DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: CI and its characters are the property of Dick Wolf and NBC. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
This case is tough. He doesn't know why, but there's just something that hasn't quite clicked with him yet. So he stays awake all Saturday night, awake while the night goes on around him, streetlights flickering outside his window, the occasional car lights flashing across his blinds.
He falls asleep on his worn sofa, and then, near dawn, in that sluggish state between sleeping and waking, something occurs to him. He opens his eyes, and slowly collects the scattered papers of the case. He can see what it is that he missed, now, but he still doesn't know how it all fits together.
He thinks, maybe, that Eames will help him.
Which is why he is standing outside her door at 7am on a Sunday morning.
He knocks. There's no answer, and he starts to think something's wrong, because her car's in her drive and she always answers her door. Then he remembers: it's 7am on a Sunday morning, and she's probably still asleep.
He turns to go, but then there's a rustling and a rattling of the chain and the door opens.
'Goren?' She looks surprised, and a little sleepy, her hair kind of messed and sticking up on one side, and she seems to have quickly tossed on some clothes.
'Um I'll come back later Sorry to wake you,' he mumbles.
'It's no problem,' she says. 'Uh we were just getting up anyway.'
We? he wonders silently.
'Come in,' she says, and stands back to let him in.
'Alex?' someone says. A woman, and he thinks maybe he knows her voice. 'Who is it?'
He looks at Alex, tries to keep the accusation out of his eyes. Why hadn't she told him?
'Uh, it's Goren,' Alex calls over her shoulder, doesn't quite meet his eyes. The woman moves to the door behind Alex, and she's wearing jeans and what looks like one of Alex's shirts.
It's Barek, and now he realizes why Alex hadn't told him.
'Goren.' Barek greets him quietly, and half-smiles. He nods, uncomfortably shifting from foot to foot, and he really, really wishes he hadn't come. Barek glances at Alex, who meets her gaze, and Barek frowns a little, a question in her eyes. Alex shakes her head, just a fraction, and Barek's mouth curls upward a little at the edges. Then she turns to him.
'Do you want coffee?' Barek asks. He nods, thinking that after all this time he never knew Alex was what?
She was married to Joe, he thinks, as he sits at Alex's kitchen table, and Alex moves to the sink to fill the kettle with water. She flicks the switch, and is about to reach for the mugs when Barek says, 'I'll get them,' and leans across her.
He watches Barek get three mugs from the overhead cupboard (she knows where they are, he realizes) and then, as she puts them on the counter, she very gently rests her other hand in the curve of Alex's back. Alex glances up at her, and Barek slowly slips the tips of her fingers under the hem of Alex's shirt. He can just see the edge of Alex's smile, and he can see, more clearly, the faint blush on Alex's cheeks as Barek smiles too, eyes warm.
Then the moment is gone, and the kettle's red light is flashing, and Barek is pouring the water into the mugs while Alex fetches the milk. Their movements are smooth and practiced, and he notes their easy familiarity, concludes that this relationship is not new.
They sit in an uncomfortable silence for several minutes, and drink their coffee. He avoids meeting their eyes, either of them, but sees the way Barek studies him, and then she turns to Alex, briefly, and stands up.
'I'll be back in a moment,' she says, as though she realises that it's easier for him to talk to Alex alone, as if she can see by the way he's sitting that she makes him uncomfortable.
Barek touches Alex's shoulder, and then picks up her mug and leaves. He isn't sure whether Alex even realizes that she's watching her. Then Alex turns to him and opens her mouth to say something.
'How long?' he says abruptly, because he has to know.
He doesn't have to say anything else; Alex knows exactly what he means.
She shrugs. 'A couple of months,' she murmurs, and takes a sip of coffee.
They sit in awkward silence. He is shuffling the corners of his papers in his fingers; the sound is uncomfortably loud, but over it he can still hear Barek, talking to herself in what sounds like Polish.
Alex is watching him. She can read him like a book; she's always been able to (although she doesn't often say it), and she can tell what he's thinking.
'Does it not distract you?' he asks suddenly. 'Her talking to herself?'
'No,' Alex answers, and smiles a little at that. 'I work with you, don't I?'
He looks at her, really looks, at the way her body is stretched comfortably and the way her face looks smooth and relaxed. Barek has done this, and he finds it a little funny. He laughs.
Alex watches him laugh for a second, then a smile curves across her face and she's so open and joyful, then. It's so wonderful, to see her like this. He can't remember the last time he saw her smile.
'So,' she says, still with the barest hint of a laugh in her voice, 'what was it you wanted?'
He opens the case file and takes out the papers.
'You see,' he starts, 'I was thinking '
At ten, he stands and stretches. Alex leans back in her chair.
'You need more sleep,' she comments. 'Up all night again?'
'Sort of,' he admits.
Barek enters, then, and takes his mug, placing it on the counter by the sink.
'You all sorted?' she asks.
'Yeah, I think so,' Alex says, smiles quickly at her, then gets up too, but not completely, half sitting, half leaning on the table. Barek comes to stand beside her, and he realises (consciously) then that they are the exact same height, but the way they are standing now, Barek is just a fraction taller, and when Alex glances up at her, their faces are almost touching, and are almost perfectly staggered so that Alex's eyes, nose, mouth, are just below Barek's. If Barek leaned down now, she could kiss her.
But she doesn't; instead, she turns to Goren and says, 'Sure you don't want another coffee?'
'No, it's fine,' he answers. 'I've, uh, intruded enough for one day.'
They both smile, at the exact same time, and Alex picks up his jacket and passes it to him.
'So, I'll see you tomorrow?' she says, as they walk into the hall and she opens the door.
'Yeah, of course,' he says, smiles awkwardly, then says, over Alex's shoulder, 'Nice to see you, Barek.'
Barek smiles at him, and he thinks she even looks a little touched. 'You too, Goren,' she says quietly.
He leaves, and Alex leans against the doorframe and watches him trudge down her driveway to his car.
Just before he puts the key in the ignition, he glances back. Barek is standing next to Alex now, too, and they both lift their hands and wave, briefly.
He starts the engine, pulls away from the curb, and in the rear view mirror he watches them close the door.
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