Vanessa had never been the jealous type. She hadn't had to be. From the moment their friendship had been established, there had been no one else. And once he had fallen in love with her, he hadn't been able to look at another woman the same way again. Sure, he looked, like he figured most men did. Shapes and bodies and attractive faces. Sometimes he wondered for a moment what they looked like naked or if they would be attracted to him, and he enjoyed the occasional smile or hair toss his way. He'd even allowed himself to flirt with the girl in the drug store a couple of times. But there was no one, no woman, who came close to what he had with his wife.
He was pretty sure she knew he looked, and almost certain she knew he flirted with Dina, the drug store girl. She didn't seem to mind, though. And now she was examining his book, halfway lying in his lap. "The Criminal Mind and Neurology"? she asked. "Is it any good?"
"It's okay," he replied, taking it out of her hands and closing it up, setting it on the nightstand. "You wanna read it when I'm done?"
She sat back, next to him, pulling one of her legs up close to her body. "Maybe." She touched his hand gently. "So...how's your new partner...what's her name? Bishop?"
He sighed. "Okay, I guess. She seems pretty young...and a bit by the book...but it's only twelve weeks, like you said." He took her hand in his. "Eames is still there right now, so it's good she can do the ground work. And Deakins is going to have you working the Ivers case with us. Maybe she'll feel outnumbered."
Vanessa smiled, stroking his fingertips with her own. "Do you think she's interesting?"
He shrugged, not sure where this was going. After all, he'd known Lynn Bishop for exactly eight hours. "I dunno...I don't really know her yet. Why?"
She replied, "Oh, no reason...just wondering." After a minute, she said, "She's very attractive."
"Really?" Now he understood exactly what this was about. "You should ask her out sometime."
She elbowed him. "Very funny, Bobby! And don't tell me you hadn't noticed!"
He tickled her back until she was laughing and flat on her back in the bed. He stopped, resisting the urge to grab her wrists, then said, "Honestly, I hadn't noticed. When you have a Van Gogh in your home, sometimes it's difficult to appreciate the street artist."
She made a face, but her eyes smiled at him. God, he loved her eyes. And he really hadn't noticed Bishop, other than the fact that she was clearly going to be a pain in his ass.
"Van Gogh, huh?" she said, reaching around the back of his head to comb his hair with her fingers.
He smiled. "Something like that." He leaned down and kissed her softly. "You know there's nowhere I want to be other than here, with you. Nothing has changed. l adore you. I haven't regretted a single minute of our marriage...all fifteen months of it."
She ran her hands over the front of his tee shirt. "Okay, smart guy. I'll try to keep that in mind, even if your new partner looks like she belongs on the cover of Vogue."
He laughed and rolled over, lying next to her. "Vogue, really? I think you're perfect, but you already know that."
"Yeah, maybe." She had caught his hand again and he squeezed it. "You rock, detective."
"Awesome...if this detective thing doesn't work out, I'll audition for Cop Rock."
It confused him that she would be jealous of Bishop.
Mainly, it confused him because Bishop was so not his type. He guessed she was attractive by regular standards, maybe even more than Eames, but he couldn't, for the life of him, imagine thinking of her like that. She was so...rigid. And she didn't get him. Not in the slightest.
He remembered how when he had met Vanessa, she didn't get him either, but she was funny. And smart--my God, he had always thought how smart that woman was. When fate had brought them together, part of what had drawn out his empathy toward her was the belief of how much she didn't deserve what had happened to her, and how much it had changed her so immediately. She was a good person, a passionate profiler, smart and funny. And she had been so vulnerable, so weak afterward, that even her closest friends couldn't bear to watch her suffering. As she grew stronger, as their relationship developed into friendship and later, love, their ability to understand one another had increased tremendously. At times, it felt that they were on the same plane. Sometimes now, it didn't, but they at least had the skills to talk it out and make it work. And more than that, they had the commitment to each other. He'd never loved anyone in his life the way he loved her, and nothing was worth risking that.
So when she had asked about Bishop last night, made it clear that she was jealous, he had been surprised. He had assumed that she knew he was just as invested in their relationship as she was, that every day he looked forward to their reunion at night. That his favorite times were drinking wine on the couch while watching a bad movie, going out to their favorite pizza joint, making love on the weekends with no timetable. But maybe he wasn't expressing it enough. Maybe they were falling into a rut. He'd never been married before, so what did he know? Making Vanessa happy was important to him. He made a mental note to do a search for a book on the subject the next time he went to the library.
As he was pondering all of this, Bishop was reviewing evidence on the Ivers case across from him. Eames had politely volunteered her desk when Bishop arrived the day before, and it had only taken Eames a minute to convince Bishop it was the best place for her. "This way you and Goren can keep connected easily on your cases," Eames had explained, and for the first time in their partnership, Goren found himself wanting to tell Eames to shut up.
She was making little noises to herself as she perused the file, something that sounded like a hum, but he wasn't sure. He'd never worked with a cop who made noises while they studied a case file. He didn't know what in the hell she was doing.
"Find something?" he finally asked her after about the tenth hum.
"Maybe..." she responded. "You know she was an honors student at NYU, and her parents mentioned she was dating that broker on Wall Street? One of her friends..." she flipped the page as though looking for information, "says something about her dating another student at the university." She glanced up at him. "We should track down this mystery man and interview him."
He nodded. "That's a good place to start."
"I'll go call her friend--Sylvia, it says--and see if she knows the guy's name...then I guess we can head over."
He watched Bishop pick up the phone, then casually stood and made his way over to Vanessa's office.
"Hey." He leaned against the door frame, watching her typing.
"Oh. Hi," she greeted him, looking away from her computer. "I was getting ready to send you and Bishop the victim profile...and what I have for the perp so far..."
"Okay." He sat down in the chair across from her. "What do you have?"
"Caroline Ivers, 20, senior at NYU, honors college, majoring in business. Her father reported a relationship with a broker downtown, yada yada yada...you know all that already. Here's the thing. Looking at the type of crime we have here, we're fairly certain--say, 99.5 percent--it was personal and done by someone she was seeing. Caroline had a second life though."
"How do you know?"
"How many good girls do you know, at 20, are coming out of a club called The Lion's Den?" She sat back. "I'm sure she was seeing someone else as well. Her father was extremely rigid and controlling during the interview...didn't let her mother talk, was very insistent his daughter was headed toward Wall Street next year. The kid's been classically trained in two instruments, debate team, lacrosse, and in twenty hours of senior classes in her junior year. That's his drive, not hers." Vanessa crossed her arms. "Plus, Rodgers found a small amount of X in her system....classic good girl wanting to be bad."
"Great...so this opens up our suspect pool to more than Mr. Wall Street."
Bobby's foot began to tap again, before he said, "Do you think the father is capable?"
She shook her head. "No. The only thing I'm not sure is if the pregnancy was an accident--a result of her living a little dangerously--or if it was a purposeful way to get off the horse. You know, get out of the race. I would suggest you all test the fetus for DNA along with the boyfriend. Maybe look for appointments in abortion clinics and check her apartment for birth control."
He nodded. "I was thinking the perp probably lives loud."
"Maybe." She leaned her head against the back of her chair. "Or maybe he's just got a lot of rage. To do what he did to her, he'd have to be incredibly angry. And I don't think it's only about power with this one...he was making a point about sex. There's too much violence throughout, but particularly genital trauma. He wanted to sexually destroy her." She paused. "If I had to speculate at this point, I'd say you're looking for someone who impresses, who cares what people think about him, and who carries a lot of rage inside--enough that, when unleashed, he's capable of this. I doubt he has a record of gratuitous violence. Not his style."
Goren nodded and stood. Rayden started to turn back to her computer when she heard him, low. "You okay?"
Bishop suddenly appeared next to him. "I've got a name...you ready to head over to campus?'
He glanced back at his wife for a second, then said, "Sure."
"Bishop," Vanessa called. "I'm sending you my profile of the victimology...it might help you. I'll send the perp info as soon as I'm done."
Bishop turned around and called over her shoulder, "Thanks!" Looking at Goren, she said,, "You coming?"
He glanced back at Rayden one more time, and she said firmly, "I'm fine." He hesitated for just a second, then nodded at her, before turning and following Bishop to the elevators.
He knew he'd be late getting home and wasn't crazy about it. Before he had gotten married, the job had been his whole life. Some days he never even left work. He'd bunk in the crib for a few hours, shower and change into a new suit, and start the next day as though it were just an extension of the last one. He loved his job. He felt useful and smart, and there was something to be said for making a difference. But now...now there was a life waiting for him outside of the station too. And some days he was awfully anxious to get home to it.
Bishop had driven him crazy. He found himself wishing on more than one occasion that afternoon that he had asked Vanessa to ride along. Bishop was a total connect the dots kind of person. If there wasn't an arrow directly pointed in a direction, she wasn't about to go there. She was so incredibly logical he figured she'd missed her calling as a mathematician. Her lack of instinct was what drove him insane.
Somewhere in the middle of the afternoon he had turned to her and said, as jokingly as he could deliver, "Do you ever, say, imagine what might have happened?"
And she returned, with complete seriousness, "It's not my job to imagine. It's my job to follow the evidence."
Of course she was right. All cops go where the evidence takes them. But good God, would it hurt to think outside the box just a little?
Their interview with the NYU student had been relatively ineffectual, primarily due to Bishop's need to pull out her notebook and ask routine questions, then jot down the kid's answers word for word. When he finally got a question or two in on the side, she had glared at him as though he had just body slammed the kid against a wall. But, in his opinion, the questions he'd asked had given them the most information. When he had asked the kid, man to man, what Caroline's reputation around campus had been, he had laughed nervously before confiding, "Well, she's pretty tight on the outside, you know...goes to classes, looks good...but when she cuts loose, she knows how to party..." Then he had stopped laughing and looked seriously at both detectives. "She...um...she didn't do that very often, and only with a few people."
He had given them names and numbers. That was useful. So was the information that Caroline had a tight circle of people she partied with. Bishop didn't necessarily think it was important, arguing that they already knew the girl occasionally partied and they needed to follow the scent of men she dated. He disagreed, explaining that knowing more about her inner circle would lead them to more useful evidence.
Bishop had shaken her head in frustration. "We know this is a man. We know it's either her Wall Street boyfriend or someone she was seeing at NYU. That's where we need to focus our energy. We have plenty of evidence that this pregnancy was an accident. That would provoke her boyfriend...we need to get a warrant for his DNA."
They had sat in the SUV and argued about it before finally agreeing to call it a day.
Now he was home. He had expected to find Vanessa in the kitchen, cooking dinner, possibly in a bowl like she seemed to enjoy. But she wasn't there. He wandered through the condo before heading to the bedroom and opening the door.
She was sitting in bed, eating a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich, with Bruce at her feet. When he opened the door, she glanced up. "Oh, hey. Sorry...I didn't feel like cooking tonight."
He shook his head, smiling. "Do you always eat naked?"
"I'm not naked," she argued. "I'm wearing my panties. But thanks for your concern."
He sat on the edge of the bed, watching her eat and thinking how much he wanted to strip down and get in bed next to her.
"No thanks." He stood and took off his suit, hanging it in the closet, undressing down to his boxers. "I'm gonna go make a sandwich too...you want anything?"
"Yeah...pita and hummus?"
He returned a few minutes later with the pita and hummus and a sandwich of his own, as well as a glass of water for himself. He handed her the food and climbed into bed. "You feeling okay?"
She nodded. "Yeah...I was just tired today. How'd it go with Bishop?"
"Um...let me think about that...painful? Torturous? Obnoxious?"
She smiled. "You could always objectify her...you know, think of her sexually."
He made a face. 'What is your deal about that? You do realize that the only time that crosses my mind is when you put it there, right?"
She picked at the pita bread. "It's my insecurity. I didn't even know I had it until now."
"Well, you shouldn't. You know I don't want to be with anyone but you. Didn't we have this same conversation a few days ago?"
She put the pita down. "I remember a time that you would have picked up on the fact that I'm half naked in bed."
He sighed and lay the remains of his sandwich on top of the hummus container. "Are you serious?"
She didn't answer him, and suddenly he realized how serious she was.
"Hey." He caught her face in his hand and she was still, her eyes watching his. "This is nuts. I'm ending this conversation right here, right now. I love you with my entire soul. There is no one, especially Lynn Bishop, who I want to be with. Suspicion is no good for us. When I wake up, the first person I want to see is the one I see--you. When I go to bed, the last person i want to see is you." His hand let go of her face and dragged his fingers through her hair slowly. "If you need something from me, then tell me...I'm not good at guessing. You know I'll try...but I can't promise you'll get what you need."
He started to pick up his sandwich when he heard her. "I need you, Bobby. I need you to want me."
The choice was an easy one. He laid the sandwich back down on top of the hummus, then leaned over and kissed her, slowly and deeply. How in the hell she could think he would want this with Bishop, he'd never understand.
She was passive this time, more so than he remembered her being in a long time. He thought she wanted him to show her, to show that he loved her enough to take charge, to demonstrate his feelings. He had no problem with that. He took his time, working his way over her body, tasting her in tiny licks and nibbles until he could hear her catching her breath repeatedly. Then he stopped and looked up at her. "Tell me you know I love you," he whispered.
She reached down and ran her hands through his hair. "I know that...I just like the reminders."
He grinned at her. "You know I'll never get tired of you." His lips grazed her nipple gently, and his teeth nibbled on her before beginning to suck rhythmically. He felt her hips rock against him in the same rhythm as she sighed.
His hand slipped down to her panties. He wanted to touch her. They were both creative enough to make sure this never got old, and God knows, it always felt so good. He was about to run his fingers over her when he heard her whisper his name.
He pulled his mouth away from her breast, then kissed it before answering her. "Everything okay?"
She smiled and ran her hands over his back. "Yes...I just have been thinking a lot about something..." He heard her suck in her breath. "I want to have a baby."
Seven years old and hiding in the closet while she ranted about the FBI stalking them. Ten years old, dodging the frying pan she was waving around as she was convinced he had let "them" in. Fourteen as she chased him and his then-girlfriend from the house, screaming that they were trying to spy on her.
He pressed his face into her neck, breathing deeply. "Beth," he sighed. She smelled of flowers and grilled cheese and the office.
Her fingers ran slowly down his spine, tracing each vertebra. She could feel his erection against her thigh and was almost surprised he hadn't lost it, given what she had just sprung on him. Proof positive that desire trumps all, she thought. "I know it's sudden...it's just been on my mind a lot...it's almost time for me to get my shot again and I want to stop...I want us to try...if you're ready."
He hadn't moved, hadn't lifted his head. Still buried in her neck, breathing in her scent. Against his better judgment, he let his hand meander down to her breasts and fondle her nipples until he felt them tighten and heard her catch her breath sharply.
His hands moved up to her face, cupping her cheek, and he lifted his own to press against hers. His lips lay loosely against her jaw, pressing into soft kisses repeatedly until he whispered, "You're so beautiful."
She turned to face him and kissed him on the mouth slowly, eyes open. Hesitantly, she heard herself. "You don't want to, do you?"
His hand tangled into her hair as he opened his eyes and stared into hers. "I don't know."
She knew that would be his response. She had known, since right after their marriage, that the reality of a pregnancy scared the shit out of him. She had hoped if she gave him enough time, if he could see how good they were together, that his original dream of a happy family would resurface and he would trust the two of them, together, to work this out. But it wasn't what he wanted. She had a sinking feeling in her gut that the only reason he even had doubts about his answer was because he loved her so much he wanted to give her the world. She felt the hot tears welling in her eyes.
"Baby," he whispered, "please...don't cry...I'm not saying no...I'm just saying I need time to think...we need to consider our options. Adoption, surrogacy--something safe for the baby and right for us--"
She didn't speak, willed herself to stop crying the selfish tears falling down her face, to steel herself and remember how incredibly lucky she was to have even found him. He was kissing her face, stroking her hair, and she knew he felt immensely guilty for not being able to give her something she wanted. He almost never denied her anything.
She caught her breath roughly. "It's okay," she whispered hoarsely. "We can talk about it later...it doesn't matter right now...you're right, we need to discuss our options." She leaned forward and forced herself to kiss him with as much passion as she could muster. "Right now, there are other things..." and she slid her hand down between them.
But he pulled away, catching her hand in his own and kissing it gently. "Beth," he murmured, and pulled her against his chest, squeezing her tightly there until she really did begin to cry, and buried her head in his chest for a long time.
"So that's what I told them," Frances said firmly. "I told them that just because a person is schizophrenic doesn't mean they're stupid."
They were visiting Bobby's mother as per usual for Sunday afternoons, and she was doing much better. In the past three months the doctors had refined her drug regimen and most days she was more conversational and much less paranoid. Rarely did Vanessa have to pretend she was some sort of secret service agent protecting Bobby from the FBI; usually she got to be herself and Frances was completely delighted with the idea of having a daughter. Nearly every visit, she would take the opportunity to tell Vanessa that she was the daughter Frances had always wanted but never had, and then hugged her fiercely before beating her on the back in good old Italian tradition. Bobby would awkwardly smile during these interchanges. Sometimes Vanessa wondered if he was jealous that his mother actually had wanted a girl at some point, but he never mentioned it after, so she didn't either.
Today Frances was talking about her most recent visit with the new psychiatric resident doctor. Apparently he had felt the need to explain certain aspects of her illness to her, and she had taken offense, clarifying that she certainly understood her illness after having it for thirty years.
"Ma," Bobby said, "You know he's just trying to help you...he doesn't know yet. He's new, that's what the residency year is for."
"So now he knows!" she exclaimed. "Look, who's the schizophrenic here? I've had it for thirty years and he thinks I need education? I may be schizophrenic but junior certainly isn't at the top of his class, is he?"
Vanessa started to laugh. Sometimes she just couldn't help it--Frances didn't have the same filter that everyone else had, and she often said things out loud that everyone else was thinking. Vanessa envied her that freedom.
"See? Your wife agrees with me, Bobby. Sometimes you need to set people straight." She gave a curt nod in Vanessa's direction.
Bobby glanced at Vanessa warily before answering, "Maybe so."
"So." And the question came that always came. "Where's your brother? Have you heard from Frank?"
Of course they hadn't heard from Frank. Vanessa had never even met Frank, and they'd been married for almost a year and a half. In all that time, Bobby had gotten one phone call from his brother--once, in the middle of the night from Atlantic City, asking for money to bail him out of a problem--and that's it. Vanessa had volunteered to wire the money, but Bobby had flatly refused, saying he wasn't about to fund his brother's habit.
Every visit, Frances asked about Frank. Then she talked about him--how he was probably busy, how he was brilliant, an engineer; how life had been hard for him--until she finally moved on to another topic or they distracted her with a card game or lunch or perhaps the priest came for a visit. Vanessa always had to fight the urge to tell Frances exactly what she thought of her other son, and it was only out of respect for Bobby that she did so.
Bobby responded as he always did. "No, Ma, I haven't heard from him this week."
"Hmm," Frances replied thoughtfully. "I was reading in the paper about that new space launch...the one in Florida. You remember when your brother was into aeronautics in high school, Bobby? He never ceased to amaze any of us. Your father always said that Frank could get anything to fly." She turned to Vanessa. "That was my Frankie...the brains of the family."
"Coke?" Vanessa asked brightly, standing to head to the vending machine.
"Oh no," Frances replied. "Bobby...Bobby...give your wife some money...she wants a coke!"
"I've got it covered," Vanessa began, but Bobby rummaged through the pocket of his jeans and handed her a dollar.
"Here, honey...would you mind getting me a diet coke too?"
She smiled at him and nodded, feeling like she was about six years old, and made her way down the hall.
She took her time, examining all of the drinks and the snacks in the vending machines, checking to see if there had been any changes since her last visit. After all, she did only come every other week, while Bobby came every Sunday. That way he got to spend some time alone with his mother too.
Nope, no changes this time. She slipped the dollar into the machine and selected diet coke twice, then grabbed both of the cans and headed back to the room. When she entered, the priest, Father Donovan, was there, and she breathed a silent sigh of relief. Usually they left shortly after the good Father arrived.
Father Donovan had already settled himself in Vanessa's chair, and Bobby stood when she entered the room. "Oh," the priest said, "I should move." But Bobby reassured him that they were getting ready to leave and it was okay, then he leaned to give his mother a kiss goodbye.
She kissed them both and told Bobby to keep a close watch on Vanessa and reminded him to be a gentleman. Usually it made Vanessa laugh, especially since Bobby was so sweet to her already.
They made their way out to the car, then headed onto the highway. Five miles down, Bobby took a long sip of his soda and said, "So...do you want to talk about the other night?"
She kept her eyes on the road, even though he was driving. "I didn't know there was anything to talk about."
He exhaled heavily. "I thought you wanted to have a baby...I thought that would be something to discuss."
"And I thought you had pretty much made up your mind...adoption or surrogacy."
They rode in silence for another couple of miles before he said, "I just keep seeing my mother...I can't help but worry about passing that on to our child."
She looked out the window. "Do you regret it?"
"Your mother. Knowing her. If the option had been to not have Frances as a mother, or to have her as she is, which would you choose?"
He shook his head. "That's an impossible choice."
"But that's what you're saying...it's better not to bring a child into the world at all than to have a child with schizophrenia."
"Do you know what her life has been like? Look at her now. She can't live by herself, she couldn't hold a job or keep a marriage together or even care for her own children--"
"And yet you love her more than anyone in the world...except maybe me..."
"Except you." His fingers drummed on the steering wheel, a light sound breaking up the tense silence between them. Almost as if reminding himself, he murmured, "You're everything."
She watched the scenery pass by them. "I love you too."