A/N: This is for elfluvr, because she asked for it. And thanks to The Confused One for giving me her opinion.
The usual disclaimers and gratitude to Dick Wolf apply, as always.
It was the third day of a three day weekend and he was bored. Saturday, he had just bummed around his apartment, enjoying the solitude. Sunday, he had spent the day with Lewis, which was always an experience. He never knew what Lewis was going to come up with next; Lewis always made him laugh. Now, today, the official end of the summer season, he didn't quite know what to do with himself. He wished it were a real Monday and he could go in to work and spend the day with Alex, but he also knew she welcomed a break from dealing with him, so he left her alone. He decided to take advantage of the weather and hang out in the park. Usually, he went to Battery Park, because he loved to be near the water. But today, he chose Central Park, because it was busier. It was a beautiful day and the park would be full...lots of opportunities to watch lots of interesting people.
He wandered among the trails for awhile, watching people race by on bicycles and roller blades. He liked to watch the joggers...especially the female ones. Children ran and yelled in the midst of their games, and they always made him smile. He loved to watch kids play, and he never wasted time trying to read them. Kids were honest and offered no challenge to his deductive abilities.
He sat down on a shaded bench, pulling a worn paperback from his pocket. Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage, a longtime favorite of his. It had been a few years since he'd read it, and he always loved to re-read it. Leaning back on the bench, he began to read.
After the fourth chapter, he closed the book and stretched. Letting his eyes wander around the area, he watched a few joggers and some individuals strolling down the path, enjoying the warmth of the day. He got up, set on resuming his aimless wandering. He slipped the book into the rear pocket of his jeans and headed down the path.
A jogger on the path ahead of him caught his attention. He knew that body...though only from watching discretely when he had a chance. Eames. And she was with someone. That made him frown. She looked at her companion, laughing and giving him a playful shove. His eyes shifted to the jogger beside her. He was muscular, not terribly tall, with a blonde crew cut. Military. Judging by the haircut, a Marine. He looked back at her, and caught the smile she was giving her friend. His jaw clenched and his frown deepened...and they jogged around the bend and out of sight.
He sat on the couch, staring past the beer in his hand at the floor. He didn't know she was seeing someone, and the thought deeply unsettled him. He didn't like it at all. Every boyfriend was another heartbreak for her and another period of restless anxiety for him. Whenever she had a boyfriend, he lived in constant fear she was going to leave him. It might be stupid, but he couldn't help it. And there was something else...his dreams.
There was a good reason he didn't sleep well. When he closed his eyes to sleep, the demons from the past came to visit. He heard his brother's taunting laugh. He saw his drunk father stumble home late at night and smack around his mother. He saw his mother, restrained to her bed, screaming that 'they' are going to murder her little boy. He relived the horror of a terrified little boy who did not understand what a demon was or why his mother was calling him one as she screamed and punched his little body. When memories of his childhood did not surface, there were plenty of demons waiting in the wings...some faceless, many fully recognizable. His mistakes always returned to cause him more pain...and so did his failures. But lately...there was more. Lately, his dreams had not been so terrifying. Disturbing, yes, but for an entirely different reason. Lately, the demons and memories had been chased away...and Eames had taken their place.
Eames came into the squad room a few minutes late the next morning. In the center of her desk, as usual, was a danish and a coffee. She smiled at her partner, even though he was not looking at her. She wondered if he would ever know how much she appreciated him.
Sitting down, she watched him. He had his face buried in a file, which wasn't unusual, but he hadn't noticed her arrival, which was. She threw a paperclip at him and he looked up. He smiled, but the smile did not touch his eyes. "Good morning, Eames."
He went back to his file. That wasn't like him at all. "Bobby?"
He looked up again. "What?"
"Is something wrong?"
"Why would you ask that?"
She studied him. He didn't look so good. He looked...tired, and something else. "Do you feel ok?"
The truth of the matter was no, he didn't feel ok. But he wasn't going to tell her that. "I'm fine, Eames."
She watched him turn back to the file. "What are you doing?"
"The transcript of our interview with Lacey Simons. Something about it just doesn't sit right with me."
"I don't know. That's why I'm trying to read it."
He looked at her for a moment longer, then turned back to the file. She watched him for a few minutes before he looked back up at her. "What?"
"Something's bothering you."
She knew him too damn well, and that unsettled him even further. He slammed the file shut and got up. She watched him leave the squad room, wondering what could be bothering him. Maybe something had happened with his mother. That always upset him, and he would never talk about it. She couldn't imagine what else it could be. Friday he'd been fine. She'd had a busy weekend, and she hadn't called him, like she usually did, but she couldn't imagine that would have upset him.
She debated about whether to follow him or not. She decided that whatever it was, it probably had to do with his mother, and if he needed her, he would come to her. She knew better than to push it. So she grabbed the file from his desk and began to read it.
He slammed the door to the stairwell open and started down the stairs. What the hell was wrong with him? Why had he treated her that way? He had done his best to convince himself he didn't care what she did in her off duty time, but that wasn't true. He did care, a lot more than he should. And whatever she was doing, it bothered him even more that she was doing it with someone else. His irritation, which was mostly at himself for how he felt, had spilled over and he'd snapped at her...after ignoring her. What the hell?
Before he knew it, he was on the first floor. He hit the door and left the stairwell. Once outside, he went for a walk. Gradually he felt himself calming. Of course, he wanted his partner to be happy. But with someone else? He wasn't sure he could handle that. But it wasn't his choice...he had no say at all in who she dated, no more than she did in who he dated. But he hadn't had a date in...well, a long time. Maybe that's what his problem was. A couple of phone calls and he could find a willing date. Was that what he wanted, though? Hell, he didn't know what he wanted any more.
Thirty minutes later, he returned to his desk. There she was...looking through the file that had been on his desk, chewing on her pen, which she tended to do when she was thinking. She looked up when he sat down. "Feel better?"
He didn't, but he didn't want her to worry. "I'm fine."
"That's what you said before."
He sighed heavily and held out his hand. "Can I have my file back?"
She looked at his hand, then at his tired face. "I don't think so. I'm in the middle of something."
"Fine." He wasn't going to argue. He grabbed another file from the small pile set to the side of the desk and opened it.
She watched him. He seemed angry. "How's your mom?"
He looked up, confused. "She's fine. Why?"
"You're upset and that's usually why."
"Oh. Go back to your file, Eames."
He looked up and said, "Forget it. I'm sorry. I just...I've had a hard time sleeping and I'm tired."
"Are you sure you're okay?"
"I've had sleepless nights before. Can I please work now?"
She wanted to know what was going on with him, but she knew better than to push when he got like this. So she turned her attention back to the file, determined not to talk to him again until he could be civil.
The words sat on the page in front of him, unread. The forty-five minutes of sleep he'd got last night, on top of the hour and a half he'd managed the night before, were catching up with him. He'd been staring at the same page for nearly an hour and not a single word had registered. Annoyed, he slammed the file shut, shoved it into his portfolio, and launched himself off the couch. He needed to get a grip...but he couldn't keep his mind from going back to Central Park.
He frowned when the doorbell rang. He was half-tempted to ignore it, but Lewis had said he might stop by. He would just tell him he wasn't up for company. Lewis knew him; he would understand. He pulled the door open, expecting his lifelong friend. The person who stood there was the last person he expected. "Eames."
"Don't look so surprised." She held up a bag. "I brought dinner. And a six pack of that digusting black beer you like."
"It's not black."
"I can't see through it. It's black."
He almost smiled as she bustled past him and headed for the kitchen. He was confused. Why wasn't she with her boyfriend...? The thought made his gut clench.
He walked to the kitchen and watched her as she set out two plates, spooning lasagne from an aluminum take-out tray onto each plate. Adding a piece of garlic bread to each, she turned and handed the plates to him. He took them as she got out silverware and two glasses. She knew her way around his kitchen as well as she did her own.
By the time he'd set the plates on the table, she was reaching from behind him to set the silverware and glasses on the table. Then he heard the refrigerator open, bottles clanked, and she was back with a beer for him and a wine cooler for herself.
"What flavor do you have today?" He nodded at the bottle.
He sat down after she did and looked at her. "Why are you here, Eames? Surely you have something better to do."
She frowned. "What is that supposed to mean?"
"Just what I said."
She sighed and set down her fork. "What is going on with you?"
He averted his eyes, looking down at his plate. He decided direct was the best approach with her. "Why are you here with me? Surely you'd rather spend time with your boyfriend than here."
"My...boyfriend? What are you talking about? I haven't had a boyfriend in months."
"Come on, Eames. I saw you with him, in the park Monday."
"In the...? Is that why you've been such an ass the past few days?"
"I have not."
She laughed, half-amused, half-annoyed. "You're a piece of work, Goren."
"Why didn't you ask me? Or better yet, say hello when you saw me?"
"You were busy."
"Yes, but I am never too busy for you."
He looked confused. "Eames..."
"Don't try to make excuses. I haven't dated since I stopped seeing Terry. What's going on with you? You never used to be this way."
"I never realized before how hard it is to get along without you."
"Without me? I'm not getting pregnant again anytime soon, you idiot."
"I wasn't worried about that."
He shook his head. "Eat, before it gets cold."
"That's what microwaves are for. I want to know what's going through that head of yours."
"No, you don't."
She frowned at him. "You never used to be jealous of my dates."
"I never used to..."
He stopped. Jealous? Was that what was going on? He wasn't a jealous person...he never had been. But then again, he wasn't a possessive person, either, but he couldn't help but think of her as his. Did possessiveness, of necessity, breed jealousy? Is that what had been going on with him? And jealousy spawned anger...He sighed.
"I'm sorry, Eames."
"You should be. He was not a date, you dumb ox. He was my cousin. I haven't seen him in over a year and I spent the weekend hanging out with him. I probably should have called you; you'd like him. But I wanted him all to myself for a few days. He was on leave and he's heading back to Iraq next week."
He leaned back and stared at her. "Why aren't you dating?"
She returned his stare. "First, you have a meltdown because you think I'm dating, and now that you know I'm not, you wonder why?"
"Come on, Eames. You're not one to sit on your laurels gathering dust."
"I am perfectly fine, Goren. My laurels do not need dusting."
He laughed. He couldn't help it. "I wasn't suggesting they did. I just...are you lonely?"
"With you around? Not a chance. If I ever feel the need for company, I come over here. Or I call you. As much as you save me from boredom, you keep me from being lonely, too. I actually missed you this weekend."
"Really. I love my cousin, but he's too...conventional for me. After being your partner, I find conventional boring. You've ruined me for the general population, Goren."
"Absolutely. Normal is boring. I need your quirky genius in my life or the tedium will kill me. So I guess you're stuck with me...forever."
He looked down again, studying his hands. Then he lifted his eyes to meet hers. "Forever?"
"Or until the day I die...whichever comes first."
"I like forever."
She smiled gently. "So do I. Now eat your dinner. I brought a movie, too."
"Dinner and a movie? Maybe I should be an ass more often."
"Don't even try it, Goren. Because the next time you're going to be dinner."
He laughed and picked up his garlic bread.