A/N: Mitzvahgirl asked (like, six months ago!) for a story based on Masquerade, but when I started writing it, I realized that there were too many good, telling episodes surrounding that one, so I ended up incorporating several episodes from season six. Some are merely hinted at while others have some text pulled directly from the show. It's basically Blind Spot through The War at Home.
And FYI for Blinky38 - it has 10 chapters :)
A near-death experience can change a person's outlook.
It can make things that once seemed impossible or out of reach suddenly appear attainable.
Or at the very least, it can take away the fear of trying.
Because once a person has looked death in the eye, everything else is much less scary.
My view of my own mortality came at three a.m. in my own home when Jo Gage clocked me in the head with a wooden mallet and then hauled me off to her basement dungeon.
There were several hours where I truly thought that I was going to die.
I thought about my parents and my siblings…my nieces and nephews…and of course, I thought about Bobby.
I stood on my toes, mostly held dangling by my hands from a hook in the ceiling, and I wondered if I would ever see my partner again.
And then, as I'd tried to block out my fear of what might happen to me, I thought about him in very unpartnerly ways.
I wondered if I'd ever hear the deep timbre of his voice or smell the alluring scent of his cologne.
I wondered why I'd never hugged him before.
Never kissed him.
Never once let him know how much I cared.
I promised myself then and there that if I made it out of there alive, I was going to change.
I was going to be more open with him and insist that he do the same.
I was going to banish that unspoken agreement we had that involved no touching.
I wanted to touch him.
I wanted to be touched by him.
And really, was that such a bad thing?
Not too long after my epiphany, I managed to escape.
Bobby came to visit me once while he was still hunting down the perpetrator.
He'd been frazzled and overwrought and I'd been foggy on drugs and exhausted.
Not exactly the best time for life-changing declarations.
He'd asked me a little about what had happened, hoping to glean some valuable information that would lead him to my kidnapper…to the person who had killed at least three women by this point and it was only by the grace of God that I wasn't number four.
I told him what I could, and then he was gone.
"I'll be back," he'd promised. "As soon as I catch him."
It didn't take very long.
And it wasn't a him.
It was Jo Gage.
The idea that he was going to blame himself did not escape me.
"You didn't cause this," I reminded him.
"Maybe not, but I didn't stop it either."
"Yes, you did. You stopped her from hurting anyone else," I reminded him.
He looked at me dubiously as he leaned back in the hard plastic chair.
An hour before, he'd knocked on the door, cautiously as though he might not be welcome.
He'd shyly entered the room grasping a small flower arrangement.
"Is it okay if I…can I come in?" he'd asked.
"Of course," I replied.
"You look…better," he said with a tired smile.
He set the flowers down on a table across the room and then came and sat in the chair next to me.
After a moment's hesitation, he stood back up and leaned over, placing a light kiss on my cheek.
"How are you feeling?" he'd asked, pretending as though he hadn't just melted my heart with his sweetness.
"Better," I'd replied simply. "Tell me what happened."
So we'd spent the next hour discussing the outcome of the case, but then, when he sat back in the chair and reached up to loosen his tie as though he was preparing to stay for awhile, we shifted topics.
"We can talk more about the case, if you want," he said, pulling the silk tie from around his neck and tucking it into his jacket pocket. Then he looked at me with exhausted yet intense eyes and added, "Or we can talk about anything else."
It wasn't like Bobby to open the door to personal conversation. I mean, sure, we've discussed our private lives before. But not very often. And usually it was because we were stuck on some stake out or driving to some far away place and I would start asking him questions until he'd finally open up.
But that night, the night in the hospital, he'd opened up to me by choice.
It was like a gift.
I thought that maybe my near-death experience had changed him, too.
I was out of work after that incident, but not for very long. During that time, Bobby and I got closer. He came to my apartment a few times after he got off of work, and we'd have dinner together or watch a movie or just talk.
It was really nice.
I wondered briefly if maybe he was just working through his feelings of guilt.
Because even though we were spending more time together and he was opening up, there was still this distance between us.
We each stayed firmly on our respective side of the line.
And I hadn't forgotten about my promise to myself, but it didn't seem quite so pressing once I was no longer at risk of dying any minute.
It's kind of like swearing off alcohol while in the midst of a nasty hangover. It seems like a good idea, but then the nausea goes away and the headache subsides, and then the next night you find yourself with a bourbon in your hands.
My first case back was that of Ray Wiznesky.
That was the case where Bobby had his near-death experience.
If that case had happened at any other time during our partnership, I would've been mad as hell at him for sending me out of that room.
But I wasn't a hundred percent yet and he knew it.
He was protecting me from facing my own mortality for a second time in less than a month.
The strange thing was that it was almost harder to be the other one.
I didn't want to be outside the door, listening while my partner's life was at risk.
And I got a little bit of a sense of what Bobby must have gone through when it had been me who was in danger.
But what did that say about us?
We loved each other so much that it physically hurt more to see the other one in danger than ourselves, and yet we'd never even come close to uttering those words.
Honestly, it was kind of messed up.
"Are you okay?" I asked him as we drove away from Ray's house.
He wasn't. Anyone could see that.
So I took him home with me.
And I don't mean like that.
But we went to my place and I fixed us some coffee and we sat and talked.
We talked a little bit about the elephant in the room.
Our mutual recent brushes with death, I mean.
Not the fact that we loved each other.
And I know...it was very possible that it was just me who was in love, but for the most part, I'd convinced myself that the feeling was mutual.
Unless I made a move and he rejected me, I didn't figure there was any harm in maintaining my little fantasy.
That night, he also talked a little more about his mom.
"I wanted to tell you," he said. "But you've had so much going on…"
"You don't have to censor your life for me, Bobby," I told him. "Whatever's going on, I want to know."
He wouldn't make eye contact with me, so I reached out and put my hand on top of his, where it was resting on the couch.
He shifted his gaze to our hands and so did I.
My heart pounded as I waited for his reaction.
If he pulled away, I was pretty sure I'd never find the courage to make another move in that direction.
But he didn't.
Instead, he turned his hand over and clasped his fingers through mine.
And then we talked some more.
He stayed on my couch that night.
It wasn't the first time. He'd slept there the first few nights after I got out of the hospital, but then I'd insisted that he go home.
"You don't have to stand guard," I'd told him. "I'm fine."
"Maybe I'm not doing it for you," he'd argued. "Maybe I'm doing it for me."
So I'd let him stay that night, too, but then the next day I'd told him that I needed for things to get back to normal.
I needed to recover from that incident without using him as a crutch.
But that night after Ray had held him at gunpoint, I offered for him to stay.
"I thought you didn't like me sleeping on your couch," he said, but with a hint of a smile.
I desperately wanted to shout, "You're right, I don't – I want you in my bed!"
But I didn't.
"I just needed to know that I could be okay by myself," I countered.
So he'd stayed and then the next day we went to work and we slipped back into our routine.
We worked a few cases. We had one where two brothers were killed. The father showed open favoritism of one of the sons, and we watched in amazement as he perpetuated that bias to the next generation as well.
"I know it's natural for a parent to have a favorite, but that's a little much," Bobby said to me as we filled out the paperwork on that case.
"I don't know," I replied. "I'm my parents' favorite."
He looked up at me and said, "You are?"
"Of course. Although I'm pretty sure they've told each of us the same thing."
He chuckled at me and I was glad to see a smile from him.
"You're my favorite partner," he said. "Does that count for anything?"
"Yes, it does," I agreed, and then I forced my focus back onto my paperwork instead of on the warm feeling that was filtering through me.
The softness of his gaze when he said the words and the sincerity behind them…
"Do you want to get something to eat tonight?" he asked me after a few minutes.
"Sure. That sounds great."
So we'd gone to dinner and how sad is it that he's the best date I've had in years, even though he would never consider himself as my date?
And ever since that night in my apartment, there's been no more hand-holding.
So despite our date-that-wasn't-a-date, we were once again back to our rules.
The next morning, I got to work a few minutes before Bobby. He usually arrived first, but we'd made a bet at dinner the night before and he lost, so he was tasked with bringing me coffee this morning.
"Is your passport up to date?" Ross asked me as he breezed past my desk. He paused a few feet away and then turned around to look at me. "And where is your partner?"
"Uh…he'll be here any minute," I replied as I surreptitiously glanced at the clock.
It wasn't even eight o'clock yet, but Ross had the ability to fabricate trouble for Bobby. I wasn't sure why he disliked him so much, but in turn, it made me dislike Ross.
"You wanted to know about my passport?" I asked when Ross continued to stare at Bobby's empty chair.
"Right. Simon Henry Fife. Does that name ring a bell?"
"He recently confessed to killing Amberleigh Harner back in '92. His statement is questionable."
"Fife is about to be picked up by Vietnamese police. I need you and your partner on a plane today."
He turned around and continued walking towards his office.
As though telling me that I'd be flying to the Far East today was a normal occurrence.
As though I didn't need any additional information.
"To Vietnam?" I asked as I followed him.
And actually, this was why he'd walked away.
It was a classic power move and I found it extremely annoying and yet here I was, going along with it.
I was chasing after my captain like a lost puppy.
"Considering that's where he is…" he said drolly as he sat down. I came to a stop in front of his desk and looked at him questioningly. "Look, Eames…he's going to be in custody over there. We need him over here. I want the two of you to go get him. What's the problem?"
"There's no problem," I said, shaking my head slightly.
"Good. When your partner gets here, confirm that his passport is up to date and then the two of you need to go home and pack. Your flight leaves in three hours."
He picked up a file folder and handed it to me.
"The travel arrangements are detailed in here," he said. "I'll see you on Friday."
"Friday? It's Tuesday."
"Right. And you'll notice that your flight lands in Ho Chi Minh City on Wednesday night and the return flight has you back at JFK on Friday morning."
I couldn't think of anything I'd rather do less than spend the next four days on an airplane.
Although at least I was going with Bobby.
"You'll have to do your sleeping on the plane," Ross was saying. "None of the layovers allow for time to get a hotel, but I'll make it up to you two after you wrap up this case. So go get him, bring him back, and document his confession. This case is already fourteen years old. Let's not let it get a week older."
He picked up another file on his desk and opened it up, effectively dismissing me.
"Yes, sir," I answered, doing my best to sound like I meant it.
Like I said, I wasn't a fan of Captain Ross. His first week on the job, he'd tried to cozy up to me, as though maybe we had things in common and he thought that it would be him and me against Bobby.
As if that would ever happen.
So far, I didn't have much use for him.
He was no Deakins, that was for sure.
I left his office and went back to my desk just as Bobby was getting off the elevator He had two cups of coffee in his hands and a half-smile on his face.
"That's the last time I make a bet with you," he said as he handed me one of the cups. "You should've seen the line."
"Oh, I've seen the line. Why do you think I made that the bet?" I replied.
"What's that?" he asked, tipping his head toward the file still in my other hand. "Does Ross have something for us?"
"Uh huh. Please tell me that your passport is current."
I really hoped that it was because I had the sinking feeling that if it wasn't, Ross would be polling the room, seeing who else might be eligible to go with me. And I wasn't going to embark on a forty-eight hour journey with just anyone.
"Yeah, I'm up to date. Why?"
I flashed him the plane tickets and gave him a smile.
"I've always wanted to honeymoon in Vietnam. Are you up for it?"