Disclaimer: all together now…All publicly recognizable characters and places are the property of Universal Studios, NBC and Dick Wolf et al. This piece of fan fiction was created for entertainment, not for money. No infringement on copyrights or trademarks was intended.

Author's Note: I have a couple of other longer things I'm working on, but this scene hijacked my brain, and so I wrote it. ;)

Alex stared at the screen, the beginnings of a major headache throbbing behind her eyes. It was coming on midnight; they'd booked Dennis Griscom and her report was basically finished, but she was back in Leo Covello's apartment, watching his wife come apart in a storm of grief and rage, having to look away because all of a sudden it hit far too close to home.

Some cases just push more buttons than others, she told herself. A woman losing her husband to a bullet. Other women losing their freedom of choice to fear, blind faith and arrogance. Dennis Griscom, just a lonely, messed up kid who wanted to prove himself to his father. Admit it, Alex, this one hit all the marks.

"Eames," said her partner. She realized from his tone that he'd probably called her name more than once. She ran a hand over her face, pinched the bridge of her nose.

"Yeah, sorry. What?"

"Are you done?"

"Uh – hang on." She thought about re-reading, and then thought the hell with it and clicked Print. "Now I am. Why - are you?"

"Yes," he said. "And I promised you a margarita when this was over."

She blinked, taken by surprise. "Well, you didn't actually promise in so many words," she reminded him, thinking of the small smile he'd offered instead, unexpectedly gentle.

"It was implied," he said slyly. She rolled her eyes. He was referring to an argument they'd had a few weeks ago, in which she had objected to him running off to investigate some tangent and not inviting her along. He had been surprised when she'd called him on it, saying he'd figured she wasn't interested. "But you didn't even ask me," she had protested, exasperated. He had looked at her blankly. "I – well, I assumed you'd just come, if you were – the asking was implied."

Cue Alex's Rant #42, or Why It's Necessary To Spell Things Out, Sometimes.

"It was implied" is going to be the theme song of this partnership, I can just tell, she had thought ruefully, at the time.

She had never met a cop who paid as much attention as Robert Goren did to how witnesses talked, to the words they used…who gave as much credence to the silences they left in their answers as he did to the actual content of their stories. And she had certainly never encountered anyone so supremely confident of the conclusions that could be drawn from the smallest details of someone's affect. It was really something, she had to admit. It was also profoundly irritating, when he assumed that other people – like his long-suffering partner, for instance – could read him in the same way, without the need for pesky things like nouns and verbs spoken, you know, out loud. The man was basically a big walking communication gap – the only thing that absolved him, she had decided, was that most of the time he was totally unaware of this fact.

"I know this was a hard case for you," he said seriously, bringing her out of her thoughts again. Okay, make that two things that absolve him – the other being the way he had taken, occasionally, to turning his Spidey-senses on her when he thought she was upset or thinking hard about something. It was extremely unsettling, to have that searching focus turned on her…but also, she admitted reluctantly, oddly comforting.

"I'm fine," she replied automatically. And realized immediately how lame that was, since she'd just been thinking about how well he read people. I meant witnesses and suspects, not me! her tired mind flailed. She flashed back to their conversation in front of Zach's computer, how she had suddenly challenged him on the bullshit he'd been feeding to Cutler, not to mention the flip reply he had just tossed off in her direction. You're going to have to do better than that, Bobby. In other words, she'd been saying, I need you to spell it out. And he had heard her – on several levels, it seemed.

"I'm just - tired, you know how it is," she tried again.

"Yeah, sure." He wasn't buying her act for a second. "Come on, Eames – let me buy you a girly drink to take your mind off things."

"Girly drink?" she sputtered, and he grinned. Gotcha! She pointed a finger at him in mock annoyance.

"Shut up, Goren. Sometimes a person just needs a drink that comes with a paper umbrella in it, okay?"

"I wouldn't presume to judge," he said, holding up his hands in an I surrender gesture, suppressing the grin with obvious difficulty. "So, are you coming?"

She found that she too was smiling, helplessly, and that was a minor miracle considering this day, this case, the way it had ended but it wasn't over. Until the next one, she'd said. He had met her eyes, up there on the roof, and she had known he understood her disgust, her frustration. He hadn't said anything and neither had she – she couldn't have found the words, even if she had had the energy to try. But it didn't matter. It was implied. And now, looking at him across their desks, seeing the mingled humour, concern and hope in his eyes, she felt a small bubble of happiness rising in her chest.

"Fine. You're on," she said. He jumped up, collecting their reports off the printer while she grabbed her things from her locker.

"Where the hell are we going to get margaritas at this hour of the night?" she wondered.

"I know a place."

She shook her head, smiling again, and shrugged on her coat. "Right. Why do I even ask…?"