So this was what men were like when they were dropped into a fairly angsty situation, and had to spend a lot of time together in fairly close quarters, Alex thought with ill-hidden amusement. They effectively turned into complete bozos.

From the Moment they’d arrived at and settled into Bobby’s apartment, the pair had acted much like brothers who had been separated at birth and finally had the chance to catch up with each other’s lives. The topics of conversation so far – and it had only been a few hours – had ranged from all manner of sports, to cars, to women, and various other testosterone-centred discussions.

Not that it bothered her, of course. She had grown up with an older sister and a younger brother, and had been closer to her brother than her sister, so she wasn’t unfamiliar with male bonding rituals. It was amusing to her, nonetheless, to watch the two of them together.

It was also an interesting opportunity to her to have a good look around her partner’s apartment, under the guise of checking it out from a surveillance perspective. She had been inside Bobby’s apartment once before, but only briefly. They had stopped off on their way to a stakeout so he could grab a couple of things, and then she had just gotten a quick look at the inner sanctum of her partner’s life. Not surprisingly, the place had been jammed with books.

Books lined shelves on every wall, and where there was no shelf space, they occupied corners of the room in semi-neat piles. The subjects were as varied as books in a library. It seemed her partner was willing to devour just about anything he could in the way of literary fodder.

“How hard is it to get through the police academy?”

Alex looked around, her interest piqued by the question from the younger man in her protection.

“It’s hard work, but it’s worth it,” she answered. “Why? Thinking of joining?”

Jason smiled sadly.

“I already had. I was supposed to be going in to the academy in San Diego after I got home from this trip. I guess I’ll be putting that on hold, now.”

Alex looked over at Bobby, who wore a similarly sympathetic look on his bruised face. A fine trio they made, each one with specific dreams and goals, and each one with specific hurdles to climb over to reach those goals. She walked over and sat down on the sofa, next to Jason.

Bobby occupied his armchair, having refused to go and lie down on his bed, as per his doctor’s orders. Alex, for her part, had no desire to enforce that rule. Instinct told her that even workaholic Bobby Goren wouldn’t push himself beyond what he was capable of. He would go and lie down and rest when he really did need to. Surprised as she was by the realisation, it occurred to her that she did indeed trust him to regulate his own behaviour with appropriate restraint.

“Don’t give up on it, Jason,” she told him with quiet sincerity. “If it’s what you really want to do, it’s worth fighting for.”

Jason looked across at Bobby, and a small, knowing smile touched his lips.

“I know. Believe me, I do know.”

A bemused smile quirked Bobby’s lips.

“Don’t tell me you’ve been following my career as well?”

“Not so much me,” Jason admitted. “Dad… My Uncle Donavon, that is. He was a police psychiatrist when he and Mum lived in New York. He managed to get a few things out of my mother… my biological mother… and he knew you’d tried to help us. When we moved to California, Dad kept in touch with a couple of his friends, and they kept him up to date on what was happening with you.” Jason shook his head. “He gets angry even now when he thinks about how you were suspended after you were nearly killed saving my life.”

“Nearly killed?” Alex echoed, and Jason nodded.

“Yeah. He went into cardiac arrest in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. And then he was in Critical Care on life support for nearly a week before they dared turn it off.”

Alex looked at Bobby, truly stunned. She’d known he’d been stabbed, but somehow she’d convinced herself his wounds had only been flesh wounds, and not especially serious. This was news to her.

“You can’t tell me you remember that,” Bobby growled, and Jason smiled.

“You’d be surprised what I can remember. I was eight, and it’s not all that long ago for me.”

By that time, Bobby was looking more and more embarrassed as the minutes passed.

“Well, you were hurt too,” he argued. Jason nodded in agreement.

“Yeah, but nothing like you. What I had were only surface wounds. Alan tried really hard to kill you, and he nearly succeeded.”

“Twice, now,” Alex interjected, eyeing his plastered limbs and his battered features grimly. Bobby shook his head.

“This is nothing. This… It isn’t important.”

“Like hell it’s not,” Alex snapped. “Damn it, Goren, you could’ve been killed! And do you have any idea how much trouble I went to convincing Deakins it wasn’t as insane as it sounded to partner you with me?”

Bobby blushed red, but he continued to shake his head, dismissing his partner’s concerns.

“I’ll be fine. It could have been a lot worse. I could have been killed.”

“That’s the point exactly,” Alex reminded him.

“Can we change the subject?” Bobby pleaded. “Please…”

Alex barely hid a smirk.

“Fine. We’ll change the subject. Jason?”

Jason raised an eyebrow slightly.


“Tell us about yourself.”

“Well… what do you want to know?”

“Anything,” Alex said with a shrug. “School… Hobbies… Anything.”

A grin flickered across Jason’s face.

“Well, I finished school about five years ago… I’m twenty-three now.”

“Didn’t go to college?” Bobby wondered, and Jason shook his head.

“No, not exactly. I did do a business course that went for one year, but that was because at that point I was still planning on trying to open up my own karate school.”

“You learned martial arts?” Alex asked, and Jason nodded, his face lighting up with enthusiasm at getting the chance to talk about one of his favourite topics.

“Yeah. Mum and Dad enrolled me in a school in the town we moved to after leaving New York. I had my black belt by the time I turned twelve, and I was a fifth dan black belt by the time I was nineteen.”

Alex whistled softly.

“Impressive. You wouldn’t have to worry about the physical side of police training.”

Jason shrugged.

“I don’t know about that. It’ll be a help, though.”

“So why not stick with the idea of opening a school of your own?” Alex wondered. Jason’s smile faded at that.

“Well… The idea was that I was going to open the school with Tommy…”

“Tommy Oliver?” Bobby asked, and Jason nodded in confirmation.

“Yeah. We’d planned it for a few years. We knew it’d be hard work, but it seemed like it would be worth it.”

“What happened to change your mind?” Bobby asked. Jason stared at the coffee table, suddenly unable to look either detective in the eye.

“I went to Switzerland for a year when I was seventeen. It was part of a special program run by the United Nations. I was selected along with two of my friends to go.”

“I remember reading about that,” Bobby mused. Alex rolled her eyes in mock exasperation. Jason noticed, and had to fight back a smirk. Bobby went on, oblivious to their exchanged amusement.

“Students from all over the world were selected for that conference. It was run like a junior United Nations, wasn’t it?”

Jason nodded in confirmation.

“Yes, that’s right. There were students selected from every nation that belongs to the United Nations. Our school was asked to select the students for the US contingent, because our town hosted a peace conference a few months prior to the Youth Conference starting in Switzerland.

“When I came back, I expected everything to be the same as when I left, but it wasn’t. I mean, it seemed okay to start with… Some things had changed… A couple of my friends had moved on, and there were some new people… But it seemed all right for the moment. But then… I don’t know. Tommy just seemed to go cold on me. It was like he thought I was trying to take over, even though I wasn’t.”

Alex sighed.

“The one constant. Nothing ever stays the same. He was pretty hostile to you, huh?”

A bitter smile crossed Jason’s face.

“That’s an understatement. The last time I saw Tommy… before the reunion, I mean… we had a huge fight. The dumb thing is, I don’t even remember now what it was about. I just remember us both being so damned angry at each other. We just about ended up trying to kill each other.”

“And that’s what happened the night he was killed?” Alex queried. Jason nodded.

“Sort of. Except, I walked away before it got physical. Tommy accused me of being jealous of him, and I told him was full of crap. It was all stupid.”

He shook his head, looking from Alex to Bobby.

“Enough about me. What about you two?”

Bobby and Alex exchanged amused smiles.

“Us two?” Alex echoed. “How do you mean?”

“Well, have you been partners for long? Have you been with Major Case for long?”

Bobby chuckled softly.

“Eames has been with Major Case longer than I have,” he answered. “Four years longer, actually. I only joined Major Case a couple of months ago… and that’s how long we’ve been partners for.”

Jason hesitated, then asked a question that he was desperately curious to know the answer to.

“How come cops call each other by their last names?”

Neither Bobby nor Alex answered that immediately. The truth was, it wasn’t something that either of them had ever consciously thought about.

“You know, I can’t answer that,” Alex said with a laugh. Bobby, however, had gotten that thoughtful look on his face that Alex was quickly coming to recognise as the precursor to another of his theories.

“I think that it’s part professionalism,” Bobby said slowly, his gaze fixed on his free hand as he spoke. “But it’s also our way of not getting too close to anyone. It… It’s a dangerous job, Jason…”

“You don’t need to convince me of that,” Jason reminded him. “I already know. Remember?”

Bobby smiled, and blushed slightly.

“Sorry. I… I think that maybe it’s an ingrained culture… When you have a partner, you need to be close to them… You need to be able to trust them with your life. But… at the same time, you want to… to protect yourself if anything happens.”

Alex watched him, fascinated, as he spoke and, gradually, it occurred to her that he was referring primarily to himself, and his own experiences. He wanted to have a partner that he was close to, but he was reluctant to commit himself fully to that partnership… why?

He didn’t want to get too close, because he fully expected her to walk away from him… probably like many others before her. She’d heard the rumours, of course, that he’d gone through multiple partners in Narcotics before finally settling in with Fin Tutuola… And he had told her himself that when Fin took up a position with SVU, Bobby had decided to jump before he was pushed, which told her that he honestly expected every other detective in Narcotics to reject him… Just like it would have happened at Major Case, had she not stepped up and offered to partner him, she realised dimly.

She came back to reality to find Jason smiling in mild amusement at Bobby’s lengthy cross-examination of his question of why cops called each other by their last names.

“A bit more in-depth than I was expecting,” he said with a soft chuckle, “but that’s okay.”

“It’s partly true,” Alex conceded, “but I just want to ask you one thing, Goren. What did you call Detective Tutuola?”

“I called him Fin…”

Bobby trailed off, then grinned sheepishly, realising she’d effectively scuttled his entire hypothesis with a single, well-aimed shot. She returned his smile with a ‘no hard feelings’ grin of her own, to which he nodded amiably.

“You’ll find, Jason,” she answered, still smiling, “that when you find yourself a partner that you’re really in sync with… one that you trust, that it’s not such a big deal if you do start calling each other by your first names. The reality is, we call each other by our last names, because it’s easier. You’re less likely to have, say… two cops called Goren working in the same unit, or squad, than two guys called Bobby. It reduces confusion. That’s all.”

Jason looked at her curiously.

“It couldn’t have been easy for you, Detective Eames… getting into a squad like Major Case. You must have worked damned hard to get there.”

Alex watched him closely, searching for any hint of mocking, but there was none in the young man’s expression. He was entirely serious, and it occurred to her that Jason was not unlike Bobby, in that he seemed to have an utmost respect for women.

“Firstly, call me Alex,” she told him firmly, firing a brief grin at her partner. “Secondly, no, it wasn’t easy. But it was worth the effort.”

“You were in Vice before you came to Major Case, weren’t you?” Bobby queried. Alex was momentarily thrown by the question, until it occurred to her that she hadn’t actually talked about her previous postings with her partner.

“Yes,” she confirmed. “Five years with Vice. Not exactly the most prestigious place for a female cop to be…”

“Let me guess,” Jason said darkly. “You got to be the bait.”

She smiled, and patted his hand reassuringly.

“Yes, but it’s okay. None of us were ever forced into doing anything we weren’t willing to do… or capable of doing.”

“Was it dangerous?” Jason wondered, and Alex nodded.

“Yes… but like Goren said, being a cop is a dangerous job, plain and simple. Every job you do has an element of danger to it.”

“Unless you’re stuck behind a desk, doing paperwork,” Goren pointed out. Alex fired him a warning look.

“Which I know you love doing,” she retorted sarcastically, “so unless you’d like me to bring back all that paperwork for you that’s waiting on your desk, I suggest you shut up.”

Jason laughed softly. “You know, you two make a good match.”

Both Bobby and Alex raised their eyebrows at that statement.

“Oh?” Bobby asked. Jason grinned at him.

“You don’t see it? C’mon… Haven’t you ever heard the expression ‘opposites attract’?”

“Watch it, rookie,” Alex warned him, lifting a cushion playfully. “Don’t make me use this.”

Jason laughed, then, holding up his hands defensively.

“Okay, I give. But I’m not taking it back. You do make a good match.”

An instant later, Jason gave a muffled grunt as the cushion hit him full in the face.

“No fair,” he grumbled with mock annoyance as Alex shoved the cushion back in behind her. “I can’t retaliate without risking getting charged for assaulting police officer!”

Alex smirked openly at him.

“Gosh, that’s right, isn’t it?”

A second later, she yelped as a cushion flew across the room, hitting her in the face.

“Goren!” she burst out indignantly, even as Jason burst out laughing. Bobby offered her an apologetic smile that quickly fell away at the threatening look on her face.

“Hey… C’mon, Eames… You wouldn’t… I’m wounded here!”

Alex seemed to be just gearing up to throw the cushion regardless when the doorbell rang.

“Saved by the bell,” she growled, getting up and going to answer it. “And get that smirk off your face, Goren. I will get you back. You just aren’t going to see it coming.”

Bobby grimaced.

“Stupid me.”

Jason laughed. “Yeah, stupid you.”

“Watch it, junior,” Bobby growled, but couldn’t hide the sparkle in his eyes.

“Good match,” Jason reaffirmed with a grin, and Bobby couldn’t help but return the smile.

The truth was, he felt Jason was right. He and Alex Eames had only been partners for a little over two months, but he was feeling more confident in her company with every day that passed. Despite some uncertainty in the beginnings, she had stuck it out with him – though whether that was more to do with showing up the rest of the detectives of Major Case than actually wanting to make a genuine go of it, he would probably never know. She had stuck it out, and against all his usual instincts, he found himself trusting her more whole-heartedly than he had trusted anyone with, perhaps, the exception of Fin, and his old friend Ben Paxton.

They were not quite at that level of trust yet, but they were getting there. And, for the first time in a long while, Bobby felt that perhaps he could feel confident. It was a feeling that he liked, a lot.

Alex returned, bringing Deakins with her.

“Captain…?” Bobby greeted him tentatively, feeling a sudden shift in the room’s atmosphere. Something was wrong. He sensed it instantly, before Deakins had even had the chance to speak.

Deakins nodded in greeting.

“How are you feeling, Goren?”

“Been better,” he answered vaguely.

“I don’t doubt that,” Deakins murmured. “Listen… I have some bad news.”

Jason stiffened visibly.

“He’s killed someone else, hasn’t he? Alan… He’s killed again.”

“Yes,” Deakins confirmed grimly. “There’s been another murder. We believe Alan is responsible.”

“Who?” Jason asked hoarsely. “Kim, Billy or Zack?”

For a moment, Deakins looked baffled. Then, he shook himself back to reality.

“No, Jason, your friends are safe. They were all put on planes yesterday afternoon. It was none of them.”

“Then who?” Alex asked, frowning. Deakins was silent for a long moment before finally looking across at Bobby. The two men stared at each other for several long, painful seconds, and then Deakins answered softly.

“It was Ben.”

The glass of water Bobby had been holding slipped from his fingers and fell unnoticed to the polished wood, shattering on impact.

“No,” Bobby whispered, his already pale face turning to ash at the news. “No… That’s not possible. You’re wrong…”

“I’m sorry, Bobby,” Deakins said softly, hating that he had to deliver such devastating news to a colleague who already had enough problems to deal with.

Bobby sat frozen, his breath coming in short, sharp bursts as he struggled to digest the news. Ben… Ben was dead… And he was responsible.

Abruptly, Bobby launched himself to his feet with surprising agility, given the fact that he had an arm and a leg in plaster. Grabbing his crutch, Bobby crossed the floor as fast as he could, disappearing into his bedroom and pulling the door closed behind him.

“Damn,” Deakins muttered.

“Who’s Ben Paxton?” Alex asked, frowning. She knew she’d heard the name mentioned to her before, but damned if she could remember when.

“He’s the detective who took Goren under his wing years back, when Goren was banished to SVU. I spoke to Adrian Rice before I came here, and he told me that Paxton was effectively a surrogate father to Goren. Apparently it was Paxton who convinced Goren not to quit when he came out of hospital that time, and walked straight into an indefinite suspension.”

“Christ,” Alex muttered. “What a mess.”

Deakins took a tentative step towards the bedroom.

“I’d better go and talk to him…”

“No,” Alex said. “Captain, let me talk to him. Please?”

Deakins stared at her for a long moment, then nodded appreciatively.

“All right, Alex. Thankyou.”

“For what? He’s my partner, sir.”

He smiled faintly, and nodded in acknowledgement of her words.

“Yes. He is. All right, I need to get going. Will you all be okay?”

Alex nodded.

“We’ll be fine, Captain.” She nodded towards the closed door of Bobby’s bedroom. “He’ll be fine, too.”

“All right, then. I’ll see you later.”

“This is my fault, isn’t it?” Jason asked in a strained voice once Deakins had gone. Alex hesitated, then walked over and sat back down next to the young man.

“No, Jason, it isn’t. You aren’t responsible for what your father does, and don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.”


“Don’t,” she cut him off sharply. “Jason… Damn it, look… everyone makes a choice. Fifteen years ago, Goren and Detective Paxton had a choice. When your mother called Goren asking for help, they could have both chosen to ignore her. If they’d done that, then sure, Detective Paxton might still be alive now… And so would Tommy Oliver and Trini Kwan… but you’d be dead. And do you really think either Goren or Paxton could have lived with themselves if they hadn’t chosen to act?”

“I don’t know,” Jason muttered.

“Well, I do know,” Alex countered, “and the answer is no. I’ve only been Goren’s partner for two months, but that’s long enough for me to be able to say that with absolute certainty. He’s a very compassionate person, Jason, and there’s no way he could have chosen to ignore your mother’s call for help. Everything that’s happened since…? None of it is your fault. It’s not his fault, either. If you want to go laying blame, you put it where it belongs.”

“With Alan?” Jason asked meekly, and Alex nodded.

“Exactly. With Alan. Nowhere else.”

Jason sighed softly.


“Anytime. Now, will you be okay? I think I’d better go talk to my partner, see if he’s okay.”

Jason nodded.

“Yeah, I’ll be fine. I’ll clean up that broken glass off the floor, if you like.”

She smiled gratefully. “Thankyou. That would be a help.”

Alex rose up and, with a last critical look at the young man, walked across the floor to Bobby’s bedroom. She knocked once and, when there was no answer from within, pushed the door open and went inside.

Alex opened the door to Bobby’s bedroom to find the room in almost absolute darkness. She stood on the threshold for a long moment, peering into the murky blackness before venturing in.

“Jesus, Goren,” she grumbled, as she fumbled around searching for a light switch, “how the hell do you get around in here without tripping over something?”

Her fingers finally located the errant switch, and light flooded the room to reveal her partner sitting on the edge of his bed, shoulders slumped and his face pressed into his left hand. She didn’t think she had ever seen a man look as devastated as he did right then. Her heart went out to him, surprising herself with the amount of sympathy she felt for him.

“Could you leave me alone, please?” he asked, his voice sounding muffled and strained. Alex stood indecisively for a long moment before making up her mind and walking over to sit beside him on the bed. He looked up at her slowly, and her heart skipped just slightly at the sight of tears rimming his eyes.

“Are you deaf? I asked you to leave me alone.”

There was an edge to his voice, but Alex paid it no heed. He was upset. She didn’t blame him for lashing out, and she sure as hell wasn’t going to take it personally.

“I heard you. I’m just ignoring you.”

He started to turn away, but she caught his left shoulder to stop him.

“Ow!” he burst out, twisting away from her grip. Alex grimaced.

“I’m sorry, Goren. I forgot…”

“S’okay,” he mumbled, reaching around awkwardly to rub the sore joint. She hesitated, then pushed his hand away and took over massaging his shoulder gently. He sat stiffly, liking the feel of her hands massaging his shoulder, but reluctant to give in and simply enjoy it.

“Will you relax?” she grumbled finally as she crawled around behind him on the bed and continued her ministrations. “I’m not going to hurt you. And if you’re worried about the professionalism of this, maybe it’ll make you feel better to know that I learnt this from my last partner. We did it all the time for each other when one of us was stressed or upset about something. So just relax and enjoy it, because if I kill my hands on your shoulders, it’s going to be damned hard to explain to the captain.”

He made a conscious effort to relax, at the same time not quite able to contain the smirk that found its way onto his face.

“I… I’m sorry, Eames.”

“For what?”

“For… Well… For…”

She gave a short laugh.

“You can’t even finish that sentence, can you? And you know why you can’t finish it?” She went on without hesitating, not giving him the opportunity to reply. “It’s because you have nothing to apologise for. You just found out an old friend is dead. You don’t have to apologise for being upset about it, Goren.”

He considered her words for a moment before replying.

“He… He wasn’t just an old friend. When I was moved to SVU from the Two-Seven, everyone treated me like dirt. None of them wanted to give me a chance. I was there to be punished, and they all knew it. But Ben… He didn’t treat me like that. He asked for Captain Rice to assign me to him, and then he did everything he could to make things easier on me.”

“Sounds like he was a good guy,” Alex murmured.

“He was,” Bobby confirmed. He swallowed hard, then went on tremulously.

“He was pretty much the only friend I had for a long time. He took a huge risk when he decided to help me… after Melissa Scott phoned me that morning. He could have been suspended… or worse… and he had to know it. But he helped me anyway. And remember how I told you that afterwards, when I was on suspension, I really seriously considered quitting...?”

Alex nodded.

“I remember. I’m glad you didn’t.”

Bobby smiled tiredly.

“Well, Ben would have kicked my ass from here to Kingdom Come if I had. He told me when I was put on suspension that I wasn’t to quit. He said I’d done the right thing, and even though it didn’t seem like it at the time and even though he knew I didn’t believe him, there were plenty of cops out there that agreed with him.” Bobby sighed softly. “He was right. I didn’t believe him.”

Alex rubbed his shoulders gently.

“He was right, though. I know I’ve told you this already, but if you’d been in my parents’ place that day when you and Paxton took down Scott…” Alex smiled sadly at the memory. “Dad knew Alan Scott by reputation rather than actually having ever met him, but a lot of his buddies knew him, and they were all of the same opinion, that he was a degenerate scumbag. None of them liked him. When Dad heard about what happened, he called all his retired buddies, and they all descended on our place for the biggest party we’d had since New Year. Goren, tell me something. Do you remember getting a big basket of flowers while you were in hospital?”

He was silent for a long moment.


“Because my dad’s buddies passed a hat around, and they came up with a bit over a hundred bucks between them. Dad called the hospital and asked them to send the biggest basket of flowers that a hundred bucks could afford, and to send it to the room of the… quote, ‘hero cop who saved Alan Scott’s little boy’.”

Bobby met that with a long silence. Alex moved back to sit beside him again.

“What is it?”

“A huge basket of flowers was delivered to Ben’s room the night of that day. He said there was no card, or anything to say who it was from. I… I guess that was from your dad and his friends.”

“That should have gone to you!”

“I think the brass was kind of keen to keep all of that sort of stuff away from me… Didn’t want me thinking anyone actually agreed with what I’d done.”

Alex was incensed.

“Those sons of bitches. Are you telling me you never got so much as a get well card while you in hospital?”

“Just… Just from Ben, and a couple of other friends,” Bobby mumbled, staring hard at the floor.

Alex let her breath out in a frustrated rush.

“They really tried hard to force you out, didn’t they?”

“They tried, and if it hadn’t been for Ben, I might have given up and quit. He wouldn’t let me quit, Eames. He… He really looked out for me. I… I just can’t believe he’s gone…”

A strange, choked sound forced its way out of Bobby’s throat, and a moment later he finally broke down, sobbing into his hand.

Alex had experienced a partner breaking down in her presence just once before, and then she’d felt nothing but disgust and contempt for what she saw as an unnecessary display of emotion. To her quiet surprise, she felt no such disgust now, watching her newest partner crying softly beside her. Before she was fully aware that she was doing it, Alex slipped her arms around his broad shoulders, and hugged him gently.

“We’ll get the bastard, Goren. I promise you we’ll get him. He’s not going to get away with what he’s done, and I promise you that it’s not going to get brushed under the carpet again. I’ll make sure of it, and so will Deakins.”

Slowly, his sobs quietened, and finally stilled as he regained some semblance of control over his emotions.

“Thankyou,” he whispered finally. She smiled a little.

“You’re welcome.”

“N… Not just for this,” he told her tremblingly. “Thankyou for… for letting me be your partner.”

For letting me be your partner… His choice of phrasing left her momentarily speechless. Not thanks to her for being his partner… But rather for letting him be her partner. She suddenly realised he was speaking again, and had to force herself to come back to reality and pay attention.

“And if… if you want… you can call me Bobby.”

Inwardly, she understood the significance of him making that offer to her, to call him Bobby, rather than ‘Goren’. He was opening up, even if just a little to start with. He was opening up, and letting her in, letting her get close. It was a huge step for a cop who had plenty of reasons to be mistrustful of pretty much everyone around him.

“Not ‘Robert’?” she queried, keeping her tone gentle so that he didn’t get the wrong idea and think that she was mocking him. He blushed red anyway.

“My mom only ever called me Robert when she was… was mad at me. Otherwise, she called me Bobby. I… I prefer Bobby.”

She rubbed his back soothingly, bemused at her almost maternal desire to protect this big bear of a man who came across as so endearingly innocent.

“Okay, then, Bobby.”

It came out easily, and brought a smile to both their faces.

“And you know,” she told him, “you don’t have to call me ‘Eames’, if you don’t want to. ‘Alex’ is fine. Whatever you prefer.”

He smiled at her, a genuine smile that lit up his face and chased away some of the shadows that had gathered there.

“M… Maybe after hours… Alex.”

She didn’t argue, but instead smiled and nodded. She understood his otherwise cryptic response without having to ask for an explanation. He would happily call her Alex after hours, off duty, but while they were at work, he preferred to call her Eames. It wasn’t merely to keep things on a professional level, she realised as they looked at each other. It was also an outward show of respect to her. She understood that, and she appreciated it.”

“But I don’t mind you calling me Bobby,” he added quickly. “Anytime… It’s okay.”

Alex smiled again, but before she had a chance to reply, sounds from the living area of the apartment reached their ears. There was a loud crash, followed quickly by a cry of a pain that was cut off all-too-abruptly, as though the one crying out had suddenly had something shoved into their mouth.

“Stay here,” Alex warned him as she rose up from the bed, drawing her gun from where it was clipped to her belt.

Bobby watched her walk quickly and silently to the door of his bedroom and open it cautiously, gun at the ready and on full alert. She disappeared from sight out of the bedroom, and a moment later there was a muffled grunt of pain from just outside the bedroom door, followed by a distinct thud.

“Eames…?” Bobby called out tentatively. There was no answer. After a split second of indecision, Bobby started to reach for his own gun, where it sat in its holster on his night stand. Before he could grab it, though, his bedroom door was kicked open and a man whom he had honestly hoped never to lay eyes on again appeared, dragging Jason with him. The young man’s hands were handcuffed in front of him, and Alan Scott held a jagged piece of broken glass to his throat to keep him subdued.

“Get your fucking hand away from that gun,” Scott snarled. “Or I’ll spill this little bastard’s blood right here and now.”

Bobby froze, then slowly withdrew his hand.

How, he wondered, did the son of a bitch get in

“Good,” Scott growled. “Now, get up. Hurry up, I don’t have all day.”

Wincing at the pain through pretty much his entire body, Bobby picked up his crutch and got unsteadily to his feet. Scott sneered openly at him, and laughed cruelly at his pain.

“What’s the matter, Goren? Does it hurt? You don’t know what pain is, you son of a bitch, but you will. I promise you will know, by the time I’m done with you.”

“Let Jason go,” Bobby said tonelessly. Scott tightened his grip on Jason, and the broken glass dug deeper into his throat, cutting through the flesh and a thin line of scarlet blood trickled down his throat.

“You can’t be serious.”

“You want to take it out on someone?” Bobby pressed him. “Take it out on me, not Jason. I’m the one who got in your way.”

Scott gave a guttural laugh.

“Do I look like I’m open for fucking negotiations, Goren? Now, move. We’re leaving this dump, and going some place where we won’t be likely to be interrupted. And if you so much as look like you’re thinking about trying anything, I’ll slit Jason’s throat open before you can blink. Move!”

Bobby went, hobbling painfully out of the room. A quick glance around as he made his way to the door revealed Alex lying on the floor not far from his bedroom door, blood caked in her hair from a severe blow to the back of the head.

“Relax, she’s not dead,” Scott muttered as he dragged Jason along. “Not that I wouldn’t have slit her throat, but I don’t have the time and, frankly, I just couldn’t be bothered.”

It was all Bobby could do to hide his relief. That relief was drowned in dismay a moment later, though, when he headed out into the hallway to find the uniformed officer who had been standing guard at his door was slumped in a heap on the floor, dead from what appeared to be a single gunshot wound to the head.

“Keep moving,” Scott snarled. “You can’t do anything for him. Just worry your precious head about yourself, Bobby boy.”

Bobby made his way along to the lift, longing to do something, but knowing that any wrong move would result in Jason’s throat being cut.

“We’re going down to the car park,” Scott told him, and Bobby dutifully, if extremely reluctantly, pushed the corresponding button.

They rode down in silence, Bobby’s mind on fire as he searched through reservoirs of knowledge for a solution. For once, he could think of nothing, his prodigious mind failing to provide him with an acceptable way out.

“Head to the left,” Scott ordered him as the lift doors opened up onto the apartment building’s underground car park. “Over by the wall, there’s a black minivan.”

Bobby went, noting that the vehicle was different to the one that had hit him just the day before. Scott anticipated his thoughts, and spoke in amusement.

“I already had a change of vehicle lined up yesterday after trying to clean you up outside One Police Plaza. You really didn’t think I would have been stupid enough to keep that same van, do you?”

Bobby didn’t reply to that. It was bad enough listening to Scott’s grating laughter.

“All right, just stop there. Throw away that crutch.”

When Bobby hesitated, Scott shoved the glass harder into Jason’s throat, drawing a strangled sob of pain from the young man.

“Do it, Goren. Throw it aside. Right out of reach.”

Bobby tossed it away, scowling deeply at Scott. The other man appeared unconcerned at the animosity being directed towards him from the detective.

“Good. You can lean against the van if you need to. By the way… you really are a resilient bastard, aren’t you? I hit you head on yesterday, and you’re out of the hospital a day later.”

“It was you,” Bobby said flatly. Scott laughed out loud.

“Hell, yeah. And damn, it was satisfying, listening to the crunch as I hit you. Just a pity that pretty little slut of a partner of yours wasn’t closer. I could have gotten two birds with one stone… so to speak. Tell me, how the fuck did a little bimbo like that get to Major Case, anyway? She fuck the Chief of Police? Or did she go all the way up the line to the Governor?”

Pure fury flashed across Bobby’s face at the blatant insult to Alex and, with a strangled cry of rage he threw himself at Scott.

Taken by surprise, Scott was forced to let go of Jason to deal with the enraged detective who was, suddenly, right on top of him.

The two men struggled, but Alan already had the advantage of having both hands free, and no injuries to contend with, and he soon managed to wrestle Bobby around until he had the detective pinned to the ground. He wrenched Bobby’s plastered right arm back, drawing a howl of pain from him. Then, grabbing a fistful of Bobby’s hair, Scott slammed Bobby’s face into the concrete floor.

The effect was instantaneous. Bobby slumped against the floor, knocked out cold by the brutal blow to the head. Alan grunted in satisfaction and was just getting up when a foot literally came out of nowhere, slamming into his side and knocking him to the ground.

Alan looked up in shock to find his son standing there, pale and bleeding, but otherwise intact and clearly prepared for a fight.

“Jason…” he growled, getting slowly to his feet. Jason took a deliberately step forward, standing protectively over the top of Bobby’s unconscious form.

“Get the fuck away from us,” Jason exploded. “I’ll kill you, I swear to god I will.”

“You couldn’t if you wanted to,” Alan spat, but couldn’t help but feel uncertain as he looked into the angry depths of Jason’s eyes.

“Couldn’t I?” Jason countered softly. “If you know anything about me at all, Daddy, you ought to know that I’m a fifth dan black belt in karate. I’m legally registered as a lethal weapon. Now, if you don’t get the fuck away from us, I promise you that I’ll take you out myself. I’m fast, and I’m strong. Don’t you think for even a second that I couldn’t do it.”

The two stood in a silent face off for what was probably only seconds, and yet felt more like hours to Jason. Then, finally, Alan reached behind his back and beneath his jacket, and pulled out a glock, which he aimed at Bobby’s head.

“Are you fast enough to beat a bullet, Jason?” Alan asked coolly. “Because if you try to fight me now, that’s what your cop buddy here is going to get. A bullet to the brain. You might be able to get the better of me… Might. I’m not guaranteeing anything. But he’ll still be just as dead. Do you hear me, boy?”

In the end, Jason had no choice but to comply. He had been willing to risk his own life, but not Bobby’s life as well. His hands dropped as he gave up miserably.

Smirking with triumph, Alan stepped in and struck the young man hard across the face, landing a blow close to his temple. Jason crumpled to the floor next to Bobby, knocked unconscious by the blow.

Alan stood for just a moment, observing his two new hostages with interest before opening up the van and dragging first Jason, and then Bobby into the back and covering both with a blanket to hide them from prying eyes. Then, still smirking to himself, Alan climbed into the van and drove out of the underground car park, heading at last for his final destination.


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