Disclaimer: I don't own 'em (unless they're originals). Please don't sue me. It's so not worth it.

Waiting

Alex wonders at times if some instinct deep within his subconscious had stopped him from taking it further after that first kiss in his apartment. Had a voice in the back of his mind whispered 'not yet, not yet' when any other man with a pulse would have tried to hold onto her for hours? Had he known on some level that the nightmare was almost over? Had he sensed that if he held off just a little bit longer he'd be able to come to her whole?

For so long he's been a shadow. Half a man, half a cop, half a father. Always reaching for a gun that wasn't there or wishing for a child he couldn't find. He's been broken and she's seen him at his worst, angry and frustrated and on the verge of giving up hope altogether. Candace has seen him, seen into him, and kept him from unravelling.

She went with him to Nebraska and cradled his crying, terrified daughter in the back seat of the car, relaying information to the police while Alex stood between them and a hysterical woman who was sobbing, begging him to give 'Stacy' back to her. She stood beside him through arrests and assessments and paperwork and held his hand as he called Greta to tell her the news.

It's more than anyone should have to give before they've even had a first date. It's more than some people would give after a dozen romantic dinners with roses and candlelight.

Candace just brushed her lips across his cheek and said "I'll wait". No questions, no expectations, no demands. Alex might have gone crazy pacing the hallways, thinking he would wake up and find it nothing more than a surreal dream, if she hadn't stayed.

Now, weeks later, Alex is the one waiting. Waiting for everything to be 'normal' again. Waiting for Lucy to sleep through the night without bad dreams. Waiting for his little girl to adjust to the fact that her parents are no longer together and nothing is the way that it was when she was taken. Waiting for the irrational fear that he'll close his eyes and Lucy will vanish to go away.

Waiting for the right time to kiss Candace again. Maybe that last part is selfish but Alex can feel the tide going out, leaving nothing but damp sand in the space where they'd dipped their toes in the water. How long will it be before they've spent so long on dry land that they forget they were trying to swim?

Lucy has to come first and Alex knows Candace understands that, parent or not. She asks him about Lucy and listens when he tells her that Greta's couch is his new home because Lucy wants both Mom and Dad when she wakes up screaming. She lets him vent after Lucy slips and refers to Karen as 'Mom' in front of Greta, who flinches like she's been shot and tries to tell Lucy it's okay.

They're falling back into the friend zone and Alex really doesn't know what to do about it. The first time a source flirts with Candace while they're working a case, Alex has to try to ignore the heavy knot of jealousy – no, no, don't go – that's coiling in his belly. She encourages the source to tell her everything he knows, using the feminine guile she'd once boasted about, and the guy is grinning rather smugly as they leave.

Candace catches Alex by the arm before he can circle the car to the driver's side and searches his face. "Hey," she says quietly. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, fine," Alex replies automatically but Candace doesn't look convinced. She steps closer, holding his gaze, and claims his mouth with her own. She's warm and soft and smells like vanilla and for a moment Alex forgets everything except the taste of her, the feel of her in his arms.

"I said I'd wait," Candace murmurs. "I meant it."