The following is rated M for adults doing adult things. You have been warned :)

Chapter 3

Conditions were ideal for sleeping.

The rain had cleared out just after midnight, leaving in its wake a cloudless indigo sky speckled with stars. Watery moonlight eked into her bedroom through the gap between the curtains, streaking the navy duvet at the bottom of the bed with a splash of white. The storm had erased the day's humidity from the air and left it fresh and clean. A soft, cool breeze ruffled the drapes and tickled her neighbor's wind chimes, producing a sweet lullaby.

And yet Alex still couldn't sleep.

She tossed and turned, flopping around like a fish marooned on dry land. Her usually cozy bed seemed foreign. No matter how much she wiggled around, she couldn't find the mattress groove that normally cradled her. She was too cold with the blanket off, too warm with the blanket on. As the effects of the evening's alcohol faded, the shoulder she had used to plow through Frank's door began throbbing painfully and her mind, with rapidly returning clarity, had started churning. She tried counting sheep and silently singing "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" but she simply could not shut her brain down. She felt tense, wound up, physically and mentally on edge.

He kissed you. You let him.

And you liked it. A lot.

It was a moment they had flirted with before. Part of her was surprised it hadn't happened sooner. All of that time together, just the two of them . . . sometimes it was like they were married. There had been a handful of times, usually after emotionally strenuous cases, when he had lingered in the passenger seat longer than necessary when she dropped him off. She had been sure then that he was going to lean across the console and kiss her but it had been wishful thinking. He never did and she was too hamstrung by her own complicated feelings for her partner to make a move herself. Today, when it finally happened, Alex hadn't wanted it to end. She wanted to kiss him harder, deeper, to run her fingers through his hair and press herself against him.

So she pulled away.

Because she had to.

Because it was the right thing to do.

After a Chinese takeaway dinner, which she had inhaled and Bobby had pushed around his plate without consuming a morsel, they had fired up her old laptop and set about the business of finding Donny. The familiar process of working through a puzzle had been a welcome distraction, for both of them. Bobby had thrown himself into the task with abandon - brainstorming, researching, planning. Although personally Alex harbored little illusion they would actually find his nephew - the kid was remarkably elusive – the act of searching offered Bobby a purpose and a sense of hope. If it eased his aching heart, she was willing to play along.

Bobby had settled considerably since they left Frank's apartment, his emotions evening out, but the pain still lingered very close to the surface. It was written all over his features, carved into the lines on his face. If she had taken that kiss further as she wanted to, it wouldn't have been fair. He wasn't thinking straight; he was desperate for connection, confused. She would have been taking advantage of his vulnerability and that would have been wrong. He wasn't in a place to set boundaries and make good decisions. As usual, she had to be the levelheaded one.

Unfortunately that knowledge did little to quell the fire that had begun smoldering in her body.

Initially, Alex had been relieved when he had agreed to crash at her place for the night. She knew her partner well. Alone, in his apartment, he would think and that, for Bobby, could be dangerous. If he had gone home, she wouldn't have slept a wink, too worried about him. Now, it was the awareness that he was sleeping in the room right next to hers, less than ten feet away, that was negatively impacting her slumber.

Six of one, half dozen of the other. Either way, you aren't sleeping, are you?

How easy it would have been to slip into bed beside him and purge the fire from her system . . .

Sighing, Alex punched her pillow and forced herself to lay still and watch the moonlight creep across the ceiling. She tried to quiet her mind, to forget the warmth of his breath on her face, the taste of his mouth, the tickle of his stubble against her chin. The memory made her heart palpitate erratically and areas much lower tingle with an arousal that made it difficult to settle. She considered taking care of that arousal herself, with the vision of the evening's intimate moment to help her along, but dismissed that possibility, hyper aware that the telltale squeak of the bed springs would give her up if he were still awake on the other side of the wall.

She wasn't that desperate. Not yet anyway. Although it was certainly tempting . . .

Stop it. Go. To. Sleep.

Twenty minutes later, Alex gave up.

The pain in her upper arm was starting to stretch into her collarbone and shoulder blade. Even if she did find a way to shut her brain off, it would have been nearly impossible to get comfortable and she finally surrendered to her body's physical plea for aid. Gingerly, Alex pushed the sheets back and swung her legs over the edge of the bed, wincing as the movement tweaked an aggravated nerve in her arm. The fire engine red numbers on the digital alarm clock on her bureau announced that it was just after 2 am. The carpet was soft against her bare feet as she padded quietly across the room and out into the hallway in search of an ice pack and ibuprofen.

There was light issuing from the guest room.

Although she mentally cautioned herself to mind her own business, Alex still couldn't help but glance in on her way past. When she found the room empty, the sheets on the bed rumpled but still in place, a pang of anxiety pierced her stomach.

Shit. Please tell me he didn't leave . . .

An object on the green duvet caught her eye and she crossed the room to investigate, half afraid of what she would find and immensely relieved when it turned out to be just a small pile of photographs. They were dog-eared and tattered, as if they had been thumbed through often. The top picture depicted a young Bobby and Frank, both serious as they stared into the camera. Underneath it was a photo of his mother, resplendent in a well-tailored blazer and matching skirt. Alex had seen both pictures before but today they evoked a rush of sadness for the one person in those two photos who had been left behind.

"Everything okay?"

The sound of Bobby's voice nearly sent Alex's skeleton careening out of her skin. She visually started, hands flailing as she whirled around to face him.

"Damn it, Bobby . . . you scared the hell out of me."

He leaned against the door frame, clad in the black T-shirt he had been wearing under his dress shirt and a pair of boxer shorts, a glass of water in one hand.

"Sorry. I would have . . . uh, announced myself sooner . . . if I had known you would be in here."

"I thought you'd snuck out after curfew," Alex joked awkwardly, suddenly feeling unexpectedly nervous.

Leaving the doorway, Bobby crossed the room, placing his glass on the bedside table.

"I just got up for a drink."

Now that he was closer, she could see how pale and haggard his face was in the dim light of the bedside lamp. The skin around his eyes was puffy, his nose red. It was clear he had been crying even though his eyes were currently dark and dry.

Too much pain for one person. It's not fair.

"Have you slept at all?"

"No."

Bobby offered no further explanation as his gaze drifted over to her injured arm, frowning. The skin was already turning a delightful shade of purple and blue. He touched the border of the bruise gently with the tips of his fingers.

"You're hurt."

Alex swallowed hard, her pulse picking up speed with even that simple touch. "It's fine. I'm just not used to having to break down doors. That's usually your job."

Dropping his hand, Bobby's gaze drifted down her body with a slow burning intensity that made her knees tremble. She had stepped out of her room without any thought to her attire, not anticipating this chance meeting. Her thin purple camisole and matching silk sleep shorts left little to the imagination and she wished she had grabbed her robe off the back of her door. A shiver of something very close to excitement traveled up her spine as she crossed her arms over her chest to try to cover herself at least a little.

"I was just on my way to get an ice pack when I saw the light and . . . I was worried about you.

As if realizing he was staring, Bobby suddenly averted his gaze, slipped past her and sat down on the edge of the bed, scrubbing at his cheeks with the palms of his hands, stubble rasping.

"You don't need to worry about me. I'm not going to do anything stupid."

"Yeah, well, your definition of stupid isn't the same as mine," Alex retorted gently. "We've established that. So you really can't blame me for worrying."

Bobby chuckled dryly, rubbing the back of his neck. "Point taken."

Remembering that she was still clutching the pile of photos, Alex handed them to him.

"You were such a cute kid. And your mom . . . she was gorgeous. She looks so happy in this picture."

"She was a good woman." A sad smile flickered on Bobby's lips as he looked down at the photos of his loved ones. "She deserved better than life gave her."

"That's something she and her youngest son have in common," Alex replied softly.

Bobby bit his lower lip before nodding slowly. When he spoke next, his voice was flat, emotionless, resigned.

"I'm the last Goren standing, now that they're both gone. I'm not really a son anymore, or a brother. I don't know . . . who I am now."

Her heart broke for him, shattered like the mirror had under his fist at the defeat and anguish that coated those words. Tears filled her eyes, vicarious grief weighed down her limbs. She hated feeling so helpless, powerless to ease his suffering. She wanted desperately to be a balm for his soul, to stop the bleed, cauterize the wound.

Carefully extricating the pile of photos from his fingers, Alex placed them on the nightstand and moved to stand in front of him. With Bobby perched on the bed, they were nearly the same height and she was able to look him in the eye without having to crane her neck upward as she usually did.

"I know exactly who you are . . . I won't let you forget."

Cupping his face in her hands, Alex pressed her lips softly against Bobby's forehead. His skin felt clammy, almost feverish as she held them there for a moment, her eyes drifting closed. There was a hiccup in his breathing as she moved down to drop a gentle kiss on the bridge of his nose and then lowered her mouth to his.

It could have been a chaste kiss, if she had had the sense to draw away, but all reason seemed to have abandoned her and Alex opened her mouth and deepened the kiss instead, allowing her heart to assume control from her mind. Bobby responded in kind, gripping her hips to guide her closer. They kissed softly, slowly, passionately, tasting, exploring. She luxuriated in the masculine strength of his shoulders through the thin cotton of his T-shirt as she traced the contours of his back. Sliding further onto the bed, Bobby drew her with him until she was straddling his legs, knees indenting the soft mattress. Pressed against him now, she could feel just how much he was enjoying the intimate moment.

So it IS true what they say about big hands and feet . . .

When the need to breathe finally separated them, Alex sat back on her haunches, resting on his legs, her chest rising and falling heavily as she tried to catch up on air. No longer distracted by the heat of his mouth, a tiny voice in the far recesses of her brain reminded her that it was her duty to be the sensible one.

"We shouldn't be doing this. You're emotional, vulnerable right now, not thinking straight."

Bobby brushed her long hair away from her face and tucked it back behind her ears.

"Yeah, I am . . . vulnerable, and I am emotional. But that's not why I, uh . . . I kissed you earlier and it's certainly not why I want to keep kissing you now. Feeling this way, it just . . . gave me the push to do something that I've wanted to do for a very long time. I didn't kiss you because I'm feeling sad and alone, Alex. I kissed you because . . . I've got, uh feelings for you. Romantic . . . feelings."

The sweet admission melted her insides into a heap of warm goo. Alex leaned forward to kiss him again but this time it was Bobby who threw up the caution flag, holding her an arm's length away.

"But I, uh, don't want to do . . . this . . . if you're just doing it because you feel sorry for me. I only want to do this if you have romantic feelings, for me too."

Reaching out, Alex traced the curve of his jaw with her fingertips.

"I won't lie to you Bobby, you know that. I do feel sorry for you and it's killing me to see you hurting so badly. I want to take your pain away, to carry even just a small bit of your burden . . ."

Something dimmed in Bobby's eyes when she paused and the desire to ignite it again had her rushing on with further clarification.

"I wouldn't be feeling that strongly if I didn't have romantic feelings for you. I'm scared, about what it will mean if we start exploring these feelings. But right now, what I want more than anything is to be as close to you as humanly possible, to feel you, to convince myself that you're still here, that you're okay."

Bobby's face softened as he slipped a hand behind her neck and gently pulled her against him again.

"I will be."

He kissed her hard this time, more insistent, his tongue slipping into her mouth. She gave as good as she got, running her hands through his hair, tightening her legs on either side of his. Wrapping his arms around her, Bobby pulled her into bed with him, rolling them over carefully until she was on her back beneath him, her hair splayed out on a pillow.

It had been too long since she had been with a man and Alex relished the sensation of his strong hands on her waist, the rough callouses of his fingers, the bulk of him pinning her down. He was a talented kisser, with an instinctive sense of when to press his mouth hard against hers and when to pull back and force her to seek him out. Her nails dug into his back as she arched up against him.

Bobby pushed her silk camisole up with his bandaged hand, bunching it just below her breasts. Dipping his head down, he kissed the hollow of her stomach, nuzzled the skin around her belly button, ran his tongue along the upper curve of her hip. A little groan escaped her, encouraging the enthusiastic exploration.

"You're so beautiful," he whispered, sliding a hand up the contours of her rib cage until it came back into contact with her camisole. "I want this off, but I don't want to hurt your shoulder."

"I'd actually forgotten all about it," Alex murmured with a smile. "You can be quite the distraction when you want to be."

They worked together to get the camisole up and over her head and Bobby tossed it beside the bed. His eyes took her in with such a hunger that it made her squirm. When first his hand and then his mouth found her naked breasts, she wondered absently if it was possible to pass out from the pleasure.

Damn, it's been too long. I've missed this. I need this. We need this.

Her head tilted back, eyes fluttering closed, Alex grabbed the material of his T-shirt in one of her fists and tugged at it, eager to feel his bare skin against hers. She had pulled it partway up before he suddenly stopped what he was doing and grabbed her hand, stilling it.

"I-I'm self conscious," Bobby whispered. "My, my weight. You're so sexy and I'm . . . not."

"You have nothing to be self-conscious about," Alex assured him quietly. "I love the way you look, how big and strong you are. It turns me on."

He regarded her for a moment, clearly debating, and then his face relaxed and he released her hand. She seized the moment before he could change his mind and drew his shirt over his head and threw it in the same direction her camisole had traveled a moment earlier. She ran her fingers through the wiry hair on his chest and caressed his sides, exploring, enjoying, as she felt the uncertainty ebb from his body.

When he slipped a hand under the waistband of her shorts and touched her intimately, Alex moaned softly, hips lifting up off the mattress to meet his hand, begging for more. He kissed her deeply, sweetly, as he pleasured her skillfully with his fingers. He watched her reaction to each experimental touch and that aroused her more than she thought was possible.

"Good?" Bobby's voice was hoarse.

"Oh yeah," Alex mumbled, her face flushed. "So good."

Bobby bit her neck, collarbone, and shoulder as he dragged her sleep shorts down her legs slowly. Desperate to give him more freedom to work his magic, she shimmied out of them, kicking them off to the side. Alex hooked a finger in the waistband of his own shorts and ran a foot up his calf, tickling behind his knee until he shivered with anticipation.

"You too."

Requiring no encouragement this time, Bobby quickly slipped out of his boxers and lay down on his side next to her. It was Alex's turn to look hungry as the visual confirmed her suspicions – he was a striking specimen.

"You're not self-conscious about that I hope," she murmured, one corner of her mouth quirking up into a smile.

Bobby laughed, a sound that was glorious music to her ears. "No, I'm pretty happy with that."

"As you should be."

When she took him in her small hand and explored his impressive girth, he groaned and buried his face in her neck, breath hot against her skin. She stroked him and he thrust into her hand, his fingers gripping her thighs.

It didn't take long for their control to start to slip.

Drawing away reluctantly, Bobby moved back on top of her, gently parting her legs with his knees. He kissed her before entering her slowly, eyes locked on hers, enhancing the intimacy of the moment. It was far better than she had ever imagined, and she had imagined it being pretty damn amazing. When he guided one of her legs over his hip so he could go just that little bit deeper, Alex let out a cry of pleasure and breathed his name.

He held himself still for a moment, giving her time to adjust. While they waited for her body to adapt to him, she cupped his cheek, brushing her thumb over his lips. He turned his head into the touch and kissed her palm softly before finally starting to thrust in and out slowly. The sensation was so intense it felt like every nerve ending in her body had come alive. A sheen of sweat sprung up on Bobby's chest and she tightened her leg around him, drawing him in even closer. He groaned loudly, his hands balling into fists and gripping the sheets on either side of her.

"Good?" Alex inquired with a wink and a wicked grin.

Turnabout is fair play.

"Oh yeah," Bobby gasped, a drop of perspiration trickling down his neck. "Really, really good."

He was an attentive and skilled lover who took note of every sound she made, every quiver in her muscles and used the information to build her pleasure incrementally. She gripped his shoulders, gouging her nails into his skin until it must have stung, the heat rising between her legs, her body trembling as she strove desperately for the release she had been craving for hours. It was so close, just barely out of reach. Gently removing her hands from his shoulders, Bobby laced his fingers through hers and pinned her arms down on the bed on either side of her head. One hard thrust later and fireworks exploded behind her eyelids. Alex cried out as she came, holding him tight to her as she rode out her climax.

He slowed for only a few seconds, letting her enjoy the final zaps of pleasure that zinged her body, before thrusting roughly a few more times and then stilling, buried deep in her, muscles cording in his neck as he let out a hoarse shout and spilled inside her, hands clutching hers.

It took them both a while to recover their wits.

Smiling contentedly, Bobby eventually kissed her softly and collapsed onto his back beside her. He pulled the duvet over them as she curled up next to him, her head on his chest, listening to the heavy pounding of his heart. His fingers stroked up and down her side lazily, tracing the curves and dips.

"Well, the world is still turning," Alex remarked happily, draping an arm over his stomach.

Bobby's chuckle rumbled in her ear. "Yes, it is."

"I thought it might be . . . weird, awkward after. But it isn't. It actually feels sort of . . ."

"Natural?" Bobby supplied, drawing the duvet tighter around them. "Incredible? Amazing?"

She smiled against his chest. "Yes, all those."

They were quiet for a few moments before she spoke again, more serious now.

"They might be gone, but you're not alone. I'm here."

Bobby kissed the top of her head and held her tightly against him. "I know. I know."

Although she was exhausted, Alex fought sleep until Bobby's heart rate had slowed and his breathing became steadier and deeper. Once she was confident he had dozed off, she rolled over to switch off the bedside lamp, careful not to disturb him. The pile of photos caught her attention again and she noticed the corner of a third photo sticking out from the bottom. Pulling it out, Alex squinted at the picture and broke out into a huge grin. It was a photo of him. And her. In that restaurant five years ago. They had been questioning a witness and Bobby had "borrowed" a Polaroid camera and snapped a photo of the two of them. She had forgotten about that picture. The memory warmed her from the inside out.

Things might be different going forward but she knew they would figure it out. They would be okay. They had jumped into the deep end, maybe foolishly, but they would manage. They would learn how to swim together. They always did.

Propping the picture up against the base of the lamp, Alex extinguished the light and curled back up beside Bobby, allowing sleep to finally overtake her.