Author's Note: Well, here we go. The journey continues. I'm glad you're coming along for the ride. I hope you enjoy the story.

I will be posting once a week for the foreseeable future. I do plan to start posting twice (maybe more) per week once I feel that I am far enough ahead to avoid the chance that I would need to back track and change something.

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Disclaimer: Law & Order: Criminal Intent belongs to Dick Wolf, NBC, and Wolf Films, et al. The characters and setting are borrowed without permission. This is a work of fan fiction. The plot belongs to me. I am making no money from this. I humbly request not to be sued.

Title: An Ordinary Family

By: Marion

Chapter: 1

This story is set a few months after The Ivy Green.

"I'm glad he's dead," said Ivy. "I know I shouldn't say that. Uncle Bobby flinches when I bring it up. But I still feel that way. Sometimes I think he got off easy." She dropped her eyes from her therapist's gaze.

Erin Clearwater was young as therapists go. She was barely thirty. She had graduated early from high school and college and had her P.H.D. in adolescent psychology. "Tell me about Shyné," she said.

The girl's expression grew apprehensive. Ivy was generally very circumspect and reticent in their conversations, this being only their fourth session. Shyné was a subject she kept guarded.

"If you feel comfortable," Erin added quickly. "I'd like to know about her. She was very important to you."

"She looked out for me," Ivy said after a moment. "My dad had just gone to prison and I was alone. Foster care seemed like such a scary place. Shyné sort of adopted me. She showed me the ropes and protected me from bullies. She was funny and smart." Ivy looked far away and thoughtful. "She had the best smile. I… I miss her."

"How do you like the Garden School?" asked Erin. "Tell me about your new friends."

Ivy regarded her therapist with hard eyes. "How much of what I say are you going to relay back to my uncle?" she asked.

"Ivy, if it's something he can help with…"

"It's not. I just don't want him to worry," said Ivy. "Off the record, or nothing."

"I can't promise that, Ivy," said Erin. "But I'm not a spy for your uncle. I think you overestimate how much I tell him. You could do worse than to talk to him yourself."

"Fine." Ivy frowned a little. "I like the teachers and I'm learning things."

"And your new friends?"

"I don't have them," Ivy said shortly.

"Don't you like the other students?" asked Erin.

"Some of them are okay, I guess," said Ivy. "Most of them are older than me. The only classes I take with kids even close to my own age are gym and history. The students in my other classes think I'm a freak. Mostly people just ignore me."

"No one special? Nice?"

Ivy snorted. "You're young. Do you remember high school? Middle school?"

Erin chuckled. "I do, actually. Not everyone was vile."

"I'm tall and a little clumsy," said Ivy. She'd shot up several inches in the last few months and was now 5 foot 7 inches, towering over Alex in their bare feet. She'd grown so fast she was all knees and elbows. "The kids that don't tease me because of it, find me unapproachable because of my brain. Unless they need help. Everyone wants to be my partner. Then they want me to do all of the work." She held her therapist's gaze. "Don't tell Bobby. He frets. I'm okay and I don't want him to worry."

"You should talk to him about it," said Erin. "He might notice when you don't invite anyone over ever."

"It's not a big deal," said Ivy. "Besides, it doesn't even matter until school starts again. And Cassie and Sarah are coming up for Labor Day Weekend. I have friends. Even if they're kind of my cousins."

"I hope you have a wonderful time this weekend," said Erin. "And who knows? You might meet someone you want to be friends with on Tuesday."

"Yeah," Ivy muttered apathetically. "Maybe."

xxx

Bobby went over to shake Johnny Eames' hand when he and Ivy arrived at the Eames' house on the Sunday afternoon before Labor Day.

"Who's the angry looking girl under the apple tree?" Ivy asked her adopted grandfather.

"Maaark's daughter," said Sam Eames, coming over to them and fluttering his eyelashes suggestively. "Alex thought the Labor Day picnic would be a good time to inflict the family on her boyfriend and his kid."

"Something tells me you don't like him," said Ivy, going to sit beside Sam.

Johnny gave Sam a hard look. "We don't know him," he said. "Alex seems happy. Don't make trouble, Sam."

"Something about him rubs me the wrong way," said Sam. "And his kid is a brat." He jerked his head toward the eight-year-old pouting under the tree. Cassie and Sarah, Ted Eames' nine and six year old daughters, were playing on the other side of the yard with their four year old cousin, Caleb.

Cassie spotted Ivy and came over at a run. "Ivy, come play!" she called. "Caleb is the brother and Sarah is the baby. You be the mom. I'll be the sister." She pulled the older girl across the yard, while Bobby and Sam watched with amusement.

"What do you know about this Mark?" Sam asked, pulling Bobby aside. Johnny was at the grill and Sam wanted to be out of earshot.

Bobby rubbed the back of his neck nervously. "Not much," he said. "Alex doesn't really talk to me about her dates. I knew she was seeing him. I knew he had a kid. I heard her tell Carolyn Barek, another detective on our squad, that he had dreamy eyes, whatever that means."

Sam chuckled at that. He watched his sister talking to this tall blonde stranger and his face hardened again. "Shouldn't you, I don't know, break this up?" he asked. "Doesn't it bother you?"

Bobby raised his eyebrows at the younger man. "Why would it bother me?" Bobby asked stiffly.

"We just all thought Alex was kind of… you know… your girl," said Sam.

Bobby looked thunderstruck. "Alex is my partner," he said. "And my friend. You know that, Sam."

Sam cracked up. "Man, if you could see the look on your face," he said. He clapped Bobby on the shoulder. "Just keep an eye on this joker for me, okay? I don't like him."

"I gathered that," said Bobby as he watched Sam walk away. Great. Now other Eames were learning to throw him off balance. Being a part of this family might be dangerous.

xxx

Alex went over to her nieces and nephew and Ivy. "I think Natalie feels left out," she said, indicating the little girl who was still pouting under the apple tree. "Do you think you guys could try to get her to play with you?"

"We'll try, Auntie Alex," said Cassie. She set off across the yard toward Natalie Jackson. Mark was getting a beer from a cooler on the deck. "Hi, Natalie," said Cassie. "Do you want to come play with us?"

The dark haired little girl's sour expression did not change as she looked up a Cassie's easy smile under her mess of blonde curls. "We're playing pioneer family. Ivy is our mom and she is leading us to Oregon. You can be another sister, like me."

"Leave me alone," said Natalie. "And tell your stupid aunt to leave my dad alone. She's not my mom!"

Ivy had followed Cassie across the yard. "Come on Cassie. If she doesn't want to play, she doesn't have to," she said.

"Are you sure you don't want to play?" Cassie asked.

The girl surged to her feet and shoved Cassie into Ivy. "I said go away!"

Ivy steadied Cassie on her feet. "That was uncalled for," said Ivy. "I should go tell your dad."

"Go ahead," spat Natalie. "I'll tell him you were bothering me."

"Come on, Cassie," said Ivy. "Let's just go play." Cassie shot the other girl a bitter look and went with Ivy.

xxx

"So tell me about Mark," said Elizabeth, dragging her sister off to the side. "This is the first time you've brought someone new home in a long time, Lexie."

"He's an investment banker," said Alex. "He was widowed three years ago. You've met Natalie. What's to tell?"

"Well, for one thing…he's not Bobby," said Elizabeth. "That's new. Where'd you meet him?"

"At a policeman's widows and orphans benefit," said Alex. "He said he likes to support the boys in blue."

Elizabeth raised her eyebrows but chose not to comment on the gender specificity. "And what does Bobby think about all this?"

"Why does everyone keep asking me that?" asked Alex. "Bobby and I are not lovers. We're partners. And that's all we'll ever be. He made that very clear." She turned to watch her partner tossing around a football with her brothers and Elizabeth's husband, Fred. Mark was sitting under the apple tree with Natalie.

"He made it clear? When did he…" Elizabeth stopped when she saw the hurt flash across her little sister's face. "Oh Alex, honey…" She pulled her sister into her arms.

"Don't," said Alex, pulling away. "I've cried enough tears over it. I don't want to cry anymore. I'm happy being friends with Bobby. He's like having another big brother."

"But you love him. And I was so sure he loved you…"

"Bobby does love me," she said. "But not that way. Not in a way that would give me someone to hold at night. I'm over it."

Elizabeth looked skeptical, but decided not to press her further. "So Mark is quite a looker," she said. "You must like him if you decided to bring him home."

"I like him," said Alex. "He makes me feel special. Sexy." She tried to smile. "He's someone I can hold and touch and that makes up for a lot."

Elizabeth raised her eyebrows. "He seems nice enough and he's good looking," she said. "What's to make up for?"

"He's normal," said Alex. "Almost boring. And he's not what I would call intellectual."

"Normally you aren't what I'd call intellectual," said Elizabeth. "Since when is a high IQ a requirement for a relationship?"

"It's not," said Alex. "But it can be nice." She watched Bobby let the children tackle him as he ran slowly across the yard with the football. She smiled when he went down with Caleb sitting on his chest. "Bobby's good with them," she said.

"Yes, he is," said her sister.

"Hey 'Lex," called Mark, walking over. "I think I'm going to take Natalie on home. She seems to have had enough excitement for one day." He put his arms around Alex possessively and kissed her. "Will you come by later?"

"Count on it," said Alex. She kissed him again. Then she watched him walk away with his daughter.

"Hey Alex!" called Bobby. "Come play with us." He tossed her the football. She grinned and took off across the yard, her brothers and nieces and nephew on her tail.

Author's Note: No real action in this chapter, I know, but set up is important. Please don't forget to review. You know I love them. See you next week!