Bobby POV (mostly concurrent timeline with previous chapter)
I'm an acquired taste.
That given enough time I suddenly become palatable?
Is six years enough time?
I'm not sure.
I do know that Eames was upset while reading that letter aloud.
And I felt bad for her.
It's nothing new for me, hearing those words.
That kind of thing has followed me my whole life.
What bothers me is learning how close I was to losing her.
As a partner, I mean.
Because I had no idea.
And if I didn't know then and yet it was imminent, then how would I know now?
What's to stop her from writing another letter? I might not know about it until I show up at 1PP and find someone new sitting at the desk across from me.
And as much as it would've bothered me back then, if it happened now, I have no idea what I'd do.
Because I'd be completely devastated.
After the courtroom incident, we worked diligently to finish up the Garrett case and things felt somewhat normal, but I could tell she was walking on eggshells.
Because she thinks I'm upset with her.
And I guess I am, but I don't want to talk about it. If we get into that conversation, I'm not sure what I'll say, because I think I'm upset for a different reason than she thinks.
At quitting time, she quickly reached for her jacket.
"So…I'll see you Monday, okay?" she said cautiously.
And I'm not sure what I'd been expecting, but something.
It's not my style to want to talk about things and analyze them…okay, so maybe it is my style, but only when it comes to a case. I don't like talking about my emotions or personal feelings, things like that.
But I thought that Eames would.
Instead, it seemed like she couldn't get away from me fast enough.
And as I stood there, watching her walk away from me, my mind started racing.
Is there another letter sitting in Deakins' inbox?
Is that why she's afraid to talk to me?
"Hey, Goren, you okay?"
At the sound of Logan's voice, I realized I was staring at the empty hallway, the place where Eames had been moments ago.
"I'm fine," I answered.
"You sure? Because I'm going to grab a beer later, so if you're interested…"
Which is how, a couple of hours later, I found myself sitting on a bar stool next to Logan.
"What a case, huh?" he remarked. "That whole family is twisted."
"Uh huh," I agreed. "Egotistical dad raised an attention-starved son."
"And don't forget the jealous mouse of a wife. You know, if she'd just left him years ago, none of this would've happened. Ethan might've turned out normal."
"It's easier said than done," I mused. At his raised eyebrow, I added, "Leaving. You know, even if you know the relationship's bad for you, sometimes it's still tough to call it quits."
Is that Eames?
Does she want to go, but can't make herself sever the ties?
"I asked you if everything's alright. You look a little…I don't know. More brooding than usual."
"You're the one who invited me out. If you don't want to be here, then go," I replied gruffly.
"I'm not saying that," he said firmly. "I'm asking if you want to talk about it."
"Talk about what?"
"Eames and that letter."
Good news travels fast.
"What's there to talk about? She nearly ditched me. Then she changed her mind."
I kept my gaze focused on my beer, but I could feel his eyes on me and it was obvious that my forced nonchalance wasn't fooling him.
"What'd she say about it?"
"She said she was sorry for not telling me."
"She doesn't owe me anything else."
Logan sighed heavily and then called to the bartender for another round.
"She's not going anywhere," he said after another minute.
"I know that."
"No, you don't. You're sitting there, wondering about the next time she writes a letter like that, what'll happen if she doesn't retract it. But there isn't going to be a next time. And you know that."
"All I know is that it could've been over before it ever really started, and I never saw it coming."
"Because it didn't come…it didn't happen…you know how it is when you're first getting used to a partner. Sometimes it takes a while to work out the kinks. It's like sex."
"It's like what?" I asked in surprise, finally turning my head to look at him and finding him grinning at me.
"Sex," he repeated. "Some woman like it one way, and some like it another. It might take a few rolls in the sack before you find the rhythm that works for both of you, you know what I'm saying?"
"With Eames, she had a brief moment of weakness before she decided to jump back into bed with you for another try, and then it clicked and boom…here you are, six years later, banging away like pros."
Only Logan would use sex as an analogy for my current situation.
But it worked, because I found my mood lightening and yeah, it's probably partly due to the intriguing picture he painted, but still…he's right.
Can I blame her for not being sure about me from the start? I wasn't exactly easy to work with.
And at that point, I hadn't earned her trust yet.
Now, I have.
And she'd never blindside me with something like that. Even if she does suddenly decide to leave, I know she'd talk to me about if first, because that's who we are now.
I took in a deep breath as my muscles began to unclench and my brain started to clear.
She's not leaving me, I thought with renewed conviction.
"So how are you and Barek doing?" I asked Logan, fully relaxing as I picked up my glass. "Banging away like pros yet?"
He barked out a laugh and started to say something, but then took a sip of his drink instead.
I kept watching him until he turned to look at me.
"We're doing alright," he said ambiguously.
"You've learned her rhythm? Is it hard and fast? No, wait…I bet she's a slow burn kind of girl, right?" I continued, having fun throwing his analogy back at him.
But he didn't respond at all, and it made me suspicious.
"What's going on with you and Barek?"
"She's my partner."
"And what? Eames is your partner. You like it when people assume there's something more going on just because you work with a good-looking woman?"
His comment had my mind going in different directions.
First off, I'm not sure I like it that he's noticed Eames' attractiveness.
And secondly...well, I am sure I don't like it. What's he doing looking at her like that?
"There's nothing going on between me and Eames."
"That's not what I asked," he replied, and now it was his turn to look at me curiously.
"Wait, how did we get onto us?" I deflected. "I was asking about you and Barek."
He regarded me carefully without saying a word and then he turned back towards the bar, picking up his glass and finishing off the remaining liquid.
"I might've done a really stupid thing," he said at last.
And then I thought I had it figured out.
He must've hit on her…or propositioned her…something.
And she must've said no.
Now their partnership is on the skids?
Is this a cautionary tale, warning me away from the fantasy that Eames and I might ever be more than we are?
"Just tell her you're sorry," I said. "She's a reasonable woman. You two can work it out."
"Tell her I'm sorry?" he asked in confusion.
"Wait, are we talking about the same thing here?"
"I'm gonna say no," he said with a rueful smile. Then he dropped his voice and said, "We're sleeping together. Me and Carolyn. For a few weeks now."
I wasn't sure which part has me more surprised.
That he and Barek are having sex.
That it's been going on for weeks.
That I didn't guess it beforehand.
"And it's not…working?" I asked him.
"It's working great. She's…wow. I mean you know how great she is to work with, and I'm telling you, she's even better when…"
"I don't need details," I interrupted.
"I'm not talking about sex," he said quickly. "I'm talking about…just…when we're not at work. When we're hanging out in my apartment or having dinner together or…whatever. She's incredible."
Hearing him talk about it, about spending time with Barek in their off-hours, made me think about Eames. And the things we do and don't do in our off-hours.
And yet his earlier declaration still had me nervous.
It was stupid for him to pursue a relationship with her because…it's making things difficult at work?
I have to know.
"This stupid thing…is it because you're having trouble working together?"
"No," he said, acting like my suggestion was the craziest thing in the world. "Are you listening to me? She's the whole package. And we've been able to separate work from not work, and it's…it's been the best few weeks of my life."
"Then what's the problem?"
"It's supposed to be about sex."
"And it isn't?" I asked him, somewhat confused.
And yeah, I'll admit it.
Maybe I'm not paying as much attention to him as I should be. I mean, I am, but I keep somehow replacing him and Barek with me and Eames, trying to picture how it might work if she and I were to somehow become more than partners.
"Goren…it's…this is between us, right?"
"Who would I tell?"
"Eames," he answered immediately.
"I won't," I promised.
He nodded at me slowly and then dropped his gaze self-consciously as he said, "I'm in love with her. So…stupid, right?"
"No," I argued. "But…are you sure?"
"I think about her all the time," he said quietly. "I want to be with her all the time. Like tonight, she's out with Eames, and I…"
"She's out with Eames?" I interrupted. "Where?"
"Hey, we're working on me right now," he said, but then he laughed as he shook his head. "Never mind. We'll come back to me. I think maybe we need to talk about you and Eames."
"There's nothing to talk about. We're good. So are you going to tell Barek how you feel?"
"And have her politely say no thank you? No. I'm hoping maybe it'll go away. Let's face it. Women don't hook up with me for love."
"Barek doesn't seem like the type to mix business with pleasure," I countered. "I can't imagine she'd have trouble finding a bedmate, so if she picked you, it's probably for good reason. I think maybe you're underestimating her."
We were both quiet for a few minutes, with him surely thinking about what to say or not say to Barek, and with me pondering the situation as a whole.
They've been seeing each other, intimately, for weeks and I had no idea.
No one has any idea, which means their professionalism prevailed.
That I have an example to offer Eames if I ever get up the nerve to tell her how I feel?
"Logan and Barek did it, so why can't we?"
Real mature, Goren.
Besides, Barek was obviously receptive to Logan's advances, and I have no idea whether or not Eames would be open to mine.
She's never really shown me any sign of interest, other than her steadfast commitment to standing by my side.
Well, with the exception of the time she wrote the letter. But like Logan said, that was in the beginning.
And we're banging like pros now, right?
"What if I tell her and it messes us up?" Logan asked me. "Once it's out there, you can't take it back."
My thoughts exactly.
And yet I think I know the answer.
"If you feel it, then it's there whether you say it or not. Holding back is only going to prolong the inevitable. Either it'll work or it won't. And it doesn't have to ruin things, even if she doesn't feel the same. I mean, she liked you enough to say yes when you propositioned her, right?"
"Actually, she came on to me," he said, his grin broadening as he straightened up in his chair. "She showed up at my apartment in the middle of the night, after we'd had a disagreement on a case. We talked and got things straight, and she was getting ready to leave, when out of nowhere, she just kissed me."
He continued smiling as he reached for his glass, letting his words hang in the air for a minute.
I pondered that, picturing quiet and reserved Barek suddenly making a move on him…and then I tried to imagine Eames doing that same thing.
She'd have to go up on her toes…and I'd still have to lean down…of course, we're about the same difference in height as Logan and Barek, so it's not like it isn't doable.
But then what next?
What kind of awkwardness might ensue after that first kiss?
"Then what?" I asked him, because it's suddenly really important for me to know. "Did you ask her on a date or something? Or did you talk about how to go forward?"
"After the kiss? Oh. Um…no. We just…you know," he said, tipping his head briefly to the side as he raised his eyebrows.
"That same night?"
"Within about ten minutes," he answered. "And then again a couple of hours later. You know, what's with all the questions, Goren?"
"What? Nothing. I'm just…you know, it's weird thinking about you and Barek like that."
"Well then don't think about it. I wasn't trying to give you whack-off material."
"Ha ha," I retorted defensively. "I think you're the one who started this conversation, right?"
"I didn't know you'd be hitting me up for the playbook."
And that's exactly what I've been doing, but I'm never going to admit it because I have no idea if I'll ever actually get up the nerve to try it out.
He continued to stare at me inquisitively as he asked, "So what gives?"
"Nothing. I'm…I'm happy for you. And I think you should tell her. I bet you'll be surprised by her response."
"Huh. Funny. I was going to say the exact same thing to you."
And I don't know what he thinks he knows about my feelings for Eames. I've certainly never admitted them out loud to anyone, ever.
And I had every intention of keeping it that way.
But Logan got me thinking.
Even after I paid my tab and went home to my empty apartment, I was still thinking.
And how much I like spending time with her.
And how lately, I can't help but notice exactly what she's wearing and how she smells and how she smiles at my silly jokes when she thinks I'm not looking and how she says the funniest one-liners at the most unexpected times…
I need to call her and make sure that everything's right between us.
I went into the kitchen and found my cell phone on the counter, next to my badge and gun, but as I picked it up, I remembered the other thing Logan had said.
Barek and Eames went out tonight.
I didn't realize they were that kind of friends.
Although I think it's a good thing. I worry from time to time that Eames doesn't have any kind of life because I demand so much of her time, but having a friend like Barek, someone who's very similar in personality and job commitment…it'll be good for her.
But I can't call her while she's out.
I carried the phone with me back into the living room as I pondered what time would be a good time, and then I wondered what the two of them might talk about.
Was Barek telling her about her relationship with Logan?
What would Eames say to that?
And then I thought about her face on the stand as she read aloud that letter.
Her voice had cracked, and she'd fidgeted uncharacteristically, clearly extremely uncomfortable with the situation.
Which part was most upsetting to her? The words themselves? Or the fact that she'd wanted to leave me?
I let my eyes fall closed as I continued through the recap, only I altered the reality as I drifted towards sleep.
This time, we weren't in the courthouse lobby.
We were in the car, parked along the curb out front.
"Bobby, I'm sorry. I should've told you," she said, looking at me with sad eyes as she reached out to touch my face.
"I am an acquired taste. I'm lucky you withdrew your letter."
"No, I'm the lucky one. I can't imagine my what my life would be like without you in it."
And then she leaned over and kissed me, just a light graze of her lips against mine, and yet it instantly set me on fire and I had to have more.
I put my arms around her, pulling her as close as I could within the confines of the vehicle, and I kissed her hard, trying to show her just exactly how I feel about her.
To my amazement, she returned the kiss, just as enthusiastically, and as we sat together in the front of the car, with her chest pressed against mine and our lips fused together, someone knocked on the window.
But we didn't stop.
Because I can't let her go. I can't ever let her go.
The knocking persisted, and it was breaking my concentration and I wanted to shout at the intruder, to tell him to just go the hell away, and then as the rapping gave way to pounding, my eyes flew open as I sat up straight in the chair.
And then I had to breathe for just as second because wow…that was such a perfect dream.
I would swear I can still feel her lips against mine, and I had to take another minute to breathe and then I finally got to my feet and made my way to the door.
"Who is it?" I called out roughly, wondering what might have happened next in that dream, and even more curious to find out if I can manage to slip back into it as soon as I ditch the annoying person outside my door.
I stopped in my tracks three feet from the door.
Am I still dreaming?
I looked at the clock.
I glanced down at myself.
Sweatpants and a t-shirt.
Is this what I'd be wearing in a dream?
"If you're not going to open up, just say so," she called out, sounding slightly annoyed.
Dream Eames would've said something seductive.
Trust me, I know. I've been dreaming about her for years.
"I'm coming," I assured her, and then I walked over to the door and undid the locks, but after opening the door, I wasn't so sure.
Because she's looked like this in my dreams before.
Dressed for work and yet…not.
Hair slightly tousled, blouse undone a little lower than usual, cheeks flushed.
"Am I waking you?" she asked, the irritation from a moment ago completely gone from her voice.
"No. I…um...yeah, sort of. I think I fell asleep in the recliner."
"I'm sorry. I know it's late, but can I come in?"
"Yeah, sure," I agreed immediately, stepping back to let her inside.
And I felt like a heel for doing it, but I couldn't help it – not only did I check out her cleavage as she walked towards me, but I also looked at her ass after she walked past.
And if this isn't a dream, and she catches me, I'm going to be toast.
I closed the door and redid the locks and then turned around to find that she'd wandered into the living room.
Not that I mind.
Eames is always welcome here, and she's spent a considerable amount of time on my couch.
Looking at case files, of course, but still…I like that she seems comfortable here.
"Can I get you something?" I offered.
"I could probably use a glass of water," she replied.
So I went into the kitchen and turned on the faucet, cupping my hands beneath it so that I could splash some cold water on my face. That helped a little, so then I got out a glass, filling it with water before heading back to the living room.
"Thanks," she said simply as she took the glass from my hand.
I watched her as she drank it all, my eyes roaming over her purposefully while Logan's words rang out in my head.
She showed up at my apartment in the middle of the night…
"Sorry," she said self-consciously as she set the empty glass down on a coaster. "Carolyn and I were drinking earlier and I…"
Then she stopped talking and turned towards me, seeming to steel herself for what more she was about to say.
"Bobby, I'm sorry about that letter. It was an impulsive reaction to what was probably a normal adjustment period for us as new partners, and…"
"It's okay," I interrupted, because she looked like she was getting upset again and the last thing in the world I want is for her to cry, especially not because of me.
"It's not okay. And what I said…I didn't know you then, and I had no business making that kind of assessment about you, and…"
"Eames," I said, stopping her again as her eyes filled with tears. "Just promise me one thing."
She nodded as she worked to get her emotions under control, and I had to step closer to her because I absolutely had to touch her, and I don't know why, other than because she looks so vulnerable and sad and…and…beautiful.
But I wasn't sure where to touch her because her hands were down at her sides, and as I got closer, she suddenly seems so small and I felt like the weight of my hand might be too much for her.
But I did it anyway, because this is Eames, and she's so much stronger than she looks. I know that for a fact.
I put my hand on her shoulder and I could feel the delicate bones beneath the heated skin and the thin material and since she didn't flinch or make any move to back away, I didn't stop there. I moved it over until it covered the crook of her neck, with half of my hand still on her blouse and the other half now touching the skin of her throat.
Her eyes widened slightly, but she continued to stand her ground, watching me closely as I eased even closer until our bodies were nearly touching, but not quite, and she had to tip her head back in order to maintain eye contact.
I almost lost track of what I wanted to say, the nearness of her creating a tantalizing distraction, but I stayed on point because it's too important…I have to say the words.
"Promise me that if you ever decide that you want another partner, you'll talk to me about it first. Not so that I can talk you out of it, but just so that I'll know, okay?"
"I'm never going to want another partner," she responded quietly, her eyes unwavering from mine.
"You say that now, but please…"
And then she fidgeted slightly, shifting her weight from one foot to the other, and then she nervously licked her lips.
I don't think it was an intentional act meant to tease, but it did, and I wanted to slide my hand into her hair, or maybe even slip it down inside of her blouse that was open just enough to taunt me.
But we don't do that, I reminded myself. Because we're partners.
And then I heard Logan again.
"We talked and got things straight, and she was getting ready to leave, when out of nowhere, she just kissed me."
"Are we okay?" she asked me, her voice barely more than a whisper.
"I think…we're probably better than we've ever been."
"Are you sure? Because I feel like…I don't know. Like maybe I lost some of your trust."
"You haven't. Like you said, that letter was written before you knew me. At the time, we were just getting started. It doesn't change how I feel about you now, or how I think you feel about me."
Wow, I didn't exactly mean to open that door.
I mean, I want to and yet at the same time, I can't remember the last time I was this afraid.
It's such a huge risk – she's everything to me.
"And how is that?" she asked. "How do you think I feel about you?"
Without forethought, I started stroking my thumb over the edge of her jaw, and I felt her lean slightly into my touch.
"I'm not sure exactly," I admitted. Then I smirked and said playfully, "But I know you don't think I'm bizarre or volatile, and I'm pretty sure you don't question my mental stability."
She smiled then, letting out a small laugh as her entire body seemed to relax at my words.
"I never said that you're bizarre. Only your interrogation technique."
"Point taken," I agreed. "Although you also said that I'm an acquired taste."
"Which you conceded."
"True," I said with a nod.
And it's crazy that we're still standing here just looking at each other, and I want to make some kind of move so badly and yet I think it has to come from her or else I'll always wonder if she's simply trying to make me happy.
So I waited.
I did trace my fingers along the edge of her ear, under the guise of pushing her hair back, and then I asked her, "So have you?"
"Have I what?"
"Have you acquired a taste…for me?"
I didn't breathe at all while I waited for her response, but fortunately for me, it didn't take her long.
She brought her hands up to my chest, her fingers clenching the fabric, and then she slowly rose up on her toes, keeping those luminous golden eyes locked on mine.
And then, as her lips hovered near mine, she said, "I think I have, yes. Let's find out for sure."