A/N: Inspired by the ABBA songs "Gimme, Gimme, Gimme" and "The Day Before You Came," but I figured I wouldn't bore you guys with the lyrics. This started out as just a partnership piece, but that sneaky shippiness snuck in when I wasn't looking, and I'm not sure I'm keeping them totally in character, but, well, you can decide for yourselves

A/N 2: This is a weirdly spaced story. A short chapter, then a longer chapter, then a friggin' huge chapter. Just so you know :)

Disclaimer: None of these characters are mine. Well, except for the dog, but I don't think he's marketable . . .

Late 2001 . . .

Alex Eames was not, in general, an overly social person. That wasn't to say that she didn't like going out or meeting people - she often did - but all the same, she was usually just as much, if not more, at ease when by herself. There had been a time in her life, years ago, when she had considered a night spent alone a night wasted, but that time was gone and had been for years.

Which was why she was so surprised by the depression she felt tonight as she sat, staring listlessly at the TV, in her one-bedroom apartment. Nothing had gone wrong during the day, no one she knew was injured or dead, and she had the warm body of her dog pressed against her side . . . so why did she feel so unhappy?

There was something missing, that was why. The problem was, she had no idea what it was. She didn't lack for financial support ; between her salary from the NYPD and the death benefits she had been awarded when she lost her husband, she could easily afford to live much more extravagantly than she did. Neither did she lack for emotional support, not with her large, loving family - in fact, they could be a little too supportive at times.

A warm tongue swiped over her hand and she looked down at her dog. She had named him Canis, a slightly tweaked version of the name Columbo gave his dog in the old mystery series, and at the moment, her version of Dog was looking back up at her with what she would swear were worried eyes. "It's ok, Can," she whispered, giving him a pat. "Just one of those nights."

Canis didn't seem convinced, and on second thought, she wasn't too sure that she was convinced, either. Looking away from the too-human eyes of her dog, she sighed and stood up. Maybe some hot chocolate would help settle her restless mind.

Had she just thought of herself as restless? That was interesting, she thought. Depressed, sure, but was she really restless? She let her feet carry her into the kitchen as she pondered this question.

Wind whistled past the window above the kitchen sink as she turned on the burner under the kettle, and a few seconds later, Canis slunk into the room, tail down, to twine around her legs. She gave her ankle a shake in a half-hearted attempt to get rid of him, but wasn't surprised when it didn't work. "What do you think you are, trying to trip me like that?" she asked him teasingly as she reached into the cabinet for a mug and a packet of hot chocolate mix. "A cat, or just a scaredy-cat? Worried about a little breeze?"

He abandoned his twists and turns and moved to stand quietly next to her leg, but continued to look up at her, panting. "Stop it," she ordered uncomfortably, as if he were actually expressing something other than, Feed me, feed me, feed me! "Like I said, it's one of those nights. I'll be fine in the morning."

She settled back against the counter and closed her eyes as the water began to heat on the stove. She was alone in her apartment, she mused, with only her faithful dog and large quantities of chocolate as her companions.

Somehow, this wasn't the happily ever after she'd imagined as a child.

But then, as a child she hadn't imagined becoming a widow at twenty-five, either. Or routinely working fifty-plus hours a week. Or being almost forty and still childless. Or having been stuck without a partner for two weeks because her current partner was abruptly promoted out of the unit and it took HR that long to rustle up another person who was willing to work with her.

That last one was what really stung at the moment, she realized as she turned off the burner and filled her mug. She'd liked Colleen Higgins, gotten along well with her. She'd been one of the few friends Alex had on the force. It wasn't that Alex resented Colleen's promotion, exactly. It was just that she resented being left behind. Sure, they'd still go out for drinks every now and then, but there would be no more Higgins to chat with on long stakeouts, no more Higgins to commiserate with the morning after a breakup.

Whoever this Robert Goren guy was, she was pretty sure he wouldn't consider going out to get a pedicure with his partner part of his job description

Damn it, why didn't people in movies ever have to deal with this sort of thing on the way to eternal love and happiness?

Because they're not real, Alex, her inner voice of reason reminded her. They're simplified versions of human interactions, cut down to fit in 90 minutes of film time.

Fucking movies. Well, at least she didn't watch soap operas; she supposed she could take some comfort in that.

Her eyes drifted to the window, where only the black night and her own face looked back at her. Only her own face . . .

God, she wanted someone to talk with. Canis was a good listener, but as a conversationalist, well, it just wasn't going to happen. She wanted a friend, yes, but even more, she wanted someone of her own. Someone who could give her a warm hug at the end of a bad day and a hot kiss at the end of a good day. It had been so long . . .

Is there even anyone out there who can fit the bill? she wondered, focusing on the darkness outside her window. And if there is, when the hell am I going to get to meet him?

The clock on her mantle began to chime twelve. Damn, it was way past time for her to get her ass in bed. Sorry I'm late, I was busy pitying myself wasn't going to fly as an excuse if she was late to work tomorrow morning. Besides, she'd need a large part of the day just to prepare her case files for her new partner, let alone to do actual work.

"C'mon, Can," she told the dog, dropping her empty mug into the sink with a mental note to wash it in the morning. "Things'll be better tomorrow. Let's get some sleep."