“I still can't believe you managed to convince Mike to stay at the hospital,” Carolyn said wryly as they walked back into their hotel suite, escorted there personally by Horatio. Bobby didn't smile as he answered.

“I didn't need to. He argued with the doctor, and the doctor gave him said he could leave if he could walk more than five steps without falling over.”

“And?” Alex wondered.

“He made it three steps,” Bobby answered. “He gave in when he needed to be picked up off the floor and put back in bed.”

“Bobby?” Alex asked quietly, sensing the disquiet in him. “What's wrong?”

He didn't answer immediately. All of a sudden, his memories slipped away, back to over a month ago, when he had watched helplessly as Mike struggled to his feet in that god-forsaken cage, only to collapse to the floor, unable to get up again. He'd joined Mike on the cold, hard floor, then, and for the first time both of them had truly lost all hope of being rescued.

They had both honestly thought that was it, then. Both too weak to get up, with Mike bleeding internally and he himself suffering potentially fatal blood poisoning, and all the while waiting for the nearby explosives to be detonated, bringing the building down on top of them.

He knew he'd lost consciousness and slipped into the near fatal coma well before that had happened, but he also knew that Mike had remained awake until the last, when a slab of concrete had very nearly crushed the life out of them both. For his part, he had distinct memories of confusion upon waking up in the hospital to the realisation that he wasn't dead. It was a happy enough realisation, especially waking up to find Alex beside him, but his fears had not been allayed until they brought Mike in, and he was able to see with his own eyes that his brother was okay.

Of course, he hadn't known at that point that he and Mike were brothers but, truth be told, their experience had bonded them together like brothers regardless, and his memories now of the way Mike had suffered over those two days was like a real physical pain to him. Seeing Mike injured again, this time at the hands of their own brother, was another kick in the gut that he didn't want or need.

A hand on his forearm brought him back to the present, and he blinked and looked around to find Alex, Carolyn and Horatio all watching him.

“Bad memories?” Alex asked gently. Bobby suddenly found he had to struggle to control his emotions.

“I tried to warn Mike,” he said in a strained voice as he dropped unceremoniously onto the sofa. “I tried to warn him... tell him what Richie was like.”

“He seems like a very determined man,” Horatio said.

“He is,” Carolyn confirmed ruefully. “Bobby, you know what he's like. He's like a bulldog. Once he gets his teeth into something...”

Bobby shook his head.

“When all of this started, he asked me to trust him... and I did. But he doesn't trust me. If he did, he would have listened to me. I need him to trust me, or Richie will eat him alive.”

“You're wrong, Bobby,” Alex said quietly. “He does trust you. I think he probably trusts you more than anyone. But you also know that Carolyn is right. Mike is damned stubborn, and right now he just can't see beyond his need to find out the truth.”

“Can I ask what happened to the two of you?” Horatio asked. Carolyn and Alex hesitated, both of them looking towards Bobby. For several seconds, Bobby sat on the sofa, staring at the floor. Finally, abruptly, he pushed himself to his feet and disappeared into his and Mike's bedroom without saying a word.

“I'm sorry about that, Lieutenant,” Alex murmured. “It's still pretty raw with both of them. They were nearly killed.”

“Don't apologise,” Horatio told her. “I think I understand.”

The women exchanged looks again, and then Carolyn indicated for Horatio to sit, which he did.

“Bobby and Mike were ambushed outside a bar in the Bronx on a Friday night,” Carolyn explained. “They were assaulted, shot, and abducted. The men who attacked them locked them in a cage in a building that was scheduled for demolition that same weekend. They were left with just enough water to keep them alive until the demolition.”

“You rescued them, though,” Horatio said, and both Alex and Carolyn smiled grimly.

“We weren't in time to stop the demolition,” Alex said. “It had already started when we got there. The only thing that saved Bobby and Mike was a malfunction with one of the explosives packs. It gave the demolition crew a chance to go in and find them. Even then it was nearly too late. They were both more dead than alive. Mike had to be put on a respirator because of a perforated lung, and he nearly lost his right hand... and Bobby spent a week in a coma that he nearly didn't wake up from.”

“Not good,” Horatio murmured, and Alex laughed softly, bitterly.

“That's a very big understatement. Something happened between them during that weekend, though. I told you that Bobby was comatose? Well, he deteriorated to the point where the decision was made to turn off his life support. He was pronounced brain dead by his doctor, and the life support was turned off. He never responded to any of us... but Mike was left alone with him for just a few minutes, and a couple of hours after that, Bobby was awake.”

“And this was before they found out that they were brothers?” Horatio asked, fascinated by the story.

“That's right,” Carolyn confirmed. “We all spent a week begging Bobby not to die, and he never listened to any of us. Mike went in and told him to quit being a jackass and wake the hell up, and he did. They might have found out now that they're brothers, Lieutenant, but they'd already formed that bond before they found out.”

“Can I ask how they came to find out about being brothers?”

“It happened by mistake,” Alex explained. “When our CSU was investigating what had happened, one of their techs ran a DNA comparison from the blood and DNA samples that were taken from the car that Bobby and Mike were transported in. Our head of CSU...”

“Mack Taylor?” Horatio queried, and Alex nodded.

“Yes, that's right. You know him?”

“We've worked together,” he confirmed. “He's a good man.”

“He is,” Carolyn conceded, “but he's still not too popular with Mike. When he saw the results of the DNA comparison, he came personally to get fresh DNA samples from Bobby and Mike to run a new test. He was hoping the results would turn out to be different. He insisted on getting the sample from Mike, even though Mike was hypersensitive at the time. They heard him screaming from the other side of the ICU wing.”

Horatio winced, and wisely made no attempt to try and offer any justification.

“The point is,” Alex went on wearily, “that they’re close, and because this is such an issue for Mike, Bobby has made it an issue for himself as well. Our captain had us come with them to try and minimise the damage. We need your help with that, Lieutenant. The sooner we get this resolved, the sooner we can go home and put it behind us.”

Horatio nodded in understanding and sympathy.

“I’ll do what I can. But I also need you ladies to keep an eye on your partners, and what you can to keep them reigned in. As I explained to them at the hospital, Richie Goren has fallen in with a very violent crew known as the Mal Noche, and there is a very real danger that the four of you may be targeted by them as a result.”

Alex and Carolyn glanced uneasily at each other. All of a sudden, clearing out of Miami and heading home to New York seemed like a very attractive option.

“We understand,” was all Alex said quietly, soberly.

A few minutes later, Horatio let himself out after promising to arrange for a police presence at the hotel. Bobby hadn’t emerged from his room, and neither Alex nor Carolyn were keen to go in after him. They had more to be concerned with in terms of letting their captain know what had happened.

“What’s this?” Carolyn wondered as Alex tossed her one of the cell phones.

“It’s called a phone,” Alex said dryly. “You call people on it. In this case, you call the captain and tell him Mike got himself hospitalised by Richie.”

“Oh no,” Carolyn burst out. “No, I’m not making that phone call.”

“It’s your turn,” Alex pointed out bluntly. “Don’t forget, I made the call to tell him about this little trip in the first place.”


Alex, however, was unrelenting.

Your turn.”

Grimacing, Carolyn made the call.

In the bedroom, Bobby listened half-heartedly to the murmur of voices from the other room for a few minutes before finally shutting them out altogether. He was sorry for walking out on Horatio Caine like that, when the lieutenant was making a genuine effort to help them. It wasn’t even that he couldn’t bring himself to speak about those couple of days. He could talk about them – at least, what he remembered of them.

No, his issues lay firmly in the present, cemented in fear for what was coming.

Richie had very clearly shown that he hadn’t changed at all from how Bobby remembered him. If anything, he’d gotten worse, and the news that he had fallen in with the Mal Noche only served to heighten his fears.

But there was something else, something more. That spark of recognition that he and Mike had seen in Richie’s eyes. It had only been a split second, but they’d both seen it. Richie knew something. He didn’t know what it might be, but it was something significant enough that Richie had been willing to attack Mike rather than simply tell them. It made him sick to his stomach, wondering what it was that Richie wasn’t telling them, and just how far Mike would be willing to go to figure it out.

He was afraid, acutely afraid, that Mike’s determination would get him killed.

Bobby shut his eyes, drawing in long, deep breaths in an effort to keep from panicking. He had gone through the grieving process long ago when he’d come to the realisation that Richie would never be the caring big brother that he had craved. It seemed that he’d found that now in Mike, and he honestly didn’t know how he would do if he lost Mike now.

He would not try to stop Mike from getting the answers he wanted, Bobby decided finally, but there was one thing he was certain of. He was not going to let Richie rob him of this new family that he’d found; not without one hell of a fight.

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