In From the Cold

Chapter 3

Alex POV


I spent quite a bit of time over the past few days thinking about my partner.

And yeah, I've spent a lot of time over the past several years thinking about him, but lately, specifically, it seemed as though it was time to draw a line in the sand.

And I know that he didn't mean for it to work out this way, but that's what it was.

I could work the assignment with him.

Or I could stay with the department.

A difficult choice, or course, but I made up my mind.

I was going to work with him.

I didn't want to think about him being out there alone, doing dangerous duties without anyone trustworthy to watch his back.

So I would do it.

And whenever we finished, however long it took to get to the bottom of this mess of Bureau bullshit, well…then we could return to the department.

Assuming that Moran didn't pull a fast one and take advantage of the situation.

It was a legitimate concern, but one that I had to ignore.

Keeping Bobby safe was more important.

So I made my choice.

And then Moran caught me by surprise.

He offered me the job of MCS Captain. It had come from left field as far as I was concerned, and I wondered whether the offer had only come about due to our current circumstance.

Was I the one that he wanted for this position anyway, or did it just suit our needs?

It was impossible to say.

I thought that it was a little unusual that Maas was in the office with us when the offer was made, but then he caught my gaze more than once and it suddenly hit me.

They think the office might be bugged.

And then they delivered the next blow.

"Detective Goren has become a liability."

I knew that it was coming, but it didn't make it any easier to hear them say the words.

And really, it was a good thing because it meant that Bobby had succeeded with the FBI. I hadn't talked to him since the day before, but he'd obviously gotten what they needed.

So it was time to fire him and let the Bureau snatch him up.

Which meant for me, it was time to put up or shut up.

The whole experience in Moran's office was surreal.

It was full of meaningful looks and underlying subtext and I suddenly wished desperately that Goren was with me.

Not that I didn't know how to handle myself.

I do.

But I preferred to have him around.

And yeah, it's probably because I'm in love with him.

But also because I trust him unequivocally and at a time when it felt as though the ground was made of quicksand, having someone to trust was a rare commodity.

But I'd have him soon enough because despite the offer on the table, I was still going with Bobby.

Yes, I'd take this job for now.

I'd fire Bobby.

It had to be done right and I didn't trust anyone else not to screw it up.

It had to be authentic in order for Agent Stahl to make a move on him.

But after that…well, let's just say I'd go down in the books as the pro-temp captain who served for the shortest period of time ever.

Not exactly the distinction that I'd imagined for myself once upon a time, but I wasn't going to feel sorry for myself.

I thanked Moran for the opportunity and prepared to leave his office.

"Your promotion to Lieutenant is effective immediately," he told me. "And I'll schedule for you to take the captain's exam one day next week. Unless…you call me and let me know differently."

He held my gaze and gave me a meaningful nod.

Message received.

I could take the exam.

Or I could call and tell him that I wasn't interested. Which meant I'd be going to work with Bobby.

He seemed sincere, and my trust in him grew slightly. I almost believed that Bobby and I might actually have jobs with the NYPD once this Bureau stint was over.

That night, I went to Bobby's.

I'd spent more time at his place in the past week than I had in the previous month, but oddly I was comfortable there.

And he seemed comfortable with me being there.

He'd caught me off guard the other day when he'd hugged me, but I hadn't minded it. In fact, I'd liked it quite a bit.

I wished he'd do things like that more often.

And as I listened to him lay out his plan, I realized that I might be getting just that, only not for the reasons that I'd hoped.

"We'll need to go in as a couple," he explained.

"Why?"

"Because otherwise they'll be suspicious. You and I are partners. If we both start working for them, they'll think we're working a case together. If we go because…well, because we're in love…"

"I get it," I said quietly.

And I did get it.

It just made me sad to think that this was the closest I was ever going to get to having a relationship with him.

It would be one based on necessity. One done for the benefit of others rather than for ourselves.

"Eames, if that's going to be too hard…"

"I didn't say that."

"I know. You'd never say that. But still…you need to give it some serious thought. I mean, this could go on for awhile."

So long that I might forget it was a game, I thought wistfully.

But personal feelings aside, it was still the right thing to do.

There was no telling how many more people might be hurt or killed by this unknown rogue agent. He had to be flushed out and dealt with. And of course, there could be someone in the NYPD as well.

We had no way of knowing until we started digging.

"Tomorrow, I'll come into the office," he said. "I'll be wired. You and I will talk to Zach and get him to back off. And then you can take me into your new office and fire me."

"Bobby…" I said on a sigh. Because no matter how many times that thought ran through my head, I still didn't like it.

I was not going to fire Bobby Goren.

Except that yes…I was.

"You know that it has to be like this. It'll work. She'll buy it."

"I know," I agreed. "Okay. I'll fire you. And then I'll quit."

"Now that part, you don't have to do. You can keep working there. It won't change the rest of the plan."

"Except that you'll be going it alone."

"I've been alone for most of my life, Eames," he told me. He gave me a smile and reached out to touch my arm. "And you can be my contact. We'll still meet from time to time."

"No, Bobby, I've made up my mind."

"You can be Captain," he emphasized. "Of Major Case. That's a big deal."

"Yes, it is," I agreed.

"Just do me a favor," he said. "Sleep on it, okay? And trust me. Whatever you decide, we're okay."

I'd left shortly thereafter and went back to my place.

Sleep on it, he'd said.

Yeah, because I was going to be sleeping tonight.

Although I did manage to get in a few restless hours, but mostly I tried to imagine what my life was going to be like working undercover with Bobby.

I'd done brief undercover work in the past, when I was with Vice, but those only lasted the length of a shift.

When I finished, I could wash off the make-up and change into normal clothes and then I could be Alex again.

What would it be like to pretend to be someone else for an extended period of time?

Although this wouldn't really be that, would it?

It would be me pretending to be in love with Bobby while we worked cases together.

I'd been doing that for years.

Except then I'd been pretending that I wasn't in love with him.

So this assignment would just be me, letting my true feelings show through.

Except they won't be his true feelings, I reminded myself.

This was going to get complicated.

The next day, Bobby came into the office and together we managed to curtail Nichols into doing what we wanted.

And it wasn't really what we wanted, but it was what the feds wanted, and it would get Bobby in their good graces.

And ultimately, with the FBI, Bobby could continue to track Hassan.

We'd still be able to take him down at some point.

Just not today.

We left Zach, sullen and disenchanted, and headed for my new office. The one that I'd been in for all of five minutes.

But even as I tried to make myself regret it, tried to see if somewhere inside of me a little voice called out to change my mind, that didn't happen.

I was secure in my decision.

But it didn't make firing Bobby any easier.

I mean, yeah, it was an act.

But it felt so…final.

And what if it was?

What if Moran didn't follow through, and this was literally his last moment as a member of the NYPD?

It got to me, more than a little.

And then he had to go and hug me, which very nearly caused me to come unglued.

I think that maybe he wasn't sure what I was going to do. I mean, I'd told him, but then he'd insisted that I sleep on it, and so he was kind of going into this thing blind.

And maybe that helped him sell the bit, I don't know.

But I felt bad for him, and I wanted to reassure him somehow, but I couldn't.

Not with him being wired up.

"Well, I'll see you around I guess," he said at last.

I nodded emphatically, but he simply turned around and walked away.

Now it was my turn.

Last chance to change your mind, Alex.

And funny, but my inner voice sounded an awful lot like my father. He would be mortified by what I was about to do.

Or would he be more upset by what I'd just done? I'd fired my partner.

Whichever the case, I knew that eventually I'd have to face my father with the truth, but not today.

Today, I just had a phone call to make.

"This is Detective Eames," I told Moran, deliberately choosing not to use my new title.

I was a detective, pure and simple.

"I won't be taking that captain's exam," I told him. He was quiet for a minute, and I wondered if maybe he suspected the phone of being bugged. Probably.

"Are you sure?" he asked me carefully.

"Yes. And I'm leaving the department. I hope that you don't expect me to work out a notice."

"No," he said on a sigh. "I understand."

Five minutes later, I stepped off the elevator in the parking garage. I could see Bobby across the lot, standing next to a column. I could only imagine that Stahl was behind the concrete stanchion.

Bobby looked my way and I couldn't stop the smile. His expression remained impassive, but I could read his eyes and I suddenly felt a fluttering of nervousness in my stomach.

Now is not the time, Alex.

I watched Bobby as he said something to Stahl and then he trotted over to me. Once his back was to the agent, he'd broken out into a smile, but then he'd schooled his features and, in a voice loud enough to be overheard, he asked me what was going on.

"I can't do it, Bobby. I quit."

"You…you did what? Eames, no. You're throwing it all away."

"What they're doing…it's not right. I can't work for them any more, and…" I trailed off for a second, because I knew what I needed to say, and even though it was also the truth, it was still tough to say it out loud.

Get over it, Alex, I reminded myself harshly.

So I took a deep breath and said, "I don't want to be there without you."

"Are you sure?" he asked.

He seemed oblivious to my discomfort at such a blatant declaration, words that I would've never said under normal circumstances.

Of course, these weren't normal circumstances.

And the words were true. I wouldn't want to be there without him. But I couldn't imagine myself having the guts to tell him that.

But he was staring at me intently, and his eyes held such…something. I couldn't quite put my finger on it but I was pretty sure that it was something he'd never let me see before.

"I'm sure," I told him.

We walked over to Stahl where she quickly chastised him.

"You're breaking protocol already, Goren."

And that was when he explained the deal.

The Bureau was going to get a two-fer.

I wasn't sure how well that would go over, but truthfully, I was only halfway listening, because I was gearing myself up for what I had to say next.

I had to be convincing and unwavering and sincere.

"And I know that you heard her just say that she quit," Bobby said to Stahl.

"I did," she admitted. "I'm having trouble believing it, but…why? Why would you do that? It can't just be because of politics."

"No, it's because I love him," I said.

It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be.

Probably because that was true, too.

And maybe it wasn't so hard because I knew that he'd have to go along with it.

There was no danger of rejection because this was our story. And for the next however long we did this, he had to pretend that he loved me back.

At least when people were watching anyway.

"That's right," Bobby said, startling me by grabbing my hand.

I forced myself not to look surprised, but there was a jolt of electricity that went through me at that innocent contact.

Maybe this assignment was going to be even harder than I thought.

Especially if he was so good at casually showing little displays of affection while I was dying a slow death, wishing that they were real.

"We're together and you know as well as I do that undercover work requires a lot of time apart from family, and we're not willing to do that," Bobby continued. "So as far as the job goes, we're a package deal. Take it or leave it."

She took it.

We were in.

Stahl left us alone in the garage on the promise that we'd meet up with her at a diner in Weehawken first thing in the morning.

The two of us stood in silence after she left. She'd been gone for several minutes when I realized that Bobby was still holding my hand. He must have noticed at the same time.

"I'm sorry," he said quickly as he let go.

"Don't be," I told him. His eyes snapped up to meet mine as I continued. "What I mean is that if this is our story, then you can't be apologizing for every time you touch me. It's going to need to seem natural, or they'll sniff us out after ten minutes."

"You're right," he said, shaking his head. "It just feels…I don't know. Strange. And I don't want you to think that I'm trying to take advantage of the situation or anything."

Strange. That was great. He'd held my hand and then said it felt strange.

"I know that you wouldn't do that," I said, fighting off my hurt and irritation. "And I know I'm not your type so don't worry about the idea that I might misconstrue something, okay? It's work. We have a mission here. Part of that mission is that we have to pretend to be in love, so let's just do it and quit over-thinking it, okay Goren?"

And yeah, so maybe I didn't do a very good job of hiding my hurt.

He stood still, momentarily speechless, as I headed for the car.

"Come on. I'll drive you home," I called out to him when he still hadn't moved.

And now I felt bad because somehow I'd managed to hurt his feelings. Jeez, this was going to be a minefield.

"Eames…"

"Alex," I corrected. "What kind of guy calls his girlfriend by her last name? I mean, when we're working, sure, but otherwise…"

"I got it. Okay. Alex. I didn't mean…it's not that…"

He couldn't seem to get the words out, so I got into the car and slammed the door. He stood outside for another minute and then got into the passenger seat. I stuck the key in the ignition, but then he reached out and touched my arm.

"When I said strange, I didn't mean bad strange," he said carefully. "I just meant that I didn't have to worry about you hitting me or anything because I knew that you'd go along with it since you had to and then I started thinking that it wasn't fair to make you go along with something if you didn't want to, and…"

"Bobby," I said, and now I had to laugh. I should've known that he would turn it around into something to feel guilty about. I had to remember that this was new to him, too, and just because he didn't feel the same way as I did didn't mean that it made pretending any easier. Just different. "Let's go to dinner and practice this dating thing."

"Are you asking me on a date?" he asked, visibly relieved that we'd somewhat cleared the air.

"Yeah," I teased. "And you're saying yes because you have to."


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