Title: Retrograde

Author: E.Helena (formerly 'elfluvr')

Summary: Five years. Strange how it could be so long ago and yet feel like only a few days.

Setting: A/U – sometime after Season 6. If you must try to fit this into the timeline of my (elfluvr's) other stories, I guess it follows "After."

Disclaimer: The characters belong to Dick Wolf, René Balcer and the actors who bring them to life. No harm intended, no money made.

Archive: Fanfiction - anywhere else, just ask

Feedback: Please! It's always welcome

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Chapter 1 – Retrograde

Five years.

Strange how it could be so long ago and yet feel like only a few days. Stranger still that the feeling only hit her the moment she saw him.

From the relative seclusion of her booth, she considered the man at the end of the bar. He hadn't changed much. The short curls were almost totally gray and looked to be recently trimmed. The lines on his brow now stayed furrowed, whether or not he was frowning. A few more pounds padded his large, well-dressed frame, but he still looked like he had a permanent case of five-o'clock shadow. All of which only served to soften and enhance the eye-catching appearance of this still-handsome man.

It really wasn't fair that men became 'distinguished' as they aged, while women fought to maintain youth as their standard for beauty.

Even in the dim light of the bar, she could see that his eyes still held a dark intensity – intelligence still shone from their depths. And his smile – charming and boyish as ever.

The man was beguiling.

Deeply engrossed in conversation with the companion holding his rapt attention, he hadn't spotted her when they entered the bar. Tall, beautiful brunettes still seemed to be his weakness.

She looked from him to the door and back again, judging whether or not she could slip out of the bar unnoticed. But something tugged at her. Now that she had seen him, there was no way she could leave without saying hello – without hearing his voice respond.

As she walked toward them, her movement finally caught his attention from ten feet away. His eyes locked with hers and his speech froze mid-sentence. With his mouth wide-open, she couldn't help but smile at the sight. She'd always enjoyed the very few times she had been able to totally surprise him, and this was the best ever.

"Eames!"

A pang of something close to anguish ached near her heart at his use of her last name. She'd thought they were long past that five years ago.

"Hi, Bobby."

With her standing in front of him seated in a bar stool, they were eye-to-eye. Several seconds passed while neither moved nor spoke nor even breathed. Finally, he stood up to greet her and, after a few more awkward moments, he pulled her into his embrace.

Alex had to choke down the groan that rose in her throat. The familiar feel of him – the familiar smell of him – weakened her knees and she wrapped her arms tightly around his waist. She allowed herself an ever-so-brief indulgence of closing her eyes and laying her head against his shoulder, pretending the past five years had never happened. Bobby's arms tightened around her for a moment and he rubbed his chin against her hair before she felt him begin to pull away. Swallowing hard, Alex reluctantly let him go.

"I can't believe you're here." Grinning, Bobby held her at arm's length by her shoulders, his eyes sweeping her from head to toe and back again. "Are you in town visiting your family?"

"No. I, uh…" she stammered, not sure exactly what she should tell him. "I'm back."

He released her shoulders and his hands dropped to his sides. Bobby tilted his head and looked at her in confusion.

"Chicago was…" at a loss for words, she simply shrugged. "I'm back."

"When?"

"About a month ago." Alex flinched at the flash of pain she saw in his eyes. "I meant to call, but…"

Bobby dropped his gaze to the floor and nodded.

Apparently tired of witnessing this reunion, tall-brunette cleared her throat. Bobby looked up to the source of the sound, and for a moment his eyes were blank before recognition dawned.

"I'm, uh…sorry," he reached out his hand to settle it on his companion's arm. "Leslie Stokes, this is Alex Eames. She was my partner when I worked at MCS."

"It's nice to meet you, Alex." It was said pleasantly enough, but Alex thought she detected something beneath the outward appearance. "MCS?" Leslie looked to Bobby with her question.

"Major Case Squad. It's a department in the NYPD."

"Oh…you're a cop?" Suddenly Leslie seemed to be okay with everything, as if Alex being a cop somehow removed her from the ranks of 'competition.'

The change in Leslie's mood left Alex feeling awkward and ill at ease. "Well, I should go…I didn't mean to intrude. I just wanted to say hello."

"No! You didn't…" Bobby let go of Leslie's arm and shoved his hands into his pants pockets. Looking inextricably and uncharacteristically shy, he gave Alex a small smile. "It's good to see you again."

"You too, Bobby." Alex let her eyes linger a few moments longer before mentally shaking herself and determining that she had to get out of there. "Leslie, it was nice meeting you." Alex now felt as if she'd made a huge mistake. She should have snuck out of there before she ever had the chance to hear his voice, smell his warm, familiar scent or feel his arms around her. "I'll see you around," she smiled then quickly turned to walk away, willing herself not to run as fast as she could out the door.

She'd made it to the sidewalk and was headed toward where she had parked her father's car when she heard him come after her.

"Eames!"

Closing her eyes and gritting her teeth, she took a deep breath to try and still her racing heart before turning to face him.

And there he was. Larger than life and in the light of day. Bobby Goren. The man who had been her partner at Major Case for more than six years. The man who had been her lover for less than six months. Her heart broke all over again and she realized then that her wounds had never really healed.

"I…I'd like to see you…get caught up," he sounded so tentative. So unlike Bobby. "Can I call you?"

Had she ever been able to deny him anything he asked? Before answering, Alex cleared her throat to make sure her voice still worked. "Sure," she said calmly. "I'm staying at my dad's."

Bobby looked mildly surprised, but didn't push it any further. "I'll, um…I'll call you."

"Okay."

He started walking back into the bar, but stopped after only a few steps and turned to her. "Alex…you look wonderful."

That smile is going to kill me one day. "You too, Bobby," she breathed.

TBC…

A/N – You have reader Cpt.Tina to thank for this story. She suggested a follow-up to my (elfluvr's) story Dance Redux using the song "It's All Coming Back to Me Now." As I thought about the words to that song, this story sprang to life. I have absolutely no idea where it's going, so we'll all be surprised together!