For your willing suspension of disbelief and forgiveness for any perceived gross butchery, I am most grateful. It's been fun.

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What had only been a once or twice a week thing during the first fortnight of Bobby's trip, escalated to once or twice a day by the beginning of the third week.

Alex didn't really want to take time to analyze the motivations that might be behind this increase in his emails, she was too busy seizing her recovery by the ping pongs and wrestling the bastard down.

It was nice to hear from him though. So she parked Bobby and his incumbent issues in a cozy back brain place, and set about getting herself well.

The SUV still undergoing repairs, which could well render it a classic by the time the city bureaucracy had paper-worked each nut and bolt, she had been left without a ride. So she arranged to rent something just a little wicked from Lewis.

"I'll just lend it to you," he offered.

"No, I'll rent it," she insisted, "but I'll let you give me a deal."

"Fine. But no hotdogging, Detective."

"Then how will I get the cute guys to look at me?" she smirked.

"Somehow, in those jeans, I don't think that'll be a problem."

"You putting a custom Holly in that '69 over there?" she checked.

"Naturally. Rebuilt it myself."

"Very sexy, Lewis. You are a class act."

"Are you sure you won't marry me?"

"Nope, I like it better up here on my pedestal. Makes me feel tall."

"You're killing me, Alex, you know that."

"I think you'll survive," she told him knowingly. "Now where's the keys?"

He extended them out to her, then pulled them back just before she could grab them.

"You sure you're up to driving?"

"Yes. Not a manual perhaps, though I was eyeing that TR6 over there. I didn't know you let imports in here, Lewis."

"Don't tell Bobby."

"Wouldn't dream of it."

The weather forecast was pretty good for the week. Gloomy and cold, sure, but no new snow on the horizon and the roads were in good shape.

Each morning she'd bundle up and fill a travel mug to brimming with hot coffee and hit the road. It was liberating to get out of the city. She felt lighter with each mile she put between the apple green Mustang and The Big Apple that was Manhattan.

Driving felt good. Listening to the radio felt good. As did drinking coffee.

She wandered up the coast. Or sometimes out into the country someplace. To small towns she'd never been before. She'd find a park or a beach and walk in the brisk air, taking it into her lungs painfully. Stretching them as far as she could. Trying to improve her wind and regain her strength.

She'd get a little lunch somewhere then, a sandwich in the car or a hamburger, then turn and head back to the city.

At night she'd conk out as soon as her head hit the pillow. Sometimes she'd wake with pain from the surgery, but more often than not, slept through.

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TO: Eames

FROM: Goren

Yes, it's still raining. Drove up north to a Native American museum this morning. Some extraordinary pieces there. The carving work alone worth the trip. Rick is what he always was, though perhaps now a little less so. Saw some migrating whales off the coast yesterday. How are you feeling?

TO: Goren

FROM: Eames

Glad your trip is going well. Saw Lewis earlier in the week. Had lunch with Sylvia Deakins yesterday—they're going to be grandparents. I'm getting stronger by the day. How's the shoulder?

TO: Eames

FROM: Goren

The shoulder doesn't like the rain. Why did you see Lewis?

TO: Goren

FROM: Eames

You should try a hot water bottle for that. He was helping me up my hotness factor. Not getting any younger over here. Just ask Connie and Johnny. There's been a string of murders downtown. Homeless kids. Has it hit the news there?

TO: Eames

FROM: Goren

No. I'll look into it online. Lewis in the same sentence as 'hotness' puzzles me. Going to dinner with Rick and his wife now.

TO: Goren

FROM: Eames

And they call you a brilliant detective.

TO: Eames

FROM: Goren

Rick and Stacy are going to adopt two little girls, sisters, from China. It's late in life for them—they'd decided to avoid natural conception because of obvious hereditary issues long ago, but have changed their minds about being parents. Odd how I will be distantly attached to a nuclear family now.

TO: Goren

FROM: Eames

Congratulations, Uncle Brilliant Detective.

TO: Eames

FROM: Goren

I was wondering if they'd rechecked for anemia again? I hope you haven't let that slip. It's strange not to be thinking about Mom's meds, reading up on the new protocols, etc. Perhaps I should learn Mandarin. Not sure what they will speak though yet.

TO: Eames

FROM: Goren

You must still be out someplace. Going to an international bookstore Rick knows.

TO: Eames

FROM: Goren

Just thinking about you. Had an interesting Korean beer this evening. Nice place.

TO: Eames

FROM: Goren

Read up on that downtown case. You know anything from the inside? Are you sleeping better? Maybe you should think about acupuncture. I've been reading about it. There is some interesting science behind it and many swear by it. I'll look into it further for you.

TO: Goren

FROM: Eames

I miss you too, Bobby.

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The firing range had seemed a good idea after her drive, but she heartily regretted it now. The bag of Chinese take-away was almost too heavy for her.

No stairs today, she decided, as she walked into the elevator and slumped against the back wall. She was going to feel this even more tomorrow.

Hot water bottle time.

I am getting old, she thought.

She'd just stepped out onto her floor when her cell rang.

"Eames."

"Hey."

"Bobby?"

"Yeah. Did I catch you at a bad time?"

"No. Just bringing home some egg rolls."

"Sounds good. From that place around the corner?"

"Yeah."

"Did you get any extra?"

"Where are you?"

"Here."

She looked up to see him leaning against her front door, the familiar leather portfolio in hand.

"I can't believe Lewis let you drive that Mustang. He won't let me near it."

"No one in their right mind let's you drive. You stalking me, Goren?"

He grinned.

She thrust her bag of food into his arms and dug for her keys.

"By the way, you were right," he told her.

"Right about what?"

He leaned in and whispered softly as she turned the lock, "I missed you."

She flicked her eyes up to him, "Hmmm..."

He laughed. "That's all you've got? Hmmm? Not glad to see me?" he followed her in. "I'm glad to see you, Eames. You look a lot better."

She slipped out of her coat. "I am. You look better too."

"The trip was good for me."

"I'm glad."

He hung up his coat next to hers and followed her into the kitchen.

"Grab us a couple of beers," she instructed, as she took out plates and utensils.

"Sure I'm not putting you out?" he smiled.

"I'm sure."

They sat across from one another at her small table.

She studied him as she served the food out onto the plates. He really did look good. And being in his presence again, smelling him, watching his eyes dart about... satisfied her.

"I didn't get any cashew chicken..."she apologized, as she handed his plate over.

"You didn't know I'd be here. This is great. Thanks."

"What time did you get in?" she asked, as he opened their beers and they began eating.

"A few hours ago."

She nodded and licked a bit of sauce off her thumb.

"You really look rested, Bobby. That's nice to see."

He nodded and they ate on.

"When will they get to go to China?"

"Not until October."

"That's exciting."

"They seem pretty thrilled."

They lapsed into silence, glad for each other's company then.

"It'll be good to get back to work," he finally began.

She looked up and listened thoughtfully as he went.

"Nice to get back to... you know, normal." He lifted a napkin to press against his lips.

"You think we can?" she asked after a moment.

He blinked, "Get back to normal? Sure... why not?"

She sighed.

"I think we should try," he told her meaningfully.

She put down her fork and picked up her own napkin.

"So that's your decision then?" she asked mildly. "All that angst, and that's what you've landed on?"

He swallowed and looked at her sharply.

"What do you mean?" he asked warily.

"You know, Bobby, you're not usually the one to underestimate me."

She waited a moment then, watching the machinations of his mind behind his eyes.

"Fine," she said, and stood to clear the food boxes. "Normal it is then. I can do normal. I am the model of professional normal, after all."

She set the boxes next to the sink and turned to fill the coffee maker.

She could feel the gravity of his silence as it pressed in upon her.

"Eames," he said softly then, "Come back and sit down..."

She kept her eyes on the machine before her, "Goren, I'm tired. Let's just call it a night."

He took in the tightness in her shoulders.

"Alex... please."

She turned back to him and considered him over crossed arms, then walked back and sat back down.

He rubbed his forehead thoughtfully, then pressed his fist into his lips.

She waited, watching his eyes. She knew he was processing. Working out approaches. Considering motivations. Outcomes.

He knew her, she decided. Probably better than she'd like to think. He'll be direct, she thought. Then lay out his observations, his thinking...

Finally his eyes landed on her. His hands folded just under his chin.

"You've known." he said.

She knew this to be a statement rather than a question.

She nodded slightly and lifted her brows. "Of course I have, Bobby."

He took in an audible breath and nodded himself.

She watched him regroup.

He leaned back and pulled his leather portfolio before him from where it sat on the end of the table.

She half expected him to open it up and confront her with evidence. Photos. Documents. Phone logs...

He looked at her again.

"How long?" he asked.

"How long have I known?" she checked.

"Yes."

She cocked her head thoughtfully. "Longer than you," she decided.

He nodded.

"I don't underestimate you, Eames," he began, leaning in again. "It's just... I was so barely aware myself."

She nodded her understanding of that. Made perfect sense.

"After the baby was born..." he began, looking away for a moment, as she waited for him to lay it all out, "You began... well, to consider your life more..." He looked up at her and saw agreement in her eyes. "You wanted more... intimacy in your life... with me..."

She waited patiently, her expression now veiled.

"And that seemed fine. Great even," he scrubbed his hand over his face. "I was happy for that. I was..."

"...But then things began to change?" she prompted quietly.

He eyed her and nodded. "Quite a bit came up within me that I hadn't been... fully conscious of before."

"That must have been especially hard for you."

"The accident. My mother. Your being so hurt... Seeing my brother..."

"It was a lot," she comforted.

He looked into her eyes a then, she saw a slight desperation there.

"Alex, it must have just been... coming along all this time...just quietly coming along..."

"It has."

He leaned in further and she could feel distress coming wave-like from his large focused body.

"I didn't know... what you felt... And then... And then it seemed that it might not matter."

"Because of the work?"

"Because of the work," he nodded. "I know what it means to you. I know you understand what it means to me. We've always been in perfect accordance on that. I just... didn't see a way."

She nodded at the truth in that.

"And though the feeling is still there," he went on, focusing on his hands with resolve, "I can choose not to act on it. It may perhaps even deepen our work..."

"Bobby, what did you think I wanted?" she asked abruptly.

He looked up in surprise, "Well, I..."

"Oh, Bobby, Bobby," she sighed and shook her head. It was almost cute in its absurdity. "Did you really think I wanted...? You did, didn't you? And, don't answer that, it was rhetorical."

She stood up, unable to be still for another moment, paced to the door and came back to lean back on the counter before him.

She looked down into his anxious, waiting face.

"Bobby, listen to me: I am nearly forty years old. I am not looking for 'white lace and promises', do you understand?"

He continued to stare at her.

"I have had that, Bobby. And it was wonderful. But it's not who I am anymore. Bullets and solving cases and giving away a baby changed all those things. I am not dreaming of diapers and picket fences.

I am only now... I am only now coming into my full power. I don't know how else to explain it. But I am now able to coalesce all my experience and focus it into a solve.

And I have learned a lot from you along the way. But my work is vital, Bobby. Vital. I can't wait to be strong enough to get back to it."

He swallowed and nodded. This he perfectly understood.

"Now, I know you have some sort of theory in your head about my honor or something. Some sort of Oedipal recipe of motivations. I must stay true-blue because my father didn't. I must carry on the work that killed my husband... And, I suppose that is within me. But, I am a human woman too. And want connection... and, yes, love, too..."

He reached a hand out to her silently. She took it in her own.

"So, in light of this, the question of what you really want remains," she went on. "If 'back to normal' is your answer, then fine. You and I both know that this 'marriage' we already have is far too valuable to lose. If you still want to search bars until you find your own version of 'white lace and promises', then fine to that too... Just so you understand that I'm not going anywhere, either way..."

He stood up and moved before her, looking down into her face.

And gently laid his finger along her jaw.

"What if... all I want... more than anything... is greater... depth with what I already have?" he asked.

She took a breath.

"Then I'd have to say, 'Be sure, Bobby. Be very sure.' Many have failed trying and have suffered in their work and their hearts."

He smiled softly.

"I never wanted picket fences and diapers, either... but I do want you..." he told her.

She caught her breath at the intensity in his voice.

"Well, then... the feeling's mutual," she responded, her chin uplifted.

He deliberately moved his free hand to her injured side, watching his fingers splay gently across her ribs to hold on.

She tilted her head back, closed her eyes, and sighed.

"Your hand is warm," she breathed.

And he palmed her face.

She felt then his body move closer, his head bending down to whisper in her ear, his breath tickling...

"I didn't think... or hope even...Do you really think we'll be lucky enough to have both?"

She shivered.

Her eyes still closed, she lifted her lips and turned them to his ear, "I don't believe in luck," she whispered back, "I believe in what we have been and could be to each other."

"And the work?" he whispered back.

"And the work."

"So... we quietly..."

"...don't ask or tell..." she finished for him, with a slight shrug.

"Hmmm... I may like this...previously unseen... slightly naughty side of you, Eames," he growled a bit then.

"Oh honey, this is only the tip of the iceberg..."

She felt the intoxication of him flood her then and breathed in as his body began pressing into her's, his hands grasping more tightly, his thumb circling on bare skin...

She placed her hands on his beating heart then, feeling the hardness of his chest beneath...

"What if we get... caught?" he asked, and nipped at her ear.

She moaned, "We'll cross that bridge when..."

But her words were silenced as his mouth caught hers.

She lifted up on her toes, not feeling the stretch of her ribs, and gave back, the relief of it rushing through her, her breasts pressed hard against him, his hips into hers...

He trailed moistly her neck moments later, and she listened as he ground out words of disbelief, of wonder, and the hunger he had for her...

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It was that darkest, coldest part of the morning.

But she was warm and breathing in satisfaction...

When her phone rang.

She made an awkward grab for it.

"Eames?" she croaked.

Bobby moved next to her, trying to wrap his arms around her middle. She poked him in the ribs to stem the snoring, then wriggled free as she responded to the caller.

"Bobby, wake up," she told him after hanging up.

Then reached over to switch on the beside lamp.

"What?" he moaned, and, "too bright," before rolling away.

But she was out of bed, wrapping herself in a robe.

"They've found another one of those kids downtown. They want us."

He opened his eyes and slowly sat up.

"You aren't supposed to go back until tomorrow."

She shrugged and threw his t-shirt at him just as his cell next to the bed began ringing.

He reached for it as she slipped from the room.

"Goren..."

He found her in the kitchen moments later making coffee.

"We'll have to get a cab," she told him. "I won't get the SUV until Monday."

He nodded and scrubbed his hands over his face, "This is the eighth girl, Eames."

She nodded grimly, "I know. Go hop in the shower. I'll bring the coffee when it's ready. You have clothes you can wear?"

He nodded and moved toward the bathroom, "I should bring more over, though."

"Leave me some hot water!" she called as the coffee began to perk.

"I'm not shaving!" he called back.

"Color me surprised," she murmured quietly.