A/N: So I had to replace my hard drive a few weeks ago, and as I was doing it it occurred to me that that'd be a nice vignette to write our favorite detectives into. Fluffy, unrealistic, and all that, but hey, good times! This is a oneshot, btw

It was a Saturday - one of those blessed, rare Saturdays when my partner and I were on call for dire emergencies only - and I was on my knees, balancing my cell phone between my cheek and my shoulder, as I dug through the cabinet under my sink, where I knew I'd stashed the new mop head I'd bought a few weeks ago, when a voice yelled in my ear, "Goddamnit!"

I pulled the phone away from my ear and gave it a curious look, wishing I could see through the receiver to find out what was going on at the other end. "You ok over there, Goren?" I asked my usually-reserved partner, with whom I'd been conducting a conversation consisting mainly of grunts and mumbled "mmhmm"s for the past twenty minutes.

"Yeah, I'm fine." His voice came through the line sounding distant, as if he'd forgotten he was holding the phone and had let it drift away from his mouth. "Just . . ." That was followed by an unintelligible mutter, and then: "I'm fine. Just having some trouble with the computer."

Bobby and his laptop have a love-hate relationship, and, hearing the note of annoyance in his voice, I decided that hearing about whatever was going on over there was more important, at least for the moment, than finding the mop head. Standing up, I leaned one elbow on the counter and devoted my attention to the phone. "What are you trying to do?"

"You mean besides not throw it out a window?"

"Yeah," I said, picturing the look of frustration I knew would be written all over his face, "besides that. Because then I'd have to take you in for littering, and I really don't feel like getting dressed and going all the way downtown."

There was a pause that lasted just a second too long to be comfortable before he said, in a casual voice that I could see right through, "You're not dressed?"

"Oh, get your mind out of the gutter. I've got clothes on, thank you very much. They just . . ." I looked down at my torn jeans and stained, five-sizes-too-big t-shirt. "They're not clothes I'd voluntarily leave the apartment in." Kneeling back down to resume my mop-head search, I added, "I'm sure not going to wear nice clothes to mop my floors."

"Is that what you're doing?"

I pushed aside a can of Comet and sighed. "Well, it would be, if I could find the damn mop head I know I have somewhere in this apartment. Unfortunately for me, it seems to have taken a powder. But anyway, what's wrong with your computer?" I went on without pause.


I was opening my mouth to respond to his distracted grunt when the phone emitted a series of loud clattering noises, followed by a muttered curse. Man, this just kept getting better and better, I thought, trying to imagine what he could be doing to the computer that could result in such chaos. "Uh, Bobby?" I attempted when there had been only silence for a few seconds. "You still alive?"

"Fuck." A thump. "This isn't funny, Eames. When was the last time you tried to mess with the stuff inside your laptop?"

I smirked at the phone. "Last week, when I installed a new wireless card. Why? What are you trying to do?"

"Ever replaced a hard drive?"

I was silent for a second, surprised and yet not surprised that he'd set himself such a potentially-difficult task without asking for advice. "Jumping in with both feet, aren't you?" I teased. "But yes, I have. You have to replace yours? Why?"

He let out a sigh of exasperation. "Because when I try to boot the computer, all I get is a black screen and an ominous message, and HP told me to replace the hard drive when I called their tech support." A short pause, and then he said, probably trying to make it sound like an idle question, "So, uh . . . found that mop head yet?"

Groaning, I slammed the cabinet. "No, damn it."

"Got plans for today?"

Did he think I wasn't going to see right through that? "Not a chance, Bobby," I told him firmly. "Did you not hear me when I said I didn't feel like going out?"

He hesitantly cleared his throat and said, "Actually, what you said was that you didn't feel like getting dressed or going downtown. Well, I don't care what you're wearing, and I'm uptown from you."

"Semantics," I scoffed. "Not happening, Goren."

"I don't care what you're wearing," he said again. "I'm not going to laugh at your clothes."

"Yeah, so says the man who thought I was talking on the phone naked," I said with a snort. "Pardon me if I don't trust your judgments about my clothing."

"Er . . ." I could almost see him blushing. "Would you believe me if I said I was kidding when I said that?" he asked doubtfully.


"Come on, Eames. Cut me a break; it's been a long morning." I didn't say anything in response to that, and after a second he went on, not even trying to hide his cajolery now, "If you help me on this, I'll buy you dinner. And a new mop head."

That got a chuckle out of me. "A new mop head, huh? You're pulling out the big guns, I see." Heaving a resigned breath, I levered myself back to my feet and attempted to brush my sweaty hair out of my face. "Obviously you are desperate." Well, he was desperate and I was bored. An afternoon with Bobby, even one spent huddled over his computer, was sure to be more entertaining than mopping my kitchen floor. Trying not to sound too eager, I sighed and said to him, "It better be a good dinner, or you're not going to like what I do to get back at you."

"You'll come?" he blurted, the amount of enthusiasm in his voice about equal to what I usually associate with children who have ingested way too much sugar. "Really?"

"Yeah, really. I'll take pity on you. But I'm taking you at your word," I added quickly, looking down at my outfit. "You want me, you're going to have to take me with no makeup and in my grubby weekend clothes."

"Not a problem," he said almost before the words were out of my mouth. "I don't mind."

"Of course you don't," I said dryly. "You're still hoping I'm naked. I'll be over in about half an hour." Not giving him a chance to respond to my teasing accusation, I disconnected the call and set the phone down on the counter.

You're pathetic, Eames, mocked a little voice in my head. You're letting him talk you into giving up the only cleaning time you have all week in exchange for a measly dinner? Way to go, independent, self-sufficient woman!

"Oh, screw it," I muttered out loud, pushing off the counter and heading for the bathroom. Grubby clothes were one thing, but grubby teeth were not something I was going to go out in public with. Especially when "public" involved my partner.

"Hey," he said with a grin as he opened the door to me a little while later. "Thanks for coming."

He looked like he'd spent the morning doing laps around his apartment, rather than tinkering with a computer. His hair was mussed in multiple places, as if he'd run a hand through it the wrong way more than once, his ratty t-shirt looked like it had been used as a paint rag at some point in the past, and his old jeans fit him like . . .

Like something I wasn't going to let myself think about, I told myself primly. I was staring at the poor guy as it was; he didn't need me ogling him. Attempting to cover up my mental faux pas, I raised my eyebrows at him and grinned. "Nice look. You should try it for work one day."

He blinked, then looked down at himself like he'd forgotten what he was wearing. "Oh. Well, I did tell you that I wouldn't laugh at your grubby clothes."

"So . . . what?" I asked, brushing past him and strolling deeper into his apartment. "You figured 'if you can't beat 'em, join 'em'?"

"Nah." He reached down and plucked at the hem of his t-shirt, as if only now considering what it looked like, then looked up at me and, with a slight smirk, proceeded to give me elevator eyes, probably in retaliation for my doing it to him. "You call what you're wearing 'grubby'?" he scoffed after a few seconds of silent study. "Those are nothing!"

I rolled my eyes. "Yeah, well, I didn't know you even owned clothes that weren't in mint condition. Besides," I added, holding out the bottom edge of my shirt to show him the frayed hem and the small hole in the side seam, "this shirt has got holes and everything. And the jeans are stained and torn up."

When I looked up, he was studying me as if I was some new and intriguing piece of evidence. "What?" I asked defensively, crossing my arms over my chest.

"Your jeans . . ."

"What about them?"

"They're . . . they're, uh, much too big for you."

All that focus, just to figure out that? "No shit, Sherlock." I tried not to show my amusement, but judging by the look on his face, it didn't work. Shrugging, I went on, "I figured that out when I stole them from my brother."

He took a second to process that, then said cautiously, "Am I allowed to ask why you stole your brother's jeans?"

"Well, I didn't actually steal them," I corrected. "He lent them to me when I took a header into a mud puddle a few years ago."

Bobby blinked.

"I was playing with his kids," I explained, smiling a little at the memory. "They can move fast when you're not paying attention, and they operate below eye level. Anyway, he lent me these to go home in, and I just never got around to giving them back."

"Oh." He gave my pants another thoughtful look, then said, "Your brother must be built like you. I doubt you could keep a pair of my jeans on even with a belt."

I decided to not take that as an insult, since the fact that he didn't look guilty told me he hadn't intended it as one. Actually, at the moment he looked like he'd forgotten I was there. Ah, I knew that look. "There goes your imagination again," I teased, wondering exactly what he was imagining that related to me and his pants. When he didn't answer, I decided to take it upon myself to move the conversation along: "Don't worry, I don't plan to steal any of your clothes. I only came over here for the food you promised. Speaking of which, point me to the computer so we can get started."

He stared vacantly at me for another second, eyes drifting from my legs to my face and back.

I cleared my throat.

He blinked and smiled sheepishly. "Sorry. What's left of the computer is all over my bed at the moment."

" "What's left of it?'" I echoed, following him toward his bedroom. "What did you do to the thing, Bobby?"

"Nothing, really." He stopped just outside the doorway, motioning me through ahead of him. "I just took out a couple of screws, like tech support told me to, and -"

Groaning, I waved a hand to cut off his explanation. "At least tell me you saved the screws."

"I'm not stupid, Eames."

I restrained myself from laughing at his indigence, but I couldn't suppress my grin, so I quickly walked past him into the room, only realizing after I'd crossed the threshold that whoa, I was in Bobby's bedroom - the one room of his apartment I'd never been in before. Hey, no reason to feel awkward, I told myself silently. It's not like you're going to get in bed with him!

I sensed him pulling to a stop beside me and I deliberately chose to examine my surroundings rather than his face in the next few seconds. It was a functional room, I decided as I looked around. One wall was taken up by a closet and two more were covered with bookshelves, and the books on those shelves were squared away by size. Under the scattered laptop parts, his bed was made with military precision. Somehow, none of those things surprised me; I wouldn't have been able to picture Bobby's space as anything but neat and functional - rather like the man himself, at least in his more relaxed moments.

He was starting to look at me funny, and I realized that I'd been standing in the same spot, staring around the room, for a little too long. With a sigh, I walked to the side of the bed and looked down at the main body of the laptop, which was surrounded by smaller parts. "Should I be afraid to ask why you thought it was a good idea to try to do this on your bed, when you have a perfectly good desk just down the hall?"

"Well, the bed's a larger surface to work on," he said as though it ought to have been obvious. "I thought I might need the room. So anyway, the, uh . . ." He pointed to a small bundle wrapped in some kind of grayish plastic lying on top of one of the pillows. "That's the new drive. And before you ask," he went on before I could say anything, "I know it's the right kind. It came straight from HP."

I crossed my arms and looked down at the miniature hard drive, then back up at him. "If this is the new one, where's the old one?"

He coughed self-consciously. "It's, uh . . . still in there."

"You didn't even bother to take out the hard drive and try to do this yourself before you started begging me for help?" I asked, raising my eyebrows. His eyes darted to the side in response to that, as if he were searching for an escape route, and, deciding to play nice for the moment, I reached out to give his shoulder a playful push. "If I weren't such a nice person, that might piss me off." I waited a second, just to put him on edge, then smiled brightly. "But since I am so nice, let's move on and just get started, shall we?" I raised one leg, intending to plant my knee on the bed to support myself as I reached for the computer, but halfway there, something occurred to me. I paused with my leg awkwardly bent up. "Uh, is this . . . do you mind?"

"Mind what? You touching my bed?" He chuckled and shook his head. "Nah."

He had no right to sound so amused by my effort to be considerate. Returning both feet to the floor, I crossed my arms and scowled at him. "You've been known to be territorial in the past. It seemed like a good idea to ask first now."

"Oh, come on, Eames," he scoffed with a dismissive wave of his hand. "Letting people touch my bed is one thing. Letting people go through my desk is a completely different issue.."

"Fine, then." Hey, if he was going to play this off so lightly, I was damn well going to take advantage of this unexpected permissiveness. I toed off my shoes, returned my knee to the bed, and pulled myself up to sit cross-legged in the middle of it. "Don't mind people touching your bed, huh?" I asked with a grin, patting the bedspread. "No wonder you have such a reputation with the secretaries."

"What?" he managed, looking shocked. "I . . . you didn't . . . that's not what I meant!"

Of course it wasn't, but I noticed that he wasn't denying that it was a valid observation. "Mmm," I mumbled disinterestedly to him, deciding not to press the issue, as I picked up the laptop. "You took out . . ." I turned the machine in my hands, examining the bottom and sides. ". . . the multi-bay, the battery, and half the screws for the keyboard? Damn, Bobby, I'm surprised the hard drive didn't just fall out because there was nothing left to hold it in." Without waiting to hear his explanation, I made short work of snapping the battery and the drive back into place.

"Uh, well, the hard drive's kind of . . . stuck."

"Stuck?" I turned the laptop over again to examine the hard drive bay. The drive was sticking out about an inch, as if he'd started to pull it out and then stopped. "What do you mean, it's 'stuck'? You obviously moved it."

He shrugged. "You try it."

"Fine." I gave the hard drive an experimental tug. It didn't budge. Well, I decided, it had to be a tight fit to work correctly in the first place. I probably just needed to put a little more effort into it. With that in mind, I pulled again, putting strength into it this time and fully expecting the drive to slide out. Instead, the drive went nowhere and my fingers slipped off its slick surface, scraping against the metal guard surrounding the drive. "Shit!" I dropped the laptop back into my lap and shook my hand, trying to get rid of the pain.

"Told you," he said impassively, putting one hand down on the edge of the bed and leaning in toward me. "It's stuck."

"Well thanks, genius. Are you sure you didn't break it?"

"Kind of hard to break it when I can't get it out to break," he pointed out with eminent logic. "I have no idea why it won't move. I was hoping you would."

"Sorry, big guy," I said with a wry grin. "I'd need to take more than a thirty-second look at it to figure that out. Are you sure you really didn't drop it or anything?"

"If I dropped it, you'd be able to tell."

Well, he had a point there. "Ok. Well, let's go at this from a problem-solving perspective," I mused, more to myself than to him. "If it hasn't been dropped, and it hasn't been damaged, then it's not likely that it's caught on something in the machine . . . which means that forcing it out won't break anything important . . . which means that it should really just be a matter of pulling hard enough."

"I did that."

"So did I." I groaned and tipped my head back, staring sightlessly at the ceiling as I tried to think of a solution to the problem.

"Uh . . . Eames?"

Eureka! I jerked my head back down and fixed my eyes on him. "Go get me one of those rubber jar-opener things."

He looked at me blankly. "One of what?"

"You know. It's a rubber circle with little bumps you use to open stuck jars? Helps you get a grip on the lid?" I tried to explain, making jar-opening motions with my hands as if that would help. "Don't tell me you don't have one."

He fell silent for a few seconds, and I could tell that he was mentally searching his kitchen. "I think I might -"

"Good! Go get it!" I ordered, pushing on his arm to urge him to get moving.

With a terse nod, he went, returning a few minutes later with a yellow rubber grip in his hand. "Is this it?"

"Yeah. Give it." I held out a hand for the grip and, at the same time, looked at him curiously. "Have you really never used one of these before?"

He shrugged. "I don't have a lot of trouble opening jars."

"Of course you don't. They probably open themselves when you give them your pissed-off look." Carefully fitting the grip between my hand and the hard drive, I glanced up at him. "You better start praying this works."

His only response was to wave a hand, telling me to get moving.

Glaring down at the drive that was fast becoming my enemy, I gave it a jerk and, to my pleasure, felt it move a fraction of an inch. A body in motion stays in motion, right? At least, that's what I thought I remembered learning in high school physics. And that meant that things should get easier now. Secure in that knowledge, I pulled again, putting my whole arm and shoulder into it. "It's starting to mo-"

My victorious announcement was cut off when, despite the assistance of the rubber grip, my hand slipped off the drive and I tumbled backwards under the momentum of my own pull.

I collided with Bobby at an angle, my head clipping his chin as the rest of my weight hit him square in the chest. I've always known my partner has quick reflexes, and in a corner of my mind, I took a moment to be thankful for that as he managed to grab me before I flew off the bed entirely. It took a second for us to untangle ourselves, and then he pushed me up to a sitting position and released me. "You ok? I wouldn't have thought something as light as you could hit that hard."

I opened my mouth to respond, then closed it again and smiled as I registered what he'd said. "Well, thanks for the compliment, I think. Other than my bruised ego and seeing a few stars, I think I'm ok. Didn't knock any of your teeth loose or anything, did I?" I asked, reaching up a hand to touch his jaw where my head had hit it.

My fingers had hardly brushed his skin before he grabbed my hand and pushed it back to my side, gently but pointedly. "I'm fine."

"Oh, bull." I pulled my hand out of his grip and lifted it back to his face. "Stop being macho and just let me check." Without waiting for his acquiescence, I laid my palm against his cheek, stroking my thumb over his jaw in search of swelling or pain. "Any of this hurt?"

"No," he said shortly. "Eames, would you -"

"Next time," I said, deliberately speaking over his protests, "maybe we should think twice before we go messing with a drive that's such a tight fit." For some reason, that comment made both of us smirk, and I added, "Size may not matter to HP, but it sure matters to me."

There was a moment of complete silence before he choked out, "Uh, what?"

"Well, it does," I told him lightly, amused by his reaction. "If it's too small, everything rattles around and gets broken. If it's too big, you end up with someone getting hurt, like just now." I applied a little more pressure to his jaw with my fingertips. "And what you're thinking is not what I meant, Goren. Since when do you have such a dirty mind, anyway?"

"I . . . uh . . ." He swallowed visibly. "I didn't . . ."

Well, that line of questioning wasn't going anywhere. I gave his cheek a pat and dropped my hand, saying briskly, "Well, it feels like you're still in one piece, and obviously you're not having any more trouble speaking than usual, so I think you're officially ok."

He blinked down at me. "I'm more worried about your head than my jaw. I'm a lot less delicate than you."

Oh, here we go on the little-woman-equals-china-doll routine. Usually Bobby stays far away from that stereotype, and that's the way I like it. "Who you callin' delicate?" I demanded, faking a comically-thick Bronx accent. "Just because I'm smaller than you doesn't mean I'm any more breakable, Bobby."

Shifting his weight uneasily, he cleared his throat. "Well, like you said, if the size mismatch is too big, someone ends up getting hurt."

I snorted. "I was referring to computer parts. And maybe sex, if, by some distant relation, that's in the sphere of this conversation. Not to people who are fixing the computers, who happen to bump into each other."

"Well, I just -"

"Besides, I'm not too sure I even believe it applies to sex, either," I added.


I shrugged. "I mean, unless we're talking about Andre the Giant or something. and maybe not even then. As long as you're not in too much of a rush to get through things . . ."

Bobby just gaped at me. "Eames . . ."

"What?" I challenged. "You disagree?"

"Maybe . . . well, no . . . I mean . . ."

"Tsk, tsk," I clucked, shaking a reproving finger at him. "And here I thought you were smooth with the women."

"I don't -"

Sitting up on my knees, I gave his shoulder a fake-comforting pat. "I sure hope you 'don't.' Are you trying to tell me that you've actually hurt a woman - any woman - you've slept with?"

Looking dazed, he stared at me, his mouth working for a few seconds before he actually got any sound to come out: "No, but I've never . . . you know, dated a woman as, uh . . . as small as you."

Aw, he was turning red. How cute! "Oh, right," I drawled. "You and your brown-haired amazon girlfriends, I'd forgotten. But you know, I'm not that little, Bobby - and I'm a lot harder to damage than you seem to think. I mean, I bet me and you wouldn't have any trouble."

Holy shit. Where had that come from? I quickly shut my mouth, wishing I could take a mulligan on the past minute or so..

Bobby appeared to be equally discomfited, choking on a breath and staring at me.

"You don't believe me?" I finally managed, unable to think of a way to back out of the conversation without losing face.

"I . . . I . . ."

He had nice lips, I thought idly. Why hadn't I ever noticed that before?

. . . What! Damn it, how had I gone from "fixing a computer" to "considering how my partner would be in the sack" in three seconds flat?

He'd probably be pretty good, actually.

Not that it was any of my business.


None of my business.

I had no business plugging him and me into my mental how-big-is-too-big equation.

Too bad I seemed to be doing it anyway.

"Uh, Eames?"

I snapped my attention back to him and blurted impulsively, "Want to make a bet on it?"

His eyes widened. "A bet? On what? You don't mean . . ."

"On whether size matters as much as you seem to think," I said, faking a confidence I wasn't even close to feeling. Was I really going to push this discussion, when it looked very much like he'd seize any way out of this conversation I gave him, and therefore I obviously wasn't stuck? Well, apparently I was, because what I said next was, "I mean, we're pretty good exemplars for the issue. You're taller than average, I'm shorter than average . . ."

Bobby just sat there looking thunderstruck.

I reached out and pushed against his chest playfully. "You chicken, Goren?"

He lifted his hand and took hold of mine as if he meant to push it away, but somehow, a second later, our fingers were laced together instead. He looked down at our hands, then back up at me. "I'm . . . Eames, I don't think this . . ."

"No?" I pulled my hand out of his and sat back on my heels, trying to read his expression. "It would probably help if you stopped calling me by last name."

He looked down at where my hand had been a second ago. "Are you serious about this?"

"About which part?"

"The . . . the . . ." He waved a hand helplessly. "The bet."

"Well," I said, reaching into my pocket and pulling out the few coins I had in it, "I have a grand total of seventy-six cents to my name at the moment, so maybe a bet for money isn't such a great idea - but a bet for bragging rights sounds good to me."

He blinked, swallowed, and looked back down at the bedspread, deliberately avoiding my eyes. "I have no interest in hurting you to settle a bet. I'll just concede the point to you, ok?"

"Not ok." I reached up to grip his chin, forcing his head up, and gave him a smile. "You're not going to hurt me, Bobby, and I don't get to be right around you very often. You better believe I'm taking the opportunity now, while I have it." My god, who was this woman talking through my mouth, and where could I get some of her self-confidence? And some of her sex drive, for that matter, since as I sat there watching his face, I realized that this not-Alex in my head was giving serious thought to throwing myself/herself at my partner.

This was such a bad idea that it wasn't even funny.

Then again, I didn't see anyone laughing. Certainly not me, I thought fleetingly just before I reached out and laid a hand on his thigh, close enough to his knee that it didn't fall under the heading of "groping." He tensed slightly but didn't say anything, and before either of us could voice just how bad an idea this was, I leaned forward and kissed him.

He stiffened against me, his hands moving up to grip my upper arms, and for a second, I was sure that he was going to push me away and I was going to find out just how much of a fool I'd just made of myself. I thought about throwing my arms around him to keep him from getting rid of me, but before I could reach a decision about that, he suddenly began to return my kiss. I opened my eyes to find him watching me intently, and I was about to pull away so I could try to read his face when, instead of trying to push me away like I had been afraid he would, he clamped a hand around my wrist, holding my hand in place on his leg.

I pulled my lips away from his and gasped, "Bobby -"

That was all I got out, because by the time I'd said his name, I was on my back, his mouth moving against mine and his hand creeping up my leg. I reflexively raised one hand to fend off the sudden attack, then wondered what the hell I was doing, trying to get rid of him when I was the one who'd started this. Before I even had a chance to lower my hand of my own accord, though, he'd snatched it out of the air and, without disrupting the rhythm of his kiss, pinned it to the bed above my head.

A second later, my other hand had been forced up also and he was using his right hand to hold both my wrists above my head while his left settled against my stomach, his long fingers wrapping around my side and pressing me harder into the bed.

Holy shit.

No, really. Holy shit, was I really lying here with my partner, both of us gasping for breath and that talented left hand of his roaming across my body?

Whatever reaction I'd been expecting when I suggested a bet, it wasn't this. Not that I was complaining, exactly. I could think of less entertaining ways to spend a Saturday afternoon than having Bobby's big, warm body stretched over mine. Like trying to replace a hard drive, for example.

Whoa, ok, fingers on my skin. I jerked my attention back to reality to find that his hand had begun to delve under my shirt. "Bobby . . ."

He didn't move either hand, but he pulled his head back slightly to see my eyes. "What?"

What, indeed? It occurred to me at that moment that I had no idea what it was I actually wanted to say to him. It wasn't that I wanted him to stop, exactly. It was just that . . . I felt like I'd been poleaxed. In a good way, I mean, but still poleaxed. Poleaxed . . . gently.

And then I became aware of something small and sharp poking me in the shoulder. Saved by a screw . . . oh, the irony. Making a show of wincing, I reached around and fished out the offending object, holding it up for him to see. "I think I found one of the screws you took out."

Bobby blinked, then removed one hand from my body and took the screw from me, staring down at it for a second. "Uh, yeah . . . I guess you did." Moving self-consciously, as if he had only just realized that he was practically on top of me, he shifted his weight to the side and sat up. "Sorry."

"It's ok." Straightening my shirt, I plucked a second screw off the bed from next to me. "Although why you couldn't keep your screws on your desk or something like every other normal person in the world, I don't know," I added teasingly.

He just stared at me for a second, looking like he was waiting for me to feed him the punchline. "Uh, Eames . . ."

"Alex," I corrected.

"Huh?" Judging by the look on his face, the issue of which name to use for me was so far from his mind that it wasn't even in the same zip code.

"Alex," I said again. "I think you're allowed to call me by my first name, now that you've tackled me on a bed and all."

He inched away a little more.

"Bobby," I said, sighing. "Stop that. Get your ass back here."

"Uh, I'm . . ."

"Chickening out," I finished for him. "Which might not be too bad an idea right now, anyway."

His eyed widened slightly, and I could tell he was trying and failing to not show a reaction to my statement. "I . . . I'm sorry. I don't know what . . ." he stuttered, yanking his other hand away from me.

"Hey, hey!" I grabbed for the retreating hand and held onto it despite the mild struggle he put up. "Calm down. I didn't mean that as any kind of reflection on you. I just mean . . ." Shrugging, I looked around the bed. "We keep this up, either we're going to end up crushing some important part of your computer, or some part of your computer is going draw blood from one of us when we roll on top of it."

He looked down at the screw he was holding as if only now considering the possibility that making love on top of it would be really uncomfortable. "The computer parts. Uh, yeah. Right."

"We should probably put the thing back together before we worry about settling any bets."

A beat of uncomfortable silence, and then, "Yeah. Probably."

"Good." I rolled over and got to my knees, then reached for the body of the laptop. "Want to give this another try, with you pulling this time? If I could move it a little, you should be able to move it a lot."

"I guess," he replied as he sat down on the bed, "but are you going to catch me if I go flying like you did?"

I snorted. "You'll just knock me over, and my poor self will cushion your fall."

"Good point." He reached over to claim the computer and the grip that I'd dropped. "Brace yourself."

He gave the hard drive a forceful jerk, and when it slid out with almost no protest other than a scraping noise, I think he almost did tumble backwards like I had, just from surprise.

"I loosened it," I announced immediately, as if it really were a jar we had been trying to open. "All that effort for this little thing." Sighing, I shook my head sadly. "I really do think it's a size issue."

He continued looking down at the drive in his hand. "Are we still talking about the computer?"

God, I had a big mouth. Of course I was going to have to explain the comment to him, especially after what had just happened. "Yes. I was talking about the hard drive, thank you very much," I told him primly. "I already told you, I don't have any issues with your size."

He stared at me as if I'd just asked him to strip. "Are you doing this on purpose?"

"Doing what?" I asked, taking the hard drive from his hand and examining it. This was not a topic I wanted to linger on.

Sure it wasn't. Uh-huh. Really. Sex and Bobby, not something I was supposed to spend time contemplating.

'Supposed to,' being the operative words there!

Get your mind back on the subject at hand, and off his hands, you! ordered whatever voice of sanity was still floating around in my head.

Bobby was quiet for a second, then seemed to decide that I really was as innocent as I was trying to sound. "Never mind." He reached past me to take the new hard drive off the pillow. "Think it's going to be as hard to get this one in as it was to get that one out?"

"God, I hope not," I groaned. "Or you're going to owe me a lot more than just one dinner. What are you doing with the old drive?"

"Gotta send it back to the manufacturer. You can just put it on the nightstand for now."

I did as he asked, then straightened up again and patted the bed with a grin. "We keep cleaning this stuff up, soon I might be able to see what your bed actually looks like under all these computer parts."

He opened his mouth, then closed it again. Cleared his throat. Opened his mouth again, and this time he actually got words out as he waved a hand at the laptop: "Go ahead and try to get the new one in. We might as well see what our future holds."

"Wonderful," I muttered, unwrapping the new hard drive. "My fate's being decided by a defective laptop. So much for empowerment. Gimme." Without looking up from my task, I gestured toward the bed, indicating that he should slide the laptop toward me.

I could feel his eyes on me as I picked up the computer in one hand and the hard drive in the other, realized that I needed to put the laptop down on something to free a hand, and scooted up to the top of the bed to sit with my back against the headboard and my legs straight out in front of me. I was tempted to tease him by blurting something along the lines of Take a picture, it'll last longer, but I managed to restrain myself.

Instead, I tipped the laptop on its side on top of my legs, so that I was looking directly down at the hard drive bay, then studied the new drive in my hand, trying to visualize how it fit into the empty space. "Well, it looks like it'll fit . . ." I mumbled to myself as I carefully fitted the drive into the bay and pushed. Three quarters of the drive slid in easily, but to my frustration, I was left with about an inch of the drive sticking out of the bay, leaving it in the same position the old drive had been in when I arrived. "Damn, what's -" Not wanting to damage this drive since it, unlike the other one, was still functional, I dared only push a tiny bit harder. "- in this thing?"

"No luck?"

Loathe to admit defeat, I didn't acknowledge his question. "You are going," I grumbled down at the drive, "to go in there, no matter what I have to do to you. A mallet is not out of the question." Yeah, that would be satisfying. I pictured myself bashing at the thing with with a nice big ACME cartoon mallet and couldn't hold back a giggle at the mental image.

Next to me, Bobby looked like he was trying not to laugh along with me, even though there was no way he could have known what I was thinking that was so funny. "Maybe you should let me -"

Just as the old hard drive had done with Bobby, the new drive now snapped into place while I was putting hardly any pressure against it. Well, hell! I stared down at it in annoyance, then turned the computer right-side-up and set it down on the bed. "Ok, hard drive's in. Now we need those screws. I'm assuming there's more than just the two we picked up?"

He nodded. "I think there were four."

"You 'think'?" I rolled my eyes. "God save me from geniuses who can't count to four."

"Well," he said defensively, "I was a little busy trying to muscle the hard drive out to keep count."

I gave him a knowing look, then moved my attention to the bedspread to hunt for the remaining two screws. "Typical man - only concerned with muscles and taking things apart."

"You think that's all men are interested in?" he asked, sounding genuinely curious.

Of course I knew that wasn't all men were interested in, especially men like Bobby who did most of their living in their heads rather than outside of them. I didn't think he'd appreciate hearing me make that distinction, though, so I went the lighthearted route and joked with a smile and a shrug,"Well, and sex and cars. But other than that, yeah, pretty much."

"Even me?"

"Well, whatever else you are," I pointed out truthfully, "you are still a man. Some things are just . . . inborn." And as far as I could tell, he was definitely in possession of more than enough testosterone to make him quite pleasantly masculine.

"I'm hurt, Eames," he replied, sounding less like he was joking that I would have liked. "I would've hoped you thought better of me."

Crossing my arms, I gave him a skeptical look. "Yeah? So then tell me, which one of those isn't something you're interested in?"

"I . . ." He stopped, closed his mouth, considered the question. "I have no interest in muscles."

"Uh-huh." I shook my head and raised my eyebrows. "And the rest?"

"They're not all I'm interested in."

No kidding, I wanted to say as I remembered what his lips and his hands had felt like. I censored myself, though, and said only, "Oh? What else interests you, then?"

"Crime, for one thing."

"Uh-uh." I shook my head without looking up. "That falls under 'breaking things.'"

Walking around to the other side of the bed, he bent forward and angled his head to try to catch my eye. "It does?"

"People are things."

"You think I like - got one!" He handed me the screw so I could put it on the nightstand, then started again: "You think I like to break people?"

"You're an interrogator, Bobby. A profiler. Dissecting people is what you do." I finally spotted the last screw and snatched it up, turning back to face him. "Ok, we have four. Next, we need a screwdriver." I stopped there, waiting for him to either provide the tool or tell me where I could find it.

Bobby did neither, only stared at me with furrowed brows and a slightly-open mouth. "I don't walk around all day mentally dissecting everyone I meet. I don't dissect you, for instance."

Realizing that my request for a screwdriver had gone completely over his head, I sighed, stood up, and gave the room a once-over. He had to have used one to get the screws out in the first place, which meant it was probably still somewhere in his bedroom. "I didn't say you do it all day - just that you're interested in it. Come on, Goren, where's the damn screwdriver?"

"I . . . what?"

"Screw . . . driver," I repeated with exaggerated slowness, as if I was talking to a small child. "'Bout eight inches long, made of metal? Has one end flattened into a wedge shape? Is any of this ringing any bells?" To my relief, he didn't react to the mention of eight inches. Maybe it was just me who had a dirty mind, I decided. Oh god, that would be the last thing I needed him to find out about my psyche.

He continued to just look at me for a few seconds and I could almost hear the gears in his head grinding as he tried to figure out what the hell I was talking about. "Screwdriver? Oh, it's, uh . . ." Leaning past me, he picked up the thing, which had been partially concealed by a fold in the bedspread, and handed it to me. "Here."

"Just what I always wanted," I replied sweetly, batting my eyelashes outrageously at him as though he'd just given me diamonds instead of a grimy metal tool. With men like Bobby, you have to reward what good behavior you can get.

Bobby smirked at me. "You do that well. Get a lot of practice?"

"How do you think I get all you male cops to do what I want?" I replied nonchalantly as I picked up the laptop and began trying to fit one tiny screw into its hole.

"I'm not sure," he admitted. "Probably something to do with being bullheaded. But it definitely doesn't have anything to do with you flirting with them - er, us. I've never seen you do that fluttering thing to a cop, and I'm with you almost constantly."

I sighed dramatically but kept my attention on not allowing the screwdriver to slip out of the notch in the head of the screw, half because it did really require my attention and half because I knew if I watched his face while I made my next comment, I was going to lose it and burst out laughing. "And here I thought you all wanted me for my body."


Ok, I couldn't resist taking a peek. Looking up at him, I grinned. "Gotcha. Give me the next screw."

Dazedly, he handed it to me. "You don't really think -"

Score one for me. "Of course not, Bobby," I reassured him as I looked back down at the computer. "First of all, most of you are way too polite to let yourselves do anything like that even if you wanted to, and second of all, I think half of you haven't even noticed I'm female in the first place."

"I've noticed."

Oh boy, had he noticed. It would be hard to not have, when his hands were wrapped around my . . . Ahem. Bad Alex! "You fall into the first category," I told him as calmly as I could, "not the second."

"Oh." He watched silently for a few seconds as I finessed the screw into place. "I'm glad you came over."

"Oh?" I murmured. "Why's that?"

He shrugged. "Your hands are a lot smaller than mine, so if you're having trouble with those little screws, there's no way I would have been able to get them in."

"Gee, it's good to know I'm wanted." Reaching out to pluck another screw off the nightstand, I took a second to eye him assessingly. "There are things you can do with those big hands of yours that someone with smaller hands couldn't do nearly as well."

I genuinely hadn't meant anything untoward that time, but the sound of him swallowing audibly told me that he hadn't gotten that memo. "Oh?" he finally said in a voice that was just a tad too tight.

I looked at him, then quickly moved my attention to the laptop, which couldn't read my face as well as he could. "Yeah. Like opening jars, to name just one."

"Opening . . . jars?" Out of the corner of my eye, I could see him staring dumbly at me, and it suddenly occurred to me that if I could read minds, the current state of his would probably provide quite a revelation.

"Among other things. Big hands're good for playing basketball too - or at least, so I'm told." I glanced over her shoulder at him and widened my eyes as if I had no idea what he was thinking. "Why? What did you think I was talking about?"

"I, uh, had no idea," he asserted hastily.

"Sure you didn't." I picked up the last screw and turned to bend over the laptop again. "Since when do you have sex on the brain so much?" Was that a stupid question to ask less than five minutes after I had deliberately put sex on his brain? Probably, but I couldn't resist the temptation to tease him. Besides, he'd started it, way back when I was at home talking to him on the phone and he asked if I was naked.

"Have s- . . . what?"

Ducking my head a little lower, I smirked. "Are you denying it?"

"I . . . no . . . I mean, yes, but . . ."

"Never mind," I sighed, not wanting to listen to another few minutes of his stammered explanations. "Anyway, you know what I mean." I set the laptop down on the bed again. "You have your installation stuff ready?"

"My what?"

"Your installation discs? Software manuals?" Taking in his blank face, I rolled my eyes. "When was the last time you installed Windows?"

"Never. The computer came from the factory with it. But I think I'm capable of sticking a CD into computer and clicking 'ok' a million times."

Oh, my poor, naive partner . . . little did he know about the hoops he was going to have to jump through to get his computer back up and running. "That's not quite how it goes," I told him with a smug smile. "You, my dear partner, are going to be getting quite an education today." Smirking at his wide-eyed reaction to that, I turned away, heading for the bedroom door. "The recovery discs would have come with the computer, so where would you have put something like that when you got it? In your desk? And by the way, check the bottom of the laptop and see if it has a shiny Windows sticker with a lot of numbers on it, would you?"

He just blinked at me, and after I'd given him a second to recover his wits and he still hadn't moved, I sighed and turned to leave the room, heading for his desk. I thought I heard him mumble my name as I went, but when I turned back toward him, he looked as blank as he had a few seconds before.

It only took me a few minutes to hunt down the installation disks - Bobby may hate people touching his stuff, but no one can say he's not organized - and when I returned to the bedroom, I was mildly surprised to find that he gave me a distracted smile and promptly shifted his eyes to my chest., where they stayed for a good thirty seconds before I got impatient and said his name.

He jerked his eyes up, looking like he'd just realized that I might notice what his eyes were glued to. "Yeah?"

It wasn't like my partner to ogle in the first place, let alone to do so so distractedly, and I studied his face for a few seconds, trying to pin down exactly what was going on in his head. His eyes revealed nothing, though, and eventually I gave up and just said, "I found them. Come on. We might as well do this in the kitchen, because we're probably going to need to use the landline phone."

"For what?" he asked, picking up the computer in one arm as he began to follow me toward the kitchen.

"To call the nice people at Microsoft when the computer starts demanding to know why you're installing your copy of XP on two machines," I told him with a roll of my eyes that was more directed at the software company than at him. "Yeah, we're going to have all kinds of fun today," I added, smirking. "Got copies of Office and stuff? Or are you going to get that at work?"

"Uh . . ."

I barely kept myself from sighing in exasperation as I said, "I'll take that as a no." His expression didn't change, and I went on, "Well that saves us a little time, at least. Go on and put the computer down and turn it on." Best to get him moving, so he could shake off whatever the hell was going through his head.

He did as I asked, pushing a stack of books out of the way and setting the laptop down on his kitchen table, then dropping into a chair in front of it. "I don't need to do anything else to it?"

"Plugging it in might not be a bad idea, but other than that, not yet. Can't put the CD in until the computer's running." I pulled out a chair across the table from him and plopped down, stretching my legs out under the table and inadvertently kicking his, which were already occupying said under-table space. "Shove over, floor-hog."

He looked up at me in surprise and shifted his legs to the side, smiling sheepishly. "Sorry."

I rolled my eyes again and smiled back. "You'd think you'd be used to squishing your legs into small places by now. You've only been attached to them for what, forty-five years?"

"I said I was sorry." He glanced down at the computer and frowned. "'Non-system disk or disk error'?" he read off the screen incredulously. "Damn it, that's what it said before I replaced the drive."

"That's probably because both times, it couldn't find an OS to load. Which is what we're about to do. Put the CD in." I paused, taking the opportunity to give him a somewhat concerned once-over at the look of suspicion he was directing at the laptop. "I'll do it for you, if you want."

Bobby coughed and kept his eyes glued to the computer. "Uh, I think I can . . . uh, do it for myself."

"Ok." I sat back and watched as he slipped the installation CD in and stared at the screen.

"Uh, Eames?"


"It blue-screened again, and I didn't even touch it."

Unable to help myself, I burst out laughing at his baffled expression.

"What?" he demanded sullenly, obviously not amused by my laughter. "If you're just going to laugh at me, then maybe you should come over here and set it up."

"Bobby . . ." I managed through her giggles. "Read the screen."

He blinked at me, and and I knew he was confused because, if I recalled the installation process correctly, he really had been staring at a blank blue screen a few seconds ago, but he obediently looked down at the computer. "Oh. A, uh . . . menu."

I couldn't keep myself from snickering as I stood up and walked around to his side of the table. "Obviously you do need me over here."

"Hmph. You want to sit?"

"Nah, I'm good. Go on," I added, waving a hand at the screen, which was displaying a completely incomprehensible software license agreement. "Hit F8 and sign your life away."

"Do I have to?"

"You do if you want a computer. Unless you want to install Linux . . . which I don't think is a good idea for you."

"Why not?" he asked, apparently not realizing how close I was bent over to him as he turned his head slightly to the side, his breath tickling warmly at my cheek.

"Learning curve," I replied shortly, pushing away his hands, which were hovering over the keyboard but not doing anything, and hitting the key that accepted the Windows EULA myself. "There. You now belong to Microsoft."

"I thought I belonged to the NYPD," he replied with a slight smile that he probably though I couldn't see. "What's it asking for now? My first-born?"

Turning to see his face, I raised an eyebrow and grinned at him. "First-born? You got something you want to tell me, Bobby?"

He gave my shoulder a playful push in retaliation. "You know I don't."

Gentle though it was, I was completely unprepared for the push, and as I started to topple, I yelped and grabbed his sleeve to keep myself upright. "Goren!"

"Uh, sorry." He put an arm around my waist, pulling me back until I was standing up straight up again. "You ok?"

"Yeah. No thanks to you," I sniffed in mock-irritation. He hadn't moved his arm, and his hand was settling into the curve of my waist now. I stole a glance down at it, then picked my head up again and resolved not to say anything about it unless he did.

He gave me an apologetic look and, without explanation, pulled me a little closer. "I'm sorry, really. I didn't realize I pushed that hard."

I chose to remain silent about his touch, which really felt way too nice to be good for either of us, as I bent back toward the computer. "You didn't. I was off-balance to begin with. Don't do it again, though, or I might have to injure you." I glanced at him, then back to the computer. "I assume you don't need partitions?"

"Partitions between what?"

"That'll be a 'no'." I told Windows to install itself on the full drive, then hit enter. "Ok, formatting's going to take a while. How should we entertain ourselves while we wait?"

Utter silence.

"Ok, I'll decide," I said with an agreeable shrug. "How about you tell me where that dirty mind of yours came from all of a sudden?"

Yes, it was official: I had found a handbasket and was merrily making my way to hell.

He blinked at me. "It was sudden?"

I snorted and used my hip to bump his shoulder. "I guess not. Maybe you're just better at hiding it when you're not home."

"Eames . . ."


"Can we talk about something else?"

My response to that was to subject him to a full minute's scrutiny as I tried to exercise my non-existant psychic powers and figure out what the hell was going through his head. "You didn't have any better ideas when I asked," I finally said. "You got one now?" When he didn't answer, I sighed pointedly and tried another topic change: "What's for dinner?"


"You owe me," I reminded him in the sternest voice I could muster. "Don't you dare try to back out of it now that I've let myself be scraped and tossed and pushed all day just so you can have a working computer." I paused, then, unable to resist the easy joke, added, "Not to mention the getting screwed."

"If you'd been screwed, I think I'd have noticed, Eames," he pointed out, looking for all the world like he was dead serious.

"Yeah?" I rested an elbow on his shoulder and leaned in closer to murmur, "In the mood you're in today, I don't doubt you would have. Considering you thought I was talking to you on the phone naked, and all."

"I didn't think you were naked!"


He shook his head firmly. "No."

"Oh. Ok, then." Moving with deliberate carelessness, I straightened up, used one finger to push his hand off my hip, and moved away from the table, idly examining his kitchen as though I'd never seen it before.

I could sense him watching me out of the corner of his eye as I strolled around the room, pulling open first one drawer and then another and examining the contents, most of which were completely unremarkable.

"Stop that, Eames."

"Stop what?"

"That. Going through my drawers." I didn't respond, and after a second, he got to his feet and crossed the kitchen to where I was standing.

I pulled open another drawer and stirred its varied contents with one finger. "Nice junk drawer," I commented, not raising my head as he stopped beside me. "Were you planning on moving in with the Chinese restaurant, or is it just a torrid affair?"

"Eames . . ."

I looked up this time as his hand came into my field of vision and forcibly reclaimed the piles of menus I was holding. "What?"

"I asked you to stop." He somehow managed to get most of his body between me and the drawer and looked down at me warningly.

Damn, sometimes the man had absolutely no sense of humor! "You know," I told him grumpily as I backed away a few steps. "I'm starting to think you're just out to spoil my good time."

"How's that?" he asked distractedly, his attention mostly focused on rearranging the drawer's contents.

I fought the urge to stomp on his foot and demand some attention, knowing that, as satisfying as it would be, it would only make me look immature. "Well, let's see. I can't make a bet with you about whether size matters, I can't tease you about your dirty mind, I can't look around your apartment . . ." Sighing theatrically, I returned to the table and sat down. "What's a girl got to do to get some entertainment around here?"

Eyebrows raised in response to that, he closed the drawer and turned to face me. "It would help if you'd stop trying to annoy me."

"How'm I annoying you?" I drew one leg up and rested my foot on the seat of the chair, lounging back indolently as I watched him try to come up with an answer to that. "Well?" I prompted when he still appeared to be fumbling for words after a few seconds.

"You're . . . being you."

"Who would you prefer me to be?" I shot back. "Because while we're taking requests, I want to be tall, thin, and rich."

He considered that for a second. "'Rich,' I can understand, but you're already thin and you don't need to be tall."

"I don't?"


"Why not?"

Clearing his throat, he gave me a slightly self-conscious shrug. "If you need something high off the ground, you can just ask me to get it."

Raising my eyebrows, I gave him a skeptical look. "Yeah? Even if it's two in the morning and I'm just trying to get an extra blanket off the top shelf of the closet?"

He looked thoughtful at that, as if considering the implications of being anywhere near me at two in the morning. "Two?"

I grinned. "Yeah, you know . . . I'll call you up and you can hop the train in your pajamas and come on over."

"At two in the morning?" he asked again, apparently not convinced by the first two times I'd said it.

With an affectionate roll of my eyes, I got to my feet and moved to stand in front of him. "Doesn't have to be two. Maybe one or three. Maybe four if it's a bad night. I thought you never slept, anyway."

"I sleep," he said indignantly.

"Yeah," I said with a snort, "once a month or so. But you know, if you're going to volunteer yourself as my arms and legs, you're going to have to get used to the idea of being summoned in the middle of the night, whether you're asleep or not."

He blinked, and for a second I thought he was going to cut and run at the thought of seeing me at night, but instead, he abruptly raised a hand to point at the computer. "It's done doing . . . uh, whatever it is it was doing."

I glanced at the screen, which was informing us in large letters that I needed to give it "some information," then looked back at him. Leave it to Bobby to seize on the only thing in the room that would get him out of a conversation he didn't want to be in. With a tired sigh, I muttered, "Yeah, aren't we all."


"Nothing. What do you want to name your computer?"

"I have to name it?"

I grinned and turned my head to look at him again. To my surprise, he was leaning so close to me that my lips brushed his cheek as I said, "You sound like a boyfriend just discovering the horrors of a shopping trip." For my own entertainment more than his, I added an imitation in my best whiny-male voice: "'Another store? Do I haaaave to? I don't understand why you need more than two pairs of shoes!'"

"I don't do that!"

Snickering, I reached back to pat his thigh, which just so happened to be the body part of his that was nearest my hand. "Sure you don't, Bobby."

He looked down at my hand, then up at me. I could feel his leg tense as he said, "Eames, would you please -"

"Hmm?" I murmured inquisitively, doing a quarter-turn in the chair to get a better look at him, a movement which caused my hand to drag across his leg.

"Don't do that."

"Do what?"

He waved a hand in the general direction of his leg. "That."

"Oh, this?" I asked, following his waving hand with my eyes. "Sorry. Didn't mean to threaten your virtue or anything." With that, I withdrew my hand. I was pleased to see that he didn't back away or anything, even after I'd released him.

"You didn't threaten my virtue," he told me in a voice that was, as far as I could tell, completely serious.

I pretended to not have heard his statement as I concentrated on entering the serial number Windows was demanding I give it. Geez, who knew thirteen characters could be so dizzying? By the time I'd gotten to character ten, I really had forgotten all about the man standing behind me, my entire consciousness focused on pecking out the right software key so that we didn't get screwed and have to call tech support.

Finally, I finished entering the number and hit enter, stabbing at the key a little harder than necessary, and returned my mind to the real world to find that Bobby had fallen silent and was watching me with bemusement. "What?" I challenged. "I just saved you half an hour of phone time, so don't look at me like I'm weird." I gestured at the screen, where a progress bar was filling, albeit very, very slowly, . "See? It's installing."

"So it is." He leaned over my shoulder again, resting a hand on my shoulder like he needed it to balance. "Hey, Alex?"

I blinked, surprised at hearing my first name cross his lips, and cautiously turned my head to look at him. "What?"

With no further ado, his mouth closed over mine and I found myself caught up in another one of his maelstrom kisses. Before I could protest, he had me on my feet and backed up against the edge of the table as his hands stroked down my body. Startled by the suddenness of the attack I gave him a shove, knocking him back a few inches, and stared up at him. "What the hell, Goren?"

A slow grin spread across his face. "We put the computer back together. Windows is installed. You going to be the one to chicken out on the bet now?"

I blinked, so surprised by his words that for a second my brain refused to acknowledge that he'd actually said them. "Excuse me?"

"You've aroused my, uh . . . let's just say my 'curiosity'," he said with a smirk. "I need to find out for myself whether your theory of size is valid." A pause, then his grin widened. "Wanna help me stage the experiment?"

I couldn't help but laugh at that, mostly because my other option was to jump on him, and, well, he liked to keep his kitchen neat and if I tackled him, something was sure to get broken. "Does that mean you're putting yourself in charge of the experiment?"

"Maybe." He leaned down to kiss me again, wrapping one arm around my back. "No, scratch that. Yes."

I pulled my head back and looked at him with raised eyebrows. "Huh?"

His other arm slid around me and suddenly my feet weren't touching the ground and I was being hauled toward the bedroom. "As the person holding the challenged view," he told me conversationally, as though he didn't have me plastered against him and wasn't busily carrying me toward his bed, "I think I should have the right to direct the experiment, don't you?" Not waiting for my answer, he dropped me on the bed.

I sat up and stared at him, my mouth working but no sound coming out for a few seconds before I could manage, "How do I know you're not going to skew the results?"

He dropped onto the bed beside me and slid an arm across my shoulders, pulling me to him as he kissed my temple "Because I'm hoping to hell you're going to prove me wrong, that's why."

"Oh," I said brightly. "In that case . . ."

Before I could finish the sentence, Bobby had started our "experiment" in earnest.

And hey, who was I to stand in the way of science?