Major Case Squad,
One Police Plaza,
New York City

Fifteeen years later...

Bobby Goren came to a halt outside the towering building that was One Police Plaza, unable to contain the awe in his expression as he peered upwards. It didn’t seem all that long ago that any hopes he’d had of advancing so far within the NYPD had been distant at best, but he’d stuck to the advice of his friend and mentor, Ben Paxton, and hadn’t quit. Even when it had seemed pointless, that there were just one too many people in authority determined to keep him down, he hadn’t quit. Now, looking up at the impressive building that was his new workplace, he was thankful he’d taken Ben’s advice.

He’d met up with his old friend the day after he’d received notification from Captain James Deakins that his application to the Major Case Squad had been accepted. Ben had been thrilled for him, and had insisted on hauling him off to the nearest bar for a bottle of his favourite German beer. He’d almost been happier than Bobby himself, so much so that he hadn’t made any of the usual cracks about Bobby’s penchant for foreign beer.

“So you finally made it,” Ben hooted cheerfully after he’d downed more than a couple of beers himself. “Detective, First Grade! All right, boy, quit holding out on me. I want to see it.”

Bobby stared at Ben, puzzled.

“See what?”

“The badge! I want a look at that shiny, new gold shield! C’mon, give it up.”

Smiling almost shyly, Bobby pulled his newly-issued badge out and handed it to Ben.

“Look at that,” Ben murmured, and there was real pride in his voice that had Bobby blushing red. Ben grinned at him. “I’m so proud of you, Bobby. I really am. Anyone else probably would have up and quit after being dealt all the crap that you were dealt. But you kept at it, and look at you now. About to join the elite of the NYPD… Damn, boy, I could die happy right now.”

Bobby took his badge back, his face flame-red and his heart swelling with a joy that he could not remember ever experiencing before. This warm approval and encouragement from Ben was something he’d craved for most of his life, and it was something he had never received from the man who should have been the one to give it. Instead, his father had been coldly indifferent to him for most of his life, making it only too obvious that he didn’t give a damn whether Bobby succeeded or failed. And so, for a while at least, he had spiralled into a vicious cycle of taking on new jobs, only to give up and quit them soon after.

He may well have gone the same way with his career as a cop, except that providence had seen fit to cross his path with that of Detective Ben Paxton. The senior detective had been the father figure to Bobby that he had always craved, and that his actual father had never been. Ben had showed interest in him, been kind but firm with him and, above all, had shown him guidance.

Bobby was not a particularly wordy person by nature. He said what he had to, when he had to. Sometimes he liked to think out loud, usually just to clarify the jumble of ideas that churned in his always-active mind, but bad experiences over the years had taught him to reign in that behaviour when he was around other people. It wasn’t natural, it made people uncomfortable.

In short, he could never hope to properly express his gratitude to Ben for the way the older man had taken him under his wing, and provided that much-needed and much-appreciated guidance.

Ultimately, it didn’t matter. All the thanks Ben wanted from his unofficial protégé was wrapped up in that little gold shield, a very real symbol that Bobby had taken all his advice to heart, and put it to good and practical use; that he hadn’t simply sat back on his rear and expected everything to happen for him.

“So, do you know yet who you’re going to be partnered with?”

At that question, Bobby had shifted uncomfortably on the bar stool. The prospect of having to go through the motions of growing accustomed to a new partner was the one aspect of his promotion that had him unsettled.

He had been through all that before, upon joining Narcotics five years ago. He had spent nearly two of those five years going through partner after partner, one after another. He still recalled with painful clarity the number of times he had been pulled into his captain’s office, and being told his latest partner had jumped ship. He’d gone through seven partners all up when Captain Burns finally pulled him into his office one morning and told him, not unsympathetically, that there was just one more chance for him, and that if he couldn’t make this new partnership work, then he would have to leave Narcotics.

One of the long-time Narcs had just lost his partner to retirement, and had graciously agreed to working with Bobby on a trial basis. His name was Odafin Tutuola, Burns had told him with just a hint of a knowing smile, and he took crap from no one. Burns seemed confident it would be a good match.

Bobby had known Tutuola’s reputation well enough. The man was damn near a legend among Narcs, and the thought of working with him left Bobby slightly rattled, to say the least. He’d agreed to try, though, suppressing the desire to simply give up, and once more falling back on the wisdom of the man he had secretly come to view as a surrogate father.

It had turned out to be one of the best choices Bobby had ever made. After a slightly shaky start, Bobby and Fin (as Tutuola insisted on being called) had gotten along great. They’d forged a good, trusting partnership that had continued for the next three years. Bobby would recall with disappointment, for many months afterwards, the day that Fin had told him he’d applied for and been accepted to an investigative position with the Special Victims Unit. Ironically, Bobby had mused later on to Ben, the very same squad to which he had been banished some years earlier as punishment.

It had served as a catalyst to get Bobby to act, though. Rather than waiting for the inevitable invitation into the captain’s office, and being told he would have to leave Narcotics because no one else wanted to take him on as their partner, Bobby had gone ahead and taken the exams that would see him promoted to First Grade status as a detective. At the same time, he had also put in an application for a position with the elite Major Case Squad.

It was karma, Ben would insist later. After all, Bobby had applied without knowing for sure if there was even a vacancy, drawn to the squad not because it was high profile, but because it was the sort of challenge that his highly intelligent mind craved. Though he was not made aware of it immediately, a vacancy actually opened up in the squad on the very same day that his application landed on the desk of the squad’s captain.

The rumour was that no other applicants – and apparently there were many – were even given a look in by Captain James Deakins. Apparently Deakins knew Bobby’s reputation for being a little on the odd side, but he was far more conscious of the detective’s brilliance for profiling.

Rumour had gotten back to Bobby that some of the brass who still remembered the Scott case had tried to quash both his promotion to Detective First Grade and Deakins’ acceptance of his application for Major Case, but Deakins had refused to back down. The brass had eventually given in – Deakins was a top man, with the political clout of the Commissioner to back him up, and none were game enough at that stage to deny him anything.

And so Bobby’s appointment to Major Case, in his new rank as Detective First Grade, had gone ahead. But no word had been said to him about who his new partner was going to be…

“Don’t know yet, huh?” Ben had asked with a grin. He never ceased to be amused at the way his friend zoned out every so often, becoming completely oblivious to everyone and everything around him. “Ah, well, they’ll find someone you can work with, Bobby, don’t you worry. And Jim Deakins is a good man, and a damned good cop. You’re going to shine at Major Case, Bobby. I’m sure of it.”

Bobby let his breath out in a rush, barely aware that he’d been holding it to begin with. Now, he’d come to his first day, and here he was, standing on the threshold like a nervous schoolboy.

Tugging self-consciously at the silk tie which garnished the expensive new suit he wore (another suggestion from Ben), Bobby Goren made his way into the building that was One Police Plaza.

Detective Alex Eames glanced at her watch for the eighth or ninth time that morning, and looked once more to the corridor which led into the Major Case bullpen. Her new partner was due to start today and she was both curious and anxious to get her first proper look at him.

Detective Robert O. Goren. She didn’t know what the ‘O’ in his name stood for. It had simply been on his file like that. For all she knew, it didn’t actually stand for anything.

Yes, she had read his file, once she knew for certain that he was going to be partnered with her. It had been colourful, to say the least. And what really intrigued her was the black mark on his record – an official reprimand and lengthy suspension for some undisclosed infraction that went back some thirteen years, to when he’d still been a beat cop.

It didn’t phase her. In all truth, she was quietly relieved to know her new partner was no boy scout. He did have a reputation that well and truly preceded him, though.

The oddball from Narcotics. The freakshow who got results. The defective detective.

Personally, Alex truly despised that last one. If the guy was good enough that Deakins had fought tooth and nail against the brass upstairs to get him, then defective was hardly a word that could be accurately applied. But cops seemed especially prone to gossiping, and so the talk had gone on unchecked.

By the time Deakins called a meeting and asked for volunteers who would be willing to partner the newcomer, no one had wanted to put their hand up for the job. In the end, it was the wholesale rejection by the rest of the squad, and Deakins’ whole-hearted belief in the new guy that had spurred Alex to offer to take Robert Goren on as her new partner.

The other guys in the squad had thought she’d truly lost her mind, and had no hesitations about telling her just that. Goren was a freak, they insisted, and maybe even dangerous. Didn’t she know he’d been slapped with a reprimand and a three month suspension? Rumour was that he had gotten a senior detective shot.

Ultimately, the warnings of her colleagues only made her all the more determined. Even if the rumour about him getting another cop shot was true, Alex decided there had to be more to the story than what any of them had heard. To make a judgement on rumours alone was insulting, and she wasn’t going to fall into that trap.

She recalled with some amusement the Moment when she’d gone to Deakins’ office, and volunteered to partner the new guy. In fact, the look on Deakins’ face had been priceless.

He’d stared at her for a long Moment before speaking.

“You realise you’re the only one so far to offer, Alex?”

She’d smiled wryly.

“Yes, I’m aware of that, Captain. And judging by the talk circulating out there, you aren’t going to get any other offers.”

Deakins’ bemused smile faded rather abruptly.

“Damn. I’d hoped at least some of them might have been willing to ignore the rumours. Well, I do appreciate the offer, Alex…”

“But you’re not going to pair him up with me.”

Deakins looked at her thoughtfully.

“You think you could handle him? I’m not thinking in the short term either, Alex. Whoever takes Goren on needs to be willing to be in it for the long haul.”

Alex had smiled, then.

“I’m good for the ride, Captain.”

She’d left his office uncertain of whether she had succeeded in convincing him. Her determination only increased, though, when her fellow detectives discovered that she’d already made the offer to Deakins to take on the new guy, and tried to talk her into recanting. If there was one thing that could possibly make Alex Eames even more determined to see something through, it was being told she couldn’t, or shouldn’t do it.

So it had been with a mixture of elation and anxiety that she’d received the news that Deakins had decided to pair Detective Goren with her after all. And now, here she was, awaiting his arrival and getting more edgy with every minute that passed.

The truth was that beyond all the rumours and attempts to frighten her off, she just didn’t know what to expect. All she knew was her determination not to let herself be intimidated by the new guy, to let him know in no uncertain terms who the boss was, and to prove that all the sanctimonious bastards that she worked with were wrong.

She desperately wanted this partnership to work, but there were so many uncertainties that she truly couldn’t begin to guess what lay ahead.

Someone suddenly gave a loud, conspicuous cough, and Alex rolled her eyes heavenward in exasperation. That had to be Ray Gatlin. The guy had the subtlety of a brick to the head. Resisting the urge to glare at him, Alex instead glanced around. A Moment later, her jaw dropped.

Coming into the Major Case bullpen was the biggest bear of a man she had seen for a long time. He wasn’t merely tall, but incredibly broad as well, without looking overweight. In fact, she thought as he moved across the floor towards Deakins’ office, he looked fitter than most of the male detectives who currently occupied the office. Fit, and strong. She felt confident in her ability to take down pretty much any of the detectives in Major Case despite her diminutive stature, but this guy was something else entirely.

Momentarily forgetting that she was openly staring at him, Alex couldn’t keep from wondering, if only for a split second, just what she had gotten herself into.

Then, slowly, the shock passed, and she reminded herself that she had seniority. She would take no crap from him and maybe, just maybe, this was one bozo that might actually learn to respect her as a cop in her own right.

She watched, noting with interest that Deakins actually came out of his office to meet this one, rather than waiting for him to come to the office. So Detective Goren was either something special, or Deakins was just trying to offset the general atmosphere of resentment and mistrust towards Major Case’s newest addition.

She watched with unabashed curiosity as Deakins greeted the new detective with a huge welcoming grin, and then ushered him into his office, closing the door behind them. Almost instantly, the chatter started.

“Did you see how big he is?”

“Hell, yeah! Dan from Narcotics told me he was a big guy, and he wasn’t kidding.”

“How the fuck did he make it to First Grade? Guys that big only ever have half a brain…”

“Hey, Alex, hope you got animal control skills. That guy is one fucking big ape.”

Laughter erupted across the floor, and Alex scowled as she turned back to her laptop. Fuck them, she decided angrily. They couldn’t even wait until Goren had been introduced to them properly before they started bad-mouthing him behind his back. Well, fuck them.

More determined than ever to make the partnership work, Alex sank back into her seat, and waited for Deakins to summon her to his office.

It took Deakins a split second longer than he liked to recover from his own shock when Bobby Goren finally came around the corner. Though he had been present at the detective’s final interview, somehow it had escaped his notice just how big the guy really was.

Height-wise, there wasn’t all that much difference between them – perhaps a few inches at the most. But where he himself was fairly thin, Bobby Goren had the broad physique to match his height, making him an imposing sight. The guy was built like the proverbial brick wall.

Well, good, he decided once he’d recovered his decorum. Perhaps his sheer size would make the other Major Case detectives think twice before going ahead with the standard ‘hazing the new guy’ routine.

He went out to meet the younger man, greeting him with honest friendliness. If everything he’d read or heard about Bobby Goren was true, then the detective had probably picked up on the negativity being directed at him from the occupants of the bullpen. The last thing he wanted was for Bobby to think his presence there was unwelcome. He ushered him into his office, and bade him sit down.

“Did you want some coffee?” he asked as he poured a cup for himself.

“Uh… No… Thanks. I, uh… I had coffee with a friend earlier… before I came here.”

Deakins nodded, paying no heed to Bobby’s nervous stammering. This was another thing he had learnt about his new recruit, not through official means, but by personally contacting people that Bobby had worked with over the past years. Those that had worked closely with him had all said the same thing. When he was thrust into a new and unfamiliar situation, Bobby Goren was an incredibly shy person.

Sitting back down in his own chair, opposite Bobby, Deakins spoke calmly.

“Well, Detective First Grade, how are you feeling?”

Bobby was silent for a Moment before answering.

“A little scared, actually,” he admitted, reddening just slightly. Deakins smiled reassuringly at him.

“Good answer. I’m always suspicious of anyone who walks into a position like this and tells me they feel fantastic. Now, we have a few things to go over before I introduce you to your new partner. I noticed you don’t have anyone listed under Next of Kin for us to contact in case you’re injured. Now, I know the situation with your mother, but are there no other family members?”

Bobby looked down uncomfortably at his hands.

“There’s my… my father, and my brother… But I don’t know where they are. I haven’t had any contact with either of them for a long time. I… I don’t have any other family.”

Deakins nodded in understanding.

“Fair enough, but you understand that we have to have someone listed. It doesn’t need to be family. What about friends?”

Bobby hesitated for just a moment. Surely Ben wouldn’t mind…?

“Detective Ben Paxton,” he said quietly. Deakins paused before writing the name down.

“Ben Paxton? I know him. He’s a good man, and a damned fine cop.”

Jim Deakins’ status just went up several notches in Bobby’s mind. Deakins finished scribbling down Ben’s name, then set his pen down and sat back in his chair to observe the fidgeting detective with interest.

“Tell me, Goren, what exactly are you hoping to get out of joining Major Case?”

“A challenge,” Bobby answered without hesitation, and Deakins chuckled.

“You’ll certainly be presented with plenty of those here, Detective. But is that all?”

Bobby did hesitate, then. He knew in himself what he wanted, but he didn’t want to give Deakins the impression he was there purely for his own ends.

“Speak up, Goren,” Deakins told him firmly, startling Bobby back into full awareness. “Always speak up, and don’t be afraid to make yourself heard. Even if I don’t agree with you, even if we end up in a roaring argument, I’ll have more respect for you if you’re confident with what you say or do, than if you let everyone else’s attitudes form your opinions for you.”

“I want respect,” Bobby answered abruptly, and forced himself to hold eye contact with Deakins. “And… And to be able to do things my own way. When I was in Narcotics, I went through seven partners before I found someone who didn’t think I was a… a freak. Who… Who let me do things the best way I knew how, even if it seemed strange.”

Deakins nodded thoughtfully.

“Respect. Fair enough. That’s something you’ll have to earn from your partner, but if you’re honest with her, like you’ve been just now, I don’t think that will be a problem. As for letting you do things your own way… Well, that’s going to be up to the two of you to work out between yourselves.”

He paused, watching Bobby carefully. He’d deliberately thrown in the reference to Alex’s gender just to see how Bobby would react. After all, he’d seen too often a man reacting very badly first of all to having a female for a partner, and secondly when that female outranked them. Bobby, however, didn’t even blink.

Deakins didn’t doubt that the detective had picked up on that single, innocuous reference, but he showed no adverse reaction at all. All Deakins could conclude was that Bobby simply didn’t give a damn whether his partner was male or female, and the fact that said partner outranked him was a non-issue.

Standing, Deakins walked over to the door of his office and looked out into the bullpen.

“Eames! My office, please.”

He retreated back against the wall, almost eager to see what Bobby Goren and Alex Eames made of each other.

When Alex walked in, and he finally got a look at the two of them together, it was all Deakins could do not to burst out laughing. They were, by all appearances, complete polar opposites.

She was short and petite; he was tall and broad. She was fair-haired and fair-skinned; he was dark-haired with an almost olive complexion. She was a very outgoing, and sometimes aggressive personality; he was apparently a very reserved and shy person.

Although, Deakins suspected that Bobby was probably anything but shy once he started a case, and set his mind to the pursuit of a suspect.

To Bobby’s credit, he didn’t blanch, or indeed show any sort of physical reaction when Alex walked in. He stood up quickly, almost clumsily, and offered his hand to her to shake in greeting.

Score one for the new kid, Deakins thought amusedly. He didn’t try kissing her hand, or her cheek, the way so many other male detectives tried to do upon meeting her for the first time. The relief on Alex’s face told him she appreciated it, too.

“Detective Robert Goren, meet your new partner, Detective Alex Eames.”

“P… Pleased to… to meet you,” Bobby stammered, his cheeks reddening a little as he struggled to get a handle on his shyness. Alex had to resist the urge to look incredulously at Deakins.

He stutters

“Likewise,” Alex replied, looking up at him bemusedly. It didn’t escape her notice that he only held her gaze for a few second before turning his eyes away, and looking pointedly down at his shoes.

Their hands remained joined for just a Moment longer, giving Alex enough time to register how warm his hand was, and how strong his grip was. It was a controlled strength, though. He wasn’t being deliberately overbearing; just the opposite, in fact. She couldn’t help but think that he could do with putting himself a bit further forward, be a little more outgoing. Oh, well. There was time to work on that.

“Detective Eames has been with Major Case for four years,” Deakins told Bobby. “She knows all the ins and outs, and you won’t find anyone better to learn from.”

Alex watched her new partner closely as Deakins spoke. Too often she came up against guys that resented her rank, resented her experience and resented her ability to take charge. And they definitely resented the fact that Deakins approved of all three things – her rank, her experience and her ability to take charge. Watching carefully now, she saw none of the usual resentment in Goren’s eyes. It was a promising start.

“Alex, could you show Goren around, show him his new desk, and then introduce him to the general populace? Then I suggest you both get out of here, find a quiet coffee shop somewhere and have the standard ‘getting to know you’ session.”

Alex nodded and stepped deliberately towards the door. Before she had a chance to so much as reach for the doorknob, though, Bobby ducked around her in a smooth, fluid movement that belied his earlier clumsiness and left Alex slightly dizzy, and opened the door for her.

“After you, Eames.”

Alex couldn’t stop herself from looking at Deakins that time, and could have cheerfully strangled him at the sight of the amused grin that he made no effort to hide. Shaking her head a little, she strode back out into the bullpen, with her new partner close behind.

Deakins stood watching them from the doorway of his office, unable to keep that grin off his face. He’d known what Alex’s reaction would have normally been to a man opening the door for her, but Goren had saved himself from an outright rebuke with one little thing, even if neither detective was consciously aware of it.

He had called her ‘Eames’, in the standard cop practise of calling each other by last names rather than first, and had not automatically assumed he had permission to call her Alex. And as for opening the door for her, that was simple good manners on his part, behaviour that had probably been ingrained in his psyche for most of his life. He hadn’t meant the action to be condescending, and Deakins guessed that, inwardly, at least, Alex knew it.

He watched as Alex pointed Bobby to his new desk, the one that was adjoined to her own, and then began introducing him to the other detectives. Finally, deciding he’d been nosey enough, Deakins shut his door and retreated back to his desk.

He was not unaware of the irony in pairing those particular two up. Bobby had admitted to him that he’d gone through seven partners in Narcotics before finally being matched with someone who didn’t consider him a freak. What Deakins hadn’t told him – it wasn’t his place to say, even though the knowledge might have relaxed Bobby a little – was that Alex had gone through a similar trial upon coming to Major Case. She’d come from Vice, and her time there had taught her a toughness that cops didn’t learn anywhere else. That, coupled with her natural sarcastic streak and caustic wit, made for a very tough cop, but her natural beauty meant many potential partners misjudged her severely.

The first three partners she’d been paired with had backed away when they realised she wasn’t going to ‘follow wherever they led her’. The fourth made the mistake of thinking a beautiful woman in such an elite squad must have slept her way there, and was open to any offer that came along. When Alex had told him in no uncertain terms that she wasn’t interested, he’d decided she was simply playing hard to get, and tried nailing her in the locker room late one night. He still recalled with a shudder Alex stumbling into his office, her shirt half ripped from her body and the beginnings of ugly bruises on her arms where Saunders had grabbed her. Saunders, it turned out, was still on the floor in the locker room, clutching his balls where Alex had landed a well-aimed kick.

The brass had wanted to cover it up – fire Saunders, of course, but also yank Alex out of Major Case and deposit her somewhere that she couldn’t make a fuss. Deakins had put his foot down, literally and figuratively speaking. Saunders had not merely been sacked, he had also been charged with sexual assault. He’d plead not guilty, claiming it was Alex who attacked him, but with Deakins’ testimony the creep hadn’t had a chance. He’d ended up going to Rikers for the next two years, and had to spend his time in solitary to avoid being killed by the other inmates.

As for Alex, Deakins wouldn’t hear of her leaving Major Case. She was too good a detective to let go, and he would have had her working on her own, if that was what it took to keep her. As it turned out, that hadn’t been necessary. Her next partner seemed to understand her in a way that none of her previous partners had, and she had finally settled into a good, working relationship with her new partner.

Deakins stared at the window of his office thoughtfully, watching through the Venetian blinds as Alex pulled her coat on, and then she and Bobby headed out together. Maybe Alex wasn’t aware of it, but she had just done for Bobby Goren what her last partner had done for her. A smile touched his lips at the realisation. Alex Eames and Bobby Goren had the potential to make a great team, he was sure of it. He only hoped they would each be willing to give the other a fair chance.


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