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LJ is still making me split this up. So... the new chapter Five...

See part one for series info.

Story: Phoenix
Rating: T for emotional angst, except for a M+ part (for the adult version only)
Summary: As Alex prepares to become a surrogate, Bobby learns his long-absent father has died. Ashes, a symbol of devastation, have been part of Bobby’s life since childhood, and the pile seems to endlessly grow... Will anything come to life from those ashes?
Classifications: strong G&E friendship, G/E
Note: I didn’t know the Year 2 time line when I first wrote this, but after seeing all but one of the episodes – not to mention S5's two-hour episode – I had to go back and make changes. I originally had set this a month before Year 3’s “Undaunted Mettle,” but looking at the time line based on about when Alex gave birth told me that UM is probably set after “A Person of Interest.” For part of part 1, I took inspiration from Kyllikki’s “Signifying Nothing.” Thanks, Kyllikki, for writing that collection of missing scenes from “Phantom.” It helped fuel my imagination.

Spoilers (in no particular order): “The Insider” (1-13), “Anti-Thesis” (2-3), “The Faithful” (1-4), “The Good Doctor” (1-9), “Phantom” (1-16), “The Third Horseman” (1-11), “Chinoserie” (2-5), “Badge” ((1-20) I noticed how Alex commented over Bobby’s failure to notice from papers that Terry Randolph was a woman, and guessed that – given her nickname – something like that happened when Bobby first heard about her), “My Good Name” (4-22), “Legion” (2-18), “A Person of Interest” (2-23), “Cherry Red” (2-19), “The Pilgrim” (2-8), “Jones” (1-5), “Faith” (1-21), and “In the Wee Small Hours” (5-6 & 5-7).


Part One / Part Two / Part Three / Part Four


Part Five

God, is it afternoon already? Alex’s watch is confirmed by a quick glance at her sister’s clock in the kitchen. The appointment started late – apparently not uncommon, since the docs and nurses want everything more than ready – and ran long. Alex remembers that she told Bobby she’d be done and back at her apartment no later than one.

That was a few hours ago.

The knowledge that he was going alone with something he should be supported through, as she strongly feels, has weighed on her all day. It remained on the back of her mind during the entire appointment, shoved from the front-lines by the details of the experience. How she was able to space out on her promise... Must be the medication...

She shifts in the chair, and winces. Damn, I feel like I need a long bubble bath to relax. Not for the first time, she’s cursing herself for declining the Versed that Dr. Purcell offered to arrange for her. Sheila had gently told her that she didn’t have to be such a tough girl here; what was the point of remembering an unpleasant experience when she didn’t have to? But Alex insisted that painkillers and local anesthesia were all she needed. “I’ll be remembering the birth, which will be more painful than this, or the implantation,” she insisted, “could possibly be. I’d like to remember as much of this as I can.”

But being mostly aware – the Vicodin and local anesthesia did numb all of her senses a bit – had allowed her to remember various details. Especially the interactions between Sheila and her husband, Edward. Oh, she loves her sister, who supported her through thick and thin. She’s fond of her brother-in-law, even if she questions his sense of humor at times.

Most of all, she adores her niece, a talkative trouble-maker in the truest Eames sense. Sheila and Edward were with her during the actual procedure, while Valerie had to wait in the waiting room with Grandpa Johnny, Alex and Sheila’s dad. Having him there for support was wonderful.

Yet watching Sheila and Edward’s suppressed excitement and hope for a baby, Valerie’s speculation about what her sibling might be like, and her dad’s doting on his granddaughter brought painful memories to the forefront. Her last meals with Toby, their playful names debate, that last fight...

Her heart feels compressed by the reminders of what she’s lost. Reminders of what may be forever out of her reach now...

But she wouldn’t, couldn’t let her family know; nothing would ruin their day of hope. Especially not her cancer survivor sister, for whom this was the only way to have a baby related to her... The chemo destroyed her ability to conceive, let alone carry, a child...

Alex heard about Sheila and Edward’s pain, and their yearning for another baby. Wanting to help, Alex had realized she could. Figuring she could experience almost all of the work going into having a baby, but not have it mess with her job for more than a few months, she made the offer after a dinner at Sheila’s, without any of the rest of the family present.

Silence descends on the room. Only the noise from Valerie playing in the next room is in the air. Sheila and Edward sit on the couch across from Alex, eyes wide on focused on her.

Sheila opens and closes her mouth several times before managing to speak again. “Alex, are you sure you can make that commitment?”

Alex smiles, willing them to be reassured. “Yes. I want to help, and you’ll get a baby who’s related to the whole family. I don’t mind giving up my time and energy to do this for you.”

Even carrying the baby?”

Yes.”

Edward shakes his head to clear it. “Isn’t your job a potential hazard? You’re hunting New York’s worst daily. No disrespect to your helping keep our streets safe, but how can you protect the baby at the same time?”

Pushing back the annoyance that threatens to surface, Alex reminds herself that they’ve been through too much already, and that the question reflects an unwillingness to take on unnecessary risks. She simply nods in acknowledgment, clasping her hands together. “I’ve thought of that, and I promise to be even more careful and reduce my exertions. Besides, my partner always has my back. I can get him to help look out for my safety, if it’d make you feel better.” He already does, but she sees no reason to admit it. Why give them the wrong idea?

The couple glance at each other, engaging in a silent conference, before meeting her eyes again. Sheila voices their apparent mutual thoughts. “But... Edward’s sister could be the surrogate. She’s said she wants to help in any way. If so, then your options would be open.” Alex stills, sensing where this is going. “Besides, don’t doctors prefer surrogates who aren’t also the donor?”

Sheila,” she slowly says, eyes and tone gently demanding to be heard, “I’d have to find someone first. With my job, that’s a bit remote. If I did meet someone while pregnant, then I’ll find out quickly whether he’s okay. I also know I’m not ready to be a mother, but I want to experience pregnancy. You’re already a mommy, and want to be one again. Please let me help.”

Both are silent for a long time. Alex keeps her hands steady, and waits. How much more do I have to say for them to believe me? How much-

Her sister pushes herself up over to Alex and flinging her arms around her, crying, silences Alex’s thoughts. “Thank you,” she chokes through the tears, “thank you.” The words keeping spilling out as Alex hugs her, knowing she’s done a good thing already: give her sister hope.

With how much the family knew about Sheila’s cancer and the effects of the treatment, the family was thrilled with Alex for volunteering to go through with the whole deal. Edward’s sister Amanda protested at being passed over, but Alex held her ground and Amanda finally relented.

Today marks the start of a vigil that everyone old enough to understand what was happening – the younger kids wouldn’t be told until there was something to tell the world – will observe 24/7, at least in the backs of their minds. The whole immediate family, on both Sheila and Edward’s sides, knows, and stand ready to support Alex.

Assuming this works... A detail Alex tries hard to not think about. She’s all-too aware that it can take several cycles at a clinic for anything to happen, and even then you’re not home free until a few month into the pregnancy. You don’t have to get medical help to know that...

Alex sits in the exam room. She needs to be checked again. This morning she was bleeding again, and her mind has been fretting since the first bout yesterday morning. To her relief, Dr. Taylor, her OB-GYN of five years, could squeak her in today. She’s gone to her for most everything since the woman proved to be respectful of Alex’s goals and needs. Some docs just weren’t...

The door opens, and Dr. Serena Taylor, a fair-skinned woman in her 40s with dark brown hair in a bun, enters with Alex’s file. “Hi, Alex.”

She exhales, not realizing how long she’d been holding her breath. “Doctor, thank you for fitting me in,” she says, tone conveying the words as well, as the door is closed.

Well, I have the lab results here.” Dr. Taylor moves to the desk by the sink, opening the envelope the report is still in. “Aside from the bleeding, how are you?”

Alex breathes in and out slowly. Then she tersely answers, “I guess as well as expected.” Yeah, the back of her mind croaks in an attempted snort. I’m a new widow... Sure, I feel great.

Dr. Taylor pauses to look back without a judgmental expression. Or pity. “Angry at the world? I can’t blame you.”

Alex bites back another snap. She doesn’t deserve to be lashed out at, she reminds herself. She had nothing to do with any of this...

After scanning the report for a few pages, Dr. Taylor freezes at the last page. Her head slowly drops forward. Alex’s breath catches in her throat as her chest begins pounding... No... No... It can’t be...

She turns to face Alex, and slowly meets her eyes, unable to hide compassion. “Two key hormones aren’t anywhere near as high as they should be. I’m sorry, Alex, but it looks like this wasn’t to be, either.”

Alex stares, and stares. No... She shakes her head, willing it to be wrong. No... This one was supposed to make it... It wasn’t supposed to happen again...

Alex puts her elbows on the table, resting her head in her hands. Oh, please, God, let this work... But if there has to be another try, her heart cries, please let it be because nothing happened, and please let the next one work. I’ve been through that enough. I don’t want to have to go through it again...

Tired, Lexie?”

Alex looked up at her father’s quiet question, finding him standing at her side. She gave a wan smile. “Of course.” Hardly a lie, she muses. I’ve got a dull ache in my privates, I might bleed later from the retrieval, and my head feels like a helium balloon and about as coherent. Dr. Purcell forbade her from driving until tomorrow, which means she’ll need a lift back to her apartment. Which might not come soon...

To most people who’ve ever known him, Johnny Eames is a gruff cop you don’t mess with, and messing with his family seemed like signing your own death warrant. Especially if you tried anything with his two girls. Of course, it helped that he also had four sons older than the girls... Add in an eager younger boy could be quite a nuisance to any anyone that Alex or Sheila – mostly Sheila; Alex always had other priorities – dared to bring home...

But to his family, he is a kind-hearted man with a powerfully developed sense of justice. His biggest mistake had been made out of desperate necessity; he had seven children to support, children he still wants to help. His smile is another reminder of that to Alex as he asks, “Need anything?”

She fights to not bristle, and to keep her voice even and low. “No, thank you.”

Alex’s only problem with her family is the nature of the support they often give. Her independent nature has gone against the grain of the family since childhood. They had their own ideas about what help she needed, and she had to keep proving that it wasn’t what she wanted or needed. Her father – who she loves dearly, and whose example even more important than her academy days towards developing the cop that she is today – was the only one who recognized her “special needs,” as he put it. As first he was indulging her tomboy predilection, but he realized by her eighth birthday that she really was more comfortable – and happier – in traditionally male hobbies and activities. So he compromised with his wife: Lexie would be trained in both areas, but mostly get to do what she enjoyed doing.

Her whole family – save her baby brother, who still looks up to her even now that he’s taller – worried about her dream of being a cop like her daddy. The women in her family were mostly petite, and few could imagine why any woman would want such a job. Now that Alex is older, she can see why they thought – and think – that way. Some just had no interest in anything that’s not in the traditionally female roles, and those who had interest never had the opportunities that Alex, Sheila, and the women of their generation have. When you’ve never believed that you’ll never have access to something, Alex has learned, you’re not likely to go for it even if you want it and there is a way.

They tend to forget that she can do very well on her own, and does. She just needs space to herself. In fact, Alex anticipates needing a lot of space over the next nine months; she wants to make sure that nothing ruins the feelings of her family in the coming months, and some time to herself will ensure that she can set her own worries aside. It’s worked in the past.

Her dad gives her a quirky smile. One that any of her bosses or fellow cops would easily recognize. “You’ve earned the right to take it easy today. But I asked because you looked lost in thought, worried.” He lowers his voice, giving his little girl – despite recognizing that her ability to scare boys much bigger than her would come in handy in law enforcement, his fatherly perspective hasn’t completely changed despite her being a cop for over a decade – the privacy he’d give any cop he trusts.

Alex sighs. The whole truth cannot be said, but part of it – the part she’s relegated to the back of her mind all day – can be acknowledged. “I’m wondering how Bobby’s doing. The funeral has probably been over for at least a few hours now. He wanted me to come – moral support, I bet – and I think he was saddened that I couldn’t.”

Well, it’s a shame he had no support.” he breathes as he sits beside her. “If I’d known right away, I could’ve arranged for a few of us to be there for him.”

Alex hesitates. Since the... Nicole debacle, she’s encouraged her family to invite Bobby to their gatherings. She told them the barest story possible, and said that she hoped the time around a real family might be beneficial to his well-being. Bobby resisted for a while, saying that he didn’t want to intrude, but he relented when Johnny Eames practically ordered him to come to Christmas dinner. The sheer number of people had seemed a bit much when they drove up, but Alex had called ahead to make sure that her nephews and nieces were the welcome wagon; Bobby’s warmed up easily to kids. By the end of the night, all of the kids thought he was the greatest thing since Santa Claus.

A detail that had puzzled Bobby after he overheard one of them say as much to their parents. When she was driving him home, Alex hadn’t been able to resist asking why. His answer was typical Bobby “Arcane Knowledge” Goren: “Doesn’t it bother you that the most famous giver of presents is named after the patron saint of thieves?”

Her surprise convinced him to invite her in for a few minutes to show her a book he had on Catholic saints and their stories. She asked to borrow the book, which came in handy on a case a few weeks later; she was able to name a saint he didn’t recognize. Deakins had smirked at the shock on Bobby’s face, once he recovered from the novelty of her being the one to throw out such a fact.

Shaking off the memory, Alex sighs. The lack of information about Bobby’s whereabouts is getting to her, and Alex starts to get up. Her dad puts a hand on her arm as she braces herself. “Alex, there’s no need to get up.”

She pushes herself up anyway. “I want to check my phone,” she quietly and firmly declares. “To see if Bobby’s called.”

Sheila, in the middle of putting away the remains of lunch, stops and waves her sister off from moving. “Sis, you don’t have to get up,” she gently insists. “I’ll get it for you.” By the time Alex opens her mouth to protest, Sheila’s already halfway across the room, heading for the coat rack.

Alex swallows a groan. My family... Anytime I’m in some rough situation, or there’s reason to worry about my health, they tend to forget that I’m not made of china, she mentally growls. That was so aggravating eight years ago, when two tragedies – one of which she’s never told anyone about – occurred back-to-back, and it appears that she’ll have to remind them of her self-sufficiency.

Her father stands and pats her shoulder. “Lexie, she’s just anxious. We all are.”

Alex nods. “I know,” she whispers. More than you realize, she silently adds. I just don’t like being waited on like this. Although, she has to admit, it would be nice to have support from someone who won’t infringe on my habits... Even just for a movie or two... Not that I can ask that of him...

When Sheila comes back with the phone, Alex restrains her hand into merely grasping the phone and turns it on. The wait as it powers up seems longer than the several seconds it takes, and her lungs heave in disappointment when her phone only registers a missed call. Sighing, she pulls up the record, and blinks. Bobby’s cell number. He called just a few minutes ago, but didn’t leave a message. Didn’t want to bother me, Bobby? She forces her face to stay steady; no point in letting the folks know how much that detail bothers her as she exits from the call menu to key in Speed Dial #1.

Why are you checking in on him,” Shane, the baby of the family – five years Alex’s junior – and another cop, asks. “He’s a grown man.”

Alex sighs in frustration. “Partners looks out for each other, remember?” She grinds it out, standing before anyone can stop her. Ignoring the discomfort, and waving off her family’s startled attempts to get her to rest, she declares, “I need privacy.”

Sheila, remembering a few childhood arguments, decides it’s best to back down. “The front study should be empty.”

Alex nods, and walks the short distance, closing the door behind her. She’s never been comfortable allowing anyone to listen in on their off-duty talks; she hasn’t been his partner for four years without noticing how much he guards the details of his life, and good partners look out for each other.

His phone’s ringing, so he hasn’t turned it off. Which he did for that Rankin mess... No, Alex, she stops herself as she waits, don’t think about that. “Come on, Bobby,” she mutters. “Please let me know how you’re doing...”

Bobby’s progress – or rather, aimless journey – is interrupted by a cell phone ringing. It takes him a few rings to realize that it’s his. He warily pulls it out, and glances at the caller ID. Alex, he silently sighs, not feeling quite so lonely now.

Just when Alex expects to be transferred to voice mail, a ring’s interrupted. She almost sighs in relief when her partner’s tired, flat voice breathes, “Hi, Eames.”

Oh, no, she thinks as her chest becomes leaden. It sounds like his morning was worse than he’d thought it would be... “Hey, Bobby.” Her voice conveys her first completely genuine smile since early in her appointment. Genuine because he answered. “Where are you?” Something tells her that he hasn’t gone home yet, that his energy was on high and there was little chance he’d stay still.

Bobby sighs, hearing the restrained concern. After over three years, he knows that he really shouldn’t be surprised that she cares, but he hasn’t been able to let go of the past. “I, uh, I’m walking around Central Park. I needed to wander around for a while, be alone.” Since you weren’t there for me, couldn’t be there for me...

The numb tone is enough to worry her; it’s a sure-fire sign that a person’s shut down their emotions, that they feel they can’t deal with whatever happened. Alex knows Bobby uses it a lot. It’s like he’s balancing how emotionally involved he can get with the cases... “I’m sorry I didn’t call right away. Sheila and the rest of the immediate family decided to have lunch at her place. I forgot to turn my phone back on. The meds must be messing with my memory.”

Grimacing, Bobby knows that pain meds can make you forgetful. His knee injury in the army taught him that. He hates forgetting things, so doctors and nurses constantly complain about how stubborn he can be about what he will and won’t take. However, he hears something else in her voice, something beyond the concern for him. Like she’s holding something back. Since she’s the expert at hiding real feelings, if I can hear pain in her voice... I can’t tell her anything about my day now... “Everything go okay?”

The abrupt topic change accompanied by the same tone – save for a touch of concern for her sake – makes Alex’s throat constrict. She manages a little snort for his benefit, to not let him on to her own troubles. “Typical medical office problems. They got me in late, and ran long.”

I’m sure that all happened, he muses, but that’s not all. “How are you feeling?” He allows concern to creep into his voice, wanting – desperately – for her to let him help. To give him an escape.

He’s running from the events of this morning, she realizes sadly. Just as I’m wanting to escape the here-and-now... She sighs. “They warned me about it all months ago. I’ve got a few Vicodin pills just in case, and I’m forbidden from driving until tomorrow.” She lets a touch of frustration into her tone. “Not like I was going to go near a muscle car,” she groans. Her love of cars and driving is almost an inside joke between them. People might think he doesn’t like to drive, but they never get to see him play with models of classic cars, especially ones owned by suspects...

A smile touches the edges of his lips. “Ouch.” His voice reflects the slight mirth trying to push upward. “So... Are you back at your apartment now?”

She breathes in deeply, deciding whether she should tell him anything about the meal given that he just got re-enforcement of how little family he has. But she doesn’t lie to him. Not outright, she reminds herself as that evil letter floats into her awareness. “No,” she murmurers, pushing her big mistake back into the depths of her memory. “We finished lunch a few minutes ago.”

He’s silent, the pause lasting several seconds. He doesn’t trust himself to speak evenly right away, so he forces a neutral voice back in place. “It’s good they’re supporting you the whole way.”

His voice is back to listless... Thinking of him being alone with his misery, and the prospect of several more hours of unintended reminders for herself, alarms her. Prodded by the thought, she asks, “Bobby, do you have your car?”

His eyebrows pop up. Where’d that come from...? “Yeah.” His feelings seep into his tone.

She can hear his reaction, and the slight emotion is reassuring. “Can you come and pick me up soon?” She can’t stop the plea from coming through in her voice. Please, Bobby, her mind prays, don’t ask. Just do it. Alex won’t let herself ask who it’s mostly for: him or her.

Now he feels his face nearly explode. Wait... She’s with her family, her loving and caring family, and she wants to be away from them...? She’d rather be in the company of messed-up me? For Bobby, that’s definitely cause for unholy dread. “Your family won’t mind, will they?” He has to ask; he’s seen how much they care about Alex, even if she keeps frustrating them, as she’s told him.

I got them to understand when I was checking on you last year. They’ll understand now. And don’t worry about being invited to join them today; they know better.” All she hears is his barely audible breath for several seconds, but she holds her tongue. Even when the urge to say his name becomes nearly unbearable.

Finally, he exhales loudly. That plea is still there, and he can’t be away from her if she’s using that tone with him. “I’ll be there as soon as traffic allows,” he promises quietly, briskly walking back to the parking lot.

Thank you,” she exhales in relief, before she can stop herself. Great, Alex, she silently berates herself. Why don’t you just tell him what you’re feeling and thinking?

Okay,” he breathes, picking up the pace at what he hears in her voice. “See you soon.”

See ya, Bobby.” They hang up, and she stands still for a few seconds, a series of possibilities for what happened on his end this morning floating in her mind. Alex sighs as her legs force her to sit, in Edward’s reading chair. God, Bobby, what happened? What could hurt you more than four months ago did?

Meanwhile, he pushes himself to a run. What happened today, Alex? What made you want to flee?


Chapter Six

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
roseau
Dec. 26th, 2013 02:48 pm (UTC)
Pleasant surprise...
Loved it! Love the gentle pace that is full of little details. I'm so glad you are still working on this. Gotta say I feel Alex's reasonings for having a baby for her sister seems a little bit fuzzy- maybe she should just have one with Bobby!
tkel_paris
Dec. 26th, 2013 05:45 pm (UTC)
Re: Pleasant surprise...
Why, thank you. More is coming later today. The story was written years ago, but I'm only finally getting around to posting on LJ. The trouble is that it's expanding because LJ is forcing me to split chapters. Oh, well. Again, thank you. :D
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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