Later that evening

“…So then Bradshaw told her about the paralysis,” Alex said as she relayed the details of the press conference back to Bobby. “Apparently he really gave her a serve. And then, one of the other reporters actually told her to shut up and deal with it! Captain said she went red and stormed out.”

“Well… What about that statement?” Bobby wondered.

“Her producer handed it over after Chief Bradshaw himself confronted him. Captain said that the Chief thinks it’s one of two possibilities,” Alex said. “Either Dylan Black wrote it out and sent it to her yesterday, after he lost the police guard, or someone connected to Yancey put it together for her. Apparently Bradshaw said that if he finds out that it’s the latter, and he can prove it, then he’ll press charges against Yancey for fabricating evidence. But he also thinks that embarrassing her in front of her peers was a pretty good punishment, too. It sure shut her up. There was nothing at all on her show earlier about what happened.”

Bobby sighed and shifted awkwardly in the bed.

“I didn’t want Black to be killed but he just wasn’t going to let it go. He was going to kill me…”

“Yes, he was,” Alex murmured as she gently squeezed his hand. “And I’ll always be grateful to the captain for not letting that happen.” She snorted derisively. “I still can’t believe Black tried to claim self defence.”

“Can… Can we talk about something else, please?” Bobby asked softly. Alex blinked in surprise, and then nodded in acquiescence.

“Sure, Bobby. Did you have something in mind?”

“Just… Anything other than Black.”

It was Alex’s turn to sigh.

“I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking.” She paused, looking around his new room before commenting. “This isn’t so bad. Better than what I’m stuck with, anyway.”

“Same beds, though,” Bobby remarked ruefully. Alex smiled.

“Maybe, but at least this room is a little less like a hospital room. Needs a bit more colour… Although, I bet Mom will have that well and truly covered. And hey! You even have a space here for some books!” Alex paused again as something caught her eye, and she looked back at him with a raised eyebrow.

“The first four Harry Potter books? Is that what Emily got you?”

Bobby gave a lopsided shrug, and a sheepish smile.

“I hadn’t read any of them. She said no relative of hers was getting away with not reading them. Then she went out and bought those for me.”

“And?” Alex pressed. The sheepish smile widened a little.

“I read the first one. It… It was good.”

Alex laughed at that, unable to help it. She could just picture Bobby engrossed in a Harry Potter novel.

“You see? I told you that you’d enjoy them. Maybe next time you’ll believe me.”

“I did believe you,” Bobby insisted. “I just… I never had time before now.”

The poignancy of that statement was not lost on Alex, and she reached out to squeeze his hand gently.

“Try not to look at it as being the end of anything, Bobby. Look at it as a new beginning.”

He stared at her with a misery that he simply could not hide.

“What use am I now, Alex? What can this possibly be a new beginning for?”

“Just be patient, please?” Alex pleaded with him. “Don’t give up.”

“I’m trying not to,” he promised her. “But it’s not easy. I don’t know what to do anymore. I… I feel lost.”

“You’re not lost,” she murmured, reaching out to lightly stroke his cheek and forehead. “Sooner or later, you’ll realise that.”

“Don’t go,” he whispered, tightening his grip on her hand. Alex squeezed back without hesitation.

“I’m not going anywhere.”

Deakins walked into the bullpen two days later feeling very much like he just wanted to turn around and go straight home. Not that he was feeling particularly bad – far from it. He had just come from fronting IAB over killing Black, and it had proved to be a very interesting experience.

Captain Brian Crockett was gone, replaced by a younger, shrewd-looking man by the name of Graham Waylon. The new captain of IAB had listened carefully to Deakins before calmly stating that after hearing both his and Dr Fieldings’ accounts, and examining the submitted reports, Captain Deakins had used justifiable force in stopping Black, and had no case to answer.

Deakins had walked out of IAB and back into the Major Case bullpen completely absolved of responsibility by both IAB and his own conscience.


Deakins looked around to see Jackson approaching, looking vaguely bewildered.

“What is it, Jackson?” he asked, his gaze going automatically to the large envelopes that Jackson was holding.

“Sir, these were left for Goren. One of them was dropped off by Carver. Another two came by courier… and this one was delivered by a guy by the name of Jason Gideon.”

Deakins did a double-take at that.

“Jason Gideon…? The FBI profiler?”

“That’d be the one,” Jackson confirmed. “He said he’d appreciate it if you could pass this on to Goren directly, sir. He said he wanted to go to the hospital himself, but that he didn’t want to seem like he was trying to bully Goren.”

Shaking his head in wonderment, Deakins took the envelopes. He stared piercingly at them, as though he could see through the envelope to the contents within. When he finally looked back at Jackson, he could have sworn he saw a glint of amusement there in the other man’s eyes.

“Are these…?”

“Job offers? Yes, sir. I think so.”

“I’ll be damned,” Deakins murmured. “Right, I need to call Bradshaw. I think we’re going to need to act fast if we’re going to be able to keep Bobby within the NYPD.”

“Sir…?” Jackson wondered in confusion.

“I asked Bradshaw to consider the merit of employing Bobby as a resident profiler,” Deakins explained as he began to walk towards his office. “But if we don’t get ourselves in gear, we might just lose him to another agency.” He paused, eyeing the envelope that was clearly marked with the FBI seal. “I have to admit, it would be right up Bobby’s alley to join the FBI Behavioural Analysis Unit.”

“You really think he’d join the Feds?” someone else asked nearby.

“For the opportunity to work with the likes of Jason Gideon?” Deakins retorted. “I’d be stunned if he didn’t seriously consider it.”

“Better get Eames on his case, then,” someone remarked wryly. “If she says no, then he won’t accept.”

Deakins, however, shook his head.

“No,” he said quietly. “I won’t do that to him. I don’t want to lose Bobby, but if it’s what he wants to do, then I won’t try to stop him, either. This isn’t just his career we’re talking about. It’s his life.”

A sombre silence met Deakins’ words, and then Jackson spoke softly.

“It really is for real, isn’t it? He’s not gonna walk again, is he?”

“Don’t say that, Jackson,” another squad member growled. “They haven’t confirmed it yet. It might still turn out to be okay for him.”

“No,” Deakins said abruptly, with a harshness to his voice that he immediately regretted. When he spoke again, he took deliberate care not to snap. “No, don’t go there, people. His doctor warned me not to expect miracles, and that’s what it would be if it turns out that he will walk again.”

“But Captain…”

“Don’t,” Deakins said hoarsely. “Please… Just don’t. Bobby is finding it hard enough to come to terms with reality at the moment. The last thing he needs is for everyone around him to harbour false hopes. Don’t expect a miracle. Don’t even hope for one.”

“What are you going to do, Captain?” Jackson asked in a dull voice. Deakins paused, taking a moment to compose himself.

“I’m going to call Bradshaw, so that I have an offer to put to Bobby when I hand him these.”

Deakins was not the least bit surprised to arrive at the hospital to find everyone crowded into Bobby’s room in the rehab wing. Alex, he noted, had not been wrong about her mother brightening up the room. Between her and Emily Goren, they had transformed an otherwise plain room into as bright an cheerful a place as anyone could hope to find within the walls of a hospital.

Colourful flowers adorned the room and helium balloons cotted the ceiling. The plain bed covers had been replaced with blankets brought from the Eames household, and Emily had taken it on herself to purchase a large quilt and new pillows.

There were books in every possible spare space and, lastly, an enormous basket sat on the little table in the corner filled with an assortment of fruit, chocolate and other delicacies. Fielding had expressed doubt over the basket of goodies, only to find himself confronted by a fierce Helen Eames who had all but dared him to try and take it away. Wisely, the doctor had back down, and Bobby had been allowed to keep the basket and its contents.

Thanks to the kindness and generosity of friends and family, Bobby was as comfortable in his new room as he could possibly hope to be.

“Jimmy, you’ve come to see our boy?” John Eames exclaimed loudly and cheerfully, and Deakins couldn’t help but grin. Bobby, he noticed, was flushing red but the small smile on his face at John’s choice of phrase was also genuine. He had been openly accepted into the Eames clan, and for once he was not resisting.

Not that that was surprising, either, the captain mused. What little emotional and mental strength that Bobby had was all but spent on struggling to simply get through each day. He needed all the support the Eames family were able to give him to avoid crashing and burning.

Deakins paused as he glanced around the room. Alex, her parents and wider family, and Emily and Sophie had all contributed to create a support base for Bobby that he probably had not imagined possible.

“Yes, I have,” he agreed finally, walking over to the bedside.

“What is that?” Bobby wondered, his gaze drawn to the envelopes in the captain’s hands. Deakins smiled wryly.

“Still as observant as ever. These are for you, Bobby. I think there’s one from New York State University, one from Hudson University and one from Princeton... Ah... There’s one here from the DA’s office, one from the FBI, and one from the NYPD.”

Bobby stared at Deakins blankly.

“But... what...?”

“They’re job offers,” Deakins explained. “You’re being head-hunted, Bobby. Fiercely, by all accounts.”

Still Bobby looked baffled as his attention turned to the envelopes.

“But... Why?”

“Bobby, if you say you don’t know why they’d want to hire you, I swear I’ll hit you,” Alex growled. “Just because your legs don’t work anymore doesn’t mean your brain has stopped working, too. Now will you quit gaping like a damn guppy, and open them up!”

Verbally beaten into submission, Bobby opened the first of the envelopes – the one from the Commissioner’s office, and began to read through the proposal. When he finally looked up again, he seemed more bewildered still.

“Squad profiler? No position like that exists.”

“It will if you accept the offer,” Deakins answered. “You’ll retain your gold shield and your First Grade status. You’ll be stationed in Major Case, but other squads will be able to call on your assistance when it’s needed. And, as you can see, it’s a substantial pay rise.”

Bobby continued reading through it carefully before finally setting it aside and opening the FBI envelope.

“Bobby, do you know a Jason Gideon?” Deakins asked. He was loathed to bring it up in case Bobby actually showed interest in the FBI’s offer, but he felt it was important that Bobby know just how highly sought after he really was.

“I know of him,” Bobby murmured as he scanned the pages in his hands. “He’s one of the best profilers in the country… if not the world.” He paused, raising his eyes slowly to meet Deakins’ gaze. “Why?”

“Because it was him who left that at Major Case for you,” Deakins answered. Silence met that statement. When someone finally spoke, it was John Eames.

“You see, son? You see how valuable you are?”

Try as he might, Bobby could not stop the tears as his heart and mind were finally forced to accept the truth that everyone had been insisting on since the grim reality of his situation had become known. Anxious to comfort her uncle, Sophie abandoned the book she’d been reading quietly in a corner, and scrambled up onto the bed to hug him.

“Don’t be sad,” she murmured, kissing him on the cheek.

“Those aren’t sad tears, sweetheart,” Helen told her with a smile. “Those are definitely happy and relieved tears.”

It was then, as Bobby hugged Sophie, that Deakins noticed something else.

“Your wrist is out of plaster!”

Bobby nodded, rubbing self-consciously at his eyes.

“It wasn’t badly broken. Just a fracture. I just need physio to strengthen it so I can…”

He trailed off, unable to bring himself to finish that sentence. No one pushed the subject; they all knew what he had intended to say. He needed physio on his wrist to strengthen it, so that he would be able to adequately manoeuvre a wheelchair.

“Well, that’s some more good news, then,” Deakins said approvingly. “If you’ll excuse me now, though, I have to get back to One Police Plaza. Bobby, if you don’t mind, the others in the squad would like to come by and see you.”

Bobby glanced fleetingly at Alex, a gesture that was lost on none of them, before nodding slowly.

“That’d be okay. I… I’d appreciate it.”

“Okay, then. I’ll send them by just a few at a time, so you’re not drowned in detectives, okay?”

A small smile graced Bobby’s features, sending a rush of warmth through Deakins. In that small, somewhat shy smile, the captain could see remnants of the man Bobby had been before a single bullet had turned his world upside down, and he could see a glimmer of the man that Bobby still was.

“Thankyou,” Bobby murmured. “For… For everything, Captain.” His fingertips brushed lightly over the envelope from the Commissioner’s office. “I’m betting you had a lot to do with this.”

Deakins paused at the door, and he grinned back at Bobby.

“Yes, I did, but so did John here. It was his idea. But regardless, you didn’t honestly think that I was going to sit back and let the FBI steal one of my best detectives, did you?”

Then he was gone.

“Now do you believe us?” Alex asked as his attention returned to those around him. He didn’t need to ask what she meant.

“I’m starting to,” Bobby conceded. He picked up the FBI offer again, reading it through with care.

“What are they offering?” Emily wondered after a couple of minutes of silence.

“They want me to join their Behavioural Analysis Unit that’s headed by Jason Gideon,” he answered. “It… It’s an impressive offer.”

“Would you consider it?” Alex asked, struggling to keep her tone neutral. In truth, she had initially been thrilled for Bobby, until it quickly hit home that accepting such an offer would take him right away from New York and, subsequently, away from her. And all of a sudden, Alex felt the sickening clutch of fear deep in her heart and soul.

“I might,” Bobby mused. “Except, it would mean leaving New York… and you. And… I don’t think I’m ready to do that. Besides, this offer from the Commissioner looks pretty good, too. And I don’t really want to leave the NYPD. I… I belong here.”

Alex couldn’t hide her relief, and nor did she even try.

“Yes, you do,” she agreed, accepting the hand that he stretched out to her and holding on tightly.

Alex was released from the hospital the following day, into the care of her parents and once she had convinced her doctor that she could manage adequately with a crutch. She visited Bobby on the way out, promising to come back every day until he, too, was released. He got the same firm promise not only from John and Helen Eames, but also from her brothers and sister, and her uncles.

It was a fair flurry of activity and emotion until Alex was finally taken home by her parents, leaving Bobby with Emily. Sophie was with her father for the day, sight-seeing around the city.

“I thought,” Bobby started to say, but faltered. Emily sat carefully on the edge of the bed, grasping his hand gently.

“You thought what?”

“You’re a doctor,” he pointed out tentatively. “Don’t you… I mean…”

She thought she understood what he was trying to say.

“I’m officially on compassionate leave, Bobby. I put a call in to our Chief of Surgeons once we knew you’d been paralysed. I told him Frank and I needed to be here for you. He wasn’t particularly happy with having to find a locum at such short notice, but he understood. And since I haven’t had a vacation in six years, I have so much leave accrued that I could stay until Christmas. So no, I don’t have to go rushing back to work.”

Bobby went red.

“I wasn’t trying to push you away,” he stammered, and Emily laughed softly, leaning over on impulse to kiss his forehead.

“I know, hon. I know what you meant. I just wanted to be sure that you understand that we won’t be running out on you anytime soon.”

Bobby sighed, visibly relieved.


A couple of weeks later

“You’re a natural in that thing, Bobby.”

Bobby looked up ruefully at his physiotherapist, Matt Norton, after scoring in a game of one-on-one wheelchair basketball.

“It’s amazing what you can achieve when you don’t have a choice.”

Matt smiled easily back at him.

“Got it in one, pal. We adapt to survive, and that’s exactly what you’re doing. Adapting.”

Bobby grimaced, but didn’t argue. Extracting himself from the wheelchair that he’s been using, Matt put the ball away and then returned to his charge’s side.

“How’s the wrist holding out?”

Bobby gave a slight shrug.

“It’s aching a little. Nothing worse than that.”

“Let me see it.”

Bobby held his arm out, and Matt began to gently massage his wrist and hand.

“It’ll ache for a while, until it gets strong again. But trust me, it will happen. One day you’re going to finish up a session with me, and realise it isn’t aching at all.”

“The pain doesn’t bother me so much,” Bobby said, although he couldn’t hide his relief as Matt’s careful massaging gradually eased the ache. “It’s pretty minimal, really.”

“You mean in comparison to what you’ve already been through,” Matt said, and Bobby nodded in concession.


“Well, I guess I can understand that,” Matt said, “but I’m not aiming to just make things tolerable for you. I want you to be feeling good, physically as well as emotionally.”

Bobby hesitated, and then spoke tentatively.

“I just want the… the parts of my body that do still work, to work a hundred percent properly.”

“That’s why I’m working with you, Bobby. We’re going to get your upper body into great shape, my friend. You’ll be stronger and fitter than you ever were before, I guarantee it.”

Bobby was silent for a long moment before speaking again in a subdued tone.

“They’re going to scan my spine again tonight.”

Matt sat back, regarding him thoughtfully.

“This is it, huh? You’ll get the final answer tonight.”

“Yeah,” Bobby whispered. “Sink or swim.”

“Hey,” Matt growled, a slight edge to his voice. “There’s no sinking here, pal. Whatever the results, you’re going to swim. You hear me? You’re not going to sink.”

“I… I just… I can’t help thinking that… maybe…”

A soft sigh escaped Matt as he correctly interrupted what Bobby couldn’t quite bring himself to say.

“You still hope it’s not permanent, don’t you? Listen, Bobby…”

“Please don’t,” Bobby begged him. “Please don’t say it. I… I know the chances that the nerves aren’t severed are slim, but I need something to hope for.”

“I understand that, Bobby. I really do. But the reality is that you’re only going to hurt yourself by hanging on to a hope that just isn’t realistic.”

“But what if?” Bobby argued with a desperation that was heart-breaking. “What if they scan my spine, and the nerves aren’t severed? Maybe… Maybe they’re just really badly pinched…”

“Bobby, stop it,” Matt said in a quiet but firm voice, effectively silencing his charge. “Just stop and think about it. What does your gut tell you?”

Distressed, Bobby looked away.

“I need to have something to… to hope for,” he said again in a trembling voice.

“That’s fair enough,” Matte conceded. “But this is something that you really do have to be realistic about. You’ve already hit rock bottom once. I don’t want to see you slip backwards again.”

Self-consciously, Bobby rubbed at his stomach.

“I wouldn’t do that again.”

“Okay,” Matt murmured. “So, you keep clinging to this hope that maybe the damage isn’t irreparable after all. How are you going to cope if it turns out to be as bad as your doctor suspects?”

It wasn’t lost on Bobby that Matt said ‘if’, and not ‘when’. He paused, thinking it over carefully before answering.

“I… I’ll probably cry,” he admitted, his cheeks reddening a little. “Maybe I’ll want to scream… but…”

Matt leaned forward a little.

“But what, Bobby?”

“But I won’t have to face it alone,” he said softly. “I have Alex… and her family… I have Emily and Sophie… The captain and the squad, and my friends… Fin, and Lewis… I’m not alone, unless I choose to be.”

“And?” Matt prompted him. Bobby rubbed at his eyes, which were wet with new tears.

“And I don’t choose to be alone.”

“That’s what I wanted to hear,” Matt said with enthusiasm. “You’ll find you’ll get a lot further a lot quicker if you stick to that. Okay, we’re done for today, but I’ll see you tomorrow. And remember, whatever the result is tonight, we’ll face it and keep trying. Right?”

Bobby nodded tiredly. All of a sudden, he was ready to back to his room and just sleep until Fielding came to get him for the scan.

“Right,” he mumbled. Matt smiled and patted him gently on the shoulder.

“You’re gonna be okay, Bobby. You’ll see.”

Bobby didn’t respond to that statement as Matt took him back to his room because, as much as he wanted to believe it, he couldn’t. Not yet.

He lay on the table as he was moved steadily into position in the MRI machine. Fielding had warned him that it could take up to an hour to complete, and had allowed Bobby to take a book with him as a means of keeping him awake and entertained. That entertainment, Fielding had been amused to note, had come in the form of the third Harry Potter novel. He said nothing, though, not wanting Bobby to think he was knocking his choice. After all, anything that kept Bobby at least partially distracted from the discomfort of the MRI was to be considered a blessing, and the last thing Fielding needed was for Bobby to fall into his usual habit of asking question upon question and getting more agitated by the second.

Nearly an hour on, Fielding found himself looking at a monitor showing Bobby’s spinal column and, specifically, the area where the fragmented bullet had done its damage.

“There,” Dr Carla Jenkins murmured, manipulating the image so that the area of interest was magnified. “Swelling’s all but gone. You can see it clearly.”

Fielding nodded, his expression giving away nothing.

“Yes, I see it. Okay, let’s get him out of there.”

Jenkins went to find the orderlies, leaving Fielding there alone, staring at the frozen image. He watched wordlessly as Bobby was removed from the MRI with absolute care, and taken back to his room.

“You want me with you when you talk to him?” Jenkins asked as she rejoined him in the viewing room.

“No,” Fielding murmured. “I’ll do it.”

“Are you going to wait until morning?”

Again, Fielding shook his head.

“No, I’ll go and talk to him now.” Jenkins raised an eyebrow, drawing a weary smile from Fielding. “Trust me, if it was anyone else, I’d make them wait. But Bobby isn’t just anyone, and it wouldn’t be fair to make him wait until morning for this. He’ll be waiting for me to come and talk to him.”

“Okay, then,” Jenkins conceded. “If you’re certain.”

“I am,” Fielding answered. Quietly, he collected the print-outs from the scan, and went to talk to his patient.

He hadn’t been wrong in what he’d said to Jenkins. Bobby was indeed waiting for him when he walked in, with a look of hope on his pale face that made Fielding want to turn and run from the room. As he walked over to the bedside, though, he met Bobby’s gaze and watched as that hope faded and blinked out into nothingness.

“I’m sorry, Bobby,” Fielding told him, even as tears started to fill the other man’s eyes. “I was hoping that there might have been some small chance that we could repair the damage, but it just wasn’t to be.”

“The nerves are severed?” Bobby asked in a shaky whisper.

“I’m afraid so,” Fielding confirmed. “There are only a few strands still intact. There’s nothing we can do. I’m very sorry.”

“I knew,” Bobby said miserably. “I already knew, but I didn’t want to face it. I kept hoping… Stupid… I was stupid…”

“There’s nothing stupid about hoping.”

Bobby said nothing, though, gradually becoming lost in his own misery. Fielding watched him for a long minute before speaking quietly.

“I’m going to call someone. Your sister in-law, perhaps…”

“No,” Bobby said abruptly, hoarsely. “It’s late. Don’t… Don’t bother anyone. I’ll be okay.”

Doubt clouded the doctor’s features.

“Bobby, you really shouldn’t be alone right now.”

“I’ll be okay,” Bobby insisted, struggling to keep his voice from breaking. “Please… I just need some time. That’s all.”

In the end, there was little Fielding could do. After ensuring his charge was as comfortable as possible, and relatively pain-free, he headed quietly from the room. He’d barely gone half a dozen steps when he heard the sound of sobbing coming from Bobby’s room. Shaking his head unhappily, Fielding continued on towards the exit of the rehab wing, determined to contact someone to come and be there for Bobby, regardless of his protests.

He was almost to the exit door when it suddenly swung open, and Frank Goren walked in. For a good several seconds, the two men stood there staring at each other. Then, Fielding shook off his surprise and approached Frank slowly.

“Mr Goren. You are aware it’s past visiting hours?”

Frank nodded, shoving his hands deep into his pockets.

“Yeah, I know, but Em took Sophie out to a movie… a girls’ night out, I guess. I figured I’d come see Bobby.”

Fielding couldn’t suppress his suspicions. He’d heard about what had happened the last time that Frank had been alone with Bobby, and he did not want to see a repeat performance – especially tonight. Walking right up to Frank, until they were almost nose to nose, Fielding spoke in a low, threatening voice.

“You listen to me, and listen closely, sir. Your brother had a scan this evening that effectively destroyed any hopes he still had of ever walking again. His state of mind is not good. Now, if you do anything… anything to make it worse for him…”

Frank held up his hands defensively.

“Whoa, Doc. Already had the riot act read to me by my wife. You don’t need to say it. I already know she’ll put my balls in a sling if I try any crap with Bobby.”

“Mr Goren,” Fielding growled, none too placated by the other man’s words, “if you do anything at all to hurt your brother, you won’t have to worry about what your wife will do to you, because I will personally feed you to his partner. Am I making myself clear?”

Frank blanched visibly, and then sighed.

“Okay, Doc. Look, I know I was an asshole to Bobby. I am an asshole. I’m not denying that. But I’m not lying now when I say that I’m here for Bobby. I just want to see him, and try to be the big brother that he needs me to be. Are you gonna let me try?”

With some scepticism, Fielding stepped aside to let Frank past.

“Once chance, Mr Goren. That’s all you get. Don’t screw it up, because believe me, I’d have no problems with banning you from entering the hospital.”

To his credit, Frank didn’t scowl or sulk, but rather nodded in acceptance.

“Don’t worry, Doc. I have no intention of giving you a reason to do that.”

Fielding watched as Frank walked past, his eyes boring holes into the man’s back.

“I hope not.”

Bobby couldn’t stop the tears. Try as he might, there was no closing the floodgates once they’d opened, and in the end all he could do was just lie there and cry. He thought he’d been prepared for the worst news, but only now did he finally understand what Matt had been trying to tell him.

He had set himself up for a bad fall by hoping for something that, deep down, he had known was impossible. It hurt, badly, and he wished desperately that he had told someone… anyone… about the scan so that he wouldn’t have been alone.

Too late now, he thought miserably. He was alone, and there was not a thing he could do about it. To call someone now, at this late hour, would only compound his misery by adding a healthy dose of guilt, and that was something he really didn’t need.

Movement in the doorway distracted him, and he looked up to see someone standing there, someone whose identity was blurred by his tears. The figure stood there for a long moment before walking in and over to the bedside.

“Hey, Bobby.”

In his state of distress, Bobby was not inclined to push any company away – even the brother who had treated him so shabbily. Shuddering, he looked up at Frank through eyes that were already swollen from shed tears.

“Ah, jeez,” Frank murmured. “C’mere, kid…”

And a moment later, Bobby found himself wrapped securely in the embrace of his brother.

“I’m not gonna tell you it’ll be okay,” Frank said as he held his sobbing brother. “I know none of it’s okay. But I promise you right now that I’ll be here for you. I promise you that.”

Slowly, Bobby withdrew to stare cynically at Frank.

“I don’t know if I can afford your rates.”

Frank grimaced, and had to make a conscious effort to put a dampener on his anger.

“Okay, I deserved that. I’m serious, though, Bobby. I’m here for you, bud, no strings attached.”

Bobby settled back against the pillows, rubbing a hand self-consciously over his eyes.

“I want to believe you, but… I… I just don’t know.”

Reaching out, Frank tentatively closed his hand over Bobby’s shoulder.

“Well, hopefully before long you will.”

Silence fell – not quite comfortable, but not exactly awkward, either. Finally, Frank opened his mouth to speak, but Bobby beat him to the punch.

“If you ask me how I’m feeling, I swear to God I’ll call for a nurse and get them to throw your ass out of here.”

To his credit, Frank chuckled softly and shook his head.

“Don’t worry, I’m not that much of an idiot. Actually, I was going to ask, have you tried calling Mom yet?”

Bobby fell abruptly quiet. Though there was no accusation in Frank’s tone, he still felt cornered by the unexpected question.

“You’ve been to see her,” he said finally, defensively. “What has she said?”

Frank didn’t answer, and Bobby felt his stomach drop unpleasantly.

“She… hasn’t asked about me at all, has she?”

The discomfort on Frank’s face spoke in volumes, and Bobby looked away in a pointless effort to hide the hurt.

“Bobby,” Frank started to say, but Bobby spoke in a low mutter that was laden with grief.

“Shouldn’t be surprised. You always were her golden boy. I only ever came second in her eyes.”

Frank felt a touch of defensive anger that he could not suppress.

“C’mon, Bobby, give me a break! I never asked for that sort of attention from Mom or Dad! It’s not my fault that you got pushed into the background like that. You know I would have changed it if I could have.”

Even though his bitter grief, Bobby had to concede to Frank’s words. It wasn’t his brother’s fault, and it was pointless to be throwing around blame now.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “It just… It…”

“It hurts,” Frank finished off for him. “I know, Bobby. I know it does.” He hesitated, trying to decide how best to tell Bobby how his last visit with their mother had really gone. “Look, Bobby, I tried to tell her about what happened to you. I did, but…” He ran his fingers through his hair, suddenly wishing he hadn’t started down this line.

“But what?” Bobby asked hoarsely. “But she didn’t want to know, right? What did she say, Frank?”

“She… um… Look, it doesn’t mean anything. You know that.”

“Just tell me,” Bobby whispered, already anticipating what was coming. Frank sighed and finally gave in.

“I tried to tell her why you hadn’t been to see her, and why you hadn’t called her, but she wouldn’t listen to me. She said she wasn’t interested in excuses, and that if you couldn’t be bothered, then neither could she.” He was careful not to add the part where Frances had praised him for being a ‘good, dutiful son’ while condemning Bobby for being cruel and inconsiderate and just like their father. That was something that Frank never wanted Bobby to hear.

A shudder swept through Bobby, followed by a choked sob.

“I’m sorry,” Frank whispered, hugging Bobby to him once more. “Damn it, I wish I could change the way she thinks. It’s not right. You’re the one who’s looked after her all this time. You’re the one who called her every goddamn day, visited her regularly… and she treats you like dirt. It isn’t right, Bobby.”

“It’s always been like that,” Bobby said miserably, and this time he made no attempt to withdraw from his brother’s embrace. “No matter what I did, it was always about you. Why couldn’t I be more like you? Why didn’t I study science like you? You wouldn’t have put her away in a home…”

Frank snorted.

“Yeah, I got that one from her. She didn’t like it when I told her you’d done what was best for her, and to quit complaining. She didn’t like that at all.”

“Tell me something,” Bobby whispered, “and be honest.”

“What is it?”

“How long are you planning on hanging around for?”

Frank paused in answering, and when he did there was a sincerity in his tone that Bobby could not ignore.

“As long as you need me to.”

Bobby looked upwards at Frank, feeling a fresh twinge of hope deep within him.

“Straight up?”

“Yeah,” Frank murmured. “Straight up, bud.”

“Because… I don’t know if I could take anymore…”

His words were silenced by a fierce hug.

“I’m not lying to you, Bobby,” Frank insisted. “I’m sorry for before. I really am. I was being a selfish bastard, and I had no right to do that to you.”

“So… if you’re not getting the money from me or Mom…”

“Emily paid what I owe,” Frank admitted, his face heating up. “She laid down three conditions. First, I apologise to you. Second, I get help and quit gambling for good. Third, I get a job and pay her back. I’ve already made good on one and a half of those promises.”

“You’re getting help?”

“Yeah. I contacted a Gamblers Anonymous program a couple of days ago. I’ve already been to my first meeting.”

“That’s good,” Bobby mumbled. “I’m glad.”

Frank peered down at Bobby. His brother was almost asleep.

“Yeah, well, when it comes down to it, my family is more important than trying to make a quick buck. I’m just sorry it took me so long to figure it out.”

A soft sigh escaped Bobby.

“At least you figured it out. You’re one up on Dad. He… He never did…”

Frank smoothed back Bobby’s damp curls and took the liberty of running a cool, damp cloth over his brother’s overly-warm skin.

“Go to sleep, Bobby. I’ll be here when you wake up in the morning. I promise.”

Another sigh escaped Bobby’s lips, and a moment later he fell asleep in his brother’s protective embrace.

Jimmy Deakins arrived at the hospital the next morning, deciding to stop and visit Bobby for a while before heading on to One Police Plaza. He wasn’t particularly surprised to meet Emily and Sophie Goren, who were also on their way in, but he was surprised at the visible fury that was radiating from Emily.

“Is something wrong?” he asked, not entirely sure that he wanted to know.

“My husband,” Emily seethed. “I took Sophie to see a movie last night. Frank opted not to go with us, and when we got back to the hotel, he wasn’t there. He hasn’t been back all night. The son of a bitch, I’ll skin him alive!”

“Mrs Goren, please,” Deakins pleaded with her, thinking ruefully that if it turned out that anything untoward had happened to Frank Goren, he would be legally obliged to target her as a suspect. Emily sighed heavily.

“I know, I’m digging my own grave if it turns out something’s happened to him.”

“But you don’t think it has,” he concluded.

“No. I know exactly what’s going on.”

“The ‘G’ word,” Sophie whispered conspiratorially to him. Deakins sighed inwardly. Gambling…

“I’m sorry, Mrs Goren.”

She snorted angrily.

“Not as sorry as Frank will be when I catch up to him. And please, stop calling me Mrs Goren. It’s just Emily.”

“Only if you call me Jimmy.”

“Deal,” Emily agreed. “Oh, Dr Fielding…”

Fielding had seen them coming, and had hurried to intercept them.

“Can I talk to you all before you go up to see Bobby?”

“Of course,” Emily conceded. “Sophie, too?”

“Yes, Sophie, too. She’s been an integral part of Bobby’s support base, and she needs to know this as much as the both of you.”

They went into a private room, and only then did Fielding speak.

“We ran a scan… and MRI… on Bobby’s spine last night. The swelling has finally gone down, and we were able to see how extensive the damage really is.”

“And?” Emily pressed anxiously, but Deakins already saw the truth in Fielding’s eyes.

“There’s no chance of him ever walking again, is there?” he asked softly, and Fielding shook his head.

“No, I’m afraid not. There was no mistaking the level of damage that had been done.”

“Wait a second,” Emily said with a dark frown. “You ran the scan last night? And no one told us? Any of us? Bobby has been alone all this time?”

“It was his choice…” Fielding started to point out, only to be cut off by a very angry Major Case captain.

“Damn it, he’s only just recently come off a suicide watch! How could you leave him alone after giving him news like that?”

“He hasn’t been alone,” Fielding interrupted firmly. His words were met with surprised silence.

“Well, then, who…?” Emily wondered.

“Your husband, Mrs Goren.”

Emily’s jaw dropped.

“Frank? Frank is here?”

“Yes, Ma’am. He’s been here the whole night. I don’t know what you said to him after the last… incident, but I’ll be the first to thank you for it. I spoke to the night shift nurses not long ago, and they told me that they heard Bobby scream out a number of times through the night, but each time they went to see to him, Frank had already calmed him back down and gotten him to go back to sleep. In fact, I just came from seeing Bobby, and I think it’s safe to say they are well on the way to reconciling.” He paused, taking in Emily’s incredulous expression. “You really didn’t expect to find him here, did you?”

“To be honest, Doctor? No, I didn’t. But I have to admit, I’ve never been so happy to be so wrong.”

“Can we go and see him now?” Deakins asked, anxious to see with his own eyes how Bobby was doing.

“Of course. Just one more moment, though. Sophie…?”

Sophie looked up at the doctor with large brown eyes.


“Sophie, honey, I need to know that you understand what I just told your mother and Captain Deakins about your uncle.”

“I understand,” Sophie answered in a sober voice that belied her young age. “Uncle Bobby can’t walk anymore. He’s gonna need a wheelchair.”

“That’s right,” Fielding confirmed. “Can we rely on you to help him now?”

“If he’ll let me,” Sophie answered softly and, above her head, Deakins and Emily exchanged glances. Sophie didn’t know it, but she had just nailed it in one succinct line. They would all be there to help Bobby… but they could only do so if he let them.

Bobby was awake when they walked in, sitting up in bed and reading a newspaper with Frank. Both men were smiling, and Bobby laughed aloud at something Frank said just as they walked in.

“Daddy!” Sophie burst out, and ran to her father’s open arms.

“Hey, pumpkin,” Frank murmured, cuddling Sophie close for a long minute before passing her carefully across to Bobby to hug in greeting. He looked to Emily, smiling tiredly. “Hey, Em. Listen, I’m sorry about last night. When I came here, I didn’t expect to be here all night, but Bobby needed me. I know, I should’ve left a note or something…”

Emily strode over and silenced him with a long kiss, wrapping her arms around him in a fierce embrace.

“It’s okay. It’s really, really okay, Frank. I am so proud of you.”

Smiling faintly at the couple, Deakins walked over to Bobby’s bedside.

“I won’t ask how you’re feeling,” he assured him quietly. Bobby regarded him sombrely, his smile rapidly fading.

“You spoke to Dr Fielding?”

“Yes. He stopped us on our way in here. I’m sorry, Bobby. I really am.”

“So am I,” Bobby murmured, eyes downcast. “It… It hit hard, because I was still… I mean, I hoped…”

“I know,” Deakins said. “I did, too. Tell me, though. Why didn’t you tell someone you were having that scan last night?”

“I don’t really know,” Bobby admitted. “Maybe… Maybe I thought I’d be jinxing myself or something.”

“You’ve never been superstitious before,” Deakins retorted sceptically. Bobby gave a lopsided shrug.

“Well, it didn’t work anyway, did it?”

“You idiot, Bobby,” Deakins murmured with no rancour, and much affection. “You should have told someone. You know Alex is going to have your hide?”

Bobby grimaced.

“Don’t I know it. But… Frank was here with me. I don’t think I would have gotten through the night if it hadn’t been for him.”

Deakins looked over at Frank, and spoke with soft sincerity.


Looking more than a little embarrassed, Frank shrugged in response.

“He’s my little brother, and I owe him the support. I know I was an ass, but I’m trying to make up for it.”

“Well, don’t worry,” Bobby told him with genuine gratitude. “You made up for a lot with last night. I don’t think I would have gotten through it without you.”

“Yeah, you would’ve,” Frank murmured. “But if I made it easier for you, then that’s good.”

Deakins smiled and was about to excuse himself when he noticed the envelopes he’d given Bobby with the job offers were all open, and the contents piled carefully on the side table.

“You’ve looks through these?” he asked, suddenly having to make an effort to control his nerves. Bobby nodded.

“Yes. I’m not interested in the offers from the university. I… I’m no professor. The FBI offer was a good one, but I’d have to leave New York… move to DC. I’m not sure that I’m ready to do that.” He offered Deakins a half-smile. “So don’t worry. I don’t think I’m gonna be a Fed.”

Deakins uttered a nervous laugh, slightly embarrassed at being caught out.

“Was it that obvious?”

“A little,” Bobby admitted with a small grin. “I’d like to work with Gideon some time, but I don’t think I really want to join the FBI.”

“So have you come to a decision?” Deakins wondered, all the while trying hard not to sound pushy.

“Well, keeping in mind that I got another offer…”

“Oh? From where?”


Deakins’ eyebrows went up in surprise. “CSU? As in the NYPD’s CSU?”

Bobby nodded.

“Mack Taylor brought it in himself. He… He said he was willing to do whatever he had to in order to accommodate me.”

A wry smile slowly formed on the captain’s face.

“Oh, really.”

“Yeah. And… the salary is good. Really good.”

“What are you trying to do, Bobby, start a bidding war?” Emily said with a laugh, and Bobby smiled a tad sheepishly.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean it to sound like that. I just… I mean, it’s kind of nice to know I’m still wanted. Anyway, I don’t want to go to CSU. I already told him that.”

“What did Taylor say?” Deakins asked.

“He said the offer was an open one. If I ever change my mind, just let him know. Anyway, the truth is I’m torn between your offer, Captain, and the one from the DA’s office. It would be something different, to work as an investigator for the DA… but I don’t want to leave Major Case. I know I have to choose one, but I don’t want to regret whichever way I decide, and it’s a tough choice.”

“You’d really consider working for the DA?” Deakins asked, not quite able to keep the incredulity out of his voice. Bobby couldn’t suppress a smile at the tone.

“Is it that hard to imagine?”

“You playing by the rules for the likes of Arthur Branch?” Deakins retorted. “Yes, actually. It is a little hard to picture.”

“I’m sure he’s not that bad,” Emily said with a light frown, jumping to her brother in-law’s defence.

“Okay,” Deakins said, with a brief glance in Bobby’s direction to ensure that he wasn’t overstepping the mark. “Let me tell you about some of the stunts that he’s pulled that had our ADA pulling his hair out when cases went to trial.”

“I suddenly feel like I should be leaving the room,” Bobby remarked dryly. Frank, though, chuckled.

“No, this ought to be good, if it’s any sort of reflection on what he used to pull when we were kids. Go ahead, Captain.”

“Let me see…” Deakins mused. “Oh, yes, the little girl with ALS who didn’t exist. Bobby and Alex were investigating a murder where it seemed the victim had a girlfriend on the sly. But when they looked into it deeper, it turned out he’d been giving financial support to a child with ALS. You might have heard of her. Erica Windemere, wasn’t it, Bobby?”

“That’s right,” Bobby confirmed.

“I read her book,” Emily said, pulling a face. “I was actually considering donating something when she just seemed to vanish off the face of the Earth. There were rumours that it was all just a con.”

“It was a con,” Bobby said. “A very well-planned and executed con. The people who thought they were talking to Erica over the phone were really only talking to Barbara Windemere. She was very adept at changing her voice to sound like a child.”

“And Bobby figured it out?” Frank asked with a knowing grin.

“Yes,” Deakins answered, “but it’s how he did it that’s the kicker, and really curled the ears of the jury when the defence lawyer at the trial demanded to know how he knew Erica was just a fabrication. We were in my office when a called came through from Erica, asking for Alex. We talked to her, and then Bobby asked her a question about the ALS, and then he asked her how it had affected her menstrual cycle.”

Emily gaped at Bobby.

“You asked a little girl about that? Good Lord, Bobby…”

Bobby shrugged, unconcerned.

“Firstly, there was no little girl. Secondly, it was a legitimate question. She should have been able to answer it, but she couldn’t. There were other things that made me suspicious, but that was the real tip-off.”

“There was another time where he and Alex discovered that one of our ADA’s colleagues had set up an elaborate plan to frame his wife for his own attempted murder, just because he was jealous that she’d achieved more than him. Except, they kept Carver in the dark about what they were doing when they set up a trap for the guy.”

Bobby grunted.

“I remember that. Mr Carver was furious with us. Thought we’d made a fool of him.”

“You have no idea how furious he really was over that,” Deakins told him. “He bypassed me that time, and went straight to the Chief of Detectives. The only things that saved you and Alex from getting kicked back to traffic duty were your records and solve rate, and the fact that I jumped in and told the Chief that I’d approved the tactics.”

“That would explain why Carver was so pissed off at you the next time he came to the squad room.”

Deakins laughed.


“Sounds just like Bobby,” Frank laughed. “Getting the big bosses all in a fluster.”

“That’s not all, either,” Deakins said. “There was a case where we knew a judge had solicited a murder, and in order to catch him out we arrested another judge. He once danced with a suspect in the interrogation room… A male suspect. He nearly took the kneecaps off one man with a lead pipe…”

“Oh my god, Bobby,” Emily gasped, and Bobby frowned.

“The guy was a Jew killer. It was the method he’d used to disable his victims. He went for a piece of pipe when I confronted him, and I grabbed it off him. I wouldn’t have really hit him with it…”

“But the defence lawyer had a field day with him over it in court,” Deakins threw in wryly. “I think that would have to be one of the few times when a lawyer got the better of you, Bobby. Carver had a hell of a time convincing the jury that you didn’t terrorise him into confessing. But of all that… I think the real topper was when he convinced Alex to let a suspect hit on her in the interrogation room, in front of the guy’s wife.”

“Oh, you didn’t,” Emily laughed. “The poor thing!”

“Poor thing my ass,” Bobby grumbled. “She held me to ransom over that one for three weeks. Cost me a fortune in margaritas.”

“You weren’t complaining,” Deakins chided him. “She did a damned good job.”

“Hey, I tried to tell her that!” Bobby protested. “She just hit me, and believe me, she packs a hell of a punch.”

“She has two brothers,” Deakins said. “That goes without saying.” A wry smile touch his lips as another thought occurred to him. “You know, it’ll probably give Ron Carver a stroke if you decide to take the position with the DA’s office.”

“I was thinking the same thing,” Bobby admitted. “I know I’ve given him a lot of grief over the last few years. He might not be so thrilled to have me working alongside of him. None of the ADAs might be, knowing what Carver has probably told them about me.”

Deakins smirked at that, and patted Bobby’s shoulder reassuringly.

“I wouldn’t worry about that, Bobby. For every time you’ve put him in a difficult spot, you saved his career an equal number of times. He may not always approve of your methods, but he respects you all the same.”

“Even after the Tagman case?” Bobby wondered soberly, and Deakins nodded sincerely.

“Yes, even then. He’d be honoured to continue to work with you, just the same as the rest of us. Although, I have to admit that I’m hoping furiously that you’ll accept the Commissioner’s offer. I really don’t want to lose you from the squad.”

Bobby stared at Deakins thoughtfully.

“If I take the Commissioner’s offer, I’ll be strictly inactive duty. I’ll be riding a desk, all the time.”

It was not a question, and Deakins suddenly felt intensely uncomfortable.


“But I’ll get to continue profiling.”

“That’s right.”

“Whereas there won’t be as much opportunity to do any profiling for the DA’s office, but I’ll have the freedom to go out on the streets and interview people.”

And then Deakins realised what Bobby was hinting at. The resident profiler position appealed to him, but he needed the freedom to go beyond the office walls, and interact with other people. He wondered, then, whether it might be possible to come to some sort of compromise. More to the point, he wondered just how badly Arthur Branch wanted Bobby on his team.

“Let me talk to the Commissioner before you make any decisions, okay? We’ll see what we can come up with for you.”

Bobby hesitated, then. There was more that he wanted to ask Deakins, but he didn’t particularly want to talk about it in front of Sophie or her parents. Emily, who had been watching Bobby closely, suddenly spoke.

“C’mon, Sophie. Frank. Let’s go get some breakfast.”

Frank, who had also caught on, looked back to his brother.

“We’ll bring something back for you. What do you want?”

Bobby shook his head.

“No, I’m not really hungry…”

“That wasn’t a question, Bobby,” Frank cut him off. “You need to eat. Now, what do you want us to bring back for you?”

Finding that he just didn’t have it in him to argue with them, Bobby conceded with a sigh.

“A plain bagel with a little cream cheese?”

“One plain bagel with cream cheese it is,” Emily agreed. “You want some coffee, too, hon?”

“No, thanks,” Bobby murmured, deciding his stomach wasn’t quite ready to deal with caffeine, after the difficult night he’d had. “Some juice would be good, though.”

“How about some pear juice, if we can find any?” Emily asked. “That shouldn’t be too sweet, or too acidic for you.”

“That’d be good,” Bobby agreed. “Thankyou.”

Once they were gone, Deakins turned his attention back to Bobby.

“Now, what is it that you didn’t want to say in front of them?”

“Alex,” Bobby said tentatively. “She’ll eventually go back to work for Major Case… She’ll eventually be back on active duty.”

“Yes,” Deakins conceded. “She will. But you’ll be coming back to work too… if you decide to accept the Commissioner’s offer. And remember, just because things are going to be different doesn’t mean you’re worse off.”

“I know,” Bobby agreed. “That… That’s not what I meant. I want to stay with the NYPD, and with Major Case. I really do…”

“But?” Deakins prompted him quietly when he hesitated.

“Well, I’ve been thinking about it… Maybe a little too much, but I can’t stop thinking how much I’d eventually start to resent Alex.”

Deakins started, shocked by the confession.

“Resent her? Why? Bobby, you aren’t blaming her, are you?”

“No!” Bobby burst out. “No, it’s not that. What I’m trying to say is… Look, say I come back to Major Case. Back to a desk job. Alex will be someone else’s partner. How many times will I be able to watch her leave to go to a crime scene… to interview a witness… to arrest a suspect… before I start resenting that she can still do that, and I can’t? How long before I start resenting watching her working with someone else?”

“I understand,” Deakins murmured, feeling his heart sink as he realised the truth in Bobby’s words.

“I just don’t want to end up being angry at Alex over something that isn’t her fault,” Bobby insisted. “I… I don’t know what to do, Captain. I’m starting to think that maybe I should seriously look at taking the offer to join the FBI’s Behavioural Analysis Unit.”


“I don’t want to leave New York, but maybe it’d just be for the best if I did.”

“Bobby, wait,” Deakins burst out, with perhaps a shade more panic in his voice than he would have liked. “Listen to me. I don’t want you to make any decisions until I speak to the Commissioner. All right? Will you promise me that you’ll wait until then?”

Slowly, Bobby nodded, although the sceptical look on his face suggested that he didn’t really believe it would change anything.

“Okay,” he conceded. “I’ll wait.”

Deakins didn’t even try to suppress a sigh of relief.

“Good. Thankyou.”

“I just want to do the right thing,” Bobby said tentatively. “Make the right decision.”

“How about we settle for you making the right decision for you?” Deakins asked. “You know I’ll support whatever choice you make, but I want you to be happy with what you decide. That isn’t going to happen if you base your choice on other people’s considerations. You have to think of yourself now, Bobby. For once in your life, put yourself first.”

Bobby sighed and sank back into the pillows.

“Easier said than done.”

“It doesn’t have to be. Not if you trust us to support you. Do you think you can do that?”

Bobby didn’t answer that immediately. What the captain was asking of him was a foreign concept. He had never trusted easily, and never so many people as Deakins was asking him to trust now. He wanted to comply, but he wasn’t sure if he could.

“Do you trust me, Bobby?” Deakins asked quietly, drawing a startled look from the younger man.

“Yes,” Bobby answered, without any hesitation. “I… I’ve always trusted you.”

“Then trust me now.”

For the longest while, the two men simply stared at each other. Bobby’s gaze was searching, while Deakins did his best to hold that gaze unflinchingly. Finally, Bobby relaxed and conceded with a quick nod.


That afternoon, Deakins found himself in the Commissioner’s office, discussing Bobby’s situation.

“He doesn’t want to be confined to a desk?” the Commissioner echoed, eyebrows raised. “Jim, the man’s been crippled. What does he expect?”

“Sir, I can understand where Goren is coming from,” Deakins argued. “He appreciates the offer we’ve made, and he wants to stay with the NYPD, but the straight truth is that being tied to a desk would kill him just as sure as another bullet would have. We’re going to have to find some sort of compromise, or we’re going to lose him – either to the DA’s office, or to the FBI. And believe me, the FBI have presented him with a very lucrative offer – one that doesn’t keep him tied to a desk.”

The Commissioner sat back slowly, eyeing Deakins curiously.

“You really don’t want to lose him, do you?”

“No, sir, I don’t,” Deakins answered tersely. “Damn it, you know how brilliant he is! The NYPD may never find another profiler like Bobby Goren, and you’re willing to risk losing him to the goddamn Feds!”

The Commissioner smiled wryly, quietly impressed with Deakins’ vehemence.

“Well, Jim, what do you suggest we do about this? You know we can’t offer him active status.”

“He doesn’t care about that. He just wants the chance to get out on the streets. He doesn’t need active status to have the authority to talk to witnesses and view crime scenes.”

“Let me think about this, and I’ll get back to you.”

“All right,” Deakins agreed. “Just don’t think on it for too long. I managed to put Goren off making a decision for now, but I can’t hold him back indefinitely.”

The Commissioner nodded passively.

“Okay, Jim. Trust me, we’ll work something out. I don’t want to lose him from the NYPD, either. Especially not to the goddamn Feds.”

Nodding, Deakins got up and let himself out. The Commissioner waited until he’d gone before picking up his phone and speaking to his assistant.

“Nat, get me Arthur Branch the DA’s office. Tell him I want to talk to him about Robert Goren.”

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