December was gone before we knew it.
I'd never expected that I was the type of guy who could be happy on a vacation, but as it turned out, I'm exactly that type of guy.
Because after Alex took her exam, we spent the next two weeks on a road trip.
And we had the time of our lives.
We drove down the coast for awhile and then we turned right and headed for the mountains.
We went south until the first week was up and then we turned the car around.
We stayed in a rustic cabin near the Great Smokey Mountains National Park and then we stayed in a five-star hotel on the St. Johns River in Jacksonville.
We didn't talk much about work.
We weren't Goren and Eames.
We were just Bobby and Alex.
When we got back to New York, on the first of January, we finally decided that it was time to discuss the logistics.
"I'll just keep my place," she said rationally.
"But keep living here," I clarified.
Because now that the time had come for us to go back, I was starting to get a little nervous about it.
She was going to be one of the brass.
"Of course," she replied. "I mean, if that's what you want."
"It's what I want," I assured her. "Is it what you want?"
We were sitting at the kitchen table, having just finished dinner.
And suddenly it felt like we were miles apart even though there was only a small square of wood between us.
Alex must have felt it, too, because she got up and came around the table.
I scooted my chair back and she sat down in my lap.
"Nothing has changed," she said quietly. "Just because we're going back…I still want to be with you."
"It's not going to be easy," I reminded her. "And I don't just mean dealing with me. I mean keeping this thing a secret."
"I know," she agreed.
She settled her palm against my cheek, which was once again covered with a heavy beard. I'd have to shave before meeting with Moran on Monday, but for now, I closed my eyes and enjoyed the feeling as she moved her fingers back and forth over the whiskers.
"I'm wondering if I can pull it off," I admitted. "I mean, I look at you and…I just have to think that surely everyone can tell how much I love you."
She smiled and leaned her head against my chest.
"I've loved you for a long time, Bobby," she whispered. "And so far, no one seems to have noticed."
"Or they have and they just don't care," I suggested.
"So no touching or hugging or kissing while we're at the office and we should be fine," she concluded.
"So, does that mean that I can't make love to you in your new office?" I teased as I stroked my hand up and down her back. "No quickies in the supply closet? No nooners in the parking garage?"
She laughed and lifted her head to look at me.
"No, but if you play your cards right, I might agree to a little manual release in the department SUV," she quipped, and even though I knew that she was kidding, as she said the words, she ran her hand over me, putting just the right amount of pressure in just the right place.
"Captain Eames, you are a very bad girl."
"I'm not a captain yet," she argued lightly.
She pulled down my zipper and slipped her hand inside, squeezing me through the thin layer of cotton.
"But you are bad," I managed to say as she increased her movements.
"You like me like that," she informed me, using her free hand to undo my belt buckle and the snap so that she could have better access.
"No I don't," I countered.
"No?" she questioned, at last finding her way beneath my boxers so that her skin was directly against mine.
"No, I love you like that," I ground out.
She was getting me worked up in a hurry, so it was time to either give in and enjoy it or put on the brakes.
I put on the brakes.
Because as good as what she was doing felt, it wasn't what I wanted.
I wanted that connection with her.
We'd been having a serious discussion, and while I didn't mind postponing it for a short period of time, I was still seeking that reassurance that she and I were going to make it work together.
So I grabbed her by the wrists and moved her hands behind her back, pulling her closer to me in the process.
And then I kissed her, hard.
I felt the intensity building in me, the need to possess her, to make her crazy with want for me so that she would never consider not being with me.
So that no matter how hard things got at work, it was still worth it.
I was still worth it.
But when I pulled my lips away from hers, moving instead to indelibly mark the skin along the side of her neck, she began to whisper my name with such reverence, such adoration, such love that I faltered in my movements and I let go of her wrists.
She immediately brought her hands up to my face and looked me in the eye.
"This is not a last-chance act of desperation," she said gently. "You don't have to convince me to stay. I love you. That's why I stay. And yes, it's going to be hard at times. And yes, there are probably going to be days when I'm ready to pull my hair out over you. But that doesn't mean I'll ever stop loving you."
"But how can you know?" I asked.
I didn't even stop to wonder how she'd known exactly what was on my mind.
We just had that connection.
And I knew that it didn't have anything to do with sex. I'd been wrong to think even for a second that maybe it did.
In fact, I'd known all along that it didn't, I was just…I don't know.
We'd had it so good for so long and I wasn't ready for anything to change.
"I don't know how I know," she admitted. "I just do. Don't you?"
"Well…yeah," I replied. And then I smiled and added, "But you're easy to love."
"Huh. Let's see if you say that when I kick you out of bed at three o'clock in the morning to go to a crime scene."
I chuckled at her practicality and I felt my whole body relax.
She was right, as usual. It wasn't really going to be that much different.
We were professionals. It's not like we'd be making out at the office, even if such a thing was allowed.
We would go to work and do our jobs and go home.
And if we happened to be out to dinner some night and run into Moran, well then…so be it. We'd cross that bridge when we got to it.
"Well, I guess it will make notification a little easier," I joked. "You'll only have to make one call, to my partner, whoever that is."
"Oh no, you can call your own partner," she asserted as she stood up.
"Where are you going?"
But then she unhooked her jeans and pushed them to the floor before climbing back onto my lap.
"I'm not going anywhere."
To say that I was nervous would be an understatement.
And I don't mean about Bobby.
We'd gotten that straight over the weekend.
He'd had a minor mental slip and suddenly seemed to think that the only thing I got from our relationship was good sex, but I'd cleared up that misconception pretty quickly.
Although, I should add that the sex is pretty damn good.
Really, really good.
So if I was ever going to be in a relationship strictly for physical gratification, well…I'm just saying.
But the point is, I'm too in love with him to even care about that. Even if we could never do it again, I'd never leave him.
With that in mind, the same goes for the job.
I'd pick him over any job, any day.
And like I'd said, of course there were going to be difficult times.
Being in love with someone certainly doesn't mean never getting angry with them.
But as long as we communicate and respect each other, this will work out just fine.
So no, I wasn't nervous about that.
I was afraid for how I'd done on that exam.
What if I failed it?
I mean, I kept telling Bobby that I wasn't going to count on that job until Moran officially offered it to me, but it was kind of hard not to.
Moran had been pretty clear, although he'd also said that I needed to be sure to pass the test.
I'd felt confident when I went to take it.
And I'd even felt pretty good about it after the fact.
I hardly gave it a thought during our entire two-week vacation.
Which, by the way had been like a honeymoon.
Better than my honeymoon, in fact.
But I digress.
I was sweating bullets.
I played it off at first when Bobby asked me what was wrong, but then I reminded myself about the key to our relationship's success.
So I told him.
And I gave him points for not brushing off my fears.
"Two more hours and we'll know for sure," he said, picking up my hand and bringing it to his lips so that he could kiss my palm. "And what's the worst that can happen? You'll still get the captain's job. You'll just do it as a lieutenant until the next testing time."
And he was right, I knew.
So I forced the doubts from my mind and dressed for success in a white blouse with black slacks and matching jacket.
"Are you ready, Lieutenant?" Bobby asked me. At my quirked eyebrow, he added, "I figured I'd get that in before Moran changes it. Unless you'd rather I call you…oh, I don't know. Cupcake? Sweetie pie?"
"Move your ass, Goren," I replied with a grin as I shooed him toward the door. "Keep that up and I'll have to suspend you on your first day back."
An hour later, Moran called us into his office.
"You two look rested," he commented. And I felt a little anxious as his eyes looked over both of us. "And tan."
I knew we shouldn't have spent those two days lying on the beach in Tampa…
"We both managed to get out of the city during our time off," Bobby explained. "Separately, of course."
"Of course," Moran agreed with a nod. "Please, have a seat."
We both sat down and waited while Moran looked over some papers on his desk.
Here it comes, I thought. He's trying to decide how to deliver the bad news.
"For starters, the transfer for Captain Callas was effective as of this morning. So, Captain Eames, I'd like for you to take over the position of the captain of Major Case."
I let out a breath that I didn't realize I'd been holding and then I couldn't stop the smile.
I didn't want to look at Bobby because I was afraid if I did then I might launch myself into his arms, but no…this was part of it.
I turned to look at him and he nodded at me encouragingly.
"I told you," he teased.
"You were worried?" Moran asked in confusion. "Eames, you had a perfect score."
"Well, I had a good study partner," I deflected.
"I can tell. But I wouldn't give him all of the credit. Didn't you one-up him at Quantico?"
"Yes, sir," I admitted.
"Rule of thumb, Eames. A captain gets plenty of crap when it's undeserved and you have to take it. So you also have to learn how to take credit when it's offered because it'll likely be few and far between."
"Okay, so I have a few papers for both of you to sign to make your reinstatement official and then I'll let you both get back to work."
"Um…did you…" Bobby began. He fiddled with his tie clip as he searched for the words to ask his most pressing question now that my fate was sealed.
"Did I have any luck finding you a partner?" Moran asked, and now he was the one smiling. "In fact, I did."
But he didn't say anything more.
Instead, he handed us papers, one at a time, so we signed on the dotted lines and when we finished, he got up from his chair.
"I think that covers it."
"Sir, my partner?"
Moran checked his watch.
"I have a feeling he'll be here any minute."
Bobby and I stood up, too, and he looked at me nervously.
I knew that he couldn't decide if Moran's amusement was because this new partner was gong to be some kind of payback or if he truly had found someone who would work well with Bobby.
But I was the boss now.
If Bobby and his partner didn't get along, then I'd have the authority to make a change.
And would that be playing favorites?
I don't know.
But I wasn't going to let him work day in and day out with someone I couldn't trust to watch his back.
Moran opened the door to let us out, and there stood Mike Logan.
"Good timing," Moran said.
"Logan?" I asked. "What are you doing here?"
"Apparently, there was a shortage of detectives willing to work with Goren," he said sardonically.
"Yeah, I think that list is at two," Moran added on a chuckle. "You and Eames."
"You're going to be my partner?" Bobby asked him, and I could tell that he liked that idea.
Me, on the other hand, had fast and furious visions of rule books flying out the window, toes being stepped on, DA's being insulted…
"I think it's the chief's new theory of putting two bad apples together," Logan said conspiratorially. "Maybe that way we won't spoil the whole bunch."
"I trust that Eames won't let that happen anyway," Moran countered. "You'll be able to keep these two in check, won't you, Captain?"
I looked at Bobby and Logan, and the two of them looked like they were itching to get back in the game.
It was oceans two all over again.
I had a feeling that I was going to need a healthy supply of Excedrin and I'd have to put my colorist on speed dial to keep away the grays.
But it would be worth it.
"Well, are you three just going to stand around and look at each other all day, or are you going to get your asses back to work?" Moran grumbled.
But I saw a hint of a smile from him as he shoved us out of his office and closed the door behind us.
"Oh, this is going to be so much fun," Logan said with a grin as we headed for the elevator.
"It's work, Logan," I said firmly. "Just because you're friends with the boss…"
"I would never dream of taking advantage of you, Eames."
"That's Captain Eames," Bobby reminded him with a smirk.
It was certainly going to be a challenge, keeping Bobby and Logan reined in, but my relief was overwhelming at the fact that this was who would be watching Bobby's back.
No partner to ridicule his ideas or his unorthodox methods, but rather one who would appreciate his skill set.
We arrived on the eleventh floor and it almost felt like old times.
Although there were definitely some changes.
Callas had rearranged the squad room.
Nichols was gone. Moran had said that he'd turned in his resignation a month ago.
Stevens...I'd barely gotten to know her, but as it turned out, that was for the best because she'd not even made it through the first year before deciding to go back to Chicago.
Wheeler was gone. She'd decided not to come back after having her baby.
And of course Ross…
But Bobby was back.
And I'd have someone put the damn desks back where they belonged before the end of the day.
"Where do you want us to sit, Captain?" Bobby asked me as he looked around the room. I had a feeling that he was noticing the same things as me.
"Just find a spot for now and we'll sort it out," I replied.
I pointed out a couple of empty desks on the far side of the room and then I headed for my office.
But I didn't even get to the door when my phone rang.
"There's a list of your department's current duty schedule on your desk," Moran began without even saying hello. "It was handled for this week, but that'll be up to you after that."
"Okay," I replied, not sure where he was going with the remark.
"Have you looked at it yet?"
"I'm not even in my office yet. I just left yours five minutes ago."
He chuckled at me, seemingly appreciating my directness, and that was a good thing.
Because that was what he was going to get from me.
"Well, get in there and check it out. You need to send a couple of detectives over to 82nd and Broadway. There's a body in a dumpster."
"And it's a Major Case?"
"It is when the body was identified as the son of a councilman."
"I'll get someone on it right away," I assured him.
I was still standing at my door, not having gotten out the keys to unlock the office since I was on the phone, but at the news of a case, I turned around and scanned the room.
"Eames, this needs to be handled delicately," the chief continued. "We don't want bad press for the councilman."
Delicately. Not exactly a term I'd use to describe Bobby or Logan's method of dealing with cases of a sensitive nature, but…the bottom line was, I trusted them to get the job done.
"I understand," I told him. I hung up the phone and called out, "Goren, Logan!"
I didn't wait for them, but instead turned around and unlocked my door. By the time I walked around my desk, they were both standing in my doorway.
"Are you guys ready to go?" I asked them.
"I've been ready for the past year," Logan said. "What've we got?"
I told them what I knew.
"And play nice," I added firmly. "I don't want complaints from the chief on our first case."
"Gotcha, boss," Logan replied. Then he looked at Bobby. "Give me the keys."
"Uh uh. I'm driving," Bobby said with a shake of his head. He caught my eye and gave me a wink and then he turned and started walking away.
Logan trotted after him, and I could hear them bickering all the way down the hall.
"You always let Eames drive," he argued. "So what's the big deal?"
"The big deal is that I'm the senior partner. I drive."
"You're senior partner? Says who?"
I shook my head at their harmless squabbling and sat down at my desk.
It was definitely going to be different.
But it was great to be back.
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