Above and Beyond the Call of Duty
Disclaimer: These characters belong to Dick Wolf, Wolf Pictures, NBC, et al. No infringement is intended.
Author's Note: Okay, so we regular CI readers and writers of fanfiction have noticed how well Bobby dresses (and what's more, we appreciate it). But has anyone ever wondered how he gets that way? Has Eames ever wondered how he gets that way? Well wonder no more, my friends!
In all seriousness, though, this started out as a comedic piece and kind of turned on me halfway through. (One too many philosophy classes in college combined with a psychology major roommate made me think about this way too much--sorry.) Still, I think you'll enjoy it. And as a side note, I'd like to thank a former coworker of mine, who at 6 foot, seven and a half inches is responsible for Bobby's philosophy for the appropriate time to buy pants when you're a tall man. Couldn't have done it without you, PeeJ!
In all my years as a police officer and in all the crime scenes I've visited, I've never been this uncomfortable. This is awful. It's torturous. The sights, the sounds--I think I'm actually becoming nauseous. If Bobby doesn't finish up soon, I'm leaving him to find his own ride out of here.
And what's more, I'm never going shopping for clothes with him again.
Don't get me wrong--I love the man. I do. Really. I love being his partner and spending time with him and watching him work a case like a jigsaw puzzle that just needs to be assembled so he can see the whole picture. I love him like a pesky little brother who's always doing things that somehow always manage to be simultaneously aggravating and endearing. But this is going above and beyond the call of duty. I mean, love can only take you so far, right?
Okay, so maybe I wasn't being entirely honest before. Maybe I love him a little more than a brother. Maybe I even think he's sexy sometimes in his perfectly pressed Armani suits and his immaculately coordinated shirt and tie combinations, always with a day's worth of stubble on his handsome face to show that he isn't perfect, just close to it...
Earth to Eames!
Where was I? Oh, right--"Shopping with Bobby and Why It Has Nearly Ruined Our Relationship," by Alexandra Eames.
You see, today, I have learned exactly what goes into making him look so damn sexy and frankly, it was just about enough to turn me off. I say "just about" because, let's face it, the finished product is still very appealing.
Still, Bobby doesn't treat clothing (or the purchasing thereof) like anyone I've ever known. (No, this isn't surprising considering what I already know about Bobby, but I digress.) To my partner, it appears that buying clothes is something that is done as meticulously and systematically as investigating a crime scene. And meticulous for Bobby is Level Four Biohazard for the rest of the world.
The worst part of the whole thing, though, is that I can't quite remember how I got into this predicament in the first place. I think it started Thursday at lunch when we were poring over case files at our desks while eating lukewarm Chinese food we'd sent out for.
"Says here the suspect's sister works at Saks Fifth Avenue," I read from the file in my hand.
"Guess she'll be working this weekend then," Bobby rummaged in the pile of papers on his desk and emerged with a section of the day's newspaper he'd stashed there after reading it with his coffee that morning. Flipping the pages to reveal a full-page ad, he thrust it unceremoniously between my mouth and a forkful of mushu pork. (Cramming so much genius into a brain doesn't always leave room for good table manners, I have learned in our years together.)
"Saks is having a big sale," I read aloud from the page. Most women probably would have made that sentence into an exclamation, but I couldn't even fake enthusiasm. I may be an embarrassment to my gender, but I've never been a shopper. I don't have that gene that sends me into stores on a regular basis looking for the best clothes at the best price whether I need them or not. I can't even be swayed by a good shoe sale. I like my wardrobe simple--lots of solids that mix and match with an emphasis on basic black, which not only goes with everything, but also doesn't stain when you're working at bloody crime scenes.
"I think we should go," Bobby said, taking back the section of paper so I could get the fork in my mouth.
"You want us to interview a suspect's sister in the middle of a huge Saks sale?" I lifted a suspicious eyebrow, chewing slowly. Not being a shopper didn't mean I had no idea that the store would be jammed with people and no doubt the staff would be in chaos trying to serve them all.
"Yes," he nodded simply--then leaned back in his chair and averted his eyes as though reading the file before him, adding quietly: "And I need pants."
"What?" I frowned, curious if I'd heard right.
Bobby looked at me like the answer to my question was obvious and replied off-handedly before looking back at his papers: "The whole store is on sale--including big and tall."
"And...?" I tried not to get annoyed with him. Maybe the answer was obvious to someone with his IQ, but I was struggling in my mind to figure out what Bobby needing pants from the big and tall section had to do with singling out the suspect's sister. The two ideas weren't merging in my mind.
"Alex," he sat up and pinched the bridge of his nose in mild frustration, then looked back at me and explained in slow tones, "when you're six foot four, you learn to buy pants whenever you can--especially on sale--because the longer the inseam, the harder they are to find."
"Well, now how would I know that?" I felt my voice raise a notch in clear irritation. Somehow my diminutive stature was being insulted in that last remark--I just wasn't sure exactly how.
He blushed a bit and a smile slowly crawled across his face, followed by a short, single burst of a laugh and he looked down a the desk, resting his head on his right hand. He was trying to recover himself so I waited silently, eyes locked on his face in what I'm sure was a glare. When he looked back up at me, his dark eyes were twinkling and I couldn't hang on to my frustration, much as I wanted to.
"Look," he began, brushing a smirk from his face with considerable effort, "I need pants and we need information. It seems we can get that all in one place on Saturday."
"Bobby," I tried another tact to get out of the plan he was concocting, "unless the woman we're looking for works in the big and tall department, I don't see how we can justify the trip."
Bobby didn't say anything--and, to his credit, didn't laugh again, either--he just reached a long arm across his desk and mine and used a fine-boned finger to point at a section of the case notes I'd missed. My eyes followed where he indicated and...
So that's how I got here--it's 1:00 on a Saturday afternoon and I'm in the big and tall section of Saks surrounded by some very large men--including Bobby--the wives and girlfriends of very large men, frenzied sales staff, and racks of forty-percent-off suiting. I feel as though I've been transported to Oz, only instead of Dorothy, I'm most definitely a munchkin. What's more, I haven't had lunch yet, my feet hurt, and we haven't done a shred of police work since we got here even though I've seen the woman we're supposed to interview walk by four times now. I'm not going to lie to you, I'm beginning to feel terribly used here--especially considering I'm holding onto four pairs of pants, two belts, and a handful of ties while Bobby flits from rack to rack picking up more stuff. I hate to nit-pick, but it's rather in-depth shopping for the man who said he just needed pants.
"Alex, can you come here?" he waves me over and I weave between a rack of sport coats and a pair of women looking for worsted wool pants on the rack opposite. On the way, I pass a man who has to be at least six foot seven and I say a silent prayer of thanks that my partner doesn't have those extra three inches--I have enough trouble looking Bobby in the eye when we're standing side-by-side now.
The sales girl we're looking for is standing two feet away from him and I'm hoping that the reason I've been called over is because we're finally going to get down to business. It's doubtful that this is the case, but hope is all I have left at this point. Well, that and some serious irritation at the man I've come over to see--I don't care how cute he looks in his casual weekend outfit of black slacks, a black T-shirt, and a camel-colored suede button-down with the sleeves rolled up to reveal his strong forearms.
"I need to see the navy blue tie," he says, not even looking at me when I finally make it over. He's busy thumbing through a pile of neatly folded and pinned dress shirts.
Yep, looks like work is still on hold.
I fumble through the pile on my arm and pull out a navy blue tie. Bobby turns far enough to see it out of the corner of his eye: "No, not that one. The one with the contrasting light blue stripes. I need to see if it matches this shirt."
Okay, if he whips out one of those color complement wheels next, I'm having him committed. It's a shirt and a tie, Bobby, and they're both blue--it's not hard!
With a sigh, I rummage back through everything and come up with the correct tie, which he takes wordlessly from my fingers and I suddenly realize that this is like working a case with him, only instead of examining a body he's examining clothes. He's even tilting his head to the left the way he does whenever he is trying to make the evidence fit together. And, as is customary when we're at a crime scene, I'm standing by, waiting for the genius to assemble necessary information in his head and share with the rest of the class--except in this instance instead of murder weapons and blood trails, we're looking at ties and shirts. I've heard of taking your work home with you, but this is, as I've said before, above and beyond the call of duty.
And it's about to stop because I'm putting my foot down.
"Um, Bobby?" I begin, trying not to sound as annoyed as I actually am. No need to get this off on the wrong foot. You catch more flies with honey and all that.
"Hmm?" his tone is absent but I can tell that he's actually listening.
"Don't you think we should talk to the suspect's sister sometime before the store closes?" Okay, so I'm being sarcastic now. Let's blame it on hunger and leave it at that.
"Talk to the...?" he repeats, then straightens and looks at me. His head is still tilted to the left and I have to fight the urge to take my hand and straighten it back out on his neck. "Oh, you mean Amber."
"Oh, yeah," I feign the same kind of surprise only with a slightly mocking tone. "The police work we're supposed to be doing in addition to buying pants--and ties--and belts--and shirts."
He tilts his head to the right, obviously confused by my response. Then, as though I should have known all along, he says, "Amber can't help us."
"She what?" the words are a yelp and I notice that they elicit a few stares from those nearby, Amber included. Lowering my voice to a conspiratorial hiss, I ask, "What are you talking about?"
He shrugs as though I've been reading his mind while he shops. "She hasn't had any contact with her brother for two years. She won't be able to help us track him down."
"How do you know that?" I demand. "All you've done since we got here is pick up clothes and compare tie and shirt colors."
"She was helping the guy next to me at the belt rack and told him she'd just gotten back from two years studying in Australia," Bobby shrugs again. "She said she hadn't kept in good contact with anyone here."
He seems to have decided that whatever I'm mad at doesn't concern him because when he finishes speaking he turns back to the shirt and tie in question and asks, "So do you think this is a good match?"
My many hours in the store, sore feet, hunger, and stored irritation at not only his behavior, but also at what has turned out to be a huge waste of my time, bubble up then and I suppress the urge to scream, instead using my last ounce of tact to say simply but forcefully, "Let's go, Bobby."
"Alex, do the shirt and tie..." he starts to say.
"If you aren't at that register in the next two minutes paying for all of this stuff, so help me Robert Goren, I will pull out my gun and shoot you in front of all of these people," I cut him off in a sudden rush of words.
I've shocked him now--the dark eyes are wide with surprise when he turns to look at me, but my outburst seems to have done the trick because he takes the clothes from my arms and wordlessly moves towards the register. As we wait in line, he keeps shooting me confused and suspicious looks, but doesn't say anything until he's almost up to the cashier. And when he does, it's the same question one more time:
"Are you sure they match?"
I open my mouth, another rude outburst hanging perilously close to the end of my tongue, then pull it back in quickly when I notice something that I haven't previously. He's looking me in the eye and I stare back, really studying the dark depths before me until I see that there is another question--a larger one--behind the one he's asked me at least six times today. And that question makes me take pause because I realize that, although he may very well need pants, this whole exasperating process isn't really about clothes and complementary colors after all. Not for Bobby. For him, it's a lot more. It's about fitting in--blending in, more like--and not drawing any more attention to himself than absolutely necessary. After all, it's hard to pick out the freak in a crowd if he's dressed just like everyone else--even if he is several inches taller.
I understand Bobby a little better now, I think. The old saying "the clothes make the man" really makes sense in this context. I mean, Bobby's manner of dress certainly lends a certain authenticity and weight to his words--especially when he's trying to solve a case by whipping out some random fact to use as evidence that sounds more like a clue from last night's Jeopardy. If he wore threadbare pants, plaid shirts, and pocket protectors like a stereotypical genius, no one would listen to a word he had to say; he'd be written off as a crackpot and made fun of. But who can call a man crazy when he's dressed in Armani and looks better than everyone else in the room? (What's more, who an call a man crazy when his odd ideas are always right?)
So there's the real question--he isn't asking me if the tie and shirt go together (which they do and he knows it). He's asking me to tell him whether he's going to fit in wearing that shirt and tie, whether people will take him seriously. It isn't about fashion at all. It's about Bobby trusting me to not make him feel like a freak, to tell him the truth about whether he's making the right choices. I represent his connection to the outside world, I suppose--a world where he isn't always sure how he fits in, only that he can't live anywhere else so he has to make do. It's a pretty big weight to shoulder, but I can handle it because I care about Bobby and know that he isn't a freak--not to me, anyway. No, to me, he's brilliant--beautiful even.
Of course, I can't tell him that--not standing in line to pay at the Saks counter--so I tell him the closest thing to it:
"It's a perfect match, Bobby."
He smiles then, a sudden burst of light that makes his whole face shine, and looks so proud of himself that I can't help but smile back.
Suddenly, I don't feel like I've wasted my whole Saturday. He owes me lunch and I'm still never going shopping with him again, but it hasn't been a waste. It's even been kind of--well--fun.
"We should do this again sometime," Bobby says as we exit the store.
Okay, it wasn't that fun.
"Come on," I say by way of answer, "You're taking me to lunch."