POST MORTEM: STRESS POSITION

Author's note: Just a short vignette. Please note, at the time of writing, and then posting this, I had not seen the episode Stress Position. I've taken a few liberties, and if anything I've written does not fit in with the continuity of the episode, please forgive me. Consider it a little bit of poetic license.

I've updated this, because Mike's comment about being ready to start shooting grated on me something shocking once I'd finally seen the episode. However, I have left in the comment he makes about his dad beating him. Yes, I know that was not the case, but it fits in with one of my current works-in-progress, Trapped.

Standard disclaimer. I own nothing CI-related. I only wish I did. It's all Dick Wolf's, the lucky bastard.


POST MORTEM:
Stress Position

“It was my dad with me.”

Detective Bobby Goren paused mid-sip, the glass of Scotch momentarily forgotten, resting lightly against his lips. Seconds later, he finished taking a mouthful of the fiery liquid, and looked sideways at his drinking companion, confused.

“Sorry?”

Detective Mike Logan stared at the bar, not looking up.

“My dad. He used any excuse to beat the shit out of me.”

Goren was silent. He didn’t quite understand where Logan was headed with this, and had a sneaking suspicion that he didn’t want to know.

“When those guys showed up… And it was pretty damned obvious what they wanted to do to us… I felt like I was ten again. Another few seconds, and I think I probably would’ve just started shooting.” He paused, and then laughed bitterly as he recalled that their guns had been taken from them upon entering the prison. “At least, I would have if I’d had a gun to shoot.”

“What’s your point, Logan?”

Goren hadn’t meant that to sound quite so harsh, but this conversation was starting to breach borders that he had guarded within his own mind for a long, long time. Borders that, so far, not even Eames had been able to penetrate. If Logan took offence to Goren’s seemingly uncaring response, it didn’t show.

“My point is, I saw the look on your face when that second pair of guards appeared. It was the same look that was probably on my face. You weren’t worried. You were terrified.”

Goren said nothing, staring into his Scotch with an intensity that would have frozen lava. Logan went on carefully, quietly and acutely aware that he was treading on dangerous ground.

“So who dished it out to you when you were a kid? Your mom or your dad?”

Goren had just been taking another sip when Logan spoke, and in response he slammed the Scotch glass back down on the counter hard. The glass shattered, spraying liquor everywhere, and driving cruelly sharp shards of glass deep into Goren’s hand.

Logan jerked back, startled. A moment later he regained his composure.

“Shit, that was brilliant. Look at your hand.”

Goren stared placidly at his hand, and at the blood that was starting to flow from several deep-looking cuts. The pain from both the injury and the burning sensation of the alcohol on the multiple cuts momentarily engulfed his mind, blotting out unwanted thoughts and memories. Acting with a calm that Logan found mildly disturbing, Goren pulled a large white handkerchief out of his pocket and wrapped it tightly around his hand without first bothering to extract any of the pieces of glass. Within moments, blood was already seeping through the material.

“You’re gonna need stitches for that,” Logan said, starting up. “Let me drive you to the hospital, okay?”

Goren looked at Logan, then, his expression enough to stop the other man cold.

“It’ll be fine. It’s just a few scratches.” He stood up. “I’ll see you around, Logan.”

Logan watched as Goren disappeared out the door of the bar, then shook his head and turned back to his own drink. Well, he’d tried, and failed.

Sorry, Eames. He’s all yours.

Alex Eames stepped out of the shower, a large, fluffy towel wrapped tightly around her body. She had been hoping that some time spent under the scalding hot water would wash away the insecurities of the day, but no such luck. In her mind’s eye, she continued to relive that moment when she and Carver had arrived at the prison, only to be denied entry as the place went into lockdown. She recalled the sickening lurch in her gut as they realised that Goren was trapped somewhere inside with Logan and four corrupt, homicidal prison wardens.

She’d never felt so helpless before in her life.

The moment when Goren and Logan had emerged from within the prison, looking shaken but relieved, it had been all she could do not to throw herself into Goren’s arms and sob uncontrollably.

As it was, she had waited instead for him to come to her, trying to offer silent comfort as she had so many times before. For the first time that she could remember, he’d rejected her efforts at reassurance. Indeed, not only had he not spoken to her, he had completely avoided her gaze.

She had stood back and watched as he sank into the passenger side of their SUV and sat there in stoic silence. It hadn’t been until they were almost back at One Police Plaza that she finally caught a glimpse of how he was really feeling.

She’d happened to look at him as she pulled up at a red light. He’d turned his face away from her, but not quickly enough. Not quickly enough to hide from her sight the solitary tear that rolled down his cheek.

“Bobby?”

She’d spoken softly, hoping he would open up to her. To her growing concern, he’d stayed silent. She hadn’t pushed it, resolving instead to find out from Logan just what had happened within the walls of the prison, and hopefully learn what had driven her partner into this state.

Eames sighed as she pulled on her favourite pyjamas and robe, and sank onto her sofa. It hadn’t been necessary to go looking for Logan. He had come to find her, pulling her into one of the empty rooms and asking her if Goren had spoken to her about what happened. When she admitted that he hadn’t, Logan went on to tell her about their brush with the wardens, and just how close they had really come to getting the life beaten out of them. She remembered his words with painful clarity.

I think your partner needs to talk to someone, Eames.

She’d regarded him with her best poker face.

He won’t talk to anyone until he’s ready, Logan. Why the sudden concern, anyway?”

Look… Has Goren ever talked about his childhood?”

The alarms started ringing in Eames’ mind.

Why do you want to know, Logan?”

Logan had stood there for nearly a minute before shaking his head.

Never mind. Forget I asked.

The next thing she knew, Logan had asked Goren to join him for a drink at the bar down the road after clocking off. To her private astonishment, Goren had actually agreed, and the two men had headed off together an hour later. She supposed that’s where they were now, getting shit-faced together and probably hitting on poor, unsuspecting females.

Eames frowned and picked up her book. She was irritated that Goren seemed more willing to respond to the likes of Mike Logan rather than her. She was irritated that she even felt that way to begin with. What happened that afternoon had clearly affected her partner in some major way, and if he felt more at ease talking to Logan about it, then who was she to judge?

Only his partner and confidant for the last, oh, five years

She frowned again. Goren would talk to her eventually, she was sure of that. It was only a matter of showing patience. And, wasn’t it reasonable that he should occasionally want to be in the company of other guys? For God’s sake, she didn’t feel like this when he had a boys’ night out with Lewis.

The phone rang. Her irritation hitting a new level, Eames reached over and snatched the phone off the hook.

“What?”

There was a moment of silence on the other end, and then a voice spoke very tentatively.

“Alex…?”

Eames silently cursed herself as she recognised her partner’s voice.

“Bobby, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to snap.”

Not out loud, anyways.

“I… I was wondering… Could I come around…?”

“Sure,” she said. “Where are you?”

“Um… Outside your building.”

She didn’t know whether to be startled or not. On a deeper level, she felt more than a hint of satisfaction that Logan seemed to have fallen flat in trying to play the amateur shrink to her partner.

“Come up,” she told him.

It was only after she’d hung up that she realised she was in her pyjamas and robe. After a moment of indecision, she decided she didn’t care and went to the door to let him in.

He was truly a sorry sight. At some point between when she had gotten home and now, it must have started raining, because he was soaked to the skin.

“Come in,” she told him gruffly. “You dope, did you walk from the bar to here?”

“Needed time to think,” he said simply. Eames sighed, and ushered him through into her bathroom.

“You’re soaked, Bobby. Hang on a second, I’ll get you something to change into.”

She disappeared into her bedroom, and emerged a minute later with a set of clean, neatly folded clothes; jeans, T-shirt, sweater and other essentials. He raised an eyebrow at her, and she returned his look with a smirk.

“Remember when you stayed here for a few days when your apartment was being fumigated? You forgot these when you went home, and I decided to hang on to them, just in case. Now, get in and have a hot shower, then get changed…” She faltered, finally catching a glimpse of his injured hand. “What the hell did you do to your hand?”

His expression became guarded again as he gazed at his injured hand. The handkerchief that he’d wrapped around it was now thoroughly soaked with blood.

“Had an accident with a glass.”

“Let me see…”

He offered only a token resistance as she took his hand and gently unwrapped the handkerchief.

“Damn it, Bobby…”

He tried to pull away from her, but she held firmly onto his wrist.

“Stop fighting me. I’m going to clean this up, you’re going to get changed, and then I’m taking you to the hospital. This is going to need stitches.”

There was a fleeting look of panic in his eyes, and Eames had to bite back the urge to laugh. It was a well-kept secret that Big Brave Detective Robert Goren had a severe phobia of needles. Not even Deakins knew about that one.

“Maybe next time you’ll be nicer to your drinks,” she teased lightly as she filled the basin with warm water and soaked a washcloth. He didn’t smile, and she felt a slight twinge of concern deep in her gut once more.

He hadn’t been ready to talk earlier that day, but perhaps now…

“It really got to you today, didn’t it?” she asked softly as she dabbed carefully at his hand with the cloth. He didn’t answer her straight away. Big surprise there.

A slight shudder passed through her as she realised there were several shards of glass embedded in his hand.

“Hang on, I need tweezers. You really did a number on this, Bobby. All I can say is, thank God it wasn’t your left hand.”

“How come?”

“Because you aren’t lumping me with all the paperwork.”

He smiled a little at the running joke, but she couldn’t help but notice that the smile didn’t reach his eyes.

She finally located a suitable pair of tweezers, and returned her attention to his hand. At least three of the cuts were deep, and were bleeding profusely. If she couldn’t get the glass out quickly, she would have to settle for bandaging the hand as it was, and just get him to the hospital. If it happened that way, though, odds were he would be up for more than just a few stitches. He would potentially be up for an overnight stay, and she knew how much he would hate that.

“I panicked.”

Eames froze, staring at him in confusion.

“What do you mean? When?”

“Today. In the prison. The wardens… They were planning to beat us to death. It was bad enough being confronted by the first two, but when the other two turned up… I nearly shut down totally. Couldn’t think for a second… I panicked.”

Eames drew in a slow breath as she put the tweezers down on the bench and began to gently mop at the blood that was caked on his hand.

“Why?”

For a long moment, he didn’t answer. She was starting to wonder if he was ever going to, when he spoke again.

“They both beat me up. Mom and Dad. Mostly it was Mom, but a couple of times Dad really laid into me, too.”

Eames kept her gaze fixed carefully on his hand. This was news to her. Disturbing, and frightening.

“Any particular reason why?”

“With Mom, it was because she was sick. With Dad… I was just in the way.”

“I’m sorry, Bobby. Do you mind me asking… How bad was it?”

“The worst time I ended up in hospital for two weeks. Broken rib that punctured a lung, and a compound fracture in my right arm. I was twelve.”

“How the hell did you avoid Child Services getting involved?”

“I told the doctors I got belted up by a local gang.”

“So, what really happened?”

“It wasn’t long after Dad left. Mom had just had another episode. She… um… She smashed a handheld mirror over my head… kept screaming at me, calling me the son of the devil… I was terrified, I really thought she was going to try and kill me. I knew where Dad was staying, and I went looking for him. I walked in on him when he was with… You know. He went berserk, threw me clear across the motel room. That’s how my arm got busted. Then he started punching me in the chest and in the gut. That was when he broke my ribs. He only stopped when his new girlfriend begged him to. Not that she cared about me. She just wanted to get back to doing what they’d been doing. So Dad threw me out of the room, and locked the door. I think I must have wandered around in a daze for half an hour or so before I got picked up by a squad car, and they took me to the hospital.”

“Oh god… Bobby, I’m sorry.”

“Me too.”

A moment later, he hissed sharply in pain as she carefully extracted a shard of glass from the palm of his hand.

“Why didn’t you ever tell me about this?” she asked softly. She looked up into his eyes as she asked him, and any anger she might have felt at his apparent mistrust melted away at the incredible sadness she saw there.

“I convinced myself it was easier to pretend that it never happened,” he admitted. “It was hard enough coping with Mom being sick. I didn’t want to have to face up to the fact that I was… was abused… as a kid.”

Eames felt her heart break for him. The truth was, she had occasionally wondered whether there had been more to his childhood than he’d been willing to let on. Now she knew.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I’m sorry I didn’t trust you.”

She finished wrapping a temporary bandage around his hand, then slipped her arms around his waist and hugged him gently.

“I’m not mad at you, Bobby. I do understand, you know. The fact that you didn’t tell me any of this before now has nothing to do with whether you trust me or not.”

A small, bitter smile touched his lips.

“Denial?”

She smiled up at him.

“You said it, not me. Now, get changed. And give a shout if you need help. Then, I’m taking you to the hospital.”

Goren watched her retreat from the bathroom, a small, tired smile on his lips. He would have to call Logan tomorrow… or sometime in the near future, and thank him. He might not have been willing to open up to the other detective, but without Logan’s stirring the pot, neither would he have gone to Eames.

He changed slowly, acutely aware now of the unpleasant way his head was starting to spin, a result of the loss of blood. He finished towelling himself dry, and began to awkwardly pull on the dry clothes. He’d long forgotten ever having left clothes there, and he wasn’t entirely sure that he wanted to know what sort of ‘just in case’ Eames had been thinking of when she’d decided to hang on to them.

Just in case you decide to do something stupid like slice your hand open and then turn up on her doorstep soaked to the skin, idiot.

He grimaced a little as he tried to pull the turtleneck sweater clumsily over his head The truth was, he wasn’t sure just how long he’d been wandering around in the rain before he ended up at Eames’ apartment. It hadn’t been intentional, that was for sure. After everything that had happened that day, though, and the unwanted memories that that had been forced to the surface, he really wasn’t all that surprised that it was Eames who he had eventually turned to.

When things got nasty, it was always her that he turned to and, inevitably, things were always better afterwards for it.

“You okay in there?”

The door opened slowly, and Eames peeked in. Seeing he was respectable, she pushed the door all the way open, and held her hand out to him.

“Ready to go?”

Goren stared at her for a long moment in silence before accepting her outstretched hand and allowing her to lead him out of the bathroom and to the front door of her apartment. He waited in silence in the hallway as she locked up, but when she turned to move towards the lift, he caught her hand and stopped her.

“What is it?” she asked, looking up at him in concern. Goren hesitated and then, before he could lose his courage, he leaned in and hugged her tightly. She was startled, but returned the hug willingly.

“What was that for?” she asked when he finally drew back from her. He offered her a tiny smile that all-too-briefly lit up his eyes.

“Just… thanks. For everything.”

The smile that lit up her face sent a wave of warmth through his body and soul.

“C’mon, tough guy. Let’s get you to hospital.”

He allowed her to lead him to the lifts, still smiling to himself.

fin.

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