SVU Headquarters

Elliot and Fin arrived back to find Munch and Olivia hovering outside Cragen’s office. The shouting coming from inside was heated enough to keep any of the four from simply barging in.

“How long has this been going on for?” Fin wondered.

“At least twenty minutes,” Munch answered. “Arrogant bastard just stalked while Liv and I were in with Cragen, and demanded we quit looking for Cozza. Cragen hit the roof, booted us out to wait for you guys, and it’s been a dogfight and a half since.”

Elliot looked around at his three colleagues, even as he reached for the doorknob.

“Shall we crash the party?”

Olivia nodded in agreement.

“Let’s do it.”

“Just in time,” Cragen growled as they walked in. “People, this is Agent Charlton of the FBI. He’s one of the lead agents with the team responsible for Mr Cozza being released from prison, and then allowing him to escape custody.”

Charlton bristled at the deliberate jibe.

“We didn’t allow anything…”

“So what you’re saying is that you just straight out lost the guy?” Munch asked. Charlton glared at all of them.

“The situation with Mr Cozza is not your concern. He’s our business, and our responsibility. That’s all you need to know.”

“Like hell it’s not our business!” Olivia exploded. “Captain, did you tell this prick what his precious witness did?”

“You have no evidence to prove he was involved in the assault on Detective Goren,” Charlton said dismissively, but at the same time the detectives though he was starting to look a touch unsettled. Cragen gave a short, derisive laugh.

“That’s where you’re wrong, Agent Charlton. We have DNA evidence that places Cozza in Detective Goren’s apartment.”

“And we have a statement from Detective Goren himself, naming Cozza as one of his attackers,” Elliot added fiercely.

Charlton was silent as he took a moment to contemplate that.

“Be that as it may,” he said finally, “we can’t allow you to interfere with our pending indictments by pursuing our witness.”

“A witness that is currently hiding from everyone,” Cragen pointed out, “including you. Open your eyes, Charlton. Do you really believe Cozza ever had any intention of testifying for you?”

“That is a Federal matter…”

“And what reality are you living in, that you seem to think he’s going to just come walking through your door at the snap of your fingers?” Fin demanded.

“Captain Cragen,” Charlton said heatedly, “I suggest you reign in your detectives. They’re out of line.”

Cragen was unapologetic, though, either for his attitude or those of his detectives. A fellow cop had been brutalised, and damn near killed. He was damned if he’d kowtow to this slimy piece of shit.

“Like me, they’re concerned that a violent offender is out on the streets, and that the FBI seems intent on protecting him, to the detriment of a good cop!”

Charlton pressed his lips tightly together in visible irritation before speaking again.

“I’m sorry about Detective Goren. I really am, but hanging our witness out to dry is not going to do anything towards repairing the damage that’s already been done. Surely Goren would understand that the importance of reacquiring Mr Cozza to testify for us now outweighs whatever minimal comfort he might get through you people arresting Cozza…”

“You son of a bitch,” Cragen cut in angrily. “Don’t you dare talk about Goren like he’s a second class citizen. And just why the hell didn’t you know what Cozza was planning? Didn’t you have him under surveillance while he was in Rikers?”

Charlton answered that with silence, and Cragen’s mouth fell open.

“You did know… You goddamned fucking piece of shit!”

“Yes, we had a surveillance on Cozza,” Charlton snapped. “And yes, we were aware of conversations that Cozza had with his cellmates, where threats were made against Detective Goren…”

“And you didn’t bother sending so much as a warning his way when you sprang Cozza from prison?” Olivia asked in disgust.

“We had to weigh up the morals of warning Detective Goren and the Major Case Squad against the indictments we hope to get with Cozza’s help. One of the stipulations made by Cozza in exchange for his testimony was that we not alert Goren to his release. He was afraid of harassment from the detective.” Charlton paused, and then shrugged. “In the end, it was decided that the threats being made against Goren were insubstantial… and that even if they turned out to be otherwise, our case was far too important to jeopardise for the life of any one man.”

In the next instant, all hell broke loose as Elliot lunged towards Charlton in a rage. His momentum was halted only by Fin and Munch, who grabbed his arms and held him back. Charlton leapt backwards, startled, and toppled over the chair that was right behind him. His head struck the cabinet as he went down, making an ugly cracking sound that sent a surge of satisfaction through Cragen and his four detectives.

“Goddamn it, Captain, if you can’t control your detectives…” Charlton snarled angrily. He looked up as Cragen came around to stand over him, and held a hand out to him. Charlton accepted it, and Cragen hauled him to his feet. An instant later, Charlton found him slammed against the wall by Cragen, the captain’s face suddenly merely inches from his own and positively seething with fury.

Nearby, Elliot abruptly ceased his struggles against Fin and Munch, and all four detectives stared in dumb shock at their captain’s unexpected display of aggression.

“Now you listen to me, you slimy, arrogant little bastard,” Cragen hissed. “The man you’re referring to so offhandedly just happens one of the best detectives this police force has. Right now, he’s lying in a hospital bed, facing the prospect that he might be crippled for life, and that his career as a cop could be over. He’s lying in that bed, suffering pain the likes of which you probably couldn’t imagined if you tried. And it’s a situation that could have been avoided! So don’t you dare stand here and talk about him like he’s just a piece of collateral damage.”

The tiniest of smirks formed on Charlton’s face.

“But Captain… That’s exactly what he is.”

Rage flared in Cragen’s eyes and, before he could think twice about what he was doing, he punched Charlton hard in the jaw, sending the man crashing into the metal cabinet for a second time.

“Get the fuck out of my office, and get out of this building, before I can think of a reason to arrest you!” Cragen bellowed. Charlton scrambled to his feet and stumbled past Elliot, Olivia, Fin and Munch, then looked back at Cragen angrily.

“Forget about Cozza. That’s the last time I’ll warn you. He’s our witness, and we aren’t giving him up.”

“You’ve got to find him first,” Cragen snapped. Charlton stood frozen, he and Cragen facing off for a long minute before Charlton finally dropped his gaze, wheeled around and stalked out of the office.

“You hit him…” Elliot said, astounded. Cragen sank back into his seat, still glowering with anger.

“Yes, Detective, I did. And I don’t regret it for an instant.”

“Please tell us we’re not going to just sit back and let Cozza disappear into the Federal system?” Olivia pleaded.

“I have no intention of sitting back and letting anything of the sort happen,” Cragen confirmed, much to the relief of the four detectives. “Cozza is still missing. Until they actually have him in their custody, the son of a bitch is fair game. So get out there, and find him before the Feds do.”

They turned to leave, but Fin turned back in the doorway of Cragen’s office.

“Sir, I read Cozza’s file. He’s street-smart, he’ll have contacts with their feelers out. If he thinks we’re trying to nail him before the Feds get to him…”

“You’re thinking he’ll just turn himself over to the Feds?” Cragen suggested.

“Worse,” Munch chimed in grimly. “He might try going after Goren again, and then he’ll turn himself in to the Feds. A dead victim would delay our case big time, and he’d know that. He’ll also know the Feds will bundle him away nice and safe where we can’t touch him.”

“That could be his plan anyway,” Elliot said tersely. Cragen nodded his agreement.

“Point taken. The four of you, get over to the hospital, set yourselves up to stake-out the place, and do not leave. And Olivia, you’re back with Elliot as of right now. Contact all the precincts within St Clare’s zone, and make sure they’re on the watch for this mutt.”

With a nod, they were gone to carry out their instructions. Cragen was just reaching for his phone to make a call when the door swung open again and Casey Novak strode in.

“We just had a pleasant visit from a Federal agent,” Cragen said ruefully, glancing up at her only briefly. “Got the ‘Cozza’s a Federal witness, leave him alone’ speech.”

“And what did you say tell him?” Casey asked. “Or don’t I want to know?”

Cragen looked up, then, and couldn’t hide the smirk that curled his lips ever so slightly.

“I hit him.”

“Oh… Oh, that’s just fantastic.”

“He called Goren collateral damage, Casey. The Feds knew Cozza was making plans in prison to go after Goren, and they kept it under wraps because they didn’t want to screw up their precious indictments. So yes, I hit the bastard, and I make no apologies for it.”

Casey sighed softly.

“Well, you’re not going to like what I have to tell you now.”

Cragen sat forward slowly, his eyes narrowing with suspicion.


“I just spoke to Richie Goren’s lawyer. He’s been admitted to the psych wing of Rikers. Apparently he suffered a major psychotic break earlier today.”

“Psychotic break?” he echoed tensely. “As in…”

“Schizophrenia,” Casey confirmed. “We still have to confirm it at our end, but the prison psychiatrist has made a tentative diagnosis of severe paranoid schizophrenia.”

“You can’t be serious!” Cragen burst out. “The guy is… what… forty-eight years old?”

“Forty-nine,” Casey corrected grimly as she handed a thin sheaf of papers across the desk to Cragen. “It isn’t a sudden onset, Captain. The psychiatrist who made the diagnosis said in his report that Richie has probably had the illness since his early twenties… a functioning, undiagnosed schizophrenic.”

“You’re going to accept this?” Cragen asked as he flipped through the report.

“I’ll organise for Dr Huang to conduct his own diagnosis, but I think you’re going to find it’s all legit. From all I was told by the psychiatrist at Rikers, he’s suffered a separation from reality. The bottom line is…”

“I know,” Cragen said softly. “He’ll never see the inside of a courtroom.”

Casey sank down into one of the empty chairs.

“She’s already preparing papers to file for a change of plea, to not guilty by reason of mental deficiency. If the diagnosis is solid, I won’t be able to fight it.”

Cragen buried his face in the palms of his hands, and moaned softly.

“So we’ve got one perp that the FBI is trying to snatch away from us, and another who’s literally just lost his grip on reality. And all we’re left with is Simon Matic, and he’s getting a plea bargain for his cooperation.”

“That’s not as bad as it sounds,” Casey objected. “He’s still facing a life sentence. The only thing his plea bargain gets him is the guarantee that we’ll keep the death penalty off the negotiating table.”

“Yeah, well, it’s still not going to sound good when I take it to Goren.”

“I’ll come with you for that,” Casey said quietly. Cragen grunted.

“Damn straight you will. I’ll need a witness to keep Jim Deakins and Alex Eames from flaying me alive. We promised them… and we promised Goren… that we’d make sure that whoever attacked him wouldn’t get away with it. And yet, it looks like that’s exactly what’s going to happen.”

“I’ll talk to Arthur Branch about petitioning to keep the FBI from getting their hands on Cozza,” Casey murmured. “I can’t guarantee it’ll work, but I’ll try. It would help if you could find him before they do. If they get hold of him first, it won’t matter whether we get an injunction or not. Cozza will disappear into the woodwork, and we’ll never have a chance to so much as lay a single charge.”

“I’ve got my people working on it,” Cragen assured her.

“That’s where they were headed? I passed them coming in here, and I don’t think any of them even saw me, they were so focused on what they were doing.”

“I’ve sent them to stake out the hospital where Goren is,” Cragen explained. Casey raised an eyebrow slightly.

“You think Cozza’s going to go after Detective Goren again?”

“Yes, I think he will. And he’ll be counting on the Feds for protection.”

“If you think he’ll go after Detective Goren in the hospital,” Casey said tentatively, “then the FBI will have thought of that, too. They’ll have people there, waiting for Cozza to show his face. Even if your detectives get to him first, there’s no way they’ll get him back here without the Feds muscling in on them.”

Cragen smiled grimly.

“Just leave that to my people to worry about, Ms Novak.”

Later that evening

Danny arrived back at the hospital, refreshed from nearly twelve hours of much-needed sleep. He passed through the reception, on his way up to ICU, and was just waiting at the lifts when he heard his name being called. Turning, he quickly located the owner of the voice, and a warm smile lit up his face.

“Alex, hi. What’s happening?” Danny asked. He eyed in amusement the large take-away coffee cup she clutched, and she shrugged lopsidedly.

“I just went out for coffee, and something to eat,” she answered as she joined him in waiting for the lift. “I promised Bobby I’d bring him back some decent coffee. His doctor was okay with it, though I think she’d prefer we try and get some solid food into him.”

“You mean peanut butter and jelly sandwiches don’t count?” Danny asked, and Alex couldn’t hold back a smile. He chuckled softly.

“You’re pretty when you smile, you know that?”

Alex threw him a mock frown.

“Watch it, pal. You’re married.”

Danny laughed again.

“Relax, I’m not trying to be a dirty old man. All I meant was that since I arrived here, I think I can count on one hand how many times I’ve seen you smile. Don’t get me wrong, I know there’s not a hell of a lot to smile at right now, but we’ve got to take what we can get. Anyway, you’re young enough to be my daughter. No offence, kid, but that’s kind of a gross thought.”

Alex grinned widely, even though she tried damned hard to look put out.

“I’ve taken men down for less than that.”

“Mm, I don’t doubt it.”

She laughed, then, and favoured him with a grateful smile. “Bobby’s lucky to have you for a cousin.”

“Alex, my dear, I think we’re the lucky ones, to have a guy like Bobby Goren in both our lives.”

Tears welled up in her eyes and spilled down her cheeks before she could stop them. Annoyed and embarrassed, she stepped forward and thumped the ‘up’ button on the wall.

“Damn it, what’s taking these lifts so long?”

A moment later, an arm slipped around her shoulders and gave her a fierce hug. She stiffened momentarily, then relaxed and gave into the affectionate contact.

“It’s okay,” Danny reassured her, releasing her after a moment. “I feel exactly the same way.”

The lift doors finally slid open, and both of them stepped in at the same time. The doors were just sliding closed when a third figure ducked through.

“Logan,” Alex exclaimed, not sure whether to be surprised or annoyed. She decided to err on the side of surprise. Logan threw both of them a slightly sheepish grin.

“Hey, Eames. Uh… Sorry…”

“Danny,” the taller man reintroduced himself. Logan nodded, and accepted the offered hand in a quick shake.

“Mike. I thought I’m come by and see Bobby… If that’s okay. I’m sorry I didn’t come by yesterday, but my captain had me working late.”

Alex frowned up at him.

“I’m surprised you have the nerve to show your face.”

Logan blinked at her, confused.

“Uh… what…?”

“You promised me,” she burst out, thumping him hard on the chest and causing him to stumble against the wall of the lift. “You promised you’d stay with Bobby until I came back, and when I do get back, I find you’re gone, and there’s someone there that I don’t know!”

“Hey, I’m sorry,” Logan protested. “But it didn’t seem like Bobby really wanted me around after his cousin here arrived.”

Alex stood there stiffly, glowering at him for a long moment before nodding curtly and backing away from him.

“Okay. Apology accepted.”

Logan gaped at her for several seconds before he finally caught sight of the grin that was tugging at the corners of Danny’s mouth. His features relaxed into a smile as he finally understood what was going on.

“Cruel, Eames. Very cruel. I thought you really were pissed at me.”

“Who’s to say I’m not?” she retorted, but the grin that forced its way onto her face told another story.

“So, I can come up and not get torn to shreds?” Logan asked. Alex nodded.

“Bobby will be happy to have you there. Right now, I think he’s happy to have anyone there, no matter who it is.”

Logan’s smile faded as he sensed the underlying meaning in Alex’s words.


She nodded. “I think so. He was already suffering the beginnings of depression before now, but it set in fully pretty much from the moment that his mother had to go back to Carmel Ridge.”

“His… I’m sorry, did you just say ‘his mother’?” Danny cut in, startled. Alex nodded, and quickly explained about the brief visit from Frances Goren. She carefully avoided saying anything about the disturbing revelations that had been made about Richie’s involvement in the attack.

“Holy shit,” Logan muttered. “No wonder he’s depressed. Probably won’t get to see his mom again for who knows how long…”

He trailed off abruptly, the unfortunate choice of words out of his mouth before he could stop them. He looked quickly from Alex to Danny, but neither seemed to have noticed the slip, much to his relief.

“I’m glad your captain could organise it, though,” Danny murmured as they headed into the ICU wing. “Bobby’s mom means everything to him. It should have helped a lot to have her wanting to be there with him.”

“I guess,” Alex muttered, her thoughts reluctantly going to the dramatic response from Bobby that his mother’s presence had brought on. Logan frowned a little, sensing there was something more than what she was saying.

“What is it, Eames?”

She shook her head wordlessly. She didn’t want to be talking about that, not the least because it was not her place to be telling either man that Bobby had been brutally sodomised by his own brother.

Grateful to finally reach her partner’s room, she rounded the corner, only to be brought to an abrupt halt by the sight of the empty bed.

For several seconds, Alex stood frozen, teetering on the verge of panic as her gaze took in the empty bed, freshly made up with clean sheets and blankets. A moment later, a familiar face stepped into her line of sight, and an authoritative voice spoke firmly.

“Alex, calm down. He’s fine. They’ve just taken him for some scans,” Deakins told her, reaching out to grasp her shoulders in an effort to get her attention. Slowly, the panic subsided, and her vision focused on him.

“Scans?” she echoed hoarsely. Deakins nodded, smiling reassuringly at her.

“That’s right. Just scans. He’s okay.”

Alex let her breath out in a rush, and her body relaxed with visible relief.

“I’m sorry. I saw the empty bed, and I just… I thought…”

Deakins nodded in understanding.

“I know. It’s why I stayed here to wait for you to get back. I didn’t want you thinking something had gone wrong.”

“Scans for what?” Danny asked as he walked in behind Alex, with Logan following close behind him.

“Scans on his eyes,” Deakins explained, and sensed Alex stiffen up once more. “They’ve found a plastic surgeon who’s willing to operate to open up his eyes, but they want some idea of what’s going on underneath his eyelids before they go ahead with it.”

“Open up his eyes?” Logan echoed, and Deakins elaborated.

“His eyes were burned shut, Logan. They were literally sealed closed. It was never going to be a case of taking off the bandages and voila, he can see again. But they want to get some idea of whether there is any damage to his actual eyes, or if it is only surface damage, like they’re hoping.”

“I hope it’s good news,” Danny muttered, sinking into one of the spare chairs. Deakins nodded.

“So do we all.”

Half an hour later found the four of them still waiting, mostly in silence, and hoping for the best. As Deakins had reminded them, Bobby’s doctor had strongly believed that the harm done to Bobby’s eyes was minimal, and that his chances of being able to see again were good, once his eyes were opened via surgery.

Nevertheless, the wait was an anxious one. It was approaching the forty-five minute mark when Deakins suddenly spoke, his thoughtful gaze focused on Alex.

“Alex, tell me something. How do you think you manage partnering Logan on a temporary basis?”

Alex’s head snapped up so fast that Deakins wondered that she didn’t give herself whiplash. He noticed out of the corner of his eye that Logan was staring at him like he’d grown a second head.

“Excuse me?” Alex growled, her expression turning downright dangerous. “What do you mean, partner Logan? I already have a partner, Captain.”

“Uh, maybe I’d better take a walk,” Danny suggested quickly, even as he started to get up. Logan glanced at him ruefully.

“You’d better stay. She might not commit homicide with a civilian present.”

Danny grimaced, but sank reluctantly back into his seat. Deakins, for his part, was oblivious to the brief exchange between Logan and Danny, and he didn’t flinch in the face of Alex’s hostility. He was well prepared for it, knowing full well she was going to react angrily to any suggestion of Bobby being replaced – even if that wasn’t what he actually meant.

“I think you missed the key word in that question, Alex,” Deakins said quietly. “I said ‘temporary’. What it comes down to is that much as I’d like to, I can’t afford to let you stay here at the hospital with Bobby indefinitely. Once we have a good idea of the long term outcome for him… which I expect will be some degree of rehab, followed by a gradual return to work… I’m going to need you back on deck. Now, because I can’t let you work on your own, what I’m asking you is would you be willing to work with Logan temporarily, until Bobby is fit to return to work?”

Alex looked uncertainly at Logan, who was still staring strangely at Deakins. She thought she would be able to, but would Logan be willing to substitute for Bobby? Or, would he resent the idea of being a fill-in?

“Before I answer, maybe you’d better ask Logan if he even wants to come over to Major Case,” Alex suggested. When Logan finally looked across at her, as though surprised that he was even being brought into consideration, she rallied with a half-hearted smirk. “After all, I’m sure there’s so much you’d miss on Staten Island.”

Deakins swallowed the desire to grin, and saw Logan was doing much the same.

“How about it, Logan?” he asked the detective. “How would you like to escape Staten Island for a while?”

Logan grunted. “Well, if you put it like that… Tell me, though, have you really thought about it, or was it one of those ‘lightning bolt out of the blue’ ideas?”

Deakins didn’t answer, he only smiled faintly.

“Okay…” Logan muttered under his breath as he realised he wasn’t going to get an answer. He tossed the idea over in his head for a moment. Though he honestly didn’t really see himself fitting in with the elite Major Case Squad, there were enough positives in the idea to make it worth considering.

Firstly, it could serve as a launching pad to get the hell off Staten Island, and perhaps back into Homicide. Secondly, he was being handed a golden opportunity to work with a detective that he both liked and respected… even if her opinion of him wasn’t quite so high.

“Okay,” he said again, aloud. “I’m good with it if Eames is. But it’s only until Goren is ready to go back to work.”

Alex nodded with reluctant agreement when Deakins looked to her questioningly. As little as she liked it, she knew Deakins was right. She couldn’t stay away from work indefinitely, and at least Deakins had had the good grace not to suggest pairing her up with any of the current Major Case detectives who were operating without partners. Despite their collective peace offering, the truth was she was still feeling sour towards most of them for their earlier treatment of her partner.

After a moment’s thought, she’d come to the conclusion that she could work with Logan, at least on a temporary basis.

“I have one condition, though,” Logan added quickly. Deakins’ eyebrows shot up.

“And what might that be, Logan?”

“That we run it by Goren first, and if he reacts badly, then I don’t do it.”

Deakins stared at Logan incredulously. Of all the things he had expected Logan might say, that was not one of them. A glance at Alex, though, told him Logan had just hit the diplomatic jackpot. Alex had visibly relaxed, and was looking at Logan with new respect and gratitude.

“All right, then,” Deakins agreed, quietly relieved that the suggestion had been accepted with a minimal amount of disruption. “We’ll put it to Bobby first and foremost, and if he’s agreeable to it, then I’ll get it organised. And Logan, if this works out, I might look seriously at making you a permanent addition to the Squad.”

Neither Deakins nor Alex missed the hopeful gleam that lit up Logan’s eyes, not so much at the idea of permanently joining Major Case but rather at the thought of finally getting away from Staten Island for good.

“Uh, people…?” Danny spoke up tentatively. “I think they’re bringing him back.”

All eyes turned to the doorway just as an orderly came through, guiding a hospital gurney on which Bobby was being carefully transported. Fresh bandages adorned his face, replacing the ones that had been cut away in order to do the necessary scans.

“How did it go?” Deakins asked.

“Don’t ask me,” Bobby answered, sounding more than a little annoyed. “They won’t tell me.”

Deakins looked around at Dr Craig, who had come in behind the gurney and was supervising the orderlies as they manoeuvred Bobby back into his freshly made bed.


Dr Craig nodded in understanding.

“Captain Deakins, could I speak to you outside, please? You, too, Mr Cooper.”

Deakins and Danny exchanged wary glances, and then followed Dr Craig from the room.

“You have no idea at all what that’s about?” Alex wondered. Bobby gave a very slight shake of his head.

“Not a clue. She wouldn’t tell me. Acted like I was a goddamn ten year old.”

Logan gave a derisive snort.

“That’s a hell of a stretch of the imagination.”

Bobby fell momentarily silent at the unexpected voice.


“Yeah, pal, it’s me. Sorry I didn’t come by yesterday, like I said I would. My captain wouldn’t let me go early enough, and you’ve got a night duty nurse out there who makes Attila the Hun look like a kitten.”

“S’okay,” Bobby murmured. “Thanks for coming now.”

Logan and Alex both fell silent, looking at each other uncertainly and wondering whether they ought to wait for Deakins, or just go ahead and talk to Bobby about what they had discussed earlier with Deakins. In the end, Bobby took the choice out of their hands.

“What is it?”

Both Logan and Alex started in surprise at the question.

“What’s what?” Logan asked, wincing at how guilty he sounded to his own ears.

“Don’t,” Bobby said softly. “Please don’t pretend nothing’s the matter. I don’t have to be able to see to sense the tension in here. What’s going on?”

Alex sighed softly. “Bobby, Deakins ran something past me and Logan just before you got back. Sooner or later I’m going to have to go back to work… He, uh…”

“He wants to bring me over from Staten Island to work with Alex,” Logan said quietly. “It’s only temporary, until you’re back at work, but if you don’t like it, just say so. We don’t want to do anything that’s going to give you more grief. Deakins agreed.”

Bobby answered the statement with silence. For more than a minute he remained cloaked in silence, and the only indication he was even still awake was the barely visible twitch of the one finger that protruded from the thick bandages on his right hand. Finally, just when Alex was about to try speaking to him, Bobby responded first.

“It’s a good idea. You… You two will work well together.”

Far from feeling relief, Alex felt her stomach roll unpleasantly.

“Bobby,” she said tentatively, “it’s not meant to be a permanent arrangement. You’re still my partner. I’m just waiting for you to be ready to come back to work. I know it’ll take time, but you’ll get there. I believe you will. Please don’t give up. Not now.”

She reached out cautiously to brush the back of her hand gently against his cheek, and was relieved when he turned in towards her touch, rather than jerk away from her.

“Not giving up,” he said, his voice barely more than a whisper, and holding a telltale tremble. “It’s just…”

“What?” Alex pressed gently. Bobby swallowed hard, then winced at the pain it caused him.

“Nearly every time I’ve woken up in here, you’ve been right here next to me,” he answered finally. “I was just trying to imagine waking up, and there being no one here at all. I… I never thought that would scare me… but it does.”

“You won’t be alone, pal,” Logan reassured him quietly. “We’ll make sure of that. We’ll make sure there’s always someone here.”

“Thanks,” Bobby whispered, “but you can’t promise that, Logan. Neither can you, Alex. It… It’s okay, though. I’ll be okay.”

Alex looked unconvinced, and Logan didn’t blame her. He didn’t believe Bobby’s words either, but before either had the chance to argue further, Deakins walked back into the room. Danny was right behind him.

“Well?” Alex asked, the volume of her voice rising slightly as the stress started to take hold. Deakins gave her a worried glance, and then walked over to the bedside to speak to the injured detective. The news concerned all of them, but Bobby had the right to be told directly what was happening with his own body.

“Bobby, the scans came back clear. There’s no damage at all to your eyes. Once the surgeon operates to repair the damage to your eyelids, and reopens them, there should be no reason why you can’t see. You’re not going to lose your sight, Bobby.”

A muffled sob of relief escaped Alex, and Deakins heard Logan mumble something under his breath that sounded suspiciously like a Catholic prayer to the Madonna. Bobby, however, answered the news with silence. After a moment, Deakins decided to elaborate.

“It’s going to take some time before your eyes will be a hundred percent again, and you’ll need to wear sunglasses a lot of the time, both indoors and outside, but it’s going to heal. Do you understand, Bobby? You haven’t been blinded. It’s going to be okay.”

To Deakins quiet concern, Bobby merely slid down in the bed and rolled away from them, onto his left side.

“Bobby, you okay, bud?” Danny asked, feeling a sharp twinge of concern. Again, there was no answer. Alex reached out to him again, intending to lay her hand on his shoulder. This time, instead of turning into her touch, Bobby jerked away in a painfully obvious, panicked reaction. Alex withdrew her hand quickly, hurt and more than a little frightened.

“Can you all give us a few minutes, please?” Deakins asked quietly. Danny hesitated, looking quizzically at Deakins before nodding and heading silently out of the room. When Alex hesitated, Logan took a firm grip on her shoulders, and guided her out, pushing the door shut behind him. Deakins stared at Bobby’s inert form for a long moment, before walking around to the other side of the bed.

“Bobby, I want you to listen to me,” Deakins told him quietly. “I know you probably aren’t going to answer me, but I want you to listen. Firstly, I’m sorry. I should have organised counselling for you as soon as you were even halfway lucid. Secondly, I’m not going to try and guess what’s going through your mind right now. I doubt I could ever imagine. I just want you to remember this. We’re not quitting on you, Bobby. No matter how far you think you’ve fallen, we’re still going to be here to pull you back up. You just have to be willing to let us do that for you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, ever, because one of us will always be here to give it. I can promise you that much and you know I don’t make promises that I can’t keep. Don’t be afraid to lean on us now, Bobby. Let us help you.”

Though Bobby never spoke, a noticeable tremor passed through his body. Deakins hesitated, then reached out and laid his hand gently on Bobby’s arm. The detective flinched slightly at the contact, but did not try to pull away.

“You’ll get through this eventually,” Deakins assured him gently. “I know you will. I believe you will. Just… don’t stop wanting to live.”

Deakins hesitated for just a moment longer before finally withdrawing his hand and silently leaving the room.

Bobby lay still and silent, listening as Deakins’ footsteps echoed dully on the linoleum floor. It was only when he heard the door open, and then quietly swing closed again that he finally let go, and cried softly into his pillow.

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