A/N: WARNING: Descriptions of violence and rape in this chapter. If you’re not comfortable with that, or if you’re not old enough, DON’T READ THIS! You have been warned.

A small part of this chapter has been updated to correct a discrepancy – specifically, Nolan and Boyd not knowing SVU were investigating the assault, even though they knew SVU had organized the vigil. I hate discrepancies.

Danny returned a little over half an hour later to a touching sight. Alex had moved from the chair to sit up beside Bobby on the bed. Her arms were wrapped around him and he was cuddled in against her, with his bandaged head resting against her shoulder. She was murmuring softly to him, while one hand gently stroked his cheek soothingly.

“Is he asleep?” Danny asked softly, walking carefully into the room. Alex looked back at him, and nodded.

“Yes. He literally cried himself to sleep.”

He stood there, watching the two of them for a long moment before venturing a question.

“What happened?”

“He found out about his books.”

Danny stared at her, puzzled.

“What do you mean?”

“All of his books were destroyed,” she explained. “The men that did this to him… They burned every single one of his books. All he’s got left are the books that he has at One Police Plaza.”

“Aw, crap,” Danny muttered. “Those books meant everything to him. I suppose everything else in his apartment was pretty much trashed?”

Alex nodded in confirmation.

“Not much was left. They made sure of that.”

Danny looked to Bobby thoughtfully.

“He really trusts you, doesn’t he?”

Alex looked at him guardedly.

“Yes, he does. We have to trust each other completely… Our lives are in each other’s hands every day.”

“I know,” Danny murmured. “It’s just… Well, you probably know that Bobby has never found it easy to trust anyone. It’s kind of strange to see him so… I don’t know… comfortable with you. Actually, strange isn’t the right word. It’s… nice. You really care about him, don’t you?”

Even as he watched, Alex visibly relaxed, and returned her attention to her partner.

“Yes,” she answered softly. “We care about each other. Bobby doesn’t have a lot of friends… Not really close friends. In a way, we’re each other’s best friend.”

Danny walked around and sat down in a chair on the other side of the bed.

“I don’t doubt he got upset about his books. That was harsh, burning them.”

“It was about as personal as it gets,” Alex said bitterly. “They had to know how much his books mean to him. Burning them like that… It was the ultimate slap in the face. Even more than…”

She trailed off abruptly. Danny hesitated, then spoke tentatively.

“Even more than raping him? Is that what you were about to say?”

Alex stared at him for several long seconds, then turned her attention back to Bobby.

“They set out to hurt him as much as they could, in every way that they could. And they succeeded.”

Danny looked on thoughtfully, taking in the curious sight of his big bear of a cousin being cradled in the arms of someone who was nearly half his size.

“Can I ask you something without getting decked?” he asked. Alex immediately shot him a lethal glare, but Danny chose to ignore it. “Tell me… Do you love Bobby?”

The question gave Alex pause. She considered it for a moment before answering softly.

“Romantically? No. As a friend? Yes, more than anything.”

Danny nodded appreciatively.

“He’s lucky to have you.”

Alex shut her eyes, and hugged Bobby to her as tightly as she dared.

“That sentiment goes both ways.”

He smiled faintly. “I dare say it does.”

“Ah… ’Scuse us…”

Both Alex and Danny looked around at the voice from the doorway, and though Danny didn’t recognise either of the two men who stood there, Alex clearly did. Even as Danny looked on, the new-found calm in her expression was washed away, to be replaced with dark anger.

“Danny,” she said coolly, “this is Detectives Nolan and Boyd, two of our… colleagues from Major Case. What do you two want?”

Boyd and Nolan exchanged glances, and then Boyd walked in slowly.

“We… We came to see Goren. And… to apologise to him… you know, for being insensitive assholes.”

It could have been a trick of the light, but Danny was sure that Alex’s expression softened just a fraction.

“You’re genuine about that?”

Nolan followed Boyd in.

“Yeah. Look, Eames, we really are sorry. We should have come long before this. I don’t know why we were being such jerks.”

Boyd grunted. “Mob mentality. Someone else sets the standard, and you just stop thinking for yourself.” He came to a halt at the bedside. “How’s he doing?”

Alex looked down at her partner, sleeping soundly cradled in her embrace.

“In all truth? Not so great.”

“I guess he wouldn’t be,” Boyd conceded. “Man… We didn’t realise it was this bad. Even from what Deakins told us, I never imagined this.”

“What about his eyes? What’s the damage there?” Nolan asked.

“Burned,” Alex confirmed. “They won’t know for a while how bad… or how permanent it is.”

“And his hands?” Nolan wondered, looking at the detective’s thickly bandaged hands.

“Both broken,” Alex replied. “His left hand… The doctor said every bone in his left hand was broken. They don’t know if it will ever heal completely.”

“Do they have any idea at all who did this to him?” Boyd asked, his voice tight with anger. Alex hesitated, then answered tentatively.

“They have a couple of leads,” Alex answered carefully. “I don’t know much more than that.”

“Who’s investigating it?” Nolan wondered.

“Elliot Stabler and Olivia Benson have the case,” she answered softly.

“Stabler?” Nolan retorted. “Damn, he hates Major Case. He probably laughed his head off when he was handed this one.”

“I heard that.”

They all looked around just as Benson and Stabler walked in. Elliot favoured Boyd and Nolan with a cool look, then looked past them to Alex.

“Hey, Alex, how are you doing? Did you manage to get some rest?”

She nodded, but didn’t elaborate for them.

“Have you learnt anything more?”

Olivia nodded. “Yes, but we need to talk to Bobby again, to see if he can corroborate any of it. How’s he doing?”

“Pretty distraught, actually,” Alex admitted softly. “I had to tell him about his books. It… It was just a bit more than he could cope with.”

“His books?” Nolan asked, frowning. “What about his books?”

Elliot glanced back at him.

“The bastards that attacked him burned all of his books, and pretty much trashed everything in his apartment. There’s nothing left.”

“Crap,” Nolan muttered. “They really tried to take him apart, didn’t they?”

At that moment, Bobby stirred and, with a soft moan, drew back a little from Alex as he woke up.

“Sorry,” Alex murmured. “Didn’t mean to wake you.”

“S’okay,” he mumbled. “Danny…?”

Danny stood up and walked over to the bedside, reaching out to lay a hand gently on his cousin’s shoulder.

“I’m right here, bud. How’re you feeling?”

Bobby considered that question for a long moment before answering.

“You want an honest answer… or should I lie through my teeth?”

Danny sighed.

“That good, huh?”

“Hey, you’ve got visitors,” Alex told him as she slid carefully off the bed and allowed him to adjust slightly into a more comfortable position. “Elliot and Olivia are here, and so are Nolan and Boyd.”

Bobby’s head tilted just fractionally to the side.

“Nolan and Boyd?”

“Yeah,” Boyd spoke up. “We came to see how you’re doing, Bobby, and to see if there’s anything you want that we can get for you.”

Bobby answered that offer with silence, not quite sure what to make of it.

Despite Alex and Captain Deakins’ efforts at discretion, it hadn’t taken Bobby much effort to understand why none of his fellow Major Case detectives had come to the hospital to see him. Though he hadn’t been especially surprised, it had still hurt. It had hurt a lot. Now, after personally experiencing the obvious contempt and disregard that the rest of the Major Case team clearly had for him, he simply didn’t know what to make of this apparent change of heart.

“Listen, Bobby,” Nolan said quietly, “we’re sorry. We were being assholes, and we had no right. We should’ve been here for you right from the start… All of us should’ve been. There’s no excuse, but if there’s anything we can do now, just say. Anything at all, okay?”

Bobby relaxed a little in the bed. He was too sick, too tired and simply too disheartened to try and analyse their motives. Right at that point, he had no strength of will to do anything but simply take them at their word.

“Elliot?” he asked, frustrated at the effort that he had to make to keep his voice from breaking.

“Yeah?” Elliot replied.

“You and Olivia need to ask more questions, don’t you?”

“Yeah,” Elliot confirmed. “We do, Bobby. You up to it?”

No, Bobby thought dismally. Not really

“I’ll try,” he conceded aloud.

“That’s all we’re asking,” Olivia assured him. Elliot looked around at the other occupants, a determined look on his face.

“Okay, we need everyone out, now. Alex, you can stay if you want.”

Alex looked across at Bobby, and at the conflicting emotions on his bruised face. He wanted her to stay, and yet at the same time he didn’t.

“I’ll wait right outside,” she told him, opting for a compromise. “Danny and I will both be right outside. We’ll be back in like a shot if you need us.”

Bobby nodded wordlessly. As much as he wanted them both to stay, there were things he was going to have to speak about that he didn’t want either to have to listen to. He felt Alex’s lips brush lightly over his forehead, and had to make a conscious effort not to flinch away from her. He’d done that when she kissed him on the cheek yesterday, and he’d sensed her hurt at the perceived rejection as clearly as if he could see it with his own eyes. The last thing he wanted was to hurt her, and so he’d forced himself not to cringe away from those small showings of affection.

It wasn’t easy. With the exception of when he’d cried himself to sleep in her arms, any physical contact left him feeling sick to his stomach, and the most innocent touches were bringing memories to the fore that he would rather bury as deep within his mind as he could.

He listened without replying as first Nolan and Boyd, and then Alex and Danny filed out of the room. He heard the murmur of their voices briefly in the hallway, and then the door closed, shutting those voice out.

“I know who one of the men was that… that attacked me,” Bobby said before either Elliot or Olivia had the chance to speak. Both detectives shared a hopeful look. If he was able to identify either Matic or Cozza, they’d be one step closer to putting the proverbial nail in Richie’s coffin. After a lengthy discussion, they’d agreed that they didn’t believe Richard Goren’s version of events, and the more that Bobby remembered of his ordeal, the more proof they hoped to find that would allow them to scuttle the deal that had been tentatively decided upon for Richie in the event of his testifying against Simon Matic and Richard Cozza.

“Tell us who attacked you, Bobby,” Olivia encouraged him.

“Matic…” he answered softly. “Simon Matic. I… Alex and I… We nailed him around three years ago… Kidnap and rape.”

“Did you actually see him?” Elliot asked, trying to keep his tone gentle so as not to come across as being too aggressive. They needed something definitive from him, something that be relief upon in court as a positive identification, or a defence lawyer would trample the accusation before it ever got to court.


“Then how do you know it was him?”

Bobby drew in an unsteady breath. He understood what Elliot was trying to do, but that didn’t make it any easier for him.

“Were you going to… record this?”

“Yeah,” Elliot answered. “Hang on… Okay, whenever you’re ready.”

“Do… Do you want me to start from where I… I left off last time?”

“That’d be good,” Olivia said. “Just take your time, Bobby.”

Bobby drew in a long breath in a futile effort to steady his nerves, and wishing that he could somehow rid himself of the sense of helplessness and hopelessness that he was damn near drowning in. Out of everything he’d ever experienced in his life, this was the first time he genuinely felt like a victim. It was a truly sickening feeling.

“The last thing you told us,” Olivia reminded him gently, “was that you were pulled out of your chair, to the floor, and you were hit with what felt like a piece of metal.”

“Yeah,” Bobby mumbled. “They didn’t say anything… Just kept hitting me. They didn’t hit me on the head, though. They… They were careful about that. I think, maybe, they didn’t want me to pass out. When they stopped, I thought that was it over… I thought they’d take whatever they wanted and… and go… But they didn’t. They dragged me into my bedroom and… and between them they lifted me onto my bed. I… I was scared… I didn’t know what was going on. Where they dumped me on my bed… I could see the alarm clock. It was around eleven-thirty by then. They went out… I could hear a lot of noise, like they were throwing stuff around. There was so much noise… I thought for sure that one of my neighbours would get angry and call the police… I prayed they would… But they didn’t. I remember it was just before midnight when they came back in. The drugs… the chlorphenesin… was wearing off, and I could move again. Not enough to be able to… to help myself, though. They started taking my… my clothes off. They used a knife to cut my clothes away. I remember crying out… One of them cut me with their knife, on the leg. That was when they gagged me. They stripped me totally, and then one of them wrapped chains around ankles… chained me to the bed. One of them said something to me… They whispered it, I couldn’t place the voice…”

“What did they say?” Elliot asked quietly when Bobby faltered.

“He c… called me their… their slave… Said I had to… to be punished. They took my hand… my right hand, and put it on some sort of wooden block. One of them held my arm, and then the other broke my hand with a hammer. I… I think they hit it four or five times before… before they started on my left hand. When they were finished… I couldn’t do anything. My hands were like… like pulp… They pulled my arms over my head then, and they handcuffed me to the bed head.”

“Easy,” Olivia murmured, taking the opportunity to interrupt him as his breath started to become raspy, and his voice became hoarse and weak. She picked up a glass of water from the mobile table, and held it gently to his lips for him to sip from. “It’s okay,” she murmured to him. “You’re safe, Bobby. It’s okay.”

“It won’t be okay,” Bobby whispered, feeling the panic clutching painfully inside his chest, and his throat. “Not until they’re caught… And I don’t know who the second man was.”

“We’ll get him, Bobby,” Elliot told him firmly. “Whoever he is, we’ll nail him. Just don’t lose it on us, okay? You’ve gotta keep it together. Tell us what happened next.”

Bobby drew in a ragged breath, then went on in an unsteady voice.

“I… I heard one of them undressing. I’d figured what they were planning to do when they stripped me, but it didn’t hit home until one of them climbed up onto the bed and was kneeling o… over the top of me.”

Again, Bobby hesitated, but this time neither Olivia nor Elliot interrupted. Bobby’s admission that the rape happened was not vital for their case. The rape kit done when Bobby came out of surgery had already proven beyond doubt that he had been raped. It was vital, however, that he face the fact of the rape in his own mind.

He spoke, his voice shaking almost uncontrollably.

“I tried to get him off me... I tried to buck him off, but they just laughed. Thought it was funny. One of them p... punched me in the back of the head and stunned me. He... he raped me then. I tried to stop him… to… to keep him out… But I couldn’t… and he raped me. He was all… all over me… I couldn’t fight him. I tried, but I couldn’t fight him…”

Olivia reached for him as he dissolved in tears, but stopped short of actually touching him.

“You tried,” she murmured. “You tried to fight them, Bobby. But you’d already been drugged. You did everything you could, but they made sure they had the advantage right from the start.”

Bobby shuddered as he fought to regain control over his shattered composure.

When he was… finished… He leaned in close and whispered to me… Whispered into my ear… I got you. That’s when I knew it was Matic.”

Elliot and Olivia glanced at each other. As much as they hated to do it, they needed a better explanation, or a judge would rip the statement to shreds. Before they had a chance to ask, though, Bobby went on slowly.

“When I interrogated Matic years ago… after I showed him the picture Maggie Coulter drew that identified him as her attacker… I said to him… She got you. He twisted that back on me. He was saying he was getting his revenge… that he got the best of me. But I recognised his voice, then.”

“Would you recognise his voice again?” Elliot asked.

“Yes,” Bobby confirmed softly, without hesitation.

“Can you tell us anymore?” Olivia asked gently. Bobby swallowed hard.

“Could I have some more water, please?”

Olivia held the glass for him once more, letting him sip carefully until he’d had enough. Then, as she placed the glass back on the table, he went on tremulously.

“I heard the other man… He told the one who… who raped me… he told Matic to be careful about what he said. And Matic… he said it didn’t matter, because I couldn’t see him to identify him. The other guy said it didn’t matter if I couldn’t see anything now, that I’d be able to identify him later on, if he wasn’t careful. He… Matic said he knew a way to make sure I couldn’t ever see him to identify him. They… They left the room, then. When they came back, one of them grabbed my head and pulled it back. They… They pulled off the blindfold, but before I could see anything…”

“What happened, Bobby?” Olivia pressed gently, ignoring Elliot’s frown. “Tell us what they did.”

Shuddering sobs shook through Bobby’s body as the horrific memories began to finally overcome him.

“My eyes,” he choked out between heart-rending sobs. “They burned my eyes… I think they used the poker from my fireplace. They put it against each of my eyes… burned them shut. It hurt… I screamed, I wanted someone to hear me… Someone to come and help me… But no one heard me screaming. No one came… No one… It hurt so much, I wanted to die… But I couldn’t even pass out, it hurt so much.” He sobbed hard, too distraught to continue.

“That’ll do,” Elliot murmured, deciding Bobby’s endurance levels had just bottomed out. He reached for the tape recorder to stop it, but Olivia stopped him.

“Bobby,” she said quietly, “what more can you tell us?”

“Olivia,” Elliot growled, but she ignored him.

“Please, Bobby, you have to think carefully. Who was the second man?”

“I don’t know,” Bobby whispered between ragged sobs. “His voice was familiar, but he never said anything like Matic did. I don’t know who he was.”

“Maybe he did something, the way Matic said something that helped you to recognise him?”

“No,” Bobby whimpered. “I… I can’t…”

“We need you to think, Bobby,” Olivia pressed. “You know how important it is. You need to give us a clue to work with here.”

“I know,” Bobby moaned. “I’m trying, but…”

“You have to try harder,” she told him, her voice taking on an edge that Elliot had never heard from her before. “Somewhere in the middle of your memories, there’s got to be a clue to who the second man was. You’re the only one who can find it, and you know it. You have to try, Bobby. It’s important.”

Bobby broke down completely, then, sobbing helplessly as he tried to twist away from Olivia’s uncharacteristically harsh voice.

“Okay, that’s enough,” Elliot snapped suddenly, grabbing the recorder and switching it off. “This interview is over. Bobby? You gonna be okay, pal?”

Bobby didn’t answer, too distraught. Elliot glowered at his partner as he walked over and opened the door, urging Alex and Danny back in. Alex strode to the bedside, Bobby’s pain and distress reflected in her expression.

“What the hell happened?” Danny demanded, looking from Elliot to Olivia for an explanation while Alex climbed up carefully onto the bed and held her stricken partner.

“What he told us was pretty difficult for him,” Elliot explained when Olivia didn’t answer. “He did good, though. Look, we’re going to get going. We have to get this back to headquarters. Bobby? You did good, man.”

Bobby shuddered, his sobs slowly starting to ease as the shock he’d experienced from the god-awful memories began to subside.


Elliot walked over to the bedside, but made no attempt to make physical contact with the injured man.

“Yeah, what is it?”

“If… If you come back later… I think I can tell you some more of what happened. Just you, though.”

Elliot resisted the urge to look at his partner, knowing she was probably glaring openly at him.

“Okay, Bobby. If that’s what you want to do. I’ll come back later this evening. You take it easy, okay?”

Sparing Alex and Danny what he hoped was a reassuring smile, Elliot followed his partner from the room.

“All right, Liv,” Elliot snapped once they were right away from the room. “You wanna tell me what the fuck that was all about? Since when do we do the good cop, bad cop routine with rape victims?”

Olivia shook her head, turning away from him without answering. In his anger, Elliot grabbed her by the elbow, and jerked her around to look at him. The grief and regret he saw in her eyes brought him up short, though.

“You think I liked doing that to him?” she choked out, tears trickling down her cheeks. “I didn’t, Elliot. I hated it. But Bobby needs to be able to have complete and utter trust in someone to be able to tell them exactly what happened, every gruesome little detail and up until now, he didn’t trust either one of us enough to be able to do that.”

“Okay, I get that, but I don’t understand why you went gung ho on him back there.”

“Wake up, Elliot! We see it in rape victims every day. The inability to put significant trust in anyone? Only it’s amplified about twenty times over in Bobby. He doesn’t trust anyone now, not even Alex, not completely. Don’t tell me you missed the way he flinched when she touched him. He was half a step away from lashing out at her. You know he was.”

Elliot nodded grimly. He’d seen it, and it had him worried that Alex didn’t seem to be aware of it. The question was, how long before Bobby lost that smidgeon of control, and did actually lash out at his apparently unsuspecting partner?

“I still don’t understand why you acted like that with him, though,” he protested. Olivia groaned softly.

“Damn it, Elliot… We need Bobby to tell us everything that happened to him, but he’s not going to be able to do that unless he completely trusts us. He’s just going to keep breaking down like he did just then.”

“Uh, may I point out that you caused that breakdown, Liv?”

“My point, Elliot, is that he doesn’t have enough strength in him to trust us both. If there’s only one of us for him to focus on, then it might just be easier for him.”

“Okay… let me get this straight. You came across as a hard ass just to put his focus onto me?”


“So he can feel more at ease, and not pressured?”


Elliot shook his head wonderingly.


Olivia sighed softly, and shook her head.

“If he can bring himself to trust just one of us to do right by him, then that’s a good thing.”

“But why me? I would’ve thought he’d be more willing to trust you. We haven’t exactly had the friendliest relationship in the past, after all. That, and it was two men that attacked him, not two women.”

“I know that, but I think he might relate better to another guy. He’s already got Alex there, after all, and maternal concern can only go so far before it becomes overbearing.”

Elliot looked back down the corridor towards Bobby’s room, an incredulous look on his face.

“You played him. Damn, Liv, you deliberately played him so that he’d be willing to open up to me.”

Olivia looked slightly embarrassed.

“I know. Not the usual tactics, but Bobby isn’t your average victim, either. He would have seen through the standard reverse psychology in a second, even with the state of mind he’s currently in.”

“You know he’s eventually gonna realise what you did, and then he’s gonna raise hell. You do know that?”

Olivia grimaced as they began to walk again.

“Oh yeah, I know it. And believe me, I am not looking forward to it in the slightest.”

Bobby shuddered slightly in Alex’s embrace as he listened to the sound of Elliot and Olivia’s footfalls receding down the corridor. He didn’t understand right then why Olivia had turned on him like that so suddenly, but he was genuinely grateful to Elliot for his obvious concern. He would talk to Elliot when the detective came back later, but not to Olivia. If that was how she was going to be, he simply couldn’t deal with it.

Slowly, his sobs eased, and he became aware of his surroundings once more. Most particularly, he became aware of Alex on the bed next to him, her arms wrapped gently around his shoulders.

It was true, he had almost pushed her right off the bed when she started to climb up beside him, and it had only been a supreme effort on his part that he hadn’t done so. And when her arms went around his shoulders, he damn near threw up. But again, he managed to hold it in.

Then, slowly but surely, he found himself relaxing against her, relaxing into her embrace. Slowly, that sickening feeling in his gut at being touched… being held… faded, and a strange sense of security gradually took over.

Once he overcame that initial feeling of fear and nausea at being touched, and was able to consciously remind himself who it was that was in physical contact with him, the panic faded to make way for an inexplicable calm. He didn’t understand it, but he welcomed it wholeheartedly.


Gradually, he became aware of a voice speaking softly in his ear. Alex’s voice… God, it just about killed him to think that he might never see her face again.


“Are you okay?”

He didn’t answer that. He just didn’t know how. She tried again, tentatively elaborating.

“With this, I mean… Me holding you like this. Because if you don’t want me to… If you don’t want to be touched at all… I’ll understand.”

He subconsciously burrowed in more tightly against her. His hands hurt like hell and he didn’t have the strength to reach around her and hold her to him. All he could do was plead, and hope she knew he was genuine.

“No… Please… Don’t let go.”

He heard her sigh very softly. For a split second he thought she was frustrated with him, but common sense took over a moment later and very firmly booted the remnants of his panic attack right off the radar. She wasn’t frustrated – she was relieved.

“I won’t let go,” she murmured, and she hugged him gently to her. “I promise I won’t.”

Silence reigned for a good fifteen to twenty minutes as Alex cradled Bobby to her while Danny looked on in contemplative silence. Alex was just starting to wonder whether Bobby had fallen asleep again when movement in the doorway drew both hers and Danny’s attention, and she looked around just as Deakins walked in, concern etched deep into his face.

“Is everything all right here?”

“Elliot Stabler and Olivia Benson were here not too long ago, talking to Bobby,” Alex explained quietly, making no effort to detach herself from her partner. If Deakins misread the situation, then so be it. She’d explain later.

He stood there for a long moment, eyeing Bobby and Alex intently before looking questioningly to Danny. Alex introduced him.

“That’s Danny Cooper, Captain. Bobby’s cousin.”

Realisation dawned in Deakins’ face, and he reached across to shake hands.

“Good to meet you, Mr Cooper. I’m Jim Deakins…”

“Oh, right, Bobby’s captain. Don’t call me Mr Cooper, though. Just Danny is fine.”

Deakins nodded, then looked back to the bed.

“Bobby? Are you all right?”

Alex’s speculation at whether her partner had fallen asleep again was answered a moment later when Bobby replied to Deakins gentle query in a barely audible voice.

“Do you really want an honest answer?”

“Yes,” Deakins answered sincerely. “I do.”

“No, I’m not,” Bobby mumbled into Alex’s shoulder. Deakins’ expression turned grim.

“If they’ve treated you in any way badly…”

“No,” Bobby cut in quickly… a little too quickly for Deakins’ liking. “No, it’s okay… I mean…”

“What is it?” Deakins asked. Bobby drew in a long, slow breath.

“I asked Elliot to come back later to… to talk to him more… but not Olivia.”

Deakins looked questioningly to Alex, the surprise evident on his face. Alex could understand his bewilderment. She, too, had been baffled when Bobby had asked Elliot to return later on that day, but had clearly indicated he wanted Olivia to stay away. She shook her head at him, telling him she didn’t know what it was about anymore than he did.

“Well,” Deakins said finally, “that’s up to you. If you feel more at ease talking to Stabler, then so be it.”

Bobby didn’t answer the unspoken question in his captain’s voice. He had no desire to tell any of them that he didn’t want Olivia back because she’d become hostile towards him. The truth was, he suspected there was an underlying motivation in her actions that he, in his current state of mind, simply wasn’t seeing, and he had no desire to get her into any trouble.

That, and it really was no one else’s business why he should prefer to speak to one detective over the other, even if it seemed an odd choice.

“Nolan and Boyd were here earlier,” Alex said, finally breaking the silence that had descended. Deakins nodded.

“The rest of the squad should be coming by a bit later this morning,” he said, drawing a startled look from Alex. “They just had an errand to run first.”

Alex bit her lip, resisting the near-overwhelming desire to make a sarcastic comment.

“Well… we’ll keep an eye out for them, then.” She looked questioningly at Deakins. “Are you staying for a while? Or is it another fly-by visit?”

Danny blanched visibly at her apparent disrespect, but Deakins disregarded her attitude. She was upset, and he knew that caustic side of her personality only too well. He also knew better than to take it personally.

“I’m staying,” he confirmed. “I called the Chief of Detectives before coming here. I told him Major Case was shutting up shop for the rest of the day.”

“Bet he loved that,” Bobby muttered. Deakins smiled crookedly.

“I didn’t give him a choice. I told him we had a colleague in hospital to support. He understood. He asked me to pass on his best wishes, Bobby.”

Bobby drew in a shuddering breath, his throat tightening almost painfully with raw emotion, not so much at the message from the Chief of Detectives, but rather at the welcome, if somewhat belated, show of support from his fellow Major Case colleagues.

“Thankyou,” he whispered, at a loss to say anything else. Deakins smiled sadly.

“You’re welcome, Bobby.”

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