A/N 1: Oh wow. It's seven chapters.

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CHAPTER SEVEN

Bobby was napping restlessly in a recliner in Eames's living room when something woke him. He'd been having a bad dream… not a nightmare, which he rarely had any more, but he often had bad dreams in the morning, particularly if he went back to sleep after waking up, which he'd done today. In the dream, he'd been looking for Eames on a long stretch of beach, just at sunset on a coolish summer day. He kept seeing shapes off in the distance that he thought were her, but either they grew smaller and disappeared the closer he got to them, or they turned into something else.

"Oh, there you are," he mumbled, still half-asleep. What had awoken him was a tiny hand, running through his hair and scratching his scalp with short, blunt nails.

"What?" Eames was standing next to him in a terribly cute flannel pyjama shirt and shorts, and though she seemed a bit surprised at his exclamation, she didn't withdraw. Her hand stilled, however, and Bobby reached up and took it before she could decide to take it away.

"Nothing, I was dreaming." Her hand was small and soft and strong, and she didn't seem to object to him holding it.

"I thought you left. I got up earlier, and…" She waved at the pile of bed linens with her free arm. "But you came back."

"I was taking out the garbage. It was very, um, barfy. Why, did you miss me?" He didn't know why he said that, and he especially didn't know why he kissed her hand as he did so. It was so not them; to flirt, to dance around the bonfire of physical attraction he knew they both felt; to invite declarations or intimacy.

But her reaction knocked the wind out of him. Her face crumbled, and she leaned a bit towards him, forlorn. "It was my own fault," she said petulantly.

"Your fault?" He kissed her hand again, but this time, he bit the fleshy part of her thumb. The skin turned white, then pink again, and bounced back from the indent. "Well, you're not dehydrated any more."

Alex shrugged and looked at her feet. "What was I to expect? You have a busy life, probably a busy social life…"

He turned her hand over and kissed her palm. "A busy social life?"

"And I never really let you know that I wanted you to stay…"

He tugged on her arm and she fell easily into his lap. "You wanted me to stay?"

o.o.o.o.o

He held her in that uncomfortable chair for a long time. Unlike when he'd carried her before, now she sank bonelessly into him as soon as he wrapped his arms around her. They didn't speak, or kiss, or any of the other things they probably should have done; it was enough for him to feel her pulse against his lips where he pressed them chastely to her temple, and the occasional twitch of her fingers which seemed to accompany the grunts that he'd earlier learned meant she was drifting off.

"I like being here with you," he finally said. He felt apprehensive, exposed, saying something so bold; he was risking an enormous smackdown, or even a rupture of their professional relationship. But he couldn't walk away and back to their regular lives without letting her know that their time together had meant more to him than just an extension of their partnership.

"Me too," she whispered into his shoulder.

"Could we, um, do it again?" He asked, a few minutes later.

"Yeah," she replied.

"And can I – hold you? Like this?" He knew he was pushing it, but he had to know if she was willing to acknowledge what was really going on.

He both heard and felt her snort into the crook of his neck. "Maybe."

Maybe. OK, that was… OK. "Can I hold your hand?" He murmured the question right into her ear, and was rewarded with a little shiver and the feeling of her smiling against his throat.

"Yeah, you can hold my hand."

"Good enough," he said. "And by the way next time you go to the beach with your family, I'm coming along."

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A/N 2: When I thought up this fic, I hadn't really pictured anything past him kissing her hand. lynne z commented around chapter 4 that she liked the lack of romantic declarations… if her comment influenced the quiet ending then she deserves a thank-you!

And a big thank-you to all who read, reviewed, PM'd, Alerted and Faved. I deeply appreciate the time you took to take in my fic and to give feedback if you felt moved to do so… reviews and feedback aren't why I write, but they are the olives in my feta!

Also, I'm thinking of changing the title again. Internet cookies to anyone who can guess to what!

Until next time…

G.