A SMALL WORLD
A/N: This is just a short chapter, but I thought it might be important to get something up so that those who are following this tale know I haven't forgotten about it.
Warning: If you are absolutely opposed to anything other than a Bobby/Alex pairing, you may not want to read any further. I make no apologies. If you want B/A shippiness, go read my other current tale of woe, 'The Long Road Home'.
Mucho fluffiness in this chapter. Not too much in the way of serious conversation.
“Bobby, tell my something honestly?” Alex asked quietly as they sat together on his sofa. Deakins had left nearly a half hour ago, taking a near-euphoric Mike Logan and a rueful Carolyn Barek with him. Bobby looked up at her quizzically, with a hint of trepidation in both his voice and his face.
“What is it?”
She smiled at him warmly, sensing his unease and trying to convey to him with a look that he was not in trouble. At least, not this time.
“How happy are you really to be making contact with Richie again?”
Bobby looked away from her, an all too familiar shadow clouding his features.
“I’m not happy about it at all,” he admitted reluctantly. “I wish Mike had been willing to let it go. Nothing good is going to come of this. I can feel it. But… But he still has a right to know. I can’t deny him that chance. I… I know I’d want the same chance… if it was me. I’d want to know the whole story.”
“But you don’t want to know,” Alex murmured, watching him thoughtfully. Bobby sighed softly.
“My father had an affair before I was born. He had a son through it. I don’t need anymore details than that.”
She reached up and lightly brushed a rogue lock of hair back into place.
“It’s sweet, that you aren’t willing to begrudge Mike the chance to get the answers he wants. I don’t know that I’d be as understanding.”
Bobby didn’t respond to that, and as Alex watched him, the shadows in his eyes grew.
“Bobby?” Alex asked, feeling a fresh wave of concern. “What is it? What’s wrong?”
“I don’t think the answers Mike is going to get will be anything like he’s expecting. And… I don’t know whether that’s good or bad.”
Alex sighed and hugged him warmly, pleased at the way he slipped his good arm around her and returned the hug.
“Sometimes we just have to let fate run its course, Bobby. For better or worse, we just have to learn to cope with whatever comes our way, and not waste our energy trying to avoid it.”
He couldn’t help the smile that tugged at the corners of his mouth in response to her words.
“I’m positive you were a philosopher in a previous life,” he teased lightly, knowing just how much she really hated the early philosophical scholars – primarily for her inability to distinguish each one from the next during her high school years. She answered his gibe with a whack to the arm that drew a very satisfying yelp out of him.
“There,” she said smugly as he frowned at spot where she’d hit him. It was on the upper part of his right arm, and with his right wrist still in plaster, he was incapable to rubbing the spot to soothe it. “Now we’re even.”
“Even?” Bobby complained. “You’re not the one who’ll have a bruise tomorrow.”
Her only response was to smirk at him, and Bobby smiled and rolled his eyes in mock exasperation.
“I should have known better, shouldn’t I?”
“Yes,” she answered as she got up. “You should have. Now, get yourself up off that sofa and get your pyjamas on. I’ll get your medication for you.” She paused, watching as he got up and trudged away into his bedroom before sighing softly. “I have a feeling tomorrow is going to be a very long day.”
The following morning
“Remind me again why we can’t just fly to Miami?” Carolyn asked with a frown as, between the four of them, they managed to load their bags into the SUV that Deakins had consented to them using.
“You just don’t get the concept of a road trip, do you?” Mike said.
“Oh, I get it, Mike,” she retorted. “I just can’t see the point of it. You seem like you’re desperate for answers, but you’re taking the long way around. We’re going to be on the road all day, whereas if we flew there, you could be going to see Richie this afternoon. It just doesn’t make sense.”
“If you don’t get it, then there’s no point in me trying to explain it.”
“Then let me,” Bobby interrupted as he lifted the last bag into the vehicle. “Carolyn, Mike has this warped idea that spending hours in a car together somehow helps people to bond. Never mind that we already achieved that over a month ago when we were trapped in that cage together. Plus, to put it in practical terms, sitting in a pressurised plane cabin would probably leave us both incapable of walking when we got to Florida.”
“You make it sound so insignificant when you put it like that,” Mike said in an injured voice. Bobby chuckled.
“Just putting it in perspective, Mikey.”
“Don’t make me hit you, Robert.”
“Oh, great,” Alex snorted. “It’s not enough that we’ll be stuck in a car together all day, and probably all tomorrow, too. You two clowns have start up with the sibling rivalry into the bargain! I swear, if you don’t behave yourselves, we’ll ditch you at the first gas stop.”
“You wouldn’t,” Mike said, a touch too confidently. Alex grinned her best piranha at him.
Mike and Bobby looked at each other, both suddenly unsettled.
“They would,” they said at the same moment. Carolyn smiled sweetly at them as she opened the rear door for them to get in.
“How about that, Alex. They can be taught after all.”
The first few hours of their journey proved to be a real eye opener for the women. From the moment they were on the move, Mike and Bobby fell immediately into a long and involved conversation that encompassed everything from the price of Scotch (both had sworn off whiskey permanently, to the amusement of both their partners and their captain) to the Yankees’ chances that season, to the unfortunate case load that their incapacitation had resulted in them leaving their partners.
The conversation between the two brothers was varied and colourful, and shifted from one topic to the next with startling speed. Carolyn and Alex listened with a mixture of amusement and amazement, quietly stunned by the connection they seemed to have developed in such a short time.
It was an eye opener to both, but even more-so to Alex that Bobby seemed to defer to Mike in a way that seemed almost unnatural. Whenever they hit a subject that they disagreed stringently on, it seemed to Alex that it was Bobby who backed off first, allowing Mike’s opinion to be foremost. She couldn’t help but wonder whether he was doing it deliberately to avoid arguments, or whether it was something that was much more ingrained in his subconscious.
When they finally stopped for gas, and so they could all stretch their legs, Alex cornered Bobby away from Mike, to speak quietly to him.
“Bobby, can I ask you something?”
Bobby smiled at her.
“You just did.”
Frowning, Alex whacked him on the arm.
“Don’t be a smart ass, Goren. You know what I mean.”
He chuckled, rubbing his arm to soothe the sting left by her slap.
“Sorry. Sure, go ahead, ask away.”
“Well, I was just wondering… You do realise you don’t have to go along with Mike over everything he says, don’t you?”
He gave her a strange look as he took a mouthful of water from the bottle he’d bought.
“I know, Alex.”
“I’m sorry,” she murmured. “It’s just, it seems like whatever Mike says or does at the moment, you just automatically go along with him.”
He raised an eyebrow at her.
“Like with this trip? I thought we’d already talked through that.”
“We did,” she agreed. “I just want to be sure you’re not letting Mike bully you into doing anything that you really don’t want to do.”
And then he understood. Smiling faintly, Bobby took her hand in his and gave it a reassuring squeeze.
“I’m not being bullied into anything, Alex. And… I don’t have big brother issues with Mike. He’s not Richie. I trust him.”
Alex sighed softly.
“I’m sorry, Bobby. I know you do, and I’m not trying to say you shouldn’t. I’m just…”
“Looking out for me, I know,” Bobby murmured when she hesitated. “I appreciate it, Alex. I really do. Thankyou.”
She was completely taken aback when he leaned down and kissed her very briefly on the lips.
“What was that for?”
He shrugged and smiled.
“There are more ways than one to say thankyou.”
She grinned, then.
“Mike will be jealous.”
“Why? He knows there’s nothing romantic between us. And the idiot hasn’t even bothered to ask you out yet, anyway.”
“You seriously told him to ask me out?” Alex wondered as she peered past Bobby, to where Mike was just visible in the shop, filling up a basket with God only knew what.
“Well, I wasn’t going to do it for him,” Bobby retorted. “And you can’t talk. You told Carolyn she could go ahead and hit on me, and that was when I was still in a coma!”
Alex reddened visibly.
“She thought that you…”
“Look hot in Armani,” Bobby interrupted, looking around to see where she was watching. “I know. What the hell is he doing in there?”
“Beats me,” Alex muttered. “We’d better go see. Hey, how’s the leg?”
“It’s okay,” Bobby murmured as he followed her into the shop. “I can go a bit further on it every day. The rehab is really working, for my hand, too.”
“You do realise you’re not getting out of all that while we’re away, don’t you?”
“I know. Mike wasn’t happy about it, but I’d rather keep on with it, and suffer a little bit of pain. I know what will happen if we let it go for a week.”
“So do I. Carolyn and I will be pushing you two bozos around in wheelchairs.” She looked around as Carolyn joined them, a frustrated look on her face. “What’s he doing now?”
“Buying up every high level sugar product this place has, I think,” Carolyn muttered. “Bobby, could you please remind your idiot brother that we’re only going to be on the road for a day and a half? He does not need a week’s worth of junk food!”
Bobby smirked, but went to do as Carolyn asked.
“You could’ve at least let me keep the Twinkies,” Mike said sullenly when they were finally on their way again. Bobby grinned, amused by his brother’s antics.
“We’ve still got donuts, skittles, M & M’s, and enough Coke to give us a caffeine-high for a month. I told you, Twinkies would be a bad idea. The cream would only curdle with the Coke.”
Mike looked unconvinced, and refused to be placated when Bobby offered him one of several bags of potato chips stashed behind them.
“I don’t see what’s wrong with Twinkies, anyway,” he grumbled.
“Oh, for God’s sake, Mike, quit being so juvenile,” Carolyn groaned. “If you really want Twinkies, we’ll get you your damn Twinkies when we get to Miami!”
“But you’re not having them in the car! There’s no point!”
“But that’s just it!” Mike argued. “The whole point is that there’s no point. That’s what a road trip is all about! Bobby, you get what I’m saying, don’t you?”
Bobby held up his hand defensively. “Leave me out of it. I’m happy with the soda and chips.”
“Great,” Mike muttered sourly. “Am I the only one who gets the true concept of a road trip?”
“No, Mike, you’re not,” Alex said with a wry smile. “I went on a road trip with my brother just before I went to the police academy. I understand where you’re coming from. Now, shut up and hand over the skittles.”
Mike’s face positively lit up as he passed the extra large bag over to her.
“A woman after my own heart. Alex, will you marry me?”
“Bobby, clue your brother in on how not to ask a woman out,” Alex threw back over her shoulder as she tore open the bag and immediately began searching for her favourite flavours. Mike looked indignant.
“I don’t need tips on asking women out. That’s insulting.”
Alex raised an eyebrow as she peered at him in the rear view mirror.
“What? You think they’ll just throw themselves at you with a look?”
Mike didn’t answer, but flashed his sexiest smile at her. Alex merely rolled her eyes in answer, leaving Mike looking irked, and Bobby and Carolyn both struggling not to laugh. Annoyed, Mike thumped Bobby on the arm.
“Okay, Romeo. You show me how it’s done, then.”
Bobby paused, reflecting on Alex’s comments about Carolyn before speaking.
“Carolyn, do you like to dance?”
Carolyn glanced briefly at him in surprise before returning her attention to the road.
“Sure I do. Why?”
“Because I know a little club not far from the hotel where we’ll be staying. The food’s great, and the atmosphere’s perfect for dancing. I’d love to show it to you… if you liked.”
Carolyn had to fight off an urge to beam at the offer. She knew it was going to put Mike right out of sorts, but what woman in her right mind would refuse an offer like that?
“I’d like that, Bobby. Thankyou.”
Bobby looked over at Mike, who was positively scowling by then, smirked triumphantly and then returned to looking out the window without saying a word.
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