A week later
Bobby shifted in bed, rolling from one side to the other restlessly as he tried unsuccessfully to settle down and sleep. There was no question that he was tired, but he just couldn’t seem to relax. He thought he knew why, though. Tomorrow (or rather, today, as he figured it was probably well after midnight) was the Big Day, the day that the bandages were supposed to come off his eyes.
Make or break. The beginning of fresh hope… or the end of everything. God, what a depressing thought that was.
Groaning softly, he flopped over onto his back with a soft thud. If he didn’t quit rolling around, he was going to end up waking Alex. Then she’d insist on him taking a pill to help him sleep, and he really didn’t want to take any medication solely on that reasoning.
Not unexpectedly, his equally restless mind began to wander, thinking of the past week, and all that it had brought – the good, and the not so good.
To his delight, the morning he had spent at One Police Plaza had not been a once-off consideration. Every day that week, Jo had taken him in to the Major Case Squad rooms, where he had spent three or four hours assisting Alex and Mike with one or more of their cases. Those hours spent going over evidence, and talking the cases through with them, had been the happiest that he’d experienced for a long time. He felt needed again, particularly when he was able to point out tiny, yet important aspects that Alex and Mike had overlooked. Hearing the genuine gratitude and appreciation in their voices had warmed him, and left him feeling hopeful that maybe, just maybe, all wasn’t lost after all.
Then, to add to that good feeling, the news had come through that Sam Denning had gotten Matic and his lawyer to agree to a financial settlement, and a substantial one at that. She wouldn’t confirm figures until the settlement was official and signed off on, but she reassured him that it would effectively put an end to all of his financial worries.
Bobby had been surprised that Matic had given in so quickly. Just quietly, he had expected it to drag on for months. Not that he wasn’t happy with the outcome – he was. He just couldn’t help being surprised at such a quick result.
The money, Sam had told them when she came to see Bobby and give him the good news, would go into a special trust fund for him, and he would then receive regular monthly payments from that trust fund for as long as it took to pay the money out.
Though she refused to specify an exact amount, Sam had told them confidentially that Bobby could expect a payment of somewhere between six to eight thousand dollars every month which, unless he was planning to live beyond the age of one hundred, would continue for the rest of his life.
Alex and Jo, he reflected with a wry smile, had almost been happier about that particular news than he was. Alex had announced that as soon as the settlement was through, she and Jo were going to take him shopping. All the women had then been reduced to fits of laughter at the pale shade of green that Bobby had gone. His dignity had been saved only by the presence of Mike Logan, who had firmly stated that shopping for men’s clothes was far too personal a matter to be placed in the hands of a bunch of hysterical women, and that if anyone was going to take Bobby shopping, it would be him.
Bobby recalled the slightly jarring sound of Alex’s front door slamming shut as Mike bolted from the apartment, probably just in time to avoid being hit by one of the not-so-soft cushions from the sofa. He smiled wryly to himself. It wouldn’t be the first time Alex had resorted to throwing cushions. He’d been the unfortunate target himself many a time for opening his mouth at the wrong moment.
Later on, when all had settled down, Bobby had convinced himself that Mike’s words had only been in jest. The very next day, though, Mike had taken him aside at One Police Plaza and quietly affirmed what he had said the previous day, promising to help Bobby shop for anything and everything he needed once the first payment of the settlement came through. He’d agreed with deep gratitude, on the condition that Mike allowed him to repay the favour further down the track in some way, when he was able.
Sure, Mike had agreed flippantly. Whatever. Maybe Bobby could come across to Staten Island some time, and shout him to a few shots of whiskey off the clock. Bobby had smiled in response, waited until Mike had returned to work, and then had Jo take him in for a private, closed-door chat with Captain Deakins about Mike’s situation; not to mention the fact that one of Major Case’s senior detectives was planning to retire within a couple of month’s time, leaving an opening for a new detective.
That had been the good, in a nutshell.
The bad had come in the form of yet another request from Richie’s new lawyer that Bobby go to see his brother at Bellevue. This time the lawyer had had the nerve to show up at One Police Plaza with a formal request in writing, intending to hand it directly to Bobby. He’d been cut off at the pass, literally, by Mike Logan and Captain Deakins.
Bobby remembered with absolute clarity the furious sounds of his captain bellowing at someone. It was hard to miss – Deakins rarely lost his cool under any circumstances, and to hear him really yelling in anger was enough to send everyone within earshot scurrying for cover. He’d listened at the door of the task room, fascinated, as Deakins read the riot act to the lawyer, and by the time he was done Bobby suspected that the man would think twice about setting foot on the eleventh floor of One Police Plaza again.
Unfortunately, the lawyer had still had peace of mind to pass on a letter, addressed to Bobby, from Richie. Little though he liked it, Deakins had been obliged to read the contents of the letter to Bobby, who had listened in silence with a worrying calm.
The letter’s contents were much the same as the verbal request that had been made a week ago, and Bobby recalled Deakins’ reading of it with a distinct feeling of nausea.
I want you to know I’m sorry for what I’ve done to you…
Please come and see me…
I need you to forgive me…
I’m so sorry…
Bobby didn’t think he’d ever heard such an enormous load of crap in his entire career as a cop.
In the end, he’d given no indication of what he thought of the fresh request, refusing to talk to anyone about it – including his psychiatrist. The truth was, Bobby already knew what he was going to do about his brother’s repeated requests to see him, but he could do nothing until the bandages came off his eyes.
Until then, Richie… and his pain in the ass lawyer… would just have to cool their heels and wait for a response.
Bobby sighed softly, and sat up awkwardly in bed. It was no good, he was wide awake and lying in bed was only irritating the hell out of him. To top it off, his eyes were starting to burn with irritation from the bandages. For better or worse, he was going to be damned glad to get them off.
He lifted his right hand cautiously, touching his fingertips to the bandages. His right hand was healing well, so he’d been informed at his last follow-up appointment. Many of the broken bones were well on the way to healing and, subsequently, the splint and the thick compress bandages had been removed from that one hand and replaced with a simple plaster cast. His fingers protruded from the end, allowing him the ability to start using the sense of touch once more, at least with one hand.
He still couldn’t do anything practical with his hands yet, but it was a start, and Dr Craig seemed to think that in perhaps another four or five weeks the plaster would be ready to come off his right hand and wrist, and he could start physiotherapy. The prospect of the pain that the physio was going to cause did little to dim his relief at the thought of getting the use of at least one hand back.
More than anything else, it represented the possibility of getting back at least some degree of his independence – something that had been completely and utterly stripped away from him in the wake of the attack.
A slight frown flickered across his lips and his train of thought was effectively derailed as it gradually registered in his mind that he could feel something wet and somewhat sticky as he touched the bandages that covered his eyes. That wasn’t right… Feeling his heart pounding in his chest, he touched his fingertip to his tongue, and tasted the sour, metallic flavour of blood.
“Alex…” Bobby called out shakily as panic threatened to take hold. “Alex…?”
He heard movement through the wall that separated their bedrooms, followed by a slightly grumpy-sounding voice.
“I’m coming, Bobby.”
A moment later, he heard her voice in the doorway.
“What is it? Did you need to use the bathroom?”
Bobby struggled to draw in an even breath.
“Something’s wrong. My… my eyes…”
In the doorway, Alex frowned and reached for the light switch. There was a flare of light, momentarily blinding her. Then, as her sight adjusted, she finally got a good look at her partner and her face quite literally drained of colour.
“Oh my god…”
“What is it?” Bobby asked, more than a hint of panic in his voice. Alex strode over to him, gently taking his arm and urging him to his feet.
“Bobby, we have to get you to the hospital. Now.”
“In our pyjamas…?” he asked, his sense of propriety leaving him feeling embarrassed.
“Yes, in our pyjamas. Here…” She grabbed his robe and helped him to get it on, and then guided him to put on his slippers. “Bobby, your eyes are bleeding. Both of them. Now, c’mon. I’ll call Dr Cutler on the way.”
Alex had been waiting for nearly half an hour when Captain Deakins finally arrived with his wife, Angie. She looked up as they approached, tears stinging her eyes.
“I’m really starting to hate this place,” she said bitterly. Deakins sat down beside her, slipping one arm gently around her shoulders.
“I was asleep… Bobby called out for me. He sounded scared. I went to see what was wrong, and when I turned on the light… His eyes were bleeding. The bandages, they were all soaked through with blood. It was horrible.” She shook her head in distress. “It’s not fair! Why can’t something go right for him for once?”
The three looked around as Mike trotted across the floor to where they sat, worry etched onto his face.
“What’s happened?” he asked, looking anxiously from Alex to Deakins. Alex looked at Deakins questioningly, and the captain shrugged unapologetically.
“I called him, straight after you called me.”
She conceded with a sigh, and spoke as Mike sat down opposite her.
“Bobby’s eyes started bleeding. I had to get him here fast.”
Mike nodded nonchalantly, eyeing her pyjamas, robe and slippers in open amusement.
“That would explain the fashionable attire.”
She glowered at him, in no mood for jokes.
“Screw you, Logan.”
“Have you seen the doctor since you brought him in?” Angie asked in concern, anxious to put a dampener on any potential tension between the two detectives before it exploded in their faces. Alex shook her head.
“No. No word. All we can do is wait.”
“Okay, then,” Mike conceded. “I’ll go get the coffee. Who wants what? Black and three sugars for you, Alex?”
She smiled at him gratefully.
He smiled back at her in what he hoped was a comforting way.
It was another forty-five minutes before Dr Cutler finally emerged into the waiting room, and made a beeline directly for the small group.
“How is he?” Deakins asked, unable to conceal his anxiety. Cutler smiled reassuringly and indicated towards the doors that led out of the waiting room.
“Why don’t you all come and see for yourselves?”
Cutler led them past the ER and into a separate room that was only very dimly lit. Bobby sat on an examining table, facing away from the door. Concern overcoming caution, Alex hurried around to see him, and skidded to a halt, her eyes going wide with surprise.
Deakins, Mike and Angie all walked quickly around, and soon saw what Alex was seeing. The bandages were gone, and Bobby’s eyes were open.
“Bobby…?” Alex asked softly. He blinked once, and a small smile lit up his face as his gaze focused on her.
“Hi, Alex,” he said softly.
She stumbled forward, throwing her arms around him and crying with relief, and Bobby hugged her back as best as he was able.
“So it wasn’t serious at all, then?” Deakins asked. “The bleeding, I mean?”
“It could have been, if Alex hadn’t been so quick in getting Bobby back here,” Cutler answered. “But no. It was effectively his body’s attempt at flushing out his eyes, getting rid of the last of the impurities, so to speak. Because Alex got him here so fast, we had no problems washing his eyes out and, as you can see, this is the result.”
“You really can see me?” Alex asked, cupping his cheeks gently.
“It’s still a little blurry,” Bobby admitted, “but yeah. I can see you.”
“It will take a little bit of time for your vision to recover to full strength,” Cutler went on. “As I said, I want you to wear an eye patch on your right eye for at least a month, and wrap-around dark glasses at all times during the day. You did get a pair?”
“We got him a pair,” Alex confirmed, and Cutler nodded his approval.
“I really have to wear them indoors as well as outdoors?” Bobby asked plaintively. Cutler levelled a hard stare at him.
“Yes, indoors as well as outdoors. No excuses, Bobby. You are not to take them off during the day for any reason, and if you take them off indoors at night time, you’re to make sure the lights are sufficiently dimmed. Otherwise, you wear them at night, as well. I don’t think you quite understand just how sensitive you’re going to be to light, and I don’t want you taking any chances with your vision. It isn’t worth the risk. And if you start to feel impatient about it all, just stop for a minute and remind yourself how hard it was for you not to have any sight at all. Okay?”
Bobby nodded very slightly. He was too relieved at the positive outcome with his sight to even want to argue with the doctor.
“I don’t have to stay here, do I?” Bobby asked tentatively as Cutler carefully fitted an eye patch over his right eye. Cutler smiled wryly.
“No, you don’t. Not at all. As soon as I can get you a fresh lot of antibiotics from the pharmacy, Alex is welcome to take you home.”
The relief on Bobby’s face was palpable, and drew smiles from everyone present.
“You know what I’m really looking forward to?” Bobby asked softly when, just under an hour later, he and Alex were on their way home again. She glanced across and smiled fondly at him. Seeing him sitting there, taking in his surroundings with a fresh enthusiasm, gave her a thrill that she couldn’t begin to describe. She could almost pretend that their lives were finally back to normal. She could almost pretend that the horrific attack had never happened… that they were perhaps just on their way to an early morning crime scene…
And then he looked around at her, and the sight of the scarring around his eyes, not quite concealed by the dark glasses, jolted her painfully back to reality.
“What?” she asked, making a concerted effort to keep her voice even and calm. The last thing she wanted was to upset him by letting him catch a glimpse of her distress. It was with some effort that she didn’t grimace. Now that he could see again, she was going to have to work even harder at that.
“Putting a face to Jo’s voice,” he answered, looking both happy and sheepish at the same time. Alex laughed.
“I think she’s been looking forward to that, too. It’s going to be a surprise for her when she sees… Oh no…”
“What is it?” Bobby wondered, put on edge by the sudden anxiety in her voice. “Alex…?”
“It’s Jo,” Alex explained, suddenly feeling embarrassed. “I was in such a damned panic this morning that I forgot to call Jo to let her know what was going on. She’ll be at the apartment by now, probably wondering what’s going on. Damn it…”
“I think she’ll understand,” Bobby murmured, looking away out the window again. “Alex, can I ask you something…?”
“When this money comes through, to start with it’s only going to be in monthly instalments. Sam said that if I want to be able to buy a new home, then I’ll have to put in a special application to get a lump sum… either for a deposit, or to buy somewhere outright. It… She said it could take a while for it to come through.”
Alex couldn’t keep the smile off her face. She knew without him actually asking just what he was trying to find the words to say.
“Bobby,” she told him, “you can stay with me for as long as you want. I don’t want you thinking you have to rush out to find somewhere else to live, because you don’t. You’re welcome to stay as long as you want to. Not for as long as you need to, but as long as you want to. Understand?”
Bobby nodded, letting his breath out in a rush. Hearing those words from her own lips was a huge load off his shoulders.
She reached over and gently squeezed his shoulder reassuringly.
Ten minutes later, they were back at the apartment, Alex opening the front door and ushering Bobby through. They’d barely stepped over the threshold when Jo’s voice floated out to them from the kitchen.
“It’s us,” Alex called back, exchanging knowing smiles with her partner. “We had a bit of an emergency early this morning. I’m sorry, I completely forgot about calling you.”
“Oh, it’s okay,” Jo said dismissively as she emerged into the living area. “Just as long as there’s no…”
She trailed off, staring at Bobby in wide-eyed surprise. A long moment later, her face lit up like a beacon.
“Oh my gosh… look at you! Bobby, you’ve gotten rid of the bandages! And you can see?”
“Yeah,” he confirmed, smiling in response to Jo’s exuberance. “I still have to wear a patch on my right eye for a while, and I have to keep the dark glasses on, but yeah… I can see.”
Jo leaned forward and hugged him warmly, taking care not to come over as too enthusiastic. She was acutely aware of his ongoing reticence when it came to physical contact, and the last thing she wanted was to unsettle him when he was clearly feeling happy for once.
“So, what happened this morning, then?” she asked, returning to the kitchen to make coffee while Alex helped Bobby to sit at the table. “An emergency, did you say?”
Alex looked over at Bobby, eyebrow raised questioningly, silently asking if he wanted to tell Jo himself, or whether she should.
“It was my eyes,” Bobby spoke up tentatively. “They started bleeding early this morning.”
Jo looked horrified as she came out with three mugs of coffee.
“Lord, no wonder you rushed out. But everything’s all right, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” Alex confirmed. “Dr Cutler said there was no problem because I got him there so fast. Everything’s fine.”
“Well, thank God for not-so-small blessings,” Jo said. “Now, if He’ll just see fit to let your hands heal properly…”
Bobby looked down at his hands wordlessly. They were the very first thing he had looked at when the bandages had come off and, though he’d said nothing at the time, the sight of them sent a bolt of fear straight through his heart. Now, he found himself staring once more at the mangled messes that were his hands, and he couldn’t keep himself from wondering whether he was going to end up crippled after all.
It was a stark fear that, until now, he’d not fully faced. Even when blindness had been a potential reality, he had not really confronted in his own heart and mind the prospect of being permanently crippled. Sightless as he had been, it had been all too easy to keep his eyes closed, so to speak, and ignore the grim possibilities. In many ways, it had been his prime method of coping.
Now, though, finally being able to see the damage that had been done, he found he no longer had any choice. He had to face it, because the reality was right in front of him.
He looked up slowly, distracted from his grim thoughts by Jo’s persistent voice. Having got his attention, she reached over and gently pushed back a wayward lock of hair.
“What is it, baby?” she asked softly. “Talk to us.”
Bobby looked over at Alex. She was watching him in silent concern, but without pity. He was grateful for that. He wanted no one’s pity.
He faltered, suddenly unsure of what to say. Neither woman spoke, each waiting for him to gather his thoughts into some lucid order. Finally, minutes later, he stood up abruptly.
“I… I’d like to be alone for a bit. I… I’m sorry.”
They watched as he made his way over and into his bedroom, pushing the door fully shut behind him.
“Poor baby,” Jo murmured. Alex nodded, understanding exactly what Jo meant.
“Now that he can see, he has to deal with it all in a whole new way. Now he can see what those bastards did to him.”
“Good thing he has an appointment tomorrow morning with Dr Thomas,” Jo said. Alex looked across at the closed door of Bobby’s bedroom with ill-concealed worry.
“I’ve been trying to stay positive, but I’ve been worried sick about what would happen when he got his sight back.”
“He needs time, Alex. Just like with everything else, he needs time. We have to be patient. There’s an awful lot for him to deal with.”
“I know,” Alex whispered, staring sadly at the tabletop. “I know.”
Bobby sat on his bed for a while, listening to the dull murmur of voices from outside the door. He couldn’t hear clearly enough to make out what was being said, but he figured he could guess fairly accurately.
It didn’t bother him so much, knowing that Jo and Alex were talking about him. He couldn’t say how he might have felt had it been anyone else, but with Jo and Alex it didn’t seem to matter quite so much.
Letting the muffled voices fade into the background, Bobby stood up and made his way slowly around the room, taking in everything in a way that he hadn’t been able to do for so long.
With an almost forgotten eagerness he looked around him; at the bed, at the small bookshelf, at the open cupboard… For a few minutes, he just revelled in being able to see, even if he vision wasn’t yet one hundred percent. But then, as he looked, that small bubble of enthusiasm slowly deflated as he was confronted by yet another harsh reality – the destruction of virtually everything he owned.
Not all that long ago, he’d owned more books than he honestly had room for. Now, what he owned fitted all too easily onto a small shelving unit that fitted into one corner of a room in an apartment that was not his own.
Previously, he’d had a large selection of clothing that comfortably filled a large walk-in closet, and an enormous chest of drawers. Now, all he had were just a few shirts, one pair of jeans, one pair of sweatpants, a sweater that was on loan from Mike Logan, a couple of pairs of pyjamas and a pair of runners. And he only had that much because Alex had gone to the trouble of buying most of it for him before he left the hospital.
He was grateful to her, but also embarrassed that she’d needed to do that for him in the first place.
He turned slowly, and found himself facing the window and, finally, his own reflection.
Bobby’s breath caught in his throat as he stared at his reflection in the glass. He wasn’t quite sure what he had expected to see, but the sight of his face – his scarred eyes, the bruising that was only just now starting to fade, and his almost emaciated appearance – was a real shock to his system. He understood with abrupt grimness why Jo and Alex were constantly on his case about not eating enough. He looked almost skeletal, even to himself.
This was the physical cost of his brother’s actions, Bobby thought dismally. He really had been reduced to a shadow of his former self, both physically and emotionally. Shaken, Bobby awkwardly drew the curtain across the window, wincing at the pain that shot through his fingers. Then, comforted by the darkness, he discarded the dark glasses on the dresser, climbed onto the bed and lay down, shutting his eyes and willing himself to sleep.
“He’s asleep,” Alex murmured when she checked in on Bobby a half hour later. She walked in quietly and, without waking him, pulled the quilt up from where it was folded at the end of the bed and gently covered him with it. She paused, watching him in silence for a minute before allowing Jo to draw her out.
“It’s been a pretty intense morning for him,” Jo pointed out as they retreated to the sofa to sit and talk. “I’m not surprised he’s run out of steam now.” She paused, eyeing Alex thoughtfully and taking in the other woman’s troubled features. “You want to talk about what’s bothering you, Alex?”
Alex sipped at a fresh mug of coffee, considering how to reply.
“I keep waiting for some sort of explosion,” she admitted finally. “He hasn’t blown up about anything… or at anyone, since he exploded at Lewis in the hospital. He’s been almost placid, and it’s got me worried.”
“Everyone reacts in different ways,” Jo mused. “Just because we were warned to expect violent mood swings didn’t mean that was strictly what would happen. Bobby is a unique man. He doesn’t deal with anything in the same way that most everyone else does. And he has had some pretty intense shifts in moods. It just hasn’t been quite as blatant as we thought it would be.”
“I know,” Alex agreed. “But it still bothers me that he just doesn’t seem to be reacting much in any way at all. I… I guess I’m just waiting for that one big explosion.”
“It’ll come,” Jo agreed. “But it’ll come in his time, not ours. We can’t force a reaction from him, just to make ourselves feel better.”
Alex sighed and set her mug down on the coffee table.
“I wouldn’t do that. I couldn’t do that. And it’s not that I want to rush his recovery. I know it’s going to take a long time for him to get past this. But you don’t understand, Jo. You didn’t know him before all of this.”
“So tell me, hon.”
“Bobby was never one for sharing the pain. He always internalised everything, and he’d let it build up until he just couldn’t hold it in anymore. And usually, when the blow-up came, it’d end up with him doing something phenomenally stupid.”
“Such as?” Jo wondered curiously.
“Well… There was a case maybe four years back. We came across this guy who’d set up this elaborate deception, pretending to be more than what he was to his family. He killed one man and tried to kill a woman to protect his fantasy life, but when it all threatened to come crashing down around him, he decided he couldn’t cope with his kids finding out their dad wasn’t the hero they thought he was… so he took them to a motel, drugged them and was going to kill them.”
“Oh, Lord…” Jo whispered in horror. Alex nodded.
“Bobby and I got separated. He went ahead to the motel, and I got left behind trying to organise SWAT. When I got to the motel, I found out that Bobby had gone into the room to talk to the father, and he hadn’t worn his vest. At one point, before he managed to finally talk the guy out of it, Bobby put himself between the shotgun and the children, and he had the damn thing aimed right at his face. God, he gave me such a scare that day. And I don’t think I’d ever really heard Captain Deakins yell at anyone until that day. When we got back to One Police Plaza, Bobby got his butt hauled in to Deakins’ office for a closed door chat, and I swear we could hear him yelling at Bobby as far away as the holding cells.”
“Does it happen a lot?” Jo asked. “Those sorts of blow-ups?”
“Thankfully, no,” Alex admitted. “But every so often, it all gets too much for him to cope with, and that’s the sort of thing that happens. He’d been getting better over the last eighteen months or so. Instead of holding it in, I’d been able to get him to talk to me. We started a bit of a tradition. We’d go to Carucci’s on a Friday night, order pizza and beer and talk about everything that was going on. He really got into that. He didn’t just talk about work stuff, he’d talk about whatever was going on with his mom at the time, too. It was good. But now… I get the horrible feeling I’m going to have to start from scratch.”
“You might find you’ll recover the ground faster than you think,” Jo said. “Give him a chance to process it all, Alex. Then, if he’s still shutting us out, then we’ll worry. Okay?”
Alex nodded reluctantly. She knew Jo was right, though she felt precious little comfort from her assurances.
Bobby slept on throughout the better part of the day, waking only briefly before dinner and just long enough for Jo to help him to use the bathroom, give him his medication, and put him to bed once more. Mike came by to see him early in the evening, with Elliot and Olivia in tow, and all were surprised to hear that Bobby had slept through most of the day.
“Wow,” Mike murmured as he peeked in on his friend. “I guess all the stress and exhaustion finally caught up with him.”
“I hope it’s just that,” Alex said softly. Olivia looked at her with concern.
“You think it might be something else? Maybe an infection, or something?”
“No, nothing physical,” Alex assured them. “It’s just, I’ve never known Bobby to sleep this long before. Even when he was at his most fit, he never slept for more than a few hours at a time. He’s been out for around eleven hours now.” She shook her head, trying to dismiss her concerns. “I’m probably worrying for nothing. Would you guys like some coffee?”
“Please,” Elliot said gratefully. “We’ve been stuck in the bullpen all day, and the coffee in there sucks.”
“I’ll get it,” Jo offered. “You all sit down.”
“You’re a sweetheart, Jo,” Mike called after her as she disappeared into the kitchen. Jo said nothing, but they all heard her amused ‘humph’ in response.
“So the bandages came off his eyes this morning, huh?” Olivia asked, and Alex nodded.
“After some drama, yes.”
“Mike told us,” Elliot confirmed. “Good thing you were on the ball, Alex.”
She snorted in response.
“On the ball nothing. He scared the crap out of me. Took five years off my life. All I could think of was getting him in to the hospital as fast as I could. And I think it scared me even more that Bobby never argued.”
“He’s healing, though,” Olivia said. “It’s slow going, but he is healing.”
“Physically, yes,” Alex agreed. “Emotionally? I’m not so sure.” She looked up at them sharply. “And the next person who tells me I need to give him time is going to get their front teeth knocked out. I know I have to give him time. I’m not an idiot.”
Elliot smiled warmly at her in reply.
“Never said you were, Alex.”
An hour and three rounds of coffee later, Elliot and Olivia finally left, drawn away by a callout from their captain to yet another crime scene. Mike stayed, offering to drive Jo home when she was ready to go.
Jo had just returned with steaming mugs of fresh coffee when she froze.
“What is it?” Mike asked. Jo didn’t reply, but rather looked over at Alex with a concerned expression.
“Are you hearing what I’m hearing?”
Alex sucked in a sharp breath.
Almost dropping the mugs of coffee, Jo trotted quickly over to Bobby’s bedroom, with Alex right behind her. Alex was just reaching the door when a blood curdling scream shattered the quiet. Throwing the door open, Alex ran into the room to find Bobby curled up in a tight ball on the bed, still asleep but sobbing helplessly, trapped in the midst of some nightmare.
“Alex, wait!” Mike shouted, but his warning came seconds too late. In her concern, Alex laid her hands on Bobby’s shoulder, intending to try and wake him up. The next instant, Alex was on her butt on the floor, holding her nose which was literally gushing blood, and Bobby was on the other side of the room, shaking uncontrollably and cowering against the wall, still half asleep and terrified out of his mind.
Jo started around the bed to go to Bobby’s aid, only to be stopped by Mike.
“No. Take Alex out of here and help her. I’ll help Bobby.”
“He didn’t mean to,” Alex said in a muffled voice as Jo helped her up. Mike shot her a reassuring smile.
“I know, Alex. Go, get yourself cleaned up. I’ll take care of him.”
He waited patiently until Jo had led Alex out before going around and crouching down near Bobby. He stayed there for a long moment, considering the best way to go about waking the other man without traumatising him any worse than he already was. Finally, he moved in carefully and, in one fluid motion, slipped one arm across Bobby’s chest, pinning his arms down without having to resort to fully restraining him, and at the same time speaking as loudly as he dared into Bobby’s ear.
“Bobby, wake up!”
It worked. Bobby awoke fully with a start, his chest heaving painfully as he struggled to get enough air.
“Yeah, pal, it’s me. You awake now?”
“Yeah,” Bobby whispered shakily. He hesitated, and then looked around in confusion. “Why am I on the floor?”
“You were having a shocker of a nightmare, my friend. Alex tried to wake you up, and you panicked. Shot backwards across the bed and landed on the floor. You’re lucky you didn’t land on those hands.”
“Alex…” Bobby whispered. “I… I didn’t hurt her… did I?”
“Nothing she won’t bounce back from,” Mike replied flippantly. “Don’t worry about it.”
“I did hurt her.”
“I said, don’t worry about it. Talk to me, pal. What was the nightmare about?”
At that, Bobby suddenly went very quiet. After giving him a minute or two, Mike tried again.
“Was it about Richie? Or Matic or Cozza? Or all of them?”
The violent shudder that passed through Bobby’s body answered the question before Bobby had a chance to verbally respond.
“All… All of them,” he whispered, his voice breaking as memories of the attack came hurtling back with a vengeance, triggered by the horrific nightmare. A moment later, he broke down completely, sobbing helplessly and trying uselessly to bury his face in his arms. Shifting carefully, Mike gently took Bobby by the shoulders and drew him in close until Bobby was crying into his shoulder.
He said nothing, but continued to hold his friend in comforting silence, waiting for the torrent to ease.
Mike blinked in surprise as Bobby finally drew back from him.
“For what? For this? Don’t apologise, pal. I’m just glad I can help in some way. How are you feeling?”
Bobby gave a lopsided shrug. The truth was, he was feeling just a little better.
“Okay, I guess.”
He glanced briefly at Mike, who smiled reassuringly at him in return.
“Don’t worry about, Bobby. Just think of it as one friend to another. Now, how about we get up off the floor?”
Bobby nodded his agreement and, with some effort, Mike hauled him off the floor and back onto his feet. Still shaken, Bobby sat back down on the bed, his shoulders slumped.
“I didn’t really hurt Alex, did I?”
“No, you didn’t hurt me.”
Both Mike and Bobby looked around as Alex and Jo ventured into the bedroom. Alex’s nose was looking a little on the red and sore side, Mike mused, but otherwise unscathed. Fortunately, it appeared that Bobby had avoided breaking it.
Alex came around and sat down on Bobby’s other side, slipping her arm gently around his shoulders.
“Are you okay?”
“I… I guess,” he mumbled. “I’m…”
“Don’t apologise, Bobby,” she warned him lightly. “We’ve had that discussion already.”
He sighed softly but, to Alex’s relief, made no attempt to apologise to her.
“So what was that nightmare about?” Jo asked, watching him with concern. “It must have been a whopper.”
“It was about all of them… Richie, Matic and Cozza… but mainly about Richie.”
“Do you want to talk about it?” Alex asked. Bobby swallowed hard. It was time to come clean about his intentions.
“Yes… but not to you.”
Alex glanced past Bobby to Jo and Mike, and then back to Bobby again.
“What do you mean, not to us?”
He looked around at her, and it was all she could do not to cringe away from his haunted gaze.
“I have to see Richie.”
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