A bar,
somewhere in New York City

“I still can’t believe I let you talk me into that.”

Detective Bobby Goren glanced sideways at his partner. She had been positively seething all afternoon, and now it seemed her displeasure was finally bubbling to the surface.

“It was the only way,” he said lamely, by way of his own defence. He knew damned well she hadn’t been happy about his idea, but she had gone along with it regardless, given him the same level of support as always.

It had been bad enough for her to sit there smiling while Talbot hit on her, knowing that the whole scenario was being observed by Talbot’s wife. But it had been infinitely worse to have to go into the room where Denise Talbot was straight after. And he was the one who had put her in that situation. Sure, Carver and Deakins had conceded to the plan, but it had been his idea.

He stared dully at the bar top. He felt like a pimp.

“Next time,” she muttered, “find a better way.”

He didn’t dare mention her experience with the Vice squad. That would have been a fatal mistake, and might just have won him a slap across the face. Not that he didn’t deserve that anyway, but he still preferred not to get slapped across the face by the pretty woman who happened to be his partner in a bar full of cops and ex-cops.

Their drinks were passed across the bar to them, a beer for him and a margarita for her. He paid for them, not out of any sense of duty as the man, but simply because he owed her big time and they both knew it.

It had been a difficult afternoon for Eames, he didn’t deny that. After Talbot had exploded and threatened to kill his wife, he had needed to take over talking to Denise. It hadn’t been that he was better at that sort of thing than Eames. It simply came down to the fact that she had kept looking at Eames in such a way that Deakins had felt perhaps it was better if Goren got her statement instead.

He took another sip of the beer, relishing the bitter taste that it left in his mouth. It was no surprise, though, when he looked and saw Eames had already polished off her own drink.

“You want another one?” he asked tentatively. He hated having to be so cautious around her, because normally she came across as a lot more thick–skinned than this. There was a difference, though, between going undercover and being hung out as bait. Today, it had been the latter and she was justifiably pissed off.

She answered with a single nod, still not trusting herself to speak full sentences to him. As he called to the bartender to order her another drink, she took the brief moment to observe him.

She knew he was feeling bad about the tactics they had used, and particularly for using her as bait to trap Talbot in front of his wife. Not even he had tried to convince her it was simply going undercover. Instead, he had taken her aside at the end of the day, apologised profusely for everything, and offered to buy her a drink.

Despite feeling increasingly pissed off at him, she had agreed to the drink. She’d intended on stopping at the bar anyway, and it suited her fine not to have to pay.

The second drink arrived, somewhat quicker than the first, and she made a deliberate effort to sip at it more slowly. Despite a sudden desire to drink herself into oblivion, she still had to get up for work the next morning. Deakins would be less than impressed if she showed up with a hangover.

It was only when she had downed half the drink that she felt she could trust herself to speak to him with some semblance of calm.

“You’re so damned brilliant, Bobby, and all you could come up with was to let him hit on me?”

Goren shifted uncomfortably on the barstool.

“His wife needed to see him in action… She needed to be convinced that he wasn’t going to change.”

“Oh, she saw that all right. She really got an eyeful. Did you see the way she was looking at me afterwards?”

He didn’t dare look at her.

“I’m sorry, Eames.”

She looked away, still fuming and even more irritated that he still refused to use her first name. He went on tentatively.

“For what it’s worth, though, you did a really good job today.”

She went rigid where she sat, and though Goren didn’t understand exactly what he had said that was wrong, hewas stillshrewd enough toknow he had just made a major blunder. Slowly, she turned back to stare at him and he quite literally quailed under that stare.

“I did a good job. I did a good job? You asshole, Bobby!”

Nearby, half a dozen or so of their fellow cops turned just briefly at her outburst, then slowly returned to their own conversations in noticeably more hushed tones.

Eames continued to glare at him, struggling against a serious urge to punch him. He was watching her with the expression that she had long since come to think of as his ‘wounded puppy look’, but she refused to bite. He didn’t deserve sympathy and he wasn’t going to get it, not from her.

“In case you don’t understand what was wrong with what you just said,” she told him heatedly, “you just complimented me on my flirting skills, and my sex appeal. Thanks a lot.”

He went beet red, much to her satisfaction.

“I didn’t mean that,” he stammered. “Really…”

He was becoming more flustered by the second, something that she was perfectly happy about. The truth was, she had been horribly embarrassed by the performance she’d had to put on that afternoon, and she wanted to see him suffer as well, at least a little bit.

She turned back to her drink, and had to resist the urge to swallow the remaining half in one hit.

“Look… do you want to come back to my place with me…?”

She looked around at him incredulously, barely able to believe what she was hearing.

“Excuse me?”

He promptly went even redder, if that were at all possible.

“I don’t mean like that,” he said quickly, anxiously. “I had steaks to cook for tonight… Do you want to come back with me, and I’ll cook for you.”

She hesitated at that. Though mostly everyone knew Bobby Goren to be a brilliant man and an exceptional detective, one little known fact was that he could cook meals to rival the best restaurants. She’d had the privilege of having him cook for her once before, and it had been an experience to kill for. Pardon the expression. Finally she found herself reluctantly giving in.

“Okay. But it had better be worth it, Bobby.”

The veiled threat was also an empty one. She suspected that by the time they finished the promised meal, he’d have her wrapped around his little finger once more. Little did he know – and she never intended to let him find out – just how content she was with that situation.

Finishing her drink, she allowed him to escort her out of the bar, and to his waiting car.

Despite the number of times she had been inside Goren’s apartment, albeit fleetingly, it never ceased to amaze her. Of course, it was no surprise that he had shelves absolutely packed with books all around the living room, and in his bedroom. There had to be hundreds of books there, if not thousands. Piles of books that could not be fitted anywhere on the extensive shelves were stacked semi-neatly in corners around the room.

As he set about in the kitchen, she noted a half-read book on a small stand next to a comfortable-looking well-worn leather recliner. On closer inspection, she realised it was written in a language that she didn’t recognise.

She rolled her eyes on impulse. As far as she was aware, he already was fluent in two foreign languages, one of which she had only just recently learned about. Though she shouldn’t really have been surprised, it had still startled her when he had responded fluently after Rudy Langer began speaking in German.

“Learning another new language?” she asked, silently hating the sarcasm in her tone. Really, she had no good reason to continue to be angry with him. He was genuinely sorry, and she knew he would not put her in that position again – at least, not without talking directly to her first. He was making every effort at making amends, and here she was being a grade A bitch.

He paused in the middle of what he was doing to look at her with open wariness. Bobby was no idiot, and he could hear the bite in her voice. It seemed he wasn’t sure whether to respond seriously or not, for fear of getting himself in even deeper.

Fighting back her anger, she picked up the book off the side table and managed to speak relatively calmly.

“I don’t recognise this language.”

He let his breath out in a rush that even she noticed, and had to struggle not to laugh at.

“Oh… Uh… It’s Hebrew. I’ve been studying it for a few months now.”

She set the book back down. Hebrew. It figured. And, if he had been learning it for a few months, that meant he was probably nearly fluent already. The guy picked up languages like no one she’d ever known.

Suddenly feeling weary, she dropped into one of the armchairs, sighing faintly as she sank into its softness. It really had been a bitch of a day, and all she wanted to do was let the grime of it all wash off her.

“You can… uh… take a shower, if you… you know… if you want to. There’s a spare towel in the bathroom, and dinner won’t be ready for a half hour or so.”

She looked across at him, ready to snap, but one glance told her his intentions were entirely honourable. He simply looked too embarrassed and too sheepish to be thinking of anything but her wellbeing. Normally, she would have politely refused the offer… Hell, normally she would never have been in the position for him to make the offer. All of a sudden, though, the thought of a scalding hot shower before a home-cooked meal that someone else was cooking seemed too good to refuse.

Shoving aside any thoughts of embarrassment, she pulled herself out of the chair.

“I think I will. Thanks.”

Goren watched her go, then returned his attention to the task in front of him. He wasn’t sure what had possessed him to offer her the use of his shower – next to his bedroom, the bathroom was the most private place in his apartment. Once the offer was out of his mouth, though, it was too late to take it back, and he didn’t need her to be any more pissed off at him than she already was.

The truth was, he was desperate to placate her, and offering the use of his shower to her had been the only other thing he could think of right then, since intelligent conversation seemed to be out the window. And, he had offered to let her use the shower only because he knew that her earlier comment to Talbot about needing to wash off the slime had not been in jest.

He felt his stomach churn unpleasantly. He was responsible for her feeling like that. Him and his brilliant plan. Oh, it had seemed like a great idea when it first occurred to him, but he should have known better, especially after the look that Eames gave him in Deakins’ office. He knew that look only too well. It wasa look that said ‘I’m not exactly sure what you’re thinking, but I’m pretty sure I’m not going to like it’.

Of course, Eames had been completely professional about it. She’d not argued, and had gone in full throttle. And she had been good, despite her aggravation at the suggestion. Talbot had fallen hook, line and sinker for her act. Even so, he would have had to have been blind to miss the look she’d given him when he finally walked into the interview room. Absolute and utter relief, nothing less. But there had also been that moment when he’d accused Talbot of coming on to her. She’d glanced at him for just an instant, and if looks could have killed, he would have been dead fifty times over. He’d embarrassed her. He’d made the comment deliberately so that there could be no confusion over what had gone on in the room, but in doing so he had also embarrassed his partner.

He made a mental note to offer his butt to Eames for a good, hard kick when she got out of the shower. None of it had been done with the intention of embarrassing her, of course, but that had been the result all the same. A casualty of the situation, that’s what Eames had been this afternoon. He made another mental note to try and never let it happen again. He respected her far too much to put their relationship in danger like that.

He heard the water go on in the bathroom, and for just a split second his thoughts deviated to the form-fitting red tank top she’d worn that day, and just how good she looked in it. A moment later, he shook those thoughts violently out of his head, and returned his focus to preparing the meal.

Eames moaned softly as the hot water belted away the last remnants of Talbot’s filth. This was what she’d needed above and beyond anything else. Not a drink, not a home-cooked meal, not even a partner to serve as a punching bag. Just a good soaking in intensely hot water.

Even as she stood there, she could feel her black mood melting away, and her rancour at Bobby fading. His intentions had been good, it was just his methods that had needed more careful thought. But, that was Bobby Goren, she thought ruefully. She had been partnered with him now for nearly eight months, and she thought she’d gotten used to his oddities and his bizarre ways of coaxing confessions out of suspects. Today had just been one out of left field, and she knew she shouldn’t have taken it so personally.

Still, she had to admit she had taken some not so small pleasure in watching him squirm. It was a rare occurrence that Bobby be the one made to feel awkward, rather than the suspects that they dealt with… Rather than her. She did not feel the slightest bit guilty giving him a taste of his own medicine for once.

With considerable reluctance, she turned off the taps and stepped out of the shower recess, drying herself with a luxurious laziness that she normally could not afford.

One thing was certain, her partner had an apartment to die for. It was a spacious two bedroom, with an enormous bathroom that she could only dream about. She had wondered once how he was able to afford such a large place – she knew for a fact that his take-home pay was only fractionally more than hers, and she just got by with the rent. Then she had learned about his time in the army, and a little bit of subtle digging had uncovered that he was receiving a rather hefty army pension on top of his police salary.

She had initially felt a little jealous over his good financial position, but after a bit more digging she had learned just what kind of dangerous work he had been involved in while in the army, and her envy had turned to admiration. That was accentuated by the fact that he had never bragged about it to her, not once. She’d known plenty of guys in her life who would have jumped at the chance to have some of the stories that Bobby could tell to fall back on with women, and yet he had never once used any of them to try and impress her.

He had her complete admiration and respect, and he’d gotten it solely through their partnership.

She was lucky, and she knew it. Few female police officers had the good fortune to be partnered with someone as professional, smart, loyal and caring as Bobby Goren. Not once had he ever treated her inappropriately or disrespectfully, which was a huge improvement on her previous stint in Vice.

She grimaced involuntarily as she recalled her partner. Tyler Wilkes had been okay to start with, but she suspected too many stings with her playing the hooker and him playing her pimp had finally gone to his head. What she had not yet told Goren was that her request for a transfer to Major Case had come after Wilkes had bailed her up in the locker rooms early one morning, stinking of liquor and high on cocaine, and trying to ‘score a freebie’. A well-placed knee had taken all the fight out of him very abruptly, but there had been no way she could continue on in Vice after that.

She suspected that the fast-tracking of her transfer application had come mainly due to the Department’s eagerness to avoid the incident becoming public. At the time she had not complained, primarily because she had been so keen to move on to something new, but in retrospect she understood why, on joining Major Case, she had been partnered with Goren.

A smile touched her lips as she recalled her first day, and her initial meeting with James Deakins. Deakins hadn’t seemed too impressed at having her foisted on the squad, and she suspected that he knew the real reasons behind her rapid transfer. He had told her she would be partnered with Detective Robert Goren, and the alarms had immediately gone off in her mind.

She had heard of Goren – just about everyone in Vice had. Word spread like wildfire from one department to the next when one cop stood out, literally and figuratively, head and shoulders above the rest. She knew his reputation, and also knew the rumours about his inability to keep a partner. She also knew, instantly, that she was being partnered with Goren in a subtle bid to force her out.

She remembered her first meeting with Goren. He had been polite and professional all the way, but still obviously wary of her. Their first couple of weeks had been rocky, and there had been a couple of moments when she had seriously considered doing what Deakins obviously wanted her to do, and quit. Goren’s tactics almost literally drove her off the deep end, and she had found herself living in a constant state of exhaustion just trying to keep up with him. On top of that, Deakins’ constant haranguing had also left her feeling drained and sick.

The turning point had been three weeks into their partnership, when she had felt especially harassed by Deakins, and just about at the end of her rope with Goren’s oddball behaviour. Out of the blue, Goren had ushered her out of the building, and down the street to a small, cosy diner, where he had ordered some exotic brand of coffee for the both of them. He had then sat her down in a booth in the corner, and asked her how she was doing.

It had been so innocuous, she had truly been caught completely off-guard. Then, within a matter of minutes, she’d found herself letting it all go, from Deakins’ obvious dislike of her, to his constant berating of her efforts. It had been with some effort that she’d avoided letting fly about Goren’s idiosyncrasies, but it seemed he had known how she was feeling regardless.

He had gone on to talk to her quietly, telling her not to worry about Deakins, that he was like that with all new recruits to Major Case. It was, Goren had said with a wry smile, his way of weeding out those who couldn’t cope with the stress of the job. He himself had suffered it upon joining Major Case eighteen months previous, and she couldn’t let herself be dragged down by it. She was good at her job, he had said with such surety that she knew he was not merely trying to fluff up her ego. She was good, and if she could find it in herself to just hold on for a little while longer, she wouldn’t regret it.

He had then apologised for his own behaviour and antics while on the job, leaving her embarrassed that her feelings were so obvious.

She’d taken his words to heart, though, and the next time Deakins had pulled her into his office, she’d stood her ground and not allowed him to intimidate her. Sure enough, within a couple of weeks, she found the rough treatment easing, and then finally stopping altogether. Deakins was soon putting her on equal footing with her partner and she, in turn, found herself steadily becoming attuned to his bizarre mannerisms. Within a matter of months, they’d fine-tuned their partnership, and managed to turn it into one of the best in the NYPD.

Until today.

Eames felt her stomach lurch slightly as she got out of the shower. Deakins had known she was unhappy with what had gone on that day, and she was sure she’d overheard him telling Goren that he wanted to see him privately first thing the next morning. That, she knew, could mean only one thing.

She suddenly felt bad, sensing that she had really over-reacted to the whole situation. Suddenly anxious to show Goren that she bore him no ill will, she finished dressing and hurried from the bathroom.

The smell that met her was incredible. Suddenly ravenous, she walked around and took a seat on a stool on the opposite side of the kitchen bench.

He offered her a tentative smile.

“Feel better?”

She returned the smile with a warm, genuine one of her own.

“Much. Thanks, Bobby.”

He relaxed visibly, relieved to hear the affability back in her voice.

“Dinner’s nearly ready.”

“Do you need any help?”

It was an pointless offer, and they both knew it. While a competent enough cook in her own right, Eames couldn’t hope to compare to Goren’s culinary skills.

“It’s okay. I’ve got it.”

She watched in silence as he put the finishing touches on the meal, and brought the plates around to a neatly set table. Soon they were seated at opposite ends of the table, enjoying well-cooked steaks.

For a while there was silence as they ate, and it was only after they’d both had a chance to settle down that she sprung her next question on him.

“We’ve been partners for eight months now, right?”

Goren paused, looking at her warily.


“Why won’t you call me Alex?”

He suddenly looked like a frightened rabbit caught in headlights, she thought bemusedly. He looked like he wanted to bolt, but didn’t know which way to run.

“I wouldn’t mind,” she said quietly, wondering if she’d somehow overstepped some invisible boundary that she hadn’t been aware of. “I mean, you asked me to start calling you Bobby after two months, but you still call me Eames. Why?”

He dropped his fork onto his plate, sat back, and looked directly at her.

“Because I respect you.”

For the second time that night, she felt remorseful towards him. She knew he respected her, just as she hoped he knew how much she respected him. She hadn’t meant it to seem like she was forcing him to admit aloud something that was inherently obvious in everything he did.

“I’m sorry, Bobby,” she apologised. “I didn’t mean it like that. I know you respect me…”

“Even after today?”

So they were back to that. She shouldn’t have been surprised. A faint sigh escaped her.

“Especially after today. Look, I’m sorry I blew my stack. I know you weren’t trying to hurt me today. It’s just something I have to deal with. You were right, it was the only way to trap Talbot, and prove to his wife what a schmuck he is.”

“I didn’t mean to embarrass you.”

“I know that. It just reminded me a little too much of what it was like back in Vice… having some ball of slime pawing at me.”

“Is that why you left Vice?”

She was the one looking wary now. After a moment, though, she decided to take the chance.

“My last partner tried to take advantage of me in the locker rooms. He was drunk… high on coke… and he thought he could take liberties.”

Goren regarded her soberly.

“How long before he could get up again?”

She had to smile at that. Despite her diminutive size in comparison to him, Goren didn’t doubt her ability to look after herself. Indeed, he’d once witnessed her bringing down a fleeing suspect who was nearly twice her size.

“I don’t know. I didn’t wait around to find out. I went straight to my captain and reported what had happened. Then, I told him I wanted a transfer out of Vice.”

He nodded his agreement.

“Good decision. Did you ask for Major Case, or did you not get a choice?”

“I had a choice between Major Case and Special Victims Unit. I picked Major Case straight away, but it wasn’t because I thought it was more prestigious. I just don’t think I have the kind of personality to be able to deal with rape victims day in, day out. It’d send me off the wall faster than Vice.”

Goren smiled faintly.

“I’m glad you came to Major Case… Alex.”

She smiled broadly at that.

“So am I, Bobby.” She paused, then ventured a further question. “So, are you going to tell me how you made it into Major Case from Narcotics? Or am I the only one making confessions here?”

After just a moment’s hesitation, he went on to tell her quietly about his time in Narcotics. He’d done well enough, there, but he had never really fitted in, either. While he had never not gotten along with the other officers, nor had he ever really felt he was part of the team. Sure, they seemed to respect him, but the bottom line was that Narcotics was a squad of doers, not thinkers. He preferred to use his mind as a weapon rather than his body, and as a result he’d never truly been accepted by his colleagues.

She sympathised with him there. While she’d gotten along well enough with the other women in the Vice squad, she had always felt as though she didn’t really belong. Where the other women always seemed to be organising get-togethers after hours, or enjoying ‘girly-girl’ chats, she had never been included. Though not ostracised, Eames had felt constantly on the outer – not really accepted by any of them. The incident with Wilkes had been a blessing in disguise. Without it, who knew where she would be now?

“…it came to a head when my partner sent me into a dangerous undercover situation, and then blew my cover.”

Eames was startled out of her reverie. This was something new.

“What happened?”

“I don’t remember much of it,” Goren admitted quietly, and she couldn’t help but notice the way his left hand snaked across to rub unconsciously over one particular spot on his chest. “All I know is that I took five bullets in the chest and gut… and a sixth clipped the side of my head. I was in hospital in a coma for four weeks.”

Eames stared at him, stunned and horrified. He went on softly.

“When I came out of rehab, I was told a transfer had been approved, and I could take my pick of assignments. It wasn’t done for my benefit, though. I found out later on that Braddon… my partner… had been promoted to head the unit after the investigation was over with.”

“Bastards,” Eames said heatedly. Goren smiled faintly.

“By the time I found out, I didn’t care anymore. I found out that there was an opening in Major Case, and I applied for it. Deakins put me through the wringer before accepting me, and it hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing as far as finding a partner that I could work with… The truth is, you’re the first partner I’ve had since coming to Major Case that’s lasted more than two months.”

She had to struggle not to smile. That was something she’d been aware of since before she first joined MCS, but it was curious to hear Goren actually admit it.

“Really?” she asked. He smiled sheepishly.

“I think Deakins was about at the end of his rope when you joined the squad. I’d been there for eighteen months, and I’d gone through eleven partners in that time. Deakins was happier than you realise when you joined us. There wasn’t anyone else left that he could bully, beg or badger into being my partner. What you didn’t know was that Deakins pulled me into his office the day before you arrived, and told me that he’d have me drawn and quartered if I drove you away, too.”

It was all Eames could do not to laugh.

“And then he nearly did that himself! I was just about ready to quit when you took me to that café that day!”

“I know. I could see it in your face, and that’s why I did it. Deakins wasn’t trying to push you out. He was trying to toughen you up to cope with me. Not that you needed it.”

Eames shook her head.

“Unbelievable. And I thought he just didn’t like me.”

“He liked you. I overheard him telling Carver, after your first day, that you were going to be good in the job, if only you could learn to deal with me.”

She smirked at him.

“Well, I’d like to say you’re not that bad…”

He smiled in return. “But I am.”

She laughed softly. “I guess you could say I’ve gotten used to you. Well, almost.”

Goren was silent for a long while, watching her thoughtfully before speaking again.

“My mother has schizophrenia.”

Eames froze, looking up at him in surprise. That was one out of left field, well and truly. It was also the very first time he had ever mentioned anything to her about his family. She briefly considered a response, then opted instead to stay silent and wait for him to go on.

“I… I found out about it when I was seven. My father walked out on us five years later, when I was twelve. From the time I turned thirteen, I was working part-time just so we could get by. My father was still around… but not for us. I saw him now and then… Usually with another woman.”

Eames felt a sharp pang of sympathy. She had had it tough as a kid, after her father was caught double-dipping and had to pay the money back, but at least her home had been loving and stable. Goren’s childhood was starting to sound like a rollercoaster ride straight out of Hell. She couldn’t even begin to imagine what it must have been like, living with and having to support a mentally ill mother, and not having a father to rely on for what must have been much-needed support.

“She’s a permanent resident at Carmel Ridge,” Goren went on, his eyes flickering up and down in that way he had when he had something harsh to throw at a person, and couldn’t quite keep eye contact with them. “You… you remember when we were investigating Morris Abernathy’s murder?”

Eames nodded. She hoped she remembered – it was only five weeks ago.

“You told me I did well with Howard… the homeless guy?”

The penny dropped. Goren nodded, seeing the realisation dawning in her eyes. He smiled, but it was a tired sort of smile. Tired, and sad.

“I said I’d had a lot of practise. Actually, I’ve had years of practise, with my mother.”

“Does Deakins know?” she wondered. He nodded.

“He knows the basics… Not the full extent of it.”

Eames sighed faintly. When she had asked Goren that seemingly innocuous question about why he didn’t call her Alex, she hadn’t anticipated what it would unleash. Not that she wasn’t glad – she felt she understood him now more than ever, and some of his oddities finally started to make sense to her. A moment later, she realised he was watching her with that wary look once more.

“What is it?” she asked, sensing something akin to fear in him.

“The last partner I had that I told all of that to went to Deakins the next day… told him I was mentally unbalanced with a pre-disposition to schizophrenia, and should be removed from active duty and assessed by a professional psychologist.”

It was with some effort that Eames didn’t burst out laughing. As it was, she came dangerously close to choking on a piece of steak, and had to quickly swallow a mouthful of water.

All of a sudden, she understood his aloofness when they had first started working together. He had obviously wanted their partnership to work, but he had been burned before by being honest with a partner. That was why, eight months down the track, she was only learning about his family situation now. Any anger she might have felt at the apparent lack of trust, and at the suggestion that she might betray his confidence, was gone in an instant when she got a good look at his fearful expression. For someone who was so outgoing, and such an extrovert when working a case, he really was an incredibly shy and reserved personality.

“You really think I’d do that to you? Give me some credit, Bobby. You might have an unconventional way of going about things, but that doesn’t mean you’re mentally unbalanced. And why would I want to, anyway? In case it slipped past those phenomenal powers of observation, I respect you, too, both as a colleague and a friend.”

The relief on his face was so palpable that she did laugh, then. A nervous smile just touched his lips, and he relaxed a little in his chair.

“Thankyou,” he said softly. She smiled openly at him. As crappy a day as it had been, and as angry as she had felt before, she was now feeling more confident than ever in the strength of their partnership. They had just entrusted to each other some very personal details about their lives, and she could almost physically feel the beginnings of a genuine friendship between them.

“You’re welcome.”

The following morning
Major Case Squad,
One Police Plaza

Deakins stood in his office, watching and waiting for Goren to arrive. He had instructed the detective to present himself first thing that morning for ‘a talk’, and though he knew Goren to be reliable, he could also be a little forgetful when he was focused on a case.

He wasn’t particularly happy with having to do this, but he couldn’t ignore Eames’ obvious displeasure with what had gone on the previous day. Being hung out as bait for a perp was no one’s idea of a swell time, but that was what Goren had done to his partner. She had gone along with it, of course – he sometimes wondered whether Eames would walk off the edge of a fifty storey building, if Goren thought it was the best way to catch out a suspect – but he also hadn’t missed the frigid looks she’d sent Goren’s way all afternoon. From the timid way that Goren had approached her at the end of the day, he suspected the detective hadn’t missed those looks, either.

Of course, he himself had to shoulder some of the blame. He had gone along with the plan as well, and so had Ron Carver. But Goren had been the one to come up with the idea, and Deakins knew that Eames had been less than impressed by it.

Deakins didn’t doubt the level of respect that was shared between the two detectives, but it was starting to look as though Goren needed a not so gentle reminder to tone things down just a little. Yesterday’s incident was all too reminiscent of the stunts he had pulled before Eames came along – stunts that had cost him eleven partners in eighteen months. If he pushed Eames out now, after eight months of a good, working partnership, then Deakins knew he would have no alternative but to recommend that Goren be transferred elsewhere. That, he reflected glumly, was something that he really did not want to do. Goren was, without a doubt, the singular most brilliant detective he had ever had the privilege of knowing, and the thought of losing him to another department was enough to tun his stomach.

He came out of his reverie as Goren appeared around the corner… and froze, his jaw dropping open in astonishment. Eames was right there with him, and the two had big grins on their faces as they traded some joke or tale that he couldn’t hear. What, he wondered dazedly, had happened between when they left the night before, and now? He knew they had gone for a drink together, but surely they wouldn’t have…

Try as he might, once it was there he couldn’t put the notion out of his head. In the eight months since Eames had joined Major Case, they had never arrived at the office together. At least, he didn’t think they had. His stomach rolled unpleasantly. He had simply been planning on giving Goren a light lecture about how to treat his partner. He hoped to God he wasn’t going to have to turn it into a lecture about having a relationship with a co-worker. He moved to the doorway of his office as the two detectives got to their desks, and called them over.

“Have a seat,” he instructed them, and found he had to struggle to keep his voice even.

“Is there a problem, Captain?” Goren asked, looking as innocent as a ten year old. Deakins wanted to scream.

“I want to discuss what happened yesterday, with Talbot… and about the tactics that were employed.”

Goren and Eames exchanged not so subtle looks.

“Everything’s fine, Captain,” Eames said calmly. “We talked it over last night. We’re fine. There’s no problem.”

Deakins looked over at Goren. The detective was watching his partner with a look that was one hundred percent admiration.

“What exactly went on between you two last night?”

It was out before Deakins could stop himself. Both detectives were looking at him now, a mixture of amazement and disbelief on their faces.

“Excuse us?” Eames asked incredulously. “Are you asking what I think you are?”

Deakins drew in a steadying breath. He was treading on dangerously thin ice with this line of questioning, but he had to know. If his two best detectives had allowed their professional relationship to transcend to a physical one, then he had a responsibility to deal with it.

“Did the two of you sleep together last night?”

Goren and Eames looked at one another, then back at Deakins. He waited for a reaction, but when it came it was not what he expected. Suddenly, without any warning, both detectives exploded with laughter.

Deakins stood watching them, his face growing hot with embarrassment. Goren was slumped back in his seat, roaring with laughter, while Eames was doubled over, clutching her stomach and nearly hyperventilating as her entire body shook with uncontrollable laughter.

“Laugh all you like,” he growled as they finally managed to settle down. “I still would like a straight answer.”

“Then the answer is no,” Goren answered firmly, still grinning broadly. “Eames stayed at my apartment last night, if that’s what you’re getting at, but that was only because we spent most of the night talking.”

Deakins looked sharply at Eames, who was nodding her agreement, also grinning widely. He looked piercingly from one to the other, looking for some hint that they were hiding something from him, but by all appearances they were telling the truth.

“So what happened between last night and now?” he asked, feeling confused and not liking it one bit.

“We sorted it out,” Eames said simply. Deakins shook his head.

“No. You’re not getting away with that. I want a proper explanation. I want to know beyond a doubt that everything is okay.”

Abruptly, Goren stood up and Eames followed suit.

“You’re going to have to just trust us, Captain. What we talked about last night is between us, and that’s all there is to it. Now, can we go? We have paperwork to finish up before Carver gets here.”

Deakins nodded, reluctant and annoyed. He did not feel the least bit satisfied with their explanation, but he also realised it was all he was going to get. As Goren had said, he was going to have to trust them.

He watched through the window of his office as they returned to their respective desks and sat down. Before getting to work, though, they paused, exchanging a long look and knowing smiles. Then, their heads were bent over their individual paperwork, and the moment had passed.

Deakins returned to his own desk, feeling more irritated than ever. Something significant had happened between Goren and Eames last night, and they clearly had no intention of letting anyone else in on it. He hated being left out of the loop at any given time, and it annoyed him severely that two of his best detectives were doing just that.

He should have been relieved that whatever issues had been left over from the Talbot case had been resolved, but he just couldn’t bring himself to feel relief over it. There was still that niggling feeling that Goren and Eames had crossed some invisible line, one that there was potentially no going back from.

He glanced out his open door once more, not quite sure what he was expecting to see, but neither detective had moved, nor did they seem to even be paying attention to each other anymore.

Resigning himself to the fact that they had clearly moved on and so, apparently, should he; Deakins got up and shut the door of his office, then sat back down and reluctantly went back to work.

“Is he still looking at us?”

Eames glanced at Goren, then risked a quick look across the floor at Deakins’ office.

“No. The door’s closed.”

Goren sat back abruptly, his breath escaping him in a rush as he visibly relaxed.


“I can’t believe he actually asked that,” Eames said, fighting a renewed fit of laughter.

“I can’t believe he was actually serious,” Goren chuckled. “If it wasn’t so funny, we’d be insulted.”

A small smile crept across Eames’ face as it registered that he’d said ‘we’, and not ‘I’. Yes, she decided with more than just a hint of deep satisfaction. They were going to be just fine.

Favouring her quirky partner with a last warm smile, Alex Eames lowered her head and got back to work.


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