A/N: Post-Frame, with spoilers from that episode and Faithfully (and in this story, Faithfully occurs right after Frame, as it was intended).
I don't know how long I sat in the interrogation room, but by the time I managed to get up from the chair, Alex was already handling the booking. I knew she would. I couldn't face her though, couldn't face anyone, so I slipped out without a word.
I went home on autopilot. Instead of seeing the throng of passengers beside me on the subway, I could only see Declan's face. It was so painful to know that he had been behind Frank's death. Sure, it had been Nicole who had actually done the deed, but Declan had started the ball rolling.
And then I thought about Nicole. Alex mostly likely thought I was upset about the simple fact that she was dead, but that wasn't it. I wanted her to pay for the things she'd done. Dying was the easy way out. No, I didn't want her dead, but only because I wanted her to spend the rest of her life in prison.
My cell phone rang three times during my trip home, but I ignored it. I knew it would be Alex. Eames. Funny how I usually called her Alex in my head, even though her given name rarely slipped past my lips. I knew Alex was worried about me, about what that interview had cost me. I hoped that she had not watched it all, but I knew she probably had. I had worked so hard over the past seven years to keep the worst parts of my life from touching her, but now she had surely seen how fucked up I truly am.
She probably also thought I was mad at her, upset that she had poked into my personal life in the form of phone records and finances. I'm not. Now Ross, him I'm pissed at, but I can also understand why it had to be done. And Alex was only trying to get proof of my innocence, not search for guilt. But then Ross had to bring up my father.
At the memory of the conversation in my boss' office, I entered my apartment and slammed the door. Ross had been wrong to ask me about that, to dig into that. It wasn't any of his damn business. And now Alex knew. I hadn't wanted her to find out like that. I did want to tell her, but…not like that. What did she think of me now? I wanted to believe that it would make no difference to her, but the little boy in me that craved her love and respect more than the man in me would ever admit was scared of how she might react. Oh sure, she held it together just fine in Ross' office. That was Alex's strong suit – she held her emotions tightly behind a steel curtain. Only on a few occasions have those feelings slipped to the surface: when I reopened Joe's case, when she had to read her transfer request out loud in court…I wondered idly if it was coincidence that the occasions all related to me.
I left the lights off in my apartment, having decided that the darkness better suited my mood. After tossing my gun and badge onto the kitchen table, I headed for the fridge to grab a beer. Thoughts were swirling so fast in my head that it almost made me dizzy, so I braced my hands on the kitchen counter and just tried to breathe. That was where I stood when Alex found me.
"I gave you that key for emergencies," I told her with false heat. I wasn't angry that she had used it, but I was dangerously close to a breakdown and she didn't need to be here for that.
"I think this classifies as one," she replied. I heard her close the door, sliding the deadbolt home, but I didn't look at her or change my position.
"An emergency?" I questioned out loud while in my head I wondered, how the hell can I get her out of here?
"You didn't answer your phone. I was worried." I heard her footsteps as she crossed to the kitchen, stopping about two feet away from me. I could sense her hesitation. She wanted to touch me, but we don't touch. She wanted to talk to me, but we don't talk. So what the hell was she doing here? Our game is simple. We work great together, but when something is bothering one of us, the other one pretends it isn't happening.
"I'm fine." She blew out a frustrated breath, and I wondered if this would be it. If this would be the furthest she was willing to go. It wasn't.
"You're not fine, Bobby!" she yelled, startling me enough that I raised my head and finally looked at her. Her face was a maelstrom of emotion, her eyes held unshed tears. "You're not fucking fine! Your brother was murdered, Nicole is dead, Declan set this whole thing up, your father…" she trailed off there, her voice catching as the tears finally fell. She was crying for me? The sight of her tears was almost my undoing, I almost broke down too, but I couldn't. Could I? Could I share this deep emotional pain with her? Would it help, or would it make her see me as weak?
"Alex," I began, not really sure what I was going to say but then even more tongue-tied at the realization that I had used her first name. She stood with silent tears rolling down her face, and I was frozen. I couldn't move or speak. She dropped her head into her hands, and mumbled something. I had to work hard to hear.
"I don't know why I came here. I don't know why I thought you would share any part of you with me, any part that doesn't have to do with work." She shook her head and started to turn, and that was when the real panic hit me. Not panic that she would see my emotions, but panic that she would actually leave, and then I would really be alone.
"Alex, don't," I whispered as she started for the door.
"Don't what?" she asked without turning around.
"Please don't leave," my voice said without consent from my head. God, I sounded pathetic, but I couldn't stop myself. "Please, please, just don't leave." The breakdown that had been looming since this afternoon in the interrogation room with Declan was now here, front and center. Tears streamed down my face, and the agony of the past few days hit me like a cement truck. Alex quickly came back to me and, without waiting for her consent, I pulled her into my arms and held her as tightly as I could. She didn't even try to pull away. In fact, she wrapped her arms around my waist and held on just as tight.
"Let it out, Bobby," she murmured into my chest. "It's okay."
"I'm so sorry," I told her. "So sorry that I yelled at you and…"
"It's okay. You don't need to be sorry for anything. I'm sorry. You didn't deserve this, none of it. You're a good man." She kept repeating her words over and over, and at some point I started to believe her. I didn't deserve this. I was a good man. I didn't ask for any of this. And then something else hit me. I didn't want to be alone anymore. Alex was helping me. It felt good to let someone in and it felt good to hold her. Almost as if she could read my mind, Alex changed her mantra.
"You don't have to be alone, Bobby. You always have me. I'll always be here for you. You just have to let me in."
Two weeks later, as I drove towards the ferry station to pick Alex up, I realized I was nervous. It was a new feeling for me, to be nervous about a woman. But Alex wasn't just any woman, and despite only recently admitting it to myself, I'd known it for a long time. Nothing had happened between us, nothing sexual anyway, not yet. But things had changed, and definitely for the better. She was by my side for Frank's funeral, and she supported my decision to take some time and visit some distant family. They weren't distant any more, and I owe that to Alex.
I hadn't called her to tell her that I was coming back early, but I also hadn't expected to get called into work so soon. I had hoped to surprise her at her home, but with our jobs, things don't always work out as planned. We had been emailing and texting for the past week while I was in Minnesota, and some of them had bordered on downright x-rated, so I was curious to see how we would act with each other face to face. It's always easier to admit feelings with the written word as opposed to the spoken.
"You were supposed to be away another week," she said to me as she approached. I took a good look at her and it was all I could do not to scoop her up in my arms right then. She was wearing a skirt that fell above the knees and black leather knee-high boots. I felt a surge of lust hit me that was completely unexpected, and I had to look away, mumbling like an idiot about going to see family. She knows that, dumbass, I yelled at myself.
"Well, you look good," she told me, a hint of a smirk on her face. She is so much braver than I am. Our correspondence over the past week had emboldened her and it had turned me into a bumbling teenager. I needed to get her alone and show her just how much I had missed her.
"Well, we should get going," I said softly, deciding that we might have some privacy in the car. I was still unable to look at her for fear that I would ravish her right there in the ferry station parking lot, in front of God and everybody.
She followed me to the SUV, and held out her hand for the keys. I put them into her hand, and then held on for a moment, finally bringing my eyes up to meet hers. I didn't speak, but I'm pretty sure she still heard everything I had to say. After a moment, I went around to the passenger side and climbed in. She smiled at me through the windshield, and then got in the driver's side. She started the engine, but before she could put the car in gear, I put my hand on her arm to pause her motion. She turned her amber eyes to mine and looked at me expectantly. I took a deep breath. Be brave, Goren, I insisted.
"I missed you," I said quietly. Her smile was immediate and genuine. And beautiful.
"I missed you, too."
"No, I mean, I really missed you," I said, trying to convey everything into those few words. She took her hand off the gear shift and put it onto my cheek, gently caressing my face.
"I like the beard," she told me, her way of acknowledging all that was passing between us.
"Yeah?" I asked, my eyes closed as I reveled in the sensations that were brought on by her soft touch.
"Yeah," she replied, and I could feel the words almost as much as hear them since she had leaned across the front seat and now held her lips close to mine. We hadn't kissed before, but now I found myself unable to wait another second. I opened my eyes and closed the last distance between us. It started off sweet, and innocent, and all of the things a first kiss should be. But I'd been denying myself for too many years. After a moment of hesitancy, I pulled her into my arms as best as I could in the vehicle, and threw myself into the kiss. It went on for an eternity and yet not nearly long enough before she broke away, breathing hard. Her lips were slightly swollen and her cheeks were flushed, and my desire for her hit me even harder than before. I watched as she caught her breath, her eyes darting back and forth between my eyes and my lips. I wanted to see if there was any sign of doubt or regret, but I found none of that. Instead, she moved toward me again, and we resumed our assault on each other's mouths. I reveled in the sounds she made, soft little moans when I changed the angle of the kiss, or ran my fingers through her hair. And then I remembered where we were supposed to be, and that we were technically at work. And once again, she read my mind. We pulled away slowly.
"We have a murder scene to get to," I said needlessly.
"We can't very well get away with the whole don't-ask-don't-tell thing if you show up there looking all hot and bothered," I teased.
"And you can't show up with that," she grinned, gesturing in the general direction of my lap. I looked down, and my face reddened at the more than obvious bulge in my jeans. I mean, I knew it was there, I just didn't realize it was so visible.
"It's a half hour drive," she continued casually, clearly unbothered by my blatant desire for her. "I'm sure we'll both look better by then." She turned her attention back to the gearshift, but I stopped her again.
"Work first. And then…" I trailed off, still wanting her to take all of the brave steps.
"And then you can really show me just how much you missed me." She smiled at me again, and I couldn't help myself. I had to smile back. I know, it's crazy, but I felt happy. And Declan was so wrong. It didn't have anything to do with Nicole, or Frank, or even Declan himself. It was Alex and her unfailing loyalty that helped me to finally be free.