He was falling...

Elliot saw the long, terrifying drop coming towards him, and felt a strange sort of calm – completely the opposite compared to what he would have expected to feel at the apparent moment of his death. He put his hands out in an instinctive reflex to stop his fall, even though there was nothing there to brace himself against, and he waited for that moment when his body tumbled all the way over.

He grunted in pain as an arm wrapped forcefully around his waist, and he was jerked violently to the side and thrown to the safety of solid ground. All the wind was knocked from his body, and he gasped in shock as the realisation struck that he wasn’t falling to his death after all. Slowly, the haze clouding his vision cleared, and he looked around to discover Bobby had tackled him in an effort to save him from going over the edge.

Elliot turned his head, shaken, to see Bobby on the ground beside him, one arm still firmly around his waist. The other man looked as deeply shaken as he felt.

“You okay?” Bobby asked in a voice that sounded a little on the hoarse side. Elliot tried to swallow, only to find his mouth was utterly dry.

“Depends. Uh... I think you can let go of me now, Bobby.”

“Sorry,” Bobby mumbled, releasing his hold on the SVU detective. Elliot shook his head.

“Don’t apologise. I’m grateful.”

He sat up, and rubbed the back of his hand across his eyes and forehead in an effort to clear the sweat that was beaded there.

“What the hell happened?” Mike asked as he came over and offered a hand to each man to help them up.

“My foot skidded,” Elliot answered. “I just slid... couldn’t stop myself. Damn, that was close.” He looked across at Bobby, fresh appreciation in his eyes as it sank in that the big detective had just saved his life. “Thankyou.”

“It’s okay,” Bobby murmured. “You are okay, aren’t you?”

Elliot paused in answering, checking himself over briefly.

“Fine. Maybe a bruise or two from being tackled, but don’t you dare apologise for that. I’d rather have a couple of bruises, than be pulp at the bottom of a cliff.”

“Bobby, give me that flask,” Mike said firmly. Still shaken by what had nearly happened, Bobby handed the flask over to his brother without protest. Mike unscrewed the cap, and held it out to Elliot. “Here. Take a mouthful.”

Elliot hesitated, eyeing the bottle sceptically.


“You nearly took a tumble over a fifty foot drop, Stabler. Have a friggin’ drink.”

Deciding one mouthful couldn’t hurt, Elliot accepted the flask and lifted it to his lips. He then held it out to Bobby.

“Your turn, big guy.”

Bobby started to shake his head, but Elliot pushed the flask into his hand.

“Bobby, if your heart rate is as high as mine is right now, then you need a swig of this as much as I do. Have a drink, and then we’re getting the hell off of this lookout before something else happens.”

Grimacing, Bobby gave in and took a mouthful of the burning liquid. He handed the flask over to Mike, who helped himself to a quick draught and then slipped it back into his jacket pocket before Bobby could think to take it off him again.

“Okay,” Mike said as they moved carefully back from the edge of the precipice. “Where to now?”

Elliot and Bobby exchanged glances. Both men heard the hopeful tone in Mike’s voice. He was very obviously hoping they’d both agree to heading back to the cabin, and after the fright he’d just had, Elliot was not averse to that idea. A single look told him that Bobby was not disinclined to agree with that line of thought, either.

“Let’s head back down,” Bobby decided. “We can do some more climbing tomorrow.”

“Thank God,” Mike muttered, and Bobby laughed faintly.

“You don’t get out of it that easy, Mike. There are still things to do at the cabin.”

“Uh huh. Like what?”

“Fishing, for one,” Bobby suggested. “Either from the dock, or from the boat.”

“I’ll fish,” Mike conceded, deciding it was an agreeable alternative to more hiking. “But not from any dinky little boat. We’re staying on the dock.”

Bobby laughed again, a little stronger this time.

“You got it, pal.”

By the time they arrived back at the cabin, none of them were particularly inclined to rush off to a new activity. Mike promptly excused himself and disappeared into his room with a bottle of his favourite beer and a large packet of peanut M&Ms, while Elliot headed off to have a shower, and change his clothes. After a moment’s consideration, Bobby decided a shower was a more than pleasing option, and headed upstairs to do the same.

He was aching considerably, and caught himself wincing a couple of times as he stripped off in the bedroom, slung a towel around his waist and headed into the ensuite.

Not as young as you used to be, he lamented silently when he paused to observe his reflection. If he was feeling like this now, then he dreaded to think how he might have been feeling, had he opted to go on one of the harder hiking paths. The irony was that for all his moaning, Mike seemed to have come off the hike in the best condition of all three of them.

Lucky son of a bitch, Bobby mused with a wry smile.

There was a sudden rap on the door, drawing him out of his reverie.

“Bobby, you decent?”

Bobby rolled his eyes.

“More or less,” he answered. “You can come in, Mike.”

The door swung open, and Mike stepped in. He hesitated just briefly at the sight of his brother clad only in a towel before shrugging off the momentary embarrassment and speaking to him.

“I was just thinking. This fishing thing...”

“What about it?”

“Well, what happens if we catch something?”

Bobby raised an eyebrow incredulously.

“Are you kidding me, Mike? If we catch a fish, then we’ll cook it and eat it. What did you think we’d do? Kiss it and throw it back?”

“Don’t be disgusting. I figured you probably had that in mind. I just wanted to make it clear that if we do catch anything, then I’m not doing that whole cleaning and gutting thing, okay?”

It was all Bobby could do to keep from laughing out loud at that. The sudden image in his mind of Mike trying to prepare a freshly caught fish for cooking was almost too much for him to cope with.

“Okay, Mike. If we catch anything, I promise I’ll do the dirty work. Okay?”

Mike nodded, pacified.

“Okay. I’ll leave you alone now... Fuck!”

Bobby jumped a little, startled by the unexpected expletive.

“What? What is it?”

“Your arm! Don’t tell me you didn’t notice?”

Bobby looked down in confusion.

“What are you talking about?”

Striding over, Mike grabbed Bobby’s left wrist and yanked his arm up, revealing an ugly gash on the underside. Bobby gaped at it, stunned.


“You mean to say you really didn’t notice this?”

“No, I didn’t,” Bobby growled, and he pushed past Mike back into his room and grabbed his jacket and shirt up off the bed, where he’d discarded them on the bed. On closer examination, he discovered the left sleeve of both his jacket and his shirt had been torn open, and both were well and truly bloodied from the wound.

“Great,” he muttered sourly. “Just great.”

“You must have done that when you tackled Elliot,” Mike murmured. “Looks painful...”

Bobby shook his head.

“It doesn't hurt much. Don't mention it to Elliot, okay? I don't want him thinking it was his fault.”

“Don't worry, I won't,” Mike murmured. “You need some help fixing that up?”

Bobby shook his head.

“No. I'll clean it in the shower. It'll be fine.”

“Okay, then,” Mike conceded. “Give a yell if you do need any help.”

Bobby smiled wryly at his brother's retreating figure.

“Don't worry. I will.”

Special Victims Unit,
New York City

Detectives John Munch and Fin Tutuola were just getting ready to head out to chase up leads on their most recent case when their captain, Don Cragen, emerged from his office and called them over.

“Something wrong, Captain?” Fin asked, sensing a problem.

“Yes, as a matter of fact, there is,” Cragen said grimly. “You both remember Darius Blake?”

“Remember him?” Munch snorted. “It's a little hard to forget him. Son of a bitch killed five women, three men, and kidnapped Liv and nearly gutted Elliot. He's not high on our list of favourite people.”

“What about him?” Fin asked, throwing Munch a grim glance.

“He's escaped,” Cragen said bluntly, stunning Fin and Munch into momentary silence.

“You're kidding...” Fin said finally, and Cragen shook his head in agitation.

“I'm not. Son of a bitch was brought to the city to testify against another inmate. The idiots actually let him out of his shackles to testify on the stand. He broke loose, grabbed a gun from one of the court guards, and shot dead three people in the process of escaping. Two cops and a civilian.”

“Great,” Munch muttered as he turned to go. “So now we've got to go and catch him all over again.”

“It's a little bit worse than that, Munch,” Cragen said quietly. When both men turned back to look at him, he spoke in a low, sober tone. “Please tell me that one of you knows where Elliot is?”

Fin and Munch exchanged glances, and then Fin took a step closer to the captain.

“He never told us he was going anywhere. Isn't he at home?”

“I tried his place, and there's no answer, just the standard not available message on his answering machine. I tried his cell, and I just got a message saying that the phone is outside the service area.”

“Did Blake make a threat against Elliot?” Munch asked.

“I just got a call from the warden at the prison,” Cragen explained. “They just finished a search of Blake's cell, and they found a notebook hidden in a compartment inside his chess board case. It details what he planned on doing when he got out, and those plans include killing Olivia and Elliot. Now, I've gotten a hold of Olivia, and she's safe. But I don't know where Elliot is. I need to find him, and warn him.”

“Okay,” Fin said quickly. “We'll head straight over to Elliot's place, and see if we can't figure out where he's gone.”

“Be careful, both of you!” Cragen called after them. “Apparently Blake escaped several hours ago, but they only saw fit to contact us now. If he hasn't already visited Elliot's place, you can be damned sure he's going to. Don't take any chances. Blake is dangerous.”

“Okay,” Munch said dryly as he and Fin stood in the doorway of Elliot's apartment. “I think it's safe to say that Blake's been here.”

“Unless Elliot makes a habit of living in a pigsty,” Fin added.

The two men ventured forward, picking their way past over-turned furniture, scattered books, clothes, and other personal belongings that littered the floor of the apartment. The place looked like it had been hit by a tornado – someone had gone through it in an absolute rage, leaving precious little untouched.

“We need to find out where Elliot's gone,” Fin muttered as he made his way over to the phone.

“Cragen said there was just the standard message on the answering machine,” Munch reminded him. “And it's not like he would have left a note. He didn't even tell Liv if he was going somewhere.”

“That's because when Liv went to Jersey to stay with her friend, Elliot still hadn't made up his mind what he was doing. I think he'd planned on just shutting himself away in his apartment for four days and ignoring everyone.”

“Very healthy,” Munch retorted, drawing a bemused look from Fin.

“Look who's talking, John.”

Munch ignored the jibe.

“If Elliot was staying here, then Blake already has him.”

“No, I don't think so,” Fin countered. “Look at this place. Blake was in a real rage. He trashed the apartment for the opposite reason, because Elliot wasn't here. The question is, did Elliot leave behind some clue about where he was going?”

“I hate to have to do this,” Munch said finally, “but I think we're going to have to call Kathy.”

“You want to call his ex? And tell her what?”

“We don't have to tell her anything,” Munch argued. “But he might have called her and told her what his plans were. You know, in case the kids asked after him, or something.”

Fin couldn't fault the logic of that argument.

“Okay,” he conceded. “Let's go pay her a visit.”

The Catskills

“I can't believe I let you talk me into getting into a boat,” Mike grumbled as Elliot switched off the outboard motor and dropped the small anchor to keep the boat in place in the middle of the lake.”

“We were never going to catch anything from the dock,” Elliot told him unapologetically. “You've gotta be out on the water to really make it worth while.”

“Well, you could have left me on the dock!” Mike whined. “I told you, I hate boats!”

“And yet you travelled to Staten Island every day from Manhattan for ten years,” Bobby pointed out as he dropped a line into the water.

“That's a completely different situation,” Mike growled. “Firstly, no friggin' way was I moving to Staten Island from Manhattan. Secondly, the Staten Island ferry is a hell of a lot bigger than this thing.”

“Two rules, Mike,” Bobby advised him. “Don't stand up, and don't fall in. It's easy.”

“Don't fall in,” Mike retorted. “You're hilarious, Robert. I swear, if I get so much as one toe wet...”

Silence fell as the three men became lost in their own thoughts. Nearly an hour had passed, broken only occasionally by the three men, when the boat suddenly rocked noticeably.

“Hey!” Mike burst out, grabbing at the sides of the boat in momentary panic.

“Relax, Mike,” Bobby said in amusement as the boat gradually ceased its rocking. “I've got something on my line, that's all.”

Mike twisted around, peering briefly over the edge of the boat and into the clear water.

“Can't see anything,” he grumbled. A moment later, the boat rocked again as Bobby's line was tugged firmly.

“What do you think you might have there?” Elliot asked.

“Trout, I hope,” Bobby said as he began to reel his line back in. “Maybe bass... But if it's a good sized trout, we'll get a good meal out of it.”

The boat rocked again, even more violently, and this time all three men had to grab the sides of the boat.

“Feels pretty damn big to me,” Mike said uneasily. “You wanna reel that thing in before we all end up in the water?”

Chuckling, Bobby began to reel his catch in as fast as he dared, and within a minute they could see a beautiful big trout struggling just beneath the surface of the water.

“The net,” Bobby said quickly. “Someone grab the net.”

Later on, none of them were entirely sure just what had gone wrong. All they knew was that Mike and Elliot had reached for the net at the same moment – the net which was on the same side of the boat that Bobby was sitting on. The sudden movement to the starboard side, combined with a sudden, fierce pull from the hooked fish, caused the boat to tip wildly to the side.

Bobby went in first, tumbling head-first into the water, and Mike and Elliot followed as the boat capsized. They surfaced one by one, spluttering and searching for purchase on the upturned hull of the little boat.

“All right,” Mike choked out. “Who do I kill?”

“Shut up, and help us turn the boat over,” Bobby spluttered. “Unless you want to swim back to the dock?”

Between the three of them, they managed to turn the boat back over. Bobby clambered back in with some difficulty, and then pulled first Mike and then Elliot back in.

“Well... There goes dinner,” Bobby said ruefully as he tried to empty his water-logged ears.

“Forget about dinner,” Elliot retorted. “If we can't get the motor started, we'll be swimming back after all.”

“It's flooded,” Bobby said after a few unsuccessful tries. “Damn it...”

“Here, let me try,” Elliot said, maneouvring carefully past Bobby, and taking up position at the motor. Bobby settled back into the seat next to Mike.

“You okay?” he asked, not entirely sure that he even wanted an answer. Mike hesitated, and then sighed and nodded.

“Yeah, I'm okay. Cold and wet, but okay. What the hell happened, anyway? One second we're about to catch dinner, and the next we're in the damn water!”

“We broke one of the golden rules,” Bobby told him. “A little boat like this wasn't designed to have all the weight on one side.”

“Next time,” Mike grumbled, “we stay on the damn dock, like I said we should've.”

“I'm sorry, Mike,” Bobby murmured, sounding genuinely upset. “First the lookout, and now this... It's not exactly how I planned this trip going.”

Mike laid a hand on his brother's shoulder in a reassuring gesture.

“It's okay, Bobby. If nothing else, we can at least say we haven't have had a boring time.”

Bobby laughed softly.

“Well, you're right about that.”

“Just as long as the women don't find out about this particular little incident,” Mike added, throwing Bobby a threatening look. “You know Carolyn'll blame me.”

“Don't worry, big brother,” Bobby reassured him with a relieved grin. “It's strictly between us.”

“And that goes for you too, Stabler,” Mike called out. Elliot smirked back at them over his shoulder.

“You think I want Liv to find out we took a dunk in the lake before the first day was up? I don't think so.”

He gave a yank on the cord, and the motor sputtered loudly and and roared to life.

“Thank God,” Mike sighed as the boat began to move back towards shore. “I vote that we spend the rest of the day inside.”

Bobby and Elliot exchanged looks, and then Bobby nodded his concession.

“Okay, Mike.”

Elliot added his voice in agreement.

“And here's hoping nothing else happens, and we have a nice, dull evening in.”

Mike nodded emphatically.

“Amen to that.”

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