A/N: I worked my fingers off on this over the weekend, and the result is a chapter that is nearly twice as long as I'd intended it to be. The end is also in sight, finally. There are still a few more chapters to come, but we are rapidly heading towards the finish of this twisted tale of torment. Which may or may not be good, depending on what my muse has planned for future stories...

“He wants to what?

Alex winced at the force of Captain Deakins’ exclamation when she related Bobby’s intentions to him the next morning.

“Jo, Mike and I have already tried to talk him out of it,” she told him. “I think I was up arguing with him over it half the night. At least, that’s what it felt like. He just won’t budge.”

“It’s not a good idea,” Deakins muttered, more to himself than to Alex. “He’ll be making a serious mistake if he goes to see Richie.”

“Well, be my guest to try and talk him out of it,” Alex said wearily. “But I seriously doubt you’ll have any more success than we did. He’s determined he’s going to do it. He thinks it’s the only way he’ll have peace of mind, or something like that.”

Deakins raised an eyebrow at her sceptically.

“How in God’s name does he think he’ll get peace of mind by opening himself up to more abuse? That’s the most insane thing I’ve heard for a long time, Alex, even coming from Bobby.”

“I know,” Alex said with a sigh. “I said exactly that to him, but he’s adamant. He said he’s not doing it for Richie. He’s doing it for himself. He said it’s something that he needs to do.”

“Is he coming in here this morning, Alex?”

“Yes, but not until this afternoon. He slept for most of yesterday…”


“Yes, I know. I think Mike was right. The stress and exhaustion must have finally caught up to him. Last night, though, he had nightmares all night long. I don’t think he got more than an hour’s sleep at the most.”

“And neither did you, I gather,” Deakins observed. Alex took the liberty of ignoring the comment.

“Jo wanted him to rest this morning before going anywhere. He’s got an appointment with his psychiatrist straight after lunch, and then they’ll come here.”

Deakins grunted. “Maybe the psychiatrist will be able to talk him out of it.”

“Not likely,” Alex retorted. “I wouldn’t be surprised if Dr Thomas came out and said it was a good idea. You know shrinks. They’re all about resolutions. Anyway, the point is, when Bobby couldn’t see he had the sympathy vote going in his favour. Now, it’s almost like it was before. You know how persuasive Bobby could be. He’s getting that back with a vengeance and I’m telling you right now, it’s damned hard to look him in the eye and tell him he can’t do something.”

Deakins nodded resolutely.

“We’ll see.”

“So, did he hit the roof?” Mike asked when Alex rejoined him. She smiled grimly.

“He thinks he’ll be able to talk Bobby out of it.”

Mike laughed aloud at that. “He’s kidding, right? I mean, come on! This is Bobby Goren we’re talking about! When was Deakins ever able to talk Bobby out of anything?”

“Exactly,” Alex agreed. “But you know, I’d almost like to be there when he tries.”

“I wouldn’t,” Mike said bluntly. “Bobby looks up to Deakins, almost like a father-figure. How is it gonna go with him if Deakins flat out tells him he’s out of his mind?”

Alex smiled, amused by the accuracy of Mike’s description of Bobby and the captain’s relationship.

“Well, firstly, Deakins wouldn’t say that to him. I think Bobby would feel better if Deakins backed him up, but he’s not going to stress out too much about it if he doesn’t. He’s already made up his mind, and I don’t think anything any of us can say will change it for him. See, that’s the problem. None of us really has the authority to tell Bobby no, he can’t do it, and he knows it. He’s not going to back down, and none of us can force him to.”

Mike nodded in agreement.

“I hate to say it, but you’re probably right.”

“I know I am,” Alex stated. “All we can do is hope he doesn’t get too badly hurt again.”

“You mean, be there to pick up the pieces when he does,” Mike corrected her. A soft sigh escaped Alex’s lips. She knew Mike was right, little though she liked it.

“Yeah,” she muttered dismally. “Something like that.”

When Bobby arrived that afternoon after seeing his psychiatrist, he was not in the least bit surprised to find himself being called into the captain’s office for a ‘closed door’ chat.

“Alex told you,” he said quietly. Deakins watched Bobby carefully before responding. He’d had plenty of time to think his strategy through, and he knew that being angry and confrontational would get him nowhere fast. If he wanted a hope in hell of getting Bobby to see reason, it would require a much more subtle approach. He just hoped he had it in him to go up against the Great Bobby Goren in a proverbial battle of wits.

“She told me. She was a little upset about it.”

Bobby grimaced. “I know. Everyone seems to be upset. Alex is upset. Jo is angry with me…”

“Jo?” Deakins echoed in surprise. Bobby nodded, looking thoroughly miserable.

“She said she can’t understand why I’d set myself up for another fall, because that’s all I’d be doing. She got pretty angry with me over it, and she’s hardly said two words to me all day. And Mike… He’s confused about why I want to see Richie, too. No one understands. No one wants to understand.”

Deakins saw a slim opening, and grabbed it.

“Do you want to try to forgive him? Or is it that you just feel you need to be able to confront at least one of your attackers?”

“I… I really don’t know,” Bobby said softly. “I feel like I’ll understand better myself when I see him. All I know for sure is that I have to do this. Maybe it is partly that I need to be able to confront him. I… I have nightmares every night, Captain. I relieve what happened every single night, but last night was the worst.”

“Why is that?” Deakins asked softly. He thought he already knew, but he was curious to know what take Bobby had on it.

“Yesterday morning, when we got home,” Bobby said quietly, his gaze fixed on his slow-healing hands, “I went into my room. I saw my reflection… in the window.”

It was with some effort that Deakins didn’t cringe. Of course, it would have been the first time Bobby had the opportunity to actually physically see the damage that had been done to him by Richie and his buddies. It would have been a massive shock to his system.

“And?” he asked quietly. Bobby smiled bitterly.

“I guess I can understand now why Alex and Jo keep getting on my case about not eating enough.”

“You have lost a lot of weight,” Deakins agreed. “But that’s something that can be worked on gradually. What else bothered you most?”

Bobby lifted his hands briefly off his lap.

“At my last appointment… Dr Craig said my right hand was healing well, but my left hand… She said it was too soon to know, but I got the impression she did know, but wasn’t telling me.”

“You’re afraid you’ll lose the use of it,” Deakins murmured, and Bobby nodded once.


“And you have nightmares about it?”

“Yes,” Bobby admitted. “I have nightmares about all of it. About the attack… About Richie, Matic and Cozza… About being… being raped. I have nightmares about being crippled. I wake up at least once every damn night with a scream on my lips, Captain. It makes me sick to my stomach, and I want it to stop. I… I don’t know if confronting Richie will help that to happen, but I have to try. The… The other thing is… I want him to see that he didn’t win. I want to see it in his eyes… that he knows he couldn’t destroy me. It’s important to me.”

Deakins sighed softly.

“I understand all of that, Bobby. I really do. I still think there must be a better way, but I’m not going to tell you that you shouldn’t do it. When do you plan to go and see him?”

“Tomorrow,” Bobby answered. “I want to get it over with as quickly as possible. Because after this… I don’t think I’ll ever want to lay eyes on him again.”

“Who’s going with you?”

Bobby looked up at Deakins blankly. The captain returned his stare with a small, grim smile.

“If you’re determined to do this, Bobby, then that’s your choice. But there is no way in hell that you’re going there without back-up.”

“It isn’t a police situation,” Bobby protested.

“You know what I mean, Bobby. I know that Jo will be there, but I want someone else to go with you as well. You either pick someone to go with you, or I’ll choose for you. It’s up to you.”

“And if I just refuse?”

“Then I’ll go with you myself, if I have to. Your choice, Detective.”

Bobby looked sharply at the captain, his attention elicited by Deakins’ choice of address towards him.

“Mike,” he said finally. “If he’ll go… I’ll take Mike.”

“Not Alex?” Deakins wondered, though he thought he understood Bobby’s choice without the necessity of an explanation.

“She’s there for me anyway,” Bobby mumbled, sounding mildly embarrassed. “But I don’t think it’d be a good idea for her to go. If anything does happen… I just don’t want her to get into any trouble.”

“For what?”

“For shooting Richie.”

This time, the effort was for trying not to laugh. He was right, though. Alex had not actually laid physical eyes on Bobby’s brother, and if she were to go with him to Bellevue and something did happen, it was entirely likely that she would do something drastic like shooting Richie.

“All right, Bobby. I’ll see if Logan is willing to go along with you. Although, I’m not so sure he can be trusted not to do anything to Richie anymore than Eames can be.”

Bobby smiled faintly. He knew there was some truth in Deakins’ words and though it did worry him some, he was also touched by the knowledge that someone like Mike Logan would so readily defend him.

“Just… promise me that if something does happen, and Mike…”

“Punches out your brother?” Deakins suggested.

“Yeah. Promise you won’t forget about what we talked about.”

“Don’t worry,” Deakins assured him. “The gears are already turning on that one. By the time you’re ready to come back to work, everything should be in place.”

Bobby grinned.

“You haven’t told him yet, have you?”

“No. I thought I’d wait, and spring it on him just before he’s supposed to return to his own precinct. Even if he doesn’t want to stay with the squad on a long-term basis, it’ll at least be a springboard for him to get to wherever he wants to be. And, in the meantime, I have someone lined up to partner him when you and Eames are back together.”

“You are okay with this, aren’t you?” Bobby asked suddenly uncertain.

“Bobby, if I wasn’t okay with it, I would never have gone along with the idea. You know me better than that. I am not just indulging you, all right? It was a damned good idea, and worth following up.”

Satisfied, Bobby got up slowly and made his way over to the door.

“You know, you’re developing a very good impersonation of Ray Charles?” Deakins asked, getting up and walking over to open the door for Bobby before he could hurt his hand by trying it himself. Bobby snorted, and then laughed.

“I bet I’ll be hearing that plenty before long.”

Deakins grinned, pleased to have gotten a laugh out of him after their serious conversation.

“I know. It’s pretty pathetic, but it put a smile on your face.”

Bobby paused, looking at Deakins with gratitude.

“Thankyou for listening… and understanding.”

Deakins clapped him gently on the shoulder.

“I wouldn’t be much of a captain if I couldn’t do at least that much. Go on, now. And send Logan in here when he and Eames get back from court.”

Bobby nodded and headed back out into the bullpen. Deakins paused in the doorway of his office, watching as the detective made his way slowly through the maze of desks, back to his own desk where Jo was waiting. As he watched, Bobby sat down and picked gingerly at a sheet of paper from atop a pile of other papers that had been left there for him to read through.

Bobby’s return to work was not yet official – he was there, but not there – but the benefit of allowing him to be there to do just a few hours of desk work each day was paying off in spades. He could see Bobby’s confidence slowly returning with every small accomplishment.

Smiling to himself, Deakins returned to his desk. He knew he couldn’t possibly anticipate with accuracy the outcome of Bobby’s visit to Bellevue, but he felt confident that whatever happened, Bobby would survive it.

Mike and Alex returned from the court nearly half an hour later, satisfied with the plea that the suspect from their most recent case had taken. Bobby watched them cross the floor, and smiled faintly, guessing they’d gotten the result they wanted.

“He took Carver’s offer?” he asked as Alex dropped into her chair, and Mike sat down on the edge of the desk.

“Twenty-five years,” Alex confirmed. “It was a good result.”

“I see you found the paperwork we left for you,” Mike said, and Bobby laughed softly.

“Yeah. Thanks, Mike.”

“Hey, my pleasure,” Mike joked. “Anything so I don’t have to do it.”

“Newsflash, smart guy,” Bobby said with a smirk. “I can’t write yet.”

“Well, what have you got Jo for, then?”

A moment later, Mike yelped as a hand smacked him over the back of the head.

“I heard that, you big ape,” Jo retorted. “His hands might still be healing, but mine work perfectly.”

“That’s just the point I was making,” Mike protested, ducking out of the way as Jo threatened to whack him again.

“Yes, but not to the same ends, Michael.”

Mike grimaced, genuine discomfort on his face.

“Please, don’t call me that.”

Jo looked puzzled, but apologetic.

“Sorry, hon. I didn’t mean to upset you.”

He offered her a slightly tremulous smile.

“It’s okay. Just… unpleasant memories.”

“Oh, Mike, the captain wanted to see you in his office,” Bobby said as Mike’s words reminded him of Deakins’ request. The smile fell away like a rock.

“Great. What’d I do now?”

“Nothing,” Bobby assured him. “You’re not in any trouble. Not unless you did something in the last few hours that he hasn’t found out about yet.”

Mike shot Alex a warning look as he started towards Deakins’ office.

“Not a word, Eames.”

“He didn’t do anything, did he?” Bobby asked, looking back at Alex with a puzzled and slightly concerned expression. Alex shook her head, chuckling.

“No, he didn’t. Let’s just say that he’s getting to be on intimate terms with my sense of snark.”

Bobby grinned at that.

“Say no more.”

“You wanted to see me, Captain?” Mike asked as he stepped tentatively into the inner sanctum of Deakins’ office. The captain nodded.

“Yes. Close the door and have a seat, Mike.”

Mike grimaced as he pushed the door shut and sat. First names were usually not a good sign, and neither was a request to close the door. Then again, he reassured himself, just how much trouble could he be in? He was only on loan to Major Case, after all.

“You aren’t in any trouble, Mike,” Deakins told him. “I actually have a favour to ask. You know that Bobby intends to go to Bellevue tomorrow to see his brother?”

“I tried to talk him out of it, Captain,” Mike said quickly, and Deakins nodded dismissively.

“I know. I did, too. Or at least, I’d planned on trying. He cut me off at the pass, so to speak. At any rate, he’s definitely going, whether we like it or not, and I guess I can understand his reasoning. My point for calling you in now is to ask if you’d be willing to go along with him.”

Mike stared at Deakins in surprise.

“Me? Why not Alex?”

“Because Bobby specified you.”

Mike sat in silence, stunned and confused.

“I gave Bobby an ultimatum,” Deakins explained. “I told him that he either selects someone to go with him to Bellevue… someone who isn’t Jo… or I’d pick someone instead. Or, I’d go myself. He asked for you, if you’re willing.”

“Sure,” Mike said. “Of course I will… but I’m kind of surprised he didn’t ask for Alex.”

“His reasoning there was that of the two of you, you’d probably be less likely to shoot Richie.”

Mike laughed.

“Well, he might have a point, there. But I can’t promise I won’t have a go at the son of a bitch, if the opportunity were to present itself.”

“That’s not such a joke,” Deakins murmured, though he couldn’t help but smile a little at the thought of Mike punching out Richie Goren. “Look, what I want for you to do is this. Bobby is entitled to a private one on one visit with Richie, if that’s what he wants, but there has to be someone observing at all times. I need you to be in that observation room and keep a close watch on everything that happens. If things get out of Bobby’s control, put an end to it. If Richie gets abusive in any way, put an end to it. No matter what happens, it’s going to be incredibly hard for Bobby. Be patient with him afterwards. He may not be willing to talk to anyone straight away.”

“You want me to go back to the apartment with him?” Mike wondered. “Just keep an eye on him?”

Deakins nodded in confirmation.

“Effectively, yes. I think he really doesn’t know quite what he may be letting himself in for tomorrow, Mike, but he’s not going to be dissuaded.”

“I’ll look out for him, Captain,” Mike promised sincerely. “I still don’t think it’s a good idea, but I guess I can understand why he wants to do it.”

“Same,” Deakins agreed. “Just one other thing, Mike. Richie’s lawyer will be there. It’s an unfortunate legal necessity. Just keep an eye on the slimy son of a bitch, and don’t let him get a word in edge-wise with Bobby, if you can manage it. You know what happened the last time he talked directly to Bobby.”

“I know,” Mike remembered with a dark look. “Trust me, he won’t have a chance to have a go at Bobby. Is that all, Captain? It’s just that I’ve got a lot of paperwork waiting for me.”

“Yes, that’s all. Thankyou, Mike,” Deakins said quietly with genuine gratitude. “You really have been a good friend to Bobby. You didn’t have to…”

Mike shrugged as he got up to leave.

“It might have been kind of out of a sense of obligation at first… You know he saved both our asses in that prison.”

Deakins nodded wordlessly. Yes, he knew. Mike went on quietly, sincerely.

“The thing is, I really do like the guy, and I want to see him recover from this. So, whatever I can do to help, I’ll do it. And if that includes putting his asshole brother and his lawyer in their places, then all the better.”

“Just don’t get over-enthusiastic about it, Mike,” Deakins warned him. The detective grinned as he left the office.

“Trust me, it’s not a problem.”

Deakins grimaced. Trust Mike Logan? He only hoped that he could.

The next morning

“You look like shit.”

Bobby spared Mike a withering look as he climbed into the passenger seat of the SUV that Mike had driven to Alex’s apartment.


“I’m not kidding,” Mike said, frowning. “Did you get any sleep last night at all?”

“Not nearly enough,” Jo announced firmly from the back seat.

“I’m fine,” Bobby mumbled, looking away out the window. Mike stared at him for a long moment before making up his mind.

“That does it. We’re going for coffee first.”

“Mike…” Bobby started to protest, but Mike merely grinned at him.

“Suck it up, pal. I’m driving, and I say we’re not letting you anywhere near Bellevue until you’ve had a suitably strong cup of coffee. C’mon. My treat. Let Richie and his precious lawyer cool their heels and wait for you.”

Bobby sighed softly. He really was not in the mood to argue.

“Okay. Fine.”

“Great,” Mike enthused. “Coffee heaven, here we come!”

Half an hour later, Bobby had to concede he did feel better after having been treated to a particularly strong cup of coffee. He still wasn’t a hundred percent, but he felt better prepared to face Richie, and he said as much to Jo and Mike.

“Caffeine, the miracle worker,” Mike declared, downing the remnants of his own cup. “Seriously, Bobby, we couldn’t let you go to Bellevue without doing everything we could to make sure you’re ready for it.”

“I’d rather not let him go at all,” Jo growled.

“Jo…” Bobby started to argue, but she shook her head, holding up a hand to silence him.

“No, you’ve made up your mind. I’ve already gone on record saying I think it’s a big mistake. But in the end, it’s your choice.”

“Jo, please,” Bobby pleaded softly. “I need your support. I… I don’t like having you angry with me.”

She looked back at him for a long moment, her expression inscrutable, before she sighed and leaned across to muss his hair affectionately.

“Bobby, sweetheart, of course you’ve got my support. And I’m not angry with you. I just don’t want to see you get hurt any worse than you already have been. I’m worried that you’re opening yourself up to more hurt by doing this.”

“I know I am,” Bobby confessed. “No matter what his lawyer said… No matter what that letter said, I don’t believe Richie is in any way sorry for what he did.”

“Then why are you doing this?” Jo burst out. “If you know he’s just going to abusive towards you, why go?”

“Because I want him to see that he didn’t win,” Bobby said softly. “If I hide from him, he’ll know he’s beaten me. I want to be able to stand in front of him… scars and all… and see in his eyes that he knows I’ve won. I want to see the look on his face when he understands that at the end of it, I’m the one who can walk away while he’ll be locked up for the rest of his life. I… I want to see that in his face. I want him to know that he’s lost everything, while I’m going to move on with my life… whatever it brings.”

“This is why you never made a decision until the bandages came off,” Mike observed.

“I’d already made my mind up long before that first visit from Richie’s lawyer,” Bobby admitted. “But I didn’t say anything, because there was no way of knowing whether I would see again.”

“And what if you hadn’t gotten your sight back?” Jo asked piercingly. Bobby shook his head.

“I don’t know. I can’t say whether I would have been able to face him or not. But I can see, and I know that at least one of my hands will heal. Whatever happens from here on, I still have a chance at a future. Richie has no future. His life is over.”

Mike nodded.

“Okay, then. On that note, I think it’s time we got going. You ready, pal?”

“As I’ll ever be,” Bobby answered, holding back a sigh.

Richie had been sitting waiting for nearly forty-five minutes when the door of the interview room opened and Bobby walked in. For several seconds, the two brothers stared at each other, before Richie finally looked away.

“You took your sweet time,” he said harshly. “I’ve been sitting here waiting for nearly an hour.”

Bobby didn’t answer immediately. Walking over, he sat down opposite Richie on the other side of the table, pausing only long enough to note the fact that Richie was hand-cuffed to his chair. He let his breath out slowly and evenly as he sat, eager not to let Richie see how relieved he was to find his brother properly restrained.

“I think I’ve earned the right to take my time,” Bobby replied quietly. He rested his hands on the tabletop, and took a small amount of satisfaction in seeing Richie wince at the sight of them.

“You got my letter, then?” Richie asked. Bobby stared intently at his brother, head tilted slightly to compensate for the eye patch that he had to wear.

“Your lawyer delivered it. I want to get something straight right now, Richie. I’m not here for your sake. I’m here for mine.”

“Your sake. That’s nice. You’re not the one who’s gonna be locked away for the rest of his life. I cooperated with the cops, and that’s the deal I was offered. Life in a ‘suitable psychiatric facility’. Some fucking deal that is.”

Bobby didn’t flinch.

“You’re sick, Richie. You do know that, don’t you?”

Richie laughed hoarsely.

“Know it? Of course I know it. And you’ve got to love the irony. I was Dad’s favourite because I wasn’t anything like Mom. And now look at what’s happened. I’m looking at spending the rest of my life in the nuthouse, because I turned out exactly like her.”

“You’re nothing like her,” Bobby said softly. Richie raised an eyebrow at him.

“Really. So, what, you’ve just conveniently forgotten about all the times she beat the shit out of you, because it was the only way to save you from them? Fuck, Bobby. You’re even more deluded than I am.”

“Mom thought she was doing the right thing by me,” Bobby said firmly. “She thought she was saving me. It was her illness that kept her from understanding that all she was doing was hurting me.”

“And what about me, Bobby? What explanation are you going to pull out of your ass for me?”

“You wanted to kill me, Richie. You didn’t have any delusions about helping me. A couple of good friends helped me to realise that. You wanted me dead, and you made a damned good try of it.”

“No, see, Bobby, if I’d wanted you dead, you would have been dead. I saved your miserable life, you ungrateful bastard. Simon and Chops wanted you dead. They were going to kill you. I convinced them to let you live. You should be fucking thanking me! I protected you!”

Bobby leaned forward a little.

“Richie, you raped me with a metal poker. Don’t sit there and try to tell me you were just trying to protect me. That’s the schizophrenia talking.”

Silence fell as they sat staring at each other.

“You’re not going to forgive me, are you?” Richie asked bitterly. Bobby considered that for a moment before reaching up and carefully removing the dark glasses, revealing the extent of the damage to his eyes.

“Look at me, Richie. Take a good look.”

Richie looked at him just briefly before grimacing and looking away.

“And you’re asking me to forgive you?” Bobby asked as he slipped the dark glasses back on. “You can’t even look at me straight now.”

“I didn’t ask them to do all that to you!” Richie exploded.

“No. You just asked them to beat me and rape me.”

Richie rubbed his one free hand over his eyes.

“Fuck,” he muttered.

“Do you really want me to forgive you?” Bobby asked softly. “Is that really why you wanted to see me? Or did you just want to get a look at your handiwork?”

“Did you just come to rub my face in it? You always were a vindictive bastard, Bobby.”

“I’m not the one who set my brother up to be beaten, raped and killed. You look me in the eye, and tell me how I’m supposed to forgive that.”

Richie looked up at Bobby, anger in his eyes.

“You fucking hypocrite.”

“Hypocrite?” Bobby echoed, his voice starting to sound strained. “Me?”

“All I wanted was to say I’m sorry!” Richie burst out, tears abruptly filling his eyes. “I know I hurt you, Bobby. Goddamn it, I know that… I don’t know what I was thinking… or even if I was thinking. And I don’t know why I even let myself get so angry at you. Maybe it was just that I made such a fucking balls-up of my life, and you’re the one who’s managed to get his life together… and I was jealous of that. I know it’s no excuse. I know that. I feel sick to my stomach with guilt, thinking about what I did to you, and I’m going to pay for that every day for the rest of my life! I… I know I can’t expect you to forgive me, but can’t you at least say something?”

“What?” Bobby asked. “What do you want me to say?”

“Say you understand,” Richie pleaded. “Say something positive, please? I know that once you walk out of here, I’m probably never going to see you again. I know that. So can’t you bring yourself to just say one positive thing to me? Come on, Bobby, you owe me…”

On the other side of the glass, Mike tensed as he watched Bobby visibly freeze at Richie’s words.

“Son of a bitch,” he muttered. David Parker glanced at Mike and Jo placidly.

“He’s only being honest.”

Mike threw a look at Parker that literally caused him to cringe.

“He’s gets much more honest, and I’ll pull the plug on this meeting.”

“You can’t do that, Detective.”

“No?” Mike snapped. “Try me.”

“This is between Richie and his brother. We can’t interfere,” Parker argued.

“I’m here for Bobby’s wellbeing, not Richie’s,” Mike said. “If I think it’s in Bobby’s best interests to stop this, then I will. And you won’t be able to do anything about it.”

In the interview room, Bobby was staring at Richie incredulously.

“I owe you? How the hell do you figure that?”

When Richie didn’t answer, Bobby shook his head and got up.

“I’m leaving. We have nothing to say to each other.”

He was almost to the door when Richie spoke abruptly.

“I’m sorry, little bear.”

Bobby froze. Then, slowly, he turned back to face Richie.

“What did you say?”

“I said, I’m sorry, little bear. I made a promise to you a long time ago, and I broke it in the worst possible way. You trusted me once with your life, and I betrayed that trust. I let you down, Bobby, and I am so sorry for that.”

Slowly, Bobby walked back and sat down again.

“Little bear… You haven’t called me that since I was twelve years old.”

Richie smiled faintly.

“A lot of time has passed. I still think of you like that. Especially lately.” His smile faded. “I really am sorry, Bobby. I don’t understand myself why I did this to you. I promised Mom and I promised you that I’d look out for you… that I’d take care of you. I don’t think I’ve ever failed so spectacularly at anything in my life as I have now.”

“I can’t say it, Richie,” Bobby whispered. “I can’t say that I forgive you. I can’t even say I understand, because I don’t.”

Richie swallowed hard, and his shoulders slumped visibly.

“It… It’s okay, Bobby. You don’t have to say it. I understand. I don’t blame you for it. Just answer me one thing before you go?”


“When I tell you that I love you, can you still bring yourself to believe that?”

Bobby’s stomach rolled uneasily.

“I… I don’t know,” he admitted finally, and in that moment, Bobby saw no anger in Richie’s eyes. All he saw there was defeat. He’d won, they both knew it, and he felt no satisfaction in the victory whatsoever.

“Do you remember when you were eight?” Richie asked softly. “That time when Dad was gone for nearly two weeks, and Mom had another breakdown? The time when you were sick with pneumonia? You remember who was there for you then, Bobby?”

Bobby felt his chest tighten painfully as he deluged by the memories.

“You were.”

“I took care of you, then,” Richie agreed. “I sat with you, made sure you ate, and didn’t get dehydrated. I looked after you, Bobby. You were my little brother. I loved you. I still do.”

Tears spilled down Bobby’s cheeks.

“You raped me, Richie,” he whispered. “You beat me, and then you raped me. You can’t ask me to forgive that.”

“I’m being punished for it, Bobby. I’ll be punished for it by my conscience every goddamn day for the rest of my life. Isn’t that enough?”

“No!” Bobby exploded, his voice cracking. “No, it’s not enough! I have to live with the memories for the rest of my life. Don’t you dare compare your sentence to mine, because it doesn’t! It doesn’t compare…”

Bobby gave a shudder and pushed himself up from the table.

“Enough. I’m leaving. This is over.”

“Bobby,” Richie called out to him as Bobby waited at the door for someone to let him out. “I made a horrible mistake. I know that, and now I have to live with the consequences of my actions. You better think hard about whether you’re making a mistake by walking out that door now, and whether you can live with the consequences of your choices.”

Bobby stood stiffly in the open doorway for a long minute, and it seemed that he was going to be drawn back, when Mike suddenly appeared in his line of sight, and laid a hand supportively on his shoulder.

“C’mon, Bobby. Let’s get outta here.”

Bobby nodded and, without so much as a parting glance at his brother, he followed Mike and Jo out of the hospital.

Not a word was spoken as they left the hospital. Once they were back in the SUV, Mike forced a cheerful smile onto his face and looked from Bobby to Jo.

“Where to, then? One Police Plaza? Or do you want to play truant and clear off somewhere for the day? Personally, I’m up for playing truant. The instant I set foot in that place, I’ll get buried under a mound of paperwork.”

Jo smirked at him.

“That’s your fault for trying to dump it all on poor Bobby. You should have known Jim would catch on to what you were doing sooner or later.”

Mike smiled and shrugged.

“Hey, can you blame me? So what are we going to do now?”

“Well,” Jo mused, “we could always…”

“I’m tired,” Bobby said softly, cutting Jo off before she could make a suggestion. “I want to go home.”

Mike bit back a sigh. He’d hoped that Bobby might have been willing to go some place where they could talk about what had just happened. He knew what would happen if they simply took Bobby home. He would withdraw into his protective shell and refuse to come out again until he was good and ready.

“Hey,” he suggested in a last ditch effort, “I know a great little café. They serve the best veal ptarmigan…”

“Please,” Bobby asked again. He looked over at Mike and for a brief moment Mike caught a glimpse of his friend’s pain and misery. “Mike… just take me home.”

Mike conceded with a nod.

“Okay, Bobby. We’ll take you home.”

Mike had honestly expected Bobby to retreat into the sanctuary of his bedroom the instant that they walked through the door. To both his surprise and Jo’s, Bobby instead made his way over and dropped into his armchair with a thud. He and Jo exchanged a puzzled but hopeful look. Maybe, just maybe, Bobby wasn’t going to retreat and hide from everyone this time.

“Tell me what you want, Bobby,” Jo asked softly. Bobby looked up at her with a tearful gaze that all but broke her heart.

“For none of this to have happened,” he whispered. Biting lightly on her lower lip, Jo sat down carefully on the arm of the chair and gently drew him to her in a warm, comforting embrace. A moment later, she felt a shudder pass through him, and the tears came in a flood.

“That’s it, baby,” she murmured, hugging him fiercely and planting soft kisses on the top of his head. “Let it out, honey. Just let it all go.”

No more words were spoken for a while. No words were necessary.

Half an hour later, Bobby did finally retreat to his bedroom, and was soon sleeping soundly.

“Well,” Jo said wearily as she and Mike left him sleeping and returned to the living area, “I was hoping we could have gotten him to talk about it, but I think that was even better than talking.”

Mike nodded his agreement.

“God willing, he might actually be able to go for a while without any nightmares.”

“I still believe he made the wrong choice,” Jo insisted as they sat with fresh mugs of coffee. “Richie wasn’t after forgiveness. He only wanted to manipulate Bobby.”

“He’s some piece of work,” Mike agreed ruefully. “I can understand Bobby’s point of view in wanting to face him, though. I’m not saying I agree with it, but I do understand. He needed to be able to close the book on his brother, and he’s the only one who could. We could say all we liked about it, but in the end Bobby had to do it his own way, and in his own time. He’s done that now, and maybe he’ll finally be able to really start recovering. You’ll see, Jo. He’s confronted this demon now. It won’t take him long to dismiss it.”

Jo grimaced as she sipped her coffee and glanced over at Bobby’s bedroom door.

“I hope you’re right, Mike.”

Mike turned his attention to the mug in his hands, hoping that Jo didn’t catch the fleeting uncertainty that he was sure had been visible on his face. He hoped he was right, too. He really did.

For nearly three hours, Alex only made a pretence of doing the paperwork. She was anxious for word on how Bobby had coped with the visit to Bellevue, and she was growing increasingly agitated with each hour that passed. When Deakins finally called her into his office just before noon, it was all she could do not to run. Making a conscious effort to keep her breathing even, she walked into Deakins’ office and sat down.

The captain eyed her with a small smile.

“You don’t have to play-act, Alex. I know damned well that you’re just as frantic as I’ve been.”

She couldn’t bring herself to smile.

“Have you heard anything yet?”

“I just spoke to Logan. He said it didn’t go too well, but Bobby seems to be okay. A little upset, but otherwise okay.”

Alex stared at him incredulously.

“A little? I’m assuming they didn’t just kiss and make up here.”

“You’d assume right,” Deakins confirmed. “According to Mike, Richie tried to manipulate Bobby, to make him feel guilty. Mike said Bobby didn’t buy it for a second. And he was the one to put an end to it in the finish. Not Mike, or anyone else. Mike said Bobby never lost control. It wasn’t a pleasant encounter, but he came through it with minimal damage.”

Alex sighed softly, and visibly relaxed.

“Thank God. Captain, would you mind if I…?”

“Go ahead,” he told her. “I’ll see you all tomorrow. And Alex…?”

Alex looked back as she reached the door.


“Tell Mike thankyou for me.”

Alex smiled tiredly.

“I’ll thank him for both of us.”

Bobby awoke to the comforting sensation of fingers lightly stroking his cheek and forehead. Slowly, he allowed himself to be drawn back into awareness, and found himself looking up at his partner’s caring smile.


“Hey, you,” she murmured. “How are you feeling?”

He hesitated in answering that, wanting to give as honest an answer as he could.

“Been better,” he said finally. “Been worse. It… hurts.”

“Did you think it wouldn’t?” she asked seriously. He sighed and shook his head.

“No. I knew it would be hard. I just… I don’t know. I don’t know what I was hoping for.”

“Resolution,” Alex offered. “You were hoping that Richie really was sorry. But he wasn’t, was he?”

“No. Not really. He’s feeling guilty, but I don’t think he feels that way because of what he did. His illness… He’s partly convinced himself that he kept Matic and Cozza from killing me. He thought I should have been grateful.”

Alex snorted in disgust.

“Right. He really is living in another reality now, isn’t he?”

“I can’t do it anymore, Alex,” Bobby whispered. “It’s over.”

Alex felt a chill settle in her gut at his words. She hoped he didn’t mean what she thought he meant, but she just didn’t know for sure looking at his bruised face.

“You can’t do what anymore, Bobby?”

“The whole caring brother charade,” he answered. “I did love Richie once… a long time ago. But I’m tired. I barely have enough strength to help myself without worrying about trying to help him too. I… I won’t have anymore to do with him. I can’t. Not if I’m going to survive this.”

Alex couldn’t hide the relief she felt, and she lay down carefully next to him on the bed, still stroking his cheek tenderly. A small, crooked smile creased Bobby’s lips.

“You thought I meant something else.”

It was not a question, and Alex couldn’t see the point of lying. It would do neither of them any good.

“Yes,” she said. “You scared me for a second, there.”

“I’ve thought about it,” he admitted softly. “More than once. But then I think about that night, and everything I went through. I… I figure if I could survive that, then I can survive this. Right?”

She leaned in and kissed him lightly on the forehead.

“Right. And we’re all here for you, Bobby. Me, Mike, Jo, Captain Deakins… Olivia and Elliot… You’re not alone.”

He continued to smile at her, even as his eyes fluttered closed again.

“I know.”

The following morning

“Excuse me… Detective Goren?”

Bobby looked up in vague surprise to find one of the civil staff standing there by his desk. He’d been so caught up in the papers he was reading that he hadn’t heard her approach. He paused for just moment, searching his memory for her name.

“Emma, isn’t it?”

She smiled and blushed, and it was with some effort that he didn’t grin openly in response. It seemed that even with the scarring from his attack, he still had the knack of making the office girls quiver. Quietly, he was glad Alex and Mike weren’t around right at that moment. Otherwise, he could have fully expected a real hazing from them both over flirting with the office girls. Even if he didn’t actually mean to…

“That’s right,” Emma said shyly. “I was asked to bring this up to you. It was dropped off at the front desk downstairs a little while ago.”

Bobby’s gaze went to the envelope she held in her hands. It was a regular sized envelope, sealed with only his name on the front. He glanced around quickly, but Jo was nowhere in sight. She’d offered to get him a decent cup of coffee from Starbucks (though his excitement at being back in One Police Plaza had not yet worn off, his tolerance of the bullpen coffee had) and apparently had not yet come back.

“Would you open it for me, please?” he asked. When she hesitated, Bobby smiled apologetically and held up his hands. “I’m still having trouble picking things up.”

“Oh my god, I’m sorry,” Emma gasped, reddening even more. “Of course, just a second…”

Bobby swallowed the urge to smirk openly as she slit the envelope open, pulled out a single page and set it down on the desk in front of him.

“Okay, Detective?”

He smiled at her warmly.

“Thankyou, Emma.”

She blushed again, and trotted off towards the lifts. Bobby watched her go, not quite able to keep himself from admiring the rear view, before returning his attention to the letter in front of him. Seconds later, every ounce of warmth drained out of him as he recognised his brother’s scratchy hand-writing. His breath caught in his throat and for a split second he considered putting it in the bin without reading a word. Then, slowly, curiosity overcame common sense, and he began to read.

Captain Deakins looked up, startled, as his office door banged open and Bobby stumbled in, white-faced.

“Bobby? What’s wrong?”

“Please,” Bobby said hoarsely. “I need you to call Bellevue. Someone has to check on Richie.”

Deakins stared up at him, baffled and concerned.

Bobby, sit. I want to you to calm down, and tell me what’s wrong.”

Instead of sitting, though, Bobby slapped the crumpled page down on Deakins’ desk in front of him.

“For God’s sake, be careful!” Deakins burst out as Bobby winced at the sharp pain through his fingers that the gesture caused.

“Please,” Bobby begged him. “Just call? I need to know that he’s okay. Please…”

Frowning, Deakins picked up the phone and dialled the number. It was answered on the third ring.

“…Yes, this Captain James Deakins, of the NYPD. I’m calling to inquire about the welfare of one of your high security patients, Richard Goren… Yes, I’ll hold.”

As tinny music issued from the earpiece, Deakins looked back up at Bobby.

“I’m sure everything’s fine… Yes, I’m still here.” Deakins fell silent, and even as Bobby watched, the captain’s face literally drained of colour. “When did this happen…? And when, exactly, were you planning on notifying us? Really… No, not yet. I’ll be in touch later. Thankyou.”

Deakins hung the phone up, drew in an unsteady breath, and looked back up at Bobby.

“Sit down, Bobby.”

“What’s happened?” Bobby asked hoarsely. Deakins motioned to the chair.

“Bobby, sit down.”

He put an extra dose of authority into his voice, and it had the desired effect. Bobby sat with a thud, borderline panic on his face.

“Captain, please, just tell me.”

Still Deakins hesitated, unsure of just how much he should divulge. Finally, though, he conceded, knowing he couldn’t hide the truth… or the pain that the truth would bring… indefinitely.

“Bobby… Richie’s dead.”

Bobby sat frozen, his face colourless with shock.


“You don’t need to know those details,” Deakins told him softly. When Bobby opened his mouth to protest, Deakins cut him off. “No, Bobby. I’m not kidding. You really do not need to hear it.”

“Was it murder?” Bobby asked, feeling an irrational surge of hope.

“No,” Deakins answered. “It wasn’t murder. And it wasn’t an accident. The coroner will have to submit a report, but according to the doctor, it appears to have been suicide.”

Bobby didn’t respond. Indeed, he no longer seemed to even be seeing the captain. As Deakins watched, his breath started to hitch in his chest as he struggled to breathe evenly. Sensing a looming panic attack, Deakins hurried from his office to go and get some water from the break room for the detective. He was just emerging with a glass when he caught sight of Bobby disappearing out of the bullpen, around the corner to where the lifts were.

Cursing softly, Deakins set the water back down and took off after Bobby. He got to the lifts just as the doors closed. He banged the down button to no avail. The lift began its downward descent, taking Bobby with it.

Deciding against waiting for the next lift, Deakins ran to the stairwell and began to make his way down as fast as he could without going head over heels. He could only hope that the lift would make enough stops on the way to the lobby that he would be able to beat it down.

He emerged into the lobby at a run, but a quick glance revealed both lifts to be open and empty. He scanned the lobby frantically, and finally spotted the big detective at the main doors. Desperate to keep Bobby from running, Deakins shouted aloud, “Goren, stop!”

Startled silence descended on the lobby and, briefly, Bobby looked back at Deakins. For a split second the two men stared at each other from opposite ends of the lobby. Then, Bobby pushed through the glass doors in the open quad beyond.

Deakins shot forward, dodging several people in his rush to follow. He burst through the doors into the sunlight, blinking hard for a moment as he scanned the area for any sign of his detective.

It was too late. Bobby was gone.

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