She Who Would Have Known
by B. Cavis
She Who Would Have Known
by B. Cavis.
They play the game. The impersonal, just close enough without being too close, pseudo friendly game that they have to play right now to stay safe and in control. Alex is scrubbed raw and emotionally bleeding. If they actually say what they want to say right now, it will break her. Bobby is aching and sticky with his own need to be in her presence. If he says what he wants to right now, he is afraid she will send him away and he will have to be alone.
And he can’t be alone right now. He just… can’t.
So they play together. Harmless and empty, and full of banality, they play the game and hate themselves for doing it; for reducing their relationship to a “polite conversation.” They hate that they have to be fake with each other right now-- the two people who have signed an emotional pact with each other to always be honest.
They hate themselves for doing it. But they play because there is no other option.
“You look good,” he tells her when he takes her hand up from the cool hospital sheets, and she smiles weakly. He came looking for reassurance that her heart was beating normally and the blood was flowing clean. He stepped into her space and searched her face for evidence of the immortality he would like to imagine she has, and she allowed him to because she was too weak to stop him.
She has no evidence to offer him. She has nothing left to offer him. There is nothing left inside of her. She has given it all away in a screaming little seven pound, eight ounce breath of life.
She is emptied. She is aching. And he is there.
Dark eyes and dark hair offer her a place to focus, and she keeps her eyes on his because, hell, what else is there to look at? The flowers by her bedside? The “Congratulations” cards that really belong to someone else? His hand is warm and gentle around hers, and he is so incredibly big when they are together like this. Or maybe she’s just small.
“I’m glad you’re okay,” he rumbles. His hand tightens around hers, and she feels cradled in the warmth of his skin and flesh. “I… I was concerned.” And then, because that’s just a bit more personal and truthful than they are allowed to get-- “After all, wouldn’t want to have to break in a new partner, would I?”
She smiles in the appropriate places and feels nothing but bone crushing weariness and a vague longing for something she knows she can’t have.
“Keep me from thinking,” she whispers softly, so softly that he can pretend he didn’t hear it later. Pretend that she didn’t just give him a glimpse into her soul and her current state of mind. His other hand comes up off his knee to rest on her sore stomach. His touch is gentle enough to keep her from wincing, but the pressure is there and it is constant. She likes it, in a strange way. It soothes the ache of her empty, haunted womb.
His face is blank and his touch is unassuming. His thumb rubs softly over the back of her hand, and there is a flash of what he really wants to say in his eyes for a bare second before he shoves it away.
“Let me tell you about the case I just finished. It would help me to get it out of my head, if you don’t mind?” She smiles, a little bit more alive than she was a few seconds ago, thanks to him. He has given her a way out-- by letting her tell herself that she’s helping him, she doesn’t have to face the fact that she desperately needs him to stay by her side and talk to her to distract from the pain right now.
She tells herself that there is nothing to feel bad about, and knows, somewhere in the pit of her stomach, that it may be true, but it’s not helping her now.
Bobby’s smile is bright. “I got to meet some computer geeks,” he says, and she smiles back at him numbly, clinging to the sound of his voice. Just keep talking, she thinks. Keep me focused on something clean and pure.
“Two men create a video game, a fighting game. One man decides to use his new found success to go out and explore life. Starts spending his money, exploring the dating scene, losing weight. The other sees it as a cementing of his bond with his partner-- of proof that they can only work wonders when they work them together.” His thumb trails sensation across her skin, helping her flesh feel something other than the mind bending, gut wrenching pain she was experiencing just a few hours ago.
He is making her feel something beyond the agony that still remains, and she loves him quietly and secretly for that.
Bobby continues on. “The formerly fat one spends hours upon hours with his new life; enjoying the women, playing the game they created online. He spends so much time, in fact, that he loses interest in pulling all-nighters and talking geek with his partner. He plays online with one woman, without ever meeting her or knowing her name, and his partner can see him drifting farther and farther away from him without actually knowing why.
“Convinced that the woman his partner has been spending all this time with online is his girlfriend, he goes out, throws her off her own balcony, and covers his tracks by making it look like she was involved in an electronic credit card fraud ring.”
Alex tightens her grip on Bobby’s hand as a small wave of pain runs through her. The hand on her abused abdomen starts to move in warming circles, counter clock wise, and she can feel his touch soothing the twinges her muscles are letting off.
The soft sound he is making with air and his teeth is relaxing, and she has no idea why. Her ears fill with it, and her breathing evens in reply to it. It drapes over her, like a quilt of protection, and she ties it around her waist as a tether to help her withstand the wash of pain that threatens to carry her away. His voice and his hands are her anchor.
“Should I get a nurse?” he offers, and she shakes her head firmly.
“No, I’m fine. So he kills the not-girlfriend.”
Bobby’s eyes trail over her quickly, searching for signs of severe discomfort, but she wins out in the end. She always does when it comes to him. He is snuggly wrapped around her little finger, and he knows it.
“Anyway,” he continues softly, so as to hear, instantly, any change in her breathing that his hand on her stomach might not pick up on. “The fraud thing unravels pretty quickly, and just how much time she had been spending on line comes to light. The video game she was playing is discovered, and traced back to the creators.”
“The partners,” she fills in automatically. If it wasn’t for the gown and shredded bits of her own heart she is wearing, she could be in the middle of the investigation along with him.
She’s noticed how he hasn’t used the word “we” yet. It makes her feel insanely proud, like she wants to grin and never stop, and she’s not sure quite why. Probably, it is irrational and foolish. Probably, she should care more than she does right now.
“Right,” he confirms, and he is gathering speed and excitement at the idea of discussing a case with her again. “So to keep the partner from going to jail, the murderer creates a computerized version of the player-”
“A bot,” she fills in, and the light in his eyes is glowing brighter and brighter with each moment.
“Yes. A bot. The bot that is his partner’s alibi is not nearly a good as player as the partner himself, so we know it’s a fake. It’s been programmed to do a repeating pattern of hits in certain places, in the signature move of an old associate of the partners, a third member of the team who was suing the two for taking his idea and then kicking him out of the pack.”
“It was designed to look like he had programmed it?”
“But he hadn’t.”
“No. We pull him in, and it looks like he’s in financial trouble-- hasn’t paid his ex-wife her child support in months, and is just enough of an asshole to make innocence an idea that doesn’t even pop up when you look at him.”
His eyes narrow in remembered anger, and she watches his reactions as the memories play across his head. She reads his emotions in the lines on his face, and when she sees enough to assure her that yes, this really did get to him, she lets out a long sigh.
He pauses, looking her over for injury, and she squeezes his hand harder. His eyes are glued to her face, and his hand on her stomach is feather light and gentle. He is afraid that he is somehow going to cause her injury or discomfort. She wishes she had the energy to explain to him that he could never cause her anything even close to pain; that he could never make her try and flinch away from his touch.
She wouldn’t back down from the warm contact of his skin on hers for everything in the world. But she can’t tell him that right now, not when she is where she is, so she settles for th next best thing.
Alex blinks up at him, swallowing. “The pattern thing… McVee? Is that how he knew you would pick up the pattern?” She can feel his pulse beating against her palm. “The dead beat dad issue sounds like another Croyden. Like… Almost like someone was trying to manipulate you into doing something based on what they knew about you and your biases.”
There is no answer from Bobby. His face has gone blank, and his jaw is tightly clamped. She glances away, over at the daisies resting on her night stand. “Sorry, I guess I’m thinking too hard. Loss of blood and all that make it difficult to keep a real thought in my head sometimes. You were say-”
“I missed you,” he whispers throatily.
His hand on her abdomen stops moving and comes to rest over her belly button. She can feel the heat from him radiating throughout her stomach and warming her from the inside out. There is something there, something beyond the fluff and the air of “the game.” This stinks of real emotion, and she can feel the weight of the world pressing down on her chest and her empty, torn womb.
“Bobby,” she sighs softly, and he shakes his head.
“No, you don’t have to say anything. Just listen. I know you’re tired and I know that you’re going to cry before the night is out because you feel empty and depressed. I know that and I understand it, but before you do it, I need you to listen to me for just a moment.”
She doesn’t have the energy to argue with him. She doesn’t have the energy for anything.
“I kept looking around expecting to see you,” he whispers for her ears alone. The room is bathed in light, and he keeps his tone low to make sure that the sun is not eavesdropping. “When you left entirely, I kept hoping that you would suddenly show up like magic, and that Bishop would be gone when I turned around.”
“She’s a good detective.” God, she thinks, sticking up for Bishop? This aftermath shit is a bit too tripy to be believed.
“She’s not you,” he responds, and that tells a bit more than a detective is allowed to say to their partner. Screw it, he thinks, cavalier with the thrill of having her hand in his and her eyes upon his face and her insight once again in his life. “She followed me around like a puppy, without an original thought in her head and without any real insights. She was lemming in a red wig,” he says, and if she could do it without hurting herself badly, Alex would laugh.
“She just wanted to help,” she whispers back to him.
“She just wanted to touch me and be saved,” he tells her. “She wants to worship at my feet.”
Alex llies there and listens. God, she is so tired. His face has started to blur around the edges, and his voice fills her head like a kettle drum. Everything he’s saying hurts-- not because of what he’s saying, but because of what his words are doing to her in this state. That he can be so open, so loving, and so honestly want to stay by her side right now when all she wants is to be left alone in peace to lick her wounds and cry herself sick… it makes her wish she was a better person.
It makes her wish she had never brought her sister’s child into the world, and it makes her want to be back with him and her gun. She wants to live in the warm wash of his hands and voice and eyes once more.
“You don’t like worship?” She wishes she could turn the conversation to humor instead of this serious… thing that is going on right now. She can understand humor-- she feels comfortable in the soft wrap of sarcasm and wit. Truth and confessions make her nervous when they aren’t softened with a smile.
Bobby isn’t smiling. “I like you, Alex. You’re my partner. I wanted you back more than I ever thought I could.” He bows his head, shame eating at the part of him that knows this is not appropriate, and knows what he is about to say is incredibly stupid and childlike. Knows how much of a child he was when he thought it, and can’t help but be embarrassed.
“I didn’t care about any baby,” he breathes. “I cared about you and the fact that you weren’t by my side anymore. I wanted you there, no matter what was going on. Cheap replacements wouldn’t do.”
And her hand is squeezed tighter in his massive palm. Her body feels like it’s floating on the hard cloud of the hospital bed, and she watches his eyes with the vague knowledge that somehow, on some level, they are extremely important to her and her life. That he is extremely important.
“You center me, Alex,” he says, and she can feel Morpheus pulling at her. “You keep me balanced, and I didn’t realize just how helpful that can be until you weren’t there to do it anymore.”
“I won’t go away again,” she drawls sleepily, and he watches her face, openly transfixed.
“Promise me,” he orders, and he is only able to say it because he knows she won’t remember any of it in seven hours. His lips are trembling, and he bites down on them to keep them form betraying his overwhelming need for her presence in his life. Her eyes are thin slits, fuzzy and glazed, but he can’t risk her seeing what incredible power she has over him and his life.
It would scare her away. It would send her running and stumbling away from him as fast as her strong legs could carry her. That’s what it did with everyone else he has ever cared about. He couldn’t bare it if it happened with Alex, too.
“I promise,” she whispers, and he will hold those words in his head and in his ears for months and years to come. Her hand pulls at his gently, eyes closing all the way as her body shuts down against her will. “Stay with me, Bob…bee?” Her head drifts to one side, and he watches her hair pool against the pillow with the gentle urge in his stomach to touch her blooming into something… greater. Something more meaningful.
“Yes,” he responds, and she is already asleep but he says it again because just saying the word improves his look on life in general. Telling her that he won’t leave her makes him feel better about the fact that he has been without her for three months, and that he will be without her again on the next case and probably the one after that too. The word on his lips makes his situation seem that much less depressing and that much less out of his control. He is not a slave to fate or the department’s decisions. He is not just a pawn to be taken and moved to wherever the bosses think he will do the most good for their agendas.
He is in control. He is making the conscious decision and the firm promise to Alexandra Eames that he will not leave.
And that makes everything seem that much nicer in the noon day sun.
Alex wakes up with a dark head resting on the side of her bed. She can feel his breath coming deep and even against her arm, and when she shifts to touch him, he moves with the sensation of her fingers through his hair.
He lifts his head up, blinks at her, and offers a smile.
“Hey. How are you feeling?” His hand takes up hers again, squeezing tight to offer some support through contact. She looks down at them, the place where there hands join, and knows that it’s coming for her. The emotional agony is coming for her, fast and ruthless, and she knows that in just about five second she is going to break down and start to sob.
And she can’t let him see that.
“Bobby,” she whispers, “leave.” A siren wails outside the hospital. She winces and closes her eyes to gather strength. “ I need you to leave, right now. Please.”
And it hurts to say but it has to be said. She knows that if she lets him stay-- if she lets him play witness to her next few moments-- nothing is ever going to be the same again. She is about to fall apart under the crushing wave of sadness and disappointment. She knows it. And she is afraid of what would happen if she let him stay and watch. She is supposed to be the sane one-- the in control one. The idea that she is going to crumble is one thing; one Earth shaking thing for her.
But the idea that he might see it scares her, because she can’t let him see her that weak. She can’t let him see that she has this kind of pain, this kind of weak need in side of her, because if she does it casts doubt on her ability to as strong as she needs to be. If he sees her here, crying and shaking, he is never going to be able to turn to her when he really needs her-- when Nicole and her emotional stink start to claim him again-- and that is something she can’t allow to happen.
He can’t ever doubt her ability to hold him and be steady when he needs her help. She won’t allow herself to give him any reason to.
So she says it. She whimpers it, and she doesn’t let herself think about what will happen to her once he leaves-- what she will be reduced to without him there to hold her hand and keep her safe.
“Bobby,” she whispers, “leave.”
His hand untangles itself from hers, and even as her skin cries out for his warmth once more, she thanks some God who she’s never been able to truly believe in for his compliance. She can’t deal with the “I know what you’re going through” Bobby. She’s not sure she could stand the “I know what you’re going through” Bobby.
Because he doesn’t. He really and truly doesn’t, and he never could. She wouldn’t want him to. This feeling in her chest and in her womb and in her head-- no one should ever have to go through this aftermath. No one should ever have to feel this depressed and this distraught about a life that they produced.
No one should. And she does. Does that make her abnormal?
She drags her hands, shaking and weak up to her face, and presses them against her eye sockets. The burn in her throat has started to spread-- she can feel the lump in her throat growing like a cancer to take her entire body over. She is filled with the disease, and her skin is sweaty and her eyes are leaking and oh dear God what the hell is wrong with me?
And when the first stifled wail spills into the air, she turns in the bed and throws herself at the warmth of the man who she knew, just knew, hadn’t let when he was supposed to. And he takes her and presses her between his chest and his arms, and holds her with all of the strength in his body.
“Alex,” he whispers, and maybe that’s all he needs to say because the burn is just a little bit less. He doesn’t shush her and he doesn’t try and calm her down. He’s just… there. He’s just all she needs him to be.
Her frustrations, her sadness, her needs are spilled out thick and greasy over him and the pristine white shirt that smells of his aftershave and sweat. She hides herself in his embrace, and he accommodates her need to feel safe and dwarfed. To feel like a child being held and told that everything will be alright.
She clings to him because she needs to. He holds her fast because he can’t bear not to.
He can’t make it all better, and that is his own cross to bear when it comes to her. He can’t kiss her booboo and make it better, and he can’t heal everything with a wave of his hand or the right words strung together in a comforting sentence.
But he would if he could.
So he does the next best thing. He holds her. He keeps her safe and he doesn’t move his hands and doesn’t move her away from his body. He presses her right next to his heart, lets her feel the beat running through his body, and prays that he has the strength to help heal her the way she has healed him oh so many times.
It’ll be alright, he tells her with the firm press of his hands against her back and head. It’ll be alright.
He holds her and he doesn’t leave.
Somewhere down the hall, there is joy. There are family members crowding around a glass fish tank to see the strange and new little life that came out of her body. The creature that she spent nine months playing home to is blissfully unaware of anything but the taste of it’s own fingers.
Bobby and Alex don’t notice. If they did, they wouldn’t care.
I just had to throw it together. I was watching FPS, and I thought “Oooh, shippy. I like shippy. That deserves a fic.”
And here we are.
Well? Did it suck or rock royal ass? Or something in between? Am in need of opinions on this, and you guys are the opinions I trust.
Clears throat and hops nervously from one foot to the other.
Feedback to B. Cavis.