A/N: I've taken some liberties with the references to the drug chlorphenesin. Since it's a generally agreed upon notion that it would take a bullet or two to bring Detective Goren down, I was racking my mind (and the internet) for a drug that I could incoporate. I settled finally on the muscle relaxant chlorphenesin, and have tweaked the potential effects to suit the needs of my story.

Elliot and Olivia arrived at the ICU a full half hour after leaving SVU headquarters, their journey there delayed by heavy mid-morning traffic.

“Goddamn traffic snarls,” Elliot grumbled as they entered ICU.

“Cool it, Elliot,” Olivia warned him softly as they approached Bobby’s room. He nodded wordlessly in acquiescence.

They rounded the corner, and walked into the cool, quiet room to be met by a touching sight. Alex still sat by her partner’s bedside, but she was fast asleep, slumped forward with her head resting against the edge of the hospital mattress. Her right hand was closed gently over Bobby’s forearm, just above the point where the splint and thick bandages that protected his damaged right hand ended, and her left was stretched across to rest lightly atop his head. Elliot and Olivia exchanged small, sad smiles. Even in sleep, Alex Eames was determined not to be separated from her partner.

Elliot pointed to a couple of chairs on the other side of the room, and they made their way around to sit down and wait. Olivia paused at the end of the bed, staring down at Bobby’s battered features with a powerful feeling of anger.

“Look at him, Elliot,” she said softly, keeping her voice low so as not to wake Alex up. “No one deserves to have this happen to them.”

Elliot nodded again in agreement.

“I know. I can’t believe no one else from Major Case is here, either. If anything like this happened to either of us, all of SVU would probably be camped out in the hospital.”

“That’s because all of SVU don’t see you two as freaks.”

Elliot and Olivia both jumped a little, startled by Alex’s voice. She lifted her head from the bed, and her bleary gaze slowly focused on them.

“We didn’t mean to wake you, Alex,” Olivia murmured. Alex sat up straight in the seat, but both SVU detectives noticed she kept one hand on Bobby’s arm as she stretched.

“It’s okay,” she mumbled. “This isn’t the best place to sleep, anyway.”

“Maybe you should go home and get some proper rest,” Elliot suggested gently. He wasn’t surprised when Alex shook her head in rejection of that suggestion.

“No. I’m not going anywhere. I don’t want him waking up to strangers… or worse, waking up alone.”

“We thought Major Case would have organised a rotation of people to stay with him by now,” Elliot ventured tentatively. At that, a bitter and angry look flashed across Alex’s face.

“Bastards, all of them. They can all just rot in hell.”

Again, Olivia and Elliot exchanged glances.

“It’s no accident that no vigil’s been organised, isn’t it?” Olivia said softly, and Alex looked away as fresh tears threatened.

“Deakins told them this morning. Apparently all they were worried about was whether they’d have to take on extra cases to compensate. None of them give a damn about Bobby. He’d be the first to put his name down if this had happened to any of them, but none of them will set foot near the hospital because it’s him. I bet they wouldn’t have the same issues if I was the one who’d been attacked.”

“Let us talk to the guys at our squad,” Elliot told her. “We’ll see if we can’t put those assholes at MCS to shame.”

Alex rubbed a hand over her eyes miserably.

“I’m sorry, I was just venting. Forget I said anything. I mean, it’ll hurt Bobby to know that none of them care enough to come and see him, but he’d hate a false show of sympathy even more.”

Olivia glanced sideways at her partner. She knew the look on his face all-too-well. He intended to go ahead and organise a vigil through SVU, regardless of what Alex said. She partly suspected his motives were less than pure – there were few things Elliot liked more than showing up the high profile Major Case Squad. However, she also knew him well enough to know that he had genuine concern and compassion for the injured detective, enough so to put aside any past feelings of animosity or dislike. In Elliot’s eyes, Bobby Goren was no longer the annoying, know-all detective from Major Case, but rather a victim of a violent and heinous crime; a victim who was deserving and in need of compassion and kindness.

In fact, as her mind went back to the general reaction from the SVU detectives and assigned officers when the word had spread about what had happened, she suspected that Elliot would have no trouble convincing the other members of their squad to volunteer. Bobby Goren may not have been the most popular detective, but everyone at SVU respected him, and they had all been horrified by the crimes perpetrated on him.

“Where is Deakins, anyway?” Olivia wondered. “We half expected him to be here, too.”

“He had to get back to One Police Plaza,” Alex explained tiredly. “He didn’t want to go, but he didn’t have a choice. The brass upstairs wanted him to report to them, and he had a pile of work waiting for him in his office.”

“He’ll be back later, then?” Olivia asked, and Alex nodded wordlessly, not bothering to query their interest.

“Alex, would you mind taking a look at something for us?” Elliot asked, pulling the copy of the sketch from within his jacket. “Tell if this guy is familiar to you.”

Alex took the page from Elliot to look at it. A moment later, she stiffened visibly.

“You know who he is?” Olivia asked, and Alex nodded.

“This is Simon Matic. Bobby and I nailed him for kidnap and rape around three years ago. Who came up with this picture?”

“Bobby’s Super gave the description to one of our sketch artists,” Elliot told her. “He said this guy came to him a couple of weeks ago, and left instructions to make sure all the alarms were turned off on Bobby’s floor on Saturday night. You busted this guy for kidnap and rape, you say?”

“If we could have gotten him on anything else, we would have,” Alex said bitterly. “He’s a sadistic monster.”

“You think he’d be capable of doing all of this to Goren?” Elliot asked. A distinct chill settled in the air as Alex contemplated that.

“Yes,” she said softly after a moment’s consideration. “He’d be more than capable.”

Her mind flashed back abruptly to that moment in the interrogation room, when Bobby had delivered the knock-out blow with Maggie Coulter’s drawing. In addition to his obvious anger at being caught, there was a hot, violent hatred in Simon Matic’s eyes that had frightened all of them – even Bobby. Later on, Deakins had made a grim comment about being aware of possible payback should Matic ever be released from prison, and for once Bobby had not simply shrugged it off. Now, it suddenly seemed that Deakins’ words were coming back to haunt them all.

“The way he looked at us… and at Bobby especially… when they took him away for arraignment,” Alex said softly. “He would have attacked Bobby right then and there, if he’d had the chance. I’m sure he would have.” She looked back up at the two SVU detectives, confused. “He shouldn’t be out of prison yet. It was only three years ago, and he was handed a fifteen year sentence.”

“We’ll have to look into it,” Elliot murmured, “but odds are he had a successful appeal against his sentence.”

“When Bobby wakes up again, we’ll see whether he can remember anything,” Olivia said. Immediately, Alex’s guard went up.

“He couldn’t remember anything before, when Cragen was here. You can’t force him to remember anything before he’s ready to.”

“We know that, Alex,” Elliot said calmly. “We aren’t going to try and force him, but we do still need to talk to him. You know that. We need him to at least try to remember whether his brother left before the assault began. The bottom line is that we don’t have any hard evidence at the moment to link Richard Goren to the assault, and unless we can get a statement from Goren saying otherwise, his brother is going to be released from custody in a matter of hours. And if that happens, I’m betting he’ll do a very rapid disappearing act. Now, if he had something to do with the attack on Goren… anything at all, then we don’t want him walking away from it.”

Alex was silent for a long moment.

“You didn’t get any DNA from the rape kit?”

Olivia shook her head.

“No. We’re guessing that whoever raped him has had a vasectomy. There was no DNA at all in the semen that the rape kit found.”

“And there were no other fibres?” she pressed. “Nothing at all?”

“CSU are still processing evidence,” Elliot answered, “but so far they haven’t found anything useful. The assholes that did this were very thorough. Also… Alex, he was drugged.”

Alex sat up slowly, her already pale face turning yet another shade of white.


“We suspect it happened before the assault began,” Olivia explained. “Possibly his brother did it. CSU found a beer glass with traces of drugs that were found in Bobby’s blood, but they only found Bobby’s fingerprints and DNA on it, no one else’s.”

“Drugged,” Alex whispered, feeling a chill race down her spine. “He wasn’t knocked out, though, was he?”

“No,” Olivia confirmed softly. “CSU determined it to a be a muscle relaxant called Chlorphenesin. The dosage given to Bobby was just enough to leave him temporarily immobile, but not enough to knock him out, or shut down his respiratory system.”

“Immobile? You mean…”

“He knew what was happening,” Elliot said. “He could feel everything, but he couldn’t lift a finger to defend himself. He wasn’t given a chance to fight back.”

Alex pressed one hand over her mouth as her body shuddered violently. Then, in a gesture that was eerily reminiscent of Bobby, she pinched hard at the bridge of her nose.

“All right,” she said finally in an almost disturbingly calm voice. “What’s next?”

Elliot took a deliberate step back, and sat down.

“Now, we wait for Goren to wake up.”

“His books.”

Elliot and Olivia both looked up at Alex simultaneously. They’d been there for nearly two hours now, and over the last half hour silence had finally fallen. Elliot had been on the verge of nodding off when Alex spoke, startling him back into awareness.

“What about his books?” Olivia asked.

“Was there anything salvageable? Anything at all?”

“No,” Elliot confirmed softly, not really caring for Bobby to wake up at that moment and overhear this particular conversation. “They were pretty thorough. CSU went through his place with a fine tooth comb, but there was nothing left. All of his books are gone.”

Alex buried her face in her hands.

“Those books were a lifeline. Some of them were irreplaceable.”

Neither Elliot nor Olivia attempted to say anything about compensation. They knew without it having to be said that no amount of financial compensation would make up for the loss of something that clearly meant a great deal to Bobby.

“You don’t have to be the one to tell him,” Olivia offered. “We’ll tell him, if you want us to.”

“Tell me what?”

All three detectives were on their feet in seconds at the faltering sound of Bobby’s voice.

“Hey,” Alex murmured, reaching across to gently stroke his cheek in an affectionate gesture. “How are you feeling?”

He didn’t answer immediately.

“Been better.”

It was, quite possibly, the biggest understatement Alex had ever heard him utter. Had the circumstances not been what they were, she probably would have laughed. As it was, she had to make a conscious effort not to cry again.

“Is that Olivia Benson?” he asked tentatively.

“Yes, it’s me,” Olivia answered. “Elliot’s here too, Bobby.”

A small, tired smile quirked the corner’s of Bobby’s mouth.

“They stuck you two with me, huh?”

Elliot laid a hand gently on Bobby’s left shoulder, acutely aware that there probably were not that many places on the detective’s body that didn’t hurt.

“They didn’t stick us with you, Bobby, and we’re not here to gloat over anything. We’re here to see you, to see how you are, and to ask a few questions if you think you’re up for that.”

Bobby lay silently for a long moment speaking.

“I… I’m sorry…”

“Don’t apologise to us,” Olivia told him firmly. “There’s no need, and you know it.”

Bobby seemed to relax a little, then.

“Thankyou,” he whispered, genuinely grateful for their kind understanding. “I… I don’t know how much I can remember, though.”

“Just tell us whatever you can,” Elliot told him. “Don’t try to force it. It’ll come back soon enough without you doing that.”

“I suppose you want to… to hear about Richie.”

“Whatever you’re able to tell us,” Elliot reassured him. “Just take your time, Bobby. Don’t rush.”

Alex watched Elliot with renewed respect. Despite his earlier admission that they only had a few more hours to find solid evidence implicating Richard Goren, Elliot was deliberately putting as little pressure as possible on Bobby. A cynical part of her whispered that it was just a tactic, but one look at Elliot told her otherwise.

There was honest and open concern on the detective’s face, and in his eyes. It had nothing to do with tactics, Alex realised with relief and gratitude. It had everything to do with Elliot’s compassion for Bobby as a victim.

Satisfied that her partner was in good company, Alex decided it was finally time to take a short break, and perhaps get some fresh air and mid-morning stimulation.

“Bobby, I’m just going to go for a short walk,” she told him gently. “Get myself some coffee, and a bit of fresh air.”

He stiffened visibly, panic threatening at the thought of her leaving his side, even for a short while.

“It’s okay,” Alex murmured, anxious to allay his fear. “I’ll be back, I promise. I’m not leaving you alone, not for anything.”

Slowly, Bobby relaxed again as he reassured himself that she was, indeed, coming back.

“Is there anything you want?” she asked.

“A… A newspaper would be good. I mean… If you could… That is…”

She smiled and this time when she leaned in she kissed him gently on the cheek. None of them, however, missed the way he tensed just momentarily at her touch. Alex drew back from him, pained understanding flickering in her eyes.

“Of course I’ll read it to you,” she assured him. “I’ll be back in a little while.”

“I tell you, you’re a lucky guy, Bobby,” Elliot mused once Alex had gone. “Having Alex Eames for a partner, I mean.”

“Don’t know what I’d do without her,” Bobby admitted softly. “She’s my best friend.”

Elliot glanced at Olivia, who smiled knowingly. It had been debated more than once whether Bobby Goren and Alex Eames were covering up a more… physical relationship. Bobby’s simple, un-stuttered statement told them both very plainly that that wasn’t the case.

“Bobby, we’re going to record this, okay?” Elliot told him as he set up a mini-recorder on the table.

“Okay,” Bobby conceded softly. Elliot checked the tape, the pressed record and nodded to Olivia to begin.

“How about we start with what you did on Friday?” Olivia suggested. “What time did you finish up at work?”

“Just after three-thirty,” Bobby answered slowly. “We finished our paperwork early… Skipped lunch to get it done. Alex… It was her father’s birthday, and she didn’t want to be late.”

“So where did you go when you left One Police Plaza?” Elliot asked.

“Just… Just went home. It… It’d been a hard week.”

Elliot and Olivia exchanged sympathetic looks. There was no need for Bobby to elaborate there. They both understood perfectly a hard-working detective’s definition of a ‘hard week’.

“When you got home,” Olivia said, “did anything unusual happen? Did you see anyone hanging around that shouldn’t have been there?”

Bobby met that question with a long, contemplative silence. Finally, he gave the tiniest shake of his head.

“No. I met my neighbour… Helped her carry her groceries upstairs to her apartment… We talked a little. I told her I had to cancel dinner with her on Saturday night, because my brother was coming to see me…”

“You were expecting your brother?” Elliot asked, a little surprised by the knowledge.

“Yeah. He… um… He said he wanted to catch up, but I figured he was probably after money. He usually is.”

“So you cancelled out of dinner with your neighbour… Rosa Pirelli, wasn’t it?” Olivia prompted.

“Yeah,” Bobby murmured. “Mrs Pirelli. She… We agreed to have dinner on Sunday night instead. Then I went into my apartment… Didn’t leave again until Saturday morning.”

“What did you do on Saturday?” Elliot asked. At that, Bobby hesitated.

“I visited my mother,” he ventured finally. Olivia laid a hand lightly on his arm.

“Bobby, please don’t get upset, but we know about your mother. Your brother more or less blurted it out when we were interrogating him.”

Bobby suddenly went very quiet as his mind worked over that information, processing it as fast as he was able to in his current state.

“He… You… You’ve arrested Richie?”

“For credit card theft, and impersonating a police officer,” Elliot answered. “He checked himself into a hotel using one of your credit cards, and your gold shield.”

Again, Bobby was silent for a long moment.

“He stole my shield… and a credit card?”

“Are you saying you didn’t give him either one?” Elliot asked, and Bobby drew in a slow breath. Even in his fractured state of mind, he understood what Elliot was pushing for.

“No, I didn’t. I didn’t give him one of my credit cards, and I sure as hell didn’t give him my badge.”

Elliot and Olivia exchanged small smiles. That was two counts they could nail Bobby’s big brother on. Now, to see if they couldn’t make it third time lucky, and try for the one that would see Richard Goren denied bail at his arraignment.

“Bobby, tell us what you can about Saturday night, from the time when your brother arrived,” Olivia prodded him gently. Bobby considered for a moment where to start, as well as what he actually remembered clearly, before going on quietly.

“Richie arrived around nine o’clock. We each had a beer… Then he got to the reason why he’d come. He needed a lot of money, fast. He’d just done a three year stint in prison, and he said he owed a lot of protection money. He wanted me to give it to him. Said… Said I owed it to him as his little brother.”

“How much money did he want?” Olivia wondered.

“A quarter of a million,” Bobby answered tiredly. A short, bitter laugh escaped his lips. “He wouldn’t believe me when I said I didn’t have that kind of money. He wanted to know how I was paying for Mom to stay at Carmel Ridge, if I didn’t have a lot of money stashed away. He wouldn’t believe my army pension is paying for all of that.”

Elliot scrawled the figure down in his notebook, along with the word ‘who for’ and a question mark next to it.

“What happened when you refused?” Olivia asked.

“He went nuts,” Bobby answered softly. “I thought I was going to have to call for uniforms. I’m kind of surprised none of the neighbours did.”

“What time was this?” Elliot asked, frowning.

“Uh… About quarter to ten.”

Elliot’s frown deepened as he scribbled that down as well. Quarter to ten didn’t correspond with the timeline they’d gotten from the neighbours. They’d reported hearing loud disturbances shortly before midnight.

“Did anything get smashed up when your brother had his tantrum?” Elliot asked.

“No… He just yelled at me for about fifteen minutes.”

“Okay,” Elliot murmured. “Sorry, go ahead.”

“I… I finally got him to calm down. He… He said…”

“What?” Olivia prompted gently when he hesitated. Bobby drew in a ragged breath.

“He said I’d regret it if I didn’t… didn’t give him the money. That it’d come back on me. I said… I couldn’t give him what I didn’t have… He said the… the consequences were on my head, not his.”

Bobby trailed off, his breath starting to come a little too rapidly for either Elliot or Olivia’s liking. They were sure that Bobby was quickly coming to the same conclusions that they were, and it was starting to cause some sort of anxiety attack. If they wanted to avoid being booted out by his doctor, they needed to calm him down quickly.

Stepping in close, Olivia did as she had seen Alex do earlier. Reaching out, she laid her palm against the top of his head and allowed her thumb to gently stroke across his forehead in a soothing gesture.

“You’re safe, Bobby,” Olivia murmured. “Just focus on us, okay? Elliot and I are right here. Just concentrate on us.”

Gradually, his breathing slowed again as the panic subsided. When they were confident that he was calm again, Elliot spoke once more.

“Can you tell us what happened next?”

A faint sigh escaped Bobby’s bruised lips and he went on in a soft, thready voice. Both detectives guessed he didn’t have much energy to spare before exhaustion claimed him again, and they were both anxious to get something with which they could stymie Richard Goren’s application for bail.

“I said he could have one more beer. Then he had to go… and I told him… when he left, I didn’t want to see him again. I… I got us both a beer… Glasses, that time, not bottles… Then I had to go to the bathroom. I guess, that’s when he helped himself to my badge and credit card.”

Elliot and Olivia traded glances. They suspected that was probably also when the chlorphenesin was put in his drink.

“We… finished our drinks, and then Richie left.”

“Did he say anything else to you?” Elliot wondered.

Bobby hesitated in answering, trying to gather his thoughts. He understood the importance of answering the questions, but he was so damned tired… Struggling to keep his focus, he went on tremulously.

“He… He said it again… Whatever happened from then on was… was my fault, not his… That I’d had my chance. Then he… he left.”

Silence reigned for a long moment, and then Bobby spoke again.

“I was drugged.”

It was not a question.

“Yeah,” Elliot confirmed softly. “You were. It was a pretty high dosage of the muscle relaxant chlorphenesin. In small doses it’s used as an analgesic, but in larger doses… like what was found in your bloodstream… it can cause almost complete, temporary paralysis, but without inducing unconsciousness or numbness. CSU found traces of the drug in your beer glass.”

Bobby was silent, taking in Elliot’s words with a worrying calm.

“What do you remember happening after your brother left?” Olivia asked, sparing Elliot a grim look.

“I went and sat down,” Bobby mumbled. “Just… Just wanted to clear my head. I remember thinking that I wanted to call Alex… But then I couldn’t move. I… I thought at the time, I just didn’t have the energy to move. But… I really couldn’t… I think it was about twenty minutes after Richie left… I heard my… my front door open. Thought I’d locked it, but I guess I didn’t. I… I thought it was Richie come back. I tried to… to get up, but I couldn’t move. Nothing worked… I heard someone behind me… They didn’t say anything, just tied a blindfold over my eyes. I… I tried to move… to do something, but I couldn’t… I couldn’t do anything.”

His voice cracked audibly. Olivia strengthened the pressure of her hand on his head just a fraction, to remind him of where he was. He seemed to take comfort in the contact, and went on in a subdued voice.

“Then, whoever it was… They started hitting me. First with their fists, then…”

Elliot and Olivia said nothing, waiting patiently for him to continue.

“I was p… pulled out of my chair, to the floor… Then they started hitting me with a metal bar of some sort. I… I couldn’t stop them.”

“Them?” Elliot queried.

“There were two of them,” Bobby confirmed. “I… I didn’t notice at first, but then I could… could smell them. Two different kinds of aftershave.”

Olivia looked at her partner in time to see him roll his eyes in mock exasperation, and she found she had to fight to conceal a grin of her own. Bobby Goren, and his legendary sense of smell…

“That… That was when I knew… knew Richie wasn’t there,” he said softly. “There were two men, but Richie wasn’t one of them. But… he set me up, didn’t he?”

“Yeah,” Elliot answered, seeing no point in trying to keep the truth from him. “Yeah, Bobby, we think he did.”

Bobby turned his head away from them.

“He set me up… My own brother…”

A shudder passed through him, barely perceptible but seen nonetheless by the two SVU detectives.

“He won’t get away with it,” Elliot promised him. “We’ll nail his ass to the wall, and we’ll get the other two scumbags that hurt you. We promise you that we’ll get them.”

Bobby hesitated. He hoped he’d said all they needed to hear, at least for the moment, but if they wanted to know more…

“Do… Do you want me to…”

He faltered, unable to finish what he’d started to say. Olivia looked sympathetically at him.

“Do you think you could manage to tell us anymore?”

Bobby didn’t answer, and his silence spoke in volumes.

“It’s okay,” Elliot said. “You don’t need to tell us anything more right now. I think we’ve got enough to stop Richie from getting bail. We’d better get going, though. Cragen will be waiting hear…”

He trailed off, looking down in mild surprise as Bobby sucked in a sharp breath.

“What is it? Is it the pain?” Elliot asked in concern. Bobby didn’t reply, and all of a sudden his cheeks flushed red with embarrassment. A moment later, understanding dawned in Olivia’s eyes. He didn’t want to be left alone, but was too embarrassed to admit it.

“Elliot, you go ahead,” she told him quietly. “I might stay for a bit. At least until Alex gets back, anyway.”

Elliot nodded in wordless understanding. He walked around to the other side of the bed, and then lay his hand briefly on Bobby’s right arm.

“I’ll come by to see you again later this evening, or tomorrow morning, okay?”

Bobby nodded slightly, touched by Elliot’s care and concern.

“Thanks, Elliot.”

Elliot nodded and smiled at his partner, then left the room. Olivia watched him go, then returned her attention to Bobby and resumed stroking his forehead to soothe him.

“How are you feeling?” she asked softly.

“Tired,” he whispered.

She wasn’t surprised. It had taken a lot out of him to tell them all that he had, and even then she knew it was barely the tip of the iceberg.

“Try and rest,” she murmured. “It’s okay, Bobby. We’ve got your back, now. Just rest.”

Should’vebeen abletrust…”

“What was that?” Olivia asked, but she didn’t get an answer, for Bobby was already asleep.

Olivia sat down slowly, watching the sleeping detective with a profound sense of grief. She knew she couldn’t begin to imagine how he must feel, knowing now that he had literally been sold out by his own flesh and blood. It had to hurt like hell, plain and simple. Olivia shuddered a little. Despite her offer to Alex to tell Bobby about his books, she suddenly found she’d give just about anything not to have to tell him. If what Alex had said was true, it would just about break his heart to learn of the destruction of his beloved books.

Movement in the doorway drew her attention, and she looked up to see Alex coming back in, looking considerably more alert after having had a fix of coffee. She had a couple of newspapers tucked under one arm, and a bottle of diet coke in hand. She paused in the doorway, looking first at Bobby and then Olivia.

“He’s asleep?”

“We wore him out,” Olivia said with an apologetic smile, only half joking. Alex walked around and deposited the papers and the bottle on the table.

“Was he able to…”

“Remember anything?” Olivia suggested lightly when Alex hesitated. “Yes, he remembered a fair bit, once we got started. He’d only just gotten to talking about the actual assault, though, when it got too much for him. We didn’t push after that. We can talk to him about the assault a little bit later on.”

“You didn’t say anything about Simon Matic?”

“No, not yet. We’ll wait and see what we find out about him before we raise his name with Bobby.”

Alex hesitated, then asked another question.

“Where’s Elliot?”

“I told him to go back to headquarters without me. One of us needed to get the tape back there quickly. Richard Goren is due to be brought for arraignment in less than an hour. We needed something to keep him from being given bail. Or, at least, a bail that he could afford.”

“And Bobby gave you what you needed?”

“He did,” Olivia confirmed. “Well, we think so, anyway. We know now that Richard wasn’t involved in the actual assault, but it looks like he had a big part in setting Bobby up for it. It had to be Richard who put the chlorphenesin in his beer.”

“Son of a bitch,” Alex muttered. She paused, looking down at her partner’s now placid features sadly. “How did he cope? With talking about it, I mean.”

“It wasn’t easy,” Olivia answered, “but he managed.”

Alex looked around at Olivia, a mixture of grief and gratitude in her eyes.

“Thanks, Olivia.”

“For what?”

“For not pressuring him. I know you were running against a deadline…”

“Alex, in our line of duty, the victim always gets top priority. If he hadn’t been ready, or willing to talk to us, we wouldn’t have forced him to. Luckily, as a detective, I guess he knows the importance of getting a witness statement as soon as possible after the fact. We were especially lucky that he was awake for us to talk to. He’s a tough guy, Alex. It won’t be easy, but I think he’ll be okay.”

Alex didn’t respond to that, and Olivia took the liberty of walking over and giving her a reassuring hug.

“What’s the matter? You don’t believe that?”

“I want to,” Alex said softly. “I really want to, Olivia… but there’s so much to come that he’s going to have to deal with. Not only his brother… His books as well…Just about everything he owns was destroyed, Olivia. His home won’t be fit to live in for weeks… if he even decides that he’s willing to go back there. And then there’s his eyes…”

“You’re jumping the gun, Alex,” Olivia told her gently. “Just go one step at a time, okay? That’s all Bobby is going to be doing. He’s going to be relying on you like never before. Don’t get ahead of him, because if you trip and fall, he’s going to fall right along with you.”

“Nice sentiment,” Alex said bitterly. Olivia hugged her again.

“Still true. Just go one step at a time… one day at a time.” She paused, then spoke regretfully. “Alex, I have to get going, but I’ll come back later, if you’d like.”

“You don’t have to,” Alex said dully.

“I know I don’t,” Olivia agreed. “But I want to.” She walked around to the door. “I’ll see you later, okay?”

Alex watched her go, then sank back into the chair by the bed, once again taking up her silent vigil with her injured partner.

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