Fin wandered slowly down the hospital corridor in search of a cup of coffee to try and ward off the foul mood that had descended on him. Some hours ago… He wasn’t sure precisely when… Bobby had been moved out of isolation into a regular room in Critical Care. When he’d tried to get in to see him, though, he’d been stopped cold by the formidable nurse on the duty desk. Family only, he’d been told in no uncertain terms. He had started to protest that Bobby had no family to be there, only to be told that Bobby’s brother was with him.

Any relief Fin had felt at knowing Bobby had made it past another hurdle sank faster than the Titanic upon hearing that. He’d made a last, fairly feeble protest before wandering off to resume the seemingly endless task of waiting. He knew now that his chances of being able to spend some time sitting with his friend had gone from slim to remote, at least while Frank Goren was around.

He rounded the corner, and slowed to a halt as he realised he’d managed to do a complete circuit and end up right back outside the Critical Care wing. Groaning softly, Fin gave in to what seemed to be inescapable fate, and dropped into an uncomfortable plastic chair to wait it out.

“Are you a detective like my uncle?”

Fin looked around, and was mildly surprised to find himself staring into the dark brown eyes of a little girl who was, in turn, watching him with a very familiar penetrating gaze.

“My uncle is in there,” the little girl went on solemnly, pointing to the doors that led into Critical Care.

“What’s your name, kid?” Fin asked.

“Sophie Goren.”

The penny dropped. This had to be Frank’s little girl. He vaguely recalled Bobby mentioning that he had a niece that he’d never met.

“I’m Detective Tutuola,” he confirmed. Sophie continued to stare thoughtfully at him.

“Can I see your badge?”

Fin smiled a little and relented, taking his badge out and showing it to her. The little girl studied it intently for a long moment, then smiled and sat back in her seat.


“Your dad’s in there at the moment?” Fin asked.

“Yes. So is Mom. I had to wait out here. I wanted to go and see Uncle Bobby too, but the nurse inside said I might have germs on me, and it might make Uncle Bobby sick again.” She looked up dolefully at Fin. “And I had a proper bath this morning, and everything. It’s not fair.”

Fin hesitated, thinking back to how frightening it had been to see Bobby in such a terrible condition. Regardless of the reasons, he felt it was a good thing the little girl had not been allowed in to see her uncle. She would have had nightmares for a month.

“Detective Tu… Tutu…”

“Just call me Fin,” he told her, fighting back a smile at her embarrassment.

“Are you sure that’s okay?” she asked uncertainly. “It’s just, my daddy said I should never call a grown-up by their first name.”

“Did your daddy ever tell you that you should do what the police say?”


“Well, I’m a police officer, and I’m telling you to call me Fin. Okay?”

Sophie smiled sheepishly.

“Okay… Fin. Are you a friend of Uncle Bobby?”

Fin stared down at the floor.

“Yes, I am.”

Sophie breathed a sigh of relief. “Good. I’m glad you’re not like that other policeman. I didn’t like him.”

Alarms instantly went off inside Fin’s head.

“What other policeman?”

“He came past here a little while ago. He met a lady who was coming out of there. He said… He asked if the freakshow had had many visitors… But I didn’t like the way he said it, and I didn’t like him calling Uncle Bobby names.”

Fin drew in a long, steadying breath.

“What did he look like Sophie?”

“He was kind of tall… thin… He didn’t have much hair.”

“Elliot…” Fin growled softly.

“Why did he call Uncle Bobby a freakshow?” Sophie asked softly. Fin’s angry expression softened as he looked down at her.

“He was just jealous, because your uncle is a lot smarter than he’ll ever be.”

Sophie’s expression turned thoughtful.

“Daddy said that’s why I get teased so much at school, because I’m a lot smarter than all the other kids. It still hurts, though.”

Fin was just considering how to respond to that when the door opposite them swung open and Frank Goren came out. Sophie jumped up immediately, all but leaping into his arms.

“Daddy, did you see him? Is he okay? Did he wake up? Can I go see him yet?”

“Easy, pumpkin,” Frank murmured, hugging the little girl to him. “One question at a time, okay? Yes, I saw him. Your mother’s still in there with him. We hope he’ll be okay, but we just don’t know for sure yet. No, he hasn’t woken up yet, and no, I’m afraid you can’t see him just yet. I came out to see if you wanted to get something to eat.”

“No, I’m okay. I’ve been talking to Fin here.”

Frank looked around, seeing the other man for the first time. Fin didn’t bother to get up, continuing to watch Frank through a narrow gaze.

“Fin…” Frank said softly. “Why is that familiar?”

Fin did stand up then, drawing himself up to his full height so that Frank didn’t tower over him.

“I’m Detective Tutuola.”

Recognition lit up Frank’s eyes.

“Odafin… Well… I haven’t seen you since we were teenagers. Boy, it’s been a long time.”

“You know each other?” Sophie asked, sounding disturbingly like an adult. Frank smiled faintly, seemingly oblivious to the fact that Fin wasn’t.

“Fin… I mean, Detective Tutuola was our neighbour when your Uncle Bobby and I were kids. He and your uncle were pretty much best friends.”

“Still are,” Fin said firmly. Frank nodded.

“That’s great to hear. I, ah… I suppose you’re probably wondering why I’m here.”

“Ain’t none of my business,” Fin said. Frank’s gaze narrowed just fractionally as, for the first time, he picked up on the mistrust in the other man’s voice. A moment later, he brushed it aside.

“Have you seen Bobby yet?”

“Just from the observation room, when he was in isolation,” Fin answered guardedly. Frank nodded, and set Sophie back down.

“Sophie, sweetie, can you wait here for just a little longer? I’m going to take Detective Tutuola in to see your uncle.”

Sophie nodded and sat back down, trying hard to conceal her disappointment at being left out again.

“The duty nurse wouldn’t let me in before,” Fin said, frowning a little. Frank shrugged as he led the way into the Critical Care ward

“You’re Bobby’s best friend. You should be allowed to be in there with him. C’mon, I’ll get you past that old Trojan.”

Still Fin hesitated, not quite sure how to take the offer. He had honestly not expected to be allowed anywhere near Bobby while Frank was around.

“Thanks,” he mumbled finally, grudgingly, as Frank led him into Critical Care. Almost immediately, they were confronted by the duty nurse, a young woman with what Fin silently thought of as a ‘take-no-prisoners’ attitude.

“Detective, I told you before, you cannot come in yet! We have these rules for a reason, and if you can’t abide by them, then I’ll have to ask you to leave the hospital altogether.”

“He’s with me,” Frank stated firmly. “I’m taking him in to see Bobby.”

The nurse opened her mouth to protest, only to be cut off by Frank.

“I was told that as soon as he was moved out of isolation and into ICU, it would be my decision who was allowed in to visit him, and I want Detective Tutuola in there. Now please, don’t make me take this to your supervisor.”

The nurse backed down with obvious reluctance, stepping out of the way to allow the men through. Frank nodded curtly at her, and led Fin past.

“Look,” Frank said quietly as they came to a halt outside a nearby room, “I know you’re probably suspicious about me being here. I don’t blame you for that. I know I’ve caused a lot of problems for Bobby in the past, but I swear I don’t have any ulterior motives. I came to catch up with him, and so he could meet Sophie. That’s it.”

Fin returned Frank’s pleading expression with a stony look of his own.

“Like I said,” the SVU detective answered tonelessly, “ain’t none of my business.”

Frank grimaced at the all-too-clear dismissal in Fin’s tone before turning and leading the way silently into Bobby’s room.

Seeing Bobby through the observation window whilst he had still been in isolation was no preparation for the shock Fin experienced as he walked into the room to be confronted by the sight of his wounded friend. Oblivious to everything and everyone else, Fin made his way over to the bedside, and gazed down at Bobby, his breath catching in his throat as he struggled against the sudden threat of tears.

While much of the equipment that had been keeping him alive was now gone, a small number vital machines remained. He was still on life support, and there was a tube down his throat to assist him with breathing. There was an IV drip attached to each arm – one steadily pumping precious, life-giving blood back into his body, and the other supplying the nutrients that kept Bobby’s body from dehydrating.

“It’s a shock to the system,” Frank said quietly a few minutes later, startling Fin out of his trance-like state. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen him this still in my whole damn life.”

Fin drew in a shuddering breath.

“I thought he didn’t need that,” he said shakily, nodding at the breathing tube.

“Initially he didn’t,” Frank agreed. “But one of his lungs partially collapsed during the surgery to remove that bullet. It’s not irreversible damage, but the tube just takes away the pressure of his body fighting to do those simple things that we take for granted… like breathing. It’ll come out when he wakes up.”

Fin glanced back at Frank.

“And when will that be?”

“They don’t know,” Frank answered, his gaze focused entirely on his brother. “It might be hours, or days. That’s up to Bobby.”

Fin returned his attention to Bobby, and reached out tentatively to touch his friend’s arm. His skin was cool to the touch, though Fin guessed that was more because of the air conditioning, rather than Bobby’s condition.

Behind him, Emily caught her husband’s hand, and gently urged him towards the door. Frank nodded his compliance, and spoke quietly to Fin.

“We’re going to take Sophie and go and get something to eat. It would be good if you could stay here with Bobby… at least until we get back.”

Fin looked back at Frank, unable to hide his gratitude any longer.

“Thanks, Frank.”

Frank smiled tiredly.

“It’s okay. I’m just glad Bobby has a good friend like you on his side. C’mon, Em.”

Fin watched them go, then pulled a chair over and sat down next to his best friend.

“I would’ve never thought it was possible,” he said softly, shaking his head. “Frank’s on the scene, and he’s not acting like an asshole.”

He paused, staring at Bobby’s passive, unresponsive features and feeling that unpleasant chill deep in his gut once more.

“You gotta be okay, man,” he whispered, his voice coming dangerously close to cracking. “You hear me, Bobby? Don’t you die on me. Don’t you dare die on me! Hang in there, please… You’ve got a gorgeous niece out there, hanging out to meet her uncle… and you do not want to miss your brother’s miraculous change of attitude.” Fin chuckled, but it sounded harsh, and forced, even to his own ears. He went on tremulously, finding it almost painful in his efforts to control his emotions. “There’s a heap of people waiting for you to wake up, pal. You don’t wanna disappoint us. And your partner… Man, has she got some spunk. You’re a lucky guy, you know that? She’s gonna be okay, so you’d better be okay, too. You really don’t want to disappoint her, do you?”

Fin paused, watching Bobby in vague hope, but there was no response from the man lying in the hospital bed. The only sounds that met Fin’s pleas were the steady beeps of the life support machines that were keeping Bobby alive.

Slumping a little in his seat, Fin wiped miserably at his eyes.

“You’ve gotta live, Bobby,” he whispered helplessly. “You’ve gotta…”

Alex lay with her eyes shut, trying to keep her breathing as slow and even as she could and keeping as still as possible. Her performance had less to do with the fact that she had her father, her Uncle Marty and Aunt Sarah, and Jaime, her brother Philip’s wife, hovering over her than with the need to keep still for fear that her head would fall off if she didn’t.

Even though none of the bullets she’d been struck with had come anywhere near her head, and Black certainly hadn’t gotten a chance to physically lay into her, her head was still spinning as though someone had kicked it… or as though she was suffering a massive hangover. It was, she supposed, an unfortunate consequence of the pain killers and other drugs currently in her system, and without which she would probably be in more pain than was currently within her capabilities to imagine.

She withheld a groan with some effort. Unimaginable pain, or vertigo and nausea. What a choice to have.

And so she continued to lie quietly, deciding the dizziness and queasiness was easier to control than the pain. To try and take her mind off all of it, she focused on the quiet conversation going on around her.

“…keep saying that, but look at her! She was shot three times, Marty!”

That was Aunt Sarah, Alex thought ruefully. Out of all the cop’s wives in her family, she was the only one who had never quite learnt to cope with the constant uncertainty. When her husband had been on active duty, she had lived in absolute terror of a phone call, or a knock on the door telling her that he had been injured, or killed. Now that Marty was retired, her fear seemed to have transferred to those members of the family who still worked on the job. Namely, herself.

Poor Aunt Sarah had never quite recovered from the fact that her favourite niece had gone from being Queen of the Prom, and the dream date of every eligible boy in the district, to a gun-toting, hard-talking cop, just like her father.

“Keep your voice down, Sarah. She doesn’t need to wake up to hear your hysteria.”

“Hysteria? Well, excuse me for caring! Someone has to, since that giant ape of a partner of hers doesn’t seem to.”

Alex went cold, barely able to believe one of her family had just referred to Bobby is such a cruel way. She stayed frozen, waiting for her father and uncle to rebuke Sarah. To her great relief, they didn’t disappoint her.

“Don’t you dare talk about Bobby like that, Sarah!” John hissed angrily. “Not to me, and not in front of Alex! Damn it, he saved her life!”

“If it weren’t for him,” Sarah said harshly, “this would never have happened in the first place! You know that it’s true!”

“Would you keep your voice down?” John growled. Sarah glowered at him.

“John, that man was a disaster waiting to happen! And you’re no better! This is just as much your fault. You should never have allowed her to go to the police academy…”

“Oh, for God’s sake, Sarah,” Marty growled. “Lay off, would you? John could hardly stop her. She’s an adult, after all. What was he supposed to do, keep her under lock and key?”

“Can we please have this argument somewhere else?” Jaime whispered anxiously. “We’re going to wake her up!”

Sarah ignored Jaime, and focused her growing anger on her husband.

“What he could have done, Marty, was at least try to talk her out of it! But no, he was actually proud that she was following in his footsteps! It wasn’t enough to have Philip risking life and limb with the NYFD, he had to have little Alexandra out there on the streets with a gun!”

It was all Alex could do not to grin at her aunt’s analogy of ‘little Alexandra with a gun’. She imagined Sarah probably had a distinct image in her mind of a ten year-old tomboy Alex, playing Cops & Robbers with her little brother Philip.

“Yes, I was proud of her,” John argued as loudly as he dared. “I still am. I’m damned proud of her. And I’m proud of Bobby, too.”

Alex felt a burst of warmth flood her body at her father’s vocal defence of Bobby.

“You’re proud of him?” Sarah echoed in disgust. “For what, getting your daughter shot?”

“Bobby didn’t pull the trigger, Sarah. What he did do was get his gun back and shoot that son of a bitch to keep him from killing Alex, after he’d taken four bullets himself. He did everything in his power to protect Alex, and I’ll always be grateful to him for that. So for the last time, don’t you dare go mouthing off about him in front of me. Do you understand me, Sarah?”

“But look at her!” Sarah burst out, the volume of her voice rising rapidly. “Look at your daughter, John! She was such a beautiful thing in high school, and now…”

“What?” Marty growled. “And now what, Sarah?”

“The poor thing will be scarred for life, now!” Sarah finished off. “What man is going to want a thirty-something woman with bullet scars all over her? And it’s all the fault of that partner of hers!”

“I told you to stop, Sarah,” John said angrily. “You leave Bobby out of it. You have no right to be standing in judgement over him!”

Sarah looked at him in disgust.

“I can’t believe you’re defending him,” Sarah choked out.

“Bobby is a good, kind, sweet man, Aunt Sarah,” Jaime cut in firmly. “I’ve only met him twice, and even I know that.”

“Jaime, stay out of this,” Sarah warned her, but Jaime brushed off the warning, and Alex had to fight off a smirk. It was a real free-for-all now that Jaime had entered the fray, and Alex had to concede that she was enjoying listening to her father, uncle and sister in-law defending her partner so vigorously.

“I will not stay out of it,” Jaime snapped. “I will not stand by and do nothing while you run down someone who does not deserve it! For God’s sake, Aunt Sarah, he’s only a few rooms away, still on life support! They don’t even know for sure yet whether he’s going to live, and you’re standing here calling him names! Stop it! Stop behaving like the family matriarch, because God knows, you’re not.”

Alex felt a second, ice-cold wave engulf her at Jaime’s words, effectively washing away the warmth of their heartfelt defence of her partner. Life support… Bobby was still on life support… still fighting for his life…

She opened her eyes finally just as Sarah spoke again.

“Well, if you ask me, I think it would be better for everyone involved if they just turn off the machines, and let him die. Alexandra would certainly be better off without him, I guarantee it.”

Marty shook his head in disgust and anger, but any retort he’d planned on making was lost as he glanced down and saw Alex staring up at them, her brown eyes full of anger.

“Alex…” he stammered, “you’re awake…”

In an instant, Sarah was all sugar and spice, leaning over and grasping her hand.

“Alex, sweetheart, how are you feeling? Can I do anything for you?”

Alex stared back up at her, the anger all too visible on her face.

“You can get out.”

Sarah blanched at the blunt reply.

“Alexandra, honey…”

“Don’t,” Alex snapped, her voice filled with a level of acrimony that surprised even her. “I heard everything you said about Bobby. How dare you? What gives you the right to stand in judgement over him?”

Sarah opened her mouth to protest, but Alex looked away, even as the tears filled her eyes and over-flowed.

“Just go. Get out. And don’t come back until you’re ready to stop bad-mouthing my partner.”

Squaring her jaw and puffing her breath out sharply, Sarah wheeled around and stalked out of the room. Marty watched her go, then leaned over to kiss his niece gently on the side of her head.

“I’m sorry about that, Alex. I promise I’ll have a good, long talk with her tonight.”

Then he hurried out after his wife.

“She didn’t mean to hurt you, Alex,” John said quietly after a minute’s silence. “Sarah has a good heart… She just doesn’t have much in the way of tact.”

“None of what happened was Bobby’s fault,” Alex whispered miserably. “But he’ll think it was… It’s not his fault, but he’ll blame himself.”

“Then it’ll be up to us to convince him that he isn’t to blame,” John reassured her.

“How,” Alex choked out, “does she think it will be better for me if Bobby dies?”

“That was a damned stupid thing to say,” John agreed. “And it’s definitely not true.”

Alex looked from her father to Jaime.

“Bobby’s really still on life support?”

Jaime glanced worriedly at John, and then nodded reluctantly.

“Yes, hon. I spoke to his brother a while ago. He said it’s still very much touch and go. We could still lose him.”

Somewhere, in a distant corner of Alex’s mind, it occurred to Alex that Jaime had said ‘we’, not ‘you’. It registered in her tired mind, and some of that deep-set pain in her heart eased off, just a little.

“He can’t die,” she whispered, suddenly blinded by a flood of tears. “He… He just can’t!”

“We’re all praying for him, love,” John murmured. “It’s all we can do.”

Alex shut her eyes tightly, but it did nothing to stem the flow of tears. Never before had she ever felt so completely helpless, and she hated it with every fibre of her being.

She was sure, if she could only find a way to get out of her own hospital bed, that if she were to be with Bobby… that if she could just touch him, and let him know she was there and that she was all right, then somehow he would be all right as well. It was a ludicrous thought, and she knew it, but nor could she stop herself from believing in it.

“He’s my best friend,” Alex choked out in between shaking sobs. “I… I can’t lose him…”

“I know,” John murmured as he sat carefully on the edge of the hospital bed and drew his daughter into a protective embrace. “But remember what Philip said before, sweetheart. Bobby’s a fighter. He’s come this far. How about we all show a little bit of faith in him, hmm?”

Alex nodded once, comforted by the feel of her father’s arms holding her close. Yes, she thought as she cuddled in against him, able just briefly to ignore the burning pain of her injuries. Yes, she could do that.

Silence fell for a while as Alex relaxed in her father’s embrace, trying to let her mind go blank. She couldn’t stop her mind from going over her aunt’s callous words, though. As heartening as the support of her father, uncle and sister in-law had been, it still stung that Sarah had had such cruel things to say about Bobby.

Slowly, the conversation replayed in her head, her exhausted mind giving each harsh remark even more venom and viciousness than even her aunt had been able to put into them. Then, abruptly, Jaime’s words came back to her.

I spoke to his brother

Alex looked quickly at Jaime as comprehension suddenly sank in.

“Did you say Bobby’s brother is here?”

“Yes…” Jaime confirmed. “Oh… damn, I can’t remember his name.”

“Frank,” Alex said, and John regarded her curiously.

“You knew he had a brother?”

“Sure, I knew about Frank. I also know they’ve only laid eyes on each other once since their father’s funeral nearly nine years ago. Frank was a gambling addict. He came to Bobby a few times, begging for help to get him out of whatever hole he’d dug for himself. The last time… I think it was maybe six months after their father died… Bobby was still with Narcotics... I was just at the end of my stint with Vice… Frank came to see Bobby on the quiet… When Bobby told me about it, he said that that Frank had spun his wife some story about having to go to a conference, or something. Anyway, he begged Bobby for help to get the loan sharks off his back. Bobby refused to help, and Frank lost it… Bobby ended up in the hospital after Frank beat the crap out of him in a rage. If Frank is here now, it can’t be for anything good.”

Jaime frowned at the revelation.

“He seemed so nice, though. And his wife, too…”

Alex sighed softly. “Maybe he’s genuine. But I doubt it. Bobby won’t be too happy to have him here, either. Even if he doesn’t have an ulterior motive…”

John looked thoughtful.

“Well, he seemed genuine enough the other night when he arrived. He sure as hell wasn’t faking the tears when he saw Bobby in the isolation room.”

Alex shut her eyes. She was too tired, and in too much pain and discomfort to try and analyse Frank Goren’s possible motives for turning up now, of all times. John shifted, and gently helped her to lay down in the bed.

“All right, sweetheart. Just shut your eyes and rest.”

“Mm,” Alex mumbled. “Rest sounds good.”

John stroked her forehead lightly, soothingly.

“That’s it. Close your eyes and get some sleep. Just sleep…”

It wasn’t a difficult directive for Alex to follow, and as she slipped back into the peaceful, painlessness of sleep, her exhausted mind whispered a soft, desperate prayer for her wounded partner.

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