Alex lay awake long after midnight, staring into the darkness. In the end, the big homecoming had been something of a fizzer, although she would never have said that to Bobby. In all truth, she was just glad to have gotten him safely home, and she wasn’t the least bit surprised that he’d opted to simply go to bed. That had been early in the evening, and Bobby had soon been sound asleep, looking more comfortable and more at ease than she had seen him for a long time.

Jo had stayed on until after ten o’clock, waiting long enough to wake Bobby up for his last meds of the day – a combination of painkillers and antibiotics, along with a herbal remedy that Dr Craig had recommended to help him sleep through the night. Then, only when he was sleeping soundly, did she finally leave.

Alex thanked God for Jo. She had been starting to despair of finding a suitable nurse that Bobby could afford. Most were unsuited to give the kind of care that Bobby needed, and those that were suited charged rates that she doubted even Donald Trump could afford.

She grimaced a little. The FBI had been willing enough to foot the bill for Bobby’s hospital care, but their benevolence only extended so far. Once Bobby was out of the hospital, financially, he was on his own, and it was just about more than he could manage.

With less than a week to go before Bobby was due to be discharged, Alex had been starting to wonder whether she would have to look after Bobby herself. Then, she had gotten a call from thirty-seven year old Jo Reilly. Jo was a home care nurse by profession, fully qualified and with nearly fifteen years’ experience under her belt.

A ‘mutual friend’ had contacted her, told her the basics of the job and asked her if she would be willing to take it on. Jo had agreed, on the condition that Bobby himself had a say in the decision.

After a positive conversation with Alex over the phone, Jo went to meet both her and Bobby in the hospital. There, the inevitable question was asked – who was this ‘mutual friend’?

It turned out that she had been contacted by none other than Mike Logan, whom she knew through his ex-girlfriend, the nurse from the Staten Island prison. Once Mike knew they were having difficulty finding a home care nurse, he had taken it on himself to call Jo, and ask if she could help out.

Both Alex and Bobby had displayed a level of relief that Jo still didn’t understand, and all Alex would say by way of explanation was that they thought it might have been someone else. Neither would say who they thought it might have been, and Jo could only guess that it was an individual that neither of them wanted anything to do with.

In the end, it didn’t matter. Jo liked Bobby and, more importantly, Bobby seemed to like her. Alex had asked with some trepidation what rates she charged, and had been surprised and pleased to find it was within the boundaries of Bobby’s extremely tight budget.

And so Jo had been hired. She was being paid to be there from seven in the morning until ten at night, to provide Bobby with full and complete care. That care included administering all medications, as well as assisting him with all manner of tasks through the day, tasks that ranged from bathing and dressing him in the mornings to feeding him and helping him with his toiletries.

As Alex had pointed out earlier, he had virtually no physical independence at all.

She sighed wearily and finally got out of bed to get herself some water. She didn’t know why she was so restless, but if she couldn’t get to sleep soon, she would still be in bed when Jo arrived later in the morning. Or worse, she would still be in bed, asleep, when Bobby woke up.

She trudged into the kitchen, and used the light of the refrigerator to pour herself some water. It was as she was setting the glass in the sink that she heard it; the sound of muffled sobs coming from Bobby’s bedroom. Abandoning thoughts of returning to the sanctity of her bed, Alex crossed the floor and went into her partner’s room.

Bobby was still asleep, caught up in the throes of a nightmare, distressed moans issuing from his still-bruised lips. Alex approached the bedside with caution, aware that she had to take care in how she woke Bobby up. It wasn’t that she couldn’t handle it personally if he lashed out at her, but he didn’t need that guilt on top of his other traumas and miseries.

In the end, she sat down carefully on the edge of the bed and held his left arm down gently with one hand while she gently stroked his forehead and cheek with the other. The contact was all that was needed, and Bobby awoke with a strangled gasp.

“Easy,” Alex murmured, feeling her heart break all over again at the sight of her once-strong partner reduced to such helplessness. “It’s okay, Bobby. You’re safe. You’re with me, and you’re safe.”

Bobby shuddered, and he dissolved into sobs as the momentary shock wore off. Hoping he didn’t react badly, Alex slid further onto the bed and gently drew his head against her shoulder in a comforting embrace, murmuring reassurances to him.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered minutes later as the sobs finally eased and faded. “I woke you up.”

“No, you didn’t,” she reassured him. “I was already up when I heard you. You didn’t wake me.”

Silence fell between them for a while, Alex continuing to stroke his forehead soothingly until his tremors faded and eventually ceased altogether, and his breathing settled and evened out once more.

“Feeling better?” she asked once she was sure he’d calmed down sufficiently.

“Yeah,” he whispered. “A… A little. I… I’m…”

“Don’t apologise, Bobby,” she admonished him gently. “How many times do I have to say it?”

“I can’t help it,” he argued. “Everything you’ve done… Everything you’re doing…”

“Is because I want to,” she finished off for him. “But if you really have this compulsive need to apologise, then maybe we should just get it out of the way now, for everything. What do you think?”

He shifted against her slightly.

“You mean… Apologise in advance…? For everything…?”

“Sure. If you feel you have to apologise, Bobby… and keep in mind that I don’t believe you need to… then let’s just get it out of the way, right now. An apology for everything you think you should have to be sorry for. Name something.”

He was silent for a while before venturing an answer.

“I’m sorry for… for you having to look after me.”

“Okay, that’s a big one,” Alex agreed. “But like I’ve already said, I’m doing this because I want to, not because I have to. You know, I could have kept quiet, and then you probably would have ended up at Deakins’ place. I bet that would have been a barrel of laughs.”

Bobby smiled, and a small chuckle escaped his lips, eliciting a smile from Alex.

“What about something else?”

“Uh… I’m sorry that I couldn’t eat any of what your dad cooked.”

“Uh huh. Don’t be too sorry. There’s enough there that we’ll both be living on leftovers for a week.”

The chuckle came again, this time a little stronger.

“C’mon,” Alex encouraged him. “Next thing?”

Bobby hesitated, searching his mind for something to say.

“I’m sorry that I’ll probably use all your hot water in the mornings.”

It was Alex’s turn to snort with laughter.

“Think again, pal. I’m having my showers before you.”

“You mean I have to wait until after lunch?”

She swatted him lightly on the shoulder, but it did the trick. A moment later, they were both laughing.

“Now how are you feeling?” she asked, and he could hear the smile in her voice.

“A little silly,” he admitted. She ruffled his hair affectionately.

“That’s not such a bad thing. Now, do you think you might be able to sleep?”

“I think so,” he conceded. “If you stay with me, that is.”

Her smile broadened. Her tactics had worked. He made no effort to apologise.

“Of course I will,” she murmured. “Go to sleep, Bobby. I’ll be right here, I promise.”

The faintest of sighs escaped him as he consciously relaxed against her.

“Thankyou, Alex.”

“You’re welcome, Bobby.”

Deakins arrived mid-morning to find Alex sitting alone at her dining table, sipping at a steaming mug of coffee while looking slowly through the newspaper.

“I thought you’d be around later today,” she remarked as he joined her at the table.

“I’d planned on it, but I have a meeting to attend with the Commissioner this afternoon. I wanted to see both you and Bobby today, so it had to be this morning. Where is he?”

“Jo’s helping him to shower. I think he would have liked to have a bath, but with those hands still braced, there’s no way he could get himself up. Did you want coffee, sir?”

“I’ll pass, thanks, Alex. I just came from a breakfast meeting. There was enough coffee flowing there to jump start a Chevy. Tell me, how did he sleep? First night out of the hospital, and all…”

“He had a bad nightmare sometime after midnight, but he was okay. He got back to sleep again fairly quickly.”

She didn’t elaborate further, and Deakins didn’t ask.

“And what about you?” he asked, eyeing her carefully. “How are you doing, Alex?”

A small smile lit up her face, momentarily erasing the weariness that etched her features.

“I’m okay, sir. A little tired, but otherwise okay. You said yesterday that you wanted to talk to me about coming back to work.”

“Yes, I did,” Deakins agreed. “Alex, I don’t want to push you, but the workload is starting to bank up. It’s been over a month, now, and there’s only been so much that the rest of the squad can cope with. I really do need you back there.”

She nodded.

“I know. I’m sorry, but I’ve just felt that it was more important to be there for Bobby.”

“I understand that. I really do. But he’s out of the hospital, now, and he’s got someone to look after him through the day. I think it’s time you came back to work.”

Alex sighed softly.

“Who will I be working with? Logan?”

“If you’re willing. He’s been there for a couple of weeks now, trying to make some headway. But he needs a partner.”

She was silent for a long minute, contemplating the reality of working with the fiery detective.

He took a bullet trying to stop Cozza from killing Bobby, she thought. A moment later, her mind was made up.

“I’ll work with him,” she said firmly, “but on the understanding that it’s only temporary. Bobby is my partner, and he will be coming back to work eventually. Logan isn’t there to replace him.”

Deakins smiled reassuringly at her.

“I don’t want you to worry about that, Alex. I’ve already spoken at length with the Chief of Detectives, and the Commissioner. Bobby’s place in the squad is secure. When he’s ready to come back, it’ll be there for him. I promise you that.”

She didn’t return the smile.

“Don’t make that promise to me, Captain. Make it to Bobby. He’s the one who needs to be reassured that there’s still a place for him in the squad.”

Deakins nodded.

“I understand. I’ll tell him myself, and I’ll tell him again when he has the surgery on his eyes, and those bandages finally come off, so he can see that I’m telling him the truth.”

Alex did smile, then.

“Thankyou, sir.”

He sat back a little, relaxing finally.

“So, how is he, Alex? Really…”

“It’s hard to say. He’s happy to be out of the hospital. I guess that time will tell how well he’s going to cope.”

“There are going to be some difficult time ahead, Alex. You understand that…”

“I know!” she burst out, unable to help herself. “Everyone keeps telling me the same thing… like they think I’m going to just quit on him as soon as things get a bit rough. I know it’s not going to be easy, but he’s my partner… and my best friend. I’m not going to just up and quit just because it isn’t all plain sailing. How many times do I have to say that before everyone understands it?”

Deakins held up his hands defensively.

“I’m sorry, Alex. I didn’t mean to imply that you would. I know you well enough to know that you won’t do that. I just want to be sure that you have a full understanding of what you’re facing here.”

She stared at him across the table, her good humour all but gone.

“Captain…” She paused, searching her mind for something to say that wouldn’t land her in hot water with her boss. “Let me give you a run-down of what I know I can expect. He’s going to have mood swings, and by all accounts they’re likely to be pretty monumental. He’ll probably suffer varying degrees of depression. It could get so bad at times that he could become a suicide risk. There are going to be times when the physical pain is so bad that he might not be able to cope with it. He’s bound to lash out… verbally and physically… at anyone close to him; namely, me. How am I doing so far?”

A small, grim smile found its way onto Deakins’ face.

“I think that generally covers it.”

She nodded. “I’ll deal with it all, because I have to. After all, who else is there to help him like this? There’s no one, and you know it. If I hadn’t said that I’d take him in, he’d probably have had to go to somewhere like Bellevue. I couldn’t let that happen to him, Captain.”

Deakins stared at the tabletop.

“Alex… it might still happen. If the depression gets bad enough that he really does become suicidal, then we won’t have a choice. He’ll have to go to Bellevue.”

Her expression was steely, and had Deakins shifting uncomfortably in his seat.

“We’ll cross that bridge if we come to it.”

“I’m sorry, Alex. I didn’t mean to suggest that you didn’t know what to expect… or that you can’t deal with it.”

Alex groaned aloud, then. “Oh, for God’s sake, I wish people would stop apologising. That’s all everyone seems to do now. Apologise for every goddamn little thing.”

Deakins smiled wryly.

“Then I guess you don’t want me to say I’m sorry for saying I’m sorry?”

She froze momentarily, staring at him incredulously. A moment later, her face broke into a grin, and she laughed softly.

“I’d appreciate it if you didn’t, sir.”

“I’m worried about Bobby, Alex,” he went on quietly, “but I’m worried about you, too. This is going to drain you.”

“I think you’re underestimating my support base, Captain. And you haven’t met Jo, yet.”

“The home care nurse? I heard she was formidable.”

“That’s one word for her. Bobby tried protesting that he didn’t need a wash last night before bed, and she rode over the top of him like he was a five year-old saying he didn’t want a bath. She never gave him a choice. I think if it had come from anyone else, he would have gotten his back up over it, but there’s something about Jo. She knows how to handle him. She can get away with babying him without him feeling like he’s being patronised. Maybe it’s the experience… I don’t know. I don’t think I want to know. She’s good with him, though. That’s what counts.”

At that moment the bathroom door opened as though on cue and Jo emerged, guiding Bobby out into the living area. He definitely looked better for having had a relatively decent night’s sleep outside the confines of the hospital, Deakins reflected. He waited patiently until Jo had guided Bobby over to the table and sat him down before speaking.

“Good morning, Bobby.”

Bobby started just a little in surprise.

“Captain? I thought you were coming this afternoon. It’s… not afternoon already, is it?”

Jo laughed as she retreated into the kitchen to get him his breakfast.

“Hardly, Bobby. You want coffee, hon? Or juice?”

Bobby hesitated before quietly requesting juice. He would have preferred coffee, but juice he could drink with a straw. Jo would have needed to help him with drinking coffee and with the captain there that was one humiliation he could do without.

“I came by to see how you’re doing, now that you’re out of the hospital,” Deakins said casually. He could read between the lines easily enough, and guessed why Bobby had opted for juice, rather than coffee. A quick glance at Alex told him that she was equally aware.

“I’m okay,” he answered simply. “Had a nightmare last night… Just the one, though. I slept okay afterwards.”

“I’m glad to hear that,” Deakins murmured.

“Captain, this is Jo Reilly,” Alex said by way of introduction, taking an opportunity in the brief break in conversation. Deakins rose up out of his chair to shake hands with her as she brought the juice around for Bobby.

“Good to meet you, Ms Reilly.”

“Nice to meet you too, Captain. And please, it’s just Jo.”

Deakins nodded amiably.

“In that case, just call me Jim, please.”

Jo smiled and nodded in acquiescence.

“You want Alex to go back to work,” Bobby said abruptly. It was no question. Deakins sighed softly and sank slowly back into the chair. He had hoped the subject wouldn’t come up with Bobby, considering how the detective had reacted the last time, while still in the hospital.

“Yes,” he answered plainly. Bobby nodded.

“It’s a good idea. That is… if she can work with Logan as a temp partner.”

Deakins blinked in surprise. He looked over at Alex, who appeared just as baffled by Bobby’s suddenly ambivalent attitude.

“You think it’s a good idea for me to work with Logan?” she asked, not quite able to keep from sounding incredulous. Bobby smiled faintly.

“Is it so hard to believe that I’d think that? He’s a great detective, and he respects you. He’ll treat you properly.”

“It’s only temporary, Bobby,” Deakins assured him. “When you’re ready to come back to work, it’ll be you and Alex, just as before.”

Bobby met that statement with brief silence.

“But… if something were to… happen… then Alex would have a partner she could work with.”

Deakins felt a chill sweep down his spine at Bobby’s ominous choice of words, and the word ‘Bellevue’ slipped through his mind once more.

“What do you think might happen, Bobby?”

At that, a bemused smile quirked Bobby’s lips.

“Relax, Captain. That wasn’t an implicit way of saying I’m suicidal.”

Deakins reddened visibly at the blunt statement. It had been all too easy to allow himself to forget that Bobby’s blindness hadn’t affected his hearing. Bobby continued speaking, a small wry smile tugging at his lips. He’d gotten the better of the captain, and he knew it.

“What I meant was, what happens if, when they do the eye surgery, and take off the bandages… What if I still can’t see? Or what if neither of my hands heal properly? It doesn’t matter what promises you make. I’m no good to the squad if I’ve been crippled. And I would rather my place be taken by someone like Mike Logan, rather than have the place kept for me as a token gesture.”

Deakins looked bemused by then, himself.

“You really are remarkable, Bobby.”

It was Bobby’s turn to flush red at the admiration that was all too apparent in Deakins’ voice.

“I meant what I said, though,” Deakins added. “I’m keeping your position open for you, Detective. I don’t want you making any final decisions until you have all the facts, and we have the opportunity to discuss everything thoroughly, together. Do I make myself clear?”

His voice took on a familiar tone of authority, and Bobby reacted accordingly.

“Yes, sir. Understood.”

“Good,” Deakins said, placated. He stood up, having said what he wanted to say and, more importantly, gotten the response that he wanted. He believed whole-heartedly that Bobby would eventually be physically, mentally and emotionally fit to return to work, and it was vital that Bobby be kept from doing anything that he would regret later on. That included quitting out of some warped sense of obligation or guilt.

“You’re not going to stay for coffee?” Alex asked as she rose up as well.

“I have to get back to One Police Plaza,” Deakins said apologetically. “Carver’s coming in for a meeting about a couple of upcoming court cases. He’ll be royally pissed off at me if I’m not there when he arrives. Look, Alex, it’s Wednesday now… How about you come back to work on Monday?”

Alex looked across at Bobby but he said nothing, instead focusing his attention on taking a sip of the juice that Jo had set in front of him.

“Okay,” she conceded finally. “Ah… If he wants to, Logan can come by today and drop off any case files that he wants me to look through, so I can at least be a little bit caught up by Monday.”

“I’ll let him know,” Deakins assured her. “Bobby, try to behave yourself with the ladies, all right?”

Bobby nearly choked on the juice. Jo regarded Deakins with a raised eyebrow as she walked around to rub his back.

“What exactly do you think he’s capable of doing, Jim?”

Deakins’ grin widened as he paused by the door to answer her.

“Just don’t take him on in a wager, don’t let him listen to Jeopardy and, whatever you do, don’t play Trivial Pursuit with him.”

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