A/N: As I mentioned in the summary, this story has absolutely nothing to do with my other series. This is pre-B/A, and it is immediately post-Amends.
When I finally got home, it was really late.
We'd processed Manny Beltran, taken his confession, and then I'd gotten the hell out of there.
I left Bobby sitting at his desk. He wanted to say something, I could tell, but I just didn't want to talk about it.
Not right then anyway.
As I turned on the lights and locked the door, my mind was racing, but foggy. I kept melding the past together with the present, the dreams with reality.
To put it bluntly, I was fucked up.
And I had no idea how to fix myself.
I had stuffed down the guilt for a long time. Too long really, so now it was bubbling out.
Bubbling…more like erupting.
The only remedy that I could think of was alcohol.
Let me amend that.
The only remedy that I was going to get was alcohol.
A nice hard fuck up against the wall might make me forget about things for a little while, but there wasn't any possibility of that in the foreseeable future.
I mean, I could probably go to my neighborhood bar and pick up a willing participant, but I wasn't into that.
I didn't want a nameless, faceless, meaningless romp. I wanted what I was supposed to have had the first time around.
I wanted someone who loved me. Someone who would listen to me and understand me. Someone to share my life with.
And yeah, that was going to happen.
Vodka it is, then.
I tossed my jacket on the table, and then removed my gun and badge and put them there, too. I stared at my badge for a minute.
My shield. I had wanted it for so long, worked so hard for it.
It was my crowning achievement.
It was something Joe never understood:
"Why do you keep pushing, Alex? You're going to work hard to get what you want, and then you'll get pregnant. You can't be a detective and a mom at the same time."
"Maybe I don't want to be a mom."
"Don't say that. You know you want kids."
And just like that, we were done with the discussion. As far as he was concerned.
As far as I was concerned, the door was still wide open. Because I wasn't sure if I wanted to have kids. In fact, I was pretty sure that I didn't.
But until I was sure, I was going to keep taking those little pills I had stashed in the back of my underwear drawer.
And that was what had started it.
I don't know what had him looking in my drawer that night before he left, but whatever the reason, he found my pills.
"You're taking birth control?" he'd shouted. "Since when?"
"Since I was seventeen," I had told him calmly, not rising to take the bait.
"You've been lying to me all this time?"
"I never lied."
"You never told me you were still taking those things. What happened to wanting kids?"
"You want kids, Joe. I never said I did."
"You never said you didn't."
"Yes, I did. You just don't listen."
"Damn it, Alex! I can't believe you would do this! What else are you lying to me about?"
"No, I'm serious. What else?"
"Nothing. What are you lying to me about? Are you even going to work tonight? Or are you going to meet up with one of your fuck-buddies?"
That had stopped him in his tracks.
He'd stood in the doorway of our bedroom and glared at me with such hatred, such disgust, that I wondered who he was.
Did I really even know him? Had I ever really loved him?
Yes. At some point, I had.
But that time had passed.
"You know what?" he'd yelled. "I'm not doing this right now. I have to go."
"Then go. I won't be here when you get back."
"Where are you going to go? You got somebody on the side, too?"
He'd realized his slip as soon as he said it. But he had too much pride to admit to his error.
So instead, he had turned it back onto me. It always came back around to me.
"You are one cold bitch, you know that Alex?"
"Fuck you, Joe. Just get the hell out."
And then he left.
And he never came back.
Kevin Quinn's murder had brought all of this rushing back.
And Bobby…I knew he wanted to help. I knew he was trying to be a good friend and make sure that justice was done.
But he didn't understand what this was doing to me.
I wasn't upset because I loved Joe so much that I couldn't bear the loss. I was upset because I felt so overwhelmingly guilty.
Joe hadn't been going to work that night. But he had caught up with Quinn because they were friends. Joe was pissed off at me and he wanted to vent.
Quinn had talked him into working the drug buy that had ultimately taken his life.
I tore my gaze away from my badge and wandered into the kitchen. I hadn't eaten since this morning, but I wasn't hungry.
I took a large glass from the cabinet. It wasn't a liquor-drinking glass. It was damn near a pitcher, really. But it would save me the steps of coming back for a refill. At least, not as often anyway.
I put three ice cubes in the bottom and then filled it to the brim with Smirnoff's silver-label vodka.
I kicked off my shoes and carried the glass into the living room. As soon as I sat on the couch, I heard a soft knock on the door.
Of course, I knew who it was. Somewhere on the inside, I'd been half-expecting him.
Not because he made it a habit of coming over, especially not in the wee hours of the morning.
But because he knew I was off. He knew I was struggling.
Maybe I wouldn't need the vodka after all.
And then I laughed at my own ridiculousness.
This was Bobby. There would be no sex tonight. He didn't think of me that way.
So I took a large swig from the glass, closing my eyes for a second as the liquid forged a burning path down my throat.
And then I opened the door.
I could smell the vodka as soon as she opened the door. Although it's not like she was trying to hide it. She held the glass in the same hand that she used to wave me into her apartment.
"Am I interrupting anything?" I asked uncertainly.
I wasn't in the habit of coming to my partner's home, especially not at this hour and not unannounced.
But she was hurting, and I felt partly responsible.
"Yeah, I was having a party," she replied sarcastically. I stood still in the doorway and waited for her to look at me.
"Come in, Bobby," she said on a long-suffering sigh. "You want something to drink?"
"Looks like you've got enough there to share," I teased, searching desperately for some solid footing. I was in completely uncharted territory here.
Usually I was the basket case and she was the rock.
She merely raised an eyebrow at me and then closed the door and locked it behind me.
I still wasn't sure what to do, so I waited as she went into the kitchen and poured me an equally large glass of vodka.
"Did you drive over here?" she asked when she handed me the drink.
"If you finish that, you're sleeping on the couch," she stated. She went into her living room and I followed hesitantly.
She was different and I couldn't put my finger on it.
But I'd been her partner for a long damn time, and while I had been known to partake of a few drinks at her house, never once had she suggested that I sleep on her couch. Or anywhere in her home for that matter.
This was New York. There were cabs everywhere you looked.
But I wasn't about to argue with her.
"Okay," I agreed.
She sat on the couch and I took a seat in a chair off to the right. She leaned back, putting her feet up on the coffee table, and took a long sip.
"What do you want, Bobby?"
"I wanted to see if you're okay."
"You wanted to see if I was pissed at you," she countered. Alex always did cut straight through the bullshit.
I took a drink to stall my reply.
"Are you?" I asked at last.
She tilted her head and looked at me like she was seeing me for the first time. And maybe she was.
I was certainly seeing a different side of her.
She brushed her hair from her forehead and continued to stare. I started to squirm a little under the scrutiny.
And she still hadn't answered, which didn't bode well for me.
"No," she said. I let out a breath.
"Do you want to talk about it?"
"What's to talk about?"
"That's the second time you've called me Alex this week," she stated suddenly. "Why?"
Her question threw me.
"It's not a hard question."
"It is actually," I said. "It's…well, I know you were having a hard time and normally I try to keep things completely professional between us, but I thought that maybe this week you needed a friend more than you needed a partner."
There. That came out right. I think. I don't know, because she's still just watching me.
And I can't read her. She's suddenly a person that I don't really know. She's not a detective. She's not my partner. She's a woman.
But she's a sad, beautiful woman who had to come home to an empty apartment with nothing but memories and vodka.
I didn't want her to be that lonely woman.
"What if I need both?" she asked quietly.
"I can be both."
She nodded and took another drink.
"What else can you be?"
What? Was she…flirting with me? No, there was no tease to her voice. She was being serious. My heart started thudding hard in my chest.
My mind was racing in so many directions that I had no idea what to say.
She kept staring at me as she brought her drink to her mouth. I watched as she took a sip and then pulled the glass away and licked the moisture from her lips.
I noticed that she had nearly finished her drink, although mine sat mostly untouched. I needed a clear head because I felt as though I was walking through a minefield.
"I'm sorry," I told her, deciding to move the conversation forward and just ignore her last question.
"Why are you sorry?"
"About re-opening the case without telling you first. I'm sorry that we had to dredge up painful memories. I'm sorry that it hurt you."
"Bobby," she said on a sigh, shifting again so that now she was looking at the ceiling.
I had been nervous under her gaze, but now that she'd moved it, I missed the connection.
"I don't know what you're thinking," I admitted finally when she continued to stare into space. "I don't know how to make it better."
"Why do you want to?"
It hurt that she would ask me that. She should know.
How would she know, I argued with myself. You've never given her any indication.
But I had to be careful. Her wounds had been re-opened right along with that case.
Now was not the time for confessions of love.
Even though it would be true. I loved her desperately.
But I couldn't say anything, not tonight. She was vulnerable right now.
And of course, that was a convenient excuse, because deep down, I knew damn well that I didn't have the balls for it.
Because as long as I'd loved her, I'd never once seriously considered sharing that little piece of information with her.
It was better to stay the way we were than to have her be uncomfortable around me because my feelings weren't reciprocated.
"Why would I want to make it better? Because we're friends. That's what friends do."
She seemed slightly disappointed in my reply. She finished off the last of her drink and rose on unsteady feet.
"I'll be back," she told me as she went to the kitchen.
I got up and followed her. I didn't want her to drink any more.
"Alex," I tried again. "Talk to me. Tell me what's going on in your head."
She barked out a humorless laugh.
"The great Bobby Goren needs me to tell him what I'm thinking."
I took the bottle from her hand as she tilted it to refill her glass. She didn't fight me. Instead she put her hands flat on the counter and dropped her head.
"It's my fault," she said quietly.
"What's your fault?"
"Joe. We had a fight...the night he was killed. I…I was mad at him and I said some things and…he wasn't even supposed to be at work that night. He went just to get away from me."