The climb down was an agonisingly slow process. The wall of the embankment was vastly unstable, and more than once Bobby slipped and almost lost his footing. Repeated glances down told him nothing of Elliot’s condition, either, although the closer he got the more blood he could see. He wouldn’t know until he got all the way down, though, just how bad it really was.

Please, let him live.

Bobby was not one for prayer. He was especially not open to trying to make bargains with the God that he had lost faith in long ago. Those words became a mantra, though, until he was actually speaking them aloud by the time his feet hit the safety of the solid ground.

Breathing a heavy sigh of relief, Bobby momentarily abandoned the rope, and hurried over to where Elliot lay. The first thing he took note of were the ragged, and slightly erratic breaths that Elliot was taking. He was still alive, at least, and Bobby was determined to ensure that he stayed that way. He couldn’t tell just from looking what bones might be broken. All he was certain of was that there was, undoubtedly, more than one bone broken.

Crouching down to check that Elliot’s airway was clear, Bobby pulled a foil blanket out of the first aid kit, and covered the injured man with it. He then turned his attention back to his brother.

“Okay, Mikey,” he called out. “C’mon down.”

Where he waited at the top, Mike grimaced at Bobby’s choice of words.

“This ain’t no game show, baby brother,” he muttered, but only nodded his head in response and gave the thumbs-up to Bobby before beginning his descent.

Bobby found himself switching his attention rapidly back and forth between Mike as he climbed down with the remainder of the gear on his back, and Elliot where he lay under the foil blanket. It hadn’t escaped his notice that Elliot lay in a small pool of dirty water, which was obviously going to minimise the effectiveness of the blanket. However, with no way to know whether Elliot had suffered any degree of spinal damage, Bobby dared not try to move him out of the water, and onto dry ground.

A strange yelping sound caused him to look up, and he winced at the sight of his brother hanging precariously in mid-air for a heart-stopping moment. Then, Mike found his footing again and slowly continued his descent.

It was nearly another ten minutes before Mike – pale and perspiring, but otherwise intact – landed on solid ground next to Bobby.

“You okay?” Bobby asked as he helped Mike to remove the gear from his back.

“I think that little climb took about five years off my life,” Mike muttered. “But yeah, other than that, I’m good.” He swung around, as though suddenly remembering the reason for their climb. “Is he…?”

“Alive,” Bobby confirmed as they both when to Elliot’s prone form. “He doesn’t seem to be having too much trouble breathing at the moment, but I haven’t been able to wake him up, either. I think he took a couple of bad hits to the head on the way down.”

“Not to mention when his head hit the ground,” Mike added grimly. Bobby dropped into a crouch beside Elliot, checking him once more.

“We can’t risk trying to move him until he wakes up,” Bobby said. “I’m going to collect some firewood, and try to make a fire. We could be here for a while, and it’s going to get very cold, very quickly.”

“What if he doesn’t wake up?” Mike asked softly, hating to consider the possibility, but knowing it was necessary.

“He will,” Bobby answered firmly. “Positive, remember?”

Mike watched Bobby go, and then turned his attention back to Elliot.

“Elliot,” he said in a low voice as he leaned down, “I know you can hear me. You’ve gotta wake up, pal, so we can all get the hell off this friggin’ mountain.” He paused, and then added shakily, “Just show us you’re okay. Please, show us you’re okay…”

Except, he wasn’t, and Mike knew it.

Bobby returned five minutes later with a respectable amount of wood in his arms.

“You really think we could be out here all night?” Mike asked, clearly unhappy at the possibility.

“Maybe,” Bobby murmured. “Ideally, I’d love to be able to get Elliot onto a stretcher, get him back up to Blake’s car and get him off this mountain.”

“How are we supposed to get him back up there?” Mike wondered, looking at the precipice that towered above them. “There’s no way we can carry him up that.”

“There’s a path,” Bobby said absently as he set about getting a fire going. He was so busy concentrating on that task that he didn’t notice the incredulous stare that Mike was giving him.

“A path?” Mike echoed finally. “We just risked our necks climbing down here, and now you tell me there’s a path? Bobby, so help me…”

Bobby did look up, then, and at least had the grace to look apologetic.

“I’m sorry, Mike, but we needed to get down here to Elliot as quickly as possible, and climbing down was the quickest way. The path would have been safer, sure, but it also would have taken us at least an hour and a half to get down here, if not longer.”

Mike frowned in visible irritation, but that was something he could not argue with. Bobby was right – they had needed to get down to Elliot as fast as they could.

“So, what do we do now?” Mike asked resignedly. Bobby sighed softly. He was tired, cold, and his head was hurting badly where Blake had hit him with the gun. He wished more than anything that he could just shut his eyes and go to sleep, but he also knew that Mike was right. He was concussed and, all other current issues aside, sleep was not a luxury that he could afford himself.

“I’ll get a fire going,” he said finally, “and then I guess we wait.”

“If I say we should have done something differently, would you be likely to hit me for it?”

Slowly, Bobby raised his eyes to meet Mike’s gaze. He thought he saw Mike wincing in sympathy as their eyes met, but chose to disregard it. He knew damn well that he didn’t look good. His headache was only getting worse, but there was precious little he could do about it. As far as he was concerned, though, Elliot took top priority. His headache was a trivial concern by comparison.

“What should we have done differently, Mike?”

Deciding he was far enough away if Bobby decided to try and throttle him, Mike went ahead and voiced his thoughts.

“I was just thinking… one of us should have just taken Blake’s car, and driven to the nearest town. At least then we would have known for sure that help was coming.”

Rather than the scathing retort that Mike had anticipated, he was quietly concerned when Bobby looked away in defeated silence. He hesitated, and then spoke tentatively.


“You’re right,” Bobby said softly. “I… I screwed up, Mike. We didn’t both need to come down here. If you’d taken Blake’s car, you could have raised the alarm by now. I made a bad call, and Elliot might die because of it. I… I may have killed him, Mike. I might just as well have put a gun to his head, and pulled the trigger myself. I killed him…”

Bewildered, and a little frightened by Bobby’s self-admonishment, Mike moved around to sit beside him.

“Hey, take it easy on yourself, Bobby. You were focused on reaching Elliot, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I never thought about it either until now, so don’t you go beating yourself up over it. You’re not omniscient, baby brother. You can’t be expected to think of every detail, especially when you’re concussed.”

Bobby regarded him with a quizzical gaze, and Mike gave a lopsided shrug.

“I can see it clear as day in your face, pal. You are seriously concussed.”

Instead of responding, Bobby looked away, back to where Elliot lay. Mike tried again, anxious to break through the wall that his brother was starting to build up around himself.

“C’mon, Bobby, don’t do this, not now. Don’t shut down on me. If you want to have a guilt trip, at least save it until we’re out of this mess. Hell, I’ll even join you! ’Cause God knows, none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been so damned generous and invite Elliot in the first place. But right now, I need you here, pal. Not wallowing in your own misery.”

Slowly, Bobby looked back around at Mike, and the two men stared at each other for the longest while. Then, finally, Bobby sighed, and Mike knew that he’d gotten through to him.

“Sorry,” Bobby murmured tiredly. “You’re right.”

Mike grunted.

“Twice in a row. That’s gotta be a record.”

Bobby chuckled softly, despite their bleak situation, but before he could vocalise a reply, a low moan broke the quiet and startled them both.

“Was that…?” Mike started to ask in astonishment, but Bobby was already moving.

“Elliot?” he asked anxiously as he crouched down beside the injured detective. “Can you hear me? C’mon, show us you’re still with us.”

There was another moan, this time more distinctive. Elliot had definitely responded to Bobby’s voice.

“Thank God,” Mike muttered, but Bobby shook his head.

“Hold on to that thought.” He then returned his attention to his injured friend. “Elliot, can you open your eyes?”

There was yet another moan in answer to Bobby’s request. Shifting around, Mike lowered himself to the damp ground so that he was lying alongside Elliot’s prone form.

“C’mon, Elliot. You’ve gotta wake up. Wake up, Elliot!”

“’m’wake…” came the weak, but audible reply. A moment later, Elliot sobbed aloud as pain washed over him in a nauseating wave.

“Easy,” Bobby murmured. “Try and stay still. There’s going to be a lot of pain hit you all at once.”

No shit… Elliot though with an incredulity that he was incapable of voicing.

“Do you remember what happened?” Mike asked, and Elliot suddenly went quiet as he struggled to remember. He remembered running… hiding in the trees… from what? His breath, already ragged and shallow, caught painfully in his throat. Not what, but who. Blake… He’d been running from Darius Blake.

And then, the rest of his memories came back with a vengeance. He remembered returning to the cabin with the intention of trying to help Bobby and Mike, only to be ambushed by Blake. He recalled the frightening walk into the woods, with Blake’s knife at his back. He remembered the stark fear of watching Blake advance on him with very clear intent.

Then… Mike and Bobby, appearing seemingly out of nowhere to help him, taking Blake down. He remembered a short-lived relief that had been rapidly replaced by terror when he realised the new danger he was in… and falling. He remembered falling…

Gasping aloud, Elliot’s entire body convulsed violently as panic took hold, and he instinctively tried to push himself up off the ground.

“Hey, no, don’t do that!” Mike burst out as he and Bobby tried to hold Elliot still. “Damn it, Elliot, you’re gonna hurt yourself even worse!”

But Elliot was having none of it. He began to thrash wildly, breaking free of Mike and Bobby’s hands and rolling over onto his back. A moment later, a scream of pain tore from his lips, through the otherwise quiet atmosphere, as the movement caused his already badly fractured right arm to snap like a twig.

“Ah, crap, his arm’s busted,” Mike groaned, his stomach rolling unpleasantly at the sight of the very unnatural bend that was now apparent in Elliot’s arm.

“I think his right leg is broken, too,” Bobby said grimly. “And most of his ribs… But on the bright side, there doesn’t appear to be any spinal damage. I don’t know a whole lot about spinal injuries, but I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have been able to move very much if he did have an injury like that.”

“So what are you saying?” Mike asked as he tried to keep Elliot still by holding his shoulders down as firmly as he dared.

“I think we should be able to get him onto the stretcher, and carry him back up to the cabin.”

Mike sighed with relief at that.

“That’s what I wanted to hear. You want me to get it out?”

“Not yet,” Bobby answered. “I want to see if we can get some fluids into him, and I want to try getting that arm into some sort of a splint. It’ll hurt him like hell, but it’ll minimise the risk of permanent damage to his arm. Can you pass me that water bottle over there, Mikey? And then see if you can find a straight piece of wood that we can use for a splint?”

Mike handed the water bottle to Bobby without protest. He did not need to be a medical genius to see that his younger brother was slowly succumbing to the effects of his concussion. His face had turned the colour of ash, he was sweating heavily, and his words were forced and awkward. He got slowly to his feet, not exactly feeling too sprightly himself, and started to walk away. He’d gone just a few steps, and then stopped and looked back.

“Hey, Bobby… You think we’re even capable of having time together where no one gets hurt?”

The pain that registered across Bobby’s face was enough to make Mike want to sew his own lips shut.

“I’ll find something we can use for a splint,” he murmured, and headed off with his shoulders slumped. Bobby watched him go, and then looked back to Elliot. The SVU detective seemed to have found some degree of focus, and was watching Bobby with eyes that were bright with pain.

“Don’t worry,” Bobby told him quietly, though he was unsure whether Elliot was even able to comprehend his words. “We’re going to get you out of here. You’re going to be okay, Elliot.”

Elliot drew in a shaky, shallow breath, followed by a visibly painful cough. To Bobby’s quiet relief, though, no fresh blood appeared in Elliot’s mouth, or on his lips. That at least suggested that neither of his lungs had been punctured, although Bobby was baffled as to how he could possibly have avoided it. Grateful, but baffled all the same.

“Listen, Elliot,” Bobby told him. “When Mike comes back, we’re going to put your arm in a splint. It’s going to hurt a lot, but we have to do it. Do you understand?”

Elliot shut his eyes briefly, struggling to find the strength to respond. He hurt so badly, all over, that right then it was a struggle to even breath, let alone talk.

G got it,” he whispered finally. “H hurt a l lot…”

Bobby sighed softly, and turned away to grab a fresh wad of gauze from the first-aid kit.

“Yeah,” he murmured. “Hurt, a lot.”


Even garbled as that had come out, Bobby still had no trouble understanding him.

“Blake’s secure. Mike and I got him, Elliot. Don’t worry about him. You just stay as calm as you can, and let me and Mike take care of you, okay?”

Elliot shuddered once, and slumped back on the ground, finally losing his tenuous grip on reality, slipping into a pain-induced haze. He wasn’t unconscious, Bobby noted. His mind had just slipped temporarily beyond reach, and perhaps that wasn’t such a bad thing. Wherever he was right at that moment, Bobby thought, at least he was beyond fear and pain.

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