Chapter Six

After several minutes, Alex walked to check on Bobby. He'd managed to get his shoes and socks off, but seemed to have collapsed after that. He lay curled up on his relatively unscathed left side and was deeply asleep. His graying curls fell over his forehead, and he looked less like a weary police detective than a troubled boy. For a moment, Alex didn't know if she would laugh or cry. She took a deep breath and unfolded a blanket over Bobby. He stirred slightly, and she gently brushed her hand over his curls. He slept for several hours. Convinced that he wouldn't wake up, Alex left briefly to pick up supplies at the corner bodega. She was relieved to discover Bobby was still asleep when she got back. She appeased her rumbling stomach with a sandwich and a cup of tea. She'd just finished the snack when she received a call from Ross.

"How is he?" the captain asked.

"Asleep…Poor guy was exhausted." Alex felt fairly exhausted herself.

"Inside his head?" Ross asked cautiously.

"Hard to tell…He hasn't talked about resigning, at least…But he's confused about the cops who've supported him. I'm afraid Bobby isn't used to getting a lot of support."

"Well, he didn't get what he deserved from the department," Ross said. "You should warn him…The DA's office is apparently working on a plea with Copa, but they want Bobby to sign off on it."

"He'll probably agree to whatever they want," Alex said.

"Yea…The first thing he asked me this morning was if Copa was in protective custody."

"Yea," Alex said wearily. "That's Bobby."

After promising Ross she would call me if she needed anything and that she would get some sleep, Alex ended the call and checked on Bobby. He was still deeply asleep, and she returned to the couch. She flipped through the many magazines resting on the table next to it, and settled on a recent copy of SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, but Alex had had little sleep in the last twenty four hours. Her eyes closed, and the magazine slipped from her fingers.

Something woke her and she saw that the room was dim in the growing twilight. She stared around her and she realized the something that woke her was a choked sound coming from Bobby's bedroom. She rose from the couch and stumbled in the sound's direction.

He was still curled up on his left side, but he shivered. "No," he cried softly. "No…Please stop…Please…"

Alex stepped closer to him. "Bobby…"

"No…Don't hurt her…Please…"

Alex tentatively placed a hand on his shoulder. He calmed almost immediately.

"Bobby," she said again. "It's all right…You're ok…It's ok…"

He stirred, blinked, and looked up at her. He rolled on to his back, and involuntarily cried out in pain.

"Bobby…Are you all right?"

"Uh…I…I've been better," he admitted through clenched teeth. He sat up slowly. "I…I need to go to…"

"Let me help you," Alex said gently. To her surprise, he didn't fight her, but allowed her to help him out of the bed and to walk the few steps to the bathroom.

"I…I think I can take it from here," he smiled weakly. "I'm going to take a shower…I'll be careful…Any trouble, and I'll call you."

Puzzled, Alex watched him disappear into the bathroom. He was remarkably calm. "He's decided," she thought. "And we're so out of sync that I can't tell what he's decided." She walked to the balcony that made up one wall in Bobby's apartment and stared out. "I meant it," she thought. "I meant it when I said I'd resign if he did. For all of his problems…for all that he did…He's the best detective I've ever seen…One of the best men I've ever known…And I don't want to be part of a department that doesn't have room for a man like him." She shook her head. "Do something useful, Eames. Fix some food."

Bobby, dressed in sweats and a T-shirt, emerged from the back of the apartment and sniffed the air. "Soup…tomato…grilled cheese…" he commented.

"I see your detective skills are still sharp," Alex said as she placed two bowls on the coffee table in front of the couch. "The shower help?"

"A little…I'm still stiff and sore…The meds help," he admitted. "But I feel better…a lot better…than when I got home." He moved slowly to the couch. "You need any help?"

"I'm good…I just need to bring in the sandwiches."

"Good…truth is, I made the offer but hoped you wouldn't take me up on it."

"You're in a good mood," Alex said as she sat the sandwiches on the table.

"Must be the drugs," he said lightly. "I took some before the shower."

"No wonder…Bobby…You're not supposed to take those on an empty stomach," Alex said. "And your stomach was really empty."

"Won't be empty long," he said and bit into a sandwich.

Alex watched him closely as they ate. He ate, and ate well, which reassured her, but he was giddy, and giddy wasn't an emotion she associated with Bobby.

"You were hungry," Alex commented as she picked up the plates and silverware.

"Yea…" He gave her a goofy grin made lopsided by the bruises on his face. "It must be the drugs. A guy who just got beat up shouldn't feel this good."

Alex winced, and Bobby's face fell.

"Oh…Eames…I'm sorry…I wasn't thinking…Or at least I'm not thinking well…You're right…I shouldn't have taken those on an empty stomach. Here, let me help you…" He started to stand, but fell heavily back on the couch.

"Bobby," Alex asked anxiously. "Are you ok?"

"Just a little dizzy…and a reminder from my body."

"Should I call the hospital? Maybe you're having a reaction…"

"No…I'm just trying to do too much" He gave her another lopsided grin. "I'm sorry, Eames…I think I need to get back to bed."

Alex was grateful for the appearance of this cheerful, malleable Bobby, but puzzled by it as well. "Do you need any help?"

"I don't think so…If I'm careful…"

She hovered near him as he stood.

"I'll be all right," he told her as he walked to his bed. "You…You really don't have to stay…"

"Yea, I do," she answered firmly.

He shrugged. "I should know better. I'm sorry my couch isn't more comfortable and that I don't have the energy to fight you about the sleeping arrangements." He turned and started to move past the shelf that separated the sleeping area from the rest of the apartment. He turned his head to her. "Thank you…Alex…Thank you." He stepped behind the shelf.

Stunned, Alex stood silently for several minutes. "Those drugs," she thought. "Must be really powerful."

She busied herself through the rest of the evening. She cleaned the dishes, used Bobby's computer to check her email, and responded to requests for information on his condition. She took calls from Ross and Logan and promised to call them if she needed help. She checked on Bobby frequently, each time finding him sleeping the sleep of the exhausted and medicated. Her own body's call for sleep finally became too strong, and she moved as quietly as she could into the bathroom.

Over the years of their partnership a few of Alex and Bobby's personal items drifted into the other's home, and, in spite of their recent problems, remained there. Alex was strangely touched and comforted to find her extra toothbrush still rested in a cup on the bathroom sink and that her older brother's ratty football jersey she'd stolen for a nightshirt still hung from a hook on the back of the bathroom door. She brushed her teeth, slipped on the jersey, and checked on Bobby. In spite of the bruises on his face—which finally appeared to have stopped getting worse—he looked calm and comfortable.

"Oh, God," Alex thought and she clutched the shelf for support. "He's decided…And if he has, so have I."

With so many thoughts racing through her head and trying to sleep on Bobby's slightly lumpy couch, Alex didn't expect to get more than a few minutes of sleep. But soon after her head hit the pillow she was lost to the world.

The strong, warm scent of coffee and sunlight streaming in the balcony window woke her. She blinked, stretched, and carefully stood. She followed the coffee scent into the kitchen, where she discovered Bobby pouring himself a cup of the life giving beverage.

"Hey," he said. "Sorry if I woke you up."

"You didn't." Alex ran a hand through her hair. Bobby thought she was one of the most beautiful things he'd ever seen. "The coffee and the sun did."

Bobby smiled. Bruises and cuts still covered his face, but he looked better than he did the night before.

"You're doing pretty good with one hand," Alex said

"I can manage…thank goodness my left is ok," he said. He took a long drink of coffee. "Eames…" he said carefully. "I think you can leave me alone."

She studied him.

"I appreciate your being here…Really…And what you're doing for me…More than you could ever know…But you have a life of your own…You may need to go to work…At the very least…you need to get a change of clothes…"

"But you…"

"I'll be ok…Look, it's been over twelve hours since I got home…Nothing's happened to me…I know not to take the pain pills on an empty stomach…" He smiled. "I swear that if I need anything…Anything…I'll call you…"

Alex considered his words. Bobby's reasoning was sound. She did need to go home, to go to the office. He did seem fine.

"You…you promise that you'll call me if you feel funny or need anything?"

"I promise," he said solemnly. "I'd cross my heart if I could move my right hand better."

She reluctantly left, but only after making sure his pills were ready and again extracting promises and pledges he would call if he had any trouble. She called him once from the cab and again when she arrived at her home.

"I'm fine," Bobby told her with a smile in his voice during the second call. "I'm just as fine as I was a half an hour ago."

After she called Bobby, Alex contacted Ross. She gave the Captain an update on Bobby and asked if she could come in the office.

"I can use the help, Eames," Ross said. "Things are more chaotic than usual around here. I have to warn you that you'll probably be doing paperwork."

"Noted," Alex said. "But I'll go crazy at home and Major Case is closer Bobby's place."

"Has he mentioned anything more about his future with the department?" Ross asked tentatively.

"He hasn't said anything about work," Alex replied. "He's just…calm…really calm. I think he's made up his mind…But he hasn't said anything to me."

"I hope he's decided to stay," Ross said. "He's a great detective…And I want him to prove the Chief wrong…"

Alex arrived at Major Case a little before noon. Logan briefly gave her a hard time about living a life of luxury, but also asked about Bobby's condition, as did the other squad members. As she plowed through paperwork, she stopped twice to call Bobby. He quickly answered both calls, although his voice was thick when he answered the second time.

"I'm just getting that rest everyone's insisting on," Bobby responded to Alex's concern.

"I'm sorry I woke you…"

"It's ok…I need to take my antibiotics," Bobby said. "The pain hasn't been too bad today."

"A lot of people have been asking how you're doing," Alex said.

"Really," Bobby said after a pause. "Probably worried about who's getting the extra work."

"No, Bobby," Alex said gently. "They care about you."

There was another pause. "Uh…Eames…You…You don't have to come by tonight…I'm good."

"Bobby…"

"Really…You have a life…Things to take care of…"

"Bobby…You're a big part of that life."

Another pause followed. "I…I'm sorry…You shouldn't have to…"

"Bobby…I don't mind…I…I like having you in my life…I like being in your life…and I hope you like having me in yours."

"You're the best thing in my life, Eames," Bobby said softly. "But…but you need to get some rest. I…I can't tell you what you're doing for me means. But you need to take care of yourself."

"All…all right…but I'll call you…And you call me if you need anything…"

"Deal," Bobby declares.

Alex stumbled through the rest of the day. She was weary and realized she missed her own bed. She snuck out early, but Ross only nodded in sympathy when he caught her headed towards the elevator. She reached home, poured a glass of wine, and settled in for a long, hot bath. She wasn't aware of falling asleep, but the ringing of a phone jolted her awake. She shivered as she stepped out of the now lukewarm water, wrapped a towel around her, and lurched to the phone.

"Hello," she gasped when she reached the phone.

"Eames…Are you ok?" Bobby asked worriedly.

"I'm fine," she answered. "I was in the tub."

An image of Alex standing glistening and naked invaded Bobby's mind.

"Bobby…You ok?"

"Uh…Sorry…I was…uh…just getting ready to go to bed…And…I didn't want you to worry or call me…or have to call me…I mean…I'm sorry…Eames…"

"Hey," Alex laughed. "Did you just take some of your meds? You're not making much sense."

Bobby seized on this explanation. "Uh…yea…anyway, I'm sorry I yanked you out of the tub."

"It's ok. I was about to turn into a prune…Seriously, are you ok?"

"Yea…I managed to fix myself some food today…took a long bath myself…got a lot of rest…I feel almost human…I…I did get a call from the DA's office…They're trying to arrange a deal with Copa…They want to talk to me about it…"

"They aren't wasting any time," Alex said.

"I want to get it over with."

"Don't let Copa get away with anything," Alex said.

"I won't…Maybe I'll see you tomorrow?" Bobby clearly wished to change the subject.

"Yea," Alex said. "Maybe I can come by and take you out to lunch."

"Maybe I'll take you," Bobby said cheerfully. "Good night, Eames…and…thank you."

Alex slept well, so well that she was reluctant to leave her bed in the morning. She arrived at Major Case to find the office buzzing. As she strode to her desk, she was stunned to find Bobby at his desk. He had shaved, his hair was neatly combed, and he wore a suit, but no tie. The bruises still were visible on his face and his lip slightly swollen, but he could see through his black eye, and he looked much better than the previous day.

"What are you doing here?" Alex asked in astonishment.

"I have an appointment this morning with an ADA," Bobby answered calmly. "And I thought I should at least visit the office…And I wanted to talk with the Captain."

His last words sent a shiver up Alex's spine.

"And I brought you some coffee." Bobby waved a hand towards a large cup on Alex's desk. "Very strong, very sweet. There's Ross…I want to talk to him before he gets caught up in something." Bobby stood carefully and walked towards the Captain. Ross shot Alex a surprised look as the two men entered the Captain's office.

For the next few minutes Alex struggled to concentrate on her work and not to look at the Captain's office. "This is it," she thought. "He's telling Ross his decision." She took a long drink of her coffee, and felt a terrible pang at the thought it might be the last coffee Bobby brought her. As she stared at her computer screen the words blurred.

"Coffee good?" Bobby dropped into his chair, and Alex started. For such a large man, Bobby could, when he wanted to, move with the stealth of a cat.

"Uh…perfect…Thank you…"

"You deserve a lot more…Thank you…"

Alex glanced at Ross' office. He looked happy, as happy as she could remember seeing him in recent days. A spark of hope rose in her.

"Bobby…"

"H-m-m?" He was absorbed by a file, or at least he appeared to be.

"Uh…I am your partner…I have the right to know…"

"Yes, you are my partner," he said lightly. "But you don't have the right to know everything…"

He was teasing her. He wouldn't tease her if he was leaving. The spark grew into a flame.

"This I have the right to know," she said. "You're staying…"

"For a while at least…I'm not going to push myself too much…" He struggled not to smile, but Alex saw the corners of his mouth twitch.

"Not just for today, you big lug…You're not resigning…"

"Why," he said softly. "Would I resign when most of the NYPD wants me to stay? Or, at least, that's what I hear from the cops I trust…Especially one cop."

Alex grinned. She didn't care if anyone saw. She wanted to hug Bobby, but guessed there would be plenty of opportunity for that later.

"Good," she said. "Good. It's hard to break in new partners…especially when your old one is the best. And I really don't want to resign."

"You know," Bobby said deliberately. "I may still attract vermin…maybe dangerous vermin…"

"We'll be on patrol," Alex declared. "Especially me."

"Thank you, Alex."

"You're welcome…Now, where are you taking me for lunch?"

END

I'm sorry about this one. It didn't so much end as it peetered out.

Patcat