I stared at Ross as he held his phone up in the air and declared, "But this time I have pictures to prove it."
"Pictures?" Zaring asked hesitantly. "What kind of pictures?"
"Incriminating ones," Ross said boldly, and then he shifted his focus to his phone, presumably to pull up said photos. Then he glanced up at me briefly and said snidely, "Just try to deny this, Captain."
He truly has pictures of me and Bobby?
From when? Last night?
It had to be. He wouldn't have been able to sit on damning evidence like that for any longer.
"You were running a surveillance gig on Captain Eames?" Holt asked, clearly completely puzzled by the latest turn of events.
Me, I was just speechless.
And that's probably a good thing.
Because there's honestly no telling what might've come out of my mouth.
But it wouldn't have been nearly as good as Moran's response.
"Ross, why in the hell would you take pictures of Captain Eames and Detective Goren?"
"Because…wait, you know about them?" Ross asked, echoing my exact question.
Because Ross hadn't been specific and he hadn't shown anyone the pictures yet.
I guess there's my answer to the age-old question of does Moran know…
"Kenny, what the hell is going on here?" Holt boomed. Then he looked at me and said, "Eames, do you want to explain yourself?"
"What is there to explain?" Stanley said quickly before I could respond.
He caught my eye across the table and subtly shook his head, telling me to let this play out, but it was also clear that he was just as surprised as me.
"What is there to explain?" Holt repeated. "Kenny…"
"There are no regulations against inter-departmental relationships," Moran stated firmly. "What my people do on their own time is up to them."
"What?" Ross shouted. "Since when?"
"The new rule went into effect about six weeks ago."
"I don't remember seeing anything like that come across my desk," Zaring said, although he didn't sound entirely sure of himself.
"We went over this," Moran told him, speaking to him much like a father would speak to a young child. "Remember? We had to clear it before Eames and Goren came back because they offered full disclosure about their relationship prior to their reinstatement."
"So you knew?" Ross asked dumbly.
"Yes, Lieutenant. Full disclosure is a fancy way of saying that I'm in the know."
"But what? I didn't tell you?" Moran scoffed. "Honestly, it's none of your damn business, and I'm a little disturbed by the fact that you must have followed them in their off-hours in order to document their relationship."
"Why wasn't I made aware of this?" Holt asked, speaking to Moran while carefully looking me over.
"It's irrelevant," Moran answered, standing up from his chair and commanding the mayor's attention again. "And honestly, sir…handling the personnel within specific precincts is part of my job description, not yours. You only got involved because you wanted to entice Captain Eames to take the media position."
I've got to hand it to the man.
He's not afraid to speak his mind.
Maybe that's why he appreciates that I speak mine.
"As long as she's abiding by departmental rules, her personal life shouldn't be a factor when determining fitness for duty," Zaring added decisively, as though he'd known every detail all along.
"I agree," Holt said at last, turning to Ross and frowning at him in disapproval. "You've been gunning for Eames since you got back, and I'll admit that I was on board in the beginning. There's nothing wrong with a little healthy competition. But this has gone too far."
"How can you say that?" Ross argued. "She's his boss. Surely that's a violation!"
"Superior – subordinate relationships are outlined in the new regs," Stanley explained carefully. "Like the chief mentioned…we knew about their relationship prior to them coming back."
"You know, maybe you've been away for too long, Ross," Moran added. "You're out of the loop on NYPD policies, and you clearly haven't bothered to try to catch up. I guess now we all know how you've been spending your free time."
"I haven't been following her around," Ross fired back. "It was coincidental that I ran into them."
"And you just happened to have your phone out, taking pictures?" Zaring questioned, and I swear, I felt like kissing the man.
All of them, actually.
Every damn one of them in the room.
Well, except for Ross.
Although maybe even him, too, because his prickishness was suddenly making my life a whole lot easier.
And a whole lot better.
Because now my relationship with Bobby is out in the open, and everyone just agreed that it's perfectly fine as far as the NYPD is concerned.
Which means we can get married.
Not this weekend or anything.
I had to work hard to keep from smiling while the conversation around me continued.
"Look, I thought it was something that you should be made aware of," Ross stated, still holding out his phone, obviously hoping someone would be interested in seeing his pictures.
"You thought it would get you the captain's job," Stanley corrected.
"Enough," Holt stated. "I'm done."
He paused and looked around the room, presumably waiting for all of us to focus on him.
"Captain Eames, I apologize for my indecisiveness over the past week. You've done an exceptional job. And Zaring tells me that you're willing to do weekly press conferences, is that correct?"
"Good. Major Case remains yours."
"Sir…" Ross began, but Holt held up a finger, halting his statement.
"I'm not finished," the mayor asserted. Then he turned to Moran and asked, "Don't you still have a precinct without a captain?"
"Yes, sir. The 6-8."
"There you go, Ross. Effective eight o'clock Monday morning, you're the captain of the 6-8 in Brooklyn. Get in touch with Denise to find out when she can put you on the schedule for your captain's exam. Understood?"
"Yes, sir," Ross answered quietly.
"Good. And you might want to take the weekend to read the NYPD regulations. It seems you're a little out of date."
Ross nodded, and I could tell he was biting his tongue.
It had to be demoralizing for him, to be spoken to with such condescension, especially in front of me, but…what can I say?
He's the one who put himself in this situation.
Holt checked his watch and said, "I've got another meeting in thirty minutes back at my office.
"I'll walk you out," Zaring offered, quickly moving ahead so that he could open the door for the mayor. He glanced back at me and smiled and said, "First press conference on Monday morning, okay, Captain?"
"Sure," I agreed.
Hell, I wasn't going to admit it to him, but after what just happened in this meeting, I would've agreed to do one every day of the week.
With Zaring and Holt gone, Ross stood awkwardly for a moment, and then he finally said, "Congratulations, Eames. I'm sure we'll be seeing each other around."
"I'm sure we will," I replied.
I wanted to add lieutenant on the end of that, since he'd pointedly left off captain, but I held back.
I'm just too happy for biting words.
Once Ross left, I turned and looked at Moran and Stanley, and found them both staring at me.
"What just happened?" I asked.
"I believe I just saved your ass," Moran said wryly.
"You lied about the regulations."
"No, that part's true. Well, except for the part about how long they've been in effect."
"But I didn't disclose…"
"I'm sure you wanted to," Moran interrupted. "And that's water under the bridge. Water we're never going to speak of again, okay? The regs are backdated. They went to Zaring's office a couple of days ago, courtesy of Denise. She filed them where they belong."
"This is…I'm just…"
"It shouldn't have come to this," Stanley said. "Ross was following you two? Come on…that's petty and unprofessional and…"
"And it might've worked if I'd guessed wrong," Moran pointed out.
"But you didn't," I remarked, the question in my words obvious.
"No. Why do you think I never asked you about Goren? I knew you wouldn't lie, and I didn't want to know. But Stanley made a good argument on your behalf. And it finally occurred to me that if it was true and yet no one was able to guess it, then what difference does it make who you go home to? You two obviously know how to separate personal and professional."
"Yes, sir," I agreed.
"But keep doing it," he said with a grin. "Just because I know doesn't mean I want to catch you two making out in the elevator."
"Of course not," I said quickly. "What about me being his boss?"
"Goren gets evaluated by me," Stanley explained. "And if there's any need for disciplinary action, the kind that gets documented in his jacket…that's me, too. That way your potential bias is eliminated from the equation."
"Bias?" I questioned teasingly. "You think I'd be biased?"
"No, but that's your party line to give to the press should any questions arise. Because I don't know about you two, but I don't trust that Ross will so willingly walk away."
"You think he's going to feed it to the press and try to stir something up?"
"Maybe. But it won't matter. Everything's in writing now. Zaring believes he's had it all along, and Holt's already moved on to the next thing that might get him further ahead in his political career."
I shook hands with Moran and Maas, even though I wanted to grab them both in bear hugs, and then I left the conference room, heading for Stanley's office where Bobby and Mike were waiting for me.
"Well?" Mike asked, hopping to his feet as I came in the door. Bobby got up, too, only he looked a lot more nervous.
"Ross knows, doesn't he? About us," he said quietly. "How bad is it?"
"Well, if you call me keeping my job and Moran going to bat for us as bad, then…"
"Moran? You mean…he knows?"
"I'm telling you, Bobby. We owe him. Ross took pictures of us."
"I knew he had something," he replied. "I wanted to text you, to warn you, but there just wasn't time."
"He took pictures?" Mike asked in outrage. "When? Where?"
"I didn't see them, so I'm not sure, but if I had to guess, I'd say either at the corner or outside of Bobby's apartment."
"Uh huh," Bobby agreed with a nod. "Because it had to be last night. Otherwise he would've used them already. And unless he set up surveillance in my apartment…"
I shuddered at the thought, but then smiled at Bobby, loving how he came to the exact same conclusion as me.
"So now what?" Mike asked. "We just go back to work? And everything's normal?"
"No. You're on vacation. I'll see you Monday morning. Or better yet, Sunday night for dinner, if you get back in town early enough."
"And me?" Bobby asked as a smile spread across his face.
"You have to go to work," I answered. "But just until noon, and then you're done, too."
"That sounds an awful lot like bias to me," Stanley said as he came into his office.
"Don't start with me, Stanley. I just about had a heart attack in there. You knew Moran had signed the regs already? Why didn't you tell us?"
"I didn't know. That was all him. I mean, I've been plugging for it, pretty hard, but he never told me that he'd done it."
"And he got Denise to file them in Zaring's office, as if it happened back at the first of the year," I explained to Bobby and Mike. "We gave full disclosure before we came back. It's all on the up and up."
"Including…" Bobby began and then he trailed off and purposely looked down at my left hand.
"No," Stanley said quickly. "Give us a week or two to put this behind us, will you?"
"Yes, sir," I answered as I headed for the door. Mike and Bobby followed and then I paused in the doorway, turning back to Stanley. "And thank you. Really. Without you, this whole thing would've turned out…differently."
He gave me a nod and then sat down at his desk.
"Oh, and Stanley," Bobby added. "Sunday night at Pete's. Bring Traci."
He grinned at us and then waved us out, so the three of us headed for the elevator.
Once we were on, Mike turned his back to us and said, "Go ahead. You know you want to."
"Uh uh," I joked. "Moran specifically mentioned no making out on the elevator."
"Did he say anything about hugging?" Bobby asked as he pulled me into his arms.
"No, he didn't."
"Good," he said. And then he leaned down and said softly into my ear, "Congratulations, Captain. The best man did win."