Alex POV


I left 1PP in such a rage that I literally couldn't see straight.

He'd gone undercover without telling me.

I almost killed him.

What was he thinking? Was he thinking at all?

These thoughts stormed through my mind while I drove like a maniac through the congested streets.

Every once in a while, a rational thought would pop in.

You know why he did it.

No, damn it. It was reckless and thoughtless and…and out of all the times he'd made me mad, every incident that had caused me to blow a gasket, this was the worst.

I'd unloaded on him in the observation room, too.

I'm sorry. Did he really think that saying he was sorry would cut it?

Was he even sorry?

I had my doubts. He just wanted his badge back. He'd been single-minded and focused on that one goal and to hell with everything and everyone else. The bastard.

I found myself at the firing range with little recollection of how I'd arrived. But I went inside and got myself set up to squeeze off a few rounds.

I could've shot him. I could've killed him.

I went through the first three clips in rapid succession with nothing but hostile thought in my mind.

As I loaded the fourth clip, I thought about what Ross had said. On my orders. I slowed my breathing and focused on the target. On my orders.

Was it fair of me to be angry at him? When he was only following orders?

Yeah, because Bobby always follows orders, right? I shook my head and reloaded again. He only followed orders that suited him. He didn't tell me because he didn't want to tell me.

I burned through three more clips before I decided that my usual method of relaxation wasn't going to work this time.

I gathered my things and went back to the car. I had four missed calls on my cell, all from Bobby, but no messages.

I didn't call him back. I was still too mad to talk to him.

Two days later, he got his badge back, but I still hadn't cooled off much.

I kept coming back to the thought that if it'd been me…if I was the one who'd gone undercover, I would've told him. I would've found a way to get word to him.

And the real bitch about this whole situation, the part that really tore me up was that I was in love with him.

And for a while, I'd entertained the notion that maybe he was in love with me, too.

Now I knew he wasn't. I was just a partner to him, nothing more.

And that stung, more than just a little.

In fact, it broke my heart.

So when Ross called us in at three a.m. to work the case of a missing husband, let's just say I wasn't in the best of moods.

"You need both of us on this?" I asked him after he'd given us a brief summary.

It was going to be our first case together after…just after.

That's what our partnership was going to be divided into now.

Before and after.

Before he kept secrets from me and after I almost killed him.

Before when I thought he loved me and after when I realized he didn't.

I couldn't even look at him as we stood in Ross' office listening to Kathy tell us about Woody.

I didn't want to look at him because I was afraid that if I did, I would forgive him. And I wasn't ready to forgive him yet. I knew that I would eventually, but I just wasn't there yet.

Although I had to ask myself which part I was unable to forgive at this point. Was it because he'd not told me about the undercover? Or was it because he didn't love me back?

We worked quietly together in the office as we tracked Woody's movements on his GPS. I talked to Bobby, but only as it related to the case.

"Eames," he began at one point.

I paused with my hand on the mouse but I still refused to look at him. He stuttered for a moment and then mumbled something about going to get Ross to fill him in.

I watched him walk away and let out a deep sigh.

You've got to get over it, Alex.

If I kept this up, we wouldn't be able to work together. Was I willing to risk losing him as a partner?

He brought Ross back, and we worked together to bring him up to speed. Despite my lack of eye contact, it almost felt like we were getting back into our rhythm.

We drove out to the dump site and looked around. Bobby was throwing ideas around right and left and then waiting patiently for me to agree or disagree. I could tell he was trying to make things feel normal, but they just didn't. Not yet.

We decided to check out St. Ann's Avenue, and on the drive over, Bobby drummed his fingers restlessly on the dashboard.

"I tried calling you," he said at last.

"Before or after I pulled my gun on you?" I retorted. There it was again. Before…after.

He sighed heavily and rubbed his hands over his face. He had grown the beard back after being clean-shaven for the chief. I liked the beard. Of course, I liked him clean-shaven, too.

"Do you want me to request a new partner?" he asked carefully. "Or request a transfer? I'll do it. Whatever you want."

"Whatever I want? It's too late for what I want."

"Eames…Alex…"

"Don't Alex me. We're not friends. You made that perfectly clear when you chose to keep me in the dark. I'm Eames. I'm your partner."

"Are you?"

I could hear the fear in his voice. He really thought I'd want a new partner? I guess maybe he did realize that he'd screwed up. But did he know that he'd broken my heart, too?

Probably not, but I couldn't blame him for that. I couldn't be mad at him for not loving me.

"Yes," I replied. "I'm your partner. I don't want you to request to do anything, okay?"

We went into the convenience store and tag-teamed the clerk. It almost felt like old times.

"Eames, we've got multiple violations here," Bobby stated. He flipped the open sign to closed.

"NYPD's got nothing better to do," the clerk said in annoyance.

"Not today. How 'bout you?" I asked with a smile.

Our threat to call the health department worked like a charm and the clerk told us what we needed to know. After checking out the place across the street, it was looking more like maybe Woody had staged the carjacking so that he could run off with his mistress.

"Should we tell the captain?" Bobby asked.

"Let's confirm it first."

"Well you're exactly right," he told me. I stared at him in disbelief as he continued on. "No…I'm just saying…you're right."

I shook my head and walked away from him. Was this how it was going to be? Moments of normalcy coupled with long periods of awkwardness and kowtowing?

"We need to talk," I told him when we got in the car.

"Change your mind already?" he asked with a nervous laugh.

"You have to stop thinking that any second I'm going to pull the plug. I told you that I don't want another partner. And I don't," I said firmly. I turned sideways in the seat so that I could look at him. "I waited six months for you to get your ass back to work, and just because I'm not crazy with how you did it, doesn't mean I'm not glad that you're back."

"So you're…glad I'm back? You've got a really…um…weird way of…showing it."

I shouldn't have looked at him. That boyish, uncertain smile…his expressive brown eyes watching me with such apprehension, such trepidation as though I held his fate in my hands.

Damn I loved him.

"I'm glad you're back."

He broke into a full grin and then reached around to buckle his seat belt. I continued to watch him, and as he clicked the buckle into place he glanced back up at me.

"We are friends," he said sincerely. "I should've told you. But believe me when I say that at the time, I thought I was doing the right thing. I thought I was protecting you."

I leaned my head back against my seat and closed my eyes.

"I don't need your protection," I told him quietly. "I need your trust."

"You've always had that," he insisted. "You're the only one I trust. You have to know that."

"I thought I did."

"Alex…"

And this time I let him get away with it. Because the way my name sounded rolling off his tongue just did things to me.

"Alex, look at me."

I opened my eyes and turned my head. He reached out his hand and for a second I thought he was going to touch my face, but instead he settled it on my forearm. Even such an innocent touch set my heart racing.

"I'm truly sorry. I…was just so…desperate to get back. I felt like I had to do exactly as I was told. I couldn't risk…having you get into trouble, or having something go wrong that would…keep me from…you," he said. And then he quickly added, "I mean, from coming back to work with you."

The moment was almost too much for my bruised emotions. I wanted him so much that I was having trouble being objective. He wanted his badge back so that he could get back to me? Or back to the job?

"Are we…okay?" he asked cautiously. "Because I really need for us to be okay."

See, I knew I couldn't stay mad at him. If he only knew how he held my heart in the palm of his hand…

"We're okay," I replied carefully. Don't let too much emotion show. And don't read too much into it, Alex. He needs you because he has no one else.

He watched me for a moment longer, and then gave me a nod and let his hand slip from my arm. I missed the contact immediately, but I stomped down the emotion and started up the car.

We still had a case to work.

Avery's husband Roy was a piece of work. After talking with him in the interrogation room, I felt like I had a layer of slime over me.

"What's the matter, baby? You so used to ground chuck that you don't know filet mignon when you see it?"

Oh, I knew filet mignon when I saw it. Roy wasn't it. But Bobby sure as hell was.

I was annoyed with the inappropriate thoughts that kept running through my brain, but I couldn't seem to stop them.

Eight years we've been partners. More than half of that time, I've known I was in love with him. So why was it that all of a sudden I was obsessed with him? Was it because I knew now that I'd never have him?

Before I'd been able to cling to the hope. After, the writing was on the wall.

We are friends, he'd said. Great. I wondered what he would do if I just showed up on his doorstep and came clean. What would he say if I told him that I was in love with him?

He'd probably stutter for twenty minutes before finally delivering the news that he just didn't think about me that way.

Would I still be able to work with him after that? Would he be able to work with me?

Because I had reached the conclusion that my little secret wasn't going to hold for much longer. I needed to tell it, listen to his gentle let-down, and then maybe I could move on.

Otherwise, it was going to start affecting my ability to do my job. Hell, it already was. I was thinking about him constantly, and not in a very partnerly way.

Still. As much as I wanted to tell him, I was scared. And I probably wouldn't have ever gone through with it if he hadn't forced the issue.

We were spending the night in Maine. We'd driven up because Avery's brother had gotten a text message. We needed to see it first hand, because neither of us believed it was genuine.

It only took a few minutes to confirm our theory.

"Eight hour drive for a ten minute interview," I complained as I found us a hotel.

It was nearly midnight, so we'd decided to sleep until seven and then we could get back to New York by early afternoon.

"Just think of it as a mini-vacation," he replied easily.

"You need a vacation? You just got back from a six-month vacation," I snapped.

I was tired and irritable and he was an easy target. But once the words were out of my mouth, I regretted them. Bobby was the master of harboring guilt and self-loathing and my continued hostility towards him was only going to make things worse for both of us.

"I'm sorry," I said. "I'm just tired."

"It's fine," he said in a way that told me things were anything but fine. "Let's get checked in."

An hour later, I was in gym shorts and a t-shirt. I was grateful that I'd thought to bring my bag from my work locker. I sat down on the bed and started flipping through the channels on the television when I heard a knock on the door.

Not tonight, Bobby, I moaned internally. I was too tired. I was too needy, too raw.

I thought about ignoring him but that was just silly. He knew I was in here.

"Hey," I said in a tired voice when I opened the door.

I stood back and let him in, ignoring the tingling feeling that started running through me when I realized he was looking me over.

He walked over near the dresser and stopped, but kept his back to me.

"What are you thinking?" he asked me.

"About the case?"

"No," he replied, finally turning around. He caught my gaze and I felt like I was trapped. "No, I mean about us. I'm having trouble reading you and I don't know what to do."

"We'll get back in synch," I assured him dismissively. "It's just been awhile. We need to find our rhythm."

"No, it's something else. Something is different."

Don't push it, Bobby.

"Please talk to me," he begged quietly. "Please. I'm…I'm struggling here. I want things to be like they were…before."

Before. Maybe before wasn't such a good thing.

Maybe we'd needed something monumental to shake things up and force us off the static path on which we'd been traveling.

Nerves fluttered up in me as I realized what I was about to do. It was strange, because I'm not normally the nervous type. But yet I had butterflies.

"What if I don't want things to be like they were before?" I asked him softly. I took a step closer to him, but there were still several feet of carpeting between us.

I watched his face as he grasped for understanding. I knew that my words said one thing to him while my tone said another. He was confused.

"What…what is it that you…want?" he asked slowly. He tilted his head and continued to look at me.

My heart was racing and my palms were sweaty. I hadn't felt this nervous since…ever. Never had I been this afraid to share my feelings. Never had I had so much to lose.

But I've also never succumbed to my fears. I've always faced them head on.

I took one more step towards him.

"You."

The look on his face would've probably made me laugh if I didn't feel like I was going to be sick.

This was it. I had put it all on the line.

"Me," he repeated. "You want me."

"Yes."

I wasn't going to take another step. The next one would have to be his.

I waited and pretended that my heart wasn't about to beat out of my chest. I made believe that my life wasn't going to change in the next few seconds. Because it was, one way or another.

"I…um…why?" he asked in bewilderment.

I couldn't help myself. I laughed out loud.

"I imagined a wide range of responses, Bobby, but I've got to tell you…why wasn't one that I thought of."

He didn't laugh with me, but instead he took a step closer to me.

"I'm sorry," he said. "I just…I didn't…I never…"

"Breathe," I told him.

And suddenly my nerves were gone. This was Bobby. My best friend. We were going to be okay. I didn't know if he was in love with me or not, but I did know that he loved me and that he would never hurt me. Not intentionally anyway.

He closed his eyes and took a moment to actually breathe. When he opened his eyes, he stepped up right in front of me.

He brought his hand up hesitantly and I was reminded of the day before in the car when I'd thought he was going to touch my face.

This time he did.

He took his large hand and settled it on my cheek, his thumb absently stroking the area just in front of my ear.

"I don't know what to say," he admitted. "I never thought…I never considered that you would think of me that way."

My heart sank a little despite the wonderful sensation his touch had sparked.

What did that mean?

I had to find out. I'd come too far to back down now.

"Well, I do. I have for a while now."

"You…never said anything."

"No. But I am now."

"Why now? What changed?"

He still wasn't giving me any indication other than the gentle caress of his thumb against my skin. But he hadn't run away and he hadn't dismissed me outright. Those had been my two worst-case scenarios.

"I don't know. I guess I'm tired of hiding it. I figured I would tell you, you would say thanks but no thanks, and then I could move on."

"Is that what you want to do? Move on?"

Leave it to Bobby to focus on that segment of my statement.

"No. But it's what I expect to do."

"Why? Why would you think that? Alex…" he said reverently as he brought up his other hand to mirror the first.

He was so close that I could smell his cologne. And for some reason, I'd never noticed just exactly how much bigger he is than me until this very moment. When we're working, we're the same size. But right now, he towered over me in a way that was intimate rather than intimidating.

"Do you honestly think," he continued. "That I would say no to you?"

"I don't know what to think," I admitted. "We're partners. You just risked your life to get your badge back…"

"To get back to you," he interrupted.

He moved his hands around to my back and pulled me into a hug. I was flush up against him, my cheek pressed to his chest, and he leaned down to whisper, "I risked everything to get back to you."

We drove back from Maine the next day as planned. I was amazed by how natural it felt working with Bobby even after our admissions from the night before.

And nothing really happened beyond the hug. That was enough for now. I wanted him, but I didn't want to just jump into bed with him, especially after the rough patch we'd been through lately.

I wanted to rebuild our relationship, only this time have it go a step further.

I wanted to erase that annoying line we'd drawn, the one between professional and personal. I wanted him in both aspects of my life. And it seemed that he wanted the same thing.

If Ross noticed a difference in us, he didn't say. I think he was having enough problems of his own. Kathy was on him like a cheap suit and Rodgers was fit to be tied.

I was just astounded that he held the interest of one woman, let alone two. Of course, by the end of the week, we learned the reason for Kathy's interest. She was using him. She'd killed Woody and Avery.

It hadn't taken much to get her to confess. As she was led away, Bobby and I looked at each other.

"Want to get some coffee?" he asked me shyly. "You said that we would talk more after…"

After the case.

Before this case, I'd thought we were over. The partnership was struggling and the friendship even more so…but that was before. And this was after.

I looked up at him. He was watching me carefully, gauging my response. I gave him a smile and he quickly matched it with one of his own.

"That would be great."

The End