"Let me get changed and then we'll go for a walk," she told me.
I raised a questioning eyebrow at her, considering that it was fairly chilly outside. I'd been on her steps for half an hour before she got home and my butt was numb.
"If we're out in public, then I won't be tempted to let you off the hook," she explained. "If we're sitting on the couch, I'm liable to jump you."
"I think maybe staying on the couch is a good idea," I countered, unable to stop the slow smile. "You know, if jumping me is what you really want to do…"
"I want to talk things through," she said firmly as she headed down the hall. Then she cast a glance back over her shoulder and added, "And then I'll jump you."
I felt a tremendous amount of relief from the prospect that she had plans to forgive me.
I wasn't sure if I deserved her forgiveness.
Hell, I was pretty sure that I didn't deserve her at all, but I was addicted now.
I had to have her and I was going to do whatever was necessary to make things right between us.
These past couple of days had been a nightmare. Admittedly, mostly of my own doing, but still…things needed to change.
Five minutes later, Alex came back into the foyer, dressed in jeans and tennis shoes and a thick sweater. She grabbed a coat from the closet and slipped it on before looking at me expectantly.
Then her eyes tracked over me briefly before she turned to open up the closet again and this time she pulled out one of my heavy coats.
"I was wondering where that was," I commented as I pulled it on over my flannel shirt.
"All you had to do was ask," she stated.
And boy, wasn't that the crux of all of our issues?
She was willing to give me anything, offer me anything…all I had to do was open my mouth.
I didn't respond, but instead took her by the hand and led the way out the front door.
We went nearly two blocks before it occurred to me that she was waiting for me.
Because I was the one who needed to talk.
I was the one who'd walked out on her in the office today. I was the one who'd nearly bit her head off when she tried to help me.
"I never meant to drag you into this," I began.
"Drag me into what?" she questioned.
"This whole…mess that is my life. That's why I said what I said last night."
"That if you were me, you'd leave," she said carefully.
She stopped walking and I turned to look at her, surprised by the anger on her face.
"That is the biggest line of crap, Bobby. Drag me into this? You say that like I didn't have any choice in the matter. I'm in it because I want to be in it. And it's only such a mess because that's what you've made it."
"I've made it?" I repeated.
"That's right. I'm sorry that your mother is sick. And I'm sorry that your brother is nowhere to be found so that you're stuck doing everything for her, but Bobby…you're not alone. The fact that you think you are makes me wonder about your feelings for me."
I was so taken aback by her verbal onslaught that I was struggling to keep up.
But I was getting there.
"You're questioning my feelings for you? I love you. That's not in question."
"Then why are you so insistent on doing this on your own?"
"I'm trying to protect you," I fired back. "You don't need that in your life."
"I need you in my life. And everything that comes along with you," she said, and now she was practically yelling. "And to say things like that…that I should leave you, or that you dragged me into something…it really pisses me off."
"I can see that."
"I'm serious. It's just an excuse for you to feel sorry for yourself. Not only that, but you're not giving me any credit at all. You think I don't understand about your mother's illness? You think that my life has been so perfect that I've never had to deal with anything that was frustrating or that made me feel powerless? How do you think I've felt the past two days?"
"Frustrated…and powerless," I conceded.
"Exactly," she replied. She stared at me for a minute longer and then turned and began walking again.
I don't think she expected me to see her point so quickly, but I did and now was certainly not the time for pride.
But it also wasn't the time to just blindly agree to everything.
I had to tell her how I'd been feeling, too.
"I told you to back off because I was close to losing it," I said quietly. "All of my emotions were so near the surface that I was afraid if I even looked at you, I was going to break down. And maybe that wouldn't have been such a bad thing if we were at home, but not at 1PP."
"I can understand that."
"Are you sure? Because you still seemed pretty angry with me when I got back."
"I was," she admitted. "And maybe I shouldn't have kept pushing, but I felt like I was losing you altogether."
"You're the one who said you needed to think about things," I reminded her.
"And I did. I couldn't keep chasing after you," she responded and then she stopped again and looked up at me. "I can't keep chasing you. I can't make you want something that doesn't work for you."
"It does work for me," I countered. "I mean you…you're just…you definitely work for me. When I said that you should leave me…I didn't…"
I stopped talking and exhaled heavily as I thought about the right words to say. I seemed to be having a difficult time articulating my feelings.
"I just…I didn't want you to feel some kind of obligation," I said at last. "And I didn't want you to think that I'd be mad at you if you called it quits. I wanted to give you an out because I knew that I wasn't making you happy."
Her gaze softened and she let go of my hand so that she could wrap her arms around me.
"You make me happy. Most of the time, you make me very happy," she said. "So quit thinking about giving me an out. All I'm asking is for you to tell me what's on your mind. And I don't mean twenty four-seven. That would just be exhausting," she said and her tone was slightly teasing.
She released her hold on me and pulled back a little so that she could look at me. She had a small smile on her face as she reached up and grabbed onto the lapels of my jacket.
"But sometimes," she continued. "And especially when you're upset. Because even if I never go to meet your mother in person, I can still share your burden. And if you hate our boss or you want to punch our victim's father…you can share that with me, too. It's not good for you to keep it inside and it's not good for us either, okay?"
My first instinct was to agree without thought.
Yes, Alex, I'll do absolutely anything you say as long as you keep looking at me with love in your eyes.
My second was to argue.
Why should I burden you with my troubles? Being my partner is surely enough of a burden…why should I make it worse by cluing you in on my innermost thoughts?
My third response…that was what I went with.
Because doing what she was suggesting wasn't going to come easy for me. It went against everything I'd trained myself to do over the course of the past several decades.
But it was still what I wanted.
Because I really wanted her and I wanted this to work.
"I promise to try," I said. "But I've been doing it my way for a long time."
"Your way isn't working," she reminded me lightly. "Maybe it worked okay when it was just you, but it's not just you anymore."
"I know. And trust me, I'm really glad for that," I said.
And then, public sidewalk be damned, I leaned down and kissed her.
It was brief and fairly chaste, but I needed the connection.
And she just looked so pretty with her nose red from the cold and her hair all windblown…it was too hard to resist. I'd been resisting my urges enough around her. I wasn't going to do it anymore.
She smiled at me when I pulled away and then she picked up my hand and we started walking again, this time back towards her place.
"She's just scared," I began. "Cancer is scary enough, but she's got paranoid delusions that stem from the schizophrenia…she thinks the doctors and nurses are trying to kill her."
And it was like opening the flood gate.
Maybe the hard part was just getting started because once I started talking, I couldn't stop. I told her about the treatment options and about her mood swings and…just everything.
By the time I ran out of things to say, it was well after midnight. We'd been sitting on the couch for several hours, after returning from our walk.
"I realized today that I'm letting her send me on guilt trips. It's gotten out of control. She calls and I just drop everything. Or I resent everything that prevents me from going to her."
"She's your mother," she replied in understanding.
Her voice sounded sleepy and I wondered if she'd been awake as much as I had over the past two nights. Probably.
"But I have a life, too," I said as I ran my fingers through her hair. "So when I called her…after I left work…I told her that it had to stop. I'll do my best to see her every day or every other day, but the constant phone calls had to stop."
"How did she take it?"
"Not well at first. She accused me of not loving her and then she cried…"
"No, it's okay. She understands. It was actually one of the best conversations we'd had in a long time."
"So you're two for two tonight."
"Yeah," I agreed. "You were right. It's definitely helped to talk about it."
"You never should've doubted me in the first place," she replied playfully.
She kissed me lightly on the cheek and then went to do it again but I turned my head at the last second, catching her on the lips. I tightened my grip on her, bringing her closer to me as I deepened the kiss, turning her innocent display of affection into something much more sensual.
"Is it time for you to jump me yet?" I asked her between kisses.
"I was thinking about it."
"Thinking is overrated. How about some action, Detective?"
She pulled back from me and held my gaze.
"You feel better, don't you?" she said with a smile. "You already look years younger than you did when you left the office."
"I almost forgot about that. Should I even ask what happened after I left today? Do you think I'm fired?"
"I yelled at Ross. I told him that he was a jerk for making you work that case."
"So are we both fired?" I asked, strangely pleased to hear that she'd taken up for me at the risk of her own career. Not that I wanted her to get fired or anything, but…I was that important to her. It was blowing my mind.
"No," she said as she leaned in to kiss me again. "We got vacation time. We're off until Wednesday."
"Wednesday, huh? What are we going to do with three whole days?"
"Well," she said as she moved to sit on my lap. She settled firmly against me and then wrapped her arms around my neck. "I thought maybe we could play truth or dare."
"Really," I stated with interest.
"I'll start. You want to know a truth?"
"I don't know. I can think of a couple of dares," I countered as I slid my hands beneath her sweater. I could think of all kinds of things that I wanted to do to her, but I wasn't going to pass up the offer of her baring her soul. "But yeah, start with a truth."
"I was so relieved to see you on my doorstep tonight. It really means a lot that you cared enough to come to me."
Her sudden foray into the serious caught me off guard and so did the tears that filled her eyes.
I'd really hurt her. I hadn't realized just how much until this moment.
All this time I'd been thinking she should just walk away, but for me to suggest that it would be that simple was diminishing her feelings for me. Because I could never just walk away from her, so how could I ever think that it would be any easier for her?
She kissed me, pre-empting anything that I might have thought to say. It was her way of telling me that she didn't need a response. She just needed me to hear the words.
We let the kiss go on for several minutes as I slid my hands over her back, beneath the heavy wool of her sweater.
I'd missed this so much…the connection with someone who so completely understood me.
She finally pulled back, slightly breathless and disheveled and more beautiful than ever.
She gave me a challenging look and said, "Now about that dare..."