Title: Why Do I Do It?
Spoilers: Loyalty, maybe others
Archive: Anywhere – no need to ask – just attribute, and let me know if possible
Disclaimer: Not mine
Summary: A songfic inspired by Peter Rabbit. Post-Loyalty, B/A. Poor Liz, why does she do it?
A/N 1: I grew up singing these songs. I love reading B/A from others' POV, so here I am writing one. Takes place a few months after Loyalty. BTW, if you google some of the lyrics, you'll see a site called mudcatorg; from there, you can go to one of the bottom posts and download a full version of the recording I am quoting here, if you want to hear it for yourself.
We're a happy family, yes a happy family, and we live at the foot of a big fir tree, Flopsy, and Mopsy, how could they be sweeter. And funny little Cotton Tail… and Peter. … Why do I do it?
What can it be?
There's naughtiness in everyone
But twice as much in me
I'd give the world if only I could,
Now and again, be good.
Why do I do it?
Liz feared it wasn't going to work out, even before Alex got the phone call.
Despite a rocky start, the evening seemed to be going swimmingly, and her husband Jamie had even teased Alex into singing some of the songs Liz, Alex and the boys had grown up with.
"…and Peter," she'd trilled out in her surprisingly sweet voice, ending with only a tiny jab at Liz for leading her to believe that the fourth in their double date was going to be Nathan and not Jamie's old school friend Ray.
Why do I have to be Peter? Little Liz would ask. He's the main character! He's famous! various people would answer her. But it seemed to her that he was notorious, rather than famous. She didn't like it that people noticed the many petty defiances and imperfectly-executed schemes that likened her to the naughtiest of the bunny clan.
Funny Little Cotton-Tail! She'd chirp at Alex, who'd just shrug and say that was fine, since her little tail was all anyone would ever see of her as she darted away. Which was true, actually. Alex, every bit as naughty as any of them, dashed on to the next thing so quickly, she never even noticed who was left holding the pieces.
At least that was how Alex told the story (complete with plummy English accent), as Ray sat, entranced, his cup of Sake cooling in his hands.
Alex looked beautiful, Liz thought. She was glowing. She'd looked gorgeous enough at the beginning of the evening, in a low-cut (for her) surplice-necklined empire-waisted chiffon top and skirt, with high-heel boots and a jewelled clip in her hair… but now, since the phone call, she was beaming as if a sun were about to burst out from behind her eyes. Ray, poor Ray, was too dazzled to consider it wasn't all for him. Liz had herself to blame for that.
Why do I do it? Liz wondered…
"Why do you do it?" Her husband had asked her, as the two of them sat in the restaurant watching Alex huddling over her phone as she stood outside speaking, Ray hovering a few feet away like a dog tethered just out of reach of a ham hock. No, that was mean… Ray was a gentleman, led by Liz and her ill-conceived matchmaking schemes to be more hopeful than was strictly warranted.
"Oh, I was just about to turn this thing off," Alex had said with a tight, but still friendly smile just as her phone rang. "Wha… oh… I have to take this," she mumbled, darting away without a backward glance. Ray looked to his host and hostess for guidance, and Liz and Jamie shrugged their assent as he made to follow Alex as she made her way towards the patio.
When she breezed back, her face and body were somehow softer. She was chatting quietly to Ray, and when she looked at Liz and Jamie, sparkling, molten honey seemed to pour from her eyes.
I just want my sister to be happy, she said… no, thought. And she did.
But somehow, after 40 years, she still needed to tweak her by her funny little cotton tail.
Little Alex had tried to be just like her brothers, and succeeded. She'd been naughty, dirty, breezy, rakish and terribly brave.
Little Liz had tried to be just like her sister, and failed. She was too slow, too loud. She was always caught in the middle of messes, to be yelled at full on. Alex had only felt the sting of their parents' ire fleetingly, on her retreating back as she ran, span, or cycled away.
Little Liz had tried to be like the pretty girls, and succeeded. She'd curled, and clipped, and primped, and flounced, and bounced.
Little Alex had carelessly wiped the axle grease off her face and swiped on a dash of mascara, and the boys had pulled her pigtails instead.
Liz had married well. She knew exactly how hard it was to get and keep a good man.
Alex married also, but not so well. Everyone knew it. But then he died. Who could top that?
Liz had tried to have a family, and failed. Everyone knew the ending to that story.
No matter what the world threw at her, Alex skipped and bounced off it like a rock across the water. Impossible, but happening. Liz didn't want to see her fail. She knew this to be true. She just wanted to see her trip a little. Preferably over her own heart as she lost it to some worthy man. Liz wanted to see her sister, soft, vulnerable, accommodating. She wanted to see Alex work for it. And Liz was eternally piqued by the fact that Alex had thus far demurred.
"You said you and Jamie have to head out at nine, right?"
Alex was returning to their table with Ray at her heels, face flushed and eyes sparkling. Liz nodded with a sinking feeling. "Yeah. Why? We can't give you a ride, but I'm sure Ray can." She was sure, because she'd checked.
Alex broke a rare, wide smile and shook her head. "No need. Bobby –" she glanced at Ray, "My partner from MCS, he's been away on, assignment," she choked on that word, "For the past four months, and he just got back. He'll pick me up and take me home. I told him to come by around nine."
Liz missed the next few minutes of conversation. Bobby Goren. If ever her sister had been incapable of skipping, he was always there to whisk her away. The two times Alex had been on her back in a hospital bed came immediately to mind.
He's looking good, Liz thought glumly as she spotted Goren through the restaurant's glass doors, Really good. He was bulky – not as big as the last time she'd seen him, but more muscular – tanned, and – Christ! – he was carrying a bouquet of flowers. Red roses, how audacious. Not long-stemmed, and not dressed with baby's breath. Just a mitful of fecund, crimson blooms.
Goren scanned the restaurant, and when his eyes met Liz's, his unmoving body seemed to turn preternaturally still. Liz's stomach flipped and she felt a surge of adrenaline; the burn of his dark eyes pinned her like a predator its prey, and she felt like a fallow doe in the sights of a grizzly bear. Alex's back was to him, and when he looked to her Liz's mind flashed with how the curve of her elegant neck and shoulders would appear from his point of view. Truth be told, she'd always been a bit afraid of her sister's erstwhile partner, but for the first time in almost 10 years, she caught a glimpse of what drew Alex to him. When his gaze shifted to her sister, the fire in his eyes turned soft, and his whole being seemed to lean into her unsuspecting form. Oh God. Was he here to court her? Impossible!
Suddenly the spell was broken. His face broke into a broad smile, and he waved slightly and shuffled towards the party. Liz saw him glance briefly at Ray, then look away.
Liz had spent the whole evening feeling resentful towards the man who, according to Alex, refused to be debriefed by his 'handlers' until after he saw her. Alex had been charming but noticeably pre-occupied, and Liz couldn't help but feel like the whole evening had been wasted. The restaurant was busy at 9 on a Friday night; their putative departure deadline had come and gone but Liz dawdled, in solidarity with Ray, if nothing else.
Even when he was on the verge of being lynched, Robert Goren had never hesitated to whisk Alex right out of the arms of her family. He'd been the one to pick her up from the hospital when Nathan was born, and he'd even come to fetch her when she'd been released after the… incident with his childhood friend. Liz had always attributed his possessiveness to that of a drowning man hanging on for dear life (and the several times he appeared to be dragging his partner down with him seemed to bear her theory out). It had never occurred to her until now that he had… feelings for her.
Goren was looming over her, but Alex still hadn't noticed. Ray looked up just as the big man placed his hands carefully on the back of Alex's chair and softly spoke. "Eames," was all he said, but even in the noisy room it oddly carried. He leaned over her, an expectant look on his face, and brushed the nape of her neck with his thumb.
The word that Liz hated most in the world was stoic. Good old Alex, she's so stoic. At her graduation, she was stoic. When Joe died, she was stoic. When she handed Nathan over to his parents, she was stoic. When she lay bandaged in the hospital bed with bleeding wrists, stoic. Even on her wedding day, her smile was reserved.
The look on her sister's face when she laid eyes on Bobby Goren almost brought tears to Liz's eyes.
As Alex looked up and over her shoulder at the smiling man behind her, her face opened like a succulent flower in the sun. She seemed actually to bloom, suffused with longing and sensuality. Liz fancied that she could smell lily and gardenia along with the scent of the roses Bobby had brought. His eyes turned hooded and dark as he looked at his old partner; Liz heard Alex holding her breath.
Jamie broke the awkward tableau by standing and waving down a busboy for an extra chair. "Bobby," he said pleasantly, holding out his hand. Bobby stared at the proffered digits for a second before reluctantly breaking contact with Alex to take them and shake hands. "You know Liz, and this is Raymond Cooper, a friend of mine from college."
With that, Liz breathed a sigh of relief at the return to normalcy. For a few moments she'd felt uncomfortably as though she'd accidentally stumbled upon a very private mating ritual.
Bobby quickly shook hands with Ray and Liz, and sat in the chair that Liz and Alex shifted to make room for. He laid the flowers on the remainder of Alex's place setting while Jamie poured him a Sake from the heated kettle at their table. Alex still hadn't spoken; she appeared in a thrall. She hadn't taken her eyes off him for a second. Bobby returned his hand to the back of Alex's neck, then let his fingers trail down her arm to take her hand.
"So, Alex, uh, said you were…" Ray started gamely, no doubt realising shortly after opening his mouth that she hadn't actually said much of anything about what Bobby was doing.
"Overseas, yeah," Bobby replied, nodding. He'd managed quick glances at whoever was speaking at the table, but his eyes always wandered back to Alex, whose breathing was oddly irregular, consisted of short, shallow breaths that she held, then expelled with a sigh.
"Are you finished the, uh, assignment," Jamie asked.
"My part's finished," he said, looking meaningfully at Alex.
"Your part?" Alex croaked.
"You're not going back?" Liz said at the same time.
Bobby sighed and squeezed Alex's hand. "I guess I'm too old for that type of work. It was…" he barked out a short laugh, "Really hard. I… I found it – difficult – to keep my mind on the job."
The way he was staring at Alex left no doubt in Liz's mind what had been distracting him. "What about now? Are you still working for…"
Liz could tell from Alex's face that she wondered that too.
"Aah, I…" Bobby grinned and rubbed the back of his neck. "I doubt it. They can't – give me any guarantees about where I'd be working, and I, uh… needed to, um, check with…" He trailed off, looking sheepishly at Liz, then back at Alex. An awkward silence settled on the table.
"We have to go," Alex announced, standing abruptly. Her hand was still in Bobby's, which was now evident to everyone at the table. Ray's mouth hung open. Jamie smirked. Alex leaned quickly down and pecked Liz then Jamie on the cheek, waved at Ray and thanked them all for dinner. She then practically dragged Bobby out of the restaurant, stopping only for her wrap, which Bobby took from the coat check girl and laid gently over her shoulders.
Liz followed them – she couldn't help herself. Just like the old days, when Little Liz lurked on the outskirts of whatever mischief captured Little Alex. This might be her last chance. Despite her misgivings about Goren, she was glad.
They were standing close together next to a vintage Mustang convertible. He was on the street, lessening his height advantage. His right arm was tight around her waist, his left hand playing over the pendant at her throat. He was murmuring something to her as he touched his forehead to hers. She was crying. Suddenly, she leaned up and kissed him full on the mouth. He froze for a second, wide eyed, then clutched her to him and kissed her back fiercely.
After a few moments, Alex pulled back and seemed to chastise him. He grinned and looked away as she appeared to pat him down. He laughed and loosened his collar, pulling something from a chain around his neck. It was a ring. Quick like a bunny, Alex snatched the ring from his hand and shoved it on her finger. She pecked him one last time and let herself into his car, driver's side.
Liz hummed quietly to herself as she wiped her eyes.
Follow your heart
Just where it takes you
And it will take you anywhere you want to go
And if you should ever be in doubt
Your heart will always find a simple way out
Follow your heart
Follow it blindly
And it will take you on a journey to a star
A million billion miles need not be very far
Just follow your heart, and there you are.
Please, pretty pretty pretty please, review! I'm a cheap date, I don't care what you say!
A/N 2: A CI fic I read years ago where Goren dropped by on a double-date with Alex and her sister featured Goren touching her back kind of like what he does in my fic. I mean no disrespect to the author of that fun fic, and if I could remember it I'd give credit for the image.
WORDS: 2674 UPLOADED Sunday, July 4, 2010