title: don't ask me about happiness
author: ellen m. [quasiradiant@yahoo.com]
loci, post-'in the wee small hours'
summary: come, give me your hand and we'll go.

title, summary from idan raichel's "bo'i."


Sometimes, it's too much. Dead bodies rot where no one can find them. Kids murder. Bad guys go free. Things don't add up. Sometimes, her hands are pressed to the bar until her knuckles are white and she's breathing through her mouth and trying not to give in.

Alex is looking down into her drink, she's considering the melting ice, she's making decisions like i won't quit and i won't throw up and i won't i won't i won't fucking cry. Her lips are pressed together, and her teeth hurt, and there's a grinding pain like shattered bone behind her right eye. And she's not usually this melodramatic, not really, but there's something about the image of the girl in the marsh, something about the father's sneering "and she loved it," something about the mother's ugly martyrdom.

"Hey." There's someone at the barstool next to hers. There's someone there, and she's talking, but Alex isn't listening. Alex blinks.

"What?" Alex finally says.

Barek's shrugging off her jacket. "I was asking if you, if you wanted another drink. But maybe you shouldn't--"

"Gonna give me a lecture?" Alex glances at Barek out of the corner of her eye.

"Okay," Barek says, warily. Alex's head pounds. "Fine." Barek gestures to the bartender, a boy with two rings in his nose. "Two of whatever she's having." Settles on the stool, jacket across her lap.

"Might wanna reconsider that," he says, mouth turning down at the corners.

Alex narrows her eyes at him, cocks her head, and Barek says, "Fair enough. Another for her. And scotch and soda for me."

"You drink," Alex remarks, "like my grandfather."

"And your habits could turn the stomach of a frat boy." Barek doesn't look at Alex, and Alex doesn't look at her. There she was, defending Logan even though she hardly knows him, and there Alex was, up on the stand, badge on her lapel. There she was, and Bobby's eyes were closed before they opened again, and he's not the kind of guy who'd cry, after all.

Alex finally says, "Kid just doesn't like rum. We had a whole argument about it before."

"How long have you been here?" she asks, but Alex doesn't answer. She chews a piece of ice even though the cold makes her jaw throb and the sound makes her shudder. It's a Malibu and diet coke, because it makes her think of college, but it didn't do anything to cheer her up.

"You came here to check up on me?" Alex finally says, not as rudely as she'd intended, distracted by the pounding in her head. She's old enough to take care of herself, and she doesn't need anybody's pity. Certainly not from the pretty girl with the FBI profiling credentials who talks to herself, for fuck's sake. "I can take care of myself. I'm a big girl." Barek doesn't say anything, so Alex keeps talking to fill the silence. "I've done just fine for a long time now, a long time before you got here. While you were off profiling or whatever it is you do, I was walking the streets, you know that? I was. It's true." She pauses when Barek snorts. "What?"

"I didn't even know you were here, Eames," she says. "I just wanted a drink. But you seem pretty concerned that I might, god forbid, have wanted to check up on you. What's that?"

"I get all the psychoanalysis I need from Bobby. From Goren," Alex corrects herself, closes her eyes, doesn't fucking cry. "So lay off."

"Fine." Alex looks down at Barek's feet, how Barek has her toes hooked behind the stool's footrest, how she has her feet the same way Alex does. Alex looks up, not afraid that she's being mocked but maybe a little afraid. But Barek's not even looking at her. Barek's eyes are on the mirror behind the bar.

"You have kids?" Alex asks, but she's not sure why.

Barek's laugh is the kind that fills a room. "You kidding?" she finally manages.

"What, you can't be a cop and a mother at the same time?" Alex asks, defensive, and she swivels a little so she's facing Barek.

Barek's voice still has the hint of a chuckle. "Of course you can. You just can't, can't be me and a mother at the same time. Why, do you?"

"I--" Alex starts, but doesn't go on. "I--"

"Nah, that's okay. It's complicated. I understand." And Alex wants to indulge in hating her, but there's something about the way Barek says it, and Alex wants to ask how she could possibly understand, but she doesn't. "And that one today, she's a real piece of work."

Sometimes everything Barek says is straight out of some ghetto she may or may not have grown up in, and Alex can't help but smile. "A real piece of work. Yeah." Alex is thinking of how this mother, this mother, could kill some other mother's little girl. Bobby understands, because Bobby always understands, but Alex refuses to.

"So," Barek says, after another long pause. Alex isn't interested in making this easy. Alex was just as happy being alone and morose as she is with Barek there, sipping her second scotch and not wearing any lipstick. "Things okay between you and your partner?" She says it low, because cops don't really ask that kind of question. Especially not cops treading on someone else's territory, who haven't even learned how to check their own voicemail yet, especially not cops who talk to themselves over corpses. It's been months and Alex still hasn't forgiven Barek or Logan for strutting in.

Alex just says, "What do you care?"

"I just care, okay?" Barek says, lets her heavy-bottomed glass fall too hard against the bar. "I thought, maybe--" She sighs, puts her hand in her pocket and fishes out a twenty. "Fuck it. I'll see you in the morning, I guess," she says, leaves the money on the counter, and at least the kid'll appreciate the tip. Stands up and walks out, jacket gripped in one fist, not that Alex turns to watch her go, but of course she does.

"Damn," Alex sighs, digs her wallet from her purse and slips a couple of bills under her empty glass. "Damn," she says again and stands up too fast.

Her weapon presses too hard against the back of her hip as she's walking towards the door. She doesn't want to flash it, so she just lets it bite. The same way she always does, not bringing attention to herself, and it's stupid, she knows, and it hurts.

It's too warm for November outside, and Barek's standing right next to the curb, looking up the street, back against a lamp post.

"I didn't know you smoked," Alex says, walks up, looks down the street. They don't look at one another.

Barek blows a long lungful of smoke out through pursed lips. "The list of things you don't know about me is pretty long," she finally agrees.

"Can I bum one?"

The corner of Barek's mouth rises, and Alex is looking at her. "You don't smoke," Barek says, and she's right, of course, but Alex doesn't flinch. Barek's eyes flick towards her, and then they're looking at each other for the first time since outside the courtroom. Barek doesn't look away as she pulls the pack from her pocket, offers it to Alex, but Alex doesn't look down, and their fingers touch.

Then Alex is looking everywhere else. Fumbling with the cigarettes, holding it filter out and then having to turn it around. Letting her hair fall in front of her face. "Got a light?"

"I--" Barek starts, and then says, "Just--" and lifts her cigarette to her mouth and then touches the bottom of Alex's hand and raises it so that the glowing tip of one cigarette is touching the dark tip of the other and she says, "So just take a breath."

And Alex does, and she doesn't close her eyes and neither does Barek. Alex takes a long, deep drag, lets it out through her nose. Neither of them blinks.

Finally, after an eternity of the flickering streetlight and the bar door opening and then closing and three taxis passing, Barek says, "Just--" and lets her cigarette fall to the sidewalk and then she says, again, "Just--"

And as she's leaning forward, Alex says, "Oh." When their lips touch and Barek's mouth is smoke and scotch and every other dark thing that Alex knows so well, it's a story whose twist Alex should've seen coming. Oh. Barek touches one of Alex's knuckles with the very tip of one of her fingers, and Alex, Alex really should've seen this coming.