St Clare's Hospital
Deakins arrived at St Clare’s Hospital just before six the next morning. He knew he was far too early for official visiting hours, but he also knew that Bobby would be agitating to get discharged as quickly as possible. He’d told the doctor the previous afternoon that he would be there good and early, and he’d meant it. He had no intention of making Bobby wait any longer than was absolutely necessary.
Truth be told, Deakins was actually enthusiastic to see Bobby, and clue him in on the plans for that morning. First, they would get the all-clear from Dr Cutler, get Bobby discharged and then make a new appointment for a week’s time, when the bandages would finally come off.
After all that, he would then take Bobby over to One Police Plaza, to the Major Case squad rooms, where Bobby would spend the rest of the morning.
Deakins had spoken to Dr Thomas, Bobby’s psychiatrist, a few days ago. He’d raised the concerns that Mike had had about Bobby’s depression being caused partly by his lack of involvement with virtually anyone on a professional, occupational basis The psychiatrist had looked thoughtful for a minute before agreeing that it would be beneficial to start allowing Bobby a superficial degree of inclusion with the squad.
To that end, Deakins had decided to allow Bobby to assist with one of Mike and Alex’s less urgent cases. There were audio tapes that needed to be listened to, and it was the perfect task, if Bobby was willing. Just quietly, he didn’t think he’d have a problem with Bobby agreeing.
He’d spoken to Mike and Alex about it the previous day and, while Alex had just looked relieved, Deakins had been unable to miss the distinct ‘I told you so’ look on Mike’s face. He’d done the only thing he could in response. He’d ignored it.
Smiling wryly to himself, Deakins walked into Bobby’s room, only to be brought to a very abrupt halt by the sight that met him.
Bobby was not in bed where he should have been, but rather sitting in the visitor’s chair on the other side of the room. He was fast asleep, and looking cosy and comfortable beneath a large, aquamarine-coloured quilt.
Baffled, Deakins approached his detective slowly, wracking his mind as to who might have given him the quilt. The only logical explanation that he could come up with was that Helen Eames had brought it in for him sometime last evening. It was, after all, just the sort of considerate thing she would have done, and God knew the hospital-issue blankets were less than satisfactory when it came to keeping warm.
He stood there watching Bobby in silence, intrigued by the peaceful air around the recovering detective. It was the most peaceful Deakins could recall seeing him for a long time. He was just contemplating whether to leave him sleeping, and come back a bit later, when Bobby stirred and awoke.
“Good morning,” Deakins greeted him quietly. Bobby stiffened just fractionally, until he recognised the voice.
“Captain…? It’s morning already?”
Deakins decided to take that as a positive sign that Bobby had actually gotten a decent amount of sleep through the night.
“Just on six,” he answered. “How are you feeling?”
“Okay. I had a pretty bizarre dream, though.” He faltered, slowly becoming aware of his immediate surroundings and, in particular, the quilt that covered him. “This… isn’t a hospital blanket… is it?”
Deakins resisted the urge to chuckle as he replied.
“No, not by any stretch of the imagination. Do you know where it came from?”
At that, Bobby fell silent and Deakins felt the first twinges of concern.
“Bobby, answer my question.”
There was a warning note to the captain’s voice that demanded Bobby answer. After another moment, Bobby gave in and spoke.
“It was her,” he said softly, feeling inexplicably ashamed. Deakins sucked in a sharp breath. He instantly knew what Bobby meant.
“Nicole Wallace was here? Goddamn it, I should have put a guard on your door…”
“Captain, she didn’t hurt me. She… She said she wanted to… to help me.”
“Help you? You’re kidding, right?”
“She didn’t hurt me,” Bobby repeated softly. Deakins drew in a calming breath before speaking again.
“All right. Tell me exactly what happened.”
Over the next several minutes, Bobby described his midnight encounter with Nicole. Deakins listened in grim silence, waiting until Bobby had finished before responding.
“She actually said she was going to leave you alone? Pardon my scepticism, but I’ll believe that when it happens.”
Bobby shifted a little, his attention going to the quilt.
“She… She said that… she’d planned to come after me again… but when she found out about what had happened, she changed her mind.”
“And you really believe that?”
Bobby sighed a little.
“No,” he admitted. “But I think maybe she does. I… I think she will come back sooner or later, but she’ll stay away for now.”
“Well,” Deakins conceded wearily, “that won’t be such a bad thing. All right. We won’t dwell on it for now. But tell me, what do you want done with this?”
He indicated the quilt, and wasn’t surprised that Bobby hesitated in answering. No matter who had given it to him, it was still an apparently well-intentioned gift. And yet, all hell was likely to break loose when Alex, in particular, learned where it had come from.
“I tell you what,” Deakins said finally, “how about we keep it between the two of us? If anyone asks, someone brought it in for you, and you don’t know who it was. You were asleep at the time.”
Bobby shifted uncomfortably. That line would work for just about anyone except the one person who was likely to really lose it over the idea of him keeping a gift from Nicole Wallace.
“I can’t lie to Alex, Captain.”
“So don’t. Just don’t give her the whole truth. Think of it as acting diplomatically.”
Bobby didn’t quite know whether to laugh or grimace.
“She’ll know. She always does.”
Deakins smiled, and clapped Bobby lightly on the shoulder as he stood up.
“She’s not going to push hard, Bobby. Not at the moment. Take advantage of that. If she does, though, I’ll talk to her. Okay?”
Bobby felt an unsettled sensation deep in his gut at the idea of Deakins going into bat for him against Alex over Nicole Wallace, but he pushed it aside. He understood Deakins’ intentions, and he appreciated it.
“Now,” Deakins went on, “what say I find a nurse to help you get dressed, so that you’ll be ready to go as soon as Dr Cutler gives you the all-clear?”
Bobby nodded gratefully.
“Yes, thankyou. That would be good.”
Nearly an hour later, after a light hospital breakfast and an amused Dr Cutler’s agreement that Bobby could go home, they were finally on their way.
“I’m not taking you straight home, by the way,” Deakins told him once they were on the move. Bobby inclined his head slightly, puzzled.
“Where are we going?”
“To One Police Plaza. I was hoping you might be willing to help out with some evidence that Mike and Alex haven’t been able to examine yet.”
“What evidence?” Bobby asked, barely able to smother his sudden eagerness. Deakins heard it regardless, and gave a silent cheer.
“Audiotapes that were made during a three day surveillance,” he explained. “We can’t even tell you what you’ll need to be listening for, but the flat truth is that no one else in the squad has hearing like you. If there’s something on those tapes, I don’t doubt you’ll find it.”
Bobby let his breath out slowly, his heart pounding. The idea of being able to do something productive, rather than sitting around all day… the feeling of being useful again… gave him such a huge feeling of relief that he could barely keep it in.
“I… I’d like to help out… if I can.”
“I thought you might.”
By seven-thirty a.m., Bobby was comfortably ensconced in one of the smaller task rooms, listening to audio surveillance tapes. He was still there, having not moved an inch, when Mike and Alex arrived back from interviewing witnesses nearly three and a half hours later.
“I see you got him to agree to listen to the tapes,” Alex said wryly as they joined Deakins in his office. Deakins laughed.
“Did you seriously think for a second that he’d refuse? If his eyes weren’t bandaged, I’m sure I would have seen them light up. He could hardly wait to get in there and start listening.”
“Hey, didn’t I say this was what he needed? To be included? To feel useful again?”
“Okay, Mike,” Deakins growled, resisting the urge to roll his eyes in exasperation. “You were right. Duly noted. Alex, when is Jo likely to get here?”
“Probably around noon. Why?”
“I just wanted to be sure he doesn’t try to push himself beyond his limits. Right now, I think Jo is the only one of us who can tell him to his face that he’s done enough. She’ll know when he needs to stop, and she’ll make sure that he does.”
Alex nodded her agreement.
“That’s true. Captain, how was he this morning when you got to the hospital?”
Deakins couldn’t keep the wry smile off his face.
“He was fast asleep.”
Alex’s jaw dropped.
“Asleep? You’re kidding! Did they sedate him?”
“No, no sedation. He wasn’t in the bed, though. I guess at some point through the night, he climbed out of bed and resettled himself in the visitor’s lounge chair.”
“Hell, no wonder he slept better. Those things are a hundred times more comfortable than hospital beds.”
“But he must have been cold,” Alex said with a frown. Deakins shook his head, and indicated to a corner of his office. Both Alex and Mike looked, and quickly saw what he was pointing to.
“A quilt?” Alex asked, and Deakins nodded.
“He was covered with it when I got in there this morning.”
“Where did it come from?” Mike asked as Alex walked over and lifted up a corner of the quilt. Deakins hesitated in answering for just a fraction of a moment, and Alex’s head snapped around as she levelled a suspicious look at the captain.
“Captain? Who gave it to him?”
In that instant, Deakins suddenly understood what Bobby had meant when he’d said that he couldn’t lie to Alex. Her gaze was like a drill, boring straight past the casual facade he was trying to maintain. After nearly half a minute locked in a mental stand-off, Deakins finally caved.
“Mike, shut the door.”
Mike did so after exchanging a suspicious look with Alex. Deakins waited until they were both seated once more before going on quietly, his gaze focused for the most part on Alex.
“Bobby had a visitor last night.”
The words were barely out of his mouth before Alex first went white with shock, and then red with anger.
“It was her, wasn’t it? Nicole Wallace! Goddamn her, why can’t she leave him the hell alone?”
“Alex, shut up and listen,” Deakins ordered firmly, and his authoritative tone quickly silenced her. He continued speaking quietly and calmly, trying to convey by his tone as well as his words that there was no cause for alarm.
“It looks like she is intending to leave him alone,” he told them. “At least for the time being, anyway. When she went to him last night, it wasn’t to gloat. Bobby told me everything that happened. He doesn’t believe that she wants to hurt him, and neither do I.”
“And what about that?” Alex asked tensely, looking back at the quilt. “I suppose that was a gift?”
“She left it for him, yes,” Deakins confirmed, and both Alex and Mike snorted with derisive laughter.
“Oh, this is priceless,” Mike said scathingly. “She tries three times to damage him emotionally and bring him down, but all of a sudden she wants to kiss and make up? Give me a break! I may not be the smartest cop in the city, but even I wouldn’t fall for that! If I were you, Captain, I’d be getting that quilt tested by Forensics.”
“If it makes either of you feel any better, I spoke to Mack Taylor as soon as we arrived this morning. He came up here himself to check it over thoroughly, and it’s clean – inside and out. She wasn’t trying to kill him with kindness.”
“Cute,” Mike retorted, but Deakins smirked unapologetically.
“He’s not keeping it, though,” Alex said firmly. Deakins focused a firm look at her.
“Alex, does it have to matter where or who it came from? It was a gift, nothing more or less. It kept him warm and comfortable, and it made last night tolerable for him. If he associates that quilt with anything from now on, it’ll be that. Not that it was given to him by the likes of Nicole Wallace.”
Alex shook her head.
“This is insane.”
“Maybe,” Deakins agreed. “But it’s got to be Bobby’s decision whether he gets rid of the quilt. We can’t force him to give it up and, in all honesty, I don’t think he wants to.”
Alex opened her mouth to protest again, but Deakins cut her off.
“Don’t make me resort to emotional blackmail, Alex. I really don’t want to have to go that far.”
She stared at him incredulously.
“There is a quilt… a quilt… on the floor there that was given to Bobby last night by Nicole ‘I’m a psychopathic killer’ Wallace, and you have no problems with him keeping it? Excuse me for asking, Captain, but have you had too much coffee this morning?”
Mike winced a little, expecting Deakins to explode. To his surprise, the captain actually laughed.
“Funnily enough, Alex, no. I haven’t. Look, I know it’s a bizarre situation, and so does Bobby. He’ll be the first to admit to that. But there was no harm meant. Can you accept that?”
Alex sat in silence for a while, staring intently at the floor.
“I don’t like it,” she said finally, tersely. “But I guess I can deal with it. Bobby only has to say the word, though, and that thing is going in the incinerator.”
Deakins chuckled softly.
“Try not to think too hard about where it came from. Now, go and see how Bobby’s doing with those tapes. Then, when Jo gets here, we can all go to lunch together.”
“Try not to think too hard,” Alex muttered as she and Mike left Deakins’ office. “He’s got to be kidding.”
“He’s right, though,” Mike mused. “What does it matter? I know it sounds nuts, but if Bobby doesn’t associate it with Wallace, then it shouldn’t matter to us.”
Alex shook her head.
“Just the thought of him having anything that came from that woman… It turns my stomach, Mike. But I said I can deal with it, and I will. I won’t give Bobby a hard time over it if he really does want to keep it. But if anyone else wants to know where it came from, he can damn well explain it.”
Mike chortled softly to himself as he followed her into the task room, where Bobby was still engrossed in the surveillance tapes.
How he heard her through the volume of sound that was coming through the headphones, Mike had no idea, but his head came up all the same in response to Alex’s voice. Certain that she had his attention, she switched off the machine, and gently lifted the headphones off his ears.
“Having fun here?” she asked, not quite able to keep her voice completely free of irritation. Bobby’s head tilted just slightly in puzzlement, and then understanding dawned on his face as he placed the reason for her aggravation.
“Deakins told you.”
“Yes, he told us,” Alex confirmed. She fell quiet, watching and waiting to see what he would say.
“I’ll… get rid of it… if you want me to,” he said finally, sounding both embarrassed and disappointed at the same time. Mike coughed loudly in a futile effort to hide his amusement. Alex looked up at him sharply.
“What are you laughing at?”
Mike shook his head in denial, but couldn’t suppress a grin any longer.
“You two. It’s no wonder you make good partners. You can read each other’s minds, even when you’re not in the same room.”
Alex flashed Mike an irritated look before returning her attention to Bobby.
“Answer me honestly, Bobby. Do you want to keep it?”
He hesitated in answering, though. He knew how he wanted to answer, and he was suddenly, starkly afraid of how she’d react.
Hands suddenly cupped his cheeks, mildly startling him. Then, warm, soft lips brushed over his forehead, soothing his nerves in a tender, affectionate gesture.
“Don’t be afraid to be honest with me. I’ll only be angry if you hide from me.”
He sighed faintly, conceding.
“Yes, I want to keep it.”
Alex nodded placidly, and Mike was quietly impressed once more at the way she kept her cool, despite her vehement objections in Deakins’ office.
“Okay, then. We’ll keep it.” And then, abruptly, she switched subjects. “How are you going with the surveillance tapes? Anything grab your attention?”
“There are couple of things, about an hour in on the second tape. You’ll need to rewind it a little…”
Over the next half hour, Bobby pointed out several moments on the tapes that Mike and Alex needed to be aware of, including suspicious background noise. When he’d finished, Mike nodded, impressed.
“That’s great, Bobby. You’ve just made our jobs about ten times easier.”
“Uh huh. You just didn’t want to have to listen to those tapes.”
“Hey, damn straight,” Mike confirmed unapologetically. “And why should I have to when we have the magic ears to do it for us?”
Bobby smirked a little, appreciative of Mike’s humour.
“It’s okay, Mike,” he said. “Being able to listen is a skill that not all cops have. You don’t have to be embarrassed.”
Mike shook his head in mock exasperation.
“I go into bat for you, and all I get for my trouble are insults. Nice.”
Alex raised an eyebrow at Mike, but he only grinned back at her and she visibly relaxed. Mike had taken Bobby’s comment in the light-hearted way that it had been meant, and was only responding in kind. It was deeply reassuring to Alex to see that Bobby felt inclined to engage in a bit of verbal banter, and she was grateful to Mike for his willingness to take up the challenge and be a friend to the recovering detective.
“So how are you feeling?” she asked quietly. Bobby hesitated for just a moment before answering honestly.
“A little tired… and my head’s starting to hurt. I… I’ve appreciated being able to do this…”
“But you’d like to go home,” Alex finished off for him. He nodded wearily.
Alex reached out and gently smoothed back a wayward lock of hair.
“Jo will be here soon. Then we’ll take you home. Okay?”
Bobby sighed softly with relief.
A couple of hours later, Bobby was sitting by while Jo spread the quilt over his bed.
“It really is gorgeous, Bobby,” Jo said admiringly, “and so warm! This will be an absolute blessing with the weather turning cold again.”
“You like it?” Bobby asked, and Jo nodded.
“Well… You can have it… if you want it.”
Jo looked around at him, startled.
“What? No! Honey, it’s yours! It was a gift…”
“From Nicole Wallace,” Bobby pointed out. “Alex isn’t happy that I’m keeping it, and I guess I can’t blame her. It… It’d probably be best to just get rid of it.”
“She’ll get used to it,” Jo said dismissively. “And anyway, when you eventually get a new place of your own, you’ll definitely want it, then. Don’t worry yourself about it.”
Bobby fell silent, and when Jo looked at him again she couldn’t help but notice his unsettled mood. Straightening the bedcovers, Jo then took Bobby’s arm and guided him gently back out into the living room, and over to his armchair.
“Sit down, honey. There you go… Now, do you want coffee?”
“Yes, please,” Bobby answered. “I’d forgotten how bad the squad room coffee is.”
Jo laughed as she set about making fresh coffee.
“It can’t be that bad. Jim said you had three cups while you were there.”
“Nostalgia,” Bobby suggested, and Jo snorted with laughter.
“Nostalgia. Nice one. Next you’ll try telling me the straw you were using neutralised the taste.”
He grinned, but offered no response. Jo brought a mug of fresh coffee over and held it to his lips so that he could sip at it. When he’d had a few mouthfuls, she set the mug aside and spoke quietly.
“You seem troubled about something, Bobby. Do you want to talk about it?”
He didn’t answer immediately, and she waited patiently for him to think through what he wanted to say.
“The quilt…” he said finally. Jo watched him with a sad thoughtfulness.
“It’s really got you in a bind, hasn’t it?”
“It’s just… Alex…”
When he faltered, she reached across and grasped his hand reassuringly.
“You don’t want any rifts, do you?”
“No,” Bobby admitted. “This is her home… I just don’t want there to be any trouble between us.”
Jo sighed and shifted over to sit carefully on the arm of the chair, and gently drew him to her in an affectionate embrace.
“Oh, baby. You really are worried about that, aren’t you? Listen up, then. Alex is a much better person than that. She’s not going to hold it against you for wanting to keep a gift. Especially one as practical as that quilt.”
“It’s just, I have pretty much nothing now,” Bobby confessed in a trembling voice. “Richie, Matic and Cozza saw to that. And then… when I was in the hospital… it hurt, knowing that other patients had family and friends to be with them, and to bring stuff in for them so that they wouldn’t be lonely… or so miserable. It hurt a lot, because for a while, all I had was Alex, Lewis and Captain Deakins… and out of them, only Alex was there with me all the time. Then the squad got together, and got those books for me. That was good, but it wasn’t something I could hold on to. No one brought me anything that I could hold on to. Even with my hands like this… I just wanted something to hold on to, especially later on, when they moved me out of ICU, and I couldn’t have anyone stay with me through the night anymore. I just wanted some… some…”
“Security and comfort?” Jo suggested softly as she wiped at the tears that fell down her cheeks.
“Yes,” Bobby whispered. “Those last few weeks in the hospital were the worst, Jo. Every night was horrible… being left alone. Having to go back into the hospital for my eyes… It was that all over again. Being alone in an unfamiliar place, not having anything of my own with me to make it any more comfortable. When Nicole put the quilt over me, it… it just didn’t seem so bad all of a sudden. And… and I managed to get to sleep because of it. It helped… a lot. And… I just don’t want to give it up, because it’s the one tangible this I’ve been given that I can kind of hold on to.”
He shook his head a little, frustrated by his perceived inability to explain himself properly.
“I… I know I’m not making a lot of sense.”
Jo hugged him fiercely. She was crying freely now, and making no effort to stop.
“You’re doing just fine, baby.”
Bobby leant into her embrace, wishing bitterly that he could return the hug.
“That quilt was like having a physical reminder that someone does actually care… like getting a hug when I needed it most, even though there was no one there to give it to me. When I had that quilt around me, I didn’t feel alone anymore.”
Jo kissed him gently on the top of the head.
“I understand, Bobby, and so will Alex. You tell her exactly what you just told me, and I promise you she’ll understand. It’s going to be okay, honey. I’m sure of it.”
Bobby shuddered a little against her, feeling a not-so-small weight lift off his shoulders.
“You’re welcome, baby.”
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