Title: Interlude

Author: E.Helena

Summary: The restive doubts that followed him from the squad room last night were not about John Tagman. Instead, they worried over the puzzle that was Alexandra Eames.

Disclaimer: Don't own 'em …no money … thanks Dick Wolf.

Archive: Anywhere else, just ask

Feedback: PLEASE! It's always welcome – constructive feedback as well as encouragement.

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A/N – This story asks some things of readers up front. First, you should have seen the episode "Want." Second, it helps if you've read my story 'Vengeance' but, more importantly, my (elfluvr's) story 'Indefensible.' This begins to bridge the arc between 'Vengeance' and the upcoming 'Lex Talionis.'

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Chapter 1 - Interlude

He could feel it. Today was going to be a good day. Not like yesterday. Yesterday had been too full of discord and uncertainty to be considered anywhere near good.

It's not as though things had been going well to begin with, but the day finally let go and went skidding downhill during their briefing with ADA Carver and the Captain. Swayed by emotion over reason, everyone, including his partner, had disagreed with him. Bobby Goren's arguments fell on deaf ears.

'Try one of your tricks.' Carver's mocking reply to Bobby's peevish question had served only to strengthen the detective's resolve. Even Deakins' somberly delivered 'He doesn't deserve our sympathy… step into him' had little effect on Bobby's conviction.

Then Eames walked out on him. Twice. Her parting comments left him with gruesome images to consider. They also re-awakened the sense of loss he'd felt when she'd been out on maternity leave. The restive doubts that followed him from the squad room last night were not about John Tagman. Instead, they worried over the puzzle that was Alexandra Eames.

And while quietly drinking a beer at his neighborhood bar, Bobby had figured out a 'trick' for Carver. Two, actually. The counselor wasn't likely to be too pleased with the second one. But if accepting Carver's displeasure was the price he'd have to pay, so be it. Detective Robert O. Goren liked being right, or at least having his own way.

He hadn't been surprised when he saw Eames enter the bar. Truth be told, he'd been watching for her out of the corner of his eye all night. He'd expected her to come looking for him and made sure he was somewhere easily found. There were times when Bobby wondered if they knew each other too well – if they were too familiar with each other's patterns. But then Eames would turn around and surprise the hell out of him, and he'd question whether he knew her at all. Intriguing woman.

So, they'd talked, and with things mostly put to rights between them, he'd let her urge him from the bar. Eames still had a drive ahead of her and Bobby was ready to head home. As he lie in bed staring at the ceiling and perfecting how he wanted the next day's interview to proceed, he was distracted by the ghost sensation of a warm knee pressed beside his. For the second time in as many months, he'd felt the pleasurable intimacy of a subtle contact he could pretend was incidental. Eames had pretended too.

Bobby strode into the squad room on this fine morning full of confidence with a small smile playing at the corners of his mouth. He had a game plan he thought would work, and the remnants of some nice dreams flitting around in his mind.

Yes, today was going to be a good day.

And he believed that. Right up until the point when he glanced at Eames' empty chair and spotted the single red rose lying atop a cream-colored envelope in the center of her desk. His glare immediately tracked to Rob Snyder, hunched over his desk with his pen hurriedly scratching on some form or another. Bobby couldn't tell if he was truly busy or simply practicing avoidance. Either way, he was about to walk over to Snyder and have a talk with him about keeping personal stuff out of the office, when Eames' arrival stopped him.

"Good morning," her greeting sounded hesitant.

"Morning," he mumbled, feeling a little guilty when he noted the concern in her eyes.

"It's too early to look that murderous," she tried to tease. "Didn't you sleep well?"

"I'm… fine. Distracted," he waved off her question. Bobby nodded toward her desk. "You, uh… you have a gift."

Her smile lit up her face and softly crinkled the corners of her eyes. "So I see."

Bobby glared again toward Snyder who was glancing surreptitiously at Eames as she picked up the rose and inhaled its sweet fragrance. Gently placing the stem back on her desk, she reached for the envelope, slipped her thumb under the flap, and pulled out a handwritten note.

Eames' smile widened. In her pleasure, she briefly gifted it to Bobby before turning to its source. She then walked over to Snyder's desk and rested a hip on the edge while engaging him in what appeared to be a relaxed and happy conversation.

Gone was his earlier good mood. Bobby stuffed some papers and notes into his binder and headed toward the observation room. Tagman and his attorney were due in less than an hour and he needed to refocus himself, away from the cloying romances of his partner.

It wasn't until about a half hour later that Eames joined him in the small, gray room.

"Still no sign of Deakins or Carver," she announced.

Bobby grunted acknowledgement without looking up from his paperwork.

"What's eating you?"

"I'm fine, Eames," he muttered in response. Her manila file folder thudded loudly on top of his binder and Bobby finally looked up.

"If you're 'fine,' I'm six foot two," she retorted. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing's wrong," his chair scraped loudly as he stood up from the small table and paced a few steps away from her. "I just…" Shit! Why the fuck should I even say anything to her?

"You just what?" Eames' voice sounded annoyed and she crossed her arms in front of her in that way she had when her patience was stretched thin.

Bobby decided he was up to the challenge. "I just think that you and Snyder should be keeping your personal life personal. He should keep it out of the office."

Her jaw dropped in shock and for the second time in less than an hour, Bobby felt a pang of guilt. He was about to apologize for being an ass when Eames deflated that balloon.

"What business is it of yours if Rob decides to give me a gift?" You had to give the woman credit. It never took her long to recover from a shock and find her voice.

Bobby took one step closer to her. "First, he fawns all over you for months," and somewhere in his head, he knew he was being unreasonably argumentative. "Then he asks you out. Now, he leaves flowers a-and… love notes on your desk. What's next? A… a proposal? In front of the entire squad?"

Jaw clenched and eyes flashing with irritation, Eames dug into the manila file folder she had carelessly tossed in front of him and retrieved a piece of cream-colored stationery. "Here!" She thrust the paper under his nose. It could only be the note from Snyder.

"I… don't want…" he began to protest.

"Just read it," she stepped closer and slapped it against his chest, holding it there with her hand pressed against him. "You know you want to."

Hesitating while he fought temptation, Bobby tried to let reason win out. "It's your note," he murmured.

Eames calmed with a sigh and spread her fingers across his chest. "And I want you to read it," she said softly.

Bobby reached up. His fingertips brushed her hand as he caught the edge of the rich paper.

Alex, thank you for giving me the chance to get to know you better. We've found out that, personally, we're as different as night and day, but professionally –

Let's just say that if you find yourself in need of a new partner, I will be the first one in the Captain's door asking for the assignment.

Rob

Bobby swallowed deeply and re-read the note, trying to grasp a hidden meaning. It sounded like a kiss-off, but…

"What does he mean 'new partner'?"

He'd never seen Eames' face turn quite that shade of red. "Christ, Bobby…" She stormed away from him and looked into the dark, empty interview room on the other side of the two-way glass.

Bobby trailed behind her and spoke over her shoulder. "Why does he think you need a new partner?" he demanded.

"He doesn't…" Eames turned and froze, her face inches from his. Bobby had once again managed to over-invade her space. Her body was so close he could feel her heat through the thin fabric of his shirt.

And there they were again – those elusive gold flecks in her eyes that he'd only recently been privileged to see. A man had to be close enough to feel Eames' warm breath against his cheek for the flecks to make an appearance. Surprised to find him so close, her eyes widened and their amber display fascinated him. Mesmerized, he was unable and unwilling to move until he'd had the chance to map their intricate patterns.

A soft hitch in her breath and almost imperceptible ebb of her body, warned him of Alex's intent to pull away. Without conscious thought, he impulsively reached out and gripped her elbow to hold her in place. He couldn't let her leave. Not before he'd memorized her eyes.

He scented the wave of heat between them – his cologne, her perfume. Their desire. Bobby tightened his grip on her elbow and the intriguing display of gold in her eyes gave way to darkness. Alex's mouth opened and the moist tip of her tongue darted out to nervously lick her lips.

Bobby dipped his head and Alex's lashes fluttered, concealing the passion that, until now, he'd only imagined lay hidden within her. He was about to close his own eyes and lean one more inch when light burst through the two-way glass.

Alex gasped and jumped back as though burned, wrenching her arm from his grasp. Her eyes snapped to the interrogation room now occupied by Tagman and his attorney. The florescent lights flickered during start-up before finally settling into their customary harsh glare. Alex turned her back to Bobby and ran trembling fingers through her hair.

He cleared his throat to test whether or not he was still capable of sound and took a deep, shaky breath. "Eames…" he croaked. He wanted to… what? Apologize? Call her back? Explain that he acted the way he did because of her eyes? But before he could utter another word, Deakins and Carver chose that moment to enter the observation room.

Eames recovered before he did. "Captain. Mr. Carver." Keeping her eyes averted, she stepped around Bobby to retrieve her folder from the table. There were a few awkward moments of silence as the two newcomers seemed to sense an interruption, but Alex quickly intervened. "Bobby. Are you coming?"

She had the presence of mind to blush.

Bobby asked for five minutes. He headed to the men's room to kick himself and refocus on the job at hand. What the hell had he been thinking? Now of all times he did not need to be distracted by wayward and unrealistic thoughts of his partner. They accomplished nothing and could go nowhere. Splashing cold water on his face to wash away his frustration, Bobby angrily converted desire to determination.

So much for having a good day.

End

A/N2 - If anyone feels the need to try and fit this into my (elfluvr's) storyline, it fits after Vengeance (maybe a month later, during "Want") and Indefensible, but before Indivisible.