POST MORTEM: GREAT BARRIER
Author’s note: An incident which was mentioned briefly in Post Mortem: Jones is explained in greater depth in this piece. It would probably help to read ‘Jones’ first, but it’s not strictly necessary.
Also, this story uses Ending B of Great Barrier - in other words, the good ending, where Nicole bites the dust.
I’ve made a few alterations regarding Goren and Eames’ partnership. As one reviewer said in a review of one of my other ‘Post Mortem’ fics, and they’re quite right, though Eames has seniority over Goren in the show (and this has been confirmed by both Rene Balcer and Stephanie Sengupita), many writers tend to write Goren as being the senior partner. That’s been bugging me for a while, now, so I decided to change it in this fic while doing a bit of ‘tidying up’ with some other discrepancies I found.
Alex Eames pulled her coat on slowly, dimly aware of the aches that were just starting to take hold in her body. The last few days had been an absolute bitch, that was a fact, but at least now things were starting to look up again.
The reason for her relief was simple enough. Nicole Wallace was dead. They had caught her red-handed… no pun intended… in the middle of killing her current lover. Goren had shot her twice as she tried to flee by jumping through a window. Both bullets had gone straight through the woman’s heart.
It had been a clean shoot, but she hadn’t missed the look on her partner’s face as he handed his gun over to CSU. Killing Nicole had been the last thing he’d wanted to do, but the bottom line was that in the end she had given him no choice.
She looked around now, and felt a sigh escape her. Goren was still at his desk, staring blindly at the papers in front of him. After a moment’s hesitation, she walked back over to him.
He looked up at her slowly, and she felt a small shockwave pass through her at the sight of his red-rimmed eyes. She had been going to ask him if he’d like to leave with her, and perhaps go get a drink, but now she’d made her mind up. She wasn’t going to give him a choice. She needed to get him out of there, before he suffered some sort of emotional breakdown.
“Come on, get up.”
He stared at her blankly, making no effort to move. Biting back a sharp retort, she took firm hold of his arm, and physically pulled him out of his chair. That was no mean feat for her, considering he was a foot taller and around forty kilos heavier.
“We’re going,” she told him determinedly. “You are not staying here and agonizing over something that was out of your control.”
He didn’t say a word as she handed him his coat, and ushered him to the lifts.
“It wasn’t your fault,” Eames said as they sat a short time later in the corner booth of the diner where they often stopped for lunch. “You gave her every chance, and she refused it every time.”
He looked up at her, the exhaustion plain to see in his eyes.
“You’re happy she’s dead.”
Eames grimaced a little. She knew what she would like to say, but with the emotional state that Goren was in at the moment, it might not be such a hot idea to admit to it.
“Happy isn’t the word I’d choose,” she said finally. “Relieved, maybe. She put you through hell, Bobby. Don’t let her keep on doing it after her death.”
“She was confused…”
“That’s being nicer than she deserved. She was a killer. She was calculating, and manipulative, and she enjoyed watching people suffer. She enjoyed watching you suffer. Try and be thankful that it’s over now, Bobby, even if it didn’t happen the way we wanted it to.”
He slumped back against the cushioned seat, and there was a dull look in his eyes that was all too familiar.
“I can’t be happy about this.”
“I’m not saying you have to be happy. Just accept that what happened wasn’t your fault! You did what you had to do and in all honesty, Bobby, if you hadn’t shot her, I would have.”
He looked at her and, for just a moment, what she saw in his eyes chilled her to the bone. For just a fleeting moment, she flashed back to Nelda’s warning about schizophrenia manifesting at times of great stress. She reached across the table and gently closed her hand over his. To her relief, he didn’t pull away.
“She was never going to let you in. You did everything you possibly could, and more, but she was never going to let you get past her defences. You can’t win them all.”
Silence met her words. She watched his bowed head for a long while, wondering what else she could possibly say, when she saw a telltale tremble pass through his broad shoulders. A moment later, she spotted the first tears falling onto the table. After a moment’s pause, she slid around next to him, and slipped a comforting arm around his shoulders.
This was a liberty she had never taken before, but the situation was unlike any they’d ever faced before. She’d watched him endure the misery that Nicole Wallace had caused in their first encounter with her. Then she’d had to watch again, helplessly, as he came dangerously close to falling apart completely in their second encounter with her. This time, she was damned if she was going to just sit back and do nothing again.
She hugged him gently as his shoulders shook with sobs that he was trying damned hard to suppress.
“Just let it go, Bobby. For your own sake, let it go.”
“I can’t,” he whispered, his voice laden with grief. She fought the urge to sigh, and instead slid out of the booth, encouraging him to follow. He allowed himself to be led, like a little lost boy who had tried to cope on his own for too long, and had finally reached the end of his endurance.
She managed to coax him into a taxi with surprisingly little effort. Though his apartment was not far away, she didn’t care to let him walk home. Odds were he would have ended up in the middle of Central Park, and that was no place for any cop after dark. Also, she didn’t particularly care to leave him alone, either. If it took the whole damn night, she was going to see this through with him.
He said nothing to her for the short length of the journey to his apartment, but just sat slumped and staring desolately into space. She gave the cabbie directions, and finally guided him into his building, and up to his apartment.
Once inside, she sat him down, and went to make fresh coffee for them both. Coming back to him minutes later, she pushed the mug into his hands, making sure he had a grip on it before letting go. He sipped at it, but the gesture was automatic… hollow. He could have been drinking cyanide for all he cared, she thought grimly.
“You tried so hard to help her,” Eames said quietly, not sure if he was even listening to her. “I watched you practically bend over backwards trying to get through to her. You have to accept that it isn’t your fault that she wouldn’t let you help her. Not everyone can be helped. Not everyone wants to be helped.”
He looked up at her slowly, his eyes red and swollen from the tears he’d shed. It was a sight she had never seen before in the entire time she’d been partners with him.
“I can’t help feeling that there’s something I didn’t do. There’s something I should have done.”
She watched him thoughtfully.
“Don’t forget the way she tried to manipulate you, Bobby. She used everything she learnt about you from the first time to manipulate you the second time around. She killed a man, and arranged it to look like suicide just to get to you! Don’t sit here, and give her sympathy that she doesn’t deserve.”
Abruptly, Goren launched himself out of his chair, the coffee splashing all across the coffee table. The verbal outburst that Eames had anticipated never came, though. Instead, he stalked over to the bookshelves that lined his walls and, in a fit of rage, swept an entire row of books off their shelf and onto the floor.
Even as she watched, helpless to stop him, he drew back his left fist and slammed it as hard as he could into the wall.
The result was instantaneous. He fell away from the wall with a cry of pain, his hand held in front of him, the knuckles all split open.
“You idiot,” Eames growled, though there was no rancour in her voice as she got up and went to him. “What are you trying to do, break your hand?”
Even as she looked, though, she realised with a sinking feeling that that was exactly what he had done. The almost immediate bruising that had come up, and the way he was holding it, suggested almost beyond any doubt that he had broken it.
“Deakins is going to have kittens when he hears about this,” Eames said grimly. She grabbed a large white handkerchief out of his jacket pocket, and carefully wrapped it around the injured hand. She then took him by his uninjured hand, and led him towards the door. When he resisted, she looked back at him threateningly.
“You’re going to have to get this fixed up, Bobby. I don’t know for sure, but I think it’s broken. You’re going to need x-rays, among other things. Now, c’mon. Punishing yourself isn’t going to do you or anyone else any good.”
His shoulders slumped in defeat, and he allowed her to lead him from his apartment and down to the underground car park where his car was.
Eames watched silently from a discreet corner as the doctor, a gruff, silver-haired old man, took care of her partner’s injured hand. As well as three of the gashes needing multiple stitches, it turned out that not only had Goren broken several bones in his hand, as well as four of his fingers, but he had also succeeded in breaking his wrist.
Dr Andrew Morton had been just about ready to finish his shift and head home when Eames and Goren arrived. He had known Goren for many years as the family doctor, and opted to stay and take care of his long-time patient and friend. When Morton asked what had happened, Goren admitted openly that he had punched a hole in his wall. The doctor then said exactly what Eames had wanted to say, but didn’t.
“Well, that was a damned stupid thing to do, wasn’t it?”
By that time Goren seemed to be coming out of his stupor, and he sheepishly admitted that perhaps it wasn’t the brightest thing he’d ever done.
“I’ll say,” Dr Morton growled. “I’ve known you to do some idiotic things, Bobby, but this is definitely one of the dumbest, without a doubt.” He looked over at Eames, who had been watching the exchange with mild amusement. “I don’t suppose you know why, Detective? The big oaf here isn’t likely to tell me.”
Eames didn’t answer straight away. She looked at Goren thoughtfully for a long moment, then spoke quietly.
“It’s been a difficult day.”
Morton eyed her sceptically, then shook his head.
“Apparently. Well, you managed to bust it up really good, Bobby. What’s behind your wall? Bricks?”
“Concrete,” Goren admitted, wincing as the worst cut on his knuckles was carefully stitched up. Morton grunted.
“Figures. One thing about you, boy, you never ever do anything by halves. This is going to have to be in plaster for at least six weeks, quite probably longer. It might not have been so bad, except you had to take it one step further and break your damn wrist as well.” He looked back at Eames. “I’m afraid you’ll be going to work tomorrow on your own, Detective Eames, and probably for the next couple of days after that as well. Once he takes the painkillers I’m going to be prescribing for him, he won’t be fit for anything for the next forty-eight hours, at least.”
Goren opened his mouth to protest, and was cut off short by Morton.
“Don’t you dare argue with me, Robert. You’ll take what I prescribe for you, because if you don’t I guarantee you’ll be in so much pain you won’t know what hit you. And you’ll probably be back in here as an in-patient. So if you want to be back at work in two days, and not two weeks, you’ll do what I say. Understand?”
To Eames’ private delight, Goren conceded without arguing.
“I’m going to have to call Deakins,” she said, moving out of the corner and heading for the door. “He should still be there. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
Morton watched her go, then looked back to his patient. To his amusement, Goren was watching her retreating figure with a look that was not entirely professional.
“You have a very pretty partner, if I do say so myself,” Morton commented quietly once Eames had disappeared from sight. Goren shook himself back to reality.
“She’s a good partner.”
“How long have you been working together? Because the last time I saw you… professionally, at least… was when that idiot… what’s his name, Brenton…? pulled that stunt in Narcotics that got you shot.”
“Braddon… That was six and a half years ago. I’ve been partnered with Eames for a little over four years. She joined Major Case about six months before I did… about six years ago, but we weren’t partnered together until nearly eighteen months after I joined.”
“Four years, hmm? Glad to see you’ve found a partner that will stick with you, Bobby. And Detective Eames is a definite improvement on the last dropkick.”
Goren smiled faintly. Dr Morton didn’t know how right he was. His last partner before leaving Narcotics had been one Dylan Braddon. The guy had the street smarts to be a great Narcotics cop, but unfortunately he also had an ego to match, and he hadn’t enjoyed being partnered with someone who was very obviously smarter than he was. On the last undercover job that Goren had been involved in, the top dogs had decided to give control of the op to Braddon. Goren had gone along with it, if only out of respect for his partner.
Braddon, however, had taken it as an opportunity to lord it over his partner, and had deliberately tried to humiliate him by ordering him around in front of the other team members. The real crunch had come, though, when Braddon intentionally sent him into an extremely dangerous situation, with no immediate back up and no vest – a ‘dead giveaway’, Braddon had said by way of argument when Goren had protested. The other members of the op team had thought it was hilarious – until their cover was blown through Braddon’s incompetence.
Goren’s memory of the actual incident was sketchy at best. He remembered being in the midst of a very volatile drug gang when the slip had been made. One moment he had been negotiating with the dealers, the next one of them pulled a gun on him and shot him five times in the chest and stomach. The bullets had been armour-piercing quality, and without a vest they had cut through his body like a hot knife through butter. A sixth bullet had clipped his temple, very nearly finishing the job altogether. As it was, his injuries had left him in a coma in hospital for nearly five weeks, teetering on the brink of death.
By the time the rest of the team had reached him, it had almost been too late. He later learned it had only been the quick thinking of one of the senior members of the team that had, in truth, saved his life. The only thing he was sorry for was that he had missed the look on the face of his smart ass partner when they finally reached him, for while all the other team members had visited him in hospital, Braddon had stayed well away.
Once he’d recovered from his injuries, a couple of months down the track, Goren had not returned to Narcotics. Instead, he had gone straight into a new position at Major Case, a move that had been initiated by the brass in Narcotics. Goren still didn’t know whether the move had been for his benefit, or for the benefit of the other Narcotics officers, and the truth was that he didn’t care anymore. He was happier now working for Major Case than he had ever thought he could be. The work was challenging and varied, and he had a superior officer who was willing to go the extra mile to support his detectives. In a new and stimulating environment, Goren found he had been able to achieve his true potential for the first time in his life. It had been a damned good feeling.
Naturally, he had been painfully wary coming into Major Case, not knowing what his new partner might be like. He had rationalised to himself that anything had to be better than Braddon, but the truth was he was plain scared that whoever he was partnered with would hate him equally as much as Braddon. He knew he had odd methods, and his intellect had often seemed more like a burden than an advantage, driving many people away. Over the years, he’d learned to ‘dumb down’ to fit in better, but inevitably something always gave him away.
At first, his fears had seemed justified. Those first eighteen months had turned out to be just about the hardest of his life. While he enjoyed the work, he’d seriously thought his career as a Major Case detective was going to go the same way it had in Narcotics as one partner after another – eleven in all – got frustrated and eventually quit on him.
He vividly remembered being pulled into Deakins’ office one morning and being told that Senior Detective Alex Eames had consented to partnering him. Her partner had just recently transferred out after seven years in Major Case, and she had generously offered to work with Goren on a trial basis. The announcement had been followed by a not so subtle threat of what would happen if he couldn’t make this new partnership work.
His first week with Eames at Major Case had been tenuous as they both circled each other like alley cats. Almost to the point of paranoia, Goren had deliberately kept a lid on his style in an effort not to put his new partner too much on the back-foot. The clincher had come towards the end of their first week, though, when Goren could no longer hold back, and went into full flight in the interrogation room with a murder suspect.
He’d gotten a full confession out of the suspect within half an hour, much to the fury of the appointed defence lawyer, and to the delight of Deakins and Ron Carver. When he and Eames left the interrogation room, though, Goren had felt certain that any chance of a working relationship with Eames was out the window. He hadn’t missed the look she’d given him in the interview room, and it had made his heart sink. It was the same look he’d gotten from his various partners over the last eighteen months, every time he volunteered some piece of obscure knowledge. It was a look that said ‘freak’.
He’d returned to his desk, knowing what would happen when Eames approached Deakins and said she couldn’t work with him after all. The truth was that he had enjoyed working with Eames andhe just didn’t know what he would do when the inevitable happened, and he got the dreaded call from Deakins to go in for ‘another talk’. He didn’t doubt that the next ‘talk’ would end with a recommendation for his transferral elsewhere.
To his surprise though, Eames had not approached Deakins at all. Instead, she had come back to her desk, opposite his, sat down and looked at him for nearly a minute, and then spoken quietly. He remembered her words as clearly as though it had just happened.
“I’ve never seen anything like that before in my life.”
He had looked back at her guardedly, unsure of what her intentions were.
“Using psychology like that… It was brilliant.”
Goren had been too startled to be defensive. It was the first time since attaining the rank of detective that he had been complimented like that by a colleague.
“I don’t want to make you uncomfortable,” she said apologetically. “It’s just, my last partner… before I left Vice… He preferred to use his fists to get confessions out of suspects. He had to fight brutality charges more than once. It’s a relief, that’s all. It’s just nice to be partnered with someone who thinks things through.”
And so it had been since. Over time he’d succeeded in developing a good working relationship with Eames, something that he appreciated far more than he had ever been willing to let on. He didn’t miss the mind-numbingly repetitive work of Narcotics, and he definitely didn’t miss having an egotistical partner who cared less about supporting his partner than scoring points with his buddies.
Best of all, finding a partner that could last more than two months with him had helped the rest of the employees of the Major Case Squad to warm up to him. Gradually, he ceased to be known as ‘the freak’, and the surreptitious glances that he used to get as he walked in each morning steadily turned into genuinely friendly smiles of greeting. And all because one Alexandra Eames had decided it was worth giving him a chance.
His thoughts went briefly to that day’s events. Sometimes things happened that he wished hadn’t, but overall they managed okay. He had a good job, a good partner… A smile flickered across his lips at the thought of his partner. He had a really good partner…
Goren came back to reality as Morton chuckled.
“I know that look.”
Goren looked at him, startled.
Morton’s smile widened.
“Relax, Bobby. I’m not insinuating anything. What I mean is that you get that look when you’re thinking about someone that you greatly admire and respect. Detective Eames must be something special to get that sort of reaction out of you.”
Goren stared up at the ceiling.
“So are you going to tell me what went so wrong today that you decided to try and beat up a concrete wall with your bare fist?”
For a long moment, he didn’t answer.
“I shot and killed someone today.”
Morton watched him seriously.
“That’s not the first time, is it?”
“No… but that’s not it. It wasn’t that it happened… It was who it happened to.”
He went on to briefly explain as best as he could. Morton listened intently as he plastered Goren’s hand, wrist and forearm, not saying a word until Goren had finished.
“Sounds like the young lady didn’t give you much of a choice, in the end,” Morton commented quietly when Goren finally fell silent. “You think you should have been able to do more for her?”
“I don’t know,” Goren admitted softly. “I keep thinking that there’s more I could have done, but then I can’t think what.”
“If I know you half as well as I think, then you did all you could, and more. Stop beating yourself up. I mean that literally as well as figuratively. This really was a stupid thing to do. It’s a good thing for you that your partner hauled you in here as soon as it happened. Otherwise, you might have really been in serious trouble.”
Movement caught their attention as Eames walked back in.
“I just missed Deakins,” she said ruefully. “But Davis told me to tell you that you’re an idiot.”
“I’m never going to live this down, am I?”
Eames smirked at him. “Nope.”
“Okay, I’m done. This is going to take a half hour or so to dry, so don’t move until then. I’m going to go and get the medication for you, and you’re to take it as soon as you get home. Understand?”
When Goren didn’t answer, Eames spoke up for him.
“Don’t worry, I’ll make sure he takes it.”
Morton nodded approvingly.
“Good. Excuse me.”
He then left them alone. Eames watched him go, then looked back at her partner. He was watching her with a rueful look.
“Did you really tell Davis what happened?”
She had to fight back the urge to laugh.
“No. I only said what happened, not how. I’ll let him draw his own conclusions.”
Goren moaned. “Great. It’ll probably be all around the squad tomorrow morning that I got drunk and fell over.”
Eames grinned at him.
“Look on the bright side. You won’t be there to have to deal with the jokes.”
Goren looked grimly at his plastered arm.
“I have a feeling I’m not going to be too worried about it, come tomorrow.”
“I think you may be right,” Eames agreed. “Did he say how long you’ll need to have the plaster on for?”
“Six weeks, at least.”
Eames nodded. “You’d better start practising writing with your right hand. I’m not doing all the paperwork.”
Goren pulled a face.
Eames laughed softly, relieved that he could make a joke.
“How is it feeling at the moment?”
“Right now?” Goren asked. “It’s okay. Just aching. Give it a couple of hours, and I’ll really know it.”
She hesitated, then asked the question that had been gnawing at the edge of her mind since she’d hauled him out of the office some two or three hours earlier.
“Are you really that upset that she’d dead?”
Goren fell abruptly silent. For a long moment he neither spoke, nor looked at her. She was just starting to wonder whether she hadn’t made a mistake bringing it up again when he spoke softly.
“I don’t know. I really don’t know. I don’t know whether I’m upset that she’s dead, or because I’m the one who killed her, or…”
“Or if I’m angry at myself for letting it go this far.”
“You had no control over this,” Eames told him quietly. “You have to get that through your thick head. Last time… That was a different story, but she wasn’t out to get you this time. It was sheer coincidence that our paths crossed. It could have been any one of five different teams that were assigned to that case. It was just coincidence.”
He didn’t respond to that, and Eames sighed in frustration.
“That woman was poison in life, and now she’s no better in death. I said it before, Bobby, and I meant it. Don’t let her keep dragging you down. You have to find it in yourself to get past this.” She hesitated, then closed her hand gently over his. “I’ll help as best as I can, but you’re the one who has to work it out in your own mind. She’s dead. It’s not your fault. Accept that.”
He looked up at her, and for just a brief moment she was struck by the deep sadness in his eyes.
She smiled reassuringly at him.
Eames arrived at work the following morning, feeling like she wanted to crawl into a dark corner and go to sleep. Though Goren had tried to tell her to go home, she had insisted on staying with him until the medication had taken full effect. It was not merely that she wanted to be sure he really took it, but also in case his body threw a reaction to the drugs. The doctor had said the odds of that happening were slim, but still possible. If it happened, she wanted to be there to get him the necessary help as fast as possible.
It hadn’t been necessary. The drugs that Dr Morton prescribed had knocked him out cold within minutes. It was a good thing, she reflected in vague amusement, that he had gotten himself settled into bed before taking the medication.
She had then stayed with him for the next few hours to make sure that he was, indeed, all right. As a result, she hadn’t gotten home until some time after midnight. Then, she had been back at his apartment by eight in the morning to make sure that he got his next dose of medication.
He had been half awake when she got there, having made his way to the bathroom in a semi-daze, and then had found his way back to bed. He barely knew she was there at all.
She’d seen that he took the meds, waited until he fell asleep again, and then headed off to get to work.
Eames collapsed into her chair, wishing she’d had a reason to call in sick herself.
It was Deakins. Eames felt her already dark mood deteriorate even further. Deakins crossed the floor to where she sat, puzzlement on his face.
“Where is Goren? He’s not usually late.”
Eames drew in a steadying breath. Here went nothing.
“He’s not going to be in today, sir. Probably not tomorrow or the next day, either.”
Deakins was silent for a long moment as he considered that.
“Okay… Can I ask what’s happened that Detective Goren felt he needed to take some time off without giving any warning? And using you as messenger?”
Eames had to bite back the anger that surged inside her at his words and tone.
“Sir, he had a bad accident last night. He broke four fingers on his left hand, six bones in that same hand, and broke his left wrist as well. I had to take him to hospital last night to get it seen to, and the doctor gave him medication strong enough to knock out an ox.”
All irritation was gone from Deakins’ face, making immediate way for genuine concern.
“How the hell did he manage to do that?”
At that, Eames hesitated. It was one thing to garner sympathy in telling about the injury, but did she dare tell him how it happened…? Within a period of just a few seconds, the concern on Deakins’ face gave way to suspicion.
“How did it happen, Detective?”
Defeated, she confessed what had happened. Deakins listened in silence, and spoke only when Eames had finished.
“I suppose I should have expected something like this. Alex, will you be going back to see him again today?”
“Yes. I’ll go there after work. I promised his doctor I’d make sure he took the full course of medication.”
“All right, then. When you see him tonight, if you can make him understand, tell him he’s got the rest of this week off. And so have you.”
Eames stared at him, stunned. It was only Tuesday morning. Did that mean he was giving her nearly a full week…?
Deakins smiled wearily.
“I’m not a total ogre, Alex. And this is probably my fault as much as anyone’s. I should have known better than to just let Goren go yesterday without any sort of counselling. I guess we should just be grateful that he only broke his hand and wrist, and nothing else. In fact, if you could just wrap up the paperwork that you’ve got left over to do, then you can go earlier. All right?”
Eames nodded, barely able to bring herself to make a coherent reply.
“Uh… Sure… Thankyou, Captain.”
“And just so we’re clear about this, I don’t want to see either you or Goren back in here again until Monday. Understand?”
She nodded again.
“Yes, Sir. Thankyou.”
Eames finished all the paperwork, both hers and Goren’s, in record time, and she was out the door before eleven. She’d had several concerned inquiries as to Goren’s wellbeing, inquiries that she intended to pass on to him as soon as he was alert enough to comprehend. She often suspected that he believed he was not particularly well liked among the other detectives and officers. She was sure it was one of the main reasons he tried to avoid any social events on their calendar. He believed they respected the results he got, and that was all.
A smile touched her lips as she left the secure underground car park. He couldn’t have been more wrong, and she was going to take great pleasure in telling him so.
Two fellow detectives in particular – Derek Chambers and Marty Ashcombe – had approached her not long before she was ready to get going, and asked if what they’d heard was true, that Goren had smashed up his hand in a fit of anger over the Nicole Wallace case. Wary of what the two might have been after, she tentatively admitted that it was true. Then, they had both surprised her.
Ashcombe had asked her quietly to pass on a message to Goren for them. She remembered his words with crystal clarity.
“Tell that bozo of a partner of yours that he’s not to blame himself for anything that happened with that bitch Wallace. We know he did everything he could, and she just kept throwing it back in his face. He did a hell of a lot more than the rest of us would have bothered doing, so he can’t think he didn’t do enough.”
“And tell him he needs to heal up quick,” Chambers added. “Without you and him here, this place will sink faster than the Titanic.”
“And besides,” Ashcombe finished with a smirk, “you two are the only ones who can really handle Carver. He scares the shit out of the rest of us.”
Eames had to laugh as she headed for Goren’s apartment. She wasn’t sure that he would believe that Ashcombe and Chambers had said all of that, but that didn’t matter. She knew they had said it, and she knew they had meant it. All rivalry aside, they had been genuinely concerned that one of their own was hurting so badly over a case that he had done actual physical harm to himself – intentional or not.
She let herself into his apartment with the key that she’d kept in her possession, and hung up her coat before heading through to the bedroom to see how he was. The sight that met her brought her up short, and very nearly gave her a heart attack.
Goren was out of bed, lying on the floor with half of the bed sheets tangled around him. His face was a deathly grey, and his skin was lathered with sweat.
As she ran to his side, she could feel the heat coming off him waves. How long he’d been like this, she didn’t know. What she did know was that she needed to get help, straight away.
Heart in her throat, Eames grabbed the phone off the dresser by the bed, and dialled 911.
Deakins slumped back in his chair a little, taking a rare moment to relax and sip some freshly brewed coffee. He supposed, in retrospect, it had been a little foolish to give Goren and Eames the rest of the week off, but they would manage somehow. There were four other teams who, while perhaps not possessing that certain something that Goren and Eames had, were still equally as capable in doing their job.
And, again, he felt responsible. Knowing how badly Goren had been affected by his previous encounters with Nicole Wallace, he should have thought ahead, and organised for a counsellor to be on standby.
He sighed faintly. There was no point bemoaning the situation now. If Goren had smashed his hand up as badly as Eames said, he wasn’t going to be in a fit state to work for a week, anyway.
There was a knock on his door, and Ron Carver came in, looking slightly confused.
“Where are Detectives Goren and Eames? I was just looking for them to collect their paperwork.”
“I’ve got it all here, Ron,” Deakins answered, indicating a thick file on his desk. “Goren never made it in this morning, and I sent Eames home at eleven.”
Carver stared at him in surprise.
“You… gave them the day off?”
“No. I gave them the rest of the week.”
Carver sat down, stunned. “That’s very sympathetic of you, Captain.”
Deakins smiled wryly.
“Yes and no. Detective Goren wasn’t in the best of moods last night…”
“I’m aware of that, but…”
“According to Eames, he punched a hole in the wall in his apartment, and succeeded in breaking four fingers, six bones in his left hand, and his left wrist.”
“Good God,” Carver muttered. Deakins nodded.
“That was my reaction, too. Apparently the doctor that treated him in the ER last night prescribed painkillers strong enough to knock out a baby elephant. Since he’s not going to be in a fit state to come in anyway, I figured I might as well cut Eames some slack as well.” Deakins hesitated, then added sincerely, “And more than that, they’ve both been working damned hard lately. I think they’re well overdue for a bit of time off.”
Carver didn’t have a chance to respond. There was another knock on Deakins’ door, this time hard and urgent. Deakins called for the person to enter, and it was Katie Lowell, one of the civilian secretaries.
“Katie?” Deakins asked, feeling an inexplicable twinge in his gut. “Is there a problem?”
“I was asked to come up and tell you, Sir. Detective Eames just placed a 911 call from Detective Goren’s apartment, requesting an ambulance.”
Deakins rose slowly to his feet.
“An ambulance? Why?”
“It’s Detective Goren, Sir. Apparently he’s collapsed…”
Deakins bolted past her, out of his office, before she had a chance to finish the sentence.
By the time Dr Morton emerged from the ER, Eames had been joined by Deakins.
“Detective Eames,” Morton greeted her. He looked questioningly to her companion, and Eames introduced him quickly.
“This is Captain Deakins, our commanding officer.”
Morton nodded politely, then went on quietly and quickly.
“I’m afraid Robert has suffered a double whammy. He’s had a serious allergic reaction to the combination of drugs that I gave him, and he’s developed a severe infection from the injury to his hand. It’s a good thing you found him when you did, Detective Eames. He would have been in serious trouble, otherwise. As it is, I’m going to have to admit him now, probably for four or five days at the absolute minimum. Most probably longer. He won’t like it, but he’s not going to have a choice.”
Eames looked anxiously at Morton.
“He’ll be all right?”
“Eventually. As I said, it’s a good thing you found him when you did. If he’d been alone in that condition for much longer, by the time you found him he would have gone into a coma from anaphylactic shock. If that had happened, I don’t think he would have survived.”
Eames glanced at Deakins, ashen-faced with shock. If he hadn’t insisted she leave early, she wouldn’t have made it back to Goren’s apartment until after 6pm that evening. He would have been comatose… or maybe worse. Maybe dead…
“But he will be all right?” Deakins asked quickly, aware of the ashen colour that Eames had gone. Morton nodded.
“Oh, yes, he’ll be fine. He’s going to be very sick for a while, but he will be fine. The next twenty-four hours will be spent trying to work out exactly what caused the allergic reaction so that we can work out a fresh course of antibiotics for him.”
“Can we see him?” Eames asked, hating the tremor in her voice but unable to do anything about it. Morton nodded.
“Well, this is a hell of a way to get time off work.”
Goren looked around as Eames and Deakins walked in, then groaned and shut his eyes, as though he could make them disappear at will.
“Stop acting like an infant,” Deakins ordered him, “and look at us.”
Goren did so with extreme reluctance. When they had his attention, Eames spoke, her voice thick with emotion.
“Damn it, Bobby, you scared me to death!”
His grouchy expression softened considerably.
“I’m sorry… but it wasn’t exactly deliberate.”
“How are you feeling?” Deakins asked, genuine concern reflected both in his voice and expression. Goren gave a lop-sided shrug.
“Been better. A lot better.”
“I don’t doubt it,” Deakins agreed. “Maybe next time you’ll think twice about taking on a concrete wall.” He paused, glancing at Eames before speaking again. “I have to get back to the office. Alex, I’ll see you next week, okay? And as for you…” He looked back to Goren, who cringed under the intensity of his captain’s frown. A moment passed, and then Deakins relaxed, and favoured the detective with a reassuring smile. “Get some rest, Bobby. Okay? And I’ll see you in a couple of weeks.”
Then Deakins was gone. When Eames looked back at her partner, it was only with serious effort that she didn’t burst out laughing at his stunned expression.
“You thought you were in for it, didn’t you?” she asked, and he nodded sheepishly.
“To be honest, I thought he’d fire me for sure. Do I have you to thank for changing his mind?”
Eames sighed and sat carefully on the edge of the bed.
“You big dope, he never even entertained the thought. He was just worried about you, same as I was. So tell me, how are you feeling? And I don’t mean your hand, or any other medical-related complaints.”
He met her question with silence. For a long moment, she thought he wasn’t going to answer. Then, finally, he looked up at her, managing to properly hold her gaze for the first time since Wallace’s body had been recovered.
“I’ll be okay. I… I won’t say I’m good. Not yet, at least… but I think I’ll be okay.” He stared at her for a long moment, then added quietly, "It wasn't my fault."
Eames nodded, both satisfied and relieved with his honest answer. It was a start; that was the important thing. She felt a large, warm hand close over hers, and looked down to see he’d taken her hand. When she looked back at him, he was smiling at her in that small, shy way of his that was powerful enough to melt a glacier.
“Thanks, Alex. For everything.”
She returned his smile with a warm, open one of her own, silently thanking God that the crisis had finally passed.
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