A/N: This is a shorter chapter, but unfortunately my muse has gotten distracted. I hope to come back to this story within the next couple of weeks, but I have a promise to keep to a friend. In the mean time, here is a short excerpt. And yes, things are going to get better for Bobby, but you know what they say – it’s always darkest before the dawn…
“Okay, now I understand why Jim warned me against playing Trivial Pursuit with you.”
Bobby smiled sheepishly as Jo slotted a final coloured triangle into his circle. She shook her head as she rolled the dice for him yet again.
“You know, you could get one wrong occasionally out of courtesy, you know.”
Alex snorted where she lay on the sofa, reading a book.
“You’ve got to be kidding. He likes being able to answer the questions too much to do that. Why do you think I’m over here, reading a book, and not playing with you? Next time, if there is a next time, insist on one roll of the dice per turn, whether you get the question right or not.”
“I see you’ve been down this road before,” Jo lamented comically. Alex laughed.
“Yes, and lived to regret it. If you want to take advantage of that brain of his, then I suggest you take him to a trivia night. You’d make a clean sweep.”
Jo smirked, and returned her attention to the board.
“Okay, you’ve got a choice, either history or entertainment.”
Bobby hesitated. He was good with history, but in the interests of fair play…
“Entertainment,” he opted finally. Jo smiled, but said nothing about his choice.
“Okay… To win the game, name the only three movies to win eleven Oscars.”
“Uh… Ben-Hur… The Return of the King…”
There he faltered, a frown on his face as he struggled to remember the third. Over on the sofa, Alex lowered her book to look at him in amusement.
“Don’t tell me you don’t know.”
“I know,” he protested. “I… I just… Damn…”
“Are you kidding us?” Jo asked incredulously. “You knew the name of Napoleon’s horse, but you can’t remember this? Tell me you’re just pretending that you can’t remember it, please…”
Bobby flushed violently red.
“I don’t follow the movies… Hollywood… all of that.”
“That’s true,” Alex agreed, deciding it was time she made a show of defending her partner. The whole time I’ve known him, I don’t think he’s watched the Academy Awards once. So I guess the fact that he knows two out of three is actually pretty good.”
Jo chuckled and patted his hand reassuringly.
“I’m inclined to give it to you, anyway. I would have only gotten two of them myself. I didn’t know Ben-Hur was one of the answers.”
The doorbell rang. Motioning for Jo to stay put, Alex swung herself off the sofa, and went to see who it was.
“It’s Logan,” she announced before opening the door. “Come in, Mike. You want coffee? Or a beer?”
“Coffee, thanks,” Logan said. “I’d love a beer, but Deakins would string me up personally if I did.” He wandered over to the table, took one look at the game that was set up, and smirked at Jo. “Trivial Pursuit? You really don’t know him very well yet, do you?”
“I’m learning. It doesn’t matter, though. We’ve got to keep that mind active, right, Bobby?”
Logan grunted as he walked around and set a bundle of files on the end of the table.
“Active? Does he ever stop thinking?”
“Yeah, Logan,” Bobby muttered. “When you’re around.”
Logan froze momentarily, looking from Bobby to Alex with a stony expression on his face. Alex shook her head anxiously, silently begging him not to take offence. After a moment, Logan shrugged and smiled, dropping into the seat next to Jo.
“Glad I can be of some use, then,” he joked. A moment later, a small smile crossed Bobby’s face, mixed with regret at his thoughtless remark.
“Sorry,” he apologised. “That was uncalled for.”
“Ah, it’s fine,” Logan said dismissively. “I’ve been told before that I tend to have that effect on people. How you doing, anyway? Aside from whipping Jo at Trivial Pursuit, that is.”
“Okay,” Bobby answered after a moment’s consideration. “Just… glad to be out of the hospital.”
“I don’t blame you,” Logan said. “The food there sucks. Seriously, what is with that Jell-O crap? No one in their right mind buys the stuff to have at home, and yet they shovel it down your throat when you’re in the hospital, like it actually has some nutritional value.”
“Quit whining,” Alex retorted. “You were only stuck in there for three days.”
“Yeah, well, it felt like a lot longer.”
“I can sympathise,” Bobby said quietly, and Logan grimaced as that simple statement abruptly put his own experience very firmly into perspective.
“Those the case files that Deakins wants us to deal with?” Alex asked as she brought two mugs of coffee around, one for Logan and the other for herself. Logan nodded.
“Yeah. Three of them. Deakins dropped four in my lap within half an hour of me getting into Major Case. The fourth was pretty simple, it didn’t take too long to solve it. These three aren’t so simple, though.”
“Maybe I could help… a little…” Bobby suggested tentatively. Alex frowned just a little. As much as she understood his desire to be a part of the process again, she also knew he needed complete rest, mentally and emotionally as well as physically, if he could hope to return to work.
“And maybe not,” she told him gently, feeling lousy when his shoulders slumped a little in disappointment. She reached over to gently rub his back, and was not surprised when he turned away from her, silent and sullen. “You remember what you were told, Bobby. Complete and total rest. You’re not supposed to do anything at all that might be stressful for you.”
Silence reigned, Bobby still refusing to respond. Logan hesitated before speaking tentatively.
“Well, maybe it wouldn’t hurt to let him help.”
Alex shot a death glare at Logan, but he purposely ignored her.
“Seriously, what’s the harm? If it makes you feel any better…”
“No,” Bobby said softly. “Alex is right. I… I can’t… She’s right.”
He stood up suddenly, moving so abruptly, that he very nearly over-balanced. It was only Alex’s speedy reaction that preventing him from losing balance and tipping over.
“Bobby, I’m sorry,” Alex started to say but he cut her off, at the same time detaching himself from her grasp.
“Now you’re the one doing the apologising,” he said, bringing her up short. “Jo, I’m tired. I think I need to lie down for a while.”
Jo came around the table and gently took his arm.
“Okay, hon. C’mon, then.”
Flashing Alex a reassuring smile, she guided Bobby into his room, and closed the door quietly behind them.
“Damn!” Alex choked out, tears filling her eyes. “That was stupid… Stupid!”
Logan started to reach out to her, but she shook her head furiously, turning away from him in a useless effort to hide her tears.
“How could I be so stupid? All I did was reinforce to him that he’s worthless! Oh god, Mike…”
A moment later, his one good arm was around her, pulling her in close in a fierce hug. She struggled at first, but her struggles were ineffective against Mike’s strength. Within moments, she was slumped against him, crying softly into his shoulder while he murmured wordless reassurances to her.
With some difficulty, Logan managed to guide Alex over to the sofa, where she literally folded in against him. He made no attempt to speak. He had no idea what he could say even if he felt inclined to speak. After a while, though, she settled down and her sobs faded and she spoke in a strained voice.
“I didn’t mean to hurt him, Mike.”
“I’m sure he knows that,” Logan murmured, while at the same time feeling an irrational stab of anger towards Bobby for reducing Alex to tears like this, even if it had been unintentional.
“That’s just it,” Alex whispered. “I don’t think he does know. Everything is so messed up… so mixed up… for him, that he doesn’t know where he’s at right now. He trusted me, and I’ve let him down already…”
Logan hugged her all the more fiercely as she dissolved into tears once more, and silently hoped to God that Jo was able to get through to Alex’s stubborn partner.
“I just…” He faltered, not finished the thought. Jo sat on the very edge of the bed, watching him thoughtfully.
“You just what?”
“I hate feeling useless,” he whispered, struggling to keep his voice even. Jo reached over and gently smoothed his curly hair.
“You aren’t useless, Bobby. I understand you must feel that way, but you’re not. I also understand that you probably aren’t going believe me, but it’s true whether you want to believe me or not.”
“I do want to believe you,” Bobby said miserably, “but I can’t help how I feel. I thought I could have helped a little… just listened to what they’ve got… Maybe I could have just made some suggestions, or something. Am I so useless now that I can’t even do that much…?”
Jo considered that for a moment before speaking.
“Bobby, honey… I’m going to ask you something, and I want you to be honest with me. Can you do that?”
He shifted a little, but said nothing. Jo decided to take that as a yes.
“If Alex and Mike did let you help out… If they shared the case information with you… do you really think you’d be able to stay detached from the case? Or do you think you’d be drawn in? Get involved with it?”
“I… I couldn’t…”
Jo waited patiently, not interrupting even when he faltered. Nearly a minute passed before he made himself answer.
“I’d let myself get involved. It… It’s what I do. I can’t stay… detached.”
“Then there’s your answer,” she told him.
“Alex knows me too well,” Bobby confessed tiredly. “She knows I wouldn’t stay detached.”
“She wasn’t trying to hurt you,” Jo reiterated. “She was just trying to protect you. You may not feel like you want to be protected, but to a degree, that’s exactly what you need. Tell me, do you trust yourself to make competent decisions at the moment?”
It was said so softly that Jo very nearly missed it all together. She gently ran her thumb over his forehead, and down his cheek.
“Do you trust Alex to do that?”
Jo smiled at his simple, whispered declaration of trust.
“Go to sleep now, baby,” she told him quietly. “Everything’s going to be okay.”
Bobby slid off to sleep to the sensation of Jo’s fingertips trailing soothing paths over his forehead.
“How is he?” Alex asked anxiously.
“Fast asleep,” Jo answered, and a small frown creased Alex’s brow in response.
“That isn’t exactly what I meant.”
“I know. He’s not upset at you, Alex. At least, not directly. He’s more frustrated and angry with his own perceived limitations and ineffectiveness at the moment. He understands that you’re just trying to do the right thing by him. You don’t have anything to feel sorry or guilty over.”
Her shoulders slumped noticeably.
“Then why do I feel like I do?”
Jo regarded her thoughtfully.
“Have you seen a counsellor yet, Alex?”
Alex grimaced a little.
“That would be a no,” Logan put in, drawing a glowering look from Alex.
“I’m not the one who was assaulted, raped and tortured,” she growled angrily.
“No,” Jo agreed,” but you’re the partner and the best friend of the man who was. You need to talk to someone, Alex. You keep burying those feelings you’ve got, and sooner or later all hell’s gonna break loose.”
Alex flushed red with embarrassment.
“What feelings are you talking about?” she asked defensively. A wry smile found its way onto Jo’s face.
“Oh, relax, honey. I wasn’t trying to imply that there’s anything romantic between you and Bobby. All I’m referring to are those feeling of guilt that you’re hanging on to, when you shouldn’t be.”
“She’s right,” Logan agreed quietly. Alex stared at the floor, feeling sick to her stomach all of a sudden.
“The logical part of me keeps saying I shouldn’t,” she admitted softly, “but I can’t stop feeling guilty. I can’t help thinking that I should have known he needed help. That he would have known if it had been me.”
“And this is why you have to talk to someone professionally,” Jo encouraged her, “before it gets to the point where you can’t even bring yourself to look at Bobby, because the guilt is so great.”
Alex swallowed hard. She glanced briefly at Logan, who nodded in wordless encouragement.
“Okay,” she whispered finally, defeated. “I’ll call Olivia Benson. Maybe I can talk to the SVU shrink.”
“Dr Huang?” Logan mused. “He’s a good guy. You won’t have any trouble talking to him.”
She hesitated, then looked him deliberately in the eye. In the few seconds before she spoke, she could see him tensing in anticipation of an insult or a sharp remark from her. A small smile quirked her lips as she finally spoke.
He blinked, unable to hide his surprise.
“Uh… You’re welcome… I think…”
Jo laughed at his bewilderment, and her open and infectious laughter drew wider smiles out of both of the detectives.
“Mike, honey, don’t think about it. Just go with it, okay?”
Logan smiled ruefully as he got up.
“Sounds like a plan. Look, I’ve got to get going. I told Deakins I’d only be half an hour. If I don’t get back soon, he’ll draw and quarter me, and I’d like to avoid doing anything right now that’ll land me back on Staten Island.”
Alex rose up from the sofa and followed him to the door.
“I’ll look over those cases over the weekend, and we can get started on them properly on Monday.”
“Sounds good,” Logan agreed. He paused, eyeing her thoughtfully before speaking again. “Are you going to be okay?”
“I think so,” she murmured sincerely. She hesitated, and then favoured him with a warm smile. “With you on my side, how can I not be?”
She stretched up, kissing him gently on the cheek before he quite knew what was happening.
“Thanks again, Mike.”
A broad smile broke out across his face.
“You’re welcome, again. I’ll see you on Monday, Alex.”
Alex regarded Jo quizzically as she returned to the sofa.
“With Logan? How do you mean?”
“Well, hon, he doesn’t have that reputation as a ladies’ man for nothing. He’s a sweet guy once you get to know him, but he does have a habit of leaving a trail of broken hearts behind him, too.”
Alex couldn’t keep the small, knowing grin off her face, but wisely refrained from commenting any further.
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