A/N: This is unbeta'd - I'm simply posting it as I write it, so I apologise for any typos that I've missed.

It really and truly had been a bitch of a year. That was the thought that kept spiralling through Bobby Goren's mind as he sat slumped on the floor of his apartment, nursing a double shot of whiskey. His mother's funeral had been that morning, and while respectably attended, a noticeable absentee had been his brother, Frank.

Bobby was both hurt and confused, and those were two emotions that he'd had more than his fair share of over the last twelve months. He'd thought that he and Frank had gotten better in their admittedly rocky relationship. For his brother to go missing in action right when Bobby needed the emotional support the most was deeply hurtful.

To top it off, he was fairly confident that the squad's new captain, Danny Ross, thought he was a veritable nut job.

Bobby shut his eyes and took a long swallow of whiskey, relishing the burn in his throat. It did nothing, though, to stop the roll of memories through his tired mind. Declan and Jo Gage... Alex's abduction... His mother and brother... and worst of all in so many ways, was the fateful encounters with the killer, Mark Ford Brady.

Strangely, perhaps, it wasn't the revelation that Brady might be his father that had sent him into a tailspin. Oh, he was upset – make no mistake about that. In fact, he was gutted by the possibility, but it was something he could deal with. It was something he would deal with, given enough time.

No, what had thrown him was the potential connection with the Centre that Brady's insinuations had sparked. It was the sickening realisation that Raines had quite possibly known about the question mark over his parentage and, assuming the evil son of a bitch had known, then it begged the question all over again of what Raines had had planned for him.

It was a question that had never really been answered. Even the nine months that he had been trapped inside the Centre, Bobby had never found out exactly what Raines had intended to do with him. With the advent of Brady's revelation, though, Bobby was starting to suspect, and part of the answer lay with the tragic story of Jarod's brother, Kyle.

Bobby knew the truth now about Kyle. After a long, quiet talk with Jarod one night over a carefully secured phone line, Bobby had learnt the whole truth about what Raines had done to the boy, and how he'd cultivated a psychopath out of him. That knowledge helped Bobby to understand the willingness behind Kyle's willingness to sexually assault him on Raines' order when they were just children. He knew now that even at that early stage, Raines had been working hard at manipulating Kyle, and twisting his mind beyond repair.

The knowledge did nothing to erase Bobby's nightmares, but it did help him to at least put the incident in perspective, and to put the blame firmly where it belonged – with Raines. What it also did was help Bobby to realise or, at the very least, strongly suspect that what Raines had done to Kyle was exactly what he'd wanted to do to him. The thought that really terrified Bobby was in knowing that if Brady was right, then genetics could easily have seen Raines' evil vision become reality.

And right there, he had two very legitimate reasons never to tell Ross the truth about himself, and his past. He honestly couldn't say which would be worse; not being believed, or being believed. Either way, he figured that he'd be able to kiss his career goodbye. Ross already thought he was a whack job, as it was. Bobby had no intention of putting himself in that situation. With a new Chief of Detectives and a new Police Commissioner having recently taken over, any back-up from the brass that he had previously had was now gone.

One saving grace had been that there had been few changes to the squad since his return to work nearly two years ago after the events that had so nearly destroyed him. With the exception of just three detectives, his colleagues all knew the truth, and had so often closed ranks around him to protect him from any flak he might otherwise have received for his admittedly unnerving interrogation and investigative tactics. It was something that continued to amuse him, knowing that Ross was still trying to work out the dynamics of the squad, and why so many mainstream detectives were so protective of 'that oddball Bobby Goren'.

Alex and Mike had both wanted him to tell Ross the truth. They'd encouraged him to be up-front and honest with the new captain even before Ross's appointment was announced to the squad, but it was something he just wasn't ready to do. Deakins had been a different prospect altogether to Ross. For starters, he already had Bobby's trust and respect. Currently, Bobby held a grudging respect for Ross, as far as any police officer would respect his or her superiors, but Bobby simply didn't trust Ross yet. The man had been judgemental of him right from the start, coming into the squad with pre-conceived opinions that had no doubt been cultivated by others, instead of giving Bobby a chance to show his worth before making assumptions. Bobby simply couldn't bring himself to trust Ross not to jump to conclusions if he were to be told about the Centre.

And so Ross had been kept in the dark at Bobby behest, and the rest of the squad had followed suit. Whilst three of the new additions had not noticed anything amiss, Mike's new partner, Megan Wheeler, had. The revelation that Ross was her rabbi meant that they told her nothing as well, which had placed a slight strain on Mike's working relationship with her. She was smart and observant, and had noticed the closeness of her partner with Bobby and Alex. They offered her no explanations, though, and to her credit she never demanded one. Ultimately, though, they knew her loyalty lay with Ross, and that kept her out of the inner circle.

A shadow fell across him, and he looked up blearily to see a familiar figure standing over the top of him.

"Drink?" he offered. Mike Logan shook his head.

"No, thanks. It's too early, even for me."

Bobby frowned.

"Really? What time is it?"

"Time for you to stop drinking," Mike said, reaching for the glass and bottle. Bobby tried, unsuccessfully, to hold them out of Mike's reach.

"I'm on leave. I can drink if I want."

"Stop being an infant," Mike retorted. He set both glass and bottle on the nearby table, and then hauled Bobby to his feet. "C'mon, Bobby. Walk. I'm not carrying you."

"Where to?" Bobby asked suspiciously.

"Just to the couch. Then you can sit down, lie down, whatever you want. But you can't stay on the floor there."

"Can I have my whiskey back?"

Mike paused, looking critically at Bobby.

"Do you really want it, Bobby? Be honest."

Bobby deflated, and his quick capitulation answered better than any words.

"No. Guess not. Just... hurts."

"I know, pal," Mike murmured as he gently aided Bobby onto the couch. "I know it hurts."

Seated safely on the couch, Bobby looked around in puzzlement.

"Where's Alex?"

"Still at work," Mike answered as he flopped into the armchair opposite the couch. "Someone had to run interference with Ross. He likes that I'm an old school cop, but there's something about her, that he seems to just automatically trust her."

Bobby's brow furrowed, and Mike could almost hear the gears turning in his head.

"He better not be makings moves on her."

Mike rolled his eyes. Alex often said that alcohol caused odd reactions in Bobby, and she was right. A sober Bobby Goren would not for one second think that their captain was hitting on his partner.

"Bobby, you need coffee, and a lot of it. No, Ross is not making moves on her. She's just doing what she's done all year, smoothing things over after you and Ross go butting heads. Damn it, pal, I wish you'd just give in and tell him. You might find he'll be more understanding than you think."

"No," Bobby said stubbornly. "He thinks I'm crazy now."

"Because he doesn't understand!" Mike argued. "He's not an idiot, Bobby. His IQ isn't far below yours! He knows you're hiding things from him, and it's only because of Alex that he's been willing to cut you so much slack!"

Bobby stared at Mike through reddened eyes, and all of a sudden, Mike got the very strong feeling that Bobby was nowhere near as drunk as he had appeared to be when Mike found him.

"You know it's not a simple thing for me to just talk about it at the drop of a hat, because someone expects me to. I can't do that, even with people I trust, like you and Alex... and even George. How the hell do you think I'm going to just start chatting to Ross about any of it? It doesn't work like that, Mike. I can't just switch it on at whim. I need to be able to work up to talking about it... about any of it."

"I'm sorry," Mike murmured sincerely. "I know how hard it is. I just thought... Damn it. Look, don't hold being an idiot against me, all right?"

A tired, slightly bitter smile touched Bobby's lips.

"I'd be a hypocrite if I did, Mike."

Mike snorted.

"You, my friend, could never be accused of being an idiot."

"Yeah, well, this last twelve months I think I could probably give you a run for your money. I've done some pretty idiotic things."

"Like telling Ross that you don't care if he fires you?" Mike retorted. "Yeah, I'll go along with that being pretty idiotic."

Bobby shut his eyes.

"Alex nearly flayed me alive when she caught up with me. I hadn't seen her so angry for... Actually, I don't think I'd ever seen her so angry."

"Mm," Mike murmured. Though he said nothing, his mind swept back approximately three years ago, to the nine months during which Bobby had been a prisoner of the Centre. There had been times during those months when Alex had swung wildly between severe depression and pure rage. Everyone had quickly learnt to give her a very wide berth when she'd been at the rage end of the spectrum.

"What are you thinking?" Bobby wondered. Mike regarded him soberly.

"You know why she was so pissed at you, Bobby?"

Bobby shrugged.

"I try to avoid introspection, when I can avoid it."

Mike shook his head, bemused.

"Pal, she was so angry with you because you scared her. She lost you once to the Centre, and she was terrified she was going to lose you all over again. She was angry because she could see you throwing away everything that you fought so fucking hard to get back. And you know something? I was pretty damned mad at you for it, too."

Silence met Mike's words, but Mike didn't push for a response. He'd learnt a long time ago that patience was the key to dealing with Bobby. Pushing him achieved nothing. When Bobby did finally speak again, it was in a tone filled with regret and guilt.

"I don't know why I said that to Ross that day. I mean, I know I was feeling stressed... about Mom, and Frank, and everything... but it was a stupid thing to say. I didn't mean it, not really."

"Lucky for you, Ross understood," Mike muttered. "He was pretty pissed off at you, but he understood. At least, as far as he knew about your mom. But damn, Bobby, has it really been that bad, changing over from Deakins to Ross? The guy really isn't that bad, Bobby, and he sure as hell backed you all the way when Alex went missing."

Bobby's breath caught in his throat at the unwanted reminder, but Mike didn't apologise for it. In his opinion, Ross was every bit as good a captain as Deakins, particular for his hands-on approach to cases. He knew Bobby considered it to be unwanted interference, but Mike had found Ross's approach refreshing. He really wanted Bobby to let go of his prejudices, and give Ross a chance and, in his opinion, the best way to do that would be to come clean and tell the captain about the Centre and about Bobby's Pretender abilities.

Mike knew Bobby felt no shame any longer about being a Pretender. Indeed, he'd learnt to incorporate those unique skills into his role as Major Case detective, very much to the detriment of the New York's criminal element. His interrogations had turned into a real work of art, and more often than not he played to an audience of not only the captain and the DA, but also to his fellow detectives who eagerly drank in his methods in the hope of learning to emulate them. So far, none had come close.

It raised plenty of questions, though. Almost twelve months ago, when Bobby had turned his skills on Declan Gage in order to determine if he was responsible for Alex's abduction, Gage had realised immediately that he was employing techniques that Gage had never taught him, and had commented on it with an interest that Bobby had deliberately ignored. Later, Mike had overheard Ross quizzing Bobby about it, only to be effectively told by Bobby to mind his own business. Mike knew that Ross would have had every right to take Bobby to task over that, but the captain had chalked it up to stress over his missing partner, and let it slide.

The new captain had watched Bobby closely since then and, with no other grounds on which to form his opinions, Mike guessed that he'd gradually come to the conclusion that Bobby was… well, for want of a better phrase, whacked.

"He doesn't understand," Mike reiterated, although he sounded like he knew he was wasting his breath trying to convince his friend. "He doesn't understand how or why you can do what you do, and he needs to."

"Mike, I can't tell him."

"Well, do you think you could cope with me or Alex telling him?"

Bobby faltered at the offer. Truth be told, it was something he'd contemplated more than once – having Mike and/or Alex tell Ross about him and the Centre, and each time he'd baulked. Now, though, he wondered whether it might be the only way to salvage what appeared to be a steadily deteriorating career.


He couldn't believe he was saying it and, by the looks of it, Mike couldn't believe he was saying it, either. Slowly, Mike leaned forward.

"Say again?"

Bobby sighed.

"I said, okay. You can tell him. But you might want to consider taking George Huang with you when you do. Alex can be there too, if she's willing. I suppose Ross will be more likely to believe it if you have someone backing you up. Otherwise, he might think you're as crazy as he thinks I am."

Mike couldn't hide the relief he felt at Bobby's acquiescence, and he didn't even try.

"He doesn't think you're crazy, Bobby. I'm telling you, he just doesn't understand. That doesn't automatically translate to an assumption that you're crazy."

"I know that, Mike. But why do you think I don't want to tell him the truth?"

When Mike looked blankly at him, Bobby explained wearily.

"I'm scared that if he finds out about the Centre, and about everything that happened to me there as a child and as an adult, then he really will think I'm crazy. Because for anyone to survive what I went through, even just over those nine months… Well, they'd have to be a little bit crazy, wouldn't they? Seriously, Mike, how could anyone get through that and still be one hundred per cent sane?"

Mike shrugged.

"I don't know. Shit happens. We deal with it."

Bobby quirked a hint of a smile at Mike's no-frills approach.

"That simple?"

"I don't see why it can't be. Seriously, Bobby, think about it. We all deal with some serious crap in our job. We see the worse there is to see of humanity on a daily basis. Sometimes, we end up targets ourselves. I know it's still a sore spot, but Alex is a case in point. She was missing twelve hours, and endured a night of listening to someone else being tortured and eventually killed. Anyone could go mad from that, but she didn't. Yes, I admit that we were worried that your sanity was hanging by a thread for a while after we got you out of the Centre, but you came good."

"I have nightmares nearly every night, Mike."

"So? Aside from being annoying as hell, that doesn't mean you're ready for a room at Bellevue. What does Huang have to say about it?"

A sigh escaped Bobby's lips.

"He said the nightmares are a way of not burying what happened to me. He thinks they're healthy. I beg to differ. I need a full night's sleep, Mike. Preferably not drug-induced."

"Have you tried herbal remedies?" Mike wondered, and then grimaced. "I can't believe I just said that."

Bobby couldn't help it. He laughed out loud.

"Next thing I know, you'll be suggesting I visit a Voodoo priestess."

The grimace turned into a scowl, but there was no real anger behind it.

"You're hilarious, you know that?"

"Sorry," Bobby offered, though he couldn't get the grin off his face.

"I swear to God," Mike grumbled, though he was quietly relieved to have gotten his friend to laugh, "if you mention poison ivy, I might just..."

Bobby snorted derisively.

"You can't event finish that sentence."

Mike rolled his eyes.

"Laugh it up. Anyway, about Ross..."

The laughter faded quickly from Bobby's face.

"I meant what I said. Go ahead and tell him, but be prepared that he might not believe you."

"Bobby... Do we have your permission to show him a sim disc?"

That was a particularly sensitive point with Bobby. Whilst he had made a conscious decision to keep the sim discs, nor had he been able to bring himself to watch more than just a select few. On those few occasions when he had watched them, they usually ended up making him violently ill. It was always a struggle for him to know that others had witnessed the horror that was on many of those discs.

"If you think you need to," Bobby conceded finally. In for a penny, he supposed tiredly. If they were going to clue Ross in to the whole story, then he might as well see everything.

"I'm not going to say you shouldn't be embarrassed by it," Mike said, "even though you really shouldn't. I know better than that."

Bobby grunted incoherently, and Mike sighed. He could see immediately that Bobby was rapidly slipping into a non-communicative phase. When he got into that state, it was usually only Alex who could pull him out of it.

"I'm sorry, Bobby," Mike said quietly, not entirely sure if Bobby was even still listening to him. "I know today was rough for you. I probably shouldn't have brought this to you today, but the sooner we can talk to Ross, the better."

Slowly, Bobby lifted his gaze back up to Mike, and the other detective flinched at the pain he saw there in his friend's eyes.

"I think I know now what Raines wanted with me."

That was unexpected. Mike blinked owlishly, not quite sure how to respond. He knew it had been one of the few issues that had remained unresolved, but Bobby had never shown any inclination towards knowing the purpose behind Raines' obsession with him. For him to suddenly blurt it out now, Mike had to wonder.

"So... are you planning on sharing your insight?" Mike pressed lightly.

"I think… I think he wanted to turn me into a psychopath."

It was with some effort that Mike didn't simply burst out laughing. He could see easily enough how serious Bobby was, but the idea that Bobby could ever become a psychopath was ludicrous to him.

"You mean, like Hannibal Lecter? Dexter? Sweet Jesus, Bobby, that's ridiculous. I mean, ridiculous that Raines could ever have thought he could succeed. Okay, so your mom was ill, and not a whole lot was known about schizophrenia back when you were a kid, but even so…"

"It wasn't genetics from my mom's side that Raines was thinking of," Bobby interrupted. "It was genetics from my father's side."

"That is ridiculous. Your dad was a drunk and a louse, but he wasn't crazy."

"Mike… Frank Goren Senior might not have been my father."

That ominous revelation gave Mike pause, and he peered quizzically at Bobby.

"Do I want to know who you think might be your father, then?"

Bobby was silent for a long while before finally answering grimly.

"Mark Ford Brady."

If Mike had had a drink at that moment, he was certain he would have choked on it. As it was, he forgot to breathe for precious seconds while he stared at Bobby, looking for any hint that what he'd just said was meant as a joke. Bobby never so much as cracked a hint of a grin, and Mike felt his stomach sink unpleasantly.

"Goddamn, you're not kidding, are you?"

"No," Bobby said dully. He looked around, spotted his whiskey on the bench a short distance away, but decided it was too far away to bother getting up for, even if he was fairly confident that Mike wouldn't try to stop him this time. "Brady hinted at it…It was why he wanted to make contact with me in the first place. When I asked Mom, she admitted to having an affair with him, and that she was with him around the time I would have been c… conceived. She admitted she was never sure who my father really was."

"Well, damn," Mike muttered. "And you think Raines knew? But how could he have known, Bobby?"

"He might not have known to start with," Bobby conceded. "But I'm willing to bet he would have found out quickly enough that Frank Senior wasn't my real father. He was a persistent son of a bitch. He would have found out the truth sooner or later… probably sooner. If Brady was my father, then that would have given the evil bastard all sorts of ideas of what he could do with me."

"Okay," Mike murmured. "Now I get why you were drinking."

"Does that mean I can have my whiskey back?"

Mike smiled faintly at the deliberately whining tone that Bobby put into his voice.

"Not a chance, pal. You do not want to be shit-faced when Alex gets here later on."

Bobby conceded swiftly to that argument. The last thing he wanted was to do anything to rile his beautiful partner.

"So, when are you going to talk to Ross?" Bobby queried, deciding that talking about the impending revelation that was soon going to be thrust upon their captain was less painful than anything at all to do with Raines.

"This afternoon," Mike answered quietly. "Provided you gave us permission, we figured we need to talk to him sooner rather than later. I hope he'll believe what we're going to tell him without needing to watch a sim disc, but we'll show him one if we have to."

"You keep saying 'we'," Bobby said, frowning. "Who is 'we'?"

"Me, Alex and Deakins. I wanted George to be there as well, but he said it'd violate doctor/patient confidentiality. He did say, though, that if you need him to back the story up to Ross, you only have to call him and give him the go-ahead. He said he'd tell Ross the basics, but only depending on what you're prepared to let Ross know about."

Yet again, Bobby fell abruptly quiet, and Mike happily gave him time to process the information.

"You, Alex and Deakins? Sounds like you're planning a lynch mob," Bobby remarked finally. Mike chuckled.

"Not quite. We just figured that if the four of us were there to back each other up, Ross might be less inclined to argue. Carolyn would have been there as well, except that she's on loan to the BAU team at the moment, and they're in Michigan, or somewhere like it."

Bobby nodded wordlessly. He knew he ought to ask how Carolyn was coping since being recalled by the FBI, but he just didn't have the energy. All of a sudden, everything that had happened recently seemed to just fold in on him, and right then all he wanted was to shut his eyes and go to sleep. He was just contemplating whether Mike might think that rude of him, when he felt his legs being manoeuvred up onto the sofa, and a crocheted blanket being draped over the top of him. When he opened his eyes blearily – in all honesty, he hadn't even noticed that they'd closed to begin with – Mike was standing beside him, and watching him with an understanding smile.

"You're exhausted, Bobby. Get some sleep, pal. Leave this to us, okay?"

Bobby drew in a long, deep breath. His mind was almost pleasantly muzzy as he found all unwanted thoughts to be slowly seeping from his head. He almost felt as though he might just be able to sleep without the horrendous nightmares that usually plagued him. There was just one more directive he felt he needed to communicate to Mike before he fell properly asleep.

"Mike... Tell Wheeler, too."

Mike was surprised, and made no attempt to hide it.

"Why? I thought we agreed she didn't need to know?"

Bobby sighed softly.

"Because Ross is her rabbi. But if we're telling Ross, we might as well tell her, too."

"You think that Ross will blab?" Mike asked in amusement. Bobby frowned.

"Don't be an idiot. If we tell Ross, there's no reason not to tell her. Now, you want to get lost and let me sleep?"

Mike laughed softly again.

"Okay, pal. Sleep well, and hopefully you'll feel a little better tomorrow."

Bobby mumbled something incoherently that Mike had no hope of understanding. Smiling to himself the veteran detective made sure Bobby was well covered by the blanket before letting himself quietly out.

to be continued...

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