A/N – Here's the first of what I hope will be a series of post eps, one for each episode of Season 4, which will depict the development of a romantic relationship between Goren and Eames. If you aren't a B/A shipper, you likely won't enjoy. I'm new to watching L&O CI, but I love it. I hope I do the characters justice. Reviews are appreciated, good or bad. Obviously I own nothing. All characters are the property of Dick Wolf.
Chapter 1 – Semi – Detached
"I didn't mean for you to see it."
His words haunted Alex long after they left the Carlson residence. They swirled in the eddy of her mind while Nelda was processed and lingered even after she and Bobby returned to their desks to officially close the case. Normally efficient with paperwork, the words had filled Alex's pen with lead and made each stroke laborious.
What had he meant? Individually, each word was simple and clear. Together . . . well, that was more complicated.
Had he really come to care for Nelda as she insisted? Had he honestly fallen for the perp? Or was it all an act, his words an expression of the guilt he felt for leading her on? Like she had told the Captain, it wasn't the first time she had seen Bobby play a suspect. He was an affable flirt, skilled at befriending the unsuspecting and using rapport to unravel them. But something about this one . . . something was different. Something about the way he looked at Nelda and talked to her had given birth to an uncomfortable knot in the pit of Alex's stomach - a knot that had formed for reasons she wasn't ready to explore.
Returning her attention to the report in front of her, Alex realized she had written the same sentence three times. With a frustrated sigh, she threw her pen down on the desk. It skipped off her blotter and skidded across Bobby's desk before dropping into his empty chair. The detectives working the night shift around her didn't even look up. It certainly wasn't the first time there had been an unexpected outburst from that particular pair of desks.
She had obviously been working with Bobby far too long. Now she was behaving like him.
Chair legs scraping against the floor, Alex pushed back from her desk. Jamming the final report into her "To Do" box, she grabbed her coat off the rack. The rest was going to have to wait until Monday.
"Eames! Wait up."
He caught up with her as she trotted down the steps toward the parking garage.
With an internal groan that threatened to go external, Alex halted abruptly on the steps, jingling her keys impatiently. Right now, Bobby was the last person she had any desire to see. All she wanted to do was go home, open the bottle of bourbon she had purchased last week as an expensive treat, and silence the endless loop of his words in her mind.
"I didn't realize you were still here," Alex mumbled when he finally caught up with her, huffing from his sprint down the stairs.
Tugging at his tie, Bobby nodded in the direction of the precinct. "I was on the third floor, doing some consulting with one of my homicide buddies. What are you still doing here? I thought you would have wrapped up your paperwork hours ago."
"Yeah, so did I." A soft breeze ruffled her hair, and Alex had to free a strand that got stuck to her bottom lip. "Look, I'm done for the night. I'll see you Monday, okay?"
As she turned to leave, Bobby reached out, stopping himself just before he snagged the sleeve of her coat. "Uh, could I get a ride? My car is at the mechanics. Don't feel like the hassle of hailing a cab on a Friday night."
Biting the inside of her cheek, Alex stifled a sigh. His apartment wasn't significantly out of the way, but the prospect of being cooped up in a car with him for even a minute was not an attractive one at the moment. Still, she couldn't very well say no without a reason, and the only reason she had was sure not one she wanted to talk about.
"Of course. No problem."
If she had ever participated in a more awkward car ride, she couldn't remember it. Bobby's apartment was only 20 minutes away from the precinct, but the time seemed to stretch out interminably. The radio was playing an 80's rock ballad at medium volume, but the silence between them was still painfully obvious. Neither of them was a chatterer under normal circumstances, but even a casual observer would notice that the dynamic was off. Out of the corner of her eye, Alex could see Bobby glancing over at her occasionally, but she kept her gaze locked on the sea of taillights ahead.
They were less than five blocks away from his apartment when he finally broke the silence. "Something wrong Eames?"
"No." Her tone was completely unconvincing, even to her own ears, but Bobby only nodded and returned his gaze to the scenery outside the passenger side window. Frustrated at her inability to appear nonchalant, Alex drummed her fingers sharply on the steering wheel.
After another few minutes, in which they had progressed less than a block, he tried again. "Are you sure? You don't seem like yourself."
Alex remained silent for a long moment, biting her lip and searching for a way to broach the topic and loosen the knot in her stomach without betraying just how much thought she had been giving to the subject of Nelda.
"I'm just getting a little tired of having to defend you to the Captain Bobby."
Seemingly surprised by that response, Bobby squinted at her, cocking his head slightly to the side. "What do you mean?"
"He questioned your objectivity in the Nelda Carlson case. He thought you were getting too personally involved. That you actually had feelings for her." The latter part was her opinion, not the Captain's, but Bobby didn't need to know that.
Bobby's face remained inscrutable. "What did you say?"
Alex shrugged. "That you were just playing her. But to be honest Bobby, I'm not exactly convinced of that myself."
She had been expecting a denial that didn't come. Instead Bobby said nothing, his gaze returning to the passenger side scenery. As the car crept forward through another light, he wound down his window and let in a cool breeze.
His unanticipated silence made the knot in her stomach expand. "So he was right, and so was Nelda. You did care for her."
Bobby twisted his hands together as he often did when deep in thought, but avoided her now steady gaze. "I was attracted to her, yes. Maybe even more so to the idea of her. To the idea of having someone who looked at me with the same passion that Nelda had when she looked at her ex-husband."
"Bobby, that was a little too much passion. Nelda Carlson is twisted."
With an acquiescent tilt of his head, Bobby nodded in the direction of the road. "Light's green."
Reflexively Alex jerked her gaze back to the road and stepped hard on the gas just as the car behind bleated its horn. The SUV shot forward, but the conversation died in its tracks. When Bobby fell silent again, she couldn't help herself. She pushed him.
"So that's your type huh? I've always wondered. Dependent and unstable."
When she rehearsed the line in her head, it had sounded joking. When it actually slipped out of her mouth, it was coated in bitterness. She could tell by the way the skin tightened at the corner of his eyes that Bobby hadn't missed the hostility, but he kept his voice low and steady, which irritated her even more. Damn him for being calm even in the face of her rudeness.
"I like to be needed, yes. I have a soft spot for women who need protection, definitely. But that doesn't describe my 'type'. That's not really what I'm attracted to."
Pulling to the curb by Bobby's apartment, Alex shoved the car into park rougher than was necessary. "It doesn't matter. I'm sorry I brought it up."
Bobby unbuckled his seatbelt but sat staring at her with unwavering eyes. "So why did you bring it up?"
"Because I thought you had more sense than to get personally involved with a perp," Alex muttered, folding her slender arms across her chest. "Christ Bobby."
A shadow flitted across his handsome face. "You are blowing this out of proportion. Nothing happened between me and Nelda, nothing physical anyway. Everything I did was to solve the case. I know my boundaries."
Alex shook her head. "See, that's the problem with you Bobby. I never know what's real, and what's just a game."
It was a low blow, and she knew it. From the flash of hurt that registered in his eyes, so did he.
Bobby opened his mouth to respond, closed it, and then opened it again. When his vocal cords failed to come through for him the second time, he wrenched open his door, slid out of the seat, and slammed it behind him. He had only made it a few feet away when he abruptly turned and stomped back to the SUV, finger wagging in typical Bobby Goren fashion.
"You want me to be real Eames? Okay, I can be real with you. No more games. You want to know my type? Here goes." Leaning into the SUV through the open passenger side window, Bobby started ticking off criteria on his fingers. "Intelligent, driven, confident, and loyal with a dry sense of humor that never fails to make me smile. Slender, blonde, beautiful inside and outside. Amazing smile. Sound familiar, or are you going to make me spell it out? YOU are my type Eames."
Stunned, Alex slumped back in her seat, folding in on herself like a deflated balloon. As she struggled to find the words to respond to that admission, Bobby drew a deep breath and scrubbed a hand over his face. She could see the energy drain from his features and the passion that had fueled his indignity seconds earlier begin to fade. She had to fight the urge to reach across the seat and cup his face.
As if sensing this desire, Bobby lifted his eyes to meet hers and reached out in his own way, with words. "I'd like to take you out sometime."
With that statement, the knot in her stomach dissipated and was replaced with first a flutter of anticipation and then a twinge of sadness that she forced herself to quell. "Bobby, I'm very flattered, but we ca-"
He held up his hand to silence her. "I know. You're right. We're partners, and I never want to jeopardize that. You are the only person in this world who believes in me Alex. I just want you to know, that if the situation were different, I would ask you out in a heartbeat."
Straightening, Bobby stepped back from the vehicle. A soft icy rain had begun to fall, and light from the streetlamp danced in the drops in his curly hair. He turned and glanced up at his building before returning his gaze briefly to her. "Goodnight Eames."
Bobby had made it halfway up the walk before Alex finally found her voice and called out his name. He turned to look at her, but his face was cloaked in a shadow that made his reaction to her parting words impossible to discern.
"I just want you to know, that if the situation were different, I would've said yes."