A/N: Yes, I finally got around to updating this one. My muse is so very fickle...
On another note, I had planned on using the CSI: NY character of Mack Taylor only as a passing reference, but as it turned out, it fitted better to actually physically bring the character into the story. I'm not apologising - I like the character. Even if he is a little bit one-dimensional at the moment... I do promise, however, that his character is not a recurring feature in this story.
Ten minutes later, Bobby was asleep again, giving Alex, Danny and Deakins a chance to talk quietly.
“So you have no idea what happened when Benson and Stabler were talking to him?” Deakins asked. Alex shook her head.
“We waited outside. It was maybe ten minutes… fifteen at the most. Elliot opened the door to let us in. I don’t know what happened, but he was looking pissed, and Olivia was completely on the defensive.”
“I couldn’t say for sure what happened,” Danny said carefully, “but I have pretty good hearing, and I took the liberty of listening in on them after they left the room. I couldn’t catch everything, but I did hear the guy say to the woman ‘Since when do we do the good cop, bad cop routine on rape victims’.”
Deakins went rigid where he stood, his face going stormy with fury.
“Bobby was completely distraught when we came back in, Captain,” Alex said softly. “The last time they talked to him, he was just wiped out… exhausted. This time, he seemed to be nearly on the verge of a breakdown.”
Deakins stared at the sleeping detective for nearly a minute, taking in the way that he was cuddled in against Alex. His piercing gaze picked up on the slight tremors that passed through his body, and the faintest of whimpers that escaped his bruised lips.
“I’ll be back in a few minutes,” he said tightly, turning to the door. “I have a phone call to make.”
“Captain, don’t just go ballistic,” Alex begged. “At least give them a chance to explain. I can’t believe that either Elliot or Olivia… especially Olivia… would deliberately do anything to hurt Bobby any worse than he’s already been.”
Deakins stared at her, considering her words before responding with a single nod and striding out of the room.
“I’d be ducking for cover, if I were you,” Munch said with a smirk as Elliot and Olivia walked back into the SVU bullpen nearly an hour later after stopping off on the way for a late breakfast. The two exchanged puzzled looks.
“What are you talking about, Munch?” Elliot growled. Fin walked over, regarding them grimly.
“What he means, kids, is that Cragen got a call from Jim Deakins about half an hour ago… something about unnecessarily cruel interview techniques, wasn’t it, John? Cragen’s been on the warpath since then, waiting for you two to get back. You guys didn’t really go hostile on Goren, did you?”
Elliot looked grimly at Olivia.
“Nice one, Liv. Maybe next time you decide to play at being amateur shrink, you’ll try it on someone who isn’t a rape victim.”
Fin and Munch gaped in shock.
“That was you, Olivia?” Fin asked in shock. She grimaced.
“Word spreads fast. Any idea who gave us up?”
Munch shook his head.
“Not a clue. You could ask Cragen, though. He’s headed this way.”
Elliot and Olivia wheeled around just as Cragen got to them.
“Elliot and Olivia,” Cragen said tersely, “in my office, now.”
Sharing rueful looks with their colleagues, they followed Cragen back to his office.
“Captain, if this is about the way we handled the interview with Goren…” Elliot started to say, but Cragen cut him off.
“No, Elliot, it’s about the way Olivia handled it. I’m sure Fin and Munch have already told you, but I had a very angry Major Case captain on the phone not too long ago, and I have to say he’s got every right to be angry. Olivia, what the hell were you thinking, treating Goren like a suspect? We do not go confrontational with rape victims, no matter who they are!”
Olivia glanced at Elliot, but he didn’t speak. This was her mess to mop up, not his.
“Sir, I wasn’t trying to treat Bobby like a suspect.”
“Then what were you doing? And I suggest you think very carefully before you answer me.”
“Sir,” Olivia said slowly, “I wasn’t trying to hurt him. I think he was only telling us the bare minimum of what he remembers, and he was doing that because he doesn’t fully trust us. I thought if I backed out, and Elliot worked with him one on one, he might find it easier to open up.”
“Except, this is Bobby Goren that we’re talking about here,” Elliot put in, anxious to make a show of defending his partner. “If she’d just come clean and said that, he would’ve clammed up faster than a steel trap.”
“I didn’t want to do it that way, Captain,” Olivia insisted. “But we need him to completely trust us, and he just doesn’t have it in him to trust both of us enough.”
“I just want to know one thing,” Cragen said, looking at the two of them piercingly. “Did it work?”
“I’ll say,” Elliot retorted. “After I let Alex and that guy Danny back in, Bobby asked me to come back later and he said be willing to talk to me again, one on one. He didn’t want Olivia anywhere near him.”
“Why you, though?” Cragen wondered. “Why not Olivia?”
“That’s what I’d like to know,” Elliot said, looking across at his partner.
Olivia favoured him with a flat stare.
“Would you have been willing to play the hard ass to him, Elliot?”
Elliot grimaced. “I guess not.”
“Then there’s your answer.”
“Okay,” Cragen said wearily. “I’ll deal with Jim Deakins, but you’d better stay well away from the hospital for the time being, Olivia. Just for the moment, I’m swapping you folks around. Fin will work with you, Elliot, and you get the pleasure of working with Munch, Olivia.”
“Wonderful,” Olivia muttered. Cragen frowned warningly at her.
“You’ve only got yourself to blame. No matter what your intentions were, you still caused a victim a lot of otherwise unnecessary anguish. Now, I personally don’t give a damn if Elliot interviews Goren alone, or otherwise, but the bottom line is that we still have two dangerous suspects out there somewhere who could quite conceivably decide to try and finish what they started. While that possibility remains, I don’t want any of you going to that hospital alone, and you know you’re not going to be welcome there, Olivia. So I suggest you just accept this for now.”
“Are you finished, sir?” Elliot asked, acutely aware of the pained look on Olivia’s face. “Can we go, then?”
“Just a second. I had a call from Mack Taylor over at CSU headquarters. I want you and Fin to get over there, Elliot, and hear what they’ve got.”
“New evidence?” Olivia asked hopefully.
“I hope so. Taylor wouldn’t elaborate over the phone, but whatever it was, he seemed pretty enthusiastic about it.”
Elliot moved towards the door.
“Okay, I’ll grab Fin, and we’ll go check it out.”
“Good. And Olivia, I want you and Munch to check in with the units that have the Coulter residence. We have to find those other two scumbags before they do decide to have another go at Goren.”
“So what’s the verdict?” Fin asked as Elliot and Olivia emerged from Cragen’s office.
“Cragen wants me to work with you for now, Fin,” Elliot answered ruefully. “And Liv gets to work with Munch.”
Fin could barely contain the smirk that formed on his face.
“Nice one, Liv.”
“Shut up, Fin,” she grumbled. Then, to Munch, “C’mon, John. We have to go check in with the guys who are watching the Coulter place.”
“Have fun,” Elliot called after them, and chuckled when Olivia shot him a death glare as she disappeared around the corner.
“What’s next on our agenda, then?” Fin asked.
“We need to go pay a visit to CSU Headquarters,” Elliot told him. “C’mon, I’ll fill you in on the way.”
CSI Detective Mack Taylor was waiting for Elliot and Fin when they arrived, and ushered them through to his office.
“What happened to Detective Benson?” Mack wondered. Elliot grimaced.
“She played the hard-ass to Bobby Goren when we interviewed him earlier this morning. Deakins went ballistic, so Cragen decided to give her a change of scenery.”
When Mack raised an eyebrow, Fin elaborated.
“Cragen paired her off with Detective Munch, and I get to tag along with Elliot for a while.”
“Ah,” Mack said. “I see. I take it Goren was being none too cooperative.”
“Actually, he was,” Elliot answered. “Problem was, he just didn’t trust us enough to open up totally to us. So Olivia came across as the hard-ass so that he’d put his focus on just me, rather than the both of us. I know, it’s not the usual tactics.”
“Maybe,” Mack mused, “but Bobby Goren isn’t your usual victim. In a situation like this, he’s just too damned smart for his own good.”
“That’s what Olivia said,” Elliot agreed. Mack nodded.
“And what about your suspects? Any luck catching them?”
Not for the first time, frustration showed visibly on Elliot’s face.
“No sign of either. Damned sons of bitches have just disappeared like ghosts.”
“They’ll turn up sooner or later,” Mack said with quiet confidence. “Scum like them always do. Okay, now, let’s get to the reason you fellows are here.” He reached across his desk, and plucked a report off the desk. “You know the sample of semen taken by the rape kit came up blank… literally.”
“Yeah. Did your people find something else?”
Mack smiled grimly, and handed the report to Elliot.
“My partner found a smear on the basin in the bathroom. Seminal fluid, and it’s viable. And I’d say the bathroom is the one place our perps didn’t take extra caution, because the basin also provided us with a couple of nice big fingerprints, one of which was imprinted over the semen we found.”
Fin peered at the report over Elliot’s shoulder, and then looked back at Mack.
“You got DNA out of the semen?”
“We did, and we got a hit on it almost straight away.”
“Who?” Elliot asked.
“Richard Cozza,” Mack answered quietly.
“Oh, Christ,” Elliot moaned softly. Again, Mack raised an eyebrow questioningly. Elliot explained reluctantly.
“One of the things Bobby hasn’t been able to come clean over just yet. So far, he’s only admitted to being raped by Matic.”
“Cozza might not have actually raped him,” Fin pointed out. Son of a bitch might have just jerked himself off in the bathroom.”
“Maybe,” Mack conceded, “but it’s unlikely. After a second examination of all the bedclothes, we found a matching sample on one of the sheets.”
“Hell,” Elliot muttered. “Okay, thanks, Mack. Fin, we’d better get going, get this information back to Cragen. If you find anything else…”
“There is one more thing.”
Elliot stared at Mack, sensing that he wasn’t going to like what Mack had to tell them.
“What is it?”
“The fingerprint. We got a hit on it, too, and it wasn’t Richard Cozza’s.”
“Whose was it?” Fin asked.
“Bobby Goren’s older brother.”
Back at SVU
“His brother?” Cragen asked incredulously. “You’ve got to be kidding me!”
“We wish we were,” Elliot said grimly. “Mack Taylor said they found the fingerprint impression on the semen, not on the basin underneath it. There’s only one way that could have happened.”
Cragen rubbed his hand roughly over his face.
“The son of a bitch was in Goren’s apartment either during or after the attack. He lied to us. Okay, get Casey on the phone, stat, and let her know. The bastard just lost his deal.”
“Do you want us to go back and talk to Goren?” Fin asked.
“No, not yet,” Cragen murmured. “Elliot, he told you to come back some time later this afternoon, didn’t he?”
“Well, give him till then, at least. Damn, this is just getting worse the deeper we get into it.”
Elliot stood up, and Fin followed suit.
“We’ll call Casey,” he said quietly. Cragen nodded wordlessly, and the two detectives headed silently out of his office to carry out the task.
Later that day
At both Danny and Deakins’ insistence, Alex left the ICU just before lunch to buy what Danny jokingly classed as ‘real food’. Alex hadn’t laughed. She had too much experience with hospitals, and knew only too well that the quality of the food never failed to disappoint.
She had asked Bobby if he wanted her to get him anything purely out of courtesy, and had been pleasantly surprised, as well as highly amused, when he asked in a small voice for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Putting aside the seeming absurdity of it in her own mind, she’d cheerfully agreed and gone off to get the requested item.
Now, half an hour later, she made her way back to ICU with the bagged sandwich clutched tightly in her hands, and hoping that he hadn’t lost what little appetite he had in the time that she’d been gone.
Alex looked around, and was barely able to conceal her surprise at the sight of three of her fellow Major Case detectives, Terry Hanlon, Chris Jackson and Dave Whitney, coming towards her. Her gaze went briefly to the heavy-looking bags they were carrying, and then back to their faces.
“Wow,” she said dryly, before she had a chance to take a pull on her attitude. “Five of you turn up in the space of a few hours. Bobby should feel honoured.”
None of them reacted to her barb, except to cringe visibly.
“We came to tell Bobby we’re sorry for being assholes,” Whitney told her quietly, “and to let him know he’s got our support.”
“He should have had that right from the start,” she snapped. Hanlon nodded, his cheeks flame-red with embarrassment.
“We know. There’s no excuse.”
“No,” Alex agreed coolly. “There’s not.”
“Look,” Whitney said finally, “if Goren wants to be pissed off at us, then fair enough. We deserve it, we know. But we brought some stuff for him.”
Her gaze went back to the bags.
“What sort of stuff?”
“Well… Have a look,” Jackson offered, setting one bag on the floor and holding the other out for her to look in. She approached slowly, not quite sure what to expect. She couldn’t quite suppress a squeak of surprise at what she saw inside.
“Books?” She looked up at them, stunned. “You went out and bought him books?”
“We all pooled in together,” Whitney explained as she went from one bag to the next, examining their choices with growing amazement. “The captain gave us a list of titles, and we’ve all been out searching for them for the last few hours. Willis just found the last one of the list about twenty minutes ago, otherwise we would have been here sooner.”
“How many did you end up getting?” Alex wondered.
The men exchanged grins.
“Well, Deakins gave us a list of around a dozen books, but a few of the places we went… When we explained they were for a cop who’d been attacked, they insisted on adding to what we’d already bought, no extra charge. I think we ended up with nearly forty books, altogether.”
“You shouldn’t have accepted freebies,” Alex chided them lightly, though she sounded none-too-convinced. Hanlon shrugged.
“The people that gave them to us wouldn’t take no for an answer. Besides, you don’t have to look at them like that. Think of them as gifts from anonymous well-wishers.”
Alex sighed softly and looked back up at them, her animosity gone.
“Thankyou. This is going to mean a lot to him.”
“It doesn’t make up for the way we acted to start with,” Jackson said quietly, “but if it helps him now, then that’s something, at least.”
“Yes,” Alex agreed softly. “It is. C’mon. I’ll take you up to see him.”
“Peanut butter and jelly,” Deakins said again, unable to conceal an amused smirk.
Bobby groaned softly.
“Leave me alone.”
Deakins and Danny exchanged grins. Bobby’s odd request had amused them both. When he could have asked for just about anything – within reason – the request for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich was almost childish in its simplicity.
“I’m sorry,” Deakins apologised, fighting to suppress his grin. “I just never pictured you as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich kind of guy.”
Bobby hesitated, then explained his request in a faltering voice.
“When I was a kid… when Mom was still okay… whenever I was sick, or hurt, she’d always make me peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. After she got sick… and after Dad walked out… it didn’t happen a lot. But every so often, when I was sick or hurt, Mom would make me sandwiches with peanut butter and jelly, and I’d know she was okay, at least for the time being. I… I guess old habits are hard to break.”
The smirks were effectively wiped off their faces at Bobby’s admission. Danny sighed softly.
“We’re sorry, Bobby. We didn’t mean to make a joke of it.”
“It’s okay,” Bobby whispered. Damn, he was getting choked up again… “Could do with a few more jokes. There’s not a lot to smile at right now.”
Again, Deakins and Danny exchanged rueful looks. The sad thing was that neither of them knew what they could possibly do to change that. They were still considering how to answer him when Alex walked back in.
“One peanut butter and jelly sandwich to go,” she announced, setting the paper bag on the table. “And three stray Major Case detectives on the side.”
Bobby’s head turned in reaction to her words. She smiled, knowing she had his attention.
“I found Hanlon, Jackson and Whitney slinking around downstairs, and thought I’d put them out of their misery and bring them up.”
“Put us out of our misery?” Whitney retorted as he led the way into the room. “That’s rich, Eames. Hey, Goren.”
He stopped short of asking the standard ‘how are you’ question, much to Bobby’s relief. He was getting well and truly fed up with being constantly asked how he was, when he believed it should have been pretty damned obvious how he was feeling.
“Whitney,” he responded, his voice soft and strained. Whitney glanced back to ensure that his colleagues hadn’t chickened out on him, then returned his attention to Bobby as he approached the bedside.
“Listen, the rest of the guys wanted to come up, but we figured it wouldn’t be fair to inundate you, so a few of them will come up later today, and the rest of them will come tomorrow to see you. And we… um, we got some things for you.”
“What is it?” Bobby asked softly, his interest piqued. Whitney hesitated for just a moment, looking first to Deakins and then to Alex for some sort of encouragement. All of a sudden, he wasn’t sure how their gesture would be received by their injured colleague. Deakins nodded in wordless support, as did Alex. Grimacing just a little, Whitney lifted the bag he was carrying up onto the bed, setting it carefully beside Bobby. He pulled out a book at random and set it gently on Bobby’s lap.
Trembling just slightly, Bobby lifted his right hand and let it come to rest on the hard cover of the book.
“What is it?”
“It’s a hardcover edition of The Hobbit,” Alex told him quickly, before anyone brainlessly answered with the obvious retort. “One of your favourites.”
Bobby swallowed hard.
“Uh… That isn’t all we brought,” Jackson said as he joined Whitney at the bedside. “I think we’ve got around thirty-five books here, all up. And just so you don’t wonder, they aren’t loans. They’re all yours, pal.”
Bobby didn’t answer. He couldn’t answer, suddenly overwhelmed by their generosity.
“How…?” Danny asked in amazement as he looked into one of the bags.
“We all threw in together,” Whitney answered quietly. “We figured we owed it to Bobby to do something decent for him after the way we acted.”
“It’s okay,” Bobby mumbled.
“No, it’s not,” Hanlon said firmly. “It wasn’t okay that we turned our backs when we should have been here for you. It was a lousy thing to do. We just hope that this might go some of the way towards showing you that we’re sorry.”
Bobby sighed faintly.
“I… I won’t say it didn’t hurt… But I understood.”
“That’s what we were afraid of,” Jackson said grimly. “You know, sometimes you’re just too damned intuitive for your own good, Goren?”
A tiny smile quirked across Bobby’s bruised lips.
“What were you hoping for, Jackson? That you could come in here and make out like you’d just been busy? And I’d let you off the hook? You owe me the courtesy of at least one major guilt trip.”
Jackson laughed, then, as did Hanlon and Whitney. Alex glanced over at Deakins, and the two shared a small, relieved smile. What a difference a unanimous show of support made…
“All right, smart ass,” Whitney said with a laugh, and was quietly gratified when Bobby’s smile widened noticeably. “You’ve got the whole damn squad on one collective guilt trip. I suggest you just take what you can get, while you can get it. Okay?”
Bobby laughed softly, a sound that was welcome to all their ears. He reached tentatively for the bag, but stopped short of actually trying to grab it.
“What else did you bring?”
Whitney’s grin widened, and he began to pull books out of the bag, naming each one as he did so. Alex watched silently for a long moment before moving back to stand next to Deakins.
“You pulled this off,” she murmured to him softly. It wasn’t a question. Deakins favoured her with a warm smile.
“Sorry, Alex, but no. I suggested the books, but they took the initiative themselves.”
She wiped absently at her eyes.
“I never thought they’d have the balls to come down off their pedestals and admit they were wrong.”
Deakins laid a hand gently, albeit briefly, on her shoulder in a fatherly gesture.
“Nothing’s impossible, Alex. You need to remember that.”
She didn’t answer, her gaze going back to her partner… to his broken hands… to his burned eyes… to his battered body. She wanted desperately to believe his words. If she could just bring herself to believe it, it would make the immediate future seem so much less bleak.
The sudden, shrill ring of Deakins’ cell phone cut through the otherwise quiet room, startling all of them. Frowning a little at the unwanted interruption, he moved away to the far corner of the room to answer the call. All the while watching Deakins out of the corner of her eye, Alex returned to her partner’s side, and picked up one of the books. A moment later, she finally registered the title, and laughed aloud.
“Lady Chatterley’s Lover? Oh, I am not reading that to you, pal.”
“Not at all?” Bobby asked, trying hard to sound plaintive, and failing miserably. Alex snorted derisively.
“Not a chance, Bobby. You can save that one for when the bandages come off.”
He smiled faintly, but didn’t answer the comment. As much as he appreciated her positive attitude, he couldn’t quite bring himself to share in her certainty. He wanted to believe his reticence was simply a matter of not raising false hopes, but a darker part of his mind and soul whispered a grimmer truth, a truth that he could not bear to face. Not now… and perhaps not ever.
“Thankyou,” Deakins said suddenly, the volume of his voice rising enough that it drew everyone’s attention. “I appreciate the head’s up, Don.”
“What is it?” Alex asked as Deakins ended the call. He looked up at her, and then to Bobby.
“That was Don Cragen, Bobby. Simon Matic was arrested in New Jersey a couple of hours ago. He’s on his way back here now. SVU will have him in their custody within the hour.”
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