POST MORTEM: PAS DE DEUX
A/N: Another post mortem drabble. One of my favourite epsiodes of all is the season 3 episode, Pas De Deux, and I have wondered often just what Eames might really have been thinking when Goren thoughtlessly pulled that bag out of the bin...
Disclaimer: The usual. Don't own L&O: CI. Only wish I did.
Spoilers: "Pas De Deux", and "Jones".
Rated: T, with minor violence warnings for partner abuse.
In retrospect, he didn’t know why he’d done it. It really had been a damned stupid thing to do. And what a great way it had been to welcome back his partner – damn near getting them both blown into the next millennium.
She hadn’t said anything aside from the standard crack. She hadn’t even reported his stupidity to Deakins, and he was still thanking whatever benevolent deity that was listening for that one. Even some weeks after the fact, he was still smarting from the tongue-lashing he’d taken over his ‘technique’ in breaking the serial Jew killer. How the hell was he to know that the daughter would be so freaked out by what she’d seen that she’d file an official complaint? Usually complaints like that came from the criminal…
But he digressed. What was it that Eames had actually said, after he’d grabbed the briefcase out of the bin and nearly given her a heart attack…?
‘It’s so good to be back…’
Yes, that was it. Standard, caustic Eames humour.
Bobby grimaced, and had to make a conscious effort not to look up at her. He’d been so thrilled at having her back with him, still on that proverbial Cloud Nine, that he hadn’t even picked up on the stress in her tone. It hadn’t been until near the end of the case that he’d finally opened his eyes wide enough to see how stressed she really was.
And, by then, it was too late to save himself from bearing the brunt of her wrath.
It had all come out in the break room, after Donnie had been removed from interrogation, and Marjie had gone off to make a statement against him. Conscious of the way she’d reacted in the street, after nearly shooting Donnie over the starter’s pistol he’d tried to pull on her, he’d asked her if she was okay.
She’d rounded on him before he was even aware of it, and he recalled the exchange… if it could really be called that… with absolute clarity.
“Am I okay? Am I okay? I think I ought to be the one asking you that question, Bobby. What the hell is the matter with you?”
He stared at her, completely taken aback by her unexpected anger. It was even more unexpected in that her anger seemed to be directed at him.
“I… I don’t…”
“You don’t what? You don’t understand? Why am I not surprised? You know, for such a smart guy, you really can be incredibly dumb sometimes. What happened while I was away? Did your brain take an indefinite leave of absence?”
He simply stared at her, confused and stung by the personal attack. With some difficulty, he managed to stammer out a complete sentence.
“Eames, I don’t get it… What did I do?”
“What did you do?” she muttered heatedly. “What didn’t you do? Damn it, Bobby, don’t tell me you really are this thick…”
“If this is about me leaving you to nail Donnie, then just say so. I’m sorry, I didn’t think you wanted to be treated with kid gloves when you came back. I guess I was wrong.”
He knew the words were a mistake the instant they were out of his mouth, but it was too late. A moment later he knew how big a mistake it was when Alex landed a solid punch on his left cheek that sent him reeling back into the wall.
“You bastard, Bobby. Why don’t you go to hell? And for the record, the next time you’re feeling suicidal, don’t try to take me with you. This might come as a surprise to you, but I actually enjoy my life, and I’d prefer not to be giving it up anytime soon.”
She’d stormed out, leaving him slumped against the wall and holding one hand gingerly to his cheek. Damn, he thought distantly, she really could pack one hell of a punch when she wanted to…
He’d returned to their conjoined desks a few minutes later, still holding his cheek. She’d refused to so much as look at him, and he had self-consciously avoided looking either at her or anyone else in the Major Case bullpen. He’d struggled through the next few pages, his cheek throbbing with steadily increasing pain, before it suddenly struck him just what she was really angry about.
Suicidal…? He’d grabbed at the bag in the bin without a thought to either his or Alex’s safety… And damn, it hadn’t been herself she’d been thinking of; it was her nephew, the child she had carried to term for her sister. Damn, how could he have been so stupid and inconsiderate?
And so he’d spent the next fifteen minutes or so mulling it over, paperwork forgotten as he tried to analyse his actions. He was so lost in his thoughts that he wasn’t aware of Deakins approaching their desks slowly, a deep frown on his face.
“Goren? What the hell happened to you?”
Bobby looked up at Deakins, genuinely puzzled.
“Your face! For crying out loud, don’t tell me you haven’t even noticed?”
Starting to frown himself, Bobby took his hand away from his face, and blinked in astonishment at the sight of his own blood covering his palm and staining the cuff of his white shirt.
Shit, he thought distantly, that’s ruined a good shirt…
“Unbelievable,” Deakins growled. “Alex, you’d better take the Incredible Hulk here to the hospital. That’s going to need stitches, and he’d better get it x-rayed, too.”
Bobby looked around at Alex, suddenly too intent on her reaction to protest about his need for medical attention. She was staring at him, wide-eyed with astonishment at the extent of the damage to his face, and grey-faced at the knowledge that she was the one who had caused said damage. They locked stares for a long moment, and then the shutters went down once more and her expression hardened visibly.
“C’mon, Goren,” she said curtly, rising up and grabbing both her coat and his. He rose without protest, and followed her reluctantly from the squad room.
“You’re not going to collapse on me, are you?” she asked almost tonelessly. Bobby winced a little, both at her tone and the pain in his face.
“I think I can manage.”
“Good. Because I’m not picking you up off the floor if you do.”
There was no humour at all in her tone. He followed her into the elevator, still holding his cheek as they descended. He risked glancing at her a couple of times, but she continued to stare ahead resolutely.
Boy, was she pissed off.
An hour later saw Bobby sitting on a hospital trolley in the ER at St Michael’s Hospital, holding a wad of gauze to his face while he waited for a doctor to become available to see him. Alex had gone off a while ago to call Deakins, and was yet to return.
He had to admit, he was starting to feel more than a little queasy, and light-headed. The injury was bleeding profusely, showing no signs of stopping, and it hurt too damned much for him to apply the right amount of pressure to stem the flow of blood. He hoped a doctor would be along soon. Otherwise, it was entirely possible that he was going to collapse from blood loss.
Movement drew his attention, and he looked around to see Alex reappear. Her expression was no less stony than before, but he thought he could also see a glimmer of regret in her eyes.
“I talked to the captain. He said we’re not to worry about going in to work tomorrow. To take the day off.”
Bobby didn’t respond. He surprised himself with how grateful he actually felt at the prospect of a day to himself, but he wasn’t sure just how much Alex would appreciate the sentiment.
“You need to apply more pressure to that,” Alex said flatly as she walked over to him. “It’s still bleeding badly.”
“It hurts,” he said simply, wanting to grimace at the whiny tone of his voice. Alex sighed in frustration and reached up towards his face. Instinctively, Bobby pulled away from her. Fresh irritation lit up her eyes.
“For God’s sake, Goren, I’m not going to hit you again. Give me that gauze.”
He gave it up reluctantly, watching as she disposed of the bloodied gauze, and opened up a fresh packet.
“I… I’m sorry, Alex.”
She glanced up at him coolly. “Do you even know what you’re apologising for? Or is it just a blanket apology, and you’re hoping that it’ll be enough?”
Bobby drew in a slow breath. The pain in his cheek was steadily spreading through his face, making it hard to concentrate, but he desperately wanted to get this right. More than anything, he hated having Alex be mad at him. And she hadn’t been this mad at him since he’d asked her to offer herself up for bait to Henry Talbot two years previous.
“I’m sorry for being careless… and thoughtless. I… I really didn’t think… I was just so happy to have you back… I guess I’ve been on cloud nine the last few weeks, and I wasn’t concentrating on what I was doing. You were right, we should have called the bomb squad. I didn’t even hesitate to think that maybe the bag was rigged to blow. It was stupid of me, and I’m sorry.”
Alex stared at him, her expression softening noticeably as she read genuine regret in his face. After a long moment, she sighed and brought the fresh gauze over to him.
“That’s all I wanted to hear, Bobby. Not some wise-ass crack about treating me with kid gloves.”
“I… I’m sorry for that, too. I didn’t mean it.”
“I know you didn’t. And I’m sorry for hitting you.”
He smiled a little, wincing at the pain through his cheek.
“You’ve got a mean right hook.”
“So my brothers tell me. Bobby, you’re not applying enough pressure. The bleeding’s never going to stop if you don’t press harder.”
He tried to duck away from her as she reached out to him.
“I told you, it hurts too much.”
“Oh, don’t be such a damned baby. Hold still…”
She caught his wrist and took the gauze from his hand and promptly pressed it hard to his face.
The response was instantaneous. Blinding pain flared through Bobby’s face at the pressure being applied to his injury. His world tilted and spun, and then faded to nothing.
He awoke some indefinable amount of time later to find he was lying down and his head was resting on a soft pillow. His face still throbbed, but the white hot pain was gone.
He looked around slowly, and his blurred eyes finally focused on the familiar face looking down at him in concern.
She smiled at him, looking both relieved and embarrassed.
“How are you feeling?”
“Sore,” he mumbled. “What happened?”
“Hang on a second, Bobby. I’ll just get a nurse.”
He watched dazedly as she slipped out of the cubicle, only to return less than a minute later with a nurse, who smiled warmly down at him as she set about checking his vitals.
“How are you feeling, Detective?” the nurse asked as she monitored his blood pressure.
“My face hurts,” he mumbled.
“Well, I’m not surprised. Just hang on a moment, and I’ll give you something that will take the edge off the pain.”
Alex stood back, somewhat impatiently as the nurse measured out the correct dosage, and then injected it through the IV.
“That should take effect within a few minutes,” she assured Bobby.
He watched through half-closed eyes as the nurse hurried off to see to another patient, and then finally returned his attention to Alex.
“What happened?” he asked again.
“You passed out. You fell right off the examination table, and practically landed on your face. The doctor said if your cheekbone hadn’t been fractured already, then that fall did it well and truly.”
He started to reach up for his face, but she caught his hand and pushed it down again.
“Don’t touch it.”
“They… They x-rayed it?”
“Mm-hmm. While you were unconscious. You’re going to be missing more than just one day of work, pal. Doctor said if he couldn’t be sure you’ll stay home and get some real rest, that he’ll admit you, and restrain you to the bed, if he has to.”
Bobby grimaced, and then winced as fresh pain flared briefly through his cheek.
“Great. Deakins is going to have a fit.”
“Tell me about it, especially when he finds out how it happened.”
“Yeah, I can see it now. He’s going to fall out of his chair, he’ll be laughing so damn hard.”
“Before or after he suspends me for attacking my partner?” Alex retorted glumly. Bobby hesitated, and then reached out for her hand. She accepted the gesture wordlessly, staring at her tiny hand enclosed in his large, warm one.
“He doesn’t have to know you hit me. In fact, I don’t think he needs to know.”
“Seriously, Eames. That was between us, and we sorted it out… didn’t we?”
She smiled faintly.
“Yes, we did.”
“So why does it have to go back to Deakins?”
She raised an eyebrow at him. “He’s going to want to know how you got hurt, Bobby.”
“I’ll tell him I walked into the break room door.”
Alex nearly choked. “You can’t be serious! He’s not going to fall for that!”
“Why not? You and he both know how glued I get to report files. I’ll just tell him I was reading one through, didn’t watch where I was going, and wham. Straight into the door.”
“And if he goes looking for blood spatter?”
“It’s not a crime to be clumsy, Eames. And it didn’t start bleeding straight away. If it had, you would have noticed.”
She had to concede to that. As angry as she had been at Bobby, if her punch had immediately drawn blood, she would have noticed, and done something about it.
“So how are you feeling?” she asked quietly, deciding it was time for a change of topic. She would decide what to tell Deakins when it came to that.
“It hurts,” he mumbled, “but I’ve had worse.”
“I’m sorry, Bobby. Really. I was just so angry, and I’m not even sure now why.”
“Don’t be sorry. You were right to be mad. I’m sorry. I could have gotten us killed.”
“All I could think of,” Alex said in a subdued voice, “was my nephew. They say your life is supposed to flash before your eyes before you die, but that didn’t happen. I just remembered seeing his face when he was born, and thinking that I’d never have a chance to see him again.”
“Eames, I’m so sorry,” Bobby said again, hoarsely. “I promise you, I’ll never do anything like that again.”
She leaned in close, aware that the pain meds he’d been given not too long ago were starting to take effect finally. It wouldn’t be long before he was asleep again.
“It’s okay, Bobby. I know you won’t. Because we both know I’ll kick your ass into the next millennium if you do.”
He smiled and laughed, but it was a soft, distant sound as the meds began to work. She leaned in close and, on impulse, brushed her lips very lightly over his forehead.
“I do trust you. I’ve always trusted you, Bobby. Now, just rest, okay?”
All she got in return was an incoherent mumble as his eyes slid shut, and he slipped easily into a deep sleep.
Alex looked around as a doctor ventured into the room, and managed a tired smile.
“Hi, Dr Brady.”
“He woke up, did he?”
“Yes. I got a nurse, and she injected some medication into his IV. He was out again fairly quickly.”
“Yes, well, that medication I instructed the nurses to give him is pretty potent stuff. But then, I’ve dealt with your partner before, and I know damned well that nothing short of full sedation would keep him here and I really want to keep him overnight, just to keep an eye on that injury.”
“You think there could be a problem?”
“Oh, no, I don’t think so. It’s mainly precautionary, and we have a fairly strict policy that we need to hold for observation any patient who has suffered a bad blow to the face or the head. He’s going to very sore in the face for a while, but there’s no lasting damage. We just have to follow procedure, and I’m sure you can understand that.”
“Yes,” Alex agreed ruefully. She definitely understood that.
“Now, I don’t suppose you know how he got injured in the first place?”
Alex reddened. She couldn’t lie, despite Bobby’s apparent willingness to do so.
“I hit him.”
Brady’s eyebrows shot up.
“You hit him? Mind if I ask why?”
“We had an argument. I lost my temper, and he was being a smart ass. I saw red, and hit him. I just didn’t realise how hard I’d hit him until our captain saw that his face was bleeding.”
“Ah. Well, he definitely knows how to infuriate people, I can’t deny that.”
She had to smile. Yes, he certainly did.
“Well, I’ll leave it to you and Bobby to decide what to tell your captain. I’m only required to report more serious forms of assault. Spats between partners don’t come into that category.”
“You are keeping him overnight, then?” Alex asked, eager to change the subject. His apparently innocuous reference to their altercation as an assault had sent fresh pangs of guilt through her. Brady nodded, oblivious to her reaction.
“Just for tonight. An orderly will be along soon to take him up to a ward. You can stay as long as you like. I’ll let the nurses know.”
Alex nodded her gratitude at his retreating figure, and then settled down in the nearby chair to wait.
Alex awoke to the aroma of fresh coffee in her nostrils. Drawn out of a light sleep, she forced her eyes open to find the captain standing there in front of her, a fresh cup of Starbucks coffee in hand.
“Thankyou,” she murmured, sitting up and taking the cup that he offered to her with open gratitude.
“Black, with plenty of sugar,” Deakins said, and smiled at her arched eyebrow. “Goren isn’t the only one who knows how you like your coffee.”
“Mm… What time is it?” she wondered, stretching a little in the chair.
“Not quite seven,” he told her. “Have you had anything to eat?”
“I got a sandwich from the cafeteria earlier.”
“I can get you something now, if you’d like.”
She smiled in appreciation, but shook her head.
“No, thanks. It’s okay. Truth is, I’m really not all that hungry.”
Deakins nodded in understanding, and then looked around at Bobby, who was still sleeping soundly.
“They sedated him?”
“Yes. Dr Brady wants to keep him overnight, and he said it was the only way to get away with doing that. The sedatives should wear off shortly before midnight.”
“All that for a bruised cheek?” Deakins mused, peering down at the gauze-covered injury. Alex shifted uncomfortably.
“Actually, it’s a bit more than bruised.”
Deakins looked back at her questioningly, and was surprised when she couldn’t hold his gaze.
“It’s fractured,” she admitted, and the captain raised an eyebrow incredulously.
“Well… Remind me never to get you angry, then.”
Alex gagged on the mouthful of coffee she’d just taken, and it took her a good minute or two to stop coughing.
“You… You know?”
Deakins smiled wryly as he pulled a chair over and sat down beside her.
“Know? Alex, I was standing right outside the break room when you and he had that fight. I saw and heard the whole thing. And just between us, he deserved that punch.”
She stared at him incredulously, but at the same time feeling relieved that she didn’t seem to be in trouble.
“Why did you act like you didn’t know?”
“Because firstly, I didn’t know exactly what it was about. I still don’t, and I didn’t care to be jumping to conclusions. I only spoke up when I did because you were doing such a damned good job of ignoring each other, and Bobby was starting to drip blood all over his reports.” He shook his head. “I’ve seen you both get like that before… just usually not with each other… and neither of you are very forthcoming when you’re in that sort of a mood. Secondly, I wanted to give you both the chance to sort it out without me intervening. It’s been my experience that interfering usually only make things worse. I hoped you’d manage to sort out whatever’s wrong between the two of you, without needing outside intervention. Have you sorted it out?”
Alex nodded, grateful she could at least answer that question positively.
“Yes, sir. We’re fine, now.”
“Good. Then I don’t need to know anything more about it. Now, what did his doctor tell you?”
“Well, his cheekbone is fractured. It’s not too bad, but Dr Brady wants him to get complete rest. He said strictly no working for the rest of the week.”
“That shouldn’t be a problem. You were just wrapping up the paperwork on this latest one, weren’t you?”
“Well, if you can handle being on desk duty until he comes back to work, I’ll hold off on throwing a new case your way until then.” He paused, then shook his head. “On second thought, just take the rest of the week off as well, Alex.”
Alex looked at him, startled.
“Yes. If you’re not at work either, then he might actually obey doctor’s orders, and stay away, too.”
She didn’t even bother trying to hide her relief. Granted, it hadn’t been that long since she’d returned to work herself after taking maternity leave, but this last case had left her feeling ragged. The prospect of a few days’ peace, away from work, was not to be sniffed at.
Deakins stood up again, pausing to look once more at Bobby’s peaceful features before stepping towards the door.
“I gather you’re going to stay for a while?”
“I think I might stay here tonight,” she told him. “Maybe if I stay, he’ll be less likely to try escaping once the sedatives have worn off.”
Deakins couldn’t quite conceal his amusement.
“He probably would, wouldn’t he?”
“Damn straight he would,” she retorted.
“All right. Just don’t let him run you ragged, and don’t let him guilt trip you into pandering to him, Alex.”
She smirked at that. The notion was too ridiculous not to allow for one good smirk.
“Captain, I have never pandered to him, in all the time we’ve been partners. You should know that. And if I did, he wouldn’t be in hospital now with a fractured cheekbone.”
He chuckled softly.
“Point taken. Just make sure you both get plenty of rest. I want to see my best team back at work with a vengeance next week. Understand?”
She nodded, grinning to herself as he left the office.
His best team… A compliment like that did wonders for the ego. And they were Deakins’ best team. It might have seemed egotistical, but it was true all the same. All the more reason not to let something like this interfere with that.
Alex paused, rising up and walking over to look down at her sleeping partner. She still felt guilty for the damage she’d done to his face, but not for the actual punch itself. There were times, few though they were, when Bobby really needed something to snap him out of complacency, and back to reality. It often seemed as though she was the only one capable of doing that.
Granted, her hormones may have played a big part in her reaction this time around, but Bobby would ultimately be no worse off for it, and she knew he would never hold it against her.
After a moment’s consideration, she leaned down and kissed him once again on the forehead. Then, smiling to herself, she settled back down in the chair to wait for Bobby to wake up.
Bobby had no idea what time it was when he woke up. All he knew was that it was dark, and quiet. For nearly a minute he lay still, staring into the darkness as he tried to comprehend where he was, and why. Slowly, it came back to him, along with a dull-aching pain that was centred in the left side of his face.
He groaned very softly. That was right. He’d pissed Eames off, and she’d decked him. Now, he was stuck in the hospital with a fractured cheekbone. He had to have been sedated. It was the only explanation for the length of time that he guessed he’d been out, and also for lingering exhaustion that threatened to put him to sleep again.
He groaned again, and shifted in the narrow, uncomfortable bed. He hated hospitals. Hated waiting in them, hated staying in them. The beds were always too narrow, or too short, the mattresses too thin, the pillows too lumpy or hard, and the blankets to scratchy. But, worse than all those things, hospitals were lonely places, pure and simple.
Judging by the quiet, and the darkness that surrounded him, it was late at night. Eames would have gone home long ago… probably the moment they sedated him, and he couldn’t fault her for it. Even though they seemed to have made their peace over his recent behaviour, a small part of him whispered insistently that she wouldn’t be able to wait to get away from him, as far as possible, where it was safe.
His heart twisted painfully at the thought that he might have screwed up so badly that she would really be desperate to get away from him.
Miserable at the thought, Bobby rolled over slowly onto his right side, in an effort to find a more comfortable position, and froze. Asleep in a chair beside the bed was his partner.
Alex was curled up in the large sofa chair, covered by a hospital blanket and with a pillow to cushion her head. She was turned towards him and, by all accounts, appeared to be sleeping peacefully.
He watched her in stunned silence, trying to get his tired mind around the fact that she had not fled from him after all, but was right there beside him, within reach. Within reach…
Bobby stretched out one hand tentatively, but stopped short of actually touching her. The last thing he wanted was to disturb her sleep.
Slowly, his anxiety eased and finally faded altogether. She hadn’t left him. He hadn’t messed up so badly that things were irreconcilable. She still cared enough not to abandon him.
Comforted by the knowledge that both his friendship and his partnership with Alex was safe, Bobby finally settled down in the narrow bed and watched Alex in contented silence until he fell asleep once more.
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