DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: CI and its characters are the property of Dick Wolf and NBC. No infringement intended.
SPOILERS: No real ones; possibly for 'Diamond Dogs' but only a very little one.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Gravity of Love
'gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love' ~ albert einstein
You meet Alex Eames on a Tuesday. You don't know it yet, but this is important, something you'll remember.
You're not used to being back in the city. You were born in Brooklyn, of course, but you've been with the FBI for the past few years, Washington was different from New York. It wasn't as smoky, the air clouded with pollution, and the pavements weren't crammed with busy people who don't care when they bump into you. It wasn't like New York.
The apartment is small. It always makes you laugh when you see the sprawling New York apartments on TV your apartment, the only one you could really afford, is tiny, the rooms melting into each other. Open plan, the estate agent called it.
You won't be spending much time here anyway. This little place where all the rooms merge into one. Cosy. Maybe.
Your new captain, James Deakins, reminds you a little of your father, but, unsurprisingly, that doesn't help ease the nerves. You shouldn't be nervous, really you're a grown woman but even though this transfer is what you want, you still worry that it won't work out.
Deakins says, 'You'll be partnered with Mike Logan; you know that, right? He's a good detective. You should work well together.' He pauses. 'You know about his history. Right?'
You do know. You've already read his file.
Before you can answer, though, the phone rings. Deakins checks the number and says, 'Wait outside while I take this, would you? Thanks.'
Outside his office, in the squad room, you look around carefully. There's one empty desk, which you assume will be yours. A short man sits at the desk opposite, the phone to his ear. At the pair of desks directly to the left, a large, heavyset man leans on his hand, saying something to the blonde woman facing him. She answers without looking up, and then he shrugs, jabs his finger emphatically at a sheet of paper, gets up and walks off.
You don't know what makes you do it, but you go over to the blonde woman, and although her back is to you, she turns and stands up, as if she can feel you coming.
'So,' she says, appraisingly. 'You're the new detective.'
You nod. 'Carolyn Barek,' you say, and hold out your hand.
She doesn't smile, and you're starting to wish you hadn't moved, but then she says, 'Alex Eames,' and shakes your hand, hard.
'That your partner?' you ask. Something in her face tightens, just a fraction.
'Yeah,' she replies, turns away to stack the papers on her desk.
'I'm supposed to be partnered with Mike Logan,' you offer, unsure of why you're still talking when she clearly doesn't want to speak to you. 'Do you know him?'
'Yes,' she answers without looking at you. By accident, she knocks a thick file off the desk and a flurry of papers fall out. You bend immediately to help her pick them up.
'Here.' It's awkward, somehow, when she looks at you, and her eyes are hard.
'Thank you,' she says coolly. 'But I don't need any help.'
Your first case. You're not used to this, the smell of death stinging your nostrils. It's been too long. When you see Maya in the chest, dead and curled into herself, it's heartbreaking. You look up at Logan, and he's watching you, and he doesn't say, you'll get used to it'. But you can see him thinking it.
When you were six, your parents took you and your brothers to the beach one weekend. It was pretty cold, but you still paddled in the sea. You couldn't swim properly yet, so your mother told you to stay in her sight. You waded out a little further, and then turned to look for her. You couldn't see her, and you started to get scared. You tried to run, but the water caught you and swept you further out, where you couldn't stand up.
You can still remember how terrified you were, surrounded by blue and grey and cold, and then your father scooped you up and held you, and you were crying and clinging onto him.
You're not six years old any more, but you still don't like being out of your depth.
Eames is by your desk, leaning over you.
'How was the first case?' she asks, and you glance at her, briefly.
'Good,' you say carefully, and she smiles, and she looks sorry for you.
'It's hard for everyone at first,' she says quietly. She turns, pauses, turns back to you. 'By the way, I'm sorry about you know.' She shifts uncomfortably. 'Tough case. You know how it is.'
'It's fine,' you say, and smile. Alex does, too, and it's surprising how it changes her face, rounds it out, and she's unexpectedly beautiful.
You like to watch Alex on the rare occasions that you're in the squadroom together, and the way she interacts with Goren. You don't know much about him, but their partnership is fascinating: the way she's the smallest one, the most fragile-looking, and yet she seems to hold him together, keep him there.
Often, Alex seems to sense your eyes on her, and when she looks at you, she smiles, just for a moment, and every time, your stomach seems to sink through the bottom of your chair, and really, you shouldn't be feeling like this, you're not a teenager, for God's sake.
But you can't seem to stop watching her.
Logan says, 'Hey, Barek, do you want to grab a drink?'
Really, you shouldn't, and you don't even want to, but before you can refuse he turns and calls to Eames, who's shrugging into her black leather jacket, flicking her hair away from her face (you wonder, does she even realize how often she does it?). Eames turns, and says 'Sure, I'll come,' and looks at you, and there's a flicker of something in her eyes.
You, suddenly, really want to go.
The bar is just a series of impressions, after the alcohol takes effect: Logan grinning in a way that makes you uncomfortable; Alex looking up at you through her hair, smirking a little; Alex, getting the next round of drinks and then sitting next to you instead of opposite, like she was before; Alex's eyes, so close, light on your face; her hand brushing your thigh, and maybe it was an accident, but then her hand there again, just resting, and oh.
Later, outside the bar, Alex presses you against the wall, very lightly, and her body is warm against yours, and your whole body is alive with anticipation, with want. She pushes her thigh between your legs, slides a hand under your shirt at the small of your back, and kisses you, hot and wet, and it makes you shiver.
'Do you need a ride home?' she murmurs, voice husky, and really, the way she's looking at you, it's not an option.
Now, in the calm half-light of Alex's bedroom, she's gentle, so gentle you're not sure you can bear it like this. She brushes her lips across yours, so briefly you wonder for a moment whether you could have imagined it. She steps back, seems to consider you, and her eyes are huge and magnetic and darker than usual as she carefully pulls her sweater over her head.
Alex in the harshly fluorescent light of the squadroom is all angles and edges and cut-glass cheekbones, but here, now, she is softer, vulnerable almost, as you move towards her and smooth your hand down her side. She smiles at you, then, and it is the most beautiful thing you've ever seen, ever, and she takes your hand, fingers tangling with yours, warm and strong, and kisses you again, slowly, then harder, mouth bruising against yours. Her hands are there on your hips, moving down under the waistband of your pants, and you pull her down onto the bed with you.
Suddenly you're both naked and staring at each other. There is something in her eyes that you've never seen before, something you can't quite identify, but before you can speak she is kissing you again and her breath is hot and sweet, her body moulding against yours, and you realise, then, how well you fit.
But then her mouth moves lower and you can't think, your mind won't work, you can't feel anything except her, her lips brushing your skin, the ends of her hair touching you as her lips ghost across your stomach, light as a caress and barely there, and you arch against her. And then her hands, sure against your thighs, and her mouth, there, and her fingers, there, inside you, and oh, and her other hand reaches up to touch your hand, the one that isn't twisted in her hair, silvery in the moonlight, and, it's too much, almost, and everything else goes blank.
When you open your eyes, your hand is still clenched around Alex's, and she's leaning into you, skin hot and pressed against yours, and she kisses you, so very gently this time. Then she laughs, startlingly loud in the darkness, and after a moment you laugh too, unable to help it, and you push your hips against hers, hook your leg over hers, and you're both laughing in the dark.
Waking is slow, and when you open you're eyes you're confused, for a moment, about where you are. Then Alex mumbles, 'Good morning,' into the skin of your shoulder, and you turn to her, and she's smiling, still sleepy.
You stretch, your muscles aching in a very pleasant way, and check the clock, and oh, shit, you're going to be late for work, you both are, and you don't have any clean clothes to wear.
You both shower, quickly, and Alex tosses you a shirt and trousers to borrow. You don't talk, just grab your bags and leave.
Alex drives quickly, and you're so very lucky that there's not as much traffic as you would expect, so you won't be too late, after all. Then Alex takes your hand absently, and brushes her thumb across your knuckles, and out of the corner of your eye you watch the edge of her mouth lift, just a fraction, in a smile.
Logan raises his eyebrows at you when you hurry into work, but you're slightly gratified to see that he's looking a little the worse for wear. You go to the coffee machine, and Alex follows.
'Barek,' Alex says quietly. She touches your shoulder, like you're not alone, then runs a hand down your back, like you are. 'About last night ' She smiles, a little uncertainly, and you catch her fingers in yours for a moment.
'Do you want to get dinner later?' you ask, and she smiles, wider now, and you pass her a mug of coffee.
You're a little afraid, sometimes, to see where this is going with Alex. At the beginning, there's the uncertainty, the learning the routine, the shape of her life, and her body, her comforting weight against you, her fingers threaded through yours, the warm familiarity of her lips on yours. And then there's a structure, almost, to how you are with her: Alex makes the coffee in the morning while you do the toast; your toothbrush and clothes find their way into her bathroom, her closet; Alex drives, always.
About once a month you have dinner with your parents. It's not so bad; only, there are things you'd prefer to be doing.
This time, Alex asks if she can come with you. You tell her no, she can't. She doesn't ask why maybe she already knows. You haven't told your parents about you yet. They always ask about your relationships, but you don't tell them.
They're still waiting for you to bring a boyfriend home.
You're not sure when you became Barek in your mind. Maybe you just got used to not being called Carolyn. At any rate, by the time you actually noticed the change, the shift of identity, you had been thinking of yourself as Barek for months.
You're adding broccoli to your plate when your father touches your arm and says reproachfully, 'Your mother's talking to you, Carolyn.'
Carolyn. You didn't notice. 'I'm sorry,' you say, and you mean it.
'Like I was saying, how's work, honey?' your mother asks.
'Um, fine,' you reply. 'Busy.'
You always wondered why terms of endearment are usually foods. Honey. Cookie. Sugar. Really, it's ridiculous, at least to you. You and Alex don't call each other that. She's Alex to you, or sometimes Eames. To her, you're always Barek she called you Carolyn once and you didn't even hear.
The rest of the time, you have to remind yourself to look up when one of your parents says your name.
After dinner, you help your mother wash the dishes, and it's only a couple of minutes before she asks, 'Have you met anyone nice?'
You know what she means. You want to say: yes, I have. You want to say: I have a girlfriend. Alex. The words are on the tip of your tongue. Maybe you can say it.
It's getting late when you get back, but Alex is still working, sitting cross-legged on the sofa, her case files spread across the coffee table in front of her.
'How was it?' she asks without looking up, and you can't help wishing she'd come with you, even though you told her not to.
She looks up, waiting for an answer, but you're not sure you can speak. She sighs, swings herself up from the sofa, goes into your bedroom. You hear the shower start.
You pick up the blanket that's spread over the back of the sofa and go out onto the fire escape. You're still sitting there, blanket over your shoulders, when the shower stops again, and you hear a door (bedroom? bathroom?) close.
'Hey,' Alex says, right behind you. You turn, and she's holding two glasses of wine. 'Want some?'
She hands you a glass before you can answer; she knows you too well, now, and you smile ruefully.
'Can I sit here?' she says, and you nod. She curls up next to you under the blanket and you can feel her watching you.
'I don't know how to tell them,' you say suddenly.
Alex puts her hand on yours. 'You know, if you want, I could help you.'
You smile, and turn to her. The sunset is behind her, making her hair bright through the strands. She tilts her head.
'Thank you,' you say, pushing a few locks of hair behind her ear. She kisses you softly, resting her hand against your neck. She moves back, but keeps stroking your hair, very gently, and you can't help thinking how easy it would be for her to break you.
She lightly clinks her wineglass against yours, and you almost want to ask what you're toasting to. Then she smiles, and it lights her eyes, and you think, maybe you don't need a reason.
Sometimes, you wonder whether Logan suspects something, but he doesn't say it. You know, though, that Goren suspects, know that he sees it in the way you catch her eyes and hold them, or the way Alex touches your wrist as she passes.
Mostly, this doesn't matter, because neither of you were looking for this. Neither of you expected this relationship (or whatever it might be), and you haven't felt like this in you don't know how long, and for the light caresses and the early mornings and the cool relief of Alex's mouth, an I love you seems nothing like enough.
all the meaning in the moment. beyond that just chapters in your life. a lot to carry and a lot to sort through. ~ kurt halsey
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