A/N: I’d fully expected this to be the last chapter, but as it turns out, it’s not. There is one more chapter to come, and I’m fairly sure that that will be the final chapter. Bobby has one last trial to get through before he can completely reclaim his life…
Approx. 1 month later
Bobby paused in the doorway of the apartment, looking around with a growing feeling of satisfaction. It was officially moving day, when all the furniture that he’d bought over the last month was to be delivered. Over the course of several exhausting hours, with help from Alex, Mike, Jo, Elliot and Olivia, all that furniture had been moved into Bobby’s newly-acquired apartment and set up where he wanted it.
The place still looked a little on the empty side to him, but that would be rectified over time. All in all, it was finally starting to look like a place he could call home.
“Hey, Bobby, move it or lose it, pal.”
Bobby stepped quickly aside, moving out of Elliot’s way as he carried in one of two boxes of books from Alex’s apartment.
“Sorry,” he apologised. “I… I was just…”
Elliot grinned reassuringly at him as he set the box down.
“It’s okay.” He wiped his hands off on his jeans, and looked around approvingly. “The place is looking good, Bobby.”
Bobby nodded slowly in agreement.
“Yeah, it is. Thanks for coming to help, Elliot. I really do appreciate it.”
Elliot clapped him lightly on the back.
“Hey, I was just glad I could help. How’re you feeling, anyway? You must be pretty wiped by now.”
Bobby raised an eyebrow in bemusement.
“Me? I’m not the one who’s been moving heavy boxes and furniture around all day.”
Elliot grinned and shrugged.
“Maybe, but it’s still been a long day.”
He wasn’t referring simply to the physical aspect of the day, and Bobby knew it.
“I am a little tired,” he confessed finally, reddening just a little. “I don’t feel… wiped, though.”
“That’s good,” Elliot said. “You might just make it through your first full day back at work yet.”
Bobby smiled wryly as Elliot opened the box, and began to pass him books to set on a tall bookshelf.
“I think I’ll manage okay. It’s just going to be paperwork to start with, anyway. Alex and Mike finished wrapping up their last case two days ago, and I think Deakins will probably hold off on giving us any new cases straight away. He’ll be watching to see how I’m coping, I guess.”
Elliot glanced up at him, curious.
“And you’re okay with that?”
“Yes,” Bobby said thoughtfully, a small smile on his face. “I am.”
“Okay, this is the last box,” Mike announced as he carried in another box-load of books. “The ladies are waiting downstairs. I vote we leave this right here, get cleaned up, and go out for a beer.”
“Sounds good,” Elliot agreed. “Bobby, you up for that?”
Bobby nodded his agreement, grateful that his medication had been reduced sufficiently that he could enjoy an occasional beer again. Anything stronger than that was out of the question, but he at least had his doctor’s amused approval for a ‘once in a while’ treat of a mug of beer. He was even more grateful that he had at least one hand that was now strong enough again to hold a mug, or glass, effectively erasing the humiliation of needing someone else to help him with such a basic task.
“Great,” Mike said, rubbing his hands together enthusiastically. “Let’s go, then.”
“You guys go ahead,” Bobby said quietly. “I’ll catch up in a few.”
Elliot and Mike exchanged glances, but neither argued.
“Okay,” Elliot agreed, not without reservation. “We’ll wait for you down at Alex’s apartment.”
Bobby nodded, barely noticing when they left. Standing in the middle of the room, he looked around slowly, taking in the atmosphere of the apartment that would soon be his home. He would spend one last night in Alex’s apartment, and then tomorrow the bed would be dismantled, brought upstairs and reassembled in the bedroom of his own place.
It was a daunting prospect, more-so than he had imagined. He’d not been game enough to admit it to any of his friends, but he was scared. Scared of being on his own again, scared what might happen if some other perp he’d put away in the past decided to take a shot at him.
No, he corrected himself grimly. He wasn’t scared. He was terrified.
Pushing those sickening thoughts to the back of his mind, Bobby focused on his surroundings. One relief in acquiring this place had been in how little it looked like his old apartment. His old place had had cream-coloured walls. This place had walls that were painted a soothing light-blue. His old place had carpet. The new apartment had polished floorboards, which he’d opted to cover in some places with thick, plush rugs.
The new apartment had a large, open kitchen, where his old place had had only a tiny kitchen with barely enough room to spit in.
There was no bedroom ensuite in this apartment, but the bathroom was immediately opposite the bedroom, across a short, narrow hallway that led down to a second bedroom, which Bobby intended to eventually convert into an exercise room. The bathroom itself was again bigger than the one in his old apartment, with a large shower space and a small, one-person spa-bath. The bath was equipped with non-slip matting and rails, something which had delighted Bobby greatly.
The bedroom, on the whole, was smaller, but he found himself not caring about that. His habits had changed, thanks to everything he’d experienced. The bedroom would never again be the sanctuary it had once been. It was a place for a sleeping, and getting changed, and that was all.
His sanctuary, his safe place, was no longer any one particular place but rather a person instead. Specifically, it was a group of people – the very people who now waited for him downstairs. His friends, and his family.
“Hey, are you okay?”
He turned at the sound of Alex’s voice and tried to smile, but couldn’t quite manage it.
“I will be,” he assured her as she walked over and slipped an arm around his waist in an affectionate and protective gesture. “It’s just… It’s all…”
“A little overwhelming?” she suggested when he faltered. Bobby nodded.
She hugged him gently.
“It’s all part of getting back to normal. You might not be entirely comfortable here to start with… but then, you weren’t when you came to stay with me initially, either. Were you?”
Bobby shook his head in a wordless confession. She was right. Though he thought he’d done a fair job of hiding it, he’d been horribly unsettled during his first few days in Alex’s home. She was right. It wasn’t likely to be any different now.
“It’s going to be okay,” she murmured. “You’ll see. You have a new home, but we’re still close to each other. So you can call me any time you want, day or night.”
He regarded her in amusement.
“You’re not going to want to get regular calls from me at two o’clock in the morning, just because I’ve had a nightmare.”
She frowned lightly at him.
“Bobby, we’ve already been over this. Did I ever complain about getting up to you over the last few months because of nightmares?”
“No,” Bobby admitted, suddenly feeling sheepish.
“That’s right. And I won’t mind now, either. Besides, you tell me, how would it be any different to you calling me at two o’clock in the morning because you’d had a sudden epiphany about a case?”
He went red at that, and Alex smiled and laughed to show him that there were no hard feelings attached to those memories.
“You see?” she told him gently. “It’s going to be fine. I’ll be right nearby, and you had better call me if you need me, because I promise you I’ll be pissed if you don’t.”
“And I wouldn’t want that,” Bobby murmured as she deftly turned him towards the door.
“No, you wouldn’t. Now, I suggest we get moving, before the others get impatient and go without us. And I want that beer. Okay?”
Bobby smiled as she ushered him out the door of his new home.
“So,” Olivia asked a while later as the six of them sat crowded into booth in a nearby bar. “How does it feel to have your own place again?”
Bobby paused in answering, his gaze flickering just briefly to Alex.
“It’s a good feeling. I… I’m relieved… but a little scared, too.”
“Well, that’s understandable,” Elliot murmured. “It’s a pretty big step for you. When are you actually going to spend your first night there?”
“Tomorrow night,” Bobby confessed.
“Dad and a couple of my brothers are coming around tomorrow to take apart the bed, and move it upstairs into Bobby’s place,” Alex explained.
“Mm,” Elliot said. “Well, needless to say, the first night is probably going to be pretty unnerving.”
“He won’t be there alone,” Alex stated firmly. “Not to start with. I’ll be staying with him for a couple of nights, at least, just until he gets settled.”
Bobby grimaced, but said nothing. There were a lot of uncertainties in his life right then, but one thing he was certain of was that it would take more than a couple of nights for him to get settled.
Seemingly oblivious to Bobby’s reaction, Olivia nodded her approval.
“Well, a little bit of company to start with isn’t a bad thing.”
“And then when this weekend is over with,” Mike added, “you’ll be officially back at work, full-time. That’s gotta feel good.”
He sounded just a little wistful as he spoke. As far as he was aware, Monday marked the beginning of his final week with Major Case, and it was a commonly-known fact that he was not looking forward to returning to Staten Island.
As his words, and the look on Mike’s face, Alex shot a quick look at Bobby, but his expression was giving away nothing. She knew he’d been plotting something with Deakins where Mike was concerned, but neither man would spill the beans. It was infuriating as hell.
For all she knew, it could be just a ‘thankyou and farewell’ party they were planning, but instinct told her that it was something more significant. She had hoped that the vacancy that had just become available with the squad would have been offered to Mike, but word was Deakins already had someone to fill the position. So, whatever it was that Bobby and the captain were planning, it was being kept very tightly under wraps.
She came back to reality to find Bobby was watching her, a small, amused smile on his lips. She had the eerie feeling that he knew what she’d just been thinking, going by the smile on his face. They locked stares for just a brief moment before he looked away again.
“It will be good,” he confirmed, in answer to Mike’s comment. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Mike nodded, but said nothing. Bobby looked back over at Alex, who was still watching him piercingly. He dipped his head just fractionally towards her and, in a slight gesture that only she spotted, he winked at her.
In that moment, Alex knew there was a more than pleasant surprise awaiting Mike when they started work on Monday morning. Feeling incredibly good all of a sudden, Alex wormed her way out of the booth, grabbing Mike’s hand and pulling him out after her.
“What are we doing?” Mike wanted to know, bemused.
“I want to dance,” Alex announced firmly. She shot him a look that was half-threatening and half-seductress. “You wouldn’t say no to one dance, would you?”
A grin lit up his face.
“Wouldn’t dream of it, sweetheart.”
“You know,” Jo mused as they watched Mike program a song into the jukebox, and start dancing with Alex, “they actually make a nice-looking couple.”
“Two cops with Irish blood,” Olivia retorted. “We’ll be lucky if they don’t end up killing each other.”
“He’ll treat her right,” Bobby murmured, watching his partner and his friend as they moved together. “She’s already got his respect, and he’s got hers. I think they’ll do okay.”
“Half expected you to be jealous,” Elliot teased him lightly. Bobby’s smile widened.
“Not me, not of Alex and Mike.” He paused, looking momentarily torn.
“What is it, hon?” Jo asked, touching his shoulder gently in concern.
Bobby indicated out to where their friends were dancing. Alex had slipped her arms around Mike’s waist and her head rested against his shoulder. Mike was hugging her close, planting occasional soft kisses on her hair.
“I love dancing… but it’s not something I’ve been able to do for a long time.” He raised his braced left hand of the table slightly. “For… obvious reasons. If… If I’m jealous of anything, it’s not being able to be out there as well.”
“Why can’t you?” Olivia asked, feeling almost indignant at his self-perceived restrictions. When Bobby looked at her in questioning surprise, Olivia answered by slipping out of the booth and urging Bobby to get up. “C’mon, let’s give the lovebirds a run for their money.”
Bobby glanced quizzically at Elliot as Olivia drew him out, but the SVU detective only grinned and nodded in encouragement. Smiling with relief and gratitude, Bobby allowed Olivia to lead him out onto the floor, and soon they were caught up in the music, the same as Mike and Alex.
Elliot watched with a wry smile for a moment before looking around at the other remaining member of their group.
“Well, Jo? You don’t want to be a wallflower, do you?”
She smiled warmly back at him.
“It’s okay, Elliot. You don’t have to dance with me.”
“I know I don’t have to,” Elliot said even as he got up and reached out for her hand. “I want to. C’mon, dance with me?”
“I’ll warn you, I’m not very good,” Jo told him with some trepidation. Elliot shrugged as he pulled her to him and they began to move together to the music.
“It’s fine. Neither am I. We can dance badly together.”
Jo laughed softly and finally gave in, giving herself over to simply enjoying the moment, the same as her friends.
One Police Plaza
When Mike arrived at the Major Case squad room on Monday morning, he wasn’t the least bit surprised to discover Bobby and Alex had beaten him there. He paused in the entry way to the bullpen, watching with a small smile as the two detectives sat at their respective desk, dealing with what little paperwork there was to do. Alex was busily filling out forms, while Bobby was tapping away steadily at the laptop that sat open in front of him.
Mike paused, looking around briefly, half-expecting Jo to appear from somewhere. But, for the first time since Bobby’s initial release from the hospital, Jo was nowhere to be seen. Now that Bobby had gained sufficient proficiency with his right hand, he could more or less cope during the day without the aid of the home care nurse. It was only first up in the morning, and in the evenings, that Jo’s services were now required by him.
He really was recovering, finally, Mike mused as he continued on into the bullpen and over to his desk. It was great, of course, but Mike couldn’t help feeling some small hint of resentment. For him, Bobby’s recovery and return to work only emphasized his own pending return to the shitty little precinct on Staten Island that had been his own personal hell for the last ten years.
He sighed inwardly, berating himself for the feeling of resentment that he couldn’t seem to control. Bobby deserved to be where he was. He would say or do nothing to put a shadow on that, no matter how much he’d enjoyed working with Major Case over the last few months.
Mike stepped past Bobby and Alex’s desks, nodding a forcibly cheerful greeting to them, and froze. The small desk that had been his for the last few months was empty. Sometime between Friday night and now, someone had completely cleared it. There was not even so much as a paper blotter remaining.
Mike felt his stomach tighten painfully. He’d known well enough that this was to be his last week with Major Case, but surely they could have left him the dignity of clearing his own things? Were they really this eager to get rid of him now that Bobby was back at work?
“What’s wrong, Mike?” Alex asked, peering up at him quizzically. “You look a little pale.”
Mike swallowed hard as he turned to face the two of them. The last thing he wanted to do was to say something that would hurt Bobby in any way… but damn it, it hurt, to think they were so eager to see the back of him.
“Uh… I just… I mean…”
Great, Mike, he thought ruefully. Real slick.
“Captain wants to see you,” Bobby said suddenly, inclining his head towards Deakins’ office. Mike looked around, and sure enough, there was Deakins in the doorway, beckoning him over. Shoulders slumping, Mike turned and trudged across the floor to the captain’s office. Alex watched him go, then turned a mock frown on her partner.
“That was just cruel, Bobby.”
He raised his eyes to meet hers, a small smile on his lips.
“You didn’t make much of an effort to reassure him. And really, if he’d just looked, he would have noticed all of his things were just shifted to a new desk.”
Alex couldn’t hold back the grin that fought its way onto her face.
“I wish I could see the look on his face when the captain tells him he’s staying. Bobby, that really was a wonderful thing for you to do.”
Bobby gave a lopsided shrug.
“I only suggested it. Deakins had to agree to it, and then he had to burn a few favours to pull it off. The brass weren’t too happy with it, but I don’t think they were game to argue once they heard the idea came from me.”
“Well,” Alex mused as she returned her attention to the paperwork in front of her, “you may as well take advantage of the sympathy vote while you can. It’s not going to last forever.”
With her head down, Alex missed the relieved smile that lit up Bobby’s face.
“I know,” he murmured, more grateful for that than he was capable of really expressing. “I know it won’t.”
Mike walked into Deakins’ office, head held high and determined to keep the proverbial stiff upper lip in light of what he was certain would be the standard ‘thankyou and goodbye’ speech. He was a little startled to walk in to find himself confronted by a woman with dark, shoulder length, thick wavy hair, and a diminutive physical stature that reminded him starkly of Alex.
“Mike,” Deakins told him with a barely-concealed grin, “I’d like you to meet Detective Carolyn Barek. Your new partner.”
He stared first at Barek, and then at Deakins, and then back to Barek again.
Barek turned an amused smile towards the captain.
“You didn’t tell him?”
“Thought I’d save it for a surprise,” Deakins said as he dropped into his chair. “Although, I’m a little surprised myself that Eames didn’t give it away when he got in this morning.”
By then, Mike had recovered enough to close his mouth.
“I’m staying? I’m not going back to Staten Island?”
“Got it in one,” Deakins confirmed.
“So… my desk…”
“Is now the next one over from the desk you had before,” Deakins told him, amused. “The one you had is going to be repaired. That’s why your things were cleared off it over the weekend. I was expecting someone to come and collect it early this morning, but they haven’t arrived yet.”
Shaking himself out of his shock, Mike flashed Barek a sheepish smile and reached out to shake hands with her.
“Pleasure to meet you, Barek.”
She nodded, favouring him with an amused smile.
“Okay, Mike,” Deakins said, trying not to burst out laughing. “Why don’t you give your partner the grand tour, and then take her out of the building for coffee and give her a rundown on what to expect here?”
Mike nodded, stepping over to hold the door open for her. She responded with a raised eyebrow, but said nothing as she walked through the door. He hesitated in following her, looking back at Deakins with genuine gratitude.
“Thankyou, Captain. I mean that.”
“Don’t thank me, Mike,” Deakins answered. “Thank Bobby. It was his idea, originally. I just agreed with him.”
Grinning and shaking his head, Mike hurried after his partner.
“I take it that went well,” Alex commented as Deakins came over to their desks once Mike and Carolyn had gone.
“He was almost too pole-axed to remember to shake her hand,” Deakins said with a grin. “But once it hit home that he wasn’t going back to Staten Island…”
“He deserves the chance,” Bobby said quietly. “Everything he’s done since I… since the attack… And he didn’t have to do any of it. We owed him the chance.”
“Not to mention he’s well and truly paid his debt for punching out that councilman,” Alex added. “Ten years on Staten Island. That is the biggest load of crap.”
Deakins chuckled softly.
“The Chief of D’s nearly had a stroke when I told him that I wanted Logan in my squad. But then, I only had to mention your name, Bobby, and he folded like a suitcase.”
Alex grinned across their desks at her partner.
“You see? I told you.”
“I don’t want to know what that’s about,” Deakins declared. “You two have enough work to keep you busy for the moment?”
“Are you kidding?” Bobby asked. “At the rate I’m typing, it’ll take me the better part of the week to finish typing out the basic forms. I don’t suppose the brass would spring for a secretary for me?”
“You don’t want me to answer that.”
They watched as Deakins headed back to his office before exchanging grins and returning to work.
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