“Are you really pissed off at me?”

Mike looked up in surprise from where he sat on the sofa with a large mug of hot coffee, to find Bobby standing there looking almost sick with guilt and worry.

“You really think that? Damn… Sit down, Bobby.”

Bobby sat beside him, not quite able to look him in the eye. Mike watched him for a moment before speaking, and quietly reminded himself of Bobby’s almost compulsive need to seek approval. With that in mind, he spoke in a gentle, yet firm tone to his brother.

“Okay. I’m going to tell you this once, and once only, so you damn well look me in the eye.” With some reluctance, Bobby raised his eyes to meet his brother’s. Once he had, Mike went on quietly. “No, I am not pissed off with you, Bobby. Okay, so I’m not a big fan of nature. You know it, I know it… Hell, half the NYPD knows it after my little brush with that freakin’ poison ivy candle last year. But that doesn’t mean I hate being here.”

Bobby shifted uncomfortably.

“You aren’t enjoying yourself,” he pointed out. Mike uttered a short laugh at that.

“Don’t let looks deceive you, pal. I got a hell of a kick watching you and Elliot in the water. It’s just a pity that I had to get wet, too. So I may not have enjoyed so much hauling my ass up that hill this morning. Doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the view once we got where we were going. And no, I didn’t enjoy getting wet, but up till then I was actually starting to enjoy being out there on the lake. It was peaceful, you know. That’s not something we get a lot of back home. So don’t sit there wallowing in your own guilt because you think I’m having a lousy time, because I’m not. I’m enjoying being here, because you’re here, too. That’s what this is all about, remember? Quality time together?”

Slowly, Bobby began to relax, and Mike could see him starting to accept what he was being told as the truth.

“Tomorrow,” Mike told him, “we’ll start over. No boats, and no nearly falling off cliffs. Okay?”

Bobby smiled finally, relaxing fully on the sofa.

“Okay by me.”

“I’ll go along with that, too,” Elliot added as he came in bearing a large platter that was laden with a range of foods, from potato chips and popcorn to hamburgers and ribs that Bobby had cooked on the barbeque a short while ago. As Elliot set the platter down on the coffee table, Mike leaned across and snagged one of the ribs.

“Now this is a feast,” he declared, took a large bite and sighed contentedly. “Good food, plenty of beer, coffee, and no women to spoil it with chick flicks.”

“You’re lucky Alex and Carolyn aren’t here,” Bobby told him wryly. “They’d smack you for that one, without a doubt.”

Mike flashed him a patented Logan grin.

“That, baby brother, is the prime reason you didn’t have to tie me up and throw me in the trunk to get me here. This, gentlemen, is what’s known as the art of male bonding.”

Elliot raised an eyebrow in amusement.

“What, you mean sitting around eating junk food, getting wasted on cheap beer and watching bad movies?”

“Hold your tongue!” Mike retorted. “We do not, nor have we ever polluted ourselves with cheap beer.”

“But the junk food and bad movies…?”

“Regular Sunday night activity,” Bobby answered wryly. “Except, Alex is usually with us, and most times we end up watching her choice, which generally turns out to be something romantic… Although, to give her credit, last Sunday she picked A History of Violence. That was a pretty good film.”

Elliot snorted.

“Oh yeah, it’s a great film. I bet Mike got some good action later on, too.”

Bobby regarded Elliot quizzically, and the SVU detective grinned widely.

“C’mon, remember the cheerleader scene in the bedroom?”

Bobby’s eyebrows shot up, and then he looked back at Mike. The latter had gone a dull shade of red, and was looking everywhere but at his two companions.

“She didn’t…” Bobby started to say, and when Mike flashed him an embarrassed grin, he groaned aloud. “Don’t say a word. I don’t want to know.” He shook his head, groaning softly as he realised the image was already firmly imprinted on his over-active imagination. “Great. I’m not going to be able to look at her straight on Monday morning. Again.”

“Just pick a damn movie,” Mike grumbled, knowing full well that Bobby’s embarrassment would likely as not lead to him being in the doghouse with Alex yet again. “And if you put on Sleepless in Seattle, I’ll shoot you.”

“Again, Mikey, no gun,” Bobby reminded him as he made his way over to the cabinet that stored a small collection of DVD movies.

“Again, did I say when, smart ass?”

Bobby smirked, and returned his attention to selecting a movie. He didn’t particularly feel like one of the brainless action movies that he suspected Mike was in the mood for. Then again, he supposed that Mike was even less in the mood for something thoughtful and provocative. Maybe he’d get away with putting on Russell Crowe’s A Beautiful Mind later on, after Mike and Elliot had put away a few more beers each.

Okay, he immediately corrected himself. A lot more beers… In the meantime, though…

“How about Tomb Raider?” he asked, and Elliot whistled appreciatively.

“Mm, Angelina Jolie in all her semi-naked glory. Good choice!”

“Just don’t start picking it to pieces,” Mike warned him. Bobby regarded him with a look of feigned injury.

“I know how to keep my mouth shut during a movie, Mike.”

Mike grinned over at Elliot, who was looking increasingly bemused by the brothers’ behaviour.

“That’s because the first time he watched a movie with Alex, she duct-taped his mouth halfway through to shut him up.”

Elliot looked to Bobby, expecting a protest, and was more than amused when none was forthcoming. Rather, Bobby had gone an amusing shade of red.

“Made that mistake once,” he grumbled, “and once only.” He glowered back at Mike. “I can’t believe she told you.”

Mike laughed and clapped Bobby on the shoulder as he sat back down.

“She used it as an example to warn me off, the first time we watched something together. Don’t worry, though. I won’t tell anyone.”

“You already did, idiot,” Bobby growled. He nodded towards Elliot, who held up his hands in a gesture of truce.

“I won’t say a word to anyone. I promise.”

“C’mon,” Mike pled as the movie began. “We’ve got a good movie, good food… You wanna shut up now?”

“You started it, Mikey,” Elliot threw in, laughing when Mike flicked a single piece of popcorn at him.

“You don’t have permission yet, El.”

Elliot only grinned, and returned his attention to the movie.

Manhattan SVU

Don Cragen looked up from an ever-growing mound of paperwork as Fin and Munch walked in.

“Any luck tracking down Elliot?”

“Nada,” Munch answered bleakly. “No one knows where he took off to. Not even Kathy, and believe us when we say she is totally pissed over it.”

Cragen grimaced. He wasn’t going there. Elliot’s issues with his ex-wife were his own to sort out.

“What about Blake? Any sign of him other than in Elliot’s apartment?”

“He got to Kathy before we did,” Fin confirmed. “Posed as a cop, apparently. Kathy said she was suspicious, but it didn’t really matter. She could have given him any information even if she’d wanted to. She said he was pissed, but he never hassled her.”

“Okay,” Cragen murmured. “I want her and kids moved elsewhere until Blake’s caught, just in case he decides he can make use of them after all.”

Fin and Munch turned to go, but Cragen called them back.

“Hold up a second, fellas. What about Olivia’s place? Did you check that out?”

“Yeah,” Fin confirmed. “There wasn’t a message from Elliot on her machine, so he must’ve figured on getting back to the city before her. Also, her place hadn’t been broken into and trashed like his was.”

“So, either Blake knew Olivia wasn’t there to begin with,” Cragen guessed, “or he wasn’t interested in Olivia to begin with.”

“That’s probably it,” Munch soberly. “Don’t you remember when we nailed Blake the first time around? He snatch Liv, and used her to lure Elliot, but he never left so much as a bruise on her. It was Elliot he wanted to hurt. Makes sense that he’d go after Elliot again.”

Cragen groaned softly, realising the truth in Munch’s words.

“Okay, you can’t do anymore tonight. Go home, get some sleep and get a fresh start in the morning.”

“What about Kathy and the kids?” Fin asked.

“I’ll sort that out,” Cragen assured them. “You two just go and get some rest. It’s going to be a long day tomorrow.”

“Ain’t that the truth,” Fin muttered as he and Munch left reluctantly, identical expressions of anxiety on their faces. Cragen watched them go, and then grimly sat back down and picked up his phone to make the arrangement for Kathy and the children. Yes, tomorrow would be a long day, but it was shaping up to be a long night, too.

“Okay, I’ve got to know,” Elliot announced suddenly after they’d gone through two movies and more than a few beers. “Who, exactly, is going out with who?”

Mike and Bobby exchanged bemused looks.

“You mean us, Carolyn and Alex?”

“Yeah. I mean, you know what the rumours are.”

“Why don’t you enlighten us, Elliot?” Bobby asked coolly, and Mike was not so drunk that he didn’t catch the warning tone in his brother’s voice. He reached across in a surprisingly subtle gesture, and brushed his fingertips against Bobby’s arm, drawing his attention long enough to give a slight shake of his head. Bobby relaxed slightly, understanding and accepting what Mike was trying to tell him without words. Elliot didn’t mean any harm with his question, and there was no need to be defensive. They had nothing to hide.

Elliot, oblivious to the exchange that had just happened between the brothers, continued to speak.

“Okay, so, the rumour is that Alex is sleeping with you, Bobby, and Carolyn is sleeping with you, Mike. But I know that’s not true… be… because I know that Eames has more going for her to have to sleep with you to stay in Major Case…”

Mike shot Bobby a worried glance, but was relieved to see an amused grin light up Bobby’s face. Although Elliot’s words were lacking somewhat in subtlety, the real meaning was there, and Bobby was thankfully sober enough to understand it.

“She’s the senior partner, Elliot,” Bobby told him. “She always has been, and she didn’t get there by sleeping with me, or anyone else. She got there because she’s a good cop, and a great detective.”

“You respect her,” Elliot said matter-of-factly, and Bobby nodded.

“Yes, I do. Everyone who knows her does. She deserves the respect she gets.”

Elliot sighed wistfully.

“Same with Liv.”

Bobby and Mike exchanged bemused smirks. They knew that tone only too well.

“Look, if you really want to know for sure, Elliot,” Mike told him, I’m going out with Alex. Bobby’s dating Carolyn.”

Elliot thought that over for a moment before a smirk lit up his features.

“So... If you married Alex, Mike... and Bobby married Carolyn... then they’d be sisters in-law, right?”

Again, Bobby and Mike exchanged rueful looks. That was a scenario that had certainly occurred to both men, but neither had been game enough to say it aloud. In all truth, the idea terrified them both.

“Whoa, Stabler,” Mike growled. “Nobody’s mentioning the ‘M’ word.”

Elliot chuckled at the vehement response.

“Got commitment issues, Mike?”

Before Mike had a chance to lose his cool, Bobby jumped in quickly to defend him.

“Mike and Alex have only been together for around six months, Elliot. That’s a little early to be talking marriage. Now you and Olivia Benson, on the other hand...”

Elliot frowned, bristling noticeably.

“What about us?”

“You and Olivia have been tip-toeing around starting a relationship for how many years now?”

Elliot promptly went red with anger, but Bobby silenced him with his next words.

“Alex and I aren’t the only ones who are victims of the rumour mill.”

A tense moment passed, and then Elliot finally chuckled and relaxed.

“Okay, point taken. You’re one sly son of a bitch, Bobby.”

“You ought to see him in the interrogation room,” Mike retorted dryly.

“So I hear,” Elliot murmured as he drained the last of his beer. A sigh escaped him. “I oughtta haul ass to bed, but this chair is really comfortable all of a sudden.”

“It’s gonna get cold once the fire dies down,” Bobby pointed out, although he felt less than inclined to move himself.

“Ah, screw it,” Mike retorted. “Elliot’s right. I’m too comfortable to be bothered moving. Bobby, you wanna go grab some extra blankets?”

Bobby rolled his eyes, but didn’t object as he got up to do as Mike had asked. He collected three extra blankets and returned to the family room only to stop in amused surprise. Both Elliot and Mike were already asleep. Shaking his head and laughing softly, Bobby draped a blanket first over Mike and then over Elliot before settling back down on the sofa and pulling the last blanket over himself.

Lulled by the warmth that still radiated from the fire, and the soft comfort of the sofa beneath him and the company of friends and family, Bobby slid off to sleep just a few minutes later.

The front door opening let in a rush of chilly air that effectively doused the remnants of the fire, but none of the three men stirred. Their senses somewhat dulled by the amount of alcohol they’d collectively consumed, all three slept on undisturbed. Footsteps caused the wooden floor to creak slightly, but still they didn’t stir.

A shadow passed over Bobby, paused as it fell on Mike before finally moving on to Elliot. The SVU detective did stir then, and the shadow froze. But then he relaxed once more, slipping back into a deep sleep, and the shadow relaxed as well.

It would be easy... so easy, to just do it right here and now. He could take all three of them, and they wouldn’t know a thing until it was too late. But, that was not his style. It never had been. He liked to do things with flair, and that didn’t mean shivving three drunk cops in the middle of the night.

No, he had a different idea of how he wanted to deal with the great Elliot Stabler, and it definitely included making sure that the cop knew who was responsible for taking his life.

Turning, he set about leaving his carefully planned calling card, so that when the cops woke up in the morning, they would understand just how much trouble they were really in. Then, once they were aware, he would strike.

Grinning cruelly to himself in anticipation of what fun was to come, he slipped out of the cabin, and back out into the black night.

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