by B. Cavis

This is a sequel to The Art of Being a Kept Woman.

by B. Cavis

And he has to wonder because, well, that's what he does. He thinks for a living, uses his brain on a regular basis to gain every cent of his paychecks. The big men who he's never met get angry and sullen if he doesn't pour every last little gray cell in his head into the problem at hand, and if there's one thing that can be said about Bobby, it's that he doesn't like to make people angry.

...Well, not the big men who sign his checks, anyway. Those men tend to put pressure on Deakins, who tends to put it on Alex (because, hey, she's the more rational of the two, and Deakins is just a little bit less afraid of her than he is of Bobby on any given day), which, though she never says anything, always puts it on him.

So... thinking. He does it. All the time. And he never lets himself stop it, because God forbid he's in a situation that he really needs it, it won't be there, and that's just bad.

And he's damn good at it too. Never let it be said that he can't think his way out a paper bag (though what he might be doing in said paper bag would cause him a few moments of "huh"?) because he most definitely can.

Bobby is a brain and a half, and he works it all to his advantage every little second of the day.

He gets paid to wonder. He can't shut it off just because he's not getting financially rewarded for every little "Oh, Wow, Eureka!" moment he might happen to have during the day.

But for once, just once, he would like to be able to look his intellect head on, grit his teeth, and tell is to take a hike.

A long hike.

Off a short mountain range.

...God damn it.

He was so much happier a mere hour and a half ago. Truly-- there was nothing wrong in his world, and all of the things he was thinking about were of an extremely important, extremely criminally violent, extremely not at all related to him nature.

He was ignorant. He hadn't put the pieces together, hadn't had this great epiphany that suddenly came over him when he sat down, took up his coffee cup, and watched as his partner took a deep breath, and indulged herself in a long, loving smile.

Crossed her legs. Uncrossed her legs. Smiled.

And he knew.

Just. Freaking. Knew.

He'd heard in several places throughout his life that ignorance was bliss. That those who didn't know any better, who didn't know anything at all, were much happier because of it.

An hour and a half ago, secure in what he thought to be true and right, Bobby Goren had been ignorant.

And he had been a much happier person that way. MUCH happier.

He takes a sip of ice cold, disgustingly grease covered coffee, doesn't wince, and takes another. Gagging, all things considered, is better than his other alternative right about now.

...God, who ever would have thought that he would want to throw up?

This isn't healthy. Not in the "I'm Afraid I'll Turn Out Like My Mother" manner, but more like the "Damn it, I'm a Schmuck" fashion that has become more and more apparent through these last couple of weeks. He is either having a severe physical and mental breakdown at the age of thirty four, or he was always crazy, and it is just now starting to show.

Have I always been insane? Bobby asks the cold coffee, and gets only nausea in response.

Stupid coffee.

He's grumbling, and he's pissed, and his socks don't match, and he doesn't friggin' care.

I am such a complete and utter schmuck, he thinks to himself. I must have been born under the dumb ass star. On a moonless night. With my head up my ass.

Yeah. There's the level of derision he's looking for. He hates himself for not seeing it-- hates himself for not being as perceptive as he is with every other part of his life. What kind of moron doesn't notice these kinds of things, he mocks himself. What kind of moron are you that you missed all of the signs and just... what? Developed a case of selective blindness?

The last hint of his own self respect, the part of him that wants all of the facts to be wrong, wants his own little image of the world to be 100% accurate (especially about this) whimpers softly in his head.

Maybe, it whines, it was well hidden. Maybe I'm just seeing things. She's good at hiding stuff from me-- maybe this is just me being paranoid.

And the voice that has taken over his body, the dark, angry hated that is booming inside of his chest cavity (hey, echo) and bouncing around his head answers back in a voice that leaves no room for argument.

I'm not wrong. And if she had been a suspect, if she had been a witness- I would have seen it right away.

Truth hurts. Truth hurts worse than malicious lies, because with truth you can't deny anything and feel right about doing so. If he had just heard rumors-- if there has been whispers by those who hate her for her good fortune (looks, brains, whatever)-- he could have, would have ignored them. Jealousy breeds poison, after all.

If it had been someone else's observations, not his own, he never would have believed. He never would have even...

But it was his eyes. And it was his brain. And no matter how long he tries to deny it, the logical, all important part of his brain that knows he's always right when it comes to things like this... knows this time is no exception.

He sighs. Hard.

And Alex looks up from her file, eyebrow cocked and face crinkled in worry. He can understand her confusion-- it's not a Monday, and it's not a Meeting With Carver Day. He's usually pretty cheerful on all of the others; a sigh is a complete change of character, and that usually means he's going to start acting oddly and dangerously.

Which he just might, but she doesn't need to know that.

"Nothing," he tells her softly, and she nods once in satisfaction before looking back down at her work and jotting a quick note in the corner of the page.

He kicks himself, hard, and bites the inside of his now bleeding cheek. No, his mental voice (which has much bigger balls than his real voice) cries out, actually, there is something you can do for me. There's something desperately wrong with me and only you have the power inside of yourself to fix it.

He plays the conversation in his head: she looks at him with those perfectly formed eyes of hers full of questions and nerves, and says that she'll do anything she has to do to make him feel better about what ever is wrong. As long as it doesn't involve wearing a bunny costume.

Even his mental Alex has limits.

But she's still looking up at him in his mind's eye with those beautiful eyes, and he smiles encouragingly at her, teeth spread wide and shining with need.

Yes, his mental self begins, there is something only you can do. If you would just stay single and celibate and available for me to have sick, delusional fantasies and conversations with you (like this one, for example) for the rest of your life, I would be very grateful.

Very, very grateful, he affirms. Just in case she missed the point.

...Oh yeah. That went over really well. Even his mental Alex has walked out of the office to request a new partner.

He tries to take another sip of coffee, only to discover that the cup is dry and his mouth is full of some ice cold sludge thinly disguised as caffeine. He cautiously spits it back into the cup and slides it into the trash can by his feet.

Look at me, he silently begs as he sits back up. Please. Alex, baby, look at me.

She turns the page.

...And apparently, his psychic abilities need a little bit more practice before he is able to communicate with her through thought alone.

"Pass me the witness's statement?"

He hands it over without saying a word, and she takes it with a soft smile of appreciation. "Thanks."

"No problem." Now, screams some voice inside him. Speak up now while the doorway of conversation is still open and you still have a shot! "Alex?"

She looks up and her face looks willing and soft. He could ask to curl up and put his head on her lap right now, and if he offered to throw in a Starbucks coffee and a couple hundred favors, she might consider it.

For Alex, when she's dealing with one of these kinds of requests (read: complete non sequitor that has no bearing on anything), that's pretty generous.

Her eyes take him in, examine the state of his face and posture, and she smiles a bit wider to try and transfer some of her happiness to him. He appreciates the gesture-- it's the closest thing to open affection she can give them in a crowded office, ten feet away from their boss's office and his all seeing eyes. It's not like she can give him a hug or anything like that.

... He really wants a hug right about now...

"Nothing," he punks out, "forget it."

Now her eyes truly are worried. "Bobby?"

"Nah," he waves a hand and settles his posture in a way he knows will offset her into thinking he's actually focusing on their work and not on his own personal issues. "Just... nothing."

He brings his hand up and v's his face with his thumb and pointed finger. The words on the page in front of him are blurring together and meaningless, but he doesn't dare look up.

A minute or so after he's certain she's stopped watching him, he peers out from underneath his brows at her. She's sucking on the end of her pen and tapping her fingers in a rhythmless beat against her thigh. Her face is focused entirely.

And Bobby wishes, with all of his black, self-admittedly selfish heart, that she would look at him with half of the total concentration and attention that she's giving that piece of paper.

It's not fair, his inner child whines. An inanimate, totally boring file folder gets her to look at it like that, while I'm stuck feeding off the scraps.

...Not that he doesn't like the scraps, he hastens to explain to whatever God is up there that may be judging him. I totally love the scraps. They taste good, and they make my insides swirl and boil, and they always manage to lighten up my day. Scraps are good.

It's just... Bobby would bet anything in the world that he doesn't get scraps. He bets that Alex makes him a full meal.

Lucky assed bastard who completely doesn't deserve her. He bets the ass hole leaves the toilet seat up. Makes her do the dishes on her own. Puts his feet on her table and messes up all the nicely stacked magazines that she keeps around.

...He saw a Smithsonian in there last time he was over, but that's besides the point.

Bobby has never met him. Never heard him discussed. For all he knows, he is someone she met online, who came over to her apartment and refused to leave until she performed humiliating acts of depravity and sin.

...Depravity and sin...

Why does that sound so appealing?

Bobby snaps himself back to his train of thought with a forceful nip on the end of his thick tongue. This is not about your libido, exclaims the Inner Gentleman (who is somehow very British sounding). This is about Alexandra Eames, and the fact that today she wore a push up bra, and yesterday she parted her hair differently, and the day before that she came in with a smile bright enough to cause cornea damage.

This is about Alexandra Eames, his partner, his friend, and the woman who is so obviously and completely in love with...someone else.

The evil little bitch that she is.

His eyes dart back up to the ceiling desperately. I didn't mean that! I swear, I didn't mean it!

God, this whole "being desperately in love with one's partner without her knowing it" thing is way too complicated for his tastes.

Bobby is not a man of intrigue, he is a man of confrontation; he was never meant to hide things from this woman. This beautiful, wonderful woman who has done nothing but give him a place to put his trust and pour his sadness. This perfect, perfect woman who doesn't lock her door after one of those cases, and doesn't say anything when he comes into her bed at twelve midnight to hold her like a security blanket with silky skin and a pulse.

The woman who woke up a month or so ago, smiled at him, and told him it was okay.

Yeah. That woman. This woman.

His woman.

He won't go to her door anymore. There's too big a chance that she won't be alone, and while he can still hold out a stupid hope if the sin isn't rubbed in his face, stumbling into her bedroom to find another man there will send him raving into the streets.

...I am so in love with this woman, he thinks to himself desperately, and even thinking it makes his eyes close in agony.

This will end badly, he can tell already. It will leave nothing but broken hearts and destroyed dreams in it's path, and he doesn't think he is strong enough to survive that.

But he knows he's not strong enough to survive walking away from her, from this thing. He's not.

So until she shoves him away, or until the inevitably painful confrontation comes, he will stay. He will remain. He won't turn away from her, and he won't give her an excuse to turn away from him.

He looks up at her fully, smiles, and throws his file onto the desk with a firm decision in his hands.

"Lunch?" he asks, and her eyes light up at the prospect of food. "My treat."

Loser, grumbles something inside of him as he takes up her coat in hand and helps her into it. What an oblivious dumbfuck, growls that condescending voice as he takes her in his aura and steers her towards the elevator.

Schmuck, something inside him says, and he doesn't deny it.

Yes, Bobby tells his doubting pieces. I am a complete and utter schmuck when it comes to this woman, and until the status quo changes, I will continue to be a schmuck.

So be it.


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