Disclaimer: I do not own these characters in any way. Simply borrowing them for my own pleasure.
I did not use a beta reader, so all mistakes are my own.
This is a continuation of the storyline I started in my other story "Behind the Glass" and follows the events of "Frame".
Custody of the Eyes
"Even in our sleep, pain which we cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will comes wisdom through the awful grace of God." - Aeschylus
The early morning sunlight slowly cast its rays across the sleeping face of Bobby Goren. He looked haggard and older than his years as he shifted fitfully in his bed, rubbing a large hand over his aching eyes. He blinked a few times in the too bright light, then sighed hollowly before turning his head to look at his bedside clock. 8:30. Oh crap, 8:30! I'm late for work. Then bam, it all came flooding back, every tortuous moment of the last few days. Beginning with Frank's death, flowing in to Declan's confession and ending with the pity he saw etched clearly on the faces of his fellow Detectives as he walked from the squad room last night.
He suddenly felt like he was drowning in two inches of water, like he should be able to just shift positions and the water would stop flowing into his mouth and nose, but he couldn't. He was powerless to stop the sensations that were pouring over him.
How do you breathe when your lungs hold no air?
How do you stand when your legs have no bones?
How do you think when your thoughts are as sticky as glue, every image running into the next and linking up like long, slow, overfilled box cars on a track to nowhere?
His stomach clenched so violently he thought he might be sick. He wrenched his body up from the cocoon of pillows and blankets and sat on the side of the bed, his head resting in his hands while he waited for the nausea to pass.
Alex Eames, his police partner of eight years, was lying quietly on her side of his bed, watching him sleep. Sometime during the night she had disentangled herself from his sleeping form and curled up instead against one of his pillows. Her body was still but her mind was spinning. She had breached a barrier in their very platonic relationship, one that she herself had assisted to carefully build, brick by brick, over their years together on the Job. They had always had an intimate relationship on some levels, emotionally charged but rarely physical in any way. Touching, other than in strictly socially acceptable ways had been taboo, at least until Declan Gage cast a wide path of destruction through Bobby's life and left him virtually split in half by grief. His pain last night had been so raw and overwhelming that her actions had been beyond thought. She had willingly crawled into his bed and held him to her, consequences be damned. She had given comfort and taken it. But sometime during the night, when his head was pillowed against her breast and his slow breaths were warming the hollow of her throat it was not comfort she felt, but a slow spreading desire and a glimpse of what sleeping with him every night for the rest of her life could be like.
What have you done Alex, she was thinking, when she saw him suddenly launch himself to the side of the bed.
She pulled herself into a sitting position and bridged the gap between them. She heard his breath coming in ragged gasps and knew the reality of what had taken place yesterday had hit him all over again. She remembered how it felt when she had woken up in the empty marital bed she had shared with Joe on her first morning without him. Before she could stop herself, she had pressed her hand into the small of his back. At her touch, he slowly turned until his eyes made contact with hers. He held her gaze only for a second, then closed his eyes and retreated back into himself.
"I'm right here, Bobby. It's gonna be OK." She let him work through his moment of panic his way, silently, except for his husky sobs. There were so many things she wanted to say, that she wanted him to say, but he needed a chance to work through this at his own pace, so she stayed silent too.
When his breathing had roughly returned to normal, he finally broke the silence. "You, uh, y-you are late for work, Alex."
Her breath caught in her throat at the raw sadness in his voice. She hesitated before responding, not certain of his reaction. "I put in for a couple days of leave yesterday."
"I can't ask you to do that." He was shaking his head now and she felt the tension mount again in the back muscles laying beneath her hand.
"You didn't. I wanted to."
"You don't need to..."
"Oh Bobby," she answered simply, "Of course I do. You're my partner. What hurts you, hurts me."
She felt his sobs begin to rise again under the hand that was now gently caressing his back before she heard them, so she did the only thing she knew to do. She nestled her slight body against his more substantial one, wrapped her arms tightly around him and waited for the storm to pass.
Bobby finally let Alex convinced him to take a shower. She laid out fresh clothes for him to put on. She told him to come out to the living room when he was finished. He followed her instructions exactly. He felt frozen, only her words or her physical prompts on his hand or elbow galvanized him into any kind of action. For some reason he kept thinking about Wally, the insurance guy turned spree killer with Aspergers's Syndrome, a high functioning form of Autism. Wally had walked like a robot and had to verbally explain his every emotion because he was physically unable to express them otherwise. Bobby suddenly felt like he had a glimpse of how that might feel.
He spent the rest of that first post-confession day wandering around his apartment from couch to table to chair to bed, like the walking wounded, nearly mute and completely numb. Alex guided him through the completion of necessary evils, from deciding where to send Frank's remains to making arrangements for time-off. She gave him only those tasks she felt he could handle, which truthfully was very little, and then took care of the rest herself.
Every subsequent day blended into the next with a familiar cadence. Weary, sand-filled eyes blinking against the morning sunlight. Periods of time spent sitting in front of plates of food and cups of coffee that he couldn't bring himself to taste. Early evening intervals spent listening to the echoing conversations from after work visitors that sounded like they were being shouted from a neighboring mountain top instead of being launched less than a foot from his ear. Finally falling back into bed in the dim velvet blackness of night only to not find release in sleep, but to instead tumble through sweat dampened sheets in REM torment as his nightmares followed familiar themes; Frank on the cold, steel table in the morgue, autopsy stitches puckering his gray-tinged skin; Declan laughing maniacally as he told Bobby he was the son he never had; his own unanswered cries echoing off cinder block walls as leather restraints and chains bite into his dehydrated flesh. His only salvation from his own subconscious mind comes when his whimpers are answered by Alex's small hands and silky hair, her murmured words of comfort and her safe arms wrapping around him, chasing away the demons and ushering in a few small hours of sleep.
As time passed, without work and seemingly without purpose, he found he had a lot of time to think. He thought about life and how it was too short and how trite he had always thought that sentiment was, but how he found it now to be absolutely true. He thought about Frank, about his unfulfilled promise, about the last words he had said to his brother and how guilty it made him feel. He discovered that the fears he had worn so close to his body for most of his life that they actually cast their own shadow, like hearing the first whispers of mental illness or becoming an womanizing alcoholic, were not the ones that finally came to haunt him. He decided that his job was not, and should not, be all he had in is life that felt right. He had for most of his life believed that it was his fate, perhaps even his duty, to be alone and isolated and separate. He found he couldn't believe that anymore. He realized that he wanted to love and be loved, something he had always longed for but could never quite obtain. He realized that he didn't just love Alex as a friend or as his vitally important work partner, but that he was hopelessly and irrevocably in love with her.
For some reason the phrase custody of the eyes, kept coming into his muddled thoughts. It was a practice that nuns used to observe, the modest downward cast of the eyes that was to remind them to focus themselves inward toward their prayers and not outward toward the world and its temptations. It was a concept that had fascinated him as a young boy in the Catholic church and now was the only term he could come up with that somehow described how he had conducted himself toward her all these years. Alex had been right in front of him, offering him everything that was warm and lovely and life affirming, but he had kept himself from distraction by never quite seeing her.
He couldn't avert his eyes anymore. An invisible switch in his heart had been flipped and now all he could see was her.
A/N: My intention here was to try to describe Bobby's grief as tangibly as possible. If it is a bit overwrought, I apologize, but this is what grief felt like to me after my own intense losses and I guess you can only write what you know :-).
I plan on this being a three chapter story. This one was mostly from Bobby's point of view. Hopefully, part two will be more Alex and part three, well - Ship ahoy!