A/N: My turn! Seriously, this turned out shorter than I thought it would, but that's the way it goes. It might also have something to do with the painkillers I'm on at the moment, following a tooth extraction, but I'm not apologising. Also, I'm not sure if it's quite what I or anyone else expected from me in a post-ep fic, but again, not apologising. It is what it is.

Now, excuse me. I'm going back to 'The Long Road Home'.

He walked into the bar just after seven that evening, after finally wrapping up the details of Jo Gage’s arrest. It had been a long, difficult day, and now he was looking forward to having a quiet drink or two in a dark corner, and then heading home and crashing. Making his way through the throng of cops that were already gathered there, he finally reached the bar, and caught the bartender’s eye long enough to request a straight Scotch. Sure, he’d probably regret it the next day, but after the last few days…

He’d just received his drink when he became aware of the figure that sat on a barstool right beside him, broad shoulders hunched inwards as though he was trying to make himself invisible. For just a split second, he considered taking his drink elsewhere, and not even acknowledging the hunched figure, but something stopped him. Whether that something was instinct… or simple common courtesy, he didn’t know, but instead of slinking away, he half-turned and spoke to the man beside him.


The hunched figure shifted, and a pair of slightly glazed eyes looked towards him. The surprise there was obvious. Clearly the man had been lost in his own world, and oblivious to his surroundings – including the people around him.

“Captain… Fancy meeting you here. Have… Have a seat.”

Ross couldn’t resist the urge to smile. Goren was definitely on his way to getting plastered.

“Thanks, Detective, but I won’t interrupt you.”

“No… Have a seat,” Bobby repeated, more insistently this time. Ross hesitated, and then shrugged and sat on the stool beside the big detective.

“Hell of a week, huh?” Bobby mumbled. Ross nodded placidly.

“Yes, it has been.”

Silence fell, not quite awkward but not exactly comfortable, either. Ross was just considering excusing himself and going elsewhere, despite Bobby’s invitation to join him, when Bobby spoke, lifting his glass in a semi-drunken toast.

“Here’s to… to my partner… for having the balls to save herself…”

“I’ll drink to that,” Ross agreed, lifting his own glass and clinking it lightly against Bobby’s.

“…and not waiting for me to… to let her die.”

Ross was grateful that he had hesitated in taking a sip of his drink. As it was, he nearly gagged.

“Is that why you’re here, and not at the hospital with Eames?” he asked, trying to keep his tone conversational, and not confrontational. “You feel guilty?”

“No… I mean, yes… I mean…” Bobby paused, frowning for a moment before trying again. “Her mom and dad are there… Didn’t… didn’t want to intrude.”

“But you’re still feeling guilty,” Ross concluded. Bobby’s silence spoke in volumes, and the new captain sighed softly. “If you’re willing to take advice from the new guy, then mine would be don’t. Even if you can’t accept just yet that you have nothing to feel guilty over… which you don’t… then at least accept that it just isn’t worth the wasted energy.”

Bobby stared morosely at the counter and didn’t reply. Ross watched him, not sure whether to feel annoyed or sympathetic. He ultimately wavered on the side of sympathy, if only because he felt he had as much reason to feel guilty as the detective sitting beside him.

Oh, the irony of the situation most definitely was not lost on him. On accepting the position of captain to the Major Case Squad, he recalled being told that he was lucky – it was a squad that knew how to look after its own. The detectives under him were among the best in the NYPD, and had everything under control ninety-nine percent of the time. So what happened, within a few days of him taking the reins? A serial killer struck, and one of his own detectives was abducted and nearly murdered.

What a great start that would have been.


Ross blinked, and looked around at Bobby in confusion.

“What was that, Goren?”

Bobby stared at him, and Ross had a sudden suspicion that the other man was nowhere near as drunk as he had first appeared to be.

“Thankyou,” Bobby repeated softly.

“For what?”

“When I came back in… after I got that text message… You didn’t question me… didn’t doubt me. You just acted. And… and you didn’t try to keep me out of it. I… I appreciated that.”

“I’m not an idiot,” Ross said ruefully. “I know what would have happened if I’d tried to sideline you… and off the record, I wouldn’t have blamed you. Not so long ago, I would have done exactly the same for my own partner, in that situation.” He paused, and then a soft sigh escaped the new captain. “I know you probably think I’m a hard-ass, Goren, and you wouldn’t necessarily be wrong about that. But… I like to think I’m not entirely insensitive. And for the record, I wasn’t willing to accept that she was dead, either.”

A rush of warmth swept through Bobby at Ross’s admission, and he turned a little to look properly at his new captain.

“If anything happened to her… I don’t know what I’d do. She… She’s the best partner I’ve ever had.”

“I can understand that,” Ross murmured. “The way you two worked together… I have to tell you, Goren, I haven’t often had the privilege to observe a partnership like yours. I get the feeling that the rewards are going to considerably outweigh the headaches.”

“I know I can be difficult,” Bobby said suddenly. “I know I’m hard to understand… but that’s one of the reasons Eames and I work so well together. She…”

“Translates for you?” Ross suggested with a wry smile, and Bobby chuckled softly.

“Right. I… I don’t function well without her. Thinking that she might have been dead… mutilated… I just… I couldn’t…”

“You don’t have to explain,” Ross interrupted him quietly. He paused, considering his next words carefully before speaking again. “I’d heard a lot of rumours about you, Goren. A lot of stories… and not many of them were flattering.”

Bobby grunted wordlessly. Ross smiled to himself before going on.

“Most of them had you pegged as a hot-shot… someone who needed to be kept under tight control. I admit that I came into Major Case with pre-conceived ideas about you… and about how to deal with you… and that was a mistake. I’ve watched you operate over the last five days, and I want you to know that I’m impressed. Even when you had every reason to go to pieces, you still held it together and you managed to make some tough calls. That deserves respect.”

“I didn’t want to believe that it was Jo,” Bobby said softly. “Even when she admitted it to me, part of me was still screaming that I had to be wrong, that it couldn’t be her. I… I never saw it. I was so blinded by my idolization of Declan, that I just never saw it.”

“And yet you weren’t so blinded that you couldn’t accept that Declan might have been the killer,” Ross pointed out. “His daughter was not an obvious candidate. None of us suspected her. None of us could have conceived that she was doing it to get Declan’s attention. It was much more credible that Declan was recreating the Sebastian killings to drag you in and use you to redeem himself. The point, Detective, is that when you saw the truth, you were willing to accept it… no matter how hard it was.”

Bobby looked away, but not before Ross caught a glimpse of the grief in his eyes. It was the same grief he’d witnessed on Bobby’s face in that moment in the observation room, after Jo had been arrested, and it was a grief that he understood all too well.

“It’s tough,” he said quietly, “to have no real family of your own, and then find out that the family that you’ve used as a substitute for so long is exactly the opposite of what you wanted it to be…”

“My father was an alcoholic gambling addict who didn’t give a fuck about his kids, unless he could make money out of us,” Bobby confessed. “When Declan showed interest in me… and took me in as his student… it was like I’d found someone that I could look up to, like I should have been able to look up to my father. But then, I missed how he treated his own kid like dirt. How could I have missed that?”

“You’re only human,” Ross pointed out. “Like any ordinary human, you only see what you want to see. You just said it yourself. You’d found someone to look up to as a father figure. You didn’t want for there to be anything wrong with it. There’s nothing wrong with that, Detective and, like I said, you were willing to accept the truth when it counted.” He paused, and then spoke in a more subdued tone. “I saw how hard that was for you… with Jo… and I appreciate how you handled it. You did good, Detective.”

Bobby looked around at the captain curiously. After their apparent rocky start, it was an eye-opener to him that Ross was able to praise him freely. Offering him a small smile, Ross clapped him lightly on the shoulder.

“Another bit of advice, Detective. Go home. Get a good night’s sleep. Then go and see your partner tomorrow. I don’t want to see your face in the squad room until Thursday. Understood?”

“Yes, sir,” Bobby answered, and the appreciation in his tone was clear. Ross smiled as Bobby slipped off the stool, abandoning his drink on the bar.

“I think we’re going to get along fine, Detective. As long as we both keep an open mind, right?”

Bobby nodded.

“Right. Thankyou, Captain. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight, Detective Goren.”

Ross watched until Bobby was out the door before returning his attention to his own drink. He’d been sitting alone for only a couple of minutes when movement beside him drew his attention, and he looked to find he’d been joined by a man whom he knew by reputation rather than personal experience.

“Captain Deakins, I presume,” Ross greeted him, feeling a little bemused. Jimmy Deakins nodded as he settled onto the barstool recently vacated by Bobby.

“And you’d be Captain Ross.”

“Checking up on me?” Ross wondered, and he wasn’t quite able to keep his tone accusation-free. Deakins, however, only chuckled softly.

“Nothing like that. I was here with some friends when Bobby Goren came in a while ago. I was just going to go and talk to him when you joined him, so I thought I’d keep my nose out of it.”

Ross nodded.

“I appreciate that. So… I suppose you’ve heard about what’s been going on.”

It wasn’t a question, and Deakins didn’t play ignorant.

“Yes, I heard. I’ve been to see Alex in the hospital. Thank God she wasn’t seriously hurt, though the emotional trauma will be hard enough to deal with.” He paused before going on. “I heard about how you handled the situation… and about how you handled Bobby. Given the circumstances, that was no mean feat, believe me. It was hard enough to deal with him when Alex was just on maternity leave. I can only imagine what sort of a state he was in with her missing like that.”

“He functioned as well as anyone could hope to, under the circumstances,” Ross said generously. “I have no reason to complain.”

Deakins looked sideways at Ross, a glint in his eyes.

“Bobby is a good detective. You’ll find that he can hard to cope with sometimes… Sometimes he’ll be downright impossible. But he’ll always get the job done, if you’re willing to give him the leeway to do it. Don’t ever underestimate him and Alex. Individually, they’re both excellent police officers, but together, they’re a force to be reckoned with. Respect them, and they’ll respect you.”

A wry smile quirked Ross’s lips.

“I already do.”

Nodding amicably, Deakins turned to go, only to be stopped by Ross’s hand on his arm.

“Tell me… Logan…”

Deakins’ eyebrows went up.

“What about him?”

“Well… Goren, I get… surprisingly. But what about Logan? He’s not exactly without a reputation, either.”

At that, Deakins’ face widened into knowing grin.

“I’m not going to presume to tell you about Logan. He’s another ballgame entirely. All I’ll say about him is to give him a chance. Don’t leap to conclusions, and you’ll find you’ve got a good, smart, loyal cop working for you.”

“I’m not so sure that fills me with confidence,” Ross remarked, and Deakins chuckled.

“It wasn’t meant to. Just take it one step at a time, Captain. Those detectives want to be given a chance as much as you do. Don’t let the politics of the job keep you from doing the job.”

“I’ll remember that,” Ross promised. Deakins nodded again, and made his way out of the bar. Ross watched him go before opting to finish the rest of his drink and leave also. It had been a hell of a week, as Bobby Goren had so eloquently put it, and it wasn’t over yet.

He paused just outside the door of the bar, looking up and down the brightly-lit street. He’d heard the phrase ‘baptism of fire’ often enough, but he’d never really comprehended what it meant until now. His initiation into the Major Case Squad really had been a baptism of fire, and he was more than grateful that he’d come through it relatively unscathed. More to the point, his two lead detectives had come through more or less in one piece.

He meant everything he’d said to Bobby, and he hoped that this tentative understanding between them heralded the start of a good working relationship. Perhaps it wouldn’t be all plain sailing, but that would just keep things interesting.

He smiled, and chuckled softly to himself as he headed away up the street. His new job was never going to be boring; of that, he was certain.


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