A/N: I know that, like, every single BA ficcer has done one of these, but my brain seems to have gone on vacation from Spilled Blood's plot and I have an urge to do something simpler (aka fluff), so I might as well. I'm serious, this is pure pointless fluff. You've been warned!


It had been a bad day, Bobby Goren thought as he sipped at his glass of scotch. This morning's visit to his mother had been interminable; she'd spent much of the time he was there jittering in her chair, staring tearfully past his shoulder and asking him why he'd brought The Man. Bobby didn't know who The Man was, but he knew there had been no one standing behind him while she talked about him.

Even more painful had been the knowledge that his mother's nervous jittering was very similar to his own. On days like this, he couldn't see it without being forced to consider the possibility that his constant movement was a sign of something more than perpetual impatience.

He had gone from Carmel Ridge directly to One PP, knowing that work was one of the few things that might distract him from such dangerous thoughts. Work made him feel capable; he couldn't be losing his mind if he was still solving cases. Today's caseload had been light, though, and he'd spent much of the day at his desk with his head down, knowing his partner was staring at him and wondering what was wrong.

When they'd finally caught a case, he'd managed to do something he never, ever did: he overlooked the obvious. He'd entered the robbery/murder crime scene with his usual confidence, Eames behind him, and after ten minutes he had turned to her and stated that of course the robbery was a fake, perpetrated by the owner of the stolen jewelry, who was probably on his way out of the country right now.

She had just looked at him for a second as though she was waiting for something, but he hadn't been able to read her expression as he usually could. So he just stood there dumbly until she had leaned in to him hesitantly and whispered that the owner of the jewelry was lying upstairs with a body temperature of about 80 degrees.

The worst part had been the lack of censure in her eyes. She hadn't looked at him like she thought he was an imbecile, which he knew he was. Instead, her eyes had softened and he'd known she was making excuses for him in her head. She wouldn't mention his mistake to Deakins, or to anyone else; she'd just chalk it up to him happening to be off his game today and go on with her life. In Eames's mind, Goren simply didn't make stupid mistakes, ever.

The problem was that he did make them, and it only made him feel more pathetic when he saw the people around him cut him slack or purposely forget about things he did wrong. At those times, he knew he was being pitied or used, because after all, we have to keep Bobby happy and sane or he might leave Major Case in the lurch!

He'd stumbled out of the office half an hour later than usual, not because he had been working but because he had been busy kicking himself for not working. The subway car he'd happened to step into had been inhabited by one of those annoying train-roaming homeless preachers. He'd managed to slip past the guy and into one of the last empty seats, which had made him feel marginally better . . . until he'd taken his jacket off when he emerged from the subway station into the warm air of the evening and found a large wad of gum ground into the back, where it had been in contact with the subway seat.

It had been the last straw. Nothing had gone right throughout the whole day. Not work, not his mind, not his visit to his mother. Worse than everything else was the fact that he'd managed to alienate the two people who cared about him: his mother and his partner.

Useless. He was useless.

Maybe worse than useless; maybe even incompetent.

So he'd come home, stripped off his expensive suit, which he balled up and threw into the corner, and put on a pair of jeans and a ratty t-shirt. At least now he was really dressed like Bobby, the useless guy, not costumed to look like Goren, the brilliant detective. He'd shoved his wallet into the back pocket of his pants, pulled on a pair of sneakers, and slammed out of his apartment.

He'd come here, to Murphy's, a neighborhood pub that was satisfyingly dark and gloomy inside. The walls were paneled with a wood that was almost black, and the panels were pitted with the marks of years of wayward darts; though there were lights above the tables and over the bar, they couldn't have been stronger than 40 watts. The bartenders there were all young, mostly college students, and they had no desire to start a chat with the glowering man hunched over the corner of the bar. A five dollar tip with his first drink had ensured their continued cooperation in maintaining his solitude.

He'd started with a pint of Guinness, two hours ago. It had gone downhill from there and he was now staring into the bottom of his fourth scotch on the rocks. The scotch had been preceded by a second pint, which had been silently set on the bar by the bartender who he'd tipped well, who had waved away payment. Bobby had given the man his best attempt at a smile, but judging by the look that appeared on the guy's face, his attempt had failed.

He still felt like shit. The sharp sting of the day had been partially soothed by the alcohol, but the dull depression of knowing that the elements of his bad day wouldn't go away remained. He stared down at his glass, which contained only ice cubes at his point, and wondered why the hell he bothered trying to live up to everyone's expectations, including his own. He could just as easily live down to their expectations; everyone he dealt with considered his mental state precarious to begin with.

Except maybe Alex. Eames, he corrected himself. It was unprofessional to call her by her first name, and he was well aware that it was his professional self that she trusted and respected so much.

Alex. He pulled his cell phone out and navigated to the photo gallery, where he'd saved a set of crime scene candids, many of which included her. She stood there, a complete professional in a fitted shirt and slacks, with her badge clipped to her belt, looking down at a body. And she looked beautiful, even standing in the middle of a puddle of blood in a dark alleyway.

He groaned and closed the phone. He had no idea why he did this to himself, but she seemed to always be his weapon of self-torture on the days when he hated himself. He would remind himself that Eames thought he was brilliant, and that he continued to uphold that fiction just because it fed his ego. She didn't deserve that; she deserved the truth, immediately followed by the acquisition of a new partner who was actually brilliant.

He tapped two fingers against the bar, signalling for another drink.

The bartender was just sliding his fifth scotch in front of him when his phone jumped in his hand. He almost dropped it before he realized that he had the ringer set to vibrate and a call was coming in. He looked down at the caller ID window.


Why was he not surprised? She'd noticed his withdrawn mood today, and she'd consider it her responsibility to fix it if she could.

He uttered a short, ironic laugh as he opened the phone. "Hello, Alex." Crap. Hadn't he just told himself not to call her that? "Uh, Eames."

There was a short pause, and then: "Bobby? Are you ok?"

"I'm fine." He wasn't sure if he could manage his usual fake-upbeat reassurance.

"Where are you? It sounds like there's someone screaming about two feet from your phone."

He looked up and noticed the live band playing across the room. How had he missed that before? "I'm, uh, near my apartment." The shorter he kept his answers, the less chance he had of babbling something embarrassing.

Another pause. He could almost hear the gears in her head turning as she analyzed his statement and what she heard in the background. "You're at a bar?"

"Yeah." He gulped half of his drink, savoring the slow burn of the liquid.

"Are you alone?" she asked, almost too softly for him to hear over the band.

"No, I'm out picking up girls," he said sarcastically. "It's an excellent night for bar-hopping."

"More like, it's an excellent night for you to wallow in self-pity and go out drinking alone," she shot back. "You want some company?"

"You want to come 'wallow' with me? I don't think so. I'm just fine on my own."

"Come on," she coaxed. "Wallowing is always better when you have someone to whine to."

Yeah, he wanted to say, and that's the problem. She deserved no part in this disaster of a night, but if she tracked him down, he'd probably end up making her either frightened or truly disgusted with his conversation. "I don't need any company." Down went the rest of scotch number five. He considered switching to bourbon, but quickly decided to stick with what worked and signalled the bartender for a refill.

He heard her sigh, and then, "How many have you had?"

"Not enough, considering how much you're irritating me." He winced at his own words, wondering why he couldn't just keep himself in check while he was talking to her.

"Which means you've had plenty. Where are you, Bobby?"

"At a bar, I told you."

"Which one?"

He gave serious thought to just hanging up on her then and there, but held himself back from doing it. "I don't think I'm going to tell you that, if you don't mind," he managed semi-politely.

"I mind," she snapped. "Either you tell me or I'm coming up to your neighborhood and combing all the bars until I find you."

"You wouldn't get past more than three," he said obnoxiously.

"Three? Why three?"

"Because by then you'd be occupied with some guy in one of them." Just the thought depressed him; he chugged most of his drink.

He heard her draw in a breath, and then a long pause. "Robert," she said menacingly.

"Robert? You've never called me that in your life."

"Yeah, well, it's hard to communicate over the phone how much you just pissed me off."

"Why bother?"

"You're right," she snapped. "I'm not doing this over the phone. I'll see you when I get there." With that, she cut the call off and Bobby was left staring at his phone.

He re-ran the last few minutes of the conversation in his head and decided that she hadn't denied that she would end up with someone in one of the bars. Well, screw her. "Hey!" he called to one of the female bartenders, calling up whatever charm he could manage in his current condition. "Could you refill me with a double?"

The girl smiled and took his glass. "No problem." As far as she was concerned, the sad-looking man could have as many refills as he could take; he was polite, a good tipper, and he wasn't causing trouble. It was rare that they got a guy downing drink after drink who still retained those three qualities. She poured two shots and then an extra dollop into the glass and slid the drink over.

"Thanks," he muttered.


Forty minutes later, he'd switched to alternating the scotch with a glass of water. He wanted to be drunk, not dead. He wasn't sure why he was still here; he'd long since reached the desired level of inebriation and he could probably stumble home and fall asleep with little trouble. The best he could figure was that he was either waiting to just pass out on top of the bar, or he was waiting for Alex to show up and prove his earlier statement wrong.

He was staring down at his drink, which was beginning to swim in front of his eyes, when a hand touched his side. He jerked and snapped his head around, ready to throw a punch at whoever had just touched him.

He didn't find himself looking at another drunk; he found himself staring into the very concerned face of one Alexandra Eames. She stepped around from behind him to lean back against the bar. "I told you I'd come."

"You came," he acknowledged, then sipped his drink. "And now you can go." She was wearing a skirt much shorter than her usual calf-length style, he noted, and her shirt exposed her shoulders. This was a side of his partner he'd never seen outside of undercover work.

"Not a chance." She signalled to the male bartender. "Excuse me? No more for him, ok?" she asked, pointing to her partner, who gave her a dirty look.

"No problem, miss. He got someone to get him home?"

"Yeah, I'm it," she said with a smile. "Thanks." She stepped forward from the bar until her stomach touched the edge of the stool Goren was sitting on, which put her face only inches from his. "You heard the guy. I'm taking you home."

"I don't feel like leaving."

"Too bad." Giving him a look that dared him to resist, she slid an arm around his back and pulled.

With a sigh, he allowed her to slide him off the stool and to his feet.

"Can you walk?"

He grunted. Anything he said to her now would be either cruel or intimidating, and he was still coherent enough to know that those were bad things.

"I'll take that as a yes. Come on." She took a step forward, dragging him with her. "Ok, you're going to have to work with me here. I can't lift all your weight."

"You don't have to lift any of my weight. Go home, Alex."

"Don't you want to know how I found you without falling in love with some barfly stranger?"

"Not particularly."

She stopped walking and turned him to face her. "Look, there's a lot of shit I'll take from you. I'll let you hop ahead on a case and only bring me up to speed later. I'll run interference with Carver for you. I'll accept the fact that when people talk to us, they're talking to you and not me. However, I will not let you sulk about god-knows-what and then take it out on me. Got that?"

"Don't blame me for this. You invited yourself here."

"Yeah, and now I'm inviting myself to your apartment," she said as she stopped them in front of his building. "Where are your keys?"

"Pocket," he grunted.

Without a word, she stuck her hand into his hip pocket and fished out his keys.

Goren stared at her back as she turned to unlock the door. Had Eames just stuck her hand down his pants, or was he drunk to the point of hallucinations? Come to think of it, he was feeling a little dizzier than he had when they left the bar . . .

"Come on." She tugged on his arm. "Move, big guy."

Still trying to figure out what had just happened and whether he should mention it, he obediently followed her through the lobby and into the elevator. As the elevator doors closed behind her, she rested against the wall with a deep sigh. She hadn't known he would be this heavy. Her arms were going to hate her tomorrow.

Bobby, who had been blindly following her, walked straight into her when she stopped at the back of the car. He attempted to step back after the impact, but his coordination wasn't up to it and he ended up just falling forward, slightly to the side of Alex.

Dreading the sound of his head hitting the metal wall, she stepped to the side and put her hands up, so that he fell onto her instead and she could push him away from the wall. He hit her hard, though, pinning her to the wall for a few seconds while he figured out what had happened.

She gave him a hard push, forcing him away from her. "You can't get rid of me by crushing me to death."

She felt so soft under him, he thought. Between this encounter and her retrieval of his keys, his already-frayed self control was weakening. No, don't think about that. She's your partner, she really doesn't want to hear how much you want to make love to her here and now, on the floor of an elevator.

"Bobby?" she said, watching him curiously. The expression on his face was one she couldn't remember ever having seen before.

"Then how can I get rid of you?" he snapped, channeling his sexual frustration into something marginally safer.

"You could start by sobering up and not trying to scare me away from you," she retorted. The elevator doors slid open in front of them and she returned to her position under his arm to lead him out. "Now come on."

Scaring her away . . . he could use that idea. He didn't think he could truly frighten her, but maybe if he put on a good enough show of being a jerk, she'd get fed up and decide to leave him to himself.

He allowed her to lead him into his apartment, but he stopped short just inside the door. Alex, who was looking away from him, took a few more steps before she realized that he wasn't moving. "Come on," she ordered, using both her hands to give his arm a yank.

He yanked back, reeling her back into the narrow entryway and straight into him.

"Bobby," she said warningly. "Move."

He kept his hold on her, even pushing her back a step until she stood about a foot away from him, against the wall. Very deliberately, he raked his eyes over her, noting again just how short her skirt was. "Why so dressed up, Alex? Were you hoping to find someone else before you found me?"

She tried to hide the blush that rose on her cheeks by crossing her arms and staring down at her shoes. "No. And why I'm wearing what I'm wearing isn't any of your business." She certainly couldn't tell him the truth, which was that she'd put on the skirt with the hope that he'd be sober enough to notice it. Which, apparently, he had - although he was far from sober. Her plans hadn't gone any further than the skimpy outfit, though, because before tonight there'd been no real indications that he'd do more than steal a furtive glimpse. Her plans definitely hadn't involved a very drunk, angry Bobby Goren leering at her as he pushed her away from him.

"Stop it." She shrugged her shoulders, trying to dislodge his hand.

"You don't like me looking?" he said softly. "Then maybe you shouldn't have barged in on my night."

"Maybe you should just tell me what the hell's been eating you today."

"Maybe you should realize that if I wanted you to know, I would have told you already."

Hurt by his cold words, she moved her eyes away from his and pretended to be scanning the apartment. "Why don't you just go to bed, Bobby? I'll help you walk over there."

"You're going to take me to bed?" he taunted. "Unless you're going to join me there, I'm not moving."

"You know I'm can't do that."

He shrugged. "Then I'm not moving." He was closing the trap around her now; faced with the choice of joining him in bed or giving up on him, he knew exactly what she would decide.

She gritted her teeth and glared at him, knowing he was doing this just to torment her. She refused to let him manipulate her like that. "We'll see," she finally lied. "Now move it."

Bobby was silent for a second, caught by surprise. He hadn't believed she'd let him push her this far; bed had been the worst threat he could come up with. Now what was he supposed to do?

"I said, move!" She was starting to get angry now. He was changing his behavior specifically to drive her away, saying things he thought she'd take offense to, and she wasn't going to let him get away with it - and that meant she had to ignore his insults until she could drop him on his bed, give him a kick in the ribs, and take off.

Instead of satisfying him, the realization that she was angry made him nervous. He was venting his anger on her, yes, but she was entirely too adept at seeing past his various masks. If he let her stay, it wouldn't take long until she realized that he wasn't just in a generic bad mood. And then she'd start picking away at what was wrong.

He couldn't tell her. Wouldn't. It would be too painful for him, and too overwhelming for her.

He was distracted, she noticed. Given his level of resistance, she had to take her opportunities where she could get them . . .

So she pulled his hand off her shoulder and gave it the hardest yank she could. To her satisfaction, Bobby stumbled sideways. "You're coming with me whether you like it or not, Goren."

She'd be uncomfortable in his bedroom, he thought, and if she got uncomfortable, maybe she'd leave. "Fine." He allowed her to walk him into the room.

Alex was just beginning to relax, thinking that maybe he'd decided to be reasonable, when he pushed her to the side with one arm and closed the bedroom door behind them with the other. Stunned by his quick movement, she could only stare at the door for a few seconds. "Why did you do that? I'm not staying in here."

"You want to know why?" he asked softly, eyes narrowed.

"Yes," she said, lifting her chin defiantly.

He executed another of his impossibly fast movements, this time backing her up against the door and planting a hand on either side of her head. "I told you I wasn't going to bed unless you came with me. Are you going to come to bed with me, Alex?"

"You'd probably puke on me," she said, trying not to show her alarm.

He shook his head slowly, using his arms to support himself as he leaned closer to her. "There are a lot of things I want to do to you in bed, but throwing up isn't one of them."

"Bobby, stop it." When he didn't move, she gave him a push toward the bed.

He retreated a step, but not enough to get him to the bed. "Aren'tcha going to ask what else?"

"I don't think so," she said, trying to sound disinterested as she applied a series of smaller pushes to his chest, forcing him backward step by step.

"But you-" His voice cut off as the backs of his knees hit the end of the bed and he lost his balance. Reflexively, he grabbed for the hand on his chest as though it could support him. Instead, the hand's owner ended up sprawled full-length on top of him.

"Oof!" She landed almost eye-to-eye with him, with her legs dangling off the end of the bed between his. This was definitely not what she had planned when she decided to rescue her partner from the bar tonight! "Bobby, let me . . ." Her voice trailed off as she looked down at his face.

His eyes were closed and his face bore a contented look. He'd kept his grip on her hand, and now their hands lay, joined, at their side. As she stared at him, he raised his free arm and rested it across the small of her back.

"You're going to kill me if you wake up tomorrow morning with me on top of you. Especially if you have to pee. Let me up."

"Not gonna kill you. You feel nice."

"You feel drunk."

He opened one eye a little and looked at her. "Which part of me?"

"Excuse me?"

"How can you tell? Which part of me feels drunk?"

Definitely not going to give him the answer that popped into her head, which was actually a matter of what part of him didn't feel drunk. "Your face," she replied, figuring that was safe.

"You're lying," he mumbled into her cheek. "You're not touching my face."

She was getting increasingly nervous about where he seemed to be heading. The last thing she needed was to go ahead and let herself take advantage of his drunken state, then wake up in the morning to find she'd lost a friend and a job. "I'm getting up now," she said firmly, pulling her hand out of his and putting both of her hands on his chest to apply leverage.

She'd forgotten about the arm across her hips, which tightened as she tried to move. "Stay," he said quietly.

"I can't!" Her heart was beginning to pound from the mixture of anticipation, panic, and attraction he was making her feel. She pushed again on his chest. This time he let her go, and she scrambled to a standing position, sternly telling herself not to be disappointed.

Bobby remained as he had been, on his back. He'd managed to open his eyes more than halfway, and he was looking up at her with a wounded expression that he didn't try to hide. It didn't matter that he'd been deliberately trying to provoke her; her rejection still stung.

Alex couldn't help but notice the look on his face. It was entirely too close to the look of a wounded puppy, and it made her feel all sorts of guilty. "Look, Bobby," she said gently, walking around to the side of the bed so she could sit near his head, "you're wasted. You know as well as I do that alcohol can do strange things to people, and anything you're saying right now might end up being the opposite of what you think in the morning."

That seemed to sober him for a second. "I'm not lying."

"I didn't say you were lying. All I'm saying is that maybe the drinks are making your mouth run faster than your brain and you're saying what comes to mind before you can figure out if it's what you really think."

It took him a few seconds to dissect that sentence. "You could be right," he said slowly, making an effort to pronounce the words clearly, "but even if you are, I wouldn't be saying those things unless they were already in my head."

She blinked. "How can you possibly be so drunk that you think you want to sleep with me, but still be able to come up with a counter to my argument?"

"I want to sleep with you when I'm sober, too," he said as thought it were obvious.

"Excuse me?!"

In the still-lucid part of his mind, it occurred to him that she did have a point; he would never have voiced his feelings if he weren't drunk. But he would definitely still have had those feelings. In his current state, though, he couldn't explain this difference. He settled for saying, "It's true."

Alex felt a surge of adrenaline go through her as she considered the possibility that he was telling the truth. This was probably the only chance she was ever going to get . . .



"The room's not spinning anymore." Much to his dismay, his mind was beginning to clear, which meant he felt the depression creeping back.

She forced a cheerful smile. "Well, that's an improvement. See, in a few hours you'll be almost back to normal and you'll probably be kicking yourself for saying all this."



"Today was a bad day," he said quietly.

She touched his hair gently. "I could tell. You want to talk about it?"

"I . . ." He moved his eyes to the ceiling as if he could find the right words there. "No, not really."

She drew her hand away slowly. "Ok . . . well, what do you want to talk about?"

"I don't want to talk at all. I make mistakes when I talk."

Alex sighed. "Ok, so you had a bad day but you don't want to talk about it. You went out and got piss-drunk tonight, but you don't want to talk about that either. If you don't need someone to talk to, then it's silly for me to just take up space in here. I'm not doing anything useful."

"You make me feel better by being here."

Well, she couldn't really argue with that; he did seem to have calmed down a lot since she dragged him from the bar. "Well, I don't feel useful."


"Yes, Bobby," she sighed. His conversation, such as it was, was becoming a little tedious.

"Would you lie down with me? You don't have to do anything else," he said quickly, before she could refuse. "Just lay down. I kind of . . . there's no one else I know who I'm allowed to touch."

She could understand that sentiment; she often felt it herself. It was difficult to become used to having a warm body to hug and then suddenly find yourself alone. She'd been dealing with it for over five years now. She had no idea how long he'd been alone, or if he'd ever had one of those warm bodies at all.

"Please?" he said almost in a whisper.

"If it will make you feel better," she said hesitantly, knowing that this was going to end up being a mistake, and yet unable to refuse him.

"It will," he said with a nod, pulling lightly on her arm to urge her down.

"Well, slide all the way up on the bed. Your legs are dangling off the end. That can't be comfortable."

He did as she asked, using his elbows to push himself toward the headboard. Within seconds, he was comfortably situated, watching her with wide eyes and hoping that she hadn't lied about this.

Alex read the worry in his eyes. "It's ok. I'm just waiting for you to get comfortable first."

"I'm comfortable," he said immediately. Turning onto his side and holding out one arm to her, he said, "Come down here."

Resolutely stuffing all her concerns into a tiny corner of her conscious mind, she turned out the light and slowly lay down next to him on her back. Judging by his position, she knew that he'd been expecting to spoon her, but that would place her back in full contact with his front, and she didn't think either of them needed that particular stimulation at the moment.

He looked at her in the semi-darkness, inching closer until he was pressed against her side. "Turn over."

"I don't think that's a good idea."

"I can't put my arms around you if you're going to lay on your back," he said stubbornly.

Ok, he had a point there, she admitted. "Ok," she sighed, turning onto her side. "But, uh, Bobby . . ."

"Hmm?" he mumbled into her ear as he curled his body and arms around her.

"This isn't . . . I mean . . . Remember that you're still drunk, ok?"

"Trust me, I know that. I've got the double vision to prove it. Why do I need to remember?" He pressed a little tighter against her. "You feel nice. Warm."

"I feel like I'm snuggling a giant teddy bear."

"Why do I need to remember I'm drunk?" he persisted.

She groaned and tried to put a little bit of space between them. "Because otherwise you're going to think this is real."

He pulled her backward, reclaiming the little space she'd gained. "Are you a hallucination?"


"Then how come this isn't real?"

"Because you're drunk, damn it. You don't know what you're talking about."

He leaned his head over her shoulder and said almost directly in her ear, "I know what I'm talking about. I'm talking about you. You're real."

"I give up," she said, letting her head sink into the pillow. "Think what you want."

"So you're agreeing to stop telling me how insane I am?" He couldn't keep the tinge of bitterness out of his voice.

"I never said you were insane. I said that your mouth was running faster than your brain."

"What about my body?" he said, tightening his arms around her.

"Your body? What about it?"

"Is it moving with my mouth, or my brain? Real or imagined? Hallucination or reality?"

She felt like she was arguing with a three year-old. Why this, why that, why the other thing? "Your body can be whatever you want, ok? I thought you wanted someone to hug, not argue with."

"I don't want to argue with you," he protested. "I want to kiss you. But you're not letting that happen."

She pulled free from his arms and turned over so that they were face-to-face, a few inches apart. "Exactly. I'm not going to let it happen. I'm not going to let you go and do something stupid, and then not be able to face me tomorrow once you're sober."

"I'll be able to face you with no problem," he contradicted, lowering his head to kiss her collarbone where it was exposed by her shirt.

She shivered. "This isn't a good idea."

Emboldened by the fact that she didn't pull away, he put one hand against her back and pulled her body against him as his mouth moved up her neck. "Seems like a good idea to me," he mumbled against her skin as his hand drifted down her back.

"But it's . . . mmm," she interrupted herself as the fingers of his other hand slid into her hair. "Don't . . ."

"Why not?" he breathed, his lips almost touching hers. "Believe me, I won't regret this."

"You . . . don't know that," she said, struggling not to give in just because she wanted this.

His hand touched her leg where her skirt had ridden up, exposing bare skin. "Do you trust me?" he whispered just before his lips touched hers.

"You know I . . . Bobby . . . you . . ."

He smiled slightly against her lips. "Do you trust me?" he repeated, easing the tips of his fingers under the back hem of her blouse.

"I trust you too much," she said, feeling the last vestiges of resistance melt away.

He felt her relax slightly and grinned. "Then believe what I'm saying: I won't regret this in the morning."

Her reply was silence as she warred with herself. To give in to what they both wanted would be to change their relationship irrevocably - but he wouldn't be able to hold it against her, if things got strained. He knew very well that he was pushing her right now, and she suspected that, even if he didn't regret making love to her in the morning, he'd feel guilty about it.

"Alex," he whispered, leaning in to kiss her neck. "Don't fight yourself over this." He slid his hand higher up her back, fingers trailing lightly over her spine. He heard her breathing hitch.

She let out a shuddering breath and curled her body in, holding Bobby's hands in hers and pulling his arms tighter. "Warm," she murmured almost inaudibly.

He wasn't sure if that was an acquiescence, but it sounded like one. Deciding to find out, he tentatively slid his hand over her ribs and toward her breasts, moving as slowly as he could force himself to. "Tell me," he breathed into her ear.

She shivered against him, feeling as if all her nerve endings were firing at once in the hot path his hand was tracing. "Yes," she managed breathlessly. An even stronger shudder ran through her when his hand finally reached its destination. "Yes."

"I won't regret this," he told her again, this time almost fiercely. "Can't regret . . . with someone I love."

"Bobby," she whispered, lifting her chin to bring herself eye-to-eye with him. As his lips hovered over hers in the dark, she sighed, "Bobby . . . I love . . ."

The rest of her sentence was cut off by a kiss that curled her toes.