A/N: Not exactly the ending some have hoped for, but I left it hopeful at least. Thanks again, and again, and again to everyone who has read this story and who have commented and/or put it in their favorites. Please if you haven't told me what you thought yet, do so!


Present Time

Setting the bottle of scotch down on the coffee table, he stared at it through his dry red eyes and fought the internal war he had been battling for weeks now. The bottle sat full, seal un-broken, while the glass sat empty next to it. His hands twisted around each other as he focused on his breathing; it was easier to do that than it was to focus on his emotions. His breathing he could control, manage, but for months it was getting harder to control the emotions that used to be so easy to subdue, either by his own defenses or by the numbing amber liquor which now sat untouched.

There were some things a man didn't want to know, or at least suffer through, and one of those was his emotions. He never wanted to understand what they meant or did to him. There were some that should stay buried in the depths of his soul forever.

Through his many years of being a profiler, he had let himself experience or at least understand every type of emotion that existed, no matter how disturbing they were. It was all for the work and the job, but it was never personal. They were always other people's thoughts and feelings, never his own. He had never let those same emotions out within himself. He had never gotten too close to his own soul for fear of what he would find. He was scared what suffering he would endure if he knew himself intimately.

Seven months ago, he was shown, with great disturbances, his soul and all the frightening emotions he had kept well buried and hidden for most of his adult life. The grave evenness of his voice, the measured way he talked as of late should have spoke volumes of the suffering that had been crippling him for a long time. It didn't start with Tates, but long before then; it had started with his mother's decline in health, but it erupted with the last hours of her life. The confession she had given him had pushed him to the edge and he had been tittering over it and hoping for something, anything, to pull him back.

Then his brother came to him and told him of a nephew that needed his help. At first, he was apprehensive, but then he thought that maybe this was what he needed; that he needed one person in his family to value him, to appreciate him, and to accept him. He had thought that his nephew could have been all those things he had wanted but never got from anyone else in his family.

He was a fool. And the suspension on top of it all felt, in a way, appropriate.

Appropriate yet devastating.

His work was his everything. He was his work. He had nothing else in his life but his work and he been kept away from it again, only this time it was much more painful. He was left with his defenses destroyed and his emotions rubbing raw against every movement, thought, deep breath and slight sigh. He had felt like he was being driven slowly insane and his own body was the instrument of destruction; and when he drank to try to ease the rawness away, he felt like he was drowning, choking on his own suffering…his own self-inflictions.

Then everything with Stoat happened so fast, and the captain gave him no choice, he had to do the damn undercover operation. Then again he was forced to choose between the Job and Alex but this time he chose the Job. And like most that were damned and stuck in purgatory, Hell soon followed.

His only regret was that he ended up dragging Alex there with him. That thought weighed on him hard, like a stone threatening to break him in two. Giving up and giving in, he reached for the bottle. Twisting the cap off, he tossed it onto the table as he went to pour a glass.

A pounding sounded through the quiet apartment, radiating from the kitchen. Someone was knocking on his backdoor. Bobby groaned at the thought of who it might be. There were only a handful of people who knew to use the backdoor and not the front. Recently only neighbors and bill collectors knocked on the front door.

Setting the bottle down, he slowly made his way through the living room and into the kitchen. Flicking on the light, he caught sight of the top of her dark blond hair as she tried to tiptoe her way up to see through the glass in the top of the door. He had to smile at the sight, but it was soon replaced with grief and fear. Damn her.

Alex was not looking a bit happy as he opened the door partly and stared down at her. She glared up at him, rolled her eyes, and then with irritation snapping her words she told him, "Move your ass, Goren."

He obliged. Opening the door further, he stepped back to allow her into his home.

"You're hopeless, do you know that?"

"I've considered it."

His playful manner only seemed to piss her off even more. Alex rounded on him and stuck her finger right into his chest. "Stop considering and accept the fact that you're hopeless."

He really didn't have time for this. "I've accepted the fact that you think I'm hopeless." That's it Bobby, dig yourself in deeper. Push her away, like always.

Alex crossed her arms and shook her head disapprovingly. "Unbelievable." With that, she turned away from him and sat down heavily at the table in the corner of the room.

Bobby stood for a moment, just watching her. She was tired, her eyes were looking red and the mascara was smudged around her eyes; her shoulders fell forward as she rubbed at her forehead, and she was still wearing the clothes she had worn to work that day. "Go home, Eames," he managed to say before he lost the nerve to try and kick her out; before he felt the desperate need to make her stay.

Going back into the living room, he picked up the bottle and the empty glass and went back into the kitchen. She was still there at the table, and her expression was one he had seen too often. It was that worried look that seemed to be the only one she had been giving him lately. Rounding the counter, he sat the glass down heavily next to the sink and then faced Alex. Leaning back against the counter, he took a sip right out of the bottle.

It's too late. She had told him that once, but it was just then that the reality of those words sunk in. It was too late and he didn't know how to fix it. He didn't know if it could be fixed…if they could be fixed. It was too late because he did drag her down with him and now he was putting them both through Hell.

"Do you really believe that I was right?"

Those words registered in his aching head but he didn't give any indication that he had heard her. He blinked back from staring at the refrigerator across from him as he thought about her question. After taking another little sip that burned blissfully down his throat, he looked over at her. "I think...yeah," he nodded a little to himself.


Bobby eyed her as he was again struck at how well she knew him. "But...so was I."

Alex's smile was soft and sad. She leaned back in the chair and said simply, "I knew it," she said as she shook her head. "It doesn't matter."

Bobby felt the anger starting to brew; he hated that she thought that. "No, it does," he stressed.

"Like hell."

He pushed away from the counter in haste. The thought of just leaving or going into his room and shutting her out was invading his mind, but he was feeling too tired, and the alcohol was making it hard for him to reason. "What'd you want from me, Eames? I mean, God, I'm…getting so sick of this."

"Of what, exactly?"

Bobby stared at the floor, not willing to look her in the eyes. He was giving up and he didn't want her to see that. He should have known that she already did. "What'd you mean of what? I'm sick of everything." Looking up, he saw the concern in her eyes and again his heart was broken. "Especially that look. You worry about me way too much."

Alex nodded in agreement. "You're right, I do. And who's fault is that?"

His. It was always his fault. "I know," he declared with a sigh of defeat. "And that's why it's time that it stopped." Once it was said, he couldn't take it back.

That hung in the air between them, stretching on and filling the room until he felt like he was suffocating.

Exhaustion was pushing down on him even harder now. Bobby stepped up to the counter and leaned on top of it, supporting his weight with his arms. His left hand idly played with the bottle of scotch; with his fingers he would unconsciously twirl the bottle on the counter as he thought. If they were going to get anywhere, whether it was to a good place or not, it was going to happen here and now. It was time to punch it out no matter how hard it felt, no matter how much pain it would cause.

"I've tried, Alex. I've tried so hard to keep this from affecting you, I really did." He took a long glance at her, anticipating her response; she didn't give him one. Returning his stare to the bottle he was twirling around, he continued, "I realized that it didn't or…wouldn't have mattered how hard I tried to stop…my pain, from reaching you…it would happen, did happen, anyway. And…for that, I'm sorry."

Alex was quiet for a long moment. He could hear her sigh and deep breathing, it caused his body to shake from anticipation and fear. "Bobby, I know when you lie. You lied to me when you told me you were trying to 'protect' me. If....If you're lying now..."

He gave a curt nod, cutting her off, because he knew he couldn't deny it. She was right he did lie. "I did, then. Not now. You were right when you told me that I was only thinking about one thing: getting my job back. I was willing to do anything, even break promises, to get what I wanted."

"Were you that desperate?"

"To get back?" Bobby finally looked over at her and held her eyes. "Absolutely. The job, Alex, it's all I've got left."

Alex stared hard at him in disbelief. "You've got me."

"I've got you?" He was starting to lose control, let the anger spill out. "Yeah, Eames, I've got you, as my partner. But without the job I don't even have that. Having you doesn't pays my bills. And it sure as hell doesn't get me up in the morning and it doesn't get me through the day and convince me that maybe I still have a life worth living," he nearly yelled as he gripped and bottle and slammed it back down on the counter.

She was staring at him, hard and long with her lips set in a tight frown. Tears began to wet her eyes, threatening to spill over like his anger. "Is that all I am to you? Someone you work with and not someone you can depend on to help you."

"You've helped plenty. All you do is help me, lie for me, cover my ass. Don't worry, I get it. All you do is run damage control for me," the bitterness in his mouth tasted like acid on his tongue. God, this was not what he wanted to happen. Bobby knew he was being cruel and making Alex feel like shit; the thing was he couldn't stop the anger once it was out. He had been fighting it too long.

Bobby had to look away from the hurt in her eyes. She was starting to crumble inside and it was the most painful thing to watch. He was so sick of seeing the hurt in her and knowing that he was the cause of it. He was miserable, and he was making her miserable. "Jesus, Eames," he had to distance himself again, retreat and hide; it was the only way to try and get his control back. "You shouldn't have to be tied to me any longer."

"Great, Goren, just perfect," she scorned at him nearly on the brink of tears. "Is this how you really want this to end? After all we've been through, you're willing to toss this partnership aside like it never mattered to you?"

"Partnership," he said with a soft breath into the room. "We're always saying that we're partners. I told my brother we were partners, you told me that you were my partner when you yelled at me…I mean we're never friends." He shifted his dark troubled eyes back to hers. "What happened to being friends?"

"You don't care to be my friend."

That accusation felt that a punch right through his chest.

Alex continued with all the fury of a wounded lover, even though they hadn't been lovers in years, "But it doesn't matter because the one thing this past seven months had taught me was to be afraid that once our partnership ended, I might never see you again. Friends don't just disappear on each other. You hid from me for seven months, Bobby, and then you stopped answering my calls and then you lied to me not once, but twice. And now this! God," she growled out as she wiped a hand over her face, fighting back the tears, "what's the matter with you?"

Bobby stared at her and he was sure that any and all emotion was no longer visible in his dark eyes. He nearly went numb. "Maybe that was our mistake. We were always more than just friends even when that was all we should have been. From the first day we met, we were together either as partners or a couple, or both. And now...I don't think we know how to be partners anymore."

"That's because you're afraid and you think it's easier to give up on yourself, on us, instead of fighting for it."

"I've fought, and I lost. Eh-uh, it-it just took me eight years to realize that."

Alex wrinkled her head in confusion. "Eight years? Are you saying you regret our entire partnership?"

"I..." Bobby hesitated, "I don't know. Maybe."

They both stared at each other; one with shock the other with no emotion at all. Neither of them moved for a long time until he backed away and left the room.

Bobby eyed the front door from where he stood in the living room but did not move toward it. He started this war between them. He had to be the one to end it and to do that he had to be honest with not only himself but with her, it was the only way. "So, where does that leave us?" he asked into the quiet room. He knew that she was there, watching him, he could feel her.

He turned and sure enough Alex was leaning against the doorframe to the kitchen. She was watching him but no longer with concern or even sympathy; she was trying to hold herself back, protecting herself. He couldn't blame her. His honesty could destroy them both. He was going to destroy her if she let him.

Bobby turned away from her and shook his head. Alex Eames was something else. He had been horribly, brutally honest and even cruel to her and she was still there, waiting for him. If only he hadn't had screwed it up but that was life. His life. He always had to fuck everything up. He was a damned man after all.

Biting his lower lip, he had to keep from telling her the real, honest reason he decided to go to Tates, to put himself through "heaven". His nephew was one of the reasons, but not the one that kept him pushing it until the very end in that mental ward. He had to know the limitations on his mind, his sanity. He had to know that he was never going to be like his mother, or worse, his father...potential father.

Too late. Bobby shook his head and looked around the room. His books, his papers, his furniture, TV stand with no TV, stereo with no music coming out of it in months. Worthless, all of it.

"What happened to it?"

Alex's voice entered his foggy head; it sound distant, almost like it wasn't real. Bobby blinked back and focused on what he was looking at; he had been starting at the empty television stand. "Uh...I sold it...needed to cash. I hardly watched it anyway," he rushed to explain, not knowing why. It was just something he always did.

Bobby suddenly couldn't stand anymore. Easing down onto the couch, he stared passively at the empty space in the room. Maybe Tates did do something to him. It just wasn't as terrifying or openly violent as he thought it would be. He never had to struggle this hard to keep himself together since he was a child. He never had to measure his voice to contain the subtle anger that was always coursing through him, ready to explode. He never felt this empty; never this weak mentally and physically. He never had to fight so hard to twist his lips into a smile.

Depression wasn't even close to describing the nature of his being.

He had first noticed that something was wrong the day he was suspended. Talking to the Chief of D's had been one of the hardest things he ever had to do, not because he was scared of the Chief, but it took all the strength he had to keep his voice calm and to keep at bay the anguish and anger that was brewing in his body and clouding his mind. Then, later that day, he had went to visit Frank to find out where Donnie was and he had lost it. All that anger he had unleashed on his brother wasn't even half of what he had been feeling.

After that, and spending the next six months trying to figure out his life, he had drifted further and further into himself to the point that he was going through life in almost of a fog. It reminded him of when he was a kid and his mother got worked up into one of her delusions and paranoia and he stopped functioning.

Physically he was there, but mentally he was gone, into his head and away from the pain. He went numb and it took a lot to bring him back out of it. "Too much external and internal stimulation" was the explanation the doctors gave him to why he would do it; why he would 'dissociate'.

That survival technique had come in handy when he was at Tates. After a while, when he was done trying to get the guards to give him water and seeing how long it took, he could have lain on that steel table without realizing that he was hot and suffocating. During that time, the lights never burned his eyes and he was never thirsty.

It had been seven months, and he was still in that fog, connecting but not connecting. It was easier to hide from the pain than to embrace it day in and day out. He had to survive until he found something else to get him through it; he had no choice but to let his mind step back away from it all.

Alex was standing in front of him. Bobby looked up at her and waited for her to say something. He didn't trust himself to speak.

She smiled at him, but he couldn't justify smiling back. "Do you ever sleep?" her soft, almost non-existent voice asked him.

"I could have been. 'leep with my eyes open," he slurred out of his dry mouth.

She smirked until she saw something flick over his eyes. He wasn't joking.

Bobby shifted on the couch, letting Alex know that it was okay for her to sit next to him. "I started doing it when I was...um, nine, I think. My mother, at night she would pace all over the house...back-and-forth, and she would come into my room. If I was awake, she would...get mad. I was supposed to be asleep. If I was asleep and she wanted me to be awake, she'd get mad about that...so...I would hide under the covers so she couldn't tell. I would hear her come into the room and just...stand there, breathing and...chewing on her nails until her fingers bled, of course she never felt the pain. Schizophrenics have a high tolerance for pain. Cigarettes would burn her fingertips and she never knew it. Anyway, I became afraid of her at night. I had to figure out a way to...to, uh, be asleep and awake at the same time so she wouldn't get mad. Eventually I could get myself to sleep with my eyes open. I'm not quite sure it's actually sleeping though. And I can wake up out of the deepest sleep at the sound of a pin dropping."

"Why didn't you just put a lock on the door?"

Bobby turned his head to be looking at her. "I was nine. I tried to block the door a few times but..." he shook his head. "It made her, angrier. It wasn't until I became a rebellious angry teenager that I put a lock on the door. But even then...she found a way."


Bobby had no idea why Alex was asking him about it. She never pushed like this; why was she doing it now? It wasn't like her. He had a strong suspicion that something was wrong but he was too tired to figure out what. "Took the hinges off," he explained. "When you live with a paranoid schizophrenic the word 'privacy' doesn't exist."

"I've seen you sleep with your eyes closed when we were together."

Bobby nodded. "It was a conscious effort. Normally, when I know I'm going to be alone, I don't think about it. I didn't at Tates...but, I think everyone there slept with their eyes open."

Alex rested her head against the back of the couch and stared at him. "You never talked about it with me."

He was telling her now, wasn't he? "About Tates?"

She only nodded.

"I told you what I told the Chief," he told her as he looked down at his hands. "Nothing else happened."

Alex scooted closer to him until her knee touched his thigh. She had curled her legs up on the couch when she had sat down. "I think something else happened. You're not the same. It's like you're not feeling."

"I feel. I feel all the time. Maybe too much and that's my problem." Just then, Bobby felt a hand on his shoulder and the world snapped back to him so sharply that the small hand felt like it was made of fire and he jerked up with his eyes losing the dark fog that had settled over them.

"Bobby, are you okay?" her voice was barely heard in his ringing ears.

No! He wanted to scream that at her but instead bolted off the couch so fast he hit his legs on the coffee table. "Shit," he growled in reflex and at the pain. His senses had been dulled for such a long time that the pain seemed almost unbearable when it wasn't even serious.

Since leaving the kitchen earlier he hadn't been fully awake and now he was paying for it. His defenses had been down and he was so emotionally and mentally numb that he could have told Alex anything she wanted to know. He could have told her about Brady. The only thing he talked about thankfully was his mother. It was okay, he could handle that because Alex knew about his mom so it would be okay.

"Eames," he said as he finally looked towards her. What he saw caused the air to get stuck in his throat.

The room was empty.

What the fuck? Where did she go? Bobby looked around the room, in the bathroom, his bedroom, and then went back into the kitchen. She wasn't there. Looking down at the counter, he saw a note laying on top of it. It was from Alex. She couldn't deal with arguing with him and she needed time to think and calm down. She had gone home.

Bobby stared at the note and then took it with him into the bathroom. Turning on the light, he dropped the note into the sink. After reading over the lines one last time, he looked up into the mirror and nearly froze. He looked worse than Hell. Disgusted with his self, he left the bathroom and stumbled into the bedroom and on his bed.

He had imagined that Alex was still there, talking to him, when she had left right after he left the kitchen. That unnerved him to the very center of his soul. It wasn't the first time he had done that. When he was at Tates, lying restrained on that table and drifting further into his head, he had imagined her there with him, helping him by talking to him. She was the only person who could calm him, who could ground him. And he had pushed her away only to dream her up again.

As he stared up at the ceiling in his bedroom, he had the sudden urge to move. He had to get up and leave his house. It took a lot of convincing to get his body to agree with his need to move, but eventually he got out of bed. Grabbing his keys off the table in the kitchen, he left the apartment.

The drive out to Rockaway was slow, taking nearly an hour with all the stop lights and traffic. He hardly noticed it all though as he found that he couldn't keep his mind clear and focused long enough to take in his surroundings. Whole blocks would go by and he didn't remember a single thing he saw along the way. It wasn't until he was crossing into Canarsie that he realized that he wasn't heading toward Alex's house anymore. The streets of Canarsie were nearly deserted. It was going on midnight and it wasn't like it was summer yet. The night air was still cold and bitter with the wind blowing hard signaling a coming storm.

Pulling into the parking lot at Canarsie Pier, he spotted a familiar vehicle parked right up at the entrance to the walkway of the pier. Parking in front of it, he got out and looked it over and shook his head in amazement and disbelief. Stuffing his hands into his pants pockets, he began the walk down the pier.

It was so dark that he couldn't see the water of Jamaica Bay yet he could hear the waves and the water breaking against the support beams. He also couldn't see who was standing at the very end but he already knew it was her. Coming to a quiet rest next to her, he leaned against the rail and stared down into the abyss.

"How'd you know I was here?" she asked him, confused and curious.

"Didn't." Bobby didn't take his eyes off the water as he asked, "Why'd you come here?"

He felt her shrug against his arm before she explained, "I was driving through, on the way home, and I saw the sign for the pier and thought about the time you brought me here. It was then that I knew that I could trust you, that I could be your friend. I just had to come here. This place has changed a lot in eight years."

"After eight years, everything changes."

He felt her eyes on him as she asked, "What happened to us, Bobby?"

Bobby couldn't return the look as he kept his eyes on the dark water. "We've changed too," he told her soberly. After a moment, he had to chuckle a little as he said, "It's crazy."

"What is?"

Bobby shrugged shyly as he softly told her, "That we, keep...finding each other." He let that settled between before he looked over at her. The moonlight helped him to see the her face. She was looking back down at the water. "I was wrong."

She lifted her head and looked at him.

He knew she wasn't going to say anything so he took a deep breath and confessed, "I'm, uh, having...problems. I haven't been...I'm just...not myself. I shouldn't have taken my anger out on you, Alex. You didn't deserve that. What I said back there, I didn't mean any of it. Well, some I meant, but not...what I said about..." he had to take a deep breath and as he did so he felt his mind wondering. "This is so hard," he said mostly to himself as he struggled to refocus on what he was trying to say. Finally, he gathered enough courage to say the rest of what he needed to. "I-I want...I want to try to fix this...us. I still want to be your...partner, and friend, if...if, uh...if you still want me, that is. If not, then...I understand."

Alex was quiet for a long time. Bobby hated when she did that, it drove him crazy not knowing what she was thinking. "Are you seeing someone?"

Bobby's head snapped up at that. "Seeing someone?"

Alex hid a smile as she said, "Yeah, like the department shrink?"

"Oh," Bobby felt the blush heat his face at his embarrassment. "I had to see Dr. Olivet when I was on suspension, but...I-I, uh, I wasn't open with her. I basically told her what she wanted to hear. I will," he confirmed with a nod. "I'll do whatever it takes to get past all this...To move forward."

"Then," Alex said with a deep satisfied sigh, "I'm not leaving you, Bobby. I never intended to. I just wanted..." she had to take a moment as her voice quivered.

Bobby painfully listened to Alex struggling to hold back her emotions and he felt himself wanting to go numb so he didn't have to feel the hurt. Stop it! He yelled at himself. This had to stop, no matter the pain, he had to stay focused. He had to connect with people again, to engage, especially with her.

Hesitantly, he wrapped his right arm around Alex's shoulders and pulled her close to him. She seemed reluctant at first before giving in and burying her face and body against him as the wind gusted across the bay at them. Off in the distance, he saw lightening streak across the sky before the faint roll of thunder was heard.

The storm was getting closer.

Neither one of them said anything as they turned and took the long walk back to their cars. Bobby helped Alex into her car and went to shut the door when she stopped him.

Alex was looking out across the bay as she commented, "We need to leave. It's going to start pouring on us soon."

Bobby nodded as he looked out to where she was staring. The lightening was getting more erratic and continuous.

"You have a long drive back to Greenpoint."

"About an hour if I go the speed limit and hit all the red lights," Bobby told her like she didn't already know that. "Want me to follow you home?"

Alex finally looked up at him from inside her car. "Sure."

Bobby gave her a small soft smile before he shut the driver's door and headed to his car. He followed her into Rockaway and then around some streets to her apartment. Parking behind her car, he waited until she was on her stoop unlocking the door and looking back at him before he got out of his own car. She waited and held the door open. It wasn't long after he shut it that the rain started to fall.

"I think we're in for one nasty storm," Alex said as she kicked off her shoes. "If you don't want to drive home in this, and I highly encourage that you don't, you can stay here."

Bobby wasn't about to argue with her. If he tried to drive home in the rain with the way his mind has been going in and out of consciousness, he would end up in Jamaica Bay. He nodded his thanks as he slowly took off his shoes at the door and watched as she went into the kitchen. He soon followed.

As he watched from the entryway, Alex moved effortlessly around her kitchen preparing them both a cup of tea. Bobby was still amazed and awed that Alex still lived in the same apartment that she had been taken from only two years ago by Jo Gage. "You're very strong. You know that?"

Alex turned and smiled warmly at him. "So are you."

"I'm not as strong as you think." Bobby was once again remind of how he was struggling mentally to keep awake and out of his head. "But, I'm trying," he said as he sat down at the small table that was against the wall. It was the same table she always had in her kitchen, the one with the burn mark.

"Trying is better than giving up," Alex told him as she sat a cup down in front of him before occupying the other chair. She was silent for a moment while sipping the tea. Making a disgusted face, she said, "This one's yours."

Bobby chuckled as they exchanged cups. He watched her take a sip out of that cup and asked, "Better?"

Alex smiled as she took a long drink and nodded. "Much." She studied him as she cautiously sipped the hot tea. "Can I ask you something?"

Bobby wondered why Alex thought she had to ask permission to ask him a question since she never bothered to before. He slowly nodded as he waited.

She took no time in asking, "Do you really regret meeting me eight years ago?"

Bobby wasn't expecting that and nearly choked on the tea he was trying to swallow. Once he got his breath back, he answered, "No. I told you that I didn't mean some of what I said earlier. I wasn't thinking clearly." Staring down at the counter, he rubbed at his head before looking up at her. "Have you ever...thought about that?"

Alex stared at him as she nursed the cup in her hands. "Sometimes when something happens or when you do something that reminds me of our time together."

"You don't," he stopped himself as he struggled with not saying anything that would offend her. Bobby took a big gulp of the tea before continuing. "Have you ever, regretted it?"

Alex gave him a weird look at he couldn't figure out before she smiled and shook her head with a slight laugh. "No. God, Bobby, being with you was one of the happiest times of my life. I never regretted knowing you, or being with you. And," she quickly added, "despite the way our relationship ended, I'm grateful for our partnership and how we've still managed to be here, together."

Bobby, for the first time in a long time, let himself smile happily at that. His eyes sparkled a little as he told Alex, "I've been thinking about it a lot lately. My relationship with you was the best I ever had, and the longest." He had to look away from her as the memories once again filled his mind. Staring intently at the table, he unconsciously rubbed at his head as he honestly told her, "Thank you, for everything, Alex. I haven't told you this enough, but....I really do, a-ah, appreciate, what you do."

He felt her hand on top of his, sending her warmth through his body. Looking up, he saw the smile that was uniquely Eames, bright and beautiful, and her eyes staring lovingly at him.

"Now," she said teasingly, "was that so damn hard?"

Bobby blushed and sighed, "You have no idea. Took me, what? Two weeks."

"Try eight years."

Bobby smirked as he sat back and finally took the cup into his hands. It wasn't the drink he wanted, but he thought that maybe it was time that it became what he wanted. He needed to stop drinking, he needed to stop being angry, he needed to get out of the depression that was slowly killing him, but most of all, he needed start living again. To connect.

As he look up at Alex, he was overcome with a new found sense of joy, and love. After all this time, they were still together, but he knew that what they had was much more than just friendship, or partnership. It was a connection and understanding with each other that nearly went beyond all that, maybe even beyond family. He didn't know quite what it was, but he accepted it as openly and as intimately as he could.

It was also time he started talking to her again. He wasn't, and couldn't, tell her everything, but he could try. And with him, that was something.

"Have, uh...have I ever told you..."

Alex looked up at him in near anticipation and shock. "Told me what," she encouraged when he had trailed off.

Bobby shifted a little in his seat; he was nervous and fearing her judgment until he realized who he was talking to. This was Alex, and she had never judged him. "About, how-how, uh...how I can sleep with my eyes open?"

Alex rested her head against her left hand and smirked. "Now this is going to be interesting, I can tell," she told him with a twinkle in her eyes.

And just like that, they were okay again. Bobby felt himself smile before taking a deep breath and began his story.

THE END... for now