A.N.- Well, here is my version of the "big talk" between Bobby and Alex. I've been tweaking for over a week, and don't think it will get any better than this. There's a wealth of material in their relationship to work with - too much for one story. I hope everyone is somewhat satisfied with my take on this whole thing. I deliberately came to a non-resolution resolution, because there is so much they haven't dealt with in their individual lives and with each other. Hopefully it will all work out in the end. And, they are still not mine. Jury is still out on Eames.
Before climbing into bed Tuesday night, Lewis called to let Eames know Bobby had arrived home earlier that evening, and to wish her luck the next day. Thanking him and hanging up, Eames lay back in her bed, staring up at the ceiling in the darkened room with a myriad of thoughts about tomorrow whirling through her mind. It was a long time before she slipped into a fitful, dream-filled sleep. At 6 AM, awake yet again, she gave up and got out of bed. She knew Bobby rarely slept past 7, when he managed to sleep at all. Might as well go to his place and get this show on the road.
Bobby, too, lay in his bed but with his eyes closed, trying to relax himself enough to get at least a couple hours of sleep. Having reached the conclusion that before anything else he and Eames needed to talk, he steeled himself to call her first thing the next morning to make arrangements with her to sit down and hopefully have a calm, rational discussion about the future of their partnership and their friendship, if indeed one existed for them. He tossed and turned all night long, occasionally dozing off for short periods. He finally got up at 5:30 to put coffee on to brew before hitting the shower. He needed the stimulant badly this morning; it was shaping up to be a long day already.
He was sitting on the sofa just before 7, flipping through the morning news channels and working on his second cup of coffee, when the knock came at the door. Wondering who would be out visiting at this hour of the morning, he looked through the peephole to see only the part in a head of dark blonde hair, and realized with some dismay that it was his partner. Groaning softly and letting his own head fall softly against the door – it was way too early in the morning for this – he recognized that ready or not, here she was, and taking a deep breath, he opened the door.
They looked at each other silently for a minute or two, each taking in the other's appearance. He noticed that while Eames had combed her hair and put on lipstick, she wore no other makeup; there were faint, dark smudges beneath each eye and a translucent, drawn quality to her pale, smooth skin that told him she hadn't slept well for at least a couple of days. Dressed in jeans and a plain black pullover, she also wore a leather "biker's" jacket and black running shoes in place of her customary heels. The difference in height made her look deceptively fragile and delicate, and had things been normal between them, he would have smiled at how far from reality that observation truly was.
For her part, Eames noticed the return of the dark circles and sunken quality which had characterized Bobby's eyes during the last months of his mother's life, although they had nearly disappeared during the time after her funeral once he was able to get back to a somewhat more normal schedule. They weren't quite so prominent as before, but were still an indication of his level of stress, and he looked tired. He was wearing old, loose fitting jeans and an NYPD t-shirt, socks but no shoes. As he leaned against the edge of the open door, she could see the slump to his normally square shoulders, all of which told her that he hadn't been handling the past several days well, either.
Swallowing hard in an effort to keep her voice steady, she said, "Hi. Can I come in?"
He gazed down at her for several more seconds, and she could see the deep sadness in his soft, dark eyes. "Sure", he said quietly, moving away from the door to allow her to enter the apartment.
"Thanks," she answered, just as quietly. "I brought bagels, in case either one of us feels like eating them." She set the bag in her hand on the counter next to his phone.
He shook his head, going into the kitchen. "I'll make fresh coffee."
Eames watched him move around in the small area, putting coffee beans in the grinder and filling the well in the coffeemaker with fresh water. Shrugging out of her jacket and hanging it on the back of the high-backed stool next to the small counter before she sat on it, she was struck by the grace of his movements and thought about what a bundle of contradictions he was. He was physically strong, but his heart and soul were so fragile and vulnerable; his movements were normally so graceful, and yet when excited about a discovery made during an investigation, he could be so awkward, almost bumbling, dropping everything and practically falling over himself in his haste to show others what he saw. Articulate and verbal when arguing for the acceptance of one of his profiles or theories, he could be shy and stammering as a schoolboy when socially uncomfortable. And he could be so brilliant and intuitive, making leaps of logic that connected seemingly unrelated and irrelevant scraps of information and knowledge, connections that in most cases provided the key to unlock the solution to many of the cases they worked. On the other hand, he could be clueless to the point he couldn't see what was directly under his nose – especially when it came to himself and those closest to him.
She was so lost in her thoughts that when a mug of freshly brewed coffee, prepared exactly as she liked it, appeared in front of her she nearly jumped off the stool. "Sorry", Bobby said softly, "I didn't mean to startle you. Do you want to sit in the living room?"
"It's OK. Sure", she said, sliding from the stool, carefully holding the hot coffee in her hands. Walking over to the couch, she sat down, setting the mug on the coffee table, then waited as he walked around the table and sat down in his large, overstuffed leather reading chair. Ironically, his chair was quite similar to the one they found in Jim Kettle's apartment, and Eames briefly wondered if Bobby was able to find any peace himself when sitting there. Mirroring her movements and setting his mug down on the table, he said, "You're the last person I expected to see at this hour of the morning on a day when you don't have to go to work."
Sitting forward on the couch and picking up the mug, cradling it between her cold hands, Eames studied the liquid it contained. "I know. But I couldn't wait any longer and I knew you'd be up. Bobby - "
Surprisingly, he didn't wait for her to continue, but said, softly and sadly, "What happened to us, Eames?"
Not expecting his interruption, she looked at him open-mouthed for a few seconds. "What?"
Leaning forward in his chair, elbows resting on knees, after rubbing his face with his hands he twined his fingers together. Sighing deeply, he continued, "How did we get to be so – so - " He fumbled for the word he sought – "so toxic to each other?"
Stunned by his choice of word to describe his perception of their relationship, she continued to just look at him for a few seconds, and then said, "Do you really feel that way, Bobby?"
"I didn't used to. I don't want to." He rubbed his face once again, then rose and wandered over to a section of shelves housing part of his overabundant book collection. "It's certainly not a word I ever thought would apply to us. And I know that I'm a thousand times more toxic to you than you could ever be to me." He turned back to face her once again, studying the somewhat apprehensive look that had settled over her pixie-like face. Shrugging his shoulders, he continued on, "Honestly? Eames, I don't know what to think anymore."
She opened her mouth to say something, but he held up his hand and she remained silent. "Let me finish, please." He rubbed the back of his neck with his right hand, one of his "tells" indicative of his rising stress level. Taking a deep breath and releasing it, he said, "Things haven't been good between us, or for us, for some time. Nearly all of that is my fault. " He resumed his seat, once again resting his elbows on his knees and twisting his hands as he talked. "I - I've given it a lot of thought over the last few days, Eames.' He raised his head, looking her fully in the eyes; she could see the shadows of emotional pain in their depths. " I've been wrong about the way I handled a lot of things, pushing you away, taking out my fears and frustrations on you. Part of – of my frustration with everything just before Thanksgiving was because I – I didn't feel I had the right to – unburden myself to you about my mom, when you had your own problems you were trying to work through, trying to get your life back to some kind of normal after – after Jo Gage. So I kept it all in, tried to cope on my own." He picked up his coffee mug, taking a sip, then making a face – it had gone cold while he talked. Setting it back down on the table, he leaned back in the chair and looked at her again. "None of which is your fault. I never meant to smother you with the weight of my insecurities, or hold you back from achieving your goals, Eames. I – just wish you had - told me how you felt instead of dropping it on me like that." He paused briefly, taking a deep breath and blowing it out before he continued, "I didn't want to put you through reopening Joe's case, Eames. If there had been another way, believe me, I would have taken it. I know you resented my digging around in that part of your life - " He stopped, rubbing both hands over his face, then lacing his fingers together. She noticed his hands were trembling slightly.
"Bobby, stop." She rose from her place on the couch, moving in front of him where she knelt and grasped his wrists in her small, strong hands. They barely reached halfway around. "Please - stop a minute, Bobby." Surprised by her sudden movement and her new position, he just looked at her, wide-eyed. She could feel him tense beneath the touch of her fingers, and she held on with all her strength, to keep him from pulling away. "Look – First of all, I have to apologize to you for what I said to you." She paused, biting her lower lip as she thought briefly about how to continue, how to make him understand something she didn't fully understand herself. "I - truly don't know why I said that, Bobby. Maybe it was some lingering - resentment, as you put it – from having to dig into Joe's case. Maybe I was just trying to be sarcastic, and it didn't quite come off that way. I was tired, mentally and physically, Leslie caught me off guard, and it just came out without thinking." Looking directly into his eyes, she continued on. "I probably should have let Ross take me off the Quinn case, Bobby. It - drained me, physically and mentally, and it's taking time for me to - to get my sense of balance back. I'm still not 100, and I just – let my smart mouth get ahead of me." Finally letting go of his wrists, she rose and perched on the edge of the coffee table directly in front of him. "I know we've been out of synch for a while, Bobby. A lot of that is because we've been caught up in – in circumstances neither of us had any control over." She gazed at her feet for a second, and then, looking back up at him, into his eyes, she said, "I do not want to end our partnership, Bobby. Once I decided to stay partners with you, I never gave another thought to the idea that you would taint my career in any way, and I don't feel that you have. As far as the brass is concerned, I do not want to be part of any group of people who bad-mouth you and call you names and try to keep us from doing the job on one hand but then on the other, are perfectly willing to parade the results front of God, the press and everybody else and talk about justice being served and the greatness of the NYPD." She rose from the table, walking around it to return to her seat on the couch. Leaning toward Bobby, who was watching her silently, rubbing his hand over his mouth, she said quietly, trying to keep the tremor from her voice and not quite succeeding, "Bobby – I truly am sorry for hurting you. I really didn't mean what I said, but I can see how you could take it the way you did, and -" taking a deep breath, "I hope we can get beyond this and back to where we were before –" She stopped, flipping one hand in the air and letting if fall back into her lap, looking down at her hands.
Bobby sat and contemplated his partner for several minutes. He reflected that he had served with men in the Army, and other in the NYPD, who didn't have nearly the courage and fortitude Alex Eames possessed. She consistently put everyone else's needs before her own – the most evident proof of that being her nephew. He knew she had periods when she deeply regretted his loss to her sister, even though he wasn't Alex's own biologically and Alex could see him whenever she wanted to. And he couldn't even begin to calculate the what it took for her to come back to work so soon after her own kidnapping - something for which he felt profoundly guilty, because he knew she came back too soon, and yet he had been so happy to have her back he selfishly accepted her return wth only a token protest about whether she was truly ready to be working again. Hell, he didn't have a tenth of Alex's courage.
He rose from his chair, walking over to sit beside her on the couch, taking one of her small hands in both of his own. "Alex – I shouldn't have gone off the way I did, either. But I've given it a lot of thought over the last several days – and I want us to get back to where we were before, too" - more than anything, he thought to himself - "but I can't help but wonder if that's even possible anymore."
She look up into his face from watching him rub her hand gently between his own. "Why, Bobby?" was all she said. He thought he saw the ghost of tears in her golden brown eyes.
He signed deeply, continuing to hold and rub her hand. "For one thing, because we're not the same people we were before- before so many things. Your nephew, Jo Gage - my mom – " And if Brady really was my father, I have no idea who I am myself anymore - "And for another, I think – " here he paused, swallowing hard - "You need to start thinking more about what you want and need for yourself to be happy and satisfied. I don't want you to look back in years to come and regret not doing things you could have done but didn't because I – I held you back."
She turned to more fully face him where they were sitting, laying her other hand on top of his. "Bobby – no one is forcing me to stay in this partnership, you know. For that matter, either one of us could choose to leave at any time. I thought – " she looked down at their joined hands, "I thought over the past few days you were going to do just that." She looked back up, into his shadowed, deep brown eyes.
He shook his head. "Not willingly. And if I had, it would have been because it was what I thought was best for both of us – but mostly for you. And because I thought it was what you wanted, especially after all that's happened over the past year, but couldn't bring yourself to say so."
She looked at him, surprised. "Bobby, when have I ever been too shy to speak up for myself? Whatever gave you that idea?"
Releasing her hand, he stood, picking up their coffee mugs to refill. "The fact that Ross wanted to pull you off the Quinn case and one of the reasons you gave to persuade him to let you stay on was that I don't deal well with change." He looked down at her where she sat, a small, sad half smile on his lips. "Like I said, you need to start thinking more about what's best for yourself, and not for me or anyone else." He walked back into the kitchen.
She followed him as far as the counter, resuming her seat on the stool where her jacket hung. As she did so, her cell phone chirped. Sighing, she pulled it from the clip on her belt. "Eames – yes, Captain." She looked up at Bobby, who had turned to look at her from across the kitchen. "Yes – he's right here, sir. We've – been trying to talk things out. Yes. Yes. OK. Yes. We'll be there soon. Yes, sir." Replacing the phone on her belt, she said, "We've been requested by the Chief of Ds on a case. Diver's body washed up on the beach at Coney Island. They think there might be a terrorist connection."
Bobby nodded. "I'll get changed." Starting to walk by, he stopped, leaning over slightly to look into her eyes once more. "We'll talk more later, OK?"
A.N. And this is where I'm going to leave it. While it seems from "Depths" there may have been some discussion between the two of them, there are still a lot of unresolved issues, not the least of which is Bobby's doubtful paternity - and Alex's seemingly chronic, low-grade post-partum depression, if there is such a thing. Thanks to all for the support and the reviews, they were very much appreciated.