A/N: I am an idiot. Only just realised, I left off an entire segment at the beginning of this chapter, so rather than just replace the content, I’m deleting the chapter, and resubmitting it entirely so that everyone has a chance to read what I missed out including the first time around. My apologies, people.
Not for the first time, and he doubted for the last, Deakins approached Alex’s room to the sound of her voice raised in anger.
“I don’t give a damn what the doctor says! I need to be with Bobby. He needs me!”
“We agree with that, hon.” That was John Eames, Deakins thought, not envying that he was very obviously in the line of fire. “But he’s still in ICU, and you know the rules about visiting hours up there.”
“Well, it’s wrong,” Alex said bitterly. “I want him down here... with me...”
Fighting a sudden bout of nausea, Deakins rounded the corner and walked into the room.
“Jimmy,” John said in quiet greeting. Deakins nodded in return, and then his gaze went to Alex’s tear-streaked face. He knew he had to tell her what had happened, but how...? It would devastate her to know that, while Bobby hadn’t actually attempted suicide per se, he had still lain there and let himself almost bleed to death.
Finally, he settled on some more positive news to start with.
“I talked to Chief Bradshaw about yours and Marty’s idea, John.”
“Which idea is that?” John asked, sounding slightly puzzled.
“The consultancy one.”
Realisation dawned on John’s face.
“Oh, right. What did he say?”
“He said he’ll raise it with the Commissioner when they meet at the end of the week.”
John nodded approvingly.
“Well, that’s a start, at least.”
“What are you both talking about?” Alex demanded, fed up with being out of the loop. Deakins explained to her after receiving a nod from John.
“Your father and your Uncle Marty suggested that I look at ways of keeping Bobby with Major Case by way of employing him as a consultant... like a resident profiler. I told Chief Bradshaw, and he thinks the idea has merit.”
Alex fell silent, chewing the idea over in her mind. In her heart, she knew that Bobby would not be returning to active duty with her, though her head was still baulking at that truth. She didn’t want to accept it, because the idea that she and Bobby would no longer be partners was like a real physical pain to her.
However, knowing that Bobby would be there, every day... In all honesty, she wasn’t sure if it would work out to be a good thing or a bad thing.
Certainly, it would be good as far as having him there, still as part of the squad. On the other hand, though, she knew she would eventually return to active duty. She couldn’t help but wonder whether Bobby might eventually come to resent that she was able to get out there on the streets... attend crime scenes, chase up leads, track down witnesses and suspects... while he could not.
“Have you told Bobby about it yet?” she asked.
“No,” Deakins admitted uncomfortably. “Not as yet…”
“Jim, is something wrong?” John wondered. “You’re jumpy as hell all of a sudden.”
Deakins suddenly wished fervently that he hadn’t gone to see Alex straight away. It was too late now, though. He had no choice but to tell them.
“I went up to ICU with Chief Bradshaw to see Bobby…”
“The Chief of D’s was here?” Alex asked sceptically. “And he actually bothered to look in on Bobby? Wow…”
“Don’t, Alex,” Deakins warned her quietly. “Don’t take that attitude. Bradshaw is going to bat for both you and Bobby over the complaints that Dylan Black has made against you, so don’t mock him.”
Alex looked visibly chastened.
“Sorry,” she muttered. Deakins nodded passively.
“Okay. And, for the record, Bradshaw is still here. He stayed up in ICU with Bobby when I left to come down here. The thing is… When we got up there… Look, you need to understand, it wasn’t an actual suicide attempt…”
As soon as the word ‘suicide’ left his lips, Alex’s already pale face turned a frightening shade of ashen, and she stared up at Deakins in numb shock.
“Bobby tried to kill himself?” John asked in horror.
“Not exactly,” Deakins answered, quietly cursing how pathetic his words sounded. “It was actually an accident. Some of his sutures broke, and he was bleeding heavily… but he didn’t try to call for help. He just lay there, letting himself bleed out.”
“I don’t believe it,” Alex whispered hoarsely. “I can’t believe that. Bobby wouldn’t do that. It goes against everything he believes in. He… He just wouldn’t.”
“Alex, he’s hurting,” John told her softly. “His life is never going to be the same. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility…”
“No!” she burst out in growing distress. “He wouldn’t hurt himself! What about Dylan Black? Has anyone checked on Black? Maybe… Maybe he got to Bobby…”
“Alex, stop it,” Deakins told her, giving his voice that extra bit of authority. “Now listen to me. No, Bobby did not deliberately break his own sutures, or anything as dramatic as that. They broke by accident. Dr Fielding admitted that. What Bobby did do… or rather, didn’t do… was make any effort to get help. He just let himself bleed until he passed out, and if Chief Bradshaw and I hadn’t walked in when we did…”
He left the rest unsaid, and Alex looked away from him, distraught.
“The reality must finally be sinking in,” John said softly. “Jim, did his doctor give any indication of when he might come out of ICU?”
Deakins sighed and rubbed a hand over his face.
“It would have possibly happened by the end of this week. But with the amount of blood he’s lost, a move out of ICU might not happen now until the end of next week, at the earliest. Why?”
“Because he’s going to have to be placed on suicide watch,” John said grimly.
Deakins nodded in understanding and reluctant agreement.
“It’s already happened,” he confirmed. “There’s to be someone in the room with him around the clock. They’ll relax the watch again only when a psychiatrist has fully assessed him, and determined that he’s no longer a danger to himself.”
Silence met his words, and Deakins felt sick to his stomach for having to bring such bleak tidings, but they needed to know, and he felt it was important that Alex, in particular, hear the news from him. What was most important now, was to ensure that Bobby stayed alive, and did not give up.
“I want to be up there with him,” Alex suddenly said, and it was with some effort that Deakins didn’t roll his eyes.
“I know, Alex. First thing tomorrow…”
“No,” she cut him off fiercely. “Now.”
Deakins bit back a sigh.
“You know that’s not possible, Alex. Besides, he wouldn’t even know you were there. Dr Fielding sedated him, and he most likely won’t wake up for another twenty-four hours.”
“I don’t care,” Alex insisted. “He needs me, Captain. Please, talk to the doctors? You know he’d be doing better if I was with him. You know that.”
He did. He knew, without a doubt, that Alex’s presence would go a long way to keeping Bobby grounded, and keeping his heart and mind safe from dangerous ideas, but he honestly couldn’t see a way around her doctor’s demands that she stay in bed, and recuperate properly.
“What if we make a compromise?” John asked suddenly, drawing both Deakins’ attention as well as his daughter’s.
“What compromise?” Alex asked, sounding intensely suspicious.
“Well, what if one of the family stays in ICU with Bobby during the time that you can’t? I’m sure your mother and your uncles would be more than happy to take a turn to sit with him. That way, we can maintain a suicide watch, and keep him company at the same time. It’ll also take pressure off the hospital staff as far as providing someone to keep an eye on him.”
Deakins nodded his approval.
“I think that would be great. Thankyou, John.”
“Well, Lexie?” John asked quietly, looking to his daughter. “What do you think?”
As much as she wanted to argue, Alex held her tongue and nodded meekly. She knew that what her father had just suggested was the best option, for there was no way her doctor was going to agree to allow her to spend all day and all night at Bobby’s side. She knew she’d been damned lucky getting him to agree to two hours in the morning, and two hours in the afternoon. It wasn’t enough, but it was better than nothing, and the thought that members of her family would be at Bobby’s side placated her somewhat.
“I’ll talk to Dr Fielding,” Deakins told them. “I think he’ll agree to it. It would be more beneficial to Bobby having people sit with him that he knows do actually care, rather than a roster of staff members that he knows are only there because they’re being paid, and it’s what they were told to do.”
“I’ll call Marty and Frank first thing in the morning. Alison and Jaime, too, I think. They’d be more than happy to take a turn sitting with Bobby.”
“Thankyou,” Deakins murmured again, sincerely grateful.
24 hours later
Bobby awoke slowly, to a dull, burning pain in his abdomen and the fuzzy-headed sensation left by heavy sedation. He lay still for a while, eyes closed, while he tried to gather his senses. He didn’t know what had happened that he’d needed to be sedated; his memories were sketchy at best.
“Bobby? Are you awake?”
Confusion descended on Bobby’s exhausted mind. If he wasn’t mistaken, that voice belonged to Alex’s sister in-law, Jaime. His curiosity piqued, Bobby forced his eyes open, to find a welcome, friendly face smiling warmly at him.
“Hey there,” Jaime murmured, grasping his right hand and gently squeezing it. “Welcome back.”
From where…? he wondered dimly, but had no energy to voice his question.
He felt a straw touch his lips, and was able to draw a few sips of water before a coughing fit took over.
“Easy,” Jaime murmured. She slipped a hand easily between the mattress and his body, and gently rubbed his back.
“Wh… What happened?” he finally managed to ask once the coughing subsided. Jaime paused in her ministrations, wondering whether he really didn’t recall, or if he was just trying to feel out the general mood. She decided to give him the benefit of the doubt, and spoke gently.
“Bobby, you had an accident.”
Well, she thought ruefully, technically it was true.
“What… accident?” he asked hoarsely, and Jaime had to bite back a sigh.
“Your sutures broke, Bobby and you lost a lot of blood. Dr Fielding sedated you for twenty-four hours so your body could recover from the shock.”
Bobby went suddenly quiet as the memories came back to him with force. Memories of the sharp pain of his sutures breaking open as he tried to sit up… memories of watching the blood seeping out, and staining the crisp white hospital sheets… and finally, memories of his world fading to a black nothingness as he finally gave in and lost consciousness.
And, as the memories came back, nausea filled him as he realised what he’d nearly done.
Jaime seemed to anticipate his reaction. She had a container at the ready as he began to throw up. It turned out to only be dry retching, though. There was nothing in his stomach for him to throw up, Jaime realised sadly.
“I’m sorry,” Bobby whispered once the compulsive retching eventually eased off. “I’m sorry…”
She regarded him curiously as she gently guided him back down onto the soft pillow. She wondered what, exactly, he was apologising for – the messed up suicide effort, or that he was still alive. She hoped to God it wasn’t the latter, but with the state of mind that he was clearly in, anything was possible.
“What are you sorry for, Bobby?” she asked as she gently drew the blankets up to cover him more fully when he shivered.
“The sutures,” he mumbled, unable to maintain eye contact with her. “I didn’t mean to… to break them.”
“We know,” Jaime reassured him. “We know that was an accident. But Bobby… Why didn’t you call for help? You could have died!”
Tears welled in his eyes and overflowed.
“I was going to… call for help, I mean… but then everything hit. I… I’m going to be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life. I couldn’t stop thinking that m… maybe it’d be better off for everyone if I was…”
“If you were dead?” she prompted him softly. Though he didn’t answer, the look on his pale face confirmed her guess. He dissolved completely into tears, and tried unsuccessfully to turn away from her. Jaime sighed, then, and leaned down to kiss him gently on the forehead.
“Bobby, you need to believe me when I say that it wouldn’t be better for anyone if you died.”
“But… I’ll need so much help,” he stammered. “And… I don’t have anyone…”
“That’s not true!” Jaime insisted. “We’ll all be here to help you. Our whole family is all geared up to help you however we can, Bobby. Please let us help you.”
“You don’t have to feel obligated,” he said in a soft, bitter voice. “I… I’m not Alex’s partner anymore. None of you have to bother with me now. You’re all off the hook.”
“Bobby Goren, I could hit you for that! Do you really believe that that’s what we’re all thinking? Because it’s not!”
“You don’t have to pretend,” Bobby whispered, and beyond the careless words, Jaime heard a far deeper pain, and she realised abruptly what he was doing. She was no psychiatrist, but she could see what he was trying to do as clear as glass.
He fully anticipated everyone just giving up on him sooner or later and his state of mind was such that he was trying to push everyone away before that happened. And yet, the irony was that in trying to avoid being hurt, he was only making it worse on himself.
“What can I say to make you understand that we really do care about you?” she asked softly. His eyes flickered towards her briefly, and then away again. When he spoke, his voice had taken on a guttural, grief-riddled tone.
“Are you here because Alex asked you? Because she… she doesn’t want to waste her time sitting with her poor, crippled partner? Are you here because I can’t be left alone? In case I try to hurt myself again?”
Jaime swallowed a desire to bite back in reaction to the hurtful words. Instead, she saw a chance to try and reach him through the truth, and she grabbed at it.
“You are on suicide watch,” she confirmed quietly. “The doctor was going to organise a roster or nurses to sit in here with you, but we asked him to let us stay with you instead. And we aren’t doing it because Alex asked us, or because we feel obligated to you. We’re doing this because we care about you, and none of us want you to have to wake up to the face of someone who’s only in here because they’re being paid for it. Don’t you understand, Bobby? We love you. You’re a part of our family, and we don’t abandon our own. Not for any reason.”
She didn’t know whether her words had gotten through to him or not. He didn’t react, and didn’t even look at her. Finally, Jaime sighed.
“Push as hard as you like, Bobby. I’m not leaving, and that has nothing to do with the watch on you, because it’d be just as easy for me to walk out and ask them to send a nurse in.” She paused, but still there was no response. “Is that what you want?” she asked tonelessly. “For me to leave?”
And then she saw it; a single tear rolling down the side of his face. She saw, and silently thanked God that she seemed to have gotten through to him without too much of a fight. But then, as her uncle had said, Bobby was hurting, but he was not suicidal. At least, not in the true sense. He had every good reason to be depressed, too, she thought.
“Do you really want me to leave?” she asked again in a softer tone.
Another tear appeared, and then another… and another…
“No,” he whispered finally in a trembling voice. Jaime smiled, then.
“Well, good, because I’m not going anywhere. I just wanted to hear it from you that you didn’t want me to leave.”
Bobby finally looked up at her, through tear-blurred eyes.
“Does she know? Does A… Alex know what h… happened? What I did?”
“She knows,” Jaime confirmed, and felt her heart twist painfully at the anguish in his face at the admission. “She didn’t want to believe it at first… but she’s not angry at you, Bobby. No one is. We understand… We understand how much you must be hurting right now. But it will eventually get better. You just have to believe it. It will be all right again.”
He looked away again, this time blinded by his tears.
“Nothing’s ever going to all right,” he whispered. “Never.”
“He’s so depressed,” Jaime said softly as she sat with Alex through breakfast the next morning. “I didn’t really know what to say to him in the end. I thought I’d be able to get through to him, but it was like everything I was saying was just bouncing off him. It was heart-breaking.
“We can hardly expect anything else,” Helen pointed out. “He’s hurting, Jaime. We can’t expect him to just snap out of it. It doesn’t work like that, and you know it!”
“I know,” Jaime sighed. “I just really thought I could get through to him.”
Alex stirred the lukewarm coffee in front of her with precious little sign of life.
“Who’s with him now?” she asked, regarding her sister in-law with dark eyes.
“His brother, Frank,” she answered. “I was going to wait until someone else arrived, but he said that he wanted to spend more time with Bobby. Why? Is something wrong?”
For a split second, Alex nearly said yes, only to stop herself.
“No,” she said finally, with some reluctance. “I suppose not.”
“You really don’t trust him, do you?” Jaime asked, and Alex forced herself to answer honestly.
“No,” she admitted. “I don’t trust him. He’s never given Bobby anything except grief, and I just don’t believe that he’s here this time just because he wanted to catch up with Bobby. I don’t trust him, not one bit.”
Helen grasped her daughter’s hand firmly.
“I hope you’re wrong about him, sweetheart.”
Alex returned her mother’s gaze with one that was fraught with worry.
“So do I, Mom. Because the last thing that Bobby needs is for his brother… or anyone else, for that matter, to turn on him.”
“I’ll tell you something,” Jaime murmured. “I would hate to be in Frank’s shoes if he does turn out to be a louse. Because if he does, and he hurts Bobby at all, Dad will probably kill him with his own hands.”
“He’ll have to get in line,” Alex said harshly. “Because if he hurts Bobby in any way, then I’ll kill him.”
When Bobby awoke to find not Jaime, but Frank sitting beside him, his first thought was to pretend he was still asleep. Before he could do that, though, Frank noticed he was awake, and spoke.
“Hey, Bobby. How’re you feeling?”
It was the one question that Bobby honestly couldn’t understand why people insisted on asking him. In his mind, it should have been obvious how he was feeling, and people generally didn’t want an honest answer anyway. Right then, he didn’t particularly feel like pretending for anyone, let alone his brother.
“Like crap,” he answered dully. Frank shifted uncomfortably.
“Yeah, well, I guess you would. Sorry, kiddo. Dumb thing to ask. I promise I won’t ask that again.”
Sure, Bobby thought sceptically. You and Dr Fielding both…
“Your doctor,” Frank went on tentatively. “He, um… He told me about what happened. You know…”
“When I tried to kill myself?” Bobby interrupted softly when Frank fumbled helplessly over the words. The confusion on Frank’s face at that moment would have been funny, had the subject of their conversation not been so grim.
“But… the doc said it was just an accident,” Frank said with a frown. “Wasn’t it…?”
“I guess so,” Bobby mumbled. “At least, I didn’t intend to break the sutures.”
Frank went abruptly quiet as the deeper meaning in Bobby’s words got through to him.
“So… You’re saying that you deliberately didn’t call for help? Ah, damn it, Bobby…”
“Are you going to give me the whole ‘you can still be a valuable member of society’ line?” Bobby asked bitterly. “Because I’ve already heard it at least twice now. Could probably recite part of it from memory.”
Frank frowned darkly at him.
“As a matter of fact, I wasn’t going to say that at all. Why don’t you try this for a change? You stupid, selfish son of a bitch!”
For a moment, brief though it was, Bobby gaped at Frank with his mouth wide open. Then, the shock was gone, to be replaced with anger and hurt.
“You’re calling me selfish?”
“Damn straight,” Frank snapped.
“You asshole,” Bobby said in a soft, but heated tone. “I’m not the one who only makes contact whenever the debt collectors are biting.”
“At least I’ve tried making contact!” Frank argued. “If I left the ball in your court, we’d never see each other!”
Bobby’s expression had turned dangerous by then.
“How much?” he asked coolly, and Frank faltered.
“How much money do you owe this time?”
Anger and indignation flashed across Frank’s face, mixed with what Bobby was sure was a tinge of guilt.
“Is that really why you think I’m here? Because I need money? Jesus, Bobby…”
“Don’t you?” Bobby pressed. “Because it’d be a first if you didn’t.”
“So I take it that’s a yes,” Bobby cut him off roughly. Frank stepped away from the bedside, and began to pace in open agitation.
“Okay, so maybe I do owe some guys. It… It’s not a huge thing…”
Bobby groaned softly, feeling his stomach churn.
“I knew it… Goddamn you, Frank.”
Frank rounded on his brother, then, snarling in anger.
“You self-righteous bastard, like you never made a mistake.”
“I’m not saying that,” Bobby answered tiredly. “But every time you’ve come to see me in the last fifteen or twenty years, it’s been because of money.”
“What, so it’s a crime to ask your little brother for a loan, now?”
Bobby looked up at him, feeling tired and sick.
“Frank, the last time I saw you, you beat the hell out of me because I wouldn’t give you any money. So you look me in the eye now, and tell me that I’m wrong.”
Frank held Bobby’s piercing stare for all of approximately three seconds before he had to look away. Bobby felt a sense of triumph that was anything but satisfying.
“I knew it,” he whispered again, and it was all Frank could do not to cringe at the acute mixture of disappointment and weary resignation in Bobby’s voice. “How much?”
“Twenty-eight thousand,” Frank admitted finally in a barely audible whisper. Bobby groaned aloud.
“Goddamn it, Frank…”
“It really isn’t as bad as it sounds,” Frank said weakly. “All I need is a short term loan to cover it.”
“And you thought you could get it from me?” Bobby asked incredulously. “What planet are you living on?”
“Well, I figured if you couldn’t, then… maybe…”
Bobby stared up at him with burgeoning suspicions.
“You thought what?”
Bobby’s stomach dropped unpleasantly as the pieces finally dropped into place.
“You thought that Mom has the money. You were going to ask her for it. Frank…”
“Just a loan, Bobby!” Frank protested quickly. “That’s all it is! I just need a quick loan. I’ll pay it back as soon as I can, I swear it.”
“Forget it, Frank,” Bobby said softly. “She has no savings. She doesn’t have anything like what you need.”
Frank was silent for several long seconds, seemingly trying to digest that information. When he did finally respond, Bobby could hear the growing desperation in his voice.
“But… She’s living at that fancy psyche hospital…”
“Carmel Ridge? Yeah, she is, but not as a private patient. She’s on Medicaid, Frank. She has no money.”
Frank began pacing again as he agitation began to increase once more.
“No. That can’t be. She must have something. She’s got to…” He turned abruptly, and Bobby found himself face to face with a disturbingly familiar look of desperation and panic. “You. You must have savings. Your… Your Army pension…”
“I don’t have an Army pension,” Bobby answered wearily. “I wasn’t in the Army long enough to qualify. I cut loose from there early, so that I could get in at the Police Academy before I was too old. All I have is my cop’s salary.”
“You mean you don’t have anything at all saved up?”
Bobby sucked in a long breath. He fervently wished that someone else would walk in and interrupt this conversation from hell, but he knew the odds of that happening were slim. If what Jaime had said was true, then he was on a suicide watch, and it was unlikely that someone else would walk in before his brother was due to be relieved of the task of sitting with him.
“I have my own personal savings,” he admitted with some reluctance, “but…”
“Great,” Frank enthused, not giving Bobby the chance to finish what he was saying. “Look, all you need to do is give me your account details. I can take care of the rest.”
Frank froze in mid-stride, staring at his brother in obvious confusion.
“I said no.”
Silence reigned for nearly a minute before Frank slowly returned to the bedside.
“I told you, Bobby, I just need a loan. That’s all…”
Bobby shut his eyes miserably, wishing that Frank would just vanish. He was feeling sick, exhausted and in increasingly more pain, and the last thing he needed was to be fighting with his brother over money.
“Frank… Look at me.”
“Look at me!” Bobby burst out, his voice cracking as he struggled to put some degree of force behind his words. It worked. Frank’s eyes swept nervously up and down Bobby’s body. Bobby went on shakily. “I… I’m a cripple, Frank. Whatever money I have saved, I’m going to need it for myself. I… I’ll have to renovate my apartment… or maybe even look at buying somewhere new altogether. There’ll be physio… Rehab… And I’ll have to buy a wh… a wheelchair.”
He very nearly choked on the last word, and couldn’t keep his eyes from filling with fresh tears as it was. Frank was looking more than a little embarrassed by then, but it didn’t appear to have been enough to turn him from his purpose.
“I know this is a bad time, pal, and I really am sorry. But I really do need your help. You won’t be out of pocket, Bobby, I swear it. You’ll get it all back, and more!”
“Get out,” Bobby whispered. Frank frowned, not quite catching what he’d said.
“What was that?”
“Get out!” Bobby choked out. “Go! Get the fuck away from me!”
“Just go,” Bobby sobbed, overcome with grief and anguish. “You’re only here for one thing, and I c… can’t help you. Just go.”
Frank stood stiffly, his jaw locked with what could have been either resignation or anger.
“I just needed your help this one,” he said finally, softly. “Just this once, so I would have to bring my wife into it. You’ve really let me down, Bobby.”
Bobby could scarcely believe what he was hearing.
“I… I let you down?”
“That’s right,” Frank confirmed. “I expected more from you… but I guess I should’ve known better, shouldn’t I?” He turned towards the door. “I’m going now. You won’t see me again. I won’t blight you with my presence again.” He paused just briefly in the doorway, sparing Bobby a last, scathing look. “You always were a selfish bastard, Bobby. Thanks for nothing, little brother.”
And then he was gone, and Bobby was alone once more.
Jimmy Deakins was just on his way into ICU when Frank Goren stormed out, and the two men only barely avoided colliding.
“Frank?” Deakins asked in confusion. The other man paused for just a moment, looking angrily from the captain to the doors of the ICU, before shaking his head and continuing on to the elevators without saying another word. Deakins watched him go, dread filling his gut. He then hurried into the ICU, and through to Bobby’s room, genuinely fearful of what he might find.
He faltered in the doorway, momentarily taken aback by the heart-breaking sight of his distraught detective before hurrying over to the bedside.
“Bobby? Are you with me? C’mon, talk to me. What happened?”
“Frank,” Bobby choked out in between sobs. “He… He just w… wanted m… money. That’s all… all he came for. B… Because he owes someone t… twenty-eight thousand…”
Deakins felt his stomach turn. So it was what they’d all feared. The supposedly genuine big brother act had turned out to be just that after all – an act.
“That lousy son of a bitch,” he growled. “Bobby, I am so sorry.”
“He… He called me selfish,” Bobby whispered miserably, and the captain did a double-take.
“Selfish? You? You can’t be serious! Selfish is the one thing you’re not! Bobby, that isn’t true. Please, tell me that you didn’t believe him!”
For a long, torturous moment, Bobby didn’t respond. But then, to Deakins’ great relief, he gave a quick shake of his head.
“No,” he mumbled. “I… I know he’s full of shit. He was j… just trying to guilt me into giving him the money. But… I told him that I couldn’t. I said I was going to need it… that I was going to have to renovate my apartment and buy a… a wheelchair… He didn’t want to hear it.”
Deakins sighed softly.
“I really am sorry, Bobby. That was the last thing you needed.”
“I thought he was here for me this time,” Bobby said miserably. “I really thought… So stupid.”
“No,” Deakins argued softly. “You’re not stupid for hoping, Bobby. And we all thought he was genuine. You weren’t alone there. The only one, I think, who never trusted him was Alex.”
Bobby went quiet for a moment before looking up at the captain through tear-blurred eyes.
“I… I need her,” he whispered plaintively. “I need to… to be able to see her. Please, can you get her?”
Deakins squeezed Bobby’s shoulder gently, silently thankful that he wasn’t just shutting down again, as he was so often inclined to do.
“I’ll get her,” he promised. “Just hold on, okay? I’ll go get her right now.”
Alex had just finished breakfast when Deakins strode in, with an orderly and a wheelchair right behind him.
“Captain?” Alex asked uneasily. “What’s going on?”
“We’re taking you up to see Bobby,” Deakins told her, and none of them missed the urgency in his voice. Alex felt a chill race down her spine.
“Why? What’s happened? Is he okay?”
“Physically, yes,” Deakins answered. “Emotionally, no. Frank finally showed his true colours. He didn’t come for Bobby. He’s here because he owes someone twenty-eight thousand dollars, and he wanted Bobby to give him the money.”
Alex went from dismay to pure, white hot rage in the space of just a few seconds.
“Where is the son of a bitch?” Alex demanded to know as the orderly helped her into the wheelchair. “Where is he hiding?”
“Nowhere in the hospital, I imagine,” Deakins answered grimly. “I passed him on my way in to see Bobby, and believe me when I say that he wasn’t stopping for anyone.”
“Goddamn son of a bitch,” Alex hissed in fury, and Deakins closed his hand gently over hers in a subtle effort to calm her.
“Don’t, Alex. Don’t let the anger rule you.” She looked up at him tearfully, and she went on quietly. “It won’t do you any good, and it definitely won’t do Bobby any good. Not right now.”
In response to his gentle, reasoned argument, Alex drew in a long breath, and nodded.
“Okay,” she said softly, in a significantly calmer voice. “Take me to see Bobby.”
The look of relief and gratitude on Bobby’s face when he saw her was enough to bring tears to her eyes. Silently cursing her inability to get up out of the wheelchair, Alex had to settle for reaching up to grasp his hand.
“I’m sorry,” Bobby choked out, with a desperation that was heart-breaking. “I’m sorry, Alex. I didn’t mean to. Please forgive me. Please don’t leave…”
With every fibre of her being, Alex wished she could get her hands on Frank Goren, and throttle him.
“I’m not going anywhere,” she promised him. “You’re stuck with me, Bobby. You got that?”
“I’m sorry,” he whispered in a barely audible voice. “I’m sorry… I’m so sorry…”
“Bobby, stop it,” Alex told him gently. “Stop apologising. I’m not going anywhere. I promise you I’m not. None of us are. We’re all here for you.”
“Alex is right, sweetheart,” Helen reassured him. “You’re a part of our family. We all love you very much, and we’re all here to help you. You’re not alone, Bobby.”
The tears came in a veritable flood, and all of a sudden Bobby was incapable of responding. Helen leaned down to kiss his forehead, and murmur soft reassurances to him.
Standing back a little, Jaime smiled, her expression reflecting both sadness and relief.
“You see, Captain Deakins? You don’t have to worry. Mom has well and truly taken him under her wing. He’s not going to feel abandoned for very long. In fact, it may not be long before he has more company and support than he can bear.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure of that,” Deakins remarked with a wry smile. “I think he could bear a fair bit of it.”
Jaime looked back to the crippled detective, and the way that he was practically lapping up the attention that Helen, in particular, was lavishing on him, and she smiled.
“You may be right about that,” she agreed.
“I’m sorry,” Alex murmured later on, once they were finally alone. Bobby regarded her with a puzzled gaze.
“That Frank lived up to his reputation.”
Fresh pain lit up Bobby’s eyes as his thoughts were reluctantly turned back to his brother. To Alex’s quiet relief, though, he made no attempt to turn away from her again.
“I… I thought maybe he was just kidding, but he wasn’t. I don’t have the kind of money he wants. I… I barely have ten thousand saved, and that’s going to go fast. I just can’t afford to bail him out. I don’t even know how I’m going to cope.”
“I’m proud of you, Bobby,” Alex told him softly. He looked adorably confused at that.
“For putting yourself first for once. Frank has no right to expect anything of you. You owe it to yourself to just be thinking of yourself. That’s why I’m proud of you.”
He stared up at the ceiling miserably.
“It doesn’t seem like much.”
“Well, it is. I know you, Bobby, and I know that you’ve always put others ahead of yourself. It’s time you started thinking about you.”
“Your… your mom,” Bobby murmured, changing the subject. “She meant what she said, didn’t she?”
Alex smiled at the memory of her mother’s vehement promises of support.
“She meant every word of it, Bobby, including the bit about you being part of our family. She especially meant the bit about how much we love you, and that you’re not alone.”
He answered that with silence, and she happily gave him the time he needed to work through it in his own mind.
“I appreciate that,” he said finally, “but…”
‘It might take you some time to get used to it?” Alex offered when he hesitated. Bobby nodded, looking sheepish.
“Yeah. Something like that.”
Alex allowed her gaze to flicker along his body, to the legs he could no longer use. She didn’t know how willing he might be to talk about it all, but she decided to try.
“It doesn’t have to be the end of anything, Bobby. There’s still so much you can do.”
He regarded her with raw pain in his eyes.
“It… It’s the end of our partnership.”
Alex felt a very real stab of pain straight through her heart. He was right, of course.
“But not the end of our friendship,” she countered gently. “We’re both still here, Bobby, and we still have each other.”
Bobby’s hand closed around hers, and squeezed lightly.
“Right now… That’s all that’s keeping me going.”
Alex watched him for a while before squeezing his hand again.
“Then hang on to that, Bobby. Hang on, and don’t you dare let go.”
He drew in a shuddering breath.
“I am so scared,” he admitting, his voice trembling just slightly.
“I know,” Alex murmured. “I am too, but we’ll get through this together.”
“Don’t leave, Alex. Please…?”
“I won’t,” she promised him softly.
Emily Goren looked up, startled, as her husband stormed into their hotel room, clearly in a royally foul mood.
“Start packing,” he snapped. “We’re going home. Tonight.”
She didn’t move, and he rounded on her angrily.
“Didn’t you hear me? I said we’re leaving!”
“I heard you, Frank,” Emily replied coolly. “And I’m not packing so much as a single shirt until you tell me why.”
“Never mind,” he growled. “Just do what I say, okay?”
Slowly, Emily walked over to where her husband was searching through the mini bar. She pushed the door firmly closed, and he was barely able to get his hands out of the way in time to avoid getting his fingers caught.
“Goddamn it, Emily…”
“The last time you turned to the booze,” she said quietly, “it was because you were in debt to a loan shark to the tune of eleven thousand dollars. How much is it this time, Frank?”
He froze, staring at his wife with a mixture of disbelief and mortification. Emily didn’t flinch in the face of his incredulity.
“Well?” she pressed him. “And please tell me you didn’t hit your brother for a loan…” The look on Frank’s face spoke in volumes, and she took a step back from him in horror. “Oh my god… You did… Frank, how could you?”
“He’s my brother!” Frank burst out. “He’s supposed to be there for me!”
“For God’s sake, Frank, he was shot four times! He’s never going to walk again! How could you be so insensitive?”
Walking around, Frank literally threw himself down onto the sofa.
“I only asked him for a loan. I would’ve paid him back. Selfish son of a bitch…”
An instant later, his head rocked to the side as Emily slapped him hard across the face.
“Em…” he gasped, stunned by the unexpected blow. Emily stood over him, radiating fury.
“You’re the one who’s selfish, Frank. It’s bad enough that you’ve gone and gotten yourself into debt, again, but we could have worked that out. But to arrange this trip just so that you can hit your crippled brother for a loan?”
“We didn’t know what had happened until we got here!” Frank argued.
“No, we didn’t,” Emily agreed. “And you should have immediately shelved all thoughts of asking for money. You had no right to put that on him, Frank. No right at all.”
“I know,” he whispered, his shoulders slumping heavily. “Oh god, I know. What have I done, Emily?”
“Hopefully nothing irreparable,” she replied grimly. “But I’ll tell you one thing, Frank. You are not running away from this. You are not running away from your brother.”
Frank looked up at her bitterly.
“Is there any point in staying around? It’s not like he’ll want to see me.”
“That may be,” Emily agreed. “But even if he doesn’t… and he’d be perfectly within his rights not to want to see you… you are not going to deprive your daughter of the opportunity to spend time with her uncle.”
Frank groaned, and pressed one hand over his face in distress.
“How did I manage to fuck things up so badly, again?”
“I’m not going to argue psychology with you, Frank,” Emily replied. “What I am going to do is take Sophie to the hospital to see Bobby. You’re going to stay here, and think things over very carefully, and when we come back, you had better have a genuine apology ready to give to Bobby. Do you understand me, Frank?”
He nodded bleakly as she turned and headed towards their daughter’s bedroom.
“Yeah,” he muttered dismally. “I got it.”
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