A HUNTING WE WILL GO
“Now look who’s becoming a fixture.”
Elliot Stabler looked around as Mike slipped into the booth opposite him. He favoured the Major Case detective with a sour look before returning his attention to his drink.
“Go away, Logan.”
“What’s the matter, Stabler? Having a bad week?”
“Not that it’s any of your damn business, but yes. Now go away.”
Mike grunted and his grin widened, much to Elliot’s irritation.
“And it’s only Wednesday. Well, I guess that’s karma for you.”
Elliot froze as Mike’s words sank in, and then his eyes slowly lifted to Mike’s face.
“Excuse me? Are you trying to suggest I deserve it?”
All traces of good humour were suddenly gone from Mike’s face, and he leaned forward a little over the table.
“I’m saying that maybe next time someone tells you something personal, you won’t go spreading it around the whole of the damn NYPD.”
For several second, the two men stared at each other. Then, abruptly, Elliot began to laugh.
“It finally caught up with you and Goren, huh? So what’s the verdict, Logan? Should they be warming your desk for you out on Staten Island?”
The jibe was deliberate, and it found its mark. Mike tensed visibly in anger before managing to get control of his temper. He started to pull himself out of the booth, sparing Elliot a scathing glare.
“Next time, Stabler, just keep your goddamn mouth shut, if you can.”
Elliot’s hand shot out, locking onto Mike’s wrist with a vice-like grip, and holding him in place.
“For your information, Logan, I never said a word to anyone about it. Not even my own partner. I know how to keep my mouth shut, I don’t spread gossip, and I don’t spread news that isn’t mine to spread.”
“Really?” Mike snapped. “Because I don’t recall telling anyone else about it, except you.”
He tried to extricate himself from Elliot’s powerful grip, but the SVU detective wasn’t letting go.
“Bar rules 101, Logan. If you don’t want it getting around, then don’t talk about it in a bar full of cops. I didn’t spread the news, but there were plenty of others listening in who wouldn’t have thought twice about it. Hell, there were a couple of guys from your own squad who were standing almost right behind you when you said it. So why don’t you take it up with one of them?”
Mike fell abruptly silent as the truth of Elliot’s words finally registered in his mind. Elliot let go of his wrist, and Mike dropped back into the seat with a thud, looking more than a little sheepish.
“Man… I’m sorry, really. You’re right. You wouldn’t have blabbed. I should’ve known that.”
Elliot nodded, already dismissing it from his mind.
“No problem. You can go and leave me alone, now.”
Mike raised an eyebrow slightly.
“Really bad week, huh?”
“Look, it’s over now, and I don’t particularly want to talk about it,” Elliot grumbled. “I just want to drink myself into oblivion, go home, and not answer the phone for the next four days.”
“Four days…?” Mike echoed. “You have tomorrow and Friday off?”
“Yeah, Captain’s orders. That’s how bad this week has been. He booted both me and Olivia out of the squad room this afternoon, and said he didn’t want to see us again until Monday. I think he would have liked me to clear out of the city entirely, actually, so he’d have an excuse not to call on us if anything came up.” He shook his head wearily. “Fat chance. I mean, I know Liv is going to stay with a friend in Jersey for a few days, so she’s good, but where the hell am I gonna go?”
He held back from adding that all the places he’d previously visited that were outside of New York, were places he’d gone with his family. Now that his marriage was officially over, he had no desire to go anywhere that was going to remind him of what he’d so recently lost.
Mike watched Elliot thoughtfully, wondering vaguely how Bobby would react if he were to invite Elliot to join them on their trip upstate. He weighed up the pros and cons quickly in his mind.
On the one hand, he figured it would make for a more bearable weekend, to have someone else along. Also, he felt he owed Elliot a break, after accusing him wrongly of spreading the news about him and Bobby being brothers. On the other hand, Bobby would kill him.
Mike grimaced. He still wasn’t convinced that three days up a mountain wouldn’t kill him, so anything Bobby threatened to do to him was miniscule in comparison.
“You wanna take a trip up to the Catskills?” Mike asked abruptly, and Elliot looked up at him in mild surprise and suspicion.
“For a break, Stabler. Look, Bobby and I heading to the mountains tomorrow. We’re going to stay in Captain Deakins’ cabin up in the Catskills for a few days. We’re leaving tomorrow night, after we finish work, and we’ll be coming back late Sunday evening.”
“You and Bobby…? So, this is like a brother thing for you guys?”
Elliot looked uneasy.
“I don’t know, Logan. I think I’d be intruding…”
“For God’s sake, Stabler, we’re brothers. Not lovers. What the hell do you think you’d be intruding on?”
Elliot hesitated in answering. After the week he’d just had, the idea of escaping the city altogether and heading up into the mountains was suddenly very appealing. All the same, though, he felt a little uneasy at the idea of gate-crashing Bobby and Mike’s plans.
“Look,” he said finally, “I’d like to come… But what about Goren? If he’s planned this, then he probably doesn’t want anyone else gate-crashing.”
“I’ll talk to Bobby. Hell, being the oldest has to come with some benefits. I’ll tell him you’re coming, and that’s all there is to it. But I really don’t think he’s going to mind. Besides, I need someone else up there to back me up if Bobby goes all Deliverance on me.”
Elliot raised an eyebrow in amusement.
“What, you’re worried he’s going to bundle you into a canoe, and get you killed on the rapids, or something?”
“Or something. I don’t know what he’s planning, exactly, and I suppose it’s my own fault for letting him choose our first vacation together… But I swear to God, if I so much as end up with a mosquito bite, I’m gonna throttle him myself, brother or not.”
Elliot was grinning into his drink by then. He could only imagine what Mike and Bobby were like when they were together for prolonged periods, but something told him it would be worth going for that particular show, if nothing else.
“Let me guess. You hate camping.”
“With a vengeance,” Mike stated firmly, and Elliot chuckled. “Seriously, I don’t like the outdoors, but Bobby seems to think he can change my mind. I told him fat chance, but he’s gonna try anyway. So, are you in, or not, Stabler?”
Elliot didn’t even try to hide his grin. He didn’t have the heart to tell Mike that he himself enjoyed camping, and escaping to the outdoors, and that he would be no real ally against Bobby’s master plan of camping.
“Sure,” he agreed finally. “Count me in… but only if Goren is okay with it. And for God’s sake, Logan, don’t bully him into it.”
Mike’s eyes widened a little in a mock look of innocent surprise that nearly had Elliot in hysterics.
“Me? Bully my own brother? That’s insulting, Stabler.”
“Bullshit, Logan,” Elliot laughed. “Just make sure you don’t. I don’t wanna turn up tomorrow to find you two ready to kill each other.”
Mike grinned, and nodded.
“Okay, point taken. I’ll call you tomorrow and let you know the verdict.”
Elliot rolled his eyes.
From the moment Mike arrived at the squad room the next morning, Bobby knew they were headed for an argument. The way that Mike avoided him was a dead giveaway, and Bobby tolerated it until mid-morning, when Mike volunteered to go out for coffee, not only for himself and Wheeler, but for Bobby and Alex as well.
“He’s up to something,” Alex remarked casually as they watched Mike go. Bobby frowned, annoyed by his brother’s odd behaviour.
“I know. I think I might follow him, and see if I can find out what’s going on. Cover for me?”
Alex nodded, and he hurried after Mike. She was just returning her attention to her paperwork, when a shadow fell across her desk. She looked up, half-expecting to see Ross there, but it was Wheeler instead. The younger woman looked baffled, Alex thought bemusedly, and a little bit concerned. It had certainly thrown her for a loop the previous week to learn that Bobby and Mike were brothers, and she seemed to be having trouble coming to grips with it, for whatever reason.
Captain Ross, Alex reflected, seemed to have had a lot less trouble accepting the fact that his two ‘problem child’ detectives were brothers – much to the interest of all. In fact, he seemed to have been comforted somewhat by the knowledge, almost as though he believed they were less likely to get into trouble when they each had the other to look out for.
She almost laughed at the thought. How little he knew…
“I don’t suppose you know what’s going on, do you?” Wheeler asked, and behind her look of puzzlement, Alex caught a glimpse of something more. She just couldn’t quite place what it was. “Logan’s been behaving weird all morning.”
A wry smile tugged at the corners of Alex’s mouth. Yes, she knew, and Wheeler seemed to be fully aware that she knew. It was all she could do not to laugh, but she managed to stifle that with thoughts of how Bobby was likely to react when he found out that she’d held out on him.
“I know that Bobby is probably going to kill Mike before the day is over.”
Genuine confusion filled Wheeler’s face at that.
“Why? Is he really that much against going camping?”
Alex did laugh, then, realising that Wheeler had misunderstood.
“Yes, he does, actually, but it’s not that. Mike told me last night that he’d invited someone else to go with them. He’s acting weird this morning because he’s trying to figure out a way to tell Bobby that won’t result in him getting hurt.”
Alex’s inference to the previous night didn’t go unnoticed by Wheeler, and she hesitated, unsure whether she could legitimately ask the next question.
“Spit it out, Wheeler,” Alex told her finally. “You want to know if Mike and I are a couple, am I right?”
The red flush that crept across Wheeler’s face told Alex she was without Wheeler having to say a word.
“I just wondered,” Wheeler stammered, and Alex couldn’t resist a small smirk.
“Well, you wondered right. We are together. Have been for about seven months, actually. It’s the same for Bobby and Carolyn Barek.”
“The partner Mike had before me?”
Again Alex smirked, this time at her choice of phrase, but she said nothing about it. Wheeler hesitated before speaking again, suddenly feeling unsettled, and very much on the outer.
“I… noticed you all seemed pretty close.”
They were very much the words of someone who was condemned to being stuck on the outside of a close knit team, looking in but never actually breaking through to become a part of it. Alex paused, gazing up at Wheeler in thoughtful silence. With just a little effort, she recalled vividly her own initial months in Major Case and how, had it not been for Jimmy Deakins’ unwavering belief in her ability to do the job, and her first partner’s eventual acceptance of her as an equal on the job, she would never have been accepted by the other detectives.
Wheeler was experiencing that same baptism of fire now, struggling to find acceptance among her fellow detectives. So far, she had the support of the captain, but she was yet to gain the complete acceptance of her partner. And that, Alex thought ruefully as she reflected on Mike’s reluctance to put himself completely into a new partnership, was going to be hard won.
“Sit down, Megan,” Alex told her, motioning to Bobby’s chair. When the younger woman hesitated, Alex grinned and spoke encouragingly. “Go on, it’s okay. Bobby’s really not as possessive of his things as the stories suggest. And if he comes back and gives you a hard time, I’ll kick his ass.”
Still reluctant, Wheeler sat down all the same. Once she was seated, Alex spoke again, in a more subdued tone.
“Yes, we are close. With Bobby and myself, it’s partly because we’ve been partners for six years now. In the NYPD, that’s a long time to be in the same squad, let alone with the same partner. But with the four of us… me, Bobby, Carolyn and Mike… Well, that goes back nearly about eight months. You know about what happened to Bobby and Mike eight months ago? How they were ambushed, and locked up inside a building that was scheduled to be demolished?”
Wheeler nodded. Yes, she’d heard that story. There were few cops within the ranks of the NYPD who didn’t know about that.
“I heard the basics of what happened,” she answered. “I’ve never asked Logan about it, though. I figured it probably wasn’t something he’d be open to talking about.”
“You’re not wrong. Aside from his shrink, I think the only person Mike will talk to about it even now is Bobby. And it’s the same with Bobby… Although, I have to admit, he does sometimes talk to me about it, more so now because of what happened to me. And yes, they were nearly killed. They came closer to dying than most people know. Mike spent a week with a tube down his throat because of a punctured lung, and Bobby spent a week in a coma that he nearly didn’t wake up from. And I’m not over-dramatising that, either. The doctor actually switched off his life support to let him die, because he thought Bobby was brain dead. It really was a miracle that he lived. You just don’t come away from an experience like that unchanged.”
Wheeler conceded to that with a nod. She didn’t doubt it.
“Carolyn and I had that Friday off,” Alex went on. “Mike and Bobby had to work together that day. From what Captain Deakins told us later on, it was a miracle they didn’t kill each other. Anyway, apparently Mike talked Bobby into going to a bar in the Bronx with him after work…”
“The Bronx?” Wheeler echoed incredulously. “Were they out of their minds?”
“We thought so, at the time. By their own admission they both got pretty drunk, but it was when they left the bar that they landed in trouble. They were ambushed outside. They tried to fight their way out of it, but they were overpowered… eight men to two, if I remember right. They were both beaten pretty badly, and they were both shot in the leg. Then the scum that attacked them bundled them into a car, and took them to that building. They were left there to die, Wheeler, and if Deakins hadn’t called all four of us in on Sunday morning to attend a crime scene, then we would never have known they were missing until it was too late. Even then, we only found them because of a street kid who was brave enough to come forward. We nearly lost them, and that’s part of the reason we’re so close now. As for how Mike and I, and Bobby and Carolyn ended up together… Well, that was more of a fluke than anything else. We were… going somewhere together, and Mike suggested that he was a master at getting women to go out with him. He tried it on me, and I shot him down. Then Bobby asked Carolyn out, and she said yes. Later on, Mike asked me again, but seriously that time, and I said yes.”
Wheeler couldn’t help but look amused.
“Even with his reputation?”
Alex laughed softly at that.
“He was ten years younger then, Wheeler. But believe me when I tell you that I’m reaping the benefits of his experience.”
A pair of ginger eyebrows shot up at that, and Alex smirked in answer.
“Please,” Wheeler retorted. “No details. I have to work with him, after all.”
“I didn’t intend on divulging anyway,” Alex said with a wide grin. “Now, get back to work, and stop worrying. Mike and Bobby will be fine. You’ll have more to worry about on Monday if he has an encounter with poison ivy on the weekend.” She paused, watching as Wheeler headed back to her desk, and then added ruefully, “And so will Bobby.”
Mike didn’t know that Bobby had followed him until he was actually standing the queue at Starbucks. When the hand came down firmly on his shoulder, gripping with a familiar strength, Mike damn near jumped out of his skin.
“Damn it, Bobby, do you want me to shoot you?” he snapped. Bobby smiled and withdrew his hand.
“Just wondering what the problem is, Mike. You’ve been on edge all morning.”
Mike grunted in irritation as he turned back to face the counter.
“Yeah, well, you would too, if you were just stalked like that.”
“Mike, will you quit it? You’ve been behaving all morning like you have something you need to tell me, but you don’t know how…” He trailed off abruptly, dismay in his eyes. “You’re… not cancelling, are you?”
“No, I’m not,” Mike assured him. “Although, God knows I wish I had a reason to.” He paused, looking around, and then motioned to a table tucked away in a dimly lit corner. “Can we sit down, please? I’d like to be relatively comfortable when you kill me.”
Bobby’s eyebrows shot up at that, but he didn’t protest as Mike led the way over to the table, and they sat down together.
“Okay, Mike. What’s going on?”
Mike sighed, and rubbed his hand over his face.
“Look, just promise me you won’t yell at me, okay?”
“All right! I ran into Elliot Stabler last night.”
“Hell, Mike… You didn’t rip into him over word getting out about us being brothers, did you?”
“Well, I did, but…”
“You idiot,” Bobby grumbled. “It wasn’t any big deal, and Captain Ross was okay with it!”
“I know! I know… and anyway, it turned out that it wasn’t Stabler who blabbed. Someone else must have overheard us, and spread the good news.”
Bobby nodded thoughtfully.
“That makes sense,” he agreed. “Stabler doesn’t have a reputation for spreading gossip. He knows how to keep his mouth shut. So, you’re just trying to tell me you lit into him for nothing?”
“No… I’m trying to tell you that I invited him to come with us tonight when we leave for the Catskills.”
Absolute silence met Mike’s words. Bobby said nothing, but continued to stare at his brother, until Mike finally began to shift uncomfortably.
“Actually, I think I’d prefer it if you yelled, baby brother.”
“Why?” Bobby asked softly, tonelessly. Mike sucked in a sharp breath, trying to steel himself. He figured he had one shot to get this right, or Bobby might just kill him after all.
“He looked like he’d had a worse week than we had when we went to Miami, Bobby. The guy looked like he’d been hit by a friggin’ truck. He just looked like he needed to get away, as much as we do.”
“This is supposed to be just for us, Mike,” Bobby reminded him. “Just us, and no one else. What part of that didn’t you get?”
“Look,” Mike said softly, putting his hands up in a defensive gesture in an effort to calm Bobby down, “Elliot said he’d like to come, but only if you’re okay with it. If you really don’t want him to come, then I’ll call him right now, and tell him it’s off.”
Bobby’s expression darkened again at that. He didn’t appreciate the guilt trip that Mike was trying to lay on him, intentional or not, and he didn’t appreciate that Mike had gone ahead an extended and invitation to someone else without coming to him first. It wasn’t that he had anything against Elliot Stabler. He didn’t. He thought the guy was a damned good detective, and he respected the work that he did in the Special Victims Unit. He personally considered that squad to be more elite that his own, because of the nature of the cases that they handled. Very few cops were cut out to deal with sex crimes – particularly when children were involved – and from what he’d heard, Elliot Stabler and his partner were the best there was.
No, it wasn’t anything personal against the SVU detective. It was purely that he had been looking forward to spending a few days with Mike, in an environment that wasn’t likely to result in them both nearly getting killed. He was more hurt than angry that Mike didn’t seem to share that desire.
“What do you want me to do, Bobby?” Mike asked quietly. “You want me to call him and cancel?”
The faintest of sighs escaped Bobby’s lips and, despite an almost desperate desire to tell Mike to call Elliot and tell him no, he found himself answering differently.
“No, don’t do that. If… if he wants to come, it’s okay by me.”
“Are you sure?” Mike asked, looking as though he didn’t really believe his brother. Bobby grimaced.
“Don’t push it, Mike. Just call him, and tell him to meet us at my place tonight, at six. If he’s late, we’re leaving him behind.”
“Because… he said I wasn’t to bully you into agreeing…”
“Just call him!” Bobby snapped, and Mike once again held his hands up defensively.
“Okay, okay. Chill, baby brother.”
Bobby let his breath out in a rush, and when he spoke it was in a significantly calmer tone.
“Just… call him. Okay?”
Mike nodded, and pulled out his cell phone.
When the phone finally ran that morning, Elliot was reluctant to answer it and, when he did finally pick it up, he was sorely tempted to tell Mike not to worry, that he’d made other arrangements. In the end, though, he couldn’t do it. His own need to get right away from everything was just too great. And so, when he answered the phone, he said nothing.
“Hey, it’s me.”
Elliot sucked in a long breath. He was suddenly, desperately hoping that the answer was yes. He wanted to get out of New York, and this would be his only opportunity for who knew how long.
“So… what’s the verdict?” he asked, his stomach suddenly twisting into knots.
“You can come,” Mike answered, and Elliot felt a surge of relief and gratitude.
“Goren’s okay with me coming along, then?”
Mike hesitated for a split second in answering.
“Let’s just say that he wasn’t violently opposed.”
Elliot frowned at that.
“So… What you’re saying is that he doesn’t really want me there, but he’s not going to fight you over it.”
“Stabler, do you want to come or not?” Mike growled. “Bobby told me to let you know it’s okay, and he wouldn’t have said that if he really didn’t want you to come. So, what do you want to do?”
Elliot hesitated just a moment before replying.
“I’m in,” he confirmed.
“Okay,” Mike muttered, and Elliot wasn’t entirely sure whether he sounded relieved or worried. “Get whatever you need together, and be at Bobby’s place by six. Don’t be late, okay?”
Elliot smiled faintly as Mike ended the call.
“Don’t worry. I won’t be.”
Alex wasn’t entirely sure whether to be worried or not when, on their return, Bobby ushered her into one of the smaller task rooms and closed the door and pulled down the blinds to keep everyone in the bullpen from observing them.
“Something wrong?” she asked, doing her best to keep her voice even. He turned to face her, and she suddenly found herself the focus of a patented Goren interrogation stare, complete with a Gumby-like dip as he bent over to make direct eye contact with her.
“You spent last night with Mike.”
It was not a question, and although she knew Bobby was perfectly aware of the growing depth of her relationship with Mike – both emotional and physical – she was still annoyed to find herself blushing slightly in response to his statement. Alex stood her ground, though. She knew what he was doing, and there was no way she was going to let him intimidate her.
“Not all night. Not that it’s any of your business, but I got home just after three. What’s your point, Bobby?”
“You spent the night with Mike,” Bobby repeated, and at the same time began advancing on her until he had her backed up against the wall. “He told you about inviting Elliot Stabler to go with him and me to the Catskills. Didn’t he?”
Alex frowned, increasingly irritated by his tactics.
“Damn it, Bobby, I am not one of your suspects! Will you back off?”
He didn’t move, and his expression narrowed as he zeroed in on her even more.
“Just answer me, Eames. Did he tell you, or not?”
“Yes,” Alex admitted ruefully. “He did tell me. Now will you back off?”
Bobby didn’t move, though, and he was silent as he digested her words.
“You didn’t tell me. Why not?”
She couldn’t miss the disappointment in his voice, and she sighed softly. She hated disappointing her partner, but at the same time she’d made a promise to Mike. As loyal as she was to Bobby, she couldn’t break a promise to her lover.
“He asked me not to say anything, Bobby. He wanted you to hear it from him directly.”
“Sure,” Bobby retorted scathingly and, to her relief, he finally stepped away and gave her back her breathing space. “That’s why he was avoiding me all morning.”
Another wave of irritation flared up in Alex at his attitude, and she rounded on him fiercely.
“If you have to know, he was trying to work out how to tell you, so you wouldn’t go ballistic on him. You see, unlike yourself, Mike doesn’t have quite the same oral skills, so sometimes he needs to actually take his time and think things through before he goes shooting his mouth off.”
The sour look on Bobby’s face didn’t lessen at her words. If anything, it got worse in the face of her stinging criticism.
“Yeah,” he muttered, “well, it’s a pity he didn’t think things through before inviting Stabler. This trip was just supposed to be him and me!”
“Is that what this is really about?” Alex asked. “You’re upset because Mike invited someone else along, and it won’t be just the two of you anymore? That is it, isn’t it?”
Bobby’s shoulders slumped.
“I was just looking forward to a couple of days away… just him and me… as brothers. It… It’s the sort of thing I could never do with Richie. When Mike told me he’d invited Stabler… It was like he was telling me that he didn’t want to spend any time with me… just the two of us.”
Alex sighed, and leaned in to hug him reassuringly.
“You idiot, Bobby. That isn’t it, not at all.”
He regarded her sceptically.
“No? Because it sure seems like it.”
“Look, just stop and think about it for a second. It’s got nothing at all to do with Mike not wanting to spend time with you. He does, and I promise you that he’s really been looking forward to this weekend… even if he’s not so thrilled with the chosen destination. It’s only that he was trying to show a bit of sympathy and consideration to another cop. He told me Stabler looked like a train wreck… and that reminds me of how two certain detectives looked after that week in Miami.”
“Mike said that to me, too.”
“So, is it really that hard to accept that he was just trying to be friendly to another cop?
A sigh escaped Bobby.
“You’re right,” he conceded.
“And, it won’t be so bad having Stabler along,” Alex told him. “I’ve spent some time talking with Olivia Benson, when some of us women have gone out together. She once told me that Stabler’s right into the whole outdoors thing. Mike might just be in for a bit of a shock if he thinks that having Stabler there will give him a break from whatever you have planned.”
The look on his face told her he hadn’t considered that at all. He was still a little disappointed that he and Mike wouldn’t be going alone, but maybe… just maybe… it would be beneficial to have Elliot along after all.
“Just give the guy a chance, okay?” Alex told him as she walked over to the door. With some reluctance, Bobby conceded with a nod.
“Okay. I guess I can do that.”
“Oh, and Bobby…?”
He hesitated at that. He knew that tone well enough to know that some sharp remark was coming his way, but there was nowhere for him to retreat to. Ultimately, he had no choice but to stand his ground, and take whatever was coming.
She favoured him with a sugary-sweet smile at his use of her first name, but it wasn’t enough to deflect what she intended to say.
“The next time you use one of your interrogation techniques on me, I’ll slap you clear into next week. Am I making myself perfectly clear?”
She watched in amusement as his eyes widened and his adam’s apple bobbed up and down as he struggled to find an appropriate response that wouldn’t get him into anymore trouble than he was already in.
“Crystal,” he stammered finally. “S… Sorry… Alex.”
Still smiling, this time with satisfaction, Alex continued back out into the bullpen. Bobby stood frozen for a long moment before finally shaking off the shock of her threat, and headed out to rejoin her at their desks.
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