And what a long, strange trip it's been...

CHAPTER TWENTY

It was nearly two in the morning when Alex and Bobby finally got home. The local captain arranged for Logan, Deakins, Bobby and Alex to make their statements as quickly and smoothly as possible. By the time he finished his statement, Bobby operated on fumes. The adrenaline rush of earlier was gone, replaced by exhaustion and emptiness. Years of training, experience and his own will got him through the painful wait for Alex to finish her interview. He was stunned to realize he only had to wait about fifteen minutes for her. It seemed like several hours.

"Don't worry, Ms. Eames," the captain told Alex. "It was clearly self defense and protecting your colleagues. You'll have your gun back tomorrow. Hell, I'd give it to you now, but I gotta make this look good."

"I understand," Alex said. "We'll be around downtown for Moran's arraignment. I'll pick it up after that."

Mike Logan gave them a ride back to Alex's cars. Local cops had kept an eye on it, and Alex and Bobby were glad to see it was in good shape.

"You two going to stay out of trouble?" Logan asked.

"We'll try," Alex answered. "We're pretty close to home, but trouble sure has a way of finding us."

"Me," Bobby thought. "It always finds me."

"Thanks for coming, Mike," Alex said warmly. "I knew we were ok, but it was sure good to see you and Deakins show up."

"Happy to oblige," Logan said. "Always good to be wanted. The two of you take care of yourselves…And each other."

Alex still felt some residue of her adrenaline rush, and she took the wheel. "You look wiped out," she said to Bobby.

"I'm afraid I am." Bobby sat heavily in the passenger seat. "I…I'm sorry, Alex. I'm…I wasn't…"

"You were a big help," Alex said.

"Not very fast with my gun. Never have been."

"I know. I've seen you on the gun range. It's good you prefer talking to shooting." Alex ran a hand through her hair.

"You ok?" Bobby asked gently.

"Yea…Just…Still a little hyper. Never enjoy shooting my weapon. And he was a cop, even if he was a bad one."

Bobby rested his hand softly on Alex's shoulder. "Yea, I know it upsets you. You only do it when you have to. You probably saved Corelli's life tonight." He felt the rising tension in her shoulder.

Alex said nothing until she parked the car in her drive. "He wasn't looking at Corelli when he pulled his gun," she said as she stepped from the car. "He was looking at you, Bobby. He hated you. And he would've killed you."

Her words added to the weight on Bobby's shoulders. He silently followed her into the house, but not into the bedroom. He dragged his body to the room where the empty bookshelves waited to be filled with the many books resting in the boxes. Bobby fell heavily into the large, comfortable, heavily stuffed chair that begged for someone to curl up in it with a book. It was so big that Alex and Bobby could snugly nest in it together. After a few moments, Alex knocked on the open door. Bobby lifted his head.

"You don't have to knock," he said. "Especially if the door's open."

"This is your room," Alex said. "Your space. I respect that."

"Well, this is your formal admittance." He tried to smile.

Alex stepped forward and knelt at his knees. She looked at him, and his heart shattered.

"You may need another chair in here." She placed her hand on his knee.

He felt too much and was too tired to speak. He could've lost Alex, he could've lost his life tonight. He held his head in his hands.

"C'mon," Alex said gently. "You're tired. Exhausted. Come to bed."

He took a long, shaky breath. "You know," he said in a weary and sad voice. "We said there might be times when we need to be away from each other for a while?"

Alex hoped he didn't hear the pounding of her heart. "Yea."

"I…I think. I need that…I need some space right now. Just some time to think. I'm so tired…But so many thoughts…So much is going through my head."

Alex struggled not to throw herself in his arms. "But I need you tonight!" she thought. "I almost killed a man tonight. I almost lost you tonight."

"I…I'm not…Can't…Go anywhere," Bobby said almost as if in response to her thoughts. "I…I just need a little time alone. I'm sorry. I…Please, Alex. I…Please. I'm not going anywhere. I just need a little time. I'm sorry…Please."

Alex slowly stood. "Ok." She was pleased that her voice didn't betray her feelings. "You know I'm just a few feet away. And…And I want you. And I need you too."

"I…I know."

Alex bent down and brushed her lips across his forehead. "Remember," she whispered. "You're not a "whack job"."

Bobby shivered.

"You're not going to wind up in a mental hospital. You're not bringing or going to bring me down. I know that."

She started to walk out of the room.

"Alex…"

"Yea?" She paused in the doorway.

"Thank you. I love you."

She fought the urge to rush back to him. "I love you."

She walked to the bedroom and slipped under the sheet. She willed herself to stay there. "I can't force him," she thought. "I love him because he's him, and I have to let him be him. I have to let him be an independent person, just like he does for me."

She lay in the dark and listened for any sound of him. The house was alive; Alex thought every creak and crack might be Bobby. After several of the longest minutes of her life, she heard several heavy steps. She held her breath as she heard the door open. The bed shifted with his weight when he sat on it. She lay on her side, facing away from him. She sensed him shedding his shoes, socks and clothes. He slipped his long legs under the sheet and lay next to her. She felt his soft breath on the back of her neck. His lips brushed against her hair.

"Hey," she said softly.

"I'm sorry I woke you up," he whispered.

"I wasn't asleep," she said. She took his hand that rested on her shoulder and gently pulled it down so it wrapped around her waist.

"I'm sorry I kept you awake."

"Bobby, I'm awake for a lot of reasons. Worrying about you is just one of them." She wove her fingers through his.

"You shouldn't have to…"

"Listen," she said patiently. "You worry about me, right?"

"Uh…Yea…But…"

"I hate to break it to you, Bobby, but worrying about the people you love is part of the package."

His grip on her hand tightened slightly. He was silent, and Alex hoped he might have fallen asleep.

"I…I wish," he said, so softly that she strained to hear him although he was right behind her. "I wish I could make love with you. When…Just after…My head…It's clear. It's calm. I'm at peace. That's never happened with anyone else. Only you, Alex. Only you."

She fought the cry of joy that swelled in her, but she couldn't fight her need to see his face. She turned to face him. In the dim light of her bedroom—THEIR bedroom—she could just make out Bobby's great, dark eyes. She touched his cheek.

"But," he said in a weary, sad voice. "I'm so tired. And so much is buzzing through my head. It's weird, but when I'm really tired, it's worse. I can't get hold of all my thoughts. I just can't."

Alex kissed him. One of her hands tangled in his curls; the other rested on his bare chest. She finally broke the kiss, and rested her forehead against his.

"Did that help?" she asked.

"Yes…I…I thought I was going to lose you tonight," he confessed.

"I was afraid…I was afraid I might lose you…"

"Oh, Alex…Baby…My love…"

And suddenly they were both crying and desperately clinging to each other. All of their careful control over their feelings over everything that had happened collapsed. Neither knew how long they cried in each other's arms. Alex finally became aware that her arms were wrapped around Bobby's head which lay on her breasts. His tears soaked her T-shirt. He was so still that she thought he might be asleep.

"Thank you," Bobby said, and Alex felts his words as much as she heard them. "Thank you for letting me work things out…Or at least try to work them out."

"I have to let you be you," she replied. "I love you because you're you."

"I can't imagine how hard this night has been for you…And everything in the past months." His left hand touched her cheek. "It's been a long, strange trip."

"It was more than worth it," Alex said. "It brought us together. Kept us together."

"Yea. And it's over. Or at least part of it is almost over. Thank you."

"You're welcome," Alex said warmly. "And thank you too. We made it."

"Yea. In the end, they couldn't break us." Bobby yawned. "Gosh, I'm tired."

"Get some sleep," Alex said. "And later you can keep that promise of "later"."

Bobby smiled. "Ok."

And they slept.

END