Title: Sticks or Stones
Author: Scribere Est Agere
Pairing: Goren/Eames
Spoilers: After Purgatory
Rating: M
Disclaimer: These characters do not belong to me.

Summary: Breaking the bones.

/

They were waiting for him.

If he hadn't been so euphoric after the return of his badge he would have paid more attention to the quiet. If he hadn't been so intent on puzzling out Eames and her strange silence he would have noticed the strange silence surrounding him. It was so quiet, too still, the night air filled with the sounds of people trying to not breathe.

But, he didn't hear.

They were waiting for him and he didn't know why he was surprised, really. Had he really thought he'd get off that easy, with a poor dead rodent curled in his desk drawer? If he did, he was getting soft after all, way too soft.

He fumbled with his key and realized suddenly how tired he was and how everything would be okay tomorrow after sleep, and he and Eames would be okay again right, right?—

He pushed open his door and pushed inside and they were on him.

How many, three? Four?

Hard to tell in the dark and hard to tell with your head down and your hands up and your voice raised in surprise, then a kind of agony.

Who sent them?

Copa? Stoat? Testarossa?

He'd probably never know but fuck if they weren't trying to kill him.

No, they weren't trying to kill him he decided after the second, third hit; they weren't trying to kill him because if they were he'd be dead already. They avoided his head, mostly, and his general vital organ area. They were just messengers, sending a brutal, painful message.

Message fucking received.

They were waiting for him with fists and feet and one asshole had — brass knuckles? A roll of quarters? Another had a pipe? Stick? Who could tell in the dark and the furious flurry and after the fourth or fifth hit he didn't care and he stopped making any noise at all because he just wanted it to stop.

And the word, that fucking word that wouldn't go away — rat rat rat — each guttural grunt punctuated by a corresponding pound pound pound.

Ah god I got it I got it I got it all right just go away already I gotta go back to work tomorrow and I gotta fix things with Eames—

They were waiting for him and they beat him and he never saw it coming.

/

After they left he lay very still and wondered if he might die after all. He didn't feel like he was dying, but he kind of wished he was unconscious, if even for a little while. Everything hurt. He lay on his carpet a long time and wondered if he should go to the hospital. No, too … complicated. Call Ross? Call Eames? No. And, no.

He started moving body parts one at a time, slowly, starting with his fingers, which all seemed to be intact. Wrists, arms and elbows. Then his feet, working up. Finally, his neck and head. His face felt wet and he was sure he had split his lip or his nose sometime in the fray. Anything broken? He didn't think so, but the right side of his chest hurt like a sonofabitch. He rolled to his left side and waited some more. He'd gotten very good waiting these past six months.

He remembered the meeting he had in the morning, first thing, the meeting Ross had reminded him of, twice, and said it would be in his best interest to not only attend, but arrive early, seeing as it was his first day back, and all.

And all.

Everything hurt.

Meeting.

Breathe.

Ah god ouch—

Eames.

He got up.

/

So he was late for the meeting, his first day back and all. He limped in as quietly as he could, favouring his right side as much as he could without making it too obvious. The rest of his messed up appearance — the part that actually showed above his shirt collar — would just have to speak for itself. He'd done a shitty job patching up his face, he knew, but fuck if he was going to explain anything to a doctor anywhere. Or anyone else, for that matter.

As he made his way to his seat there were casual, irritated glances thrown in his direction, then double takes, then frowns, a few elbow pokes and some snickers. Eames, however, well. She'd make a shitty, shitty card player, he thought and not for the first time. Mouth falling slightly open, eyes wide with an open naked shock and the frown lines digging in. She made an involuntary move to stand up and come over to him but he beat her to it. He collapsed into a chair across from her, barely suppressing a groan.

Everyone waited.

Silence.

"Something you want to share, Detective?" Ross asked dryly.

"What do you mean?" Bobby put on his best innocent face but Ross just continued to stare, as did everyone else. Bobby caved, waved a dismissive hand. "Oh…you know. Celebrating my return…local bar…too much…uh…some fisticuffs ensued."

Ross nodded. "Right." He cleared his throat. "Let's…continue, then."

Bobby made a great pretense of opening his folder and pulling out files and papers and his pen, all the while knowing Eames' eyes were on him. He listened to the drone of Ross's voice, counted to 20, slowly. Finally he glanced up. She was staring at him.

You all right? she mouthed.

Great, he mouthed back. He even smiled a little. Then his lip split open again.

/

She was waiting for him outside the bathroom door. He'd done a passable job at cleaning up his mouth, holding a cold wet paper towel against the cut until the bleeding slowed again.

"You should see the other guy," he said moving his mouth as little as possible as he sidestepped her. "Come on. We gotta go see MacKay before he kills another one of his babysitters."

Alex wasn't buying it.

"You're walking funny," she said flatly from somewhere behind him.

"I always walk funny." He grabbed his coat and his folder and headed for the elevator. He felt positively blissful.

"What the hell happened to you?" she hissed trying to keep up, trying to get a better look at his wounds.

"Nothing I didn't deserve," he said cheerfully and, surprising himself, he almost meant it.

/

Halfway through the morning he realized everything hurt like hell and it was the best he'd felt in months and months.

/

They were in an alley, dank and dark, picking through abandoned, rotting boxes and waste and Eames was grumbling and watching him with one eye and Bobby was ecstatic. He was almost humming to himself as he clambered and climbed and called to her about what he was finding.

"Good for you," she muttered. He wanted to laugh out loud.

He came across a metal beam, lying across a piece of material. He pulled on the material but it began to rip. He needed to move the beam. He grinned and tried to lift it. It was too much, however. He grunted with the effort and a shooting stabbing pain gripped his right side. Not good, he decided, clutching his side and turning away from her fast. Too slow, too late. He heard her heels slam on the asphalt, felt her push up against him, one arm around his back, the other across his chest.

"Bar fight my ass," she said, her voice low and angry, but not – he noticed happily – as angry as she'd sounded yesterday. Progress, progress. "Sit down. Now." He did, on the nearest pile of crap. She crouched in front of him. He wanted to smile at her but he was afraid he'd start bleeding again and well that would just mess everything up.

"I'm really tired of you lying to me," she said. He nodded.

"I'm really tired of lying to you," he said. She nodded.

Then her hands were on his face, gently pressing and probing. He closed his eyes. She touched his nose, his cheekbones, his jaw line, his bottom lip, so softly. He could hear her breathing.

"You can be such an ass," she said. He nodded again.

Then, before he could protest, she was unbuttoning his shirt with quick, nimble fingers, pushing the blue tie aside to gain better access—

"Uh…Eames—"

He looked around. She ignored him. She sucked in her breath and bit her lip before she began to berate him, loud and open.

"Jesus, Bobby—"

He looked down. Even he had to admit the bruises were impressive, starting at his shoulders and moving down and around his torso, his arms. Short of undressing him entirely in the alley she would have to be satisfied with what she saw in the semi-darkness. He felt her small, cool hands slide and probe, the sensation both disturbing and infinitely sensual, even through the raw haze of pain.

She gripped his forearms tightly, her face very close to his now.

"You tell me what happened right now or I swear to god I'll walk out of here—"

He didn't say anything and she didn't let go of his arms.

"Ambushed, Eames," he said finally, closing his eyes again. God he was tired. "They…jumped me…in my apartment…"

"Who?"

He shrugged. He really didn't even care anymore. It was done, maybe, he thought. He was alive, mostly, and working, in a half-assed way. Working with Eames and she was kind of talking to him. So, there was that, at least.

"Didn't see. Might have been…god…who isn't angry enough right now to want to beat the shit out of me? You could have been one of them, for all I know."

He'd meant it as a joke, but the look on her face oh crap—

"You'd better be fucking kidding me—"

"I am, I am," he reached up a placating arm, then huffed in pain. "I mean, fuck, you woulda killed me—"

She watched him with an expression he couldn't quite name and probably never would. She buttoned up his shirt. Her fingers were shaking.

"I'm taking you to the hospital," was all she said. And, she did.

/

They had broken something, after all. Well, cracked two ribs, which could have been broken for all the pain they were causing. She waited with him through the examination and X-rays and answered the doctor's questions best she could.

Finally, finally, he was put in a room with painkillers and the note under 12-hour observation scrawled on his chart.

"Ross is gonna kill me," was all he said in the end. She sat stiffly on the edge of a hard orange plastic visitor's chair, face drawn and haggard and something else maybe.

"You have a death wish, Bobby, you wanna get yourself killed, undercover work and sneaking around and getting the shit beat out of you all for this fucking job—"

"You…you think I did all that to come back…just for the job?" He said it louder and harsher than he intended and his voice filled the small room and it got her attention. She stared at him, poised on the edge of her orange plastic chair and he knew, he knew she was remembering training her gun on him and everything after. All that shit.

It got very quiet then. He lay on his side and watched her watching him. He didn't have anything else he could say, not right then. She tilted her head and her hair shifted across her face a little. She looked down at her lap.

"You must be tired," she said.

"You, too."

"I am," she said.

"Me, too."

"Yeah."

She moved to stand.

"I'll let you sleep."

"Stay…for a bit."

She sat. She smiled.

She nodded.

/

When he woke up it was dim and quiet, as dim and quiet as it got in a hospital at night. He shifted in the white, narrow bed and felt something warm press against his arm. Eames' head. She'd fallen asleep on her orange chair, her head on her arms resting on his bed. Her hair was splayed across his skin and he swore he could feel every separate strand where it lay. He didn't dare move again because when in his life would he ever again feel her hair and her light, even breaths skim across his bare skin?

When, indeed.

He closed his eyes.

He opened them again and watched her sleep for a bit.

He waited for everything and for his bones to mend.

/

Fin