Chapter One - Love Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry
Alex watched as her partner walked from the break-room back to his desk, noticing the swagger in his step as he tossed a Zero candy bar high into the air with his right hand and caught it behind his back with his left.
She narrowed her eyes, wrinkling her nose. Show-off.
A trickle of guilt worked its way down her spine. Even though she was still angry at Bobby, she shouldn't begrudge him the happiness of having finished six months back at MCS. Besides, they'd closed a record number of cases in that time, and Bobby had bent over backwards to make sure she got more than her fair share of the glory. Hell, the contortions the man had done to get her to forgive him made Cirque Du Soleil look like a bunch of hippos on bungee cords. The man's ego might be gargantuan, but it was also limber.
Alex really didn't want to be petty. He'd apologized-many times and in many ways. He was constantly trying to make amends. He brought her coffee, every morning. And not that cheap shit from a vendor, but a Starbucks' Venti Mocha, with extra whipped cream. He'd always grabbed the tab for lunch and taxis and had even asked her out for drinks last Friday evening. Okay, it had been a tad bit rude for her to decline the offer by citing an overwhelming need to shave her legs, but forgiveness came slowly for Alex. "Forgive" and "forget" were two words that did not go well with her Irish temper.
She knew in her heart that it was only a matter of time before the happiness of having him back as her partner would wear down the brittle shell of indifference she was using to keep him at arm's length. She was trying valiantly to hold on to the anger, but Bobby Goren, while a thoughtless son-of-a-bitch, was also a man of many charms . . . most of which she was sadly susceptible to.
While Alex tried hard not to let her simmering resentment impact on her work with him on cases, she wasn't a saint, and passive-aggressive behavior was one dish she knew how to cook and serve. These days, she was down to simply poking her partner with a verbal sharp stick once or twice a day just to keep him off balance. In fact, when she was being honest with herself, Alex was really just waiting for him to grow a spine and ask her to stuff it. At that point, she figured things would be back to normal. She hadn't figured it would go on this long, but, hey, if he was willing to be her personal verbal punching bag, far be it for her to argue.
Alex toyed with the collar of her vermillion silk blouse and watched as her partner plopped down into his chair across from her and started to tear open the candy bar's wrapper. Raising a finely arched brow, she let out a little huff.
Bobby's hands stilled instantly and his gaze darted in her direction. Alex tried unsuccessfully to stop the small smirk that quirked the corner of her mouth. His balls were still hers. The power made her feel a bit giddy. "You gonna eat that?" she gestured at the candy bar with a sharp jerk of her chin.
Her partner's eyes widened, flashing back and forth between Alex and the candy bar in question. She could almost see the little hamster spinning the wheels of his giant brain as Bobby frantically tried to search out the 'right' answer to give her. "Um, I, ah . . . well, yes, I . . . I was planning to." He looked down at the candy bar once more before looking up at Alex and nodding once.
Nice try, Bub, but no cigar.
"Really? Well, okay then." She tilted her head slightly, allowing her gaze to drift slowly down over his body, until the desk blocked her view. She watched as he straightened his shoulders and attempted to suck in his stomach. She flashed an innocuous little smile at him and looked back down at the file open in front of her. Hmmmm, the report is back on the seagull droppings and fly larvae collected in the McPherson case. Interesting!
Alex could see Bobby's hands in the upper part of her field of vision and watched as he fidgeted with the candy bar.
"Do you want it?" He asked softly.
She looked up to see his arm stretched across his desk, the candy bar in the palm of his hand, a hopeful yet nervous look on his face.
Alex shook her head. "No. No thanks."
His hopeful yet nervous expression changed to confused and anxious in two-seconds flat. She smiled at him again and looked back at her file. Who knew seagulls ate mice? Maybe I need to get one for my apartment. Miss Kitty's doing squat about the vermin population.
Again Bobby's hands fidgeted with the candy bar, turning it over and over.
"You don't think I should eat this?"
She looked up again, noting that he sounded a bit peeved. Oh, gonna try to wrestle one those hairy boys out of my grasp, huh? Not. So. Fast. "Goren, I'm not your nutrition consultant. You're a . . . big boy. You can make your own food choices."
Bobby leaned forward, his eyes narrowing on her. "What do you mean by that?"
Alex sniffed. "You heard what I said. Now I need to get back to this file, if you don't mind."
"Are you saying I'm fat?" He glanced around the room, noticing more than few interested spectators listening in on their conversation. His face turned a not so attractive shade of red and he glared back at her.
Alex slapped the file closed. "I never said you were fat. I merely asked you if you were going to eat that candy bar. "
"You said, and I quote, 'You're a BIG boy.'" He snarled at her.
Okay, fine, the snarl earned you one ball back, but I'm keeping the other as a nick-knack. It goes with my couch. Alex shrugged. "I don't believe I said it quite that way, but yes." At his open-mouthed look of horror, she continued. "Well, you are . . . a big boy."
"I'm not a boy," Bobby growled. "I'm a man."
Not until you get that other ball back, Buster. "Semantics, Goren, but fine, you're a big man. I was just thinking that with all the time off you'd let yourself go to seed a bit, that's all."
Who knew Bobby was a soprano.
Again she shrugged, the muscles in her neck tightening. Hard as Alex tried, and she did try, the words came tumbling out, propelled by the remnants of her anger. "Yes, you know, out of shape. Not fat, really, but maybe a little tubby?"
"Tub-" Bobby swallowed his retort and threw himself back in the chair, the hinges squealing their complaint. Bobby sat there for a few moments, his arms crossed across his chest, his gaze leveled at his partner.
Alex bit down on her lower lip. She knew she'd gone too far this time. She hadn't meant to hurt his feelings, only to tweak them a bit. But she'd put her foot into it big time and she steeled herself for the backlash of her partner's temper.
It never came.
He just sat there, arms crossed over his chest, like he was protecting all his vital organs from her wrath. He sat there and watched her and for the first time in a long time she found she couldn't met his eyes. She swallowed the lump that had formed in her throat and glanced down at the closed file.
"No, you're right, Eames. I have let myself go." He lurched to his feet and used the candy bar to sink a three-pointer into the garbage across the room. "I appreciate you letting me know."
She lifted her eyes to his, hoping the regret showed in her face, because she knew her pride just wasn't going to let her apologize.
"You know, I think I'm going to call it a day and head home." He grabbed his jacket off the back of his chair and shrugged into it. "Have a good night, Alex, see you Monday."
She watched his retreating form and the lump she'd just swallowed settled into the pit of her stomach and turned into a big, fat rock.
To Be Continued