Title: Near Death & After Life
Scribere Est Agere
These characters do not belong to me.

Summary: Ten days before Christmas Goren is shot and Eames resigns.



In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life. It goes on.

Robert Frost


Where there is love, there is pain.

Spanish Proverb


Ten days before Christmas Goren is shot and Eames resigns.


They catch a break in the Torrence case, late one Sunday night. They're called to some seedy apartment complex in the middle of nowhere. It's ice cold and Eames shivers without realizing, wraps her arms around herself. Goren looks down at her, frowns, then looks away.

"You okay?" he says.

She sniffs, nods, bites her lip.

He's only been back a week and they've still forgotten how to talk to each other.


Eames will never really get used to the sound of gunshots. Not really, she thinks later. She's lost track of how many she's heard over the years — hundreds? thousands? — and still. They always mean death to her.

She follows him up the narrow stairway that smell like piss, down a dark hallway to number 214. They look at each other. Piece of cake, right? Right. Nothing we haven't done a million times before. He nods. He knocks.

Then it all falls to pieces.


The cracks sound and resound and split the night, three of them, maybe four. Goren shoves her out of the way, hard because he's surprised. It wasn't supposed to go down like this. John Torrence is small and wiry, nervous and twitchy, and a surprisingly good shot. But, not too good because he only catches Goren once, in the right shoulder, spinning him around into the doorjamb. Eames watches from the floor where she has fallen. She sees his face contort in surprise and pain, sees him spin and slam against the frame, sees him fall, landing inches from her splayed feet. Then she sees the blood. She hears glass breaking inside number 214 and realizes little John Torrence is getting away. She realizes she doesn't give a shit at the moment.


There is a lot of blood. It's something else she can never get used to. So much blood. She has her hands pressed against his shoulder and she can feel the warmth vibrating right up her forearms. He is trying very hard not to writhe beneath her. She wishes her hands were bigger.

"Bobby," she says. Her voice sounds very small in the hallway. He looks at her. "Bobby," she says again with more force. "You're going to be fine. Do you hear me?"

His eyes are very large and dark and he doesn't stop looking at her. She can feel a lot of blood and there isn't enough saliva in her mouth suddenly. She needs to make the blood stop.

"Bobby. Do you hear me?"

"If your face is the last thing I see, it's not a bad way to go," he says finally and goddamn him, he's smiling.


The ambulance takes so long and he loses so much blood he almost dies on the way to the hospital. She watches him almost die and wonders how on earth she will get up in the morning and do fucking anything without him. Then she stops and files it away for Things She Will Deal With Another Time.

Instead she concentrates on the front of her shirt that is no longer white and the fact that her hands are so damn small.


Nine days before Christmas she sits beside his bed in the hospital not daring to touch him and wondering how it got to this, how it got to the point where she'd rather die herself than lose him.


Seven days before Christmas she tosses a sheet of paper on Ross' desk. He glances at it.

"How's Bobby?" And then, "What's this?"

"He's fine. My resignation."

Ross puts his pen down, sighs, like he's been expecting it.


"I've thought about it," she says because she anticipates. "A lot."

He shakes his head. "Not enough. I know you're upset. We all are…about this…" he sighs. "…latest development."

She wants to ask Ross if every moment of every day he thinks about the rest of his life without Bobby in it. She wants to tell him she won't — she refuses — to lose anyone else she loves to a fucking bullet, for Christ's sake.

But she doesn't. She doesn't want to sound silly. She doesn't want to sound weak or emotional, or god, like a girl.

"I refuse to accept this right now." Ross hands it back. She doesn't take it.

"After Christmas, all right? Think about it until then. I'll talk to you about it then."

She still doesn't take it.

"My decision won't change."

He looks at her.

"Fine. But something else might."


Six days before Christmas Bobby is released from the hospital and Alex thinks about Christmas, what it entails. Baking. Wrapping. Shopping. She can't get her mind around shopping. He calls and leaves messages. Five, six, seven. The red blinking reminds her of the string of lights curled up in a box in storage, tangled around her collection of breakable tree ornaments she refuses to unwrap this year.


Four days before Christmas she slips on a patch of ice outside her apartment and sprains her wrist. Her right wrist.


After all this, she thinks wryly as the doctor pokes and prods and X-rays. After all this, she smirks as the doctor ties it up in a cloth that smells like everything she hates. After all this and everything, it's not bullets or knives or murderous psychopaths; it's water that takes her down.


One day before Christmas he just shows up at her apartment, arm in a sling, jacket askew. He looks at her like he doesn't know what he's doing there but he knows, somehow, she won't turn him away.

He brings her a fruitcake, which she takes with her left hand.


"Marzipan icing, too. You're the only one I know who likes it."

"I like fruitcake?" she says, letting him in. It's possible, she thinks. She doesn't know what she likes these days.

She's been drinking, which surprises him. He closes the door behind him and thinks about how she smells like jasmine and gin and everything he loves.

She sits on one end of the couch. He sits two feet away and looks at the coffee table, littered with festive wrapping paper, a roll of tape, clumsily wrapped presents.

"I'd offer to help—" he says.

She shakes her head, smirks.

"I know."

She leans back, cuts her eyes at him. She can't quite believe he is here and maybe if she blinks or breathes or moves the wrong way he'll be gone.

"We're quite a pair," she says instead.

He nods. It's quiet. He looks at her then and she looks at him because she knows exactly what he's going to say and she knows that he'll mean it.

"We are."

"What are you doing here?" she says, kicking at a roll of paper with her toe.

"How's your arm?" He leans towards her and she leans away. Knee-jerk reaction, she tells herself. He notices, of course he does and he straightens up. If he's hurt, he doesn't show it.

"All right. How's your shoulder?"

"All right," he mimics. She shakes her head.

"Can I get you something to drink?"

"I just came to…you know. We haven't talked since I got out and…uh…I needed to…"

She looks at him then, remembers him falling, slamming, hurtling backwards. She remembers all the blood and his eyes. His eyes. She remembers her white shirt, rolled into a ball in the back of her closet. All these things and this man sitting two feet away from her.

"Bring me a fruitcake?"

He sighs. "Yeah. That, too."

"Bobby—" she starts. She doesn't know what to say, exactly, but the quiet is getting too big and oppressive and too everything. "Bobby. I'm tired, you know? And…I really wasn't expecting any company tonight. So."

He nods like he completely understands. He makes no move to get up, however and that makes her grin. It's the first time she's really smiled in…months, she thinks. Months and months.

"So," he says.

She pushes herself up from the couch with her good arm, looks at her wounded mirror image, who is staring at some invisible spot on her rug. Later, she'll wonder whatever possessed her to do what she does. Later, she'll berate herself for doing it, but not too harshly. Later, she'll smile in the darkness and praise herself for finally, finally doing what she's wanted to do for so fucking long.

She holds out her hand.

"C'mon," she says. He looks up then, eyes soft. Oh, you. "Let's go to bed."


Her room is very dark. Alex is exhausted but it's the kind of fatigue she knows won't allow her actually sleep tonight. She closes the door behind them and without a word climbs into the bed. Right-hand side. She curls up on her side — left-hand side — and waits.

She is very good at waiting. She closes her eyes, pulls her right arm against her body. Her wrist is starting to throb again and she knows she will need painkillers before too long. She listens to the noises in the dark behind her. She listens to the noises Bobby makes in the dark behind her, in her bedroom. She feels, for the first time in so long she can't remember, the sensation of a body falling into bed behind her. He is large, she realizes, not for the first time. The mattress sinks and she braces herself and smiles because of it.

I'm out of my fucking mind, she thinks. We both are. He shifts, trying to get comfortable. She hears his breath, feels the material of his shirt brush against her back. He groans very lightly and she knows his wound is hurting him, as hers hurts her.

We make quite a pair.

We do.


Finally, finally he settles and she can tell he is lying on his side, too — left-hand — mirroring her position. He pulls his knees up slightly. He's very warm. He smells like everything she covets.

She closes her eyes.

She waits.


Then he's touching her. Tentative at first, but still like he's been doing it all their lives. It's inevitable, this flesh on flesh. She's not even surprised, really. But she opens her eyes because she doesn't want to miss anything.

He slides one hand up the back of her shirt, feeling bones and vertebrae and the spaces in between. He slides and slides, feeling the small expanse of skin. He spreads his fingers, feels the contours of her ribs. She lies still. She lets him. His fingers reach the base of her neck, and higher, to her hairline, then make the slow descent back. She exhales, makes a motion as if to roll over.

"No," he says quietly, keeping his hand flat and steady. She stops. "No. Please. Okay? Not yet."

She waits.

"The problem…" he begins. He clears his throat. "The problem…with almost dying. The problem is seeing what's on the other side."

His hand has reached the base of her spine and it stops just above the gentle swell there. She can feel his breath on the back of her neck, in her hair.

"It was dark, and quiet. And…there was nothing. Nothing."

Do not cry, she tells herself. Do. Not.

He clears his throat again. "And I realized, everything is here."

He presses his hand against her then, to emphasize.


Tears are a funny thing, she thinks, as she licks one away. There are so many times I should cry and I don't. She feels his hand leave her back, feels fingers brush her cheek. They linger for the briefest moment, tracking a trail.

"Why are you—?"

She laughs. "Don't take it personally. I've been saving them up. For just such an occasion."

He wants very badly to kiss her but settles instead for resting his forehead against the back of her shoulder.




Later he says, "You're not really going to quit. Right?"

His voice is light but she feels the weight behind the question. She thinks about leaving it, all of it, leaving him behind and taking off, someplace hot, maybe. Fucking Mexico sounds great right about now. It makes her heart feel light for one glorious moment.

Then it all just hurts.

"No," she says. "Course not."

"Because Ross said—"

"Yeah. I know."


She shakes her head, surprising herself with the intensity.


He breathes then, easily, for the first time. "Okay." His hand moves on her back again, fingers curling in slightly against skin. Holding on. "Okay. Good."


Later they are still not asleep.

"You have plans tomorrow?" he says. His hand is on her hip, his lips in her hair, almost.

She laughs. He can feel it in her spine. It makes him smile.

"Bobby, it's Christmas."

"I know. Yeah."


"Do you?"

She feels him shake his head.

"I bought a new book—"

"You're coming with me," she says, surprising herself one more time. No turning back now, Alex.

"I can't—"

"You can. You will. I need…your hand," she says. "I have two presents to carry, you know."

"Well…if I can help."

She grins. He makes her grin. She wants to kiss him, so much. She bites her lip.




Finally, finally, they sleep.