A/N: The story within this story is actually one that I heard told years ago on The West Wing. It always stuck with me as one of the best friendship stories ever. I mean no disrespect or infringement or anything by using it. Just felt it applied to Bobby and Alex.

As usual I own nothing relating to Law and Order CI, the characters and again, the story within this story.

I Know The Way Out

She was very quiet today, he noticed. He glanced up at her briefly, but she was intently reading the report. In actuality, she had been very quiet for some time now. Maybe even weeks. It wasn't the angry quiet that he had experienced after he came back from suspension. Nor was it an uncomfortable quiet. Still....he couldn't help but be a little worried.

"Eames?"

She glanced up. "Hmm?"

"Are you not feeling well?" He tried to hold her gaze.

"Oh. No Bobby. I mean, yes, I feel fine. Why?"

"I don't know. You seem....very quiet lately." He rushed to continue so she wouldn't get the wrong idea. "I mean....just...not yourself. Not that you're not doing your job or anything. You're just...I don't know."

She nodded her head briefly and sighed. "I know Bobby. I'm sorry. I guess I just feel...lost." Then, shaking her head violently, she added "Listen to me. I sound so dramatic. I think it's just the holiday blues. I'll be fine. Let's go check out this guys alibi." And with that she got up and grabbed her coat. He had no choice but to follow.

//

The drive back to 1PP was relatively short, and aside from a few comments here and there about the case, they really didn't speak. When they pulled in Bobby got out of the car and started to walk towards the elevator when he realized she was still in the car. He backtracked and tapped on her window. She looked as if she was mulling something over.

"Eames?"

"Bobby, I think I'm gonna call it a day ok? You don't mind right? I'm tired and just want to go home and sleep."

He just looked at her.

"Eames. What..let's..."

"No. Bobby. I'm ok. Really. Just...tired." She managed a weak smile.

"OK. You'll call if you need anything?"

"Mmmhmm."

He walked towards the elevators again, but turned around and watched her. She was staring out in front of her with a vacant look on her face. He knew that look. He understood her inertia. His gut began to ache for her. "Oh, Alex." He whispered to himself.

//

She went home and changed into some soft and comfortable sweats. Looking around, she realized, this was the first time she hadn't decorated her house for the holidays. She meant to, really. But it seemed so much effort for just one person after all. This past year had been so bad, in so many ways. She and Bobby had always celebrated the holiday in one way or another. But this year, after everything, it just seemed so...trivial. A tree and some lights weren't going to heal her heart or even his for that matter. They had settled into a comfortable partnership again, though she missed the close friendship they had once shared. She knew he wanted that back, as she did, but again, the effort seemed to great for her and he was in no shape to pursue that, so they just went on as it was.

Walking around her apartment, she found herself thinking of Joe. Ten years since he had been gone. The reopening of his case, and the closure that brought her in the end helped her to let go for good. She would always hold a place for him in her heart, but now, she finally realized that if she lived to be even eighty, he would have been a very small part of her life.

Her life. Her life. Would she go on like this forever? No husband. No child. Would her friends, and an occasional date be enough? What about when she retired? Would she still see Bobby, or would he fade away, like so many friends she had in Vice? There was a time when she couldn't imagine not seeing Bobby anymore. There was a time when she wondered what the true nature of their relationship would end up being. But his suspension and downward spiral had taken its toll on both of them, and she no longer really thought about them and any kind of future. With him, it was now day by day. And who knows, he may decide to quit someday, or she might, and they would probably drift apart in the end.

//

Pictures of her family and her nephews and nieces lined the end tables. She loved her family, her brothers and sister. They had stood by her through it all. But even they had their own drama and lives to attend to. Her parents were getting older and her kidnapping had taken a lot out of them. Her father still showed interest in her career, but she found it easier to just gloss over things lately, rather than retell the stories that she used to regale him with.

Her eyes came to rest on the picture of her youngest nephew. The one she carried for her sister. Had she know that in reality, that would be her only chance to be pregnant, she would have reveled in every kick, every movement, even the labor. She still saw him regularly, but six year old children had lives outside their family, and birthday parties and soccer games seemed to take up a lot of his time now.

She sighed. Drifting into the kitchen she put on the kettle. She heard a soft knock on the door.

She looked through the hole and opened the door to Bobby.

"Bobby. Whats up? Something wrong?" She ushered him in

"No. Eames. Alex. Listen. I have a story to tell you." He shrugged off his coat and laid it over a chair. The kettle whistled and he walked ahead of her into the kitchen. He proceeded to make two cups of tea, knowing how she liked it and then grabbed hold of her elbow. He gently led her to the couch.

"Like I said. I have a story."

"A story."

"Yes."

"Like...a ....bedtime story?" She smirked slightly

"Well...not exactly. But, maybe you'll be able to sleep better once I tell you."

"Bobby.." she sighed

"Listen."

//

"There was once this guy. He was walking down the street when he fell into a deep hole. Now, the hole was so deep and there was no ladder, no ledges, no way for him to get out. So he called out to anyone who could hear him. First, a boy came by. 'Help me kid, I need help getting out of this hole'. But the boy replied he was too little to help, he would run off and try to find someone. Next a woman came by. She too, said she couldn't help him herself, but would find someone who could. This continued for some time, various strangers coming by and offering to go find help. Finally, a friend of his came upon him. The guy called up to him 'thank god you're here. Help me out'. Instead his friend jumped in the hole next to him. The guy turned to his friend and said 'What are you doing? Now we're both stuck down here.' The friend turned to him and said 'Yeah. But I've been down here before, and I know the way out.'

//

Alex had tears in her eyes and felt a little relieved as she finally able to cry. As the tears fell down her face, Bobby leaned forward and pulled her against him. He rubbed her back and said

"It's ok Alex. I've been here before. And I know the way out."

- fin -