POST MORTEM: IN THE WEE SMALL HOURS
A/N: Just a little bit of fluff - my take on what happened after that gut-wrenching courtroom scene during In The Wee Small Hours. And this was not easy to come up with after all the other excellent stories that have emerged from that one incredible scene.
Disclaimers: The usual.
Rating: For once, pretty light stuff. K+. This is all just fluff. LOL Who knew I was capable?
John Eames sat in his favourite armchair, staring at the television in front of him, but not actually seeing the football game that was playing. His mind was churning with everything that had happened that evening, and it was a struggle to get it all in order, to put it all into perspective.
He knew his daughter had been working a difficult case. He’d seen images of her and her partner on the news approximately two weeks ago, after arresting Judge Harold Garrett for rape and murder. She’d called him a few days later, and though she’d reassured him that she was okay, John hadn’t been so sure. She’d sounded tense, worried. A little bit of prodding had eventually gotten the truth out of her. It turned out that she and her partner, Bobby Goren, were working the case in tandem with two other Major Case detectives, Logan and Barek.
A smile touched his lips at the thought of his daughter working alongside the likes of Mike Logan. It would have been interesting to know what she thought of the guy, compared to her off-the-wall partner.
He shook the thought from his head, his mind returning to the issues at hand. Alex had told him, after considerable probing on his part, that Garrett had hired a Private Investigator to dig up dirt on them all – first Logan, then Barek, and then Bobby. Someone, she’d told him in a distressed voice, had gone to Carmel Ridge, where Bobby’s mother was institutionalised, and asked her question after question about her youngest son until she’d had suffered a psychotic break.
Bobby had been enraged, she’d told him, and he had gone straight to Garrett about it.
When Alex had told him that, John had honestly expected the next thing out of her mouth to be that Bobby was currently on suspension, and facing assault charges. To his very great surprise, she’d told him with pride in her voice how Bobby had focused his anger, and cunningly used it to draw a confession to the rape out of Garrett. And he’d done it without laying so much as a finger on the man.
John had waited for Alex to tell him that a personal attack had been made against her as well, but she’d assured him when he asked that nothing had happened. At that stage, only Logan, Barek and Bobby had been targeted.
That had worried John. It had worried him a lot, knowing there was plenty that Garrett could use to go after his little girl. He’d spent the next week and a half waiting for what he thought was the inevitable. Then, tonight, the inevitable had finally happened.
Alex had showed up at their door shortly after seven, in a state of high agitation. Her brother Philip had been there at the time, and to start with neither of them had been able to get out of her just what was wrong. All she kept saying over and over was ‘the letter, they found the letter’.
Finally, Philip had lost his temper and shouted out at her to quit rambling and blurt it out. Alex had frozen, staring at the both of them for a good minute or so before she suddenly burst into tears, collapsing onto the couch. John had spent the next half hour holding her and rocking her gently, waiting for the heart-rending sobs to subside. Once the sobs had quietened some, she’d then told him and Philip what had transpired that morning in court.
Both men had listened silently, Philip in confusion and John with grim understanding. When she’d finished explaining, Philip had gently pulled his distraught sister to her feet and taken her through to the guest room to put her to bed.
John looked up as Philip emerged from the darkened hallway.
“Yeah. Cried herself to sleep. Did you know? About this letter, I mean?”
“She talked to me about it,” John confirmed. “I knew she’d been having trouble coping with Bobby when she first started working with him, and about two months in she told me she’d written a letter requesting a new partner. I have to admit, I was happy to hear it. I’d heard plenty about Bobby Goren before he was partnered with Alex, and none of it was good. I was worried he was going to get her hurt… or maybe killed.”
“Dad, there’s a danger that could happen any time, no matter who she’s partnered with,” Philip reminded his father gently. “You know that.”
John sighed. “Yes, I know. I just figured the risk was high enough as it was without having a loose cannon for a partner. Anyway, she told me a couple of days later that she’d withdrawn the request. I asked her why… I admit, I was a bit disappointed… but she wouldn’t tell me the exact reason. She just said something had happened to help her see him in a new light. Of course, now I’d hate to see them separated… but back then, it was just an awkward situation.”
“She’s pretty torn up that it got dredged up in court today,” Philip mused. “You think Bobby was angry at her?”
“I suppose he’d have a right to be,” John conceded. “I’d hope he’s a better man than that, though. They’ve been together for five years now. He should know it’s water under the bridge.”
Philip sighed, then stepped towards the door.
“I’ve got to get going, Dad. I’ll see you later, all right?”
John nodded absently, barely aware when his son left. He knew that his daughter’s partnership with Bobby Goren was her business, and he’d always stayed out of it when she’d clearly had problems with him in the past, but in the past those problems had been a result of something Bobby had said or done. This time, it was a result of something Alex had done.
Before he could talk himself out of it, John Eames picked up the phone, and dialled Bobby’s phone number.
Bobby sat on the window seat in his bedroom, staring out at the night lights of New York. His phone was ringing, but he had no desire to move to answer it. Right then, all he wanted, more than anything, was to sink into oblivion and just let his mind turn off.
He almost laughed. Like that was ever going to happen. His mind had always moved in top gear, for as long as he could recall. It was just that, normally, it was filled with… well, with less depressing thoughts. The truth was, he hadn’t felt this lousy since the Croyden affair.
The entire case over the last few weeks had been one god-awful nightmare. First, the revelation that their prime suspect was the son of a prominent and powerful judge… then the realisation that the judge himself was a viable suspect… and then the personal attacks that had been so callously levelled at each of them.
First, it had been Logan, with the supposed class action against him over so-called violent behaviour towards suspects. Then Barek, with the pulling of her FBI file… And then, his own mother.
Bobby shut his eyes and pinched hard at the bridge of his nose as he recalled the sickening phone call from the staff at Carmel Ridge.
Your mother had a visitor… highly agitated… psychotic break… restrained and sedated…
The last time he’d felt that sick had been… Well, he couldn’t remember ever feeling that sick.
What was worse, though, was the way he had unintentionally pushed Alex aside when she’d only being trying to help… trying to support him. He hadn’t meant to, he really hadn’t. But his mother’s welfare had always been his burden, and his alone. He couldn’t just drop that mindset in the blink of an eye.
It had had been hard enough telling her what had actually happened to his mother, but actually accepting the support she was offering…? That had been a step he’d been unable to take.
Of course, when he’d stormed out of Major Case, and headed for Garrett’s chamber, he’d had an inkling that she’d follow. He actually had hoped she would follow, and she hadn’t disappointed him. He suspected, deep down, that it was Alex’s presence – not Ron Carver’s – that had kept him from becoming physical with the judge. Her calming presence, balancing out the rage inside him…
And then there had been that morning in court.
Up until that point, despite everything that had gone on, there had been no attack made against Alex. Bobby had hoped and prayed that no attack would be levelled against her. Not that she couldn’t handle it, but it pained him personally when she suffered in any way.
He recalled sitting in the gallery, watching as she fielded some fairly hairy questions from the defence attorney about him. She was inspiring to watch, he’d thought with pride.
Then, the letter.
Bobby shuddered a little at the memory of the way his stomach had fallen away at the look on her face at that moment. Her expression had been one of shock, and dismay. Whatever that laminated piece of paper was, it had well and truly floored her.
Then, she’d spoken, and Bobby had felt his world fall apart.
Request for a new partner… Erratic behaviour… doubt his judgment and mental stability…
He shouldn’t have been surprised. He knew he shouldn’t have been. He remembered all too clearly the uncertainty of the first months of his partnership with Alex. He’d tried to go about business as normal… as normal was possible for him… all the while trying to ignore the fact that Alex constantly looked at him like he’d grown a second head.
So no, he shouldn’t have been surprised that she’d written a letter like that. It still hurt, though. It stung badly, especially to have her doubts in him aired in such a public forum, for all to hear.
But then, through his own shock and hurt, he’d seen her with a clarity that he could never remember having before through the entire course of their partnership.
He had seen the tears in her eyes… he’d seen her pain. And he hadn’t known how to help. For the first time in a long, long while, he hadn’t known what to do. And that had hurt worse than anything else that had happened so far.
After the judge called a recess, he’d gone to her more out of instinct and reflex than any sense of obligation or concern. He had been concerned… but he didn’t know how to express it appropriately. She was, after all, a traditional cop, and traditional cops rarely showed unnecessary emotion.
In the end, all he could hope for was that his faltering words of reassurance were enough for her to know that he wasn’t angry… Or rather, he wasn’t angry at her. He couldn’t say he wasn’t hurt, but he understood, and he wanted her to know that most of all. In the end, he could only hope that he had conveyed that to her adequately.
He thought he’d succeeded. He hoped he had.
The phone was ringing again. Bobby looked across the room to where it sat on his nightstand, an irritated frown on his face. The last thing he wanted right then was to answer phone calls. Then again, maybe it was Alex…
The thought spurred him to move, and he darted across the floor to the phone, picking it up… Just a dial tone. Seconds too late, he thought ruefully. He hung up, and stood still, waiting to see whether it rang again. It didn’t.
Sighing, Bobby dropped onto his bed and rolled over onto his back. All of a sudden, he felt so damned tired.
He fell asleep, still staring up at the ceiling.
Bobby awoke abruptly to the sound of his doorbell ringing. Slowly dragging himself out of a muggy state of awareness, he rolled off his bed and stumbled out to answer the door.
“Ow, fuck…” he swore softly as his toe came into contact with the wall. Half-walking, half-hopping the rest of the distance, Bobby opened the door to find a very unexpected sight.
“M… Mr Eames?”
John eyed Bobby with ill-concealed amusement. It was clear the detective had just woken up, but he was truly a sight in his rumpled suit and ‘going in all directions’ hair.
“Hello, Bobby. I’m sorry to come around at this time, but I need to talk to you. It couldn’t wait, and you weren’t answering your phone earlier.”
“That was you…”
“Yes. Can I come in?”
“Sure,” Bobby mumbled, stepping aside to let him in. “Can I get you something? A… A beer, maybe?”
John couldn’t hold back a grin.
“Not at one o’clock in the morning.”
“Oh… Right… Um… Have a seat.”
John ignored the armchairs, and sat at Bobby’s small dining table. After a moment, Bobby joined him.
“I guess I don’t need to tell you that this about Alex,” John said quietly. Bobby stiffened a little, noticeably.
“I… I figured as much.”
“Well, she showed up at my home tonight, Bobby. I don’t think I’ve seen her as agitated as that for a long time. She ended up in tears, actually. Cried herself to sleep, and all I could get out of her was ‘they found the letter’. Now, I won’t make you rehash that. The truth is, I know about that letter. My concern is how you’re going to react, because she needs some sort of reassurance from you. I guess that’s the real reason I’m here.”
Bobby stared at the tabletop. He hated being put on the spot like this at any given time and now was no exception, but at the same time he did understand John Eames’ need to see some sort of closure happen between him and Alex.
“I… I’m not mad at her, Mr Eames. I told her… outside the courtroom…”
“You told her you weren’t mad?”
“Well, no… But I said I was lucky she withdrew the letter.”
John sighed. This was the trap of having a partner like Bobby Goren. He tended to say things in round-about ways. Normally, that wasn’t an issue for Alex – John was aware that she understood her partner on a level that no one else in the entire NYPD did. But right now, she needed direct reassurance, and she needed it from him.
“It’s not the same, Bobby. It isn’t the same as telling someone straight, to their face, that you appreciate them… and that you need them. She needs to hear that, Bobby. You’re the only one who can give that to her.”
“I tried to tell her,” Bobby said softly, more to himself now than to John. “But I didn’t know how to say it. She’s never been the type to get emotional…”
“I know,” John agreed, “and that’s partly my fault. She really takes after me in a lot of ways… much to her mother’s disgust.”
A shadow of a smile passed fleetingly across Bobby’s face at the gentle joke.
“I… I guess I needed a be a bit more to… to the point.”
“Yeah, something like that,” John agreed. “She needs reassurance that everything’s okay between you, and you’re the only one who can give that reassurance.”
Bobby didn’t respond to that, and John felt a twinge of concern.
“Are the two of you okay?” he asked quietly, but still Bobby didn’t answer. John watched him with growing concern, wondering just how much Bobby’s trust in Alex had really been damaged.
“You’re not, are you?” he said softly, feeling his heart sink. Bobby looked up at him, then, and John felt a minor shockwave pass through his body at the sight of tears in the younger man’s eyes.
“I said I wasn’t angry at Alex, and I’m not,” Bobby insisted. “But what happened today… watching that bastard lawyer tear into her on the stand… I could see her hurting, and there wasn’t anything I could do. I… I’m her partner, I’m supposed to protect her, and I didn’t do that. I never saw it coming… They attacked me… They attacked Logan and Barek… I should have seen something coming, but I didn’t. I let her down… I didn’t protect her when I should have. I should have…”
John was floored. Bobby really wasn’t angry at Alex – he was angry at himself. He was angry at himself because he perceived himself as having let his partner down. He honestly believed he had failed to protect her. Another thought occurred to him, that Bobby was hurting just as badly as Alex was but, unlike Alex, he had no one except her to turn to. He had no family… or rather, none that he could run to for much-needed reassurance. And no friend could possibly understand the dynamics of what had gone on that day. He had no one…
“Talk to me, Bobby,” John said quietly. Bobby looked at him, puzzled.
“You need to offload as much as Alex did when she came to me tonight,” John told him. “I know you don’t have family to go to like she does… So talk to me.”
It was less a suggestion than an order. John knew from his many talks with Alex about Bobby’s anxieties where authority was concerned, and he hated using that against the detective, but he figured gentle suggestions were never going to work. His tactics were sound – Bobby started talking after a moment in a stilted, stammering voice.
“This… This case… It shouldn’t have been any different. We’ve had politically loaded cases before… But we… I never expected Garrett to make it as personal as he did. He attacked all of us… But what he did to Alex was the worst. He used her to… to attack me. He hurt her to get at me.”
“You need to tell her this, Bobby,” John told him. “You need to tell her all of this. She thinks she let you down…”
Bobby’s head came up sharply.
“What? No! She didn’t… She could never…”
“She needs to hear you say that. No frills, no tiptoeing around it, just straight and to the point. Just like you need to hear her say that she’s not going to leave you.”
Bobby stared at John, quite literally stunned into the speechlessness. The older man smiled sadly.
“Listen, Bobby, I’m not going to run out that old cliché that you’re like a son to me… although, God knows I do care about you… but I will say that I know you well enough now that I can read you pretty well. Especially in times like this when you’ve let down your guard, for whatever reason. Right now, I can see that fear of being abandoned written all over your face. You know in yourself that that letter is old news, but it still shook you pretty badly, didn’t it?”
Bobby nodded wordlessly, unable to tear his gaze away from John’s. Tears rolled down his cheeks unnoticed, leaving glistening streaks behind.
“I figured as much,” John murmured. “You know, it’s okay to feel lousy, but you and Alex still have to be open and honest with each other about how you’re feeling. It might not be easy for either one of you, but you have to try anyway.”
Bobby stared down at his hands, clasped tightly together on the tabletop.
“Maybe I… I could come around and see her… in the morning?”
John regarded him thoughtfully, and then stood up.
“I have a better idea.”
Alex awoke to soft, warm sunlight shining on her face. For nearly a minute she lay still and silent, not quite sure where she was, for it certainly wasn’t her own apartment. Then, gradually, memories from the previous day came back to her slowly, and her stomach fell away from her.
She remembered testifying in court… being verbally pounded by the defence attorney about Bobby… and then, that damned letter.
She recalled looking for Bobby in the gallery as she admitted what the letter was. He’d been looking straight back at her, and that half smile that had been on his face only seconds before – that smile which told her he was proud of the way she was fielding the lawyer’s questions – was suddenly gone. For the first time in a long while, she’d been unable to read his expression, and that had frightened her.
She’d answered the questions as best as she was able, and then responded vigorously when Ron Carver had redirected her. But all the while, Bobby’s expression had not changed, and she couldn’t suppress that dark twinge of fear deep inside her that whispered their partnership was in trouble.
He’d come to her afterwards, and that smile had been back on his face – but this time she hadn’t been able to interpret what it meant. Another scare. Another slip in their connection.
She’d hoped fervently that he would tell her it was okay, that he wasn’t angry at her. She had actually wanted him to pull her to him and give her an enormous ‘Bobby Goren bear hug’. But he hadn’t.
Instead, he’d flippantly agreed with her that he was an acquired taste. Then, when she’d desperately wanted him to tell her everything was okay, all he’d said was ‘I’m lucky you withdrew the letter’.
In all honesty, she just hadn’t known what to make of that comment. She knew how she wanted to interpret it, but had he actually meant it that way? She really didn’t know, and it was tearing her apart inside.
Fighting back fresh tears, Alex got out of bed and, smoothing out her clothes as best as she could, she made her way out into the family room, towards the tantalising aroma of freshly brewed coffee. God, she needed a major caffeine fix.
She froze halfway to the kitchen, her gaze going to the figure that was currently fast asleep on the sofa, his long legs hanging over the end.
She looked around, and finally spotted her father in the kitchen, leaning against the bench and watching her with a small smile.
“What…?” she stammered. “How…?”
“Went to see him last night,” John answered quietly. “Actually, I think it was more like some time this morning. Brought him back here… I just couldn’t see the point in leaving him alone when he was just as upset as you were.”
Alex’s breath hitched in her throat.
“He was upset?”
“Hon, he was in tears. Kept beating himself up over not looking out for you better.”
Alex looked back at Bobby’s sleeping form, stunned.
“What do you mean, not looking out for me? Dad…?”
John held up his hands, and began to back out of the kitchen.
“That’s for the two of you to work out. I’ve made fresh coffee. I’ll leave you both alone now.”
He turned quickly and disappeared out into the garage before Alex could protest. She remained standing there indecisively for a long moment, torn between the need to talk face to face with her partner, and the desperate desire to turn tail, run and hide. Finally, she walked into the kitchen, poured two large, strong mugs of hot coffee and walked around to sit on the edge of her parents’ hardwood coffee table.
On a stakeout once, he’d woken her gently with the aroma of coffee. Now, she did the same for him, holding the mug under his nose, and waiting patiently for him to come back into awareness.
Bobby moaned softly, and a frown passed fleetingly over his face. It reminded Alex of her bother’s moody ‘Just another five minutes’ whining when he was woken up every morning. She smiled, despite her uncertainty at him being there.
Slowly, his brown eyes flitted open, and his gaze quickly focused, going from the coffee mug up to her face. She offered him a tentative smile, not quite sure what to expect.
He hesitated in answering, sitting up slowly and stretching before accepting the mug she held out to him.
“Hi. Th… Thankyou.”
He seemed to be stuttering more often of late, she thought distantly.
“That can’t have been comfortable,” she said, scratching for some way to kick start a conversation. He looked at her, baffled, and she quickly elaborated. “Our sofa. It’s pretty lumpy.”
“Oh… It was okay. I think I was too exhausted to notice any lumps.”
Alex watched him closely as he sipped at the coffee, wondering if she should bite the bullet – pun definitely not meant – and speak first. She was still deliberating over it when he put the mug down carefully, and looked her in the eyes.
“I’m sorry, Alex.”
She blinked, taken aback. He was apologising to her?
“Let me finish,” he begged her, and she fell silent, watching him curiously. Assured that he could continue uninterrupted, Bobby went on quietly.
“Yesterday in court… I won’t deny that I was hurt. But, I wasn’t surprised by it, either. I wish you had told me sooner… Maybe not at the time, but before now. But I don’t blame you… I’m not angry at you. I’m angry at Garrett, for having someone dredge it up… but especially for hurting you just to attack me.”
Alex swallowed hard, staring at him breathlessly. He went on softly, making a deliberate effort to hold her gaze, and not look away from her.
“Seeing you get hurt like that… I didn’t know what to do… or how to deal with it. First I wanted to punch out Garrett… but then I just wanted to wrap you up in a huge hug and not let you go again.”
“So why didn’t you?”
The words were out of her mouth before she could stop them, and she blushed red at her own audacity. To her mixed embarrassment and relief, he actually smiled and chuckled.
“I thought you’d probably deck me if I did that in front of everyone.”
Alex couldn’t stop the smile that crept across her face. Bobby hesitated, then reached out and gently took her hands in his own.
“You mean more to me than I think I could ever fully voice. I meant it when I said I’m lucky you withdrew that letter. I’m lucky for the day you decided to give me a chance, considering the reputation I had. As… As far as I’m concerned, you never did anything wrong. Not now, not ever. Thankyou so much… for everything.”
Alex bit lightly on her lower lip, but couldn’t stop the tears from overflowing. This was what she’d wanted… needed to hear yesterday. Tit for tat, though. Reassurances went both ways.
She gently pulled her hands out of his, and cupped his cheeks, lifting his face up from where it had dropped down. Their eyes met, and she gave him the warmest and most wonderful smile he had ever received from her.
“I’m here to stay, Bobby. I promise I’m not going anywhere… Unless you’re right there with me. Do you believe that?”
He stared at her for so long that she started to wonder whether her words had even registered in his mind. She was about to ask again when he suddenly stood up, pulling her up with him, and threw his arms around her in a ferocious hug.
She gasped a little, briefly taken aback by the unexpectedness of it, but as the surprise quickly wore off she melted into the embrace.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered, dissolving into tears as the stress and tension of the last few weeks finally began to drain from her body. “Bobby, I’m sorry…”
“Hush,” he murmured. “It’s okay. Everything’s okay. We’re okay.”
They were the words she most needed to hear, and words were finally lost as she sobbed quietly into his rumpled shirt.
John Eames stood in the shadows, watching the touching scene with a small, satisfied smile on his face. Granted, the two probably would have worked it out sooner or later, but it seemed important to him to make sure that they did so sooner rather than later. He didn’t feel the slightest bit guilt for the gentle nudges he’d given the both of them. Maybe he was an interfering old man, but the end result justified the means.
He watched as the pair sank back down onto the sofa, still clinging fiercely to each other before turning and heading back into the garage with that same satisfied smile still on his face. Everything was as it should be.
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