Find out why Miss Larkins was bringing home a mailing tube after her performance."

She nodded her agreement.

"You two had anything to eat yet?" Deakins asked then, noting the late hour.

"He had Salisbury steak," shrugged Alex as she opened up her laptop.

"You haven't had anything today? At all?" Goren asked her.

"Go. Get dinner. I'll call if anything comes up," Deakins dismissed them.

Alex sighed and nodded as she and Goren collected their coats and headed to the elevator.


"The Soup and Salad Special, please," Alex said as she closed the menu and handed it to the waitress.

Goren noted the scant order but refrained from comment.

"We should run her accompanist..."

"David Drew."

"Right. David Drew. We should run him through the system," he said instead.

Alex nodded and took a sip of her tea.

"What did her apartment reveal to you?" she asked.

"She had quality taste, that's for sure. But the place felt sort of hotel-like to me."

"Well, she toured a lot."

"No personal photos or mementoes."

"Not even an old ticket stub laying around," Alex agreed.

"The place was... minimal. Even her wardrobe was pretty spare for the amount of money she must have."

Alex looked at him a moment and bit her lip before beginning.

"You know... something about seeing her this morning...I don't know. I just felt... something..." She turned to look out the diner's window as snow began to fall, furrowing her brow.

Goren looked at her in interest.

It was a rare moment when Eames would open herself to flights of intuition. She could draw conclusions based on observation and experience with the best of them. He knew, or rather sensed, her to be intuitive as well, but also felt that she often refrained from sharing even to him. Allowing him to speak aloud about such things instead. He'd always chalked it up to her reticence to seem overly 'female'. Something not thought too highly of among cops.

"What? What did you feel?" he prompted gently.

She turned back to look at him.

"Not sure," she shook her head.

"Soup and Salad Special. Club sandwich with fries," stated the waitress then as she set their food before them.

They turned to their food then and ate in companionable silence.

"She studied in Europe and all over the Middle East, they said on the radio," commented Goren, "Unusual for an American."

"Yeah, I downloaded her bio earlier. Maybe there's a financial problem of some kind? That could be the reason for all the material minimalism in her life," she reflected.

"We should check it out, but it looked like a considered choice to me," he responded.

"She didn't even have much of a music collection. A few cds. No vinyl. You'd think a classical musician would have at least some vinyl."

"She's young enough to have everything on an ipod or something similar," Goren reflected.

"It wasn't in her apartment."

"We'll check her dressing room tomorrow."

"I'm getting old. I didn't even think of an ipod," she berated herself.

Goren lifted his brows at this, "Old? You feel old?"

She looked up at him shrewdly, "Bobby, I'm fine."

Goren grinned at her, caught.

"Just checking, that's all."

"I know. It's just taking awhile to bounce back, that's all."

He nodded, "Can I do anything?"

She considered him a moment over this.

His concern. The respect he afforded her. How he rarely sank to sarcasm (one of her own adolescent coping mechanisms, she inwardly sighed.) Certainly the words they occasionally exchanged about their inner selves were spare. Simple even. Yet, they seemed to know so much more about one another than what the casual observer might believe. They were perhaps sketchy on some of the nitty-gritty details. Those bread and butter stories about one another. The sort often shared in long stakeouts---the standard ritual of bonding between detectives.

But that they knew one another was never a question.

"I'll be fine. It's only been four weeks," she dismissed.

"How is the baby doing?" he asked softly.

She looked down at her salad..

He saw her lips tighten a bit and his heart went out to her. Too far, Goren, he thought. For all her purported strength, there was this softness too. It was usually locked up behind a closed door, but he knew it to be there nonetheless.

"Eames, I'm sorry. It's none of my business," he offered her a way out.

She got hold of herself and looked up at him with a small smile.

Perhaps even with a decision made.

"I don't know why it shouldn't be," she reflected. "I don't see why things have to be as they've always been, Bobby."

He lifted his brows at that.

"It just seems that we don't, haven't ever, really, talked about... a lot of things..." she shrugged.

"And now you think that we should?"

She frowned a moment.

"No," she answered.

"No?" he was confused.

"Not should," she amended. "But, perhaps, might want to."

He smiled a little, perplexed, but pleased.

"Ah. Well, Ea– Alex, I think that could be... nice."

She nodded, "It's not that I think that we would do the job any better if we..."

"Just that we might... want to?" he supplied.

"The thing is... it is something that we would both have to want."

"And I haven't always been the most forthcoming?" he admitted.

She smiled in return, "I haven't either."

Bobby looked at her then, allowing himself a rare moment to really look at her. At her milky skin and long slim throat. At the deep brown eyes that could look straight into him. He turned away from their penetration, his mind playing through a thousand scenarios. A thousand outcomes.

Generally he withheld himself from others. It was his nature and his habit. A sort of self-preservation, he knew. He'd read enough about such things. At the same time he sensed that his withholding from her was unique and based in something entirely different.

It was something he had not wanted to examine very closely.

They together, as a functioning working team, had been too important for him to risk.

But now, this opening up from her own usual reticence... was, for lack of a better word, precious.

And it touched him.

"It could be... dangerous," he told her softly, meeting her eyes again.

She felt her breath hitch as she considered this and nodded.

"Is that why we never have... become closer, Bobby?"

He felt his heart pound a little harder but he knew what she meant.

"Maybe," he allowed, but did not break her gaze.

She looked away though and back out at the snow falling more heavily now on the dark sidewalk. People hunched and hurrying by.

And sighed. It was too much right now.

"So the new meds seem to be working well for your mom?" she turned back to him, picking up her fork again.

"So far," he nodded, letting her change the subject.

"That's good. You seem..." she narrowed her eyes, and looked at him again.

He waited.

"...less exhausted than you usually do after a visit," she chose her words carefully.

He nodded, "I am. I caught a glimpse of the feisty lady she can be today. It was nice."

Suddenly Alex sat up straight, her eyes a-spark.

"That's it!"

"What's it?"

"Feisty. There was something a little rebellious about it. A good girl who has done something a little wicked. A rebellion."

"Rebellion?" he repeated, waiting.

She looked at him directly.

"Like my tattoo."

He blinked at this, his mind slipping to places it shouldn't, "Your... tattoo?"

She smiled at his barely concealed surprise but went on.

"Just a little one. Some girlfriends and I in college. Too much wine. Finals just finished. We got tattoos."

He narrowed his eyes in interest, wondering more about this, but turned it back to the case as he ought, "And Christine Larkins?"

"A pierced navel," Alex told him.


He reflected on that a moment, his eyes playing over the table.

"Of course it's not that unusual for young women to do that these days," he decided, looking back at her.


"I hear you, though," he nodded. "Something not quite typical about it. A classically trained singer..."

She nodded back, glad that she had, well, something anyway, glad for normalcy between them again, then stabbed her fork into her salad.

He took a bite of his sandwich, and munched thoughtfully for a few moments.

"A tattoo, huh?" he looked over at her slyly.

She looked up at him, a small smile playing at her lips, a challenge in her uplifted chin.


He cleared his throat slightly.

"So," he began, feeling something warm quietly build within, "Where'd you get it?"

She cocked her head a bit then lowered and lifted her lashes.


He let a soft chuckle escape.


The next morning, as she heard yet another group laugh from Admin., Alex rolled her eyes.

It was the distinctly pleased sound of a group of women enjoying themselves. She didn't bother to look up at what she knew was a smile on his face as he strode back into the bullpen to their desks.

She focused on her computer screen as she heard a stack of files plop down on the desk opposite.

"They're trying to find a rhyme for 'murder'," her told her, jabbing his thumb in Admin's direction.

She didn't look over. Or answer.

"It's that literary contest thing. You know the supplement they're going to put in The Times of poetry by the city's finest?"

"They featured firefighters last month, didn't they?" she responded as she lifted her cup of coffee to her lips and scrolled down a page.

"Yeah," he laughed a little. "Carrie and Sandra are going to enter something."

"Limerick?" she asked dryly and set her cup down.

He smiled.

"It's all public relations crap," she shook her head."You'd think we'd all have better things to do."

"Ah, come on, Eames, don't you think those of us in service to this fair city may have tender artistic sides worthy of expression?" he teased.

She looked up at him, "Nope."

"Eames! Goren!" Deakins called them from his office then.

"This is Mr. Drew," he went on as they joined him.

"Please tell me you're going to get whoever did this to Chris."

Alex took in the musician as she sat in the chair next to him. He was handsome, roughly forty, dark-haired, slightly graying at the temples. He turned bright blue eyes to her then. She saw hope and sadness there at once.

She smiled at him sympathetically.

"Mr. Drew, we are going to do the best we can. I am Detective Eames. This is my partner, Detective Goren."

"I should never have left town," said David Drew morosely, leaning his face into his hand.

"Where did you go?" she asked gently.

"Boston. Chris and I were scheduled to do some recording there after the first of the year. I got the one a.m. flight out after the show, then went to the studio to try out the instruments they have the next morning... Every pianist has to test the instruments," he explained.

"To find the right feel?" asked Goren.

"Yes. I got back on the noon flight yesterday. We were supposed to do the matinee at four."

"We will need to corroborate that, Mr. Drew."

He nodded, "Whatever you need. Just find this guy."

"We were given to understand that you and Miss Larkins had more than just a professional relationship."

He looked at Alex, "I loved her. You can't imagine what it's like to lose someone you love to senseless violence."

Alex impulsively placed her hand over his then.

"Yes, I can."


Dark had long settled when they finally pulled away from Lincoln Center that evening.

"Damn, it's really coming down now!" said Alex, lifting her collar to the snow.

"Supposed to get worse than this before the week is out."

Alex groaned.

"Well, you were right about the ipod."

"Yeah. But still nothing on the mailing tube, the missing temp doorman, or a motive for why anyone would want Christine Larkins dead."

"And everyone relatively close to her at The Met has not only an alibi, but sworn heartfelt statements about what a wonderful woman she was and how no one would ever want to kill her," she added ruefully.

"Something's missing," he mused. "I think we need a tighter timeline on her activities the night before."

She slowed to a stop at a traffic light.

"We should talk to her manager again too. And I still can't seem to get the pierced navel thing out of my head."

"Those who knew about it did say it seemed out of character for her."

"David Drew said she didn't have it before her fall tour."

"Here she was just beginning a brilliant career. Going on an international tour again in January. Maybe there's a professional jealousy or some such problem somewhere. The shot was clean, almost professional, but she was wrapped up as if someone cared about her. It's just not all clicking together," said Goren as he tugged to loosen his tie and undo the top button of his shirt.

Alex accelerated as the light turned green.

"Well, maybe the financials will reveal something tomorrow," she told him as she ran a hand through her hair, "I really need a haircut," she sighed.

"Sleep for me," he replied wearily.

"Hmm... Sleep. What's that?"

"Still that bad?"

She nodded absently.

"Hey, are you going to see your mother on Christmas eve?" she asked.

"No, just Christmas morning. Why?"

"I just thought..."

"What?" he prompted.


"Aren't you going to your sister's?"

"Supposed to," she shrugged.

Ah, he thought.

"Lewis and I are going out to some pub he's found. A little jazz. Nothing big. You're welcome to join us."

"Don't want to impede your luck," she smirked.

"Or we yours?" he returned.

"Oh right, because there is, after all, nothing hotter than a woman who's recently given birth."

He had nothing he could say aloud to that.


She stopped at another light, then eased the SUV forward again when it changed.


"I, uh... Alex! Look out!" he suddenly yelled, startling her into slamming on the brakes and sending the heavy vehicle into a spin.


"Ah, shit! Alex? Alex? Are you okay? Talk to me!"

Bobby was on his knees in his seat now, leaning over the console to reach her. The driver's side door was grotesquely bent in, the dash airbag all but obstructing her from view.

"Dammit, Alex! Say something!" he called to her as dug for his phone and pocket knife.

He opened the knife as he placed the emergency call, and punctured the airbag in front of her. When he pushed it away, she moaned softly and turned toward him. Her face from temple to jaw was covered in fresh, flowing blood.

"Oh, God..." he breathed, and quickly pulled his handkerchief from his pocket to press against the head wound.

"Alex, can you talk, please?" he implored her.

"Where the hell did that guy come from?" she croaked blearily at him.

He smiled in relief.

"He ran the light. We did a three sixty after you hit the brakes and then he hit us."

"This does not feel good," she moaned.

"I doubt it does. Do you have pain anywhere else? Besides your head?"

"Yes, I do. Are you okay, Bobby? You've got blood on your tie. At least I think its blood..."

"I'm fine. Alex, focus: What else hurts?"

"My side..."

He nodded. Ribs.

"Anywhere else?"

"Bobby, I think I'm smelling gas."

Shit. She's right.

"Alex, I'm going to lift you up out of here and then out my side. The other car is blocking your door. I've got to get us away in case there's a fire."

"Okay," she answered weakly.

"It's probably going to hurt a little."

"Last time I heard that, it was quite an understatement, let me tell you...' she began to ramble.

"Alex..." he was pushing the airbag detritus away, lowering her seat back.

"They said that and then a baby came out of me..."

"Alex..." he clicked open his own door behind him.

"The lying bastards! You'd think they could be a little more clear up front about that pain thing, wouldn't you? But, no! All part of their evil plan..."

"Eames, would you just shut the hell up? No time for your schtick now," he barked at her in irritation as he struggled to untangle her seatbelt.

"Arrogant side-of-beef," she mumbled as he put her right arm around his neck.

He slipped his right arm under her knees as she turned her face into his throat.

"Snarky little witch," he responded and felt her lips quirk into a smile against his skin as he hoisted her up.


"Alex, come on, wake up. Head wound. You need to be conscious. Alex!" he slapped lightly at her cheek.

"What!" she complained as she came to. "What happened?" She tried to focus on her surroundings, but couldn't very well. She was cradled in his lap, she felt. They were sitting outside somewhere. Everything hurt. It was cold.

"It's snowing," she said apropos of nothing.

Bobby looked down at her bloodied face, the white of her skin peeping through moonlike in the glow of the street lamp. He was relieved to see her conscious.

"You passed out when I lifted you up. Probably from the pain."

"My luck. I was too late for the epidural too."

"I've phoned in again. They're on their way. The city's been over run with accidents because of the weather."

He pressed his soaked handkerchief more tightly against her temple, clenching his jaw as she winced.

"Bobby, the other driver?"

"Nowhere in sight. His door's open though, he must have run off," he grimaced. "Probably drunk and scared."

"Did you see him?" she asked.

"Just a glimpse. My attention was elsewhere."

She tried to smile then sucked air audibly as if even this small action hurt too much. He watched then as her eyes closed and her head began to loll.

"Alex!" he called loudly to her.

Her eyes fluttered open.

"Come on, Bobby, I haven't had a good sleep in ages," she grumped.

"You've got to stay awake."

"Hmmm..." she drifted again.

"So, Alex!" he tried loudly, "Is it the upper thigh?"

She opened her eyes again, "Excuse me?"

"Your tattoo? I've been wondering. The upper thigh?"

"No," she whispered weakly.

"Lower back?"

"No again."

"You gonna tell me if I guess right?"

"Why, Detective Goren, some might consider that a form of harassment," she turned her face into the crook of his arm then, sighing a little, "The streetlight is too bright here," she complained as she became even more limp in his arms.

He felt his heart race, "Oh, no you don't, Eames! I'm not finished yet. The... the breast?"

She turned her face back to look up at him. He felt her body beginning to shudder.

"Tell you what..." she croaked, her eyes round and deep.

He felt his own well a little as looked down at her. She felt... small to him. Fragile. A ridiculous thought. Alexandra Eames, fragile.

"What?" he managed.

"I'll... I'll tell you something..."

"What's that?" he asked gently, trying to smile for her.

"Verdure," she let the word out, barely.

"What?" he was confused.

"The rhyme for 'murder'," she whispered. "It'll make you a very popular guy tomorrow."

And she was unconscious again.