A/N: Okay, this chapter may make me unpopular. Basically, though, this is the way this story is going. If severe Bobby-whompage bothers you, don’t read on.

To say that Bobby was unaware of the string of neurological tests that were run on him would have been a very big understatement. He was in and out of consciousness – more out than in – and it all passed in a blur for him.

When he was returned to his room in the ICU ward, there seemed to be a multitude of faces there, waiting for him. He recognised the captain, Fin, his brother… plus others whose names escaped him right then. They all spoke to him, but their words were just an incomprehensible jumbled to his exhausted mind.

What he was acutely aware of, though, was that the one person he really wanted to see… the one person he needed to see… was not there. Exhausted and distressed, Bobby eventually gave up searching for her and slipped once more back into unconsciousness.

“He was looking for Alex,” Fin said grimly once Bobby was asleep again. Fielding nodded.

“I gathered that as well. It’s unfortunate that his waking up coincided with the surgery on her shoulder. She’s not going to be mobile again for a day or two at least.” He paused, looking up at Deakins. “Even if we move her, bed and all.”

“We’ll just have to make sure someone’s here with him constantly,” Deakins murmured, “and that we keep telling him that she’s okay.”

Frank nodded in agreement.

“We can do that. It won’t be a problem, will it? Fin?”

Fin raised an eyebrow, slightly incredulous that Frank was including him, despite their earlier disagreement.

“No,” he agreed quietly, with reluctant gratitude. “It won’t.”

“Dr Fielding?”

Fielding looked around as Deakins emerged from the ICU room. He stopped, allowing the captain a chance to catch up with him.

“Yes, Captain Deakins?”

“You said you’re fairly certain he hasn’t suffered any neurological effects.”

“That’s right,” Fielding confirmed. “I’ll have to examine the results of the tests thoroughly, but I’m confident that they’ll all come up clear.”

Deakins drew in a steadying breath. That was a relief, but it was not the only good news he was hoping to hear.

“And what about his spine?”

The doctor sighed softly at that.

“Honestly speaking, Captain Deakins, it could be anywhere up to a month before we’ll know for certain just what the level of damage is there. There is still a considerable amount of swelling, so even if there is no permanent damage, I won’t be the least bit surprised if he has no sensation or mobility below the waist, at least to begin with.”

“But you’re not hopeful, are you?” Deakins asked, and Fielding responded with a grimace.


“Please,” Deakins said softly. “Be honest with me. I need to know the reality here so that I can give my detectives the support that they’re going to need.”

Fielding stared at him for a long moment before sighing and nodding in concession.

“All right, Captain Deakins. You’d better come with me.”

“You really don’t have good news,” Deakins said softly, in a voice that was filled with dread as Fielding ushered him into his office and bade him sit. Fielding regarded him soberly as he sank into his own chair.

“The good news, Captain Deakins, is that Bobby is going to live. And believe me when I say that I had my doubts about that, even just twenty-four hours ago. If he’d remained comatose for much longer, I honestly don’t believe he would have ever woken up. And if he had, it wouldn’t have been without severe neurological damage. As it is, I think he’s an incredibly lucky man. As far as the rest goes, you know we had to remove his spleen, and I know that you understand the risks that will pose to his health in the future.”

“I understand all that,” Deakins said impatiently. “Tell me something I don’t already know. Tell me what’s happening with his spine.”

Fielding paused, then, and stared piercingly at the captain.

“You don’t know about the bullet yet…? Damn, I thought one of your CSU people was going to tell you.”

Deakins felt a chill wash down his body.

“What about the bullet? I thought you said it was removed successfully?”

“It was, in that he survived the procedure, and at the time that was the best result that we could hope for. Anything beyond that was a very big bonus. The problem facing us now, Captain, is the damage that bullet did. Captain Deakins, it mushroomed and fragmented inside Bobby’s body.”

Deakins could literally feel the colour draining from his face. He knew as well as any cop the sort of damage that could be done by a bullet that mushroomed. And if that was what had happened with the bullet that had been pressing against Bobby’s spine, then the likelihood of a full recovery had just flown out the window, never to return.

“What you’re saying…” Deakins said hoarsely, “is that he’s probably never going to walk again.”

Fielding regarded him with a mixture of sympathy and sorrow.

“Captain Deakins, the scans and x-rays we took of Bobby’s spine when he was brought in, and again before the surgery to remove the bullet showed the spinal cord was partially severed. Unfortunately, the amount of swelling around the injury made it impossible for us to tell at the time just how much nerve damage there was. We’re waiting now for the swelling to recede so that we can re-evaluate, but I think that when it does all we’re going to find is that the nerves have been severed. If that’s the case, then there really is no hope. I’m sorry, Captain Deakins, but you wanted the bottom line, and that’s it. I’ve consulted in depth with the surgeon who removed the bullet, and we’re in full agreement. It’s almost a hundred percent certain, Captain. Your detective will most likely be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.”

As much as he’d tried to prepare himself for such a statement, the news still rolled through Deakins like a shockwave. He was immensely grateful all of a sudden that he was sitting down, because he felt sure that he would have collapsed, otherwise. And slowly, as he absorbed the news, he still found himself clutching at proverbial straws.

“But… this isn’t absolutely certain yet. There’s still a chance…”

“Captain Deakins, you wanted me to give you the hard facts. That’s what I’m doing. The chance that he’ll have any degree of sensation and mobility when the swelling recedes is extremely remote. I’m sorry.”

“So am I,” Deakins whispered, thinking with growing nausea about how Alex would react, and how Bobby would cope. Neither was going to take it well. Not well at all.

Helen Eames was alone in Alex’s room when Deakins walked in, and she offered him a warm smile.

“I just spoke to Alex’s doctor. He said she’s in Recovery. Apparently the surgery went very well, and she’s going to make a complete recovery. Isn’t that wonderful?”

He tried hard to smile, but in light of the news he’d just received, it was suddenly very hard to show any happiness.

“That’s great news,” he murmured, hating himself for letting his voice sound so flat. Helen regarded him with concern, her own enthusiasm fading rapidly.

“Jimmy? What’s wrong?”

“Bobby’s awake, finally,” he told her, and Helen raised her eyebrows in response.

“I would have thought that was good news, and yet you look like someone just announced the end of the world.”

He wandered over to a spare seat, and sat down miserably.

“For Bobby, that might just be the case, Helen.”

“Oh… What’s happened to him now?”

And suddenly, Deakins found he had to tell someone.

“I just spoke to Bobby’s doctor. He’s not hopeful that Bobby will ever walk again.”

A moment later, Helen sat back down with a soft thud, dismay on her face.

“Oh… Oh no…”

“They won’t know for certain until the swelling goes down, but they’re not hopeful at all. It… looks like Bobby is going to be left paralysed, permanently.”

He felt a strange wetness on his cheeks as he spoke, and realised he’d begun to shed tears without realising it. Footsteps suddenly sounded in the doorway, and John and Marty Eames appeared before he had a chance to wipe them away.

“Jim?” John asked in quiet concern. “What’s happened? Bobby isn’t… is he?”

“No,” Deakins murmured, feeling no comfort in being able to assure them that Bobby was still alive. “He’s not dead, thank God.”

Neither John nor Marty smiled at the news. It didn’t take much effort for them to know there was something else very wrong.

“Well, that is good news,” John said, “but there’s obviously something else…” And he trailed off as realisation struck. “Oh no… Not his legs?”

“It looks like permanent paralysis,” Deakins confirmed softly. “The bullet mushroomed inside him and partially severed his spinal cord. Really, it was a miracle they were able to get it out without killing him.”

“Sweet Jesus,” Marty groaned. “What a lousy blow.”

“I don’t know how to even start dealing with this,” Deakins admitted unhappily. “All I know is that if Bobby is pushed out on a disability, then it will kill him.”

“Then don’t let that happen,” John said calmly. Deakins regarded him incredulously.

“How do I manage that? If he’s in a wheelchair, then active duty is out of the question. And giving him a desk job that’s nothing but paperwork would kill him just as fast.”

“You could keep him in the squad as a consultant,” Marty suggested. “Or, maybe as your resident profiler. Let’s face it, Jim, he’s the only one you’ve got, and if you lose him your squad’s solve rate is going to plummet.”

Deakins fell abruptly quiet, struck by the idea of having Bobby employed exclusively for the purposes of profiling. It was an intriguing idea, and one that he already found himself starting to like. Not only would it benefit the squad, but it would provide Bobby with a purpose – and that was something that he would be completely lacking if he was forced to retire on a disability pension.

A faint smile touched Deakins’ lips. If he could pull that off with the Powers That Be, then not only would it ensure that Bobby could continue his career with the NYPD, but that it would also guarantee him a substantial pay rise. All in all, it was definitely something that was worth looking at, and soon.

“You’ll figure something out, Jim,” John told him quietly. “And in the meantime, we’ll all just have to pull together to make sure that Bobby deals with this. Bobby and Alex both.”

24 Hours Later

“Hey, buddy.”

Slowly, very slowly, Bobby prised his eyes open as the familiar voice drew him out of the dim state of semi-awareness that he’d been floating in. To start with, he could see nothing but a white blur that left him nearly blinded. He groaned faintly and shut his eyes again in reaction to the unwanted assault on his senses.

“Hang on a second…” the voice said. “Okay, Bobby. Try now.”

Reluctantly, Bobby tried opening his eyes again, and this time he was relieved to find the light and been dimmed considerably. He looked around himself slowly, dazedly. The first thing he noticed was a table in the far corner of the room that was laden with a few plants, a multitude of bright cards and many other gifts. Several helium-filled balloons bounced gently on the ceiling, all bearing variations on the standard ‘get well soon’ message.

He looked away again finally, and as his head turned, his eyes came to rest on the man who stood by the bedside, watching him with a relieved smile.

“Fin…” Bobby croaked out in a voice that was little more than a hoarse whisper, and the SVU detective turned away momentarily to fill a glass halfway with water. Setting a straw in there, he held it to Bobby’s lips, encouraging him to sip.

“Thanks,” Bobby whispered once Fin took the glass away again.

“No problem. Man, you know you look like crap, but it’s good to see you awake.”

“Thanks,” Bobby whispered again, and this time a wry smile quirked his lips. Fin grinned down at him affectionately.

“You don’t look much better than that night we went bar-hopping, after the Gambesi bust.”

Bobby drew in a shuddering breath.

“You… You remember that?”

“Nah, man. I’m just going by the photos.”

Silence met that statement, and then Bobby looked at Fin in horror.

“Photos…? Someone took photos?”

“Don’t worry, buddy boy. I’ve got all the negatives, I promise.”

The two men stared at each other for a long minute, and then Bobby groaned softly when he finally caught a glimpse of the mischievous spark in his friend’s eyes.


Fin laughed openly, then.

“Sorry, pal. But damn, it’s good to see your eyes open. You scared the shit outta all of us, you know that?”

“Didn’t… mean to.”

“Yeah, well, I’ll forgive you this time.”

Bobby sighed, and silence fell briefly between them. In the silence, his mind wandered, and it wandered to an inevitable topic.

“Have you seen Frank?”

It was with some effort that Fin didn’t snort derisively.

“Uh huh. Gotta give the guy credit. He hasn’t been doing his usual asshole act. Apparently, when you first woke up, he actually asked the doctor to contact me and let me know. Just between us, I can’t say I would’ve given him the same consideration.”

“Did… Did he tell you why he’s here?”

“He said he just wanted to see you again, pal. He swears he doesn’t want money or anything like that. Whether he’s telling the truth, I don’t know. But he said he just wanted to catch up… and introduce you to your niece.”

That caught Bobby’s attention.

“My… niece? Frank has a daughter?”

“Uh huh. Beautiful little girl called Sophie.”

“You’ve seen her?”

“Yeah, and if you ask me, I think she’s more like her Uncle Bobby than her old man. You’re gonna love her, man. She’s gorgeous. Not to mention bitterly disappointed that she’s not been allowed in to see you.”

“ICU rules,” Bobby mumbled, and Fin nodded.

“Right. Plus, there’s a nurse out there who could put Attila the Hun to shame.”

The faintest of smiles flickered across Bobby’s lips, but that was all. He was tired and hurting, but even more than that he was increasingly fearful for Alex’s wellbeing. Fin was no fool and, being a cop himself he knew what was going through his friend’s mind without having to ask. Leaning in, he spoke in a low, firm voice.

“She’s gonna be okay, Bobby.”

Bobby’s gaze lifted to meet Fin’s, both hopeful and fearful.

“Alex…? She… She’s really okay?”

“Yeah, man. She had to have shoulder and knee reconstructions, but it ain’t as bad as it sounds. She’s gonna make a hundred percent recovery. She’s more worried about you now than herself, and boy, was she pissed to hear that you woke up when she was in surgery. You know, she’s been up here three times in the last twelve hours to see you? I think her doctor’s about to have a heart attack. She’s supposed to stay put for at least forty-eight hours after that last surgery, but she keeps bribing the male nurses to help her into a wheelchair and bring her up here. That girl’s date card is gonna be full for the next three months if she doesn’t quit.”

“I wish I’d been awake,” he mumbled, and yet Fin heard some reticence in his tone. Again, he had no trouble guessing what that was about.

“Hey, Bobby, she doesn’t blame you for what happened, and she doesn’t want you blaming yourself, either.”

“No? Then who should I blame?”

“How about blaming the mutt that shot you both?” Fin suggested. “Look, I get that you feel responsible. But don’t go taking the blame for something that you couldn’t control!”

“He took my gun, Fin. I let him take my gun. That’s inexcusable.”

“Let him…? You… let him…? Bobby, what drugs have they got you on? Damn, if you weren’t laid up, I’d have decked you for that! You did not let him do anything! You ain’t psychic, pal. You didn’t have any way of knowing what that scumbag was gonna do. You can’t take the blame for that.”

Bobby looked away. All of a sudden, he was so damned tired.

“IAB might think differently.”

Fin felt a chill race down his spine at his friend’s words, and he leaned in closer still.

“You listen to me, Bobby. If IAB comes to you about this, you had damn well better not deliberately torpedo your own career just because you have a guilt complex.”

Bobby looked back at him incredulously.

“You think I have a guilt complex?”

“I know you’ve got that post traumatic stress syndrome thing. You must have, to be spouting bullshit like this.”

“So, you’re a shrink now?” Bobby asked caustically. “When did you get your degree? Because I must have missed that bulletin.”

“Same time you did, smart ass,” Fin answered calmly, and Bobby flinched, immediately regretful of his brief outburst.

“Sorry,” he mumbled. Fin hesitated, and then laid a hand gently on Bobby’s right shoulder.

“It’s okay, Bobby. You’ve been through hell, man. You’re entitled to be angry. Just not at me. All I’m trying to say is don’t go jumping the gun. Talk to someone… Skoda, or maybe we can get Huang in here to talk to you… before you go shooting off to IAB proclaiming your own guilt. Because if you do that, believe me, it ain’t me that you’ll have to worry about. It’ll be Alex. She’ll kill you long before I ever get a chance to.”

Bobby stared up at the sterile white ceiling, suddenly blinded by hot tears.

“I just feel like I let her down, Fin.”

“I know, buddy. But you didn’t. Everyone’s saying the same thing. You and her… You saved each other. Neither one of you would’ve been here now without the other. You dragged yourself across the floor to get your gun back and shoot Black to stop him from killing Alex, and then she managed to radio for help before losing consciousness, so that help got there in time to save you both. You guys are the absolute definition of a perfect partnership, Bobby. And you’ve got nothing to be ashamed of. I just hope it won’t be too long before you believe that too.”

He had nothing left to answer Fin, though. What little energy he’d had was gone, and he could feel himself sliding back into unconsciousness. The last thing he knew as darkness claimed him again was the reassuring pressure of Fin’s hand on his shoulder, and his friend’s voice in his ear reassuring him that everything was going to be okay.

When Bobby awoke again, he was surprised to find that he was reasonably alert, and relieved to discover that the pain seemed to be at a minimum. He lay still and silent, breathing slowly and evenly while he tried to gauge how he was feeling. He was still trying to decide when a warm hand closed over his right forearm.

His breathing quickened at that familiar touch, but he dared not open his eyes. He was suddenly terrified of what he would see when he looked into her eyes. He was terrified that he would see the same condemnation in her eyes that he had heaped upon himself ever since regaining consciousness.

Most of all, he was terrified of seeing confirmation in her eyes that he had finally screwed up badly enough to drive her right away.

“Bobby, I know you’re awake. Will you please look at me?”

He couldn’t, though, and he stayed frozen in the slim hope that she might actually believe that he was still asleep. It didn’t fool her, just as he’d suspected it wouldn’t.

“Bobby, Fin told me that you’re blaming yourself.”

Damn big mouth, Bobby thought ruefully.

“You have to stop thinking like that,” Alex went on. “You didn’t do anything wrong.”

Still not daring to open his eyes, Bobby drew in a shuddering breath, and spoke in a trembling whisper.

“I let him take my gun, Alex. It’s my fault that you were shot.”

He felt, rather than heard, her sigh.

“That’s my Bobby. Smartest guy in the NYPD, and also the dumbest. You idiot, will you please open your eyes and look at me?”

Her voice took on a distinct edge that he instinctively could not ignore, and he finally opened his eyes and looked over at her. The very first thing that struck him was the look in her eyes. He could read a lot in their depths, but the condemnation that he’d expected to see was not there. He read sadness, relief, confusion, compassion… but no condemnation or anger.

“Now that I’ve finally got your attention, Bobby, I want you to look at your left wrist. Go on, look at it.”

His eyes went slowly to the plaster that encased his left wrist, and he stared at it blankly. Alex sighed again, this time in frustration.

“Damn, Bobby. How is it that you can make the most incredible leaps of logic, and yet when it comes to anything about yourself, you can’t see what’s right in front of your face?”

He looked genuinely confused, she thought bemusedly.

“I… I don’t understand…”

“Don’t you remember, Bobby? Black grabbed your wrist, and he snapped it like a piece of chalk. He dislocated your shoulder in the process, too. Then he grabbed your gun. You’re a pretty tough guy, Bobby, but not even you could have recovered from the shock and pain of that quickly enough to stop that son of a bitch from taking your weapon. You’re only human, just like the rest of us mere mortals.” She paused, and then added in a soft, stricken tone, “And besides, if anyone other than Black is to blame for what happened, then it’s me, for not backing you up.”

That caught Bobby’s attention, and he looked around at her in horror.

“What? No! Alex, it wasn’t your fault!”

“Okay, then,” she conceded. “I’ll make you a deal. I won’t blame myself, and you stop blaming yourself. Is that a reasonable deal?”

For several long seconds they stared at each other in absolute silence. Then, finally, a rueful smile broke out across Bobby’s lips.

“Smooth, Eames. Very smooth.”

She smiled back at him, and squeezed his right hand gently.

“That’s why I’m still senior detective. But seriously, Bobby, you didn’t do anything wrong. Neither did I. Do you think you can possibly accept that?”

Bobby let his breath out slowly as he gazed at her pale face. Coming from anyone else, he thought no, probably not. But coming from Alex?

“Yes,” he whispered, taking enormous relief in the concern and kindness that radiated out from her entire being. “I think I can.”

She smiled warmly at him, but before she had a chance to say another word, a nurse entered the room and spoke enthusiastically when she saw Bobby was awake.

“Well, good, you’re awake finally. I’ll go and get Dr Fielding. He’s just a few rooms down seeing another patient. He wanted to see you and talk to you when you woke up.”

Bobby looked across at Alex, puzzled, as the nurse exited the room.

“Dr Fielding…?” he asked wearily, and she nodded as she let her fingertips stroke lightly along his forehead.

“That’s the doctor who’s been taking care of you. He’s a good guy, Bobby.”

And then Bobby remembered his first moments of awakening, and the doctor that had been there, and who had asked such an idiotic question as ‘how are you feeling’.

“Yeah,” he mumbled. “I think I remember him.”

The soothing sensation of her touch on his forehead was relaxing him better than any drug might have been able to, and he was sorely tempted to let sleep take him once more. Even as he was contemplating that, though, movement in the doorway drew his attention, he quickly recognised the man there as being the same doctor whose face he had awoken to before.

“Welcome back, Bobby,” Fielding said with a smile as he leaned over to look into Bobby’s eyes, testing his ocular reflexes with a light. “I’m very, very happy to see you awake and alert. Don’t worry, though. I promise you that I won’t ask you how you’re feeling again. I imagine I can probably guess that.”

“Thankyou,” Bobby mumbled tiredly. Alex squeezed his hand reassuringly, and then looked over at the doctor.

“He’s hurting.”

Fielding nodded amiably.

“I don’t doubt it. Don’t worry, Alex. I just need to check a few minor things, and then I’ll be able to give him something to help with the pain.”

The doctor paused, then, eyeing Bobby thoughtfully and wondering whether it would be the right thing to talk to Bobby straight away about his legs, or if he should wait for a more opportune moment. He recalled with almost painful clarity the tail end of his conversation with Captain Deakins, from the previous day, with Deakins advising him strongly not to delay in giving Bobby the truth about his condition.

You have to tell him the truth, Dr Fielding.”

I will,” Fielding assured him, but Deakins shook his head.

No, Dr Fielding, you’re missing my point. You have to tell him as soon as possible. If it were anyone else, then yes. You could wait and tell them whenever you felt it was a suitable time, but this is Bobby Goren that we’re talking about. You need to believe me when I tell you that he will know, and the longer you delay talking to him about it, the worse it’s going to be. You need to be completely honest with him, and don’t try to dumb down for him, either. Because he understands the terminology and he won’t appreciate being treated like a fool.”

“There’s something wrong, isn’t there?”

Fielding grimaced as Bobby’s words cut into his consciousness.

“Your captain told me you were perceptive. More fool me for not paying attention to him.”

Beside Bobby, Alex sat up a little straighter, staring at Fielding tensely.

“What is it? What’s wrong?”

Fielding hesitated just briefly before walking over and shutting the door, and then returning to the bedside.

“I’m afraid there is bad news. And it is very bad news. It isn’t a hundred percent confirmed yet, but the likelihood that it isn’t permanent is extremely remote.”

“What?” Alex demanded, and Fielding could hear the first hints of panic and outright terror in her tone. Bobby, however, was lying still and quiet, watching him through half-closed eyes. He knew, Fielding thought grimly. He already knew...

Drawing in a long breath, Fielding side-stepped so that he was standing level with Bobby’s legs.

“Bobby, I want you to shut your eyes.”

Bobby regarded him quizzically, but then conceded and shut his eyes. Fielding lifted the blankets and exposed Bobby’s feet and legs. Deliberately avoiding looking at Alex, he drew a pin from his pocket and, holding his breath, he jabbed the sharp end into the sole of Bobby’s foot, hard enough to draw a pinprick of blood. As he’d feared, Bobby didn’t so much as flinch in response.

“Bobby, didn’t you feel that...?” Alex asked worriedly.

“Feel what?” he asked, starting to sound annoyed.

“Open your eyes,” Fielding told him, and Bobby did so. Then, as Bobby watched, Fielding jabbed him with the pin once more, this time on the ankle, so that Bobby could clearly see what he was doing. Again, there was no reaction.

“Bobby...?” Alex asked softly, and this time the fear in her voice was unmistakable.

“I... didn’t feel that,” Bobby said softly, tonelessly. “I didn’t feel you do that.” He paused, frowning at the futile effort of trying to move his legs. “I can’t feel them... I can’t move them.” He looked from Alex to Fielding, and for the first time Fielding saw a spark of genuine fear in the other man’s eyes. “I can’t move my legs. Why can’t I move my legs?”

“We believe you have severe nerve damage,” Fielding told him quietly.

“How severe?” Bobby asked, and Fielding paused for just a moment to consider his next words before going on.

“Keeping in mind that there is still a chance that I and my colleagues could be wrong... although, I think it’s only a very slim possibility...”

“Get to the point, Dr Fielding,” Bobby said sharply, his voice taking on an edge. Fielding nodded apologetically.

“All right. Here are the facts. When you were brought to us after being shot, we were able to remove all the bullets except one. That last one was resting against your spine, and we had to wait for a specialist to arrive before we could hope to remove it successfully.”

“Successfully?” Bobby queried, and Fielding nodded.

“Successfully, as in you surviving the operation. Anything beyond that was considered a bonus. Now, because there was so much swelling around the area where the bullet was, the scans and x-rays we took didn’t give us an accurate picture of the situation. It wasn’t until we actually opened you up again and got to the bullet that we discovered it had mushroomed and fragmented.”

“Oh god...” Alex whispered in horror.

“Our thoughts, too,” Fielding agreed. “The part of the bullet that was still intact was removed, but the fragments... They were very small, very sharp fragments that were pressing against the nerves in your spine. We can’t be certain yet, because of the amount of swelling that’s still there, but our suspicions are that those fragments have severed the nerves, and caused irreversible damage.”

“So...” Alex said hoarsely when Bobby didn’t speak. “What you’re saying is that... he may never walk again? Is that what you’re trying to tell us?”

Fielding sighed softly.

“We’re trying very hard not to anticipate anything yet, but the bottom line is that the paralysis and lack of sensation that you’re experiencing now is not likely to change.”

Absolute silence met his words, from both Bobby and Alex. She was watching Bobby intently, while he lay still and silent, staring at his legs with an inscrutable gaze.

“You’re certain about this, aren’t you?” Alex asked softly, and Fielding could hear all of the horror, fear and despair in her voice that he would have expected from a best friend and partner.

“Yes,” he confirmed with sad reluctance. “I’m afraid I am.” He looked back to Bobby, and noted with concern that Bobby appeared to have sunk back into the pillows, and was now staring up at the ceiling.

“Bobby...” he started to say, but Bobby cut him off in a voice that was almost toneless, and emotionless.

“I’m in a lot of pain. Can you please do something about it?”

Fielding bit back a sigh. Bobby was reacting just as Jim Deakins had warned that he would. He was shutting down emotionally, and Fielding didn’t have the first clue about how to reverse it. All he could do was hope that Alex’s presence would somehow help to put the brakes on the man’s burgeoning depression.

“All right, Bobby,” he conceded quietly, and walked around to prepare an injection of morphine into the IV. Alex’s attention flickered between Fielding and Bobby, growing distress evident on her pale face.


He didn’t react to her voice, and she tried again with a touch of desperation in her tone.

“Bobby, please talk to me.”

He still didn’t say a word, but when she tried to withdraw her hand from his, she suddenly found that she couldn’t. Looking down, she realised that his hand had closed tightly around her own, and he wasn’t letting go. She returned her gaze to him, just in time to see a single tear roll down the side of his face.

He was scared, she realised numbly. No, not scared, she corrected herself a moment later. He was terrified, and with just cause. In one fell swoop, his entire life had just been thrown into utter chaos. Tears welling up in her eyes, Alex grasped his hand firmly once more.

“I’m here, Bobby,” she whispered in between ill-suppressed sobs. “I’m staying right here. It... It’s going to be okay... somehow.”

She felt sickened at the inadequacy of her own words, but there was little more she could say for she felt at an utter loss to reassure herself, let alone Bobby. All of a sudden, the future looked very, very bleak – for both of them.

Fielding injected the morphine through the IV, all the while watching both Alex and Bobby out of the corner of his eye. He was deeply worried for the both of them, and made a mental note to organise intensive counselling immediately.

“The morphine should take effect fairly quickly,” he said quietly as he cleared up the waste products left over. “It may make you a little drowsy. I suggest you don’t fight it if it does. The best thing for you right now is rest.” He paused in turning towards the door, looking sympathetically at Alex. “For both of you. I’ll send in a nurse in another ten minutes or so to check on you both. And... for what little it’s worth... I really am sorry.”

Then he was gone, leaving them alone.

Alex looked back to her partner, almost breathless with fear as the reality of the situation before them steadily sank in.


“It’s over.”

She felt a chill race down her spine at his words, and had to struggle not to make assumptions over what he meant by them.

“What is?” she asked, barely able to keep her voice from shaking. She realised dimly that she had never been this frightened in her entire life – not even when her husband had died, leaving her alone to face an uncertain future. Not even when her mother had suffered a stroke... Not even when she had watched Dylan Black advance on her in that warehouse, ready to kill her. She had never been so scared before, and it was making her sick to her stomach.

Silence met her question. He didn’t answer, and continued to stare up at the ceiling, as though she wasn’t even there in the room with him. She could feel him shutting down, shutting her out, and she was desperate to stop it, but she didn’t even know where to start.

She was about to ask again when he did speak, although his voice was barely audible to her ears.

“My career. My... My life.”

And, for the first time since Fielding had broken the terrible news to them, Alex felt a white hot flare of anger overtake her fear and distress.

“I don’t know what the future holds for your career, Bobby,” she said tensely. “I won’t try to guess at that, and I know you’re scared. So am I. But your life is not over, and I swear to God I’ll kick your ass if I ever hear you say that again. Do you hear me, Robert Goren? I will kick your ass.”

He looked around at her slowly, his attention drawn by her vehemence. They locked stares for nearly a minute before Bobby spoke again.

“Even... Even if I can’t feel it?”

She couldn’t help it. Alex snorted once, and then burst out laughing. A moment beyond that, Bobby had joined her and was laughing, too.

“You see?” she choked out as she wiped at her wet eyes. “It doesn’t have to mean the end of the world, and if we can still laugh...”

His laughter had already faded, but a small smile remained on his lips. It was a sad smile, but a smile all the same, and it warmed Alex to see it.

“I’m scared, Alex,” he admitted softly. She slipped her hand out of his, and reached up to cup his cheek gently.

“I know. I am, too. But we’ll get through this. Even if...” She drew in a long breath, steeling herself. “Even if your career as a cop is finished, that doesn’t mean we’re finished. You’re my best friend, Bobby, and I promise that I’m going to stick with you all through this. Just don’t give up on me, okay?”

He reached up and closed his trembling hand over hers.

“Thankyou,” he whispered, fresh tears in his eyes, and she smiled in return.

“De Nada.”

It took only a few minutes more for the morphine to take effect, and by the time a nurse looked in on them, Bobby was asleep once more. Alex made no objections when they took her back to her room. She was emotionally drained from the shock of the news, and had no energy to deal with anyone or anything. Therefore, she didn't know whether to be happy or dismayed to arrive back at her room to find Olivia Benson waiting there for her, with her partner in tow.

“Hey, Alex,” Olivia greeted her warmly as the orderly assisted Alex back into her bed. It took more than a little effort for Alex to respond in kind as Olivia leaned in to hug her gently and kiss her cheek.

“Hey.” Her gaze flickered to the man who was hovering in the doorway, and she offered him a weak smile. “You can come in, Elliot. I don't bite. At least, not from a hospital bed.”

Elliot chuckled and ventured all the way into the room.

“Sorry. Just didn't know if I was welcome.”

Alex raised an eyebrow in question, and Olivia tried to laugh it off, while throwing her partner a dark frown in warning. The last thing Alex needed right then was to know about Elliot's attitude towards her partner.

“Just ignore him. He's had some issues lately. How are you feeling, honey?”

“Like I got shot three times,” she answered softly, trying with little success to settle back against the pillows.

“I'll bet you do,” Olivia agreed. She paused, and then spoke carefully. “You were with your partner? Before, I mean.”

And all of a sudden, Alex found herself struggling not to cry again.

“Yes,” she answered, staring down intently at the blankets. “He... He's awake, finally. He... um...”

“Alex?” Olivia asked anxiously. “What is it?”

Before she could stop them, the tears were suddenly rolling down Alex's cheeks. When she did eventually look back up, she could barely see either Olivia or Elliot for the tears.

“The last bullet... It mushroomed, and fragmented... S... Severed the nerves in his... his spine... He... He's never going to walk again...”

She descended into a flood of tears, unable to get another word out. Glancing anxiously at Elliot, Olivia wrapped her arms around Alex in a comforting embrace. Elliot stepped closer, reaching out tentatively to touch Alex's shoulder in a gesture of support.

“They can't be sure of that yet, can they?” he wondered. “I mean, there must still be a lot of swelling, so how can they know for sure that the damage is permanent?”

“That's what I asked,” Alex told them miserably. “Dr Fielding said that even though there was still some swelling, it didn't make any difference. He's paralysed, and there's nothing they can do about it.”

“Ah, crap,” Elliot muttered, feeling all the more guilty for his callous attitude towards Bobby. Sparing her partner another look, Olivia hugged Alex to her once more.

“It’s going to be okay, Alex,” she murmured. “It’ll work out somehow.”

Alex, however, pulled back out of Olivia’s embrace.

“No,” she choked out. “It won’t be okay. It’s never going to be okay!”

“What’s going on here?”

They all looked around in time to see John Eames and Jimmy Deakins walk into the room. Deakins paused, took one look at Alex’s stricken expression, and quickly guessed what was wrong.

“You know,” he said quietly. By then, Alex was too distraught to register the fact that Deakins knew ahead of her.

“Dr Fielding... He told us...”

“Us?” John echoed, exchanging a worried glance with the captain. “Us, as in you and Bobby?”

“Yes,” Alex whimpered. “He... He told us both together... when I was with Bobby before.”

“Oh, damn,” John muttered, but Deakins shook his head.

“No, he needed to be told as soon he was alert enough to understand. If Fielding hadn’t told him, it would only have made it worse for him.” He looked back to Alex anxiously, feeling lousy at questioning her like this but needing to know all the same. “How did Bobby take it, Alex?”

“Not good,” Alex answered tearfully. “He started to shut down... didn’t want to talk to anyone... He wouldn’t look at me. I think I managed to stop him... you know, from shutting down totally, but only while I was with him. I... I don’t know what he’ll be like when he wakes up again.”

“Wakes up?” Deakins echoed. “So, he was asleep when you left him?”

“Yes. He... Bobby... He practically asked Dr Fielding to sedate him. Dr Fielding gave him a dose of morphine for the pain he was in, and it knocked him out pretty quickly. But... He’s scared. He is really, really scared. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him as scared as that, ever. Not in all the time I’ve known him.”

“Well, I suppose he’s got a damned good reason to be scared,” John conceded grimly. “His entire world has just been turned totally on its head.”

Deakins nodded in agreement.

“He’s going to be scared at the prospect of losing his partnership with Alex... losing his job... of losing his independence.”

“He’s scared that he’s going to lose me,” Alex said shakily. “And, I don’t know how to start convincing him that he won’t.”

“He’s in a position no cop should ever have to find themselves in,” John murmured. “So, we’re just going to have to find a way to convince him that he doesn’t have to deal with this alone, and that none of us are going to abandon him.”

“That will be easier said than done,” Alex said bitterly. “He’s hard enough to reach ordinarily. Now, it’ll be like trying to dig through a brick wall with a plastic spoon.”

John nodded determinedly.

“Well, we’ll just have to find a way to reach him, together.”

Deakins emerged from the hospital into bright sunlight that had him momentarily shielding his eyes. He stood there on the steps for the moment, waiting for his vision to adjust to daylight after the dimly lit hospital wards, before heading on down the steps. He’d almost reached the bottom when someone stepped abruptly into his line of sight, startling him into reaching for his gun.

“Easy, Jim,” Ron Carver told him, holding his hands up defensively. “It’s just me.”

Deakins sighed heavily in visible relief.

“Sorry, Ron. We’re all a little on edge at the moment with Dylan Black still on the loose.”

Carver nodded.

“I understand, and that’s actually the reason I’m here.”

Deakins regarded him sharply.

“Oh? Do you want to elaborate on that, Ron?”

“Arthur Branch contacted me, and asked me to find you to let you know. Dylan Black has surfaced. He placed himself into his lawyer’s custody a couple of hours ago, and his lawyer turned him in to the police on the condition that he suffers no retribution.”

“Retribution,” Deakins snorted derisively. “That slimy son of a bitch. He knows every cop in this city is out for blood for what he did to Bobby and Alex. If all he gets out of it are a few bruises, then he can count himself damned lucky.”

“Be that as it may,” Carver said, “it’s in the best interests of us all to ensure that nothing is done to him to give him ammunition.”

“So, where is he now?”

Carver hesitated at that, and Deakins frowned in growing suspicion.

“Ron? Where is Black?”

Carver sighed softly, and pointed back at the hospital. Deakins’ jaw dropped.

“You have got to be kidding me! They sent him to the same hospital that Bobby and Alex are in? Who’s decision was that?”

“I don’t know,” Carver admitted, “but be assured that he is under strict guard, and he’s apparently on the other side of the hospital to your detectives. He won’t be getting anywhere near them.”

“Son of a bitch should never have been brought here to begin with,” Deakins said heatedly. Carver regarded him grimly.

“The man was shot, Jim. We’re obliged to see that he gets satisfactory treatment. You know that.”

“I know it,” Deakins conceded. “But I don’t have to like it. Damn it, Ron, you haven’t seen Alex or Bobby.”

“I heard that Detective Goren is awake finally,” Carver said carefully.

“He is, thank God,” Deakins confirmed. “But it’s not all good news. There are some other issues... big issues. It’s not good.”

Carver fell silent, wondering about the wisdom of telling the captain anything more. He had to, though, whether he liked it or not.

“Jim... There’s something else you need to know.”

“What now?” Deakins asked wearily as they reached his car.

“It’s Black,” Carver told him quietly. “Please stay calm, but you need to know... He’s filed a complaint against Detective Goren and Detective Eames.”

Deakins stood frozen, and his hand trembled visibly where it rested against the door of his car.

“He... what?”

Abruptly, Carver sincerely wished he had not agreed to tell this particular item of news to the captain.

“Dylan Black has filed a complaint of harassment against Detective Goren, and a brutality complaint against both Detectives Goren and Eames. And, he claims that what he did to them was done purely in self defence. He claims the detectives threatened to kill him if he didn’t confess to the murder of his uncle.”

“This is bullshit, Ron. You know as well as I do that Bobby and Alex wouldn’t have done anything like that.”

“I know it,” Carver agreed, “and you know it. But this is the sort of mud that can stick to good cops like them, and end their careers. We’re working to minimise the damage, but the bottom line is that it’s going to come down to Goren and Eames’ words against Dylan Black’s. And if we automatically support the detectives, then the media will be screaming police bias before we have a chance to stop them.”

“So, what you’re saying is that the DA’s office is going to hang Bobby and Alex out to dry,” Deakins said flatly, causing Carver to wince.

“No, that is not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is that we are going to have to tread very carefully through this particular minefield if we want to save Detective Goren and Detective Eames’ careers.”

Deakin turned away, suddenly finding it hard to hold back the tears.

“It may be too late for Bobby, regardless of where this goes.”

Carver froze, feeling his blood turn cold at the ominous words.

“What are you talking about, Jim? He’s awake, isn’t he?”

“He’s awake, but he’s paralysed. No movement or sensation below the waist. Bobby’s been crippled, Ron. That last bullet that they had such a hard time with severed the nerves in his spine. He’s never going to walk again.”

“Oh... no...” Carver whispered in dismay. “Does he know?”

“His doctor told him today. He didn’t take the news well.”

“I imagine not,” Carver murmured. Deakins turned back to Carver, his expression guarded.

“Who caught this case, Ron? Which precinct?”

“I believe the Two-Seven did,” Carver answered. “I know that Jack McCoy has been working in conjunction with Lieutenant van Buren.”

“Thankyou,” Deakins murmured. “Ron, you can do me a favour, and let Mr McCoy know that he will be hearing from me very soon.”

Carver nodded, stepping back and watching wearily as Deakins climbed into his car and drove off.

“I will definitely do that.”

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