Eames sat down wearily on a bench overlooking the harbor, pulling her coat tightly around her. She'd walked the length of the Esplanade twice without running into her partner. He wasn't answering his phone and she didn't have any idea where else to look for him. The sun was dipping toward the horizon and storm clouds were moving in. The mid-winter wind was blowing colder off the water and she was chilled to the bone. It was time to go home, but she was reluctant. Maybe one more walk up the Esplanade and she would grab a cab back to her car. By then it would definitely be too cold to walk it again, especially if the wind kept up like it was.
Getting up from the bench, she pulled her coat more snugly around her and walked with the wind mostly at her back, so she could see the people she was passing. She was almost at the end of the walk when she saw him, leaning on the railing as he looked out over the water, face to the wind. That figured. She approached casually and leaned against the railing beside him, back to the wind. Unconsciously, she sniffled, and he turned his head at the sound. "Eames. What are you doing here?"
"Looking for my idiot partner."
"Because I'm cursed. God help me for caring about you, Goren."
He looked back out across the water. "God has very little to do with that, Eames."
She shivered as much at the cold as at the tone in his voice. Annoyed, she said, "Do you mind if we take this out of the cold, please?"
He didn't move, hoping she would take the hint and go home. She took the hint, but responded by burying her shoulder in his arm and shoving him hard. "Let's go," she said, not willing to argue about it.
He hesitated, thinking about trying to send her on her way, but he sensed that would cause more problems between them than it would solve for him, so he went along with her, allowing her to guide him down the path toward the southern end of the island.
When she shivered again, he slipped out of his coat and draped it over her shoulders. She tried to protest. "No, it's too cold for you to be out here in only your suit."
"I'm fine. Take the coat."
"Take the coat."
It was warm and comfortable and she reminded herself that it was his fault that she was so cold. After all, she'd been looking for him all damn afternoon. She pulled his coat tighter around her, and she was warm for the first time in hours.
She cast a glance toward him. His hands were buried deep in his pockets and his eyes were cast down at the ground. "Correct me if I'm wrong," she said. "But weren't you acquitted of murder this afternoon?"
"You were there," he answered.
"So why do you look like a condemned man?"
He kicked at a rock in the path, sending it skittering into the grass. "Do you want to know where I went this afternoon?"
She did but she was also afraid to find out. She took a deep breath. "Where?"
"I went to Cypress Hills Cemetery, to Lori's grave...to say good-bye."
She tried not to react, but she couldn't help it. Regardless of the outcome of his trial, Lori was still dead and nothing would change that. His acquittal did not erase the responsibility he placed on himself for her death. Quietly, she said, "You did not kill her."
"I know. But I didn't save her either."
She was quiet for a moment, considering how to answer him. "You said on the stand that his rage gave him an edge that you did not have."
He shrugged. "I guess we'll never know."
She knew better than to try talking to him while he was in a mood like this, so she walked beside him in silence the rest of the way to her car.
The drive to his apartment was equally silent. Goren stared out the window, lost in thought. He ran through the events of the night Lori died, now that they were once again clear in his mind, but he could not think of anything he would have done differently. He could not have fought any harder; he would have been injured just as badly. Maybe, if he'd had his gun...of course, if Mustello had gotten his hands on it, it could have really sealed his fate. The bottom line was that Lori was dead, and nothing he could have done would change that hard, cold fact. He'd done what he could, but it wasn't enough. Just one more inadequacy, one more failure. His mother would not be surprised, and neither was he.
Eames glanced at him from time to time, trying to judge his state of mind, but he was closed off to her. She knew he bore the burden of Lori Hodges death heavily, but she wasn't sure there was any way she could ease that burden for him.
She parked outside his apartment and they got out of the car. She waited on the sidewalk by the car and watched him walk toward the building. It took a moment for him to notice she was not with him, and he turned, his brow furrowed into a puzzled frown. "Is something wrong?"
"Do you want me to come up with you?"
He hesitated for a moment before finally nodding. "If you don't mind. You don't have to if you don't want to..."
With a sigh of deep frustration, she stepped away from the car and walked toward him, giving him a shove when she reached him. "Just stop talking and go."
She followed him into the building.
He unlocked the door and let them into the apartment. He went into the kitchen as she hung up his coat and then her own. When he came out, he handed her a glass of wine and sat on the couch with a tumbler full of scotch.
She slipped off her shoes and tucked her legs up under her, comfortable in his apartment and with him. He watched her, a look of amazement on his face. She noticed. "What's the matter?" she asked.
"You...know...you know what happened that night. You know that I-I failed. I failed in my job. I failed as her friend. And yet...you're here. You're still here."
"Of course I am. I made a commitment to stick it out for the long haul, Goren. You're my partner and my friend. I don't take either of those relationships lightly." She took a drink of her wine. "I don't see what happened as a failure on your part, Bobby. You were seriously injured. You didn't turn your back on her or walk away when trouble came calling. You faced it head on. You tried your best, but for once, you were overwhelmed. Someone else got the upper hand, and you're just not used to that. You're human, and sometimes we get bested. It happens. So you deal with it and you move on. Don't dwell on it. Don't let it destroy you. For my sake, if not your own, let it go."
"I'm not sure I know how to do that."
"Find a way. Do not let this consume you. I'm sorry Lori had to die, but this serves as a reminder that you are not invincible. You can be hurt, Bobby. He would have killed you if he had the chance; he almost did. I don't know how you feel about that, but it scares me. I'm not ready to lose you."
He continued to watch her, a look of bewilderment on his face. "You...feel that strongly?"
When she spoke, there was an intensity in her voice that rivaled his. "I want to get one thing perfectly clear. In my life, there are few people outside my family who really matter to me. And your name sits alone at the top of that list. You may not think of yourself as important, Bobby, but you are. You're very important to me."
As she watched his face, she was struck by an overwhelming feeling that he was beyond words right now, almost beyond feeling. As much as he relied on words, as powerfully as he always used them, he was not as adept at receiving them. She set her wineglass on the coffee table and reached out to remove the tumbler from his hands and set it beside her glass. Sliding closer to him, she leaned in to brush her lips over his.
He allowed the soft kiss, then he withdrew, studying her as he carefully considered his next words. Quietly, he said, "You...have an out, Eames, if you want it. We're partners, and that's all we have to be. I need you as my partner. Anything more..."
She reached toward him. "Shh. Before you say something really stupid. I know you offered me an out, and I do appreciate that. But I don't want an out. I never did. I always knew exactly what I was doing, and it was what I wanted to do. Now if you want to back out..."
"I never said that," he protested.
"Then what's the problem?"
Silently, his eyes scanned her face, then dipped down to look at her body. Once he was distracted, she leaned in again. This time, when she moved to kiss him, he met her halfway and he didn't hold back.
Morning found him sleeping soundly beside her in the bed. When she snuggled into him, he pulled her close, never waking, and she decided this was the way she wanted to start every morning. She drifted back to sleep in his arms.