A/N: Damn. Even when I try to give the poor guy some relief, it still gets twisted. Oh well. That's the way it's going...

Oh, I issued a content warning for a previous chapter that, in retrospect, probably didn't need it. I'm issuing another content warning for this chapter, and in this instance I feel it is justified. It may not be as explicit as you might expect, but I'm saying it anyway. If descriptions of violent abuse, rape and sodomy bother you, avoid the section in italics.


Deakins looked around as he exited Bobby's apartment to see an elderly lady coming towards him in the hallway. This, he guessed from Alex’s descriptions, was Bobby’s neighbour, Rosa Pirelli.

“Mrs Pirelli?” he asked tentatively. She nodded, not the least bit surprised that he was able to identify her.

“Yes. Please, do you work with Robert? Can you tell me how he is? No one knows anything, and I’m afraid for him.”

Deakins laid a hand reassuringly on the old lady’s shoulder.

“He’s alive, Mrs Pirelli. He came though that first twenty four hour period safely. He’s not going to die.”

“Oh, thank God,” she whispered, tears brimming in her eyes.

“He’s been very badly hurt, though,” Deakins went on carefully. “He could be in hospital for some time yet.”

“Can he have visitors?” she asked tentatively. “I could come see him… perhaps bring some things for him.”

At that, Deakins hesitated. He was reluctant to say yes, if only because of what Alex had told him about Bobby’s growing bitterness towards his neighbours for their apparent disregard towards him. He wanted to say yes, but he just didn’t know how Bobby might react to her. He didn’t think the big detective would turn on her, if only out of an acute sense of propriety, but did he really want to put either Bobby, or this sweet little old lady, in that position? He didn’t think so; at least, not until Bobby had had a better chance to deal with what had happened to him.

“Visitors are restricted at the moment, Mrs Pirelli,” he told her gently. “But I promise I’ll let you know as soon as it’s possible for you to come and see him.”

She nodded, unhappy but still accepting of his words.

“I understand,” she murmured, and in that moment, Deakins had a powerful suspicion that she understood far more than he thought he’d let on about. “Please, would you let him know he’s in my prayers? And if there’s anything he needs, anything at all, I’ll be glad to help.”

Deakins nodded.

“I’ll let him know, Mrs Pirelli. Thankyou.”

She paused, then clasped Deakins’ hands in her own just briefly.

“And please, tell him I’m sorry.”

“For what?”

“I heard the noises, but I did nothing. I should have called for help then, but I did nothing. I’m sorry…”

He made no effort to tell her it was all right. They both knew better than that. Instead, Deakins nodded in acquiescence.

“I’ll tell him, Mrs Pirelli.”

She nodded in tearful gratitude.



Alex came over to the bedside, and gently laid a hand on Bobby’s shoulder to reassure him of her presence. With the exception of the two officers standing watch outside the door of Bobby’s room, she was the only one there right at the moment. Deakins had left some time before, saying he had some things to see to. What ‘things’, she didn’t know, and he didn’t offer to explain.

Danny had also left for a short while, to get some much-needed rest. Bobby had been in and out of consciousness – more out than in, and she’d suggested it might be a good time for him to return to his hotel and get a little bit of rest. He’d gone, if somewhat reluctantly.

“I’m right here,” she answered him softly, watching with not so little relief as the distress that marred his bruised features faded in response to her reassuring touch.

He sighed faintly.

“I’m sorry.”

She frowned. “What for?”

“You shouldn’t… have to…”

“I shouldn’t have to what?” she pressed, not liking where he seemed to be headed.

“Shouldn’t be obliged to stay here.”

“I can’t believe you just said that,” Alex said softly, stung by his words. “You really think I’m only here because of some sense of obligation? As what, your partner? Because if that’s what you really think, then maybe I should just walk out of here right now. Is it what you really think, Bobby? And I suggest you think that over very carefully before you answer.”

He met that question with silence.

“I… I don’t think that,” he stammered. “I just… I…”

He trailed off, helpless to find the right words. Alex shut her eyes for a moment, gathering up her self-control. If she’d just taken a moment to think that one through, she would have known that the words that actually came out of his mouth were not adequate to convey what he really meant. He was concerned about her, and as much as he wanted the company, he didn’t want her to suffer along with him.

She brushed her fingertips lightly against his bruised cheek, acutely aware of the way he flinched just slightly at the initial contact before relaxing and turning towards her touch.

“I’m sorry,” she murmured. “I know you don’t think that. I know you didn’t mean that the way it came out. I didn’t mean to snap.”

“Please, don’t go,” he begged.

“I’m not going anywhere,” she promised. “I’m staying right here.”

He swallowed, wincing at the pain it caused to his swollen and bruised throat.

“My mom used to say that to me… whenever I got sick. When... When she was well enough to look after me, I mean. She’s probably worried sick… because I haven’t called her since I saw her on Saturday.”

“She’ll be all right,” Alex murmured, wishing she could get him to stop worrying himself about other people, and just concern himself with himself. “The doctors will take care of her.”

Bobby tried to lift his left hand off the bedcovers, but the effort proved too much, and the damaged hand collapsed back onto the blankets.

“What is it?” Alex asked, watching him concernedly. “Did you want something?”

“Yeah,” he mumbled, struggling against the threat of exhaustion. “A cell phone.”

Alex bit down briefly on her lower lip.


“I need to talk to her,” he pleaded. “Alex, please, I have to be able to talk to her. She… She doesn’t deal well with having her routine upset. I call her every day… She expects it. It’s part of her routine. She was doing really well, but this might tip her back into one of her delusions. I need to talk to her… so she can hear my voice… so she knows I’m okay.”

Alex drew in an unsteady breath.

“But Bobby… you’re not okay.”

Her simple words brought him up short. He lay still, trembling against her gentle touch as the reality of his situation sank in once more. She watched him fearfully, anticipating another breakdown, but it didn’t happen. Instead, he spoke in a soft, defeated voice.

“What books did they bring again?”

Alex didn’t know whether to smile or to cry. Struggling to retain control over her own emotions, she reached for the nearest bag and lifted it up onto the little table.

“You want me to read something to you?”

“Yes… Please… If you don’t mind…”

She would have laughed if the situation weren’t so damned heart-breaking. To have Bobby Goren, Detective First Grade and the bane of the New York Criminal Underworld, asking to have a book read to him like a little child literally gutted her.

Swallowing the desire to shed more tears, Alex pulled the books out, looking them over thoughtfully before her gaze fell on one that she knew to be a particular favourite of his.

“Here’s one. How about Moby Dick?”

A faint sigh escaped him.

“Good choice,” he murmured.

Alex smiled and took care to tuck the rest of the books back into the bag before sitting back down beside the bed.

“Could you…?”

She looked up at him questioningly when he faltered.

“Could I what, Bobby?”

Still he hesitated, and she realised with a mixture of sadness and amusement that he was actually embarrassed. Finally, though, he found his tongue and asked what he wanted to ask.

“Could you sit up here… on the bed…? Please…?”

Alex couldn’t hide her smile as she abandoned the chair and climbed up carefully to join him on the bed. That he wanted to be close to her… or to anyone… was a good sign that perhaps whatever emotional damage had been done wasn’t permanent.

She settled back against the multitude of pillows, and her smile widened as he leaned in against her, resting his head carefully on her shoulder.

“Comfortable?” she asked gently, and he responded in the positive with a wordless grunt. Still smiling, Alex opened the book to the first page and began to read.

Carmel Ridge Institute

Deakins walked along the main hallway of the Carmel Ridge Institute beside Dr Shimo, his heart rate picking up the closer they got to Frances Goren’s room. He had met Bobby’s mother just once before, and that had been to deliver bad news as well. Then, it had been to tell her that her son had been shot, and she had not taken that news well at all. Though she hadn’t suffered a full psychotic break, the episode she’d had had been bad enough that the staff had needed to sedate her.

Now, he was here to deliver bad news to her again. Before, he’d had been able to at least try to reassure her that Bobby would be fine, that the gunshot wound he’d suffered had not been serious. Now, he had no such luxury. He couldn’t tell her that Bobby was going to be fine. That was something that he didn’t know himself, let alone to be able to reassure anyone else of.

The truth was, he just didn’t know what he was going to say.

As they walked, his phone conversation with Dr Shimo floated back to him. His greatest fear was that something terrible had happened, that Frances Goren had perhaps suffered a major psychotic break… or that she was perhaps even dead. But no, Dr Shimo had reassured him that neither scenario was the case.

Frances had worked herself into a highly stressed state over the lack of phone calls from her son, but she was neither was she at risk of having a breakdown over it. She needed to know what had happened to keep her son from calling her as he usually did, though, and according to Dr Shimo it had to come from him. When he’d asked why, Dr Shimo had told him simply that she would not believe the doctors. No, it had to come from someone that she recognised as an authority figure where her son was concerned. She would remember him, Dr Shimo had assured him, although in all truth, Deakins took little reassurance from that.

“Here we are,” Dr Shimo announced unnecessarily as he came to a halt outside a half-open door. He offered Deakins an encouraging smile. “It’s quite all right, Captain. She’s been responding well to a new course of drugs, and she’s been more stable and more lucid over the last few weeks than she has been for a long time.”

Deakins looked at him questioningly.

“So Detective Goren had a good visit on Saturday?”

Dr Shimo nodded.

“Very good. More often than not, when he leaves here, Robert tends to look more than a little depressed. That wasn’t the case on Saturday. He looked… positive. He was smiling at practically everyone. He even stopped to chat up one of our nurses.”

Deakins smiled sadly.

“It must have been a good visit. But what do you think this news is going to do to her? I can’t even say with any certainty that Goren is going to be fine. We don’t know that!”

Shimo’s smile faded.

“Right now, Captain, she’s simply a mother who’s worried about her son. Just keep that in mind, and everything will be fine.”

With a reluctant nod, and willing himself to remain calm, Deakins walked into the room.

Deakins wasn’t quite sure what he’d been expecting, but the warmly lit room took him by surprise. He paused just inside the doorway, his gaze going to the tall, thin woman who sat by the window, reading a book.

Frances Goren looked up, and small smile crossed her lips at the sight of Deakins.

“It’s not Saturday, is it? I always have visitors on Saturday.”

“No, it’s not Saturday,” Deakins answered as he ventured further into the room. “Mrs Goren, I don’t expect you would remember me…”

“You have a familiar face,” she mused. “You work with my son, Robert, don’t you?”

“Yes, that’s right,” he confirmed. “My name is James Deakins. I’m Robert’s captain.”

A spark of recognition flashed in her eyes.

“Yes… I do remember you. The last time you were here it was to tell me that Robert had been hurt.” She paused, uncertainty clouding her dark eyes. “Is that why you’re here now? Is that why I haven’t heard from Robert since his last visit? He calls me everyday, you know. Just like clockwork. He’s such a good boy, but he puts himself down so much. He always had a low opinion of himself, even as a little boy. You mustn’t let him put himself down, Captain Deakins.”

Deakins was starting to feel sick. How the hell had he let himself get dragged in for this?

“Mrs Goren, something has happened to Robert,” he said quietly. “He’s been hurt… Right now he’s in the Intensive Care Wing of St Clare’s Hospital.”

There was a long silence as Frances digested that information.

“How?” she asked abruptly minutes later. Deakins blinked in surprise and confusion.

“I’m sorry…?”

“How was he hurt? Was he shot?”

“No, Ma’am,” he answered, struggling to keep his voice from cracking. Despite the number of times he’d informed a family member that a loved one was injured… or dead… it never ever got any easier. “He was attacked, and very badly beaten.”

Frances stared at him piercingly.

“My son was assaulted?”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“And have the people who are responsible been arrested yet?”

“Two of the men responsible are in custody. There was a third, but I’m sure it won’t be long before he’s caught as well.”

He watched her carefully for any hint that she might be losing her grip on reality, but there was no such indication in her demeanour.

“My Bobby would not miss calling me unless he physically could not do it,” she announced abruptly. “Just how badly has he been hurt, Captain Deakins? And please don’t play word games with me. I want the truth.”

It was only with considerable effort that Deakins kept his voice steady as he answered her question honestly.

“Both of his hands were badly broken, and his eyes were burned.”

He kept silent about the rape, and hoped to God that it didn’t occur to her to ask. Frances clutched her book tightly to her chest.

“You’re telling me that my little boy can’t see, and that he can’t use his hands.”

“Yes, Mrs Goren,” Deakins confirmed softly.

“Is the damage permanent?”

“We don’t know yet. We hope not.”

She was silent for nearly a minute while she contemplated that.

“And how is he?” she asked finally. “I assume that you’ve spent time with him? That you haven’t left him to suffer alone?”

“Yes, I’ve spent time with him,” Deakins assured her, quietly grateful that he could answer that affirmatively, at least. “I promise you that he hasn’t been alone at all. In all truth, though, he’s hurting a lot. He’s trying hard not to let it show, but he is hurting.”

“He’s hurting,” Frances murmured. “My little boy is hurting. Captain Deakins, would you please get Dr Shimo? I would like to speak with him.”

Deakins nodded, puzzled but nevertheless obliging.

“Of course. I’ll be right back.”

He returned with the doctor a minute later.

“What can I do for you, Frances?” Dr Shimo asked. She regarded him almost placidly.

“I would greatly appreciate it if you would arrange for me to be able to visit my son.”

Shimo did a double-take and looked across at Deakins, who could only stare at the elderly woman in astonishment. Of all the reactions he’d tried to anticipate, this calm request was not one of them.

“Mrs Goren,” Dr Shimo started to say, “I really don’t think that’s…”

“Necessary?” Frances interrupted him quietly. “Is that what you were going to say? My son is in hospital, Dr Shimo. People hurt my little boy. They’ve hurt him badly, according to Captain Deakins. Now, if I know him as well as I hope I do, he’s probably more concerned with my wellbeing than his own. Now please, don’t stand there and take the high moral ground with me. My son is in hospital, and he needs his mother. End of argument.”

Shimo let his breath out in a rush, and then looked again to Deakins.

“Captain Deakins, may I see you in the hall, please?”

“I’m sorry,” Deakins apologised, feeling his face grow uncomfortably hot as he followed Shimo out into the hallway. “I didn’t mean to cause a problem like this.”

Shimo shook his head dismissively.

“It’s all right, Captain. The truth is, this is the sort of response from her that I’ve been waiting to see.”

“How do you mean?” Deakins asked, frowning.

“Even at her most lucid, in the past years, whenever anything has happened to either of her sons, her response has been… lukewarm, at best. She just hasn’t cared. For her to want to go and see Robert in hospital, and knowing what the situation is… Well, I have to say it’s highly encouraging. And really, the time away from Carmel Ridge might do her a lot of good.”

“I’m really not sure about this,” Deakins argued. “The sight of her son… It could trigger another episode, couldn’t it? And the last thing I want is for that to happen in Detective Goren’s presence.”

“Stresses and shocks that she hasn’t had the chance to prepare herself for are the primary causes of her episodes and psychotic breaks, Captain Deakins. We have plenty of time to prepare her for this. You said over the phone about coming up with a solution that will benefit both mother and son. I think this might be that solution. And before you protest further, just hear me out. Frances speaks at great length with the nurses here, and during the times when she is lucid, the same subject always comes up.”

“Her sons?” Deakins guessed, and Shimo nodded.

“Yes, her sons, but Robert in particular. Him, and her regret that he was the one who had to take care of her, rather than it being the other way around.”

Deakins frowned as he began to see what Shimo was getting at.

“She might see this as an opportunity to be the care-giver for once.”

“Right,” Shimo confirmed. “And the fact that she is concerned enough to want to be with Robert is the most positive sign I’ve seen yet. Now, can you look me in the eye and tell me that Robert wouldn’t appreciate a visit from his mother?”

Deakins had to concede to that argument, but he still looked incredulously at Shimo.

“You really believe this could be manageable?”

A grin lit up Shimo’s face.


Alex paused in flipping through one of the books that she’d pulled out at random. She’d read to him from Moby Dick for the better part of forty-five minutes or so before the slow and even sound of his breathing, and the way that his body relaxed completely against her, told her that he was asleep. Taking extra care not to wake him, she’d slid off the bed and put Moby Dick aside, and searched through the bags for something to read. She’d finally settled on The Hobbit, an old favourite from her own childhood.

She was unable to concentrate on the story, though, and eventually put the book aside and returned her attention to her sleeping partner.

He actually looked fairly peaceful, she thought. He certainly seemed to be sleeping peacefully, with no apparent nightmares or disturbances. After the near disastrous visit from Benson and Stabler that morning, that fact that he could sleep without disturbances was no small miracle. But then again, the visit from his fellow detectives and the unexpected gift of the books had lifted his spirits considerably, too.

Between that, and the news that Simon Matic had been apprehended, Bobby had seemed more at ease than she had seen him for a long while. Certainly, the distress and despair that she’d sensed in him over the last forty-eight hours had dimmed considerably.

He was still hurting badly, but the knowledge that he had that much-needed support from his colleagues after all seemed to have stemmed the tide of misery that had been steadily engulfing him.

She had feared that her gentle refusal of his request for a phone to call him mother might have sent him back into that spiral, but to her relief, it hadn’t. He’d accepted that it was not the right time for him to be making any such call, and had instead taken what comfort could be afforded in the sound of her voice reading one of his most beloved stories to him.

Alex reached out tentatively towards his face, but stopped short of actually touching him. The last thing she wanted was to disturb him from his rest by inadvertently causing him pain – and the hard truth was that any physical contact to his face did just that. Her gaze went to his throat, and she winced at how swollen it appeared.

His doctor was concerned he was developing an infection, and had already started him on a course of powerful antibiotics. Her greatest concern was that should his throat become too severely inflamed, it would leave him unable to swallow and cold also create difficulties for him in breathing. That, in turn, could quite conceivably lead to them having to force a tube down his throat or, in a worst case scenario, result in the doctors having to perform a tracheotomy.

Alex thrust that worry from her mind. It wasn’t going to come to that. After everything Bobby had been through, that would be beyond cruel.

Tentatively, not wanting to wake him but also fearful of what she might discover, Alex reached out and allowed her fingertips to brush gently over his forehead. She was relieved almost to the point of tears to find his skin was cool to the touch. He had no hint of a fever, which to her meant that the likelihood was low that the swelling in his throat was the result of an infection.

It was, simply, another grim result of the brutal beating that he’d endured. That was all, and that was more than enough.

She sat down again, but before she had the opportunity to even begin to relax, the door opened and Deakins entered.

Alex started up, her eyes widening with shock recognition at the sight of the elderly woman who was clinging to the captain’s arm. Deakins flashed her a reassuring smile before speaking gently.

“Frances, this is Detective Alexandra Eames. She’s Robert’s partner. Detective Eames, I’d like to introduce Mrs Frances Goren, Robert’s mother.”

Alex made her way around the bed, and took the other woman’s outstretched hand in what she hoped was not too firm a grip.

“I’m pleased to meet you, Mrs Goren.”

Frances smile softly, and Alex felt a bizarre sense of dejavu at how much she looked like her younger son at that very moment.

“And I you, Detective Eames. May I call you Alexandra?”

Alex nodded, deliberately not looking at Deakins, and the smirk that she knew was going to be on his face.

“Of course. That’s fine.”

Frances smiled warmly at her, and again Alex was reminded of Bobby in those rare moments when she was privileged to see his warmest and most genuine smiles.

“Alexandra… A beautiful name. Robert has told me so much about you, my dear. I’ve asked him time and again to bring you to meet me, but he keeps putting it off, Heaven only knows why. I’m glad I finally have the chance to thank you for taking such good care of him.”

Alex found she had to bite on the insides of her cheeks to stem a sudden, fresh flood of tears. Frances reached over and patted her hand sympathetically.

“Dear, it’s all right. You can’t blame yourself for this. Any parents knows, you can’t be there to save your child from everything that confronts them in life. I imagine it’s not all that different for police officers and their partners. The important thing is that you’re here now, and your captain tells me you’ve hardly left my boy’s side.”

“She hasn’t,” Deakins confirmed. “Only the once, and only because I had to practically order her home to get some rest.”

Frances smiled warmly at her again.

“Well, there you are. Who could ask for a better friend?”

Patting Alex’s hand one last time, Frances then made her way over to her son’s bedside.

“How the hell did you pull this off?” Alex whispered as Deakins joined her at the end of the bed. He smiled wearily.

“It’s a long story, and this will probably only be a once-off visit, so I hope he doesn’t sleep through it. How long has he been asleep?”

“About twenty minutes or so. I’d been reading to him for around forty-five minutes before that.”

“So he really did like the books, then.”

“Like them? Captain, he damned near cried. That’s how much he appreciated them. But it wasn’t exclusively the books, either. The gesture itself had a lot to do with it. He was really touched that they were willing to make an effort like that for him. He knows damn well that they wouldn’t have gone to all that trouble purely out of guilt.”

“They cared all along,” Deakins murmured. “It was just unfortunate that it took them so long to get their priorities in order.”

He trailed off, watching curiously as Frances leaned in to kiss her son’s bruised cheek, and stroke his forehead soothingly. The contact drew Bobby slowly back into awareness, and a soft moan issued from his lips as consciousness crept up on him once more and, along with it, so too the pain.

“Alex,” he mumbled, thinking the gentle, loving touch on his forehead was hers.

“No, sweetheart,” a voice answered.

Bobby’s breath caught in his throat. That couldn’t possibly be who he thought it was. It just was not possible. Soft laughter met his disbelieving ears, and a faint whimper escaped his lips almost before he realised it.


“Yes, it’s me,” Frances confirmed softly. “My poor boy…”

A choked sob escaped him before he could stop it. Frances leaned in to kiss him again, this time on the forehead. Then, in an imitation of Alex earlier on, she sat herself up on the bed beside him and then, she gathered him gently to her in a protective embrace.

“It’s going to be all right, my precious boy. Mommy’s here.”

Alex felt a slight tug on her arm, and looked up to find Deakins was urging her towards the door.

“C’mon, Alex,” he murmured. “Let’s wait outside.”

Reluctantly, Alex conceded and allowed herself to be ushered from her partner’s hospital room.

“How…?” Bobby asked softly as his mother cradled him to her. “I don’t…. don’t understand…”

“Your captain came to tell me that you’d been hurt, that you were in hospital. I couldn’t just sit comfortably in my room knowing that my little boy was hurting. Dr Shimo kindly arranged for me to come and see you.”

Bobby shuddered a little in her arms. All of a sudden he felt like the helpless, uncertain little boy that he thought had been long since buried by his subconscious.

“I wanted to call you,” he whispered. “But I couldn’t. My… my hands… I was scared. I didn’t know how you’d… I mean, what you’d think.”

“I know, sweetheart. You were worried about your poor mother. Well, it’s time for you to stop worrying about me, Bobby. Look at you! Look at your hands… Your eyes…You can’t worry about me now. You have to worry about yourself. Concentrate on getting better, darling. You have to stop thinking about anyone else, and put all your energies into getting better.”

He shuddered again, and unconsciously nestled in against her, taking great comfort in the less than familiar sensation of having her arms wrapped around him.

“Your partner’s a lovely girl,” Frances said finally, and Bobby couldn’t help but smile at his mother referring to Alex as a ‘girl’. “She cares about you a lot.”

Bobby didn’t answer that comment. He hoped it was a simple, innocent remark, but he was terrified of saying or doing something that would trigger a new delusion. His mother had never liked any of the women he’d been involved with, and if she ceased to comprehend the difference between those fly-by-night relationships, and the relationship he shared with Alex, he dreaded to think what might result.

“It’s all right, Bobby,” Frances murmured to him. “Stop being so frightened. I’m all right. And don’t forget, I’m your mother. I can tell you’re not romantically involved with her. A mother knows these things.”

He didn’t question that. The truth was, he didn’t want to know.

Slowly, Bobby began to relax, and simply appreciate and enjoy his mother’s company, something that he had not been able to for a long, long time. She began humming softly, an old lullaby that he vaguely remembered from when he was only a very young child. A ghost of a smile passed across his lips as, for just a while, the pain – both physical and emotional – didn’t seem quite so bad.

The minutes ticked by, and Bobby clung to his mother as best as he could. He knew full well it couldn’t last. Even if she retained her clarity of mind, sooner or later it would be time for her to return to Carmel Ridge. And then, who knew when or if she would be able to come back? He held no illusions about the likelihood of his mother maintaining her current level of reason. Then, things would revert back to what they had always been. But for now… For now, he just wanted to pretend that everything was exactly as it should be, and that nothing would happen to change it.

“Where is your brother? He should be here as well.”

Bobby tensed in her embrace. Of all the things she could have said, and the questions she could have asked, why in God’s name did it have to be that?

“I… I don’t know,” he whispered. “I haven’t heard from Richie for years.”

She was silent and, for a while, he hoped she would let it slide. He should have known better.

“Well, I think he should be here.”

“Mom, please…”

“No, Robert. He’s your brother. He should be here to support you. It isn’t right that he’s not.”

“I don’t want him here,” Bobby persisted, wanting desperately to get the subject off the piece of filth that was his older brother.

“Oh, I know that you two never really got along, but he’s still your brother, Robert. I’m sure you have a contact number. Just let me have it, and I’ll call him.”

“No,” Bobby said, his voice almost a moan. “Mom, please, let it go…”

Frances frowned as she looked down at her distressed son.

“Bobby? What is it? What’s wrong? Why don’t you want your brother to be here?”

Bobby pulled away, out of her embrace, his breath coming fast… too fast. He was descending rapidly into a panic attack that he didn’t think he could stop.

“Please…” he whispered, barely able to make himself heard. “Please… Get Alex…”

She didn’t move, though, watching in confusion as, in a strange reversal of roles, he slipped away from her as he became lost in his terrifying memories…

He lay on the bed, trying to keep as still as possible. It wasn’t all that hard to do. The pain from his injuries was just about more than he could cope with; his broken hands, his burned eyes, broken ribs… and he wasn’t sure, but he thought maybe one or both of his legs might be broken. They certainly hurt badly enough that he suspected that was the case.

He knew by now that he wasn’t going to escape this nightmare alive. The men… Matic, and whoever else was there… were going to kill him. He was slowly coming to accept that. All he could hope and pray now was that it would be over with sooner rather than later. As much as he valued the concept of fighting for life, right now all he wanted was an end to the pain.

The bed creaked, and he felt someone move to kneel over the top of him.

You think he’s had enough yet?”

That was the voice of the man that he had yet to identify. The voice was infuriatingly familiar, but in his current state, he simply couldn’t place it. The thought was lost as a hand descended onto his back and skimmed over his bruised and lacerated flesh before coming to a stop on his buttocks.

No… he thought miserably. Not again…

He grunted in pain, the only protest he could manage, as his attacker drew apart his buttocks, found his bruised and bloodied opening, and rammed himself in as hard and fast as he could. Laughter met his ears, cruel and unforgiving. Silently, he begged God for relief from the torture, and the terror, but there was none.

He sobbed wretchedly as he was raped yet again, both of his attackers laughing at his obvious agony.

Hope you two are leaving some for me.”

Bobby’s entire body went ice cold at the new voice. No… Please God no… Abruptly, the brutal feeling of forced penetration was gone, and his current abuser slid off the bed.

He’s all yours, pal.”

And you’re definitely going to kill him, right?”

Relax, man. He’s not going to live to see another sunrise. Do what you gotta do, and then let us take care of business. We’ll wait in the other room. Just come out when you’re done with him.”

Bobby listened in breathless terror to the sound of his original two tormentors leaving the room. Then, the mattress creaked and dipped as someone sat down on the bed beside him.

Hey, little brother. Bet you’re wishing you’d come up with the money now, huh?”

Bobby moaned in despair. Richie…

The other man laughed softly, cruelly.

I couldn’t let you die without knowing who organised this little party… or why. Basically, Bobby, you screwed me over, so I decided I’d return the favour.”

Bobby moaned again. Richie hesitated, then spoke softly.

I’ll take the gag out, but if you scream, or yell, or anything, I swear I’ll give you a whole new definition of pain. And believe me, after four years in prison, I can come through on that promise. Do you understand me?”

Somehow, Bobby managed to nod.

Good,” Richie murmured. He reached over and pulled the gag from his brother’s mouth, and pulled out the piece of material that had been jammed into his mouth.

Why?” Bobby whispered. Richie shouldn’t have worried about him yelling out, he thought dismally. He could barely whisper, let alone shout.

Richie was silent, considering that carefully before answering.

You fucked up my life, Bobby. All I wanted was for you to agree to testify for me, and you wouldn’t do it. I would’ve gotten a suspended sentence if you’d testified. You know I would have. But instead, I got four years in Rikers.”

Wasn’t enough,” Bobby mumbled.

Richie frowned. He reached over and grabbed a fistful of Bobby’s hair, pulling his head up roughly from the bed.

I suggest you shut the fuck up, little brother. You’re not in a position to be making smart ass comments.”

He let Bobby’s head drop again, and went on quietly.

I bet you can imagine what happened to me in prison. Only, it was even worse for me, because of my name. It didn’t take the other inmates long to figure out that I was related to you. And they all wanted payback. Figured that if they couldn’t get back at you, they’d settle for me instead. I got ass-fucked every goddamn night in that place for the first three months. I got beaten up every damn day. And I lost count of the death threats. You know they eventually had to put me into the protective wing of the prison? No, of course you don’t know. You didn’t give a fuck, did you? You didn’t give a fuck that your big brother was getting beaten up and ass-fucked in prison.”

That wasn’t… wasn’t my fault,” Bobby whispered weakly. “You… put your… yourself there…”

I did the crime,” Richie agreed. “I admit that. But it’s all on you that I went to prison for it. I didn’t have to, Bobby. You royally fucked me, little brother. So like I said, I decided I’d return the favour. The only difference? You’re not going to live through this.”

Richie slid off the bed, and then he shoved the wad of material back into Bobby’s mouth, even as Bobby tried to protest.

Shut up, you piece of shit,” Richie snarled, balling up his fist and punching Bobby hard in the jaw.

Bobby groaned, feeling at least one of his teeth come loose from the force of the blow, and could not put up a fight when Richie retied the gag. He pushed his face down into the mattress, bracing himself for the return of his tormentors. A moment later, though, he heard Richie laughing softly.

You think I’m going to get Simon and Chops back? No, little brother. Not before I have some fun as well.”

Bobby went rigid in the bed. Chops…? Richard Chops Cozza…?

He had no further chance to mull on that. The belt that his tormentors had used to whip him with earlier suddenly snapped across his back, and a muffled scream of pain tore from his gagged lips. Richie laughed in delight, and drew the belt back and hit Bobby again with it, putting more strength behind the second blow.

By the time Richie abandoned the belt, Bobby had been reduced to low, weak moans of pain.

Now that was satisfying,” Richie said with a chuckle. “You probably don’t really give a shit, but I’m not going to rape you. I may be a fucking bastard, but I’m not that sadistic. That, and I can’t afford to risk leaving behind my DNA. There is, however, something to be said for inanimate objects when it comes to inflicting maximum pain. Ever had a nice, thick piece of metal shoved up your ass, Bobby? I have. And I just couldn’t live with myself, knowing you died without getting to experience it, too…”

“Bobby! Goddamn it, Bobby, snap out of it!

Bobby jerked back to reality with a violent start, his breath catching painfully in his chest and throat. Slowly, agonisingly slowly, Deakins’ voice cut through the haze of his memories, and brought him back to the present.

“Mom…” he whispered, suddenly sure that she’d been whisked away while he’d been lost in his memories. A hand came down on his shoulder, and another cupped his cheek gently.

“I’m right here, sweetheart. I’m not going anywhere.”

A strangled sob escaped him, and he began to cry openly, wretchedly. Frances gathered her son to her, and looked back at Deakins with a hard look on her otherwise seemingly fragile features.

“My other son, Richard, was responsible for this. Did you already know that?”

Deakins felt sick, but answered honestly.

“We knew he was involved. We didn’t know to what extent.”

Frances started to return her attention to Bobby, but her gaze went to Alex. The detective was standing back with obvious reluctance, clearly wanting to involve herself, but at the same time not wanting to intrude. Smiling a little, Frances urged Alex over, and the younger woman hurried over, not needing to be asked twice.

Together, the two women surrounded, comforted and protected the distraught man who was such an important part of both of their lives.

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