A/N: FINALLY! I've been trying to upload this damn thing ever since Thursday. Happy late Thanksgiving!


Alex ran from One Police Plaza, toward the parking garage and the care Lewis and Bobby had given her after her kidnapping. She flipped open her phone, trying to call Bobby and see where he was, even though she knew the chances of him answering were very slim, indeed.

When it went directly to voicemail, she growled before dialing the number of Carmel Ridge, hoping he had gone to see his mother. When the receptionist answered, Alex asked if Bobby was there, giving her name and relation to Bobby when the woman wasn't as forthcoming as Alex thought she ought to have been. He was there.

Soon Alex was driving out of Manhattan toward the Carmel Ridge facility to find her errant partner and figure out what was wrong with him this time. She was used to his moods … but this was just too much. He'd been shutting her out for a while now – ever since a week before Thanksgiving he'd just been more quiet, less open about a lot of things with Alex and now he'd just stormed out of the bullpen without so much as an explanation for her!

Ass. Idiot. Pig-headed ingrate.

Alex let her mind wander as she drove the ninety minutes to the facility Bobby's mother lived in. She'd been there three before: once right after she had given birth to her nephew, when Alex and Bobby had stopped by for a visit on Christmas Day; and once on each of the subsequent Christmas Days at Francis's request.

Alex liked the curt older woman. She was sharp and didn't take crap from anyone. The two women had clicked when they first met, sharing stories of some of Bobby's more memorable moments, and discussing some of the great characters in literature. Alex smiled slightly as she remembered Bobby's shocked expression when his mother had made an obscure reference to The Count of Monte Cristo and Alex had responded in like manner. She remembered raising her eyebrows at him and asked, "What, Bobby? You're the only one who can know about books?"

Before she knew it, Alex was pulling into a parking spot in front of Carmel Ridge. She turned off the car and unbuckled her seat belt, unsure if she should go inside or sit there and wait for Bobby to come back out. With a sigh she opened her car door and got out, firm in her decision to go and visit with Francis and try to help Bobby.

Alex walked in and up to the reception desk. She flashed her badge at the unfamiliar woman, "I'm Detective Eames. I called about ninety minutes ago inquiring about Francis Goren and her son, Bobby."

The younger woman nodded, "Yes, Detective, I remember. Francis is doing better now that Bobby is back. You can go in if you want."

Alex nodded before clipping her badge back onto her belt and walking toward Francis's room. Instead of entering right away, she hesitated and knocked on the maple, white stained door.

Bobby opened it moments later, surprise lighting his face when he saw his petite partner on the other side. "Hi," she said softly. "Can I come in?"

Bobby nodded, "Mom, look who's here?"

Francis, seated on her bed with another man who looked very similar to Bobby and was about fifty years old, looked up and smiled when she saw the younger woman, "Alexandra. I was hoping I'd get to see you again before Christmas. Come here."

Alex smiled warmly at the older woman as she walked forward and gave her a gentle hug in greeting. "It's good to see you, too, Francis. I've missed you."

"Nonsense," Francis waved off the comment, "With my Bobby to occupy your time, I doubt you miss seeing me that much, dear."

The woman smiled, knowing enough to not take her words to heart, "That's not true, Francis. Bobby doesn't understand the importance of Louisa May Alcott's novels in the mental development of a young woman. You're the only one I can talk to about books."

Francis laughed, a sound neither of her sons had heard in far too long. "Alexandra, dear, have you met my older son, Charles? Charles, this is Bobby's partner from work, Alexandra Eames."

The older man, Charles, shook Alex's hand politely in greeting, captivated by her natural ease with his mother. He was about to say something when Francis cut him off, "Now, Alexandra, you're not here to take Bobby back to that job of yours, are you?"

Alex shook her head, her eyes flittering over to check on her partner briefly before turning her full attention back to Francis, "No, I'm not. He's all yours for the rest of the day, Francis. I came by to see you, actually."

The thought that Alex had traveled the distance from Manhattan to Carmel Ridge to see his mother made Bobby's heart twinge with something he couldn't identify. Part of him wanted her to be there just because of him, and the other part was thrilled that she had wanted to see his mother. It was the one thing Bobby had been reluctant to share with Alex – and the one thing he needn't to have been afraid to share. During Alex's second visit with Francis, the woman had suffered a psychotic break. After the incident, when they were driving back to the city, Bobby had tried to apologize for what had happened but Alex had stopped him, telling him he didn't have to apologize for his mother's illness. She understood.

As the visit progressed, Charles was able to finally get a glimpse at the life his younger, estranged brother now led. This woman called Alexandra seemed excellent with his mother, the care for the older woman genuine, and the mutual admiration palpable.

When it was finally time for Francis to sleep and the visit to end, she turned to Alex asking, "The poem, please."

Alex nodded, not needing to be reminded of the poem she had read to Francis at the conclusion of every visit. Her voice was warm and smooth with the practice of having repeated the poem for both Francis and Bobby on many occasions. One hand went out to stroke Francis's gray hair, now loose so she could sleep in ease, while the other held the dying woman's hand.

The familiar words from the poem By Night When Others Soundly Slept by Anne Bradstreet filled the air as Alex recited:

"By night when others soundly slept
And hath at once both ease and Rest,
My waking eyes were open kept
And so to lie I found it best.

I sought him whom my soul did love,
With tears I sought him earnestly.
He bowed his ear down from above.
In vain I did not seek or cry.

My hungry soul he filled with good;
He in his bottle put my tears,
My smarting wounds washt in his blood,
And banisht thence my doubts and fears.

What to my saviour shall I give
Who freely hath done this for me?
I'll serve him here whilst I shall live
And loue him to eternity."

She said the last line in a whisper, watching the mother of her partner sleep peacefully. Quietly, Alex arose and left the room with one last look in Bobby's direction. Both men soon followed her and the door softly clicked shut behind them.

Finally out of the world of Francis Goren, Alex wanted nothing more than to hug her partner and slap him at the same time. The big lug just didn't realize how much he meant to her. As much as she wanted to, Alex knew that it was neither the time nor the place for her to throw herself into her partner's arms … if he was still her partner.

Charles was still slightly in shock at what the petite woman had done and the effect she had had on not only his mother but his younger brother as well. "I don't think I've ever seen anything like that." His eyes found Alex's and she noted that he had the same intense gaze as Bobby. "Thank you."

She shrugged, the easy nature she had portrayed with Francis gone as her anger and frustration came back, "It was nothing. Francis is a wonderful woman."

Charles shook his head, "No, no, it's not that. Before you came in … I could have sworn she was about to have a break. Then it was … the complete opposite. She really likes you, Alexandra."

Alex's eyes met him with a cool indifference to his praise, "You call me Detective Eames. Only Francis calls me Alexandra. And you know what, Charles, I must ask you something: Where were you, yesterday? Or last month when she was diagnosed with cancer? Where the hell have you been?"

"Eames," Bobby's calm voice found a way past her anger as Charles looked at her in shock, sputtering like a fish out of water.

Alex didn't stop. She was angry, damn it! And if she couldn't (wouldn't) take her anger out on Bobby, she was damn well going to take it out on his brother! "Bobby's been taking care of your mother ever since he was seven years old. Where the hell were you? Do you wanna know what I think? I think that maybe it's time for you to step up to the plate and spend some time with your mother, Charles!" Her voice dropped into a low whisper Bobby recognized as the voice she used when she was trying her hardest not to yell, "She's dying, Charles. Frankly, I don't think you even care."

"I care," Charles protested, his voice low as he tried to hold back tears and rage at the accusations being thrown against him.

Alex cocked her head to one side before she uttered one final sentence, "Then start acting like it." She turned on her heel and walked as calmly as she could from Carmel Ridge. Bobby took one last look at his brother before walking after his partner.

He caught up with her at her car. "Eames," he said, grabbing her arm with one hand.

She turned to him and he could see the tears highlighting her face in the moonlit sky. "Damn it, Bobby," she said, her voice raw with emotion. "I told you not to shut me out, you big lug!"

Bobby gathered her into his arms, resting his cheek on the top of her head. He closed his eyes and breathed in the familiar scent that always calmed him down. "I'm so sorry," he whispered, "So, so sorry. Th-there was just … so much … too much … I-I didn't know what to do."

He pulled back slightly and lifted her face so their eyes could meet, "Forgive me?"

Her teary smile and the light kiss on the cheek she gave him were enough answer.

"Where's your car?" she asked a few minutes later.

"I took a cab," he answered, enjoying the feel of Alex in his arms. He wasn't sure exactly when it had happened, but somewhere along the line he had fallen in love with the woman he held. His partner. His best friend.

"Come on," she said, pulling away, "Let's go get something to eat."

"Like?" he asked as they got into her car.

"The diner three miles down is 24 hours."

Bobby nodded with a slight smile, "Sounds good, Eames."

As the pair ate the greasy food, Bobby told Alex a few things he'd been keeping from her. Things he knew she needed (and wanted) to know. It was close to eleven when his ramblings finally ceased.

"Come on," Alex said, dropping some money on the table for their bill. "It's late."

"Where are we going?" Bobby asked.

"I'm taking you home," she replied, letting him mull over her choice of words as they started back toward Manhattan.

---

The next morning, Bobby awoke to the smell of freshly brewed coffee and waffles. He smiled slightly as he got out of bed and started on his way to the kitchen. He watched Alex cook in silence, taking in the loving, meticulous manner she used as she prepared breakfast for the two of them.

He thought back to the night before. After arriving at his apartment, he'd asked her to stay. He didn't want to be alone – especially that night. With a nod and a smile, she had agreed, and stay she did. All night. He'd held her close in a manner that some would consider sexual, but was completely platonic. They were best friends, but he still wasn't sure what the extent of her feelings for him was.

When Alex turned toward him, a cup of coffee in her hands fixed just the way he drank it, she smiled, unknowingly answering his unspoken question. She handed him the mug with a friendly, "Good morning, Bobby. Feel better?"

He nodded, taking a sip of the hot liquid before setting it down on the counter and gathering his petite partner in his arms again. He breathed in the sent of his shampoo on her hair, his soap on her skin, as he softly said, "Thank you, Alex."

"For what?" she asked, her own arms snaking around his big form.

"For not leaving … for loving me."

She leaned up and kissed him fully on the mouth. When she pulled back she said, "Never doubt that. I'll always love you."

Bobby's responding look, and the searing kiss he freely gave her were all the answer she needed to know how he felt. He pulled away, "Alex … we can't."

She scrunched her face up slightly before she said, "Yes we can."

"No we can't."

"Yes."

"No."

"Yes."

"No."

"Yes."

"No."

"Yes." A small part of both of them felt like children for the one-dimension of their bickering.

"No."

Alex smiled loving, kissing Bobby again before saying, "Yes we can. The entire squad already thinks we are." She shrugged, "Consider it the fringe benefits."

"Alex, there's nothing fringe about you."

"Shut up and kiss me."

"Whatever you say, Eames."

Fin


A/N: So? What do you think? Yes? No? Maybe? Please?