Title: Eames' Armor
Spoiler: watch the TV show and you'll be golden
Disclaimer: I don't own Law and Order CI or any of its affiliates, however, I do own Karmora, it's sitting next to my frosted shredded wheat and hasn't been touched in many a year.
Summary: Stuck in that gray walled stall inside the women's bathroom on the forth floor, Eames wished vehemently that she hadn't looked into Goren's eyes that late night and seen the real him. Eames wished she still thought he was weird and unorthodox and not perfect for her. When a new onslaught of tears came from those thoughts, Eames then desperately wished those thoughts away. Because a world of heartbreak with Goren was better then one without him.
A's Note: Please see end of this fic to see my real Author's note. You have to.

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Screaming, 'You jackass!' in the middle of a four star restaurant didn't seem like a very classy move on Eames part, but after no contact with Goren for four months (just a maybe phone call in the middle of the night where no one spoke on the other end and Eames had this feeling of importance), it seemed a much better option than shooting him, which was Eames' first thought.

The worst was that he didn't even tell her. When pregnant with her sister's son, Eames had made sure to give Goren ample time to get used to the fact that she would be gone for awhile. Because that is what a caring and responsible partner does. Instead, Eames came into work and saw someone else sitting at his desk.

Logan was the one who pulled her aside and told her what had happened.

And then Deakin when she angrily barged into his office and asked why she wasn't assigned with Goren.

It was so odd arriving at work with him not there- no coffee, battered leather briefcase, head contorted in such an odd position she was sure he had a special pillow to combat the position- that on Day Twelve Eames lost it in the woman's bathroom.

She was a strong woman, Eames, when she first became a cop and had to deal with people who didn't know her father, but knew of him, that hadn't even tarnished her shiny silver armor, because they didn't know the real him. They didn't know that in the forth grade, middle of July, when it was 105 with humidity, he had somehow managed to obtain a turtle sprinkler, and within five minutes the heat was forgotten. Or that when Tom Becker broke her heart and asked out Debbie Kessluk to the Spring Fling Sophomore year, her father had been her shoulder to cry on with a tub of mint chocolate chip, 'because cookie dough is just so presumptuous' he's told her, and that was the first time someone had ever made Eames laugh when she was crying.

Until Bobby Goren.

Oh the rumors about him. Attractive, unkempt, a brilliant mind that would crack under the strain of these gruesome crimes, a nut-job with a gun, a high solve rate that was impossible to match, a man not to be quarreled with, no partner with him had ever survived more than sixteen months-it went on and on with him, becoming more ludicrous the more people talked about him.

The morning cab ride to the station, Eames could hardly sit still in excitement. She had been so looking forward to this job, to involve herself in a case that didn't involve her dressing as a hooker, see the bright but unorthodox man at work, to finally feel as an equal in this male-dominated group, she almost overpaid the cap driver by twenty.

It should have been a sign to show her how bad the day would go.

The first time Eames met Goren she felt let down. After an introduction by Deakin's, and a tour of her desk, she took a look at the man sitting across from her, the supposed brilliant unstable man who brought serial killers to ruins, and all she saw was a haggard looking, expertly dressed man who seemed to stumble around. He was polite, asking if she wanted coffee, and then promptly spilling it all over her desk. With a muttered apology, she was too distraught over the now-aged looking papers on her desk to notice how deftly he caught her pencil from dropping to the ground. He sat it carefully on her desk when she wasn't looking and spent most of the day convincing her he wasn't worth much.

It was on a case a few weeks later that proved his undoing. Eames had spent the morning sluggish, seeing no reason to hurry, and grabbed coffee at the Dutch Bros. by her apartment, not wanting a repeat of what had happened what seemed to be every week. She was out the door before she remembered to grab a coffee with two sugars and cream for Goren.

It was worth the two-fifty when she saw the look of total surprise on his face.

The only look that came close to the one he was now exhibiting was when Eames told Goren that she'd be the one driving them around.

It didn't take her too long to realize Goren was never surprised.

Except when it came to her.

Not much of the case is that recall-able, there has been too many with too many similarities, but this one, this one made things click. Seeing Goren work, the odd, bumbling oaf who looked put together and about to fall apart at the same time, to see him where he shone, Eames realized it didn't matter how unorthodox this man was, this was his gift.

And hers? That was keeping him together.

She wasn't totally sure how it had happened. A man like Goren is good at hiding himself in false realities. But one day, late at night, working on a case report that needed to get done and given to Deakins by seven am sharp, Eames saw Goren. Not the bumbling detective he portrayed himself to be, but the man behind him.

She saw how insecure he was, how graceful, how brilliant, how caring, how alive he was, how much he walked he edge, and did it not because he loved the feeling, because he knew when to stop, but because it was what he needed to do to save people's lives. To catch murderers.

When Eames turned the case report in to Deakin in the morning she asked him to forget about the document she'd sent in earlier about a change of partner.

Stuck in that gray walled stall inside the women's bathroom on the forth floor, Eames wished vehemently that she hadn't looked into Goren's eyes that late night and seen the real him. Eames wished she still thought he was weird and unorthodox and not perfect for her. When a new onslaught of tears came from those thoughts, Eames then desperately wished those thoughts away. Because a world of heartbreak with Goren was better then one without him.

Days forty-six to forty-nine were the hardest for Eames. His mother had a psychotic break, and with Goren out of the picture, she was called in. Waiting to meet this woman for years, waiting for Goren to pluck the courage and ask her to accompany him to this place, she felt so angry at him for leaving. For ruining the chance for them to do this together.

On the drive there she couldn't help but think of how he was supposed to be sitting next to her, playing with the radio, their musical tastes clashing, discussing some TV show the night before (Goren only watched TV to drown out the nightmares and prided himself when able to discuss with Eames pop culture that happened before 10pm), the newest sign in a case, or even looking at the books she had stashed in her car for the usual bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Instead she sat there alone in the clear streets and Nora Jones playing.

She cried all the way there, her armor dulling with tears.

Sitting in Mrs. Goren's room while she slept, her limbs in shackles, Eames never more understood why Goren's young features were so marred by age and waste.

When the woman awoke, their conversation was about Goren. The one subject Eames allowed no one to bring up, no matter what they had to say, (even Logan's attempts at brotherly affection and concern) and all Mrs. Goren wanted to speak of was where Goren was, how he was, what he was doing, how he was feeling. They had the same conversation four days in a row.

"These are for you, Mrs. Goren." (Some days Eames just handed over the white carnations)

"How lovely, thank you. Alice, will you put these in a vase?" (Alice was always standing there at the ready to do just that)

"Of course ma'am."

"And how are you today Alex?" (Eames felt herself drain of power at this question)

"Fine, thanks."

"You don't look as if you've gotten enough sleep last night."

"Oh no, I'm fine."

"My Robert never looks as if he's gotten enough sleep either." (I remember)

"I know."

"He works hard." It was usually at this times that Eames tried, in vain, to change the course of the conversation.

"We both do."

"My Robert said you're the partner that's stayed with him the longest. That it would be a shame when you left him too." Every day she came here, no matter how Mrs. Goren put it, Eames felt her armor get dented by the meaning. It had the terrific power to sidestep all of her protection and leave a gaping, concave nick just above her left lung.

"I'm not the one who left."

"I know." A moment of clarity, understanding, it faded into hysteria. "If I could just talk to him, check and see how he is.."

"I don't know where he is, Mrs. Goren."

"You think I'll blow his cover!"

"Of course not-"

"He hasn't called once, never visits, this isn't at all like him."

"I know."

"Maybe something's wrong. Something must be wrong."

"Mrs. Goren, if we did hear from him it would show something's wrong."

"Hmmph. Why aren't you undercover along with him? Goren tells me you two have been undercover plenty of times."

"It wasn't my decision."

"Yes, I can see that." (Those eyes, they were the same as his. Powerful, drawing, she felt herself wanting to speak freely in front of her. That Eames worried for his safety at night, woke up in a sweat more then three times a week, wondered if he'd cross that painfully oblique line and just lose himself in all that blood, all the murder..)

"Listen, If I knew anything, I'd tell you-"

"He hasn't visited me in weeks! Doesn't he want me to get well? Doesn't he care about me at all? I want my Robert! I want my Robert!"

It was usually at this time that Eames left, making the long drive back home. Alone.

Even Nora Jones couldn't patch up her dented, dulled armor.

The first day Eames cried in front Goren was unexpected. The loss of carrying her sister's child and a child abuse case that Carver wouldn't pursue because the case didn't have enough evidence- beside a recanted confession, it made Eames' shiny iron armor collapsed into dust and in the elevator on the way out the door, Eames cried.

She tried to gain composure before the doors opened, but the burden of fixing herself too early made herself break even harder. When the doors opened with the loud bing, Eames didn't even try to recognize who was outside the elevator. They evidently recognized her however, because with one fatal swoop he was inside the enclosed space and pressed a button that looked blurry but probably wasn't- the doors snapped closed. A handkerchief was pressed into her hand and some part of her knew this man was Goren, her partner, her friend, a man she never expected to cry in front of, but here she was, here he was, and she slunk down to the floor.

She didn't find it the least bit odd that he went right down with her.

He didn't hold her as she cried, but she didn't expect him too. Instead he just sat next to her, studying her with his eyes as she curled herself even tighter- knees to chest to head, arms wrapped around, feet together- and when the sobs quieted, when wiping at the tears didn't feel like an uphill struggle, he spoke,

"Is this what you always do when you say you can't walk out with me after work?" His words were so unexpected it made her laughter seem that much odder. But as she sat there, stretching out her legs and wiping her eyes with his handkerchief on the floor of an elevator, chuckling still, Eames had never felt more complacent in her life.

So it really sucked riding that elevator up to work and down. To not see him there, but Josh Gonzales, a different partner- 'temporary' Deakins told her, 'just until Bobby comes back'- a new kid with talent but far too normal. He never tilted his head, never spoke hesitantly, spilled coffee on accident, who treated the dead with a kind of respect, interrogated by the book, and made his feelings for her very clearly known.

On Day One-hundred and nineteen Eames finally accepted one of the many invitations to dinner from Josh, ignoring Logan's worried glances, because, she was fine, she told herself so every day.

But it was really the kind of 'fine' in the sense of the word where a person had angrily banged their thumb with a hammer and when the person next to them asked how they are, they hastily reply 'fine' in a tight lipped reply.

Her dented dull rusted armor made no comment. It wasn't up for it.

A dress was put on, green, because she didn't want to give him any ideas, and makeup applied, washed off, then hastily applied again. She was even actually kind of enjoyed herself. The food was good, and none had besmirched her teeth, Eames was looking forward to going home and calling it a night where she didn't feel as if a part of her was gone.

And then, head tilted back to empty the last of her goblet, Eames caught sight of him. Bobby Goren, shaved face, nice haircut, green tie and pin stripe suit, he walked out of the bathroom. Eames coughed on the drink she was swallowing. With a muttered curse, she wiped at her dress, completely ignoring whatever Josh was saying, her eyes stayed in complete contact with his frame.

"I'm gonna go wash this off in the bathroom, I'll be right back." The words were out of her mouth as she got up, she was four steps in Goren's direction before her mind interpreted the words for her to understand what she said. She was at his back before Eames realized that maybe her eyes were playing a trick on her, that this man was most probably not her Goren (he was shaved), and to check would mean relieving the loss of him when her hand reached out, outstretched, and tapped him on the back.

A quick turn and his eyes were on her.

Oh how she missed those eyes. Quietly intrusive, they had made so many confess, picking up the smallest clue and building up the biggest conspiracy. Begging forgiveness for his social shortcomings, pleading for help when he'd gone too far and knew it. She didn't notice until they were gone how much they were on her, when she was working on paperwork in the office, in the interrogation room, with a suspect Goren knew was guilty, how much she stared at them.

And now, after one hundred and nineteen days, they were back on her, probing and searching, assessing and pleading, Eames felt her eyes swimming but refused to let even one tear drop, she did not want her vision blurred for one second. Goren wasn't so lucky, and a tear fell down his cheek.

"Is this what you always do when you say you can't walk out with me after work?" A soft chuckle followed that statement, and in a less then a moment, they were hugging. Pressing themselves so tight Goren could feel how much weight Eames had lost and Eames how uncontrolled Goren's breathing was.

"I, I-I went to the squad.. first thing I got back. Logan said you were home for the night.. dragged me here instead. Insisted on drinks for my.. for my homecoming." For. so. long. Eames had wanted to know where Goren was all this time, why he hadn't broken protocol and spoken to her, just once, why she couldn't have come, why he agreed, why why why, but Eames instead found it all meaningless at the moment.

The only important thing was seeing him, talking, staring and speaking and breathing. She broke the hug and looked at him, noticed the added lines, the extra creases she wasn't there to smooth,

"Pick up any girls?" Humor healed so much for her, why not bandage this wound with it?

"Not yet." A sly grin on his face, it was doing wonders to the creases. She was vaguely reminded of him in a smiling photograph in his mother's room when he was ten.

"Have anyone in mind?"

"Pretty girl in a green dress. Dark contour on the.. front of her.. By the smell of it, Kamora." She was vaguely aware of her mouth about to split in two by her smile, but most of all her energy consisted of answering him.

"Coffee smell give it away?" The head tilt, closure of the eyes as he leaned forward and inhaled, he was smiling, tiny but there it was, his eyes opened and he spoke,

"Just a bit." Eames' heartbeat was becoming erratic. Goren was careful about the distance between them, and now all the rules were being thrown out the window.

"Well she seems nice, if not sloppy."

"She came with another guy." Did he sound hurt?

"People are rarely with the ones they want to be." A pause, a head tilt, a probing look,

"Do you think?"

"You'll never know until you ask." A longer pause, his eyes were in overdrive,

"Alexandra Eames, will you have coffee with me?"

"Actually, I'm on a date right now, but thanks for asking." Another look of incredulous surprise, Eames laughed into the kiss she gave him, his jaw slack, but quickly gaining momentum. Her armor shined brightly as he dipped her, and the rusted bits were completely gone by the time they both came up for air.

On Day One hundred and twenty-two Goren came back to work, and so did Eames. They both plainly ignored Logan's smirk.

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Real A.'s Note: so, in case I wasn't clear, Goren got assigned an undercover case that badly needed his expertise and Deakins wouldn't allow Eames to be taken with him, as he needed at least one of 'Teh Greatest Detective Team Ever!'. Needless to say, no one was very pleased by this, but Goren did his job, because otherwise he'd be fired. And he totally did call her that one time at night, but then he got in trouble for it, and couldn't try again. I portrayed Eames as slightly-more over-dramatic because I like her that way, and I think losing Goren all of a sudden would hit her hard. The ending was sort of (coughverycornycough) romantic, but I think the Dynamic Duo realized what life could be without the other, and Goren just decided to take the plunge. With a bit of help from Logan and alcohol, of course.

And now if you've stuck around and read all that I shall give you a medal. Seriously. Distribution is at the review window. Please leave your comments during the ceremony, I won't mind.