A/N: I finally got off (or on, as it were) my lazy butt and finished another chapter of Remembrance. I think my problem is I was trying too hard to come up with 'crime' plot, when this story is more along the lines of Deliverance- it is less about the crimes that are occurring, and the investigation side of things, than about Bobby and Alex's personal journey. I just had to remind myself, I didn't select angst as the second genre for nothing.
So here we go, andhere's hoping to more regular updates. (Between this and 'Blind Trust',I'm gonnasend myself batty...)
“We’re already plotting to kill Salinger. Don’t make us include you on the hit list.”
Munch only smirked in response to Alex’s light threat.
“Does anyone know where we actually have to go?” Fin wondered.
“Uh huh. It’s not far at all. In fact, it’s about fifty metres… in that direction.”
“Nice, Elliot,” Olivia said dryly. “You could have just told us straight out that we were having dinner in the motel restaurant.”
“Yeah,” Munch added. “Then some of us wouldn’t have had to stand outside freezing our asses off while we waited for certain detectives to detach themselves from each other.”
“Shut up, John,” Fin snapped. “You’re being an asshole. Quit it, man.”
“It’s okay,” Bobby said, though the look he directed at Munch suggested he was harbouring a less than forgiving attitude.
“C’mon,” Elliot muttered. “Let’s get inside.”
“What is your problem, John?” Olivia asked in a low voice as they headed across the gravel car park to the restaurant. “Are you trying to start a fight?”
“Not really… It just pisses me off that we have to pander to Major Case.”
“I think we all know this goes beyond the usual rivalries, John,” Olivia reminded him. “It wasn’t their choice to come here. If they’d had a choice, Bobby and Alex would rather be anywhere but here. You know it as well as we do. Why can’t you just cut them a little slack? It isn’t as though they’re deliberately pushing in on our territory.”
Munch glanced up, to where Bobby and Alex were walking just ahead of them.
“I can’t help it, Liv. I just don’t like Goren.”
“And you think the rest of us are best buddies? C’mon, John, you know better than that.”
“I know… I’m sorry, Liv. Look, maybe it’d be best if, when you’re dishing out assignments, just keep me away from them. I’ll work with Logan, or Bishop, but not Goren and Eames. Okay?”
Olivia stared thoughtfully at her colleague for a long moment before nodding.
Lieutenant Gus Brenner was waiting for them when the eight detectives tramped into the restaurant. He seemed slightly taken aback at how many of them there were, but quickly recovered in time to introduce himself and his colleague, a younger uniformed officer.
Elliot introduced himself with an apologetic smile.
“You weren’t expecting all of us, I guess?”
“Actually, we were,” Brenner answered with a wry smile. “I’m sorry, it’s just that being told eight of you were coming isn’t quite the same as seeing eight of you in person. Our table’s ready, just through here. Hope you all like Chinese.”
“Are you kidding?” Fin asked with a short laugh. “We’re detectives. Chinese is one of our main food groups, especially after midnight on a long haul.”
Brenner chuckled as he led them into a private function room.
“People after my own heart. Have a seat, please.”
Once they were seated, Brenner spoke again.
“Now, I promise I’m pretty good with names and faces, so if you want to introduce yourselves once, I should be right after that. I can’t speak for my subordinates, but that’s another matter.”
The detectives smiled in appreciation of Brenner’s good humour and friendly attitude.
“Okay, I’ll do the honours,” Elliot agreed. “This is my partner, Olivia Benson. Mike Logan, Lyn Bishop, Alex Eames, Bobby Goren, Fin Tutuola and John Munch.”
Brenner nodded amiably.
“Well, I’m glad you’re all here. The more help we have, the better. But we’ll get onto that later. No one works well on an empty stomach.”
There was another murmur of appreciation, and for the next hour not a word was spoken that was work-related.
“That has got to be the best Chinese I’ve had for a long time,” Logan said appreciatively as Brenner ordered a round of coffee with the waitress who came in to clear the table. “Pity we didn’t have time to try this place out when we were here last…”
The comment was rapidly followed by a pained grunt from Logan as Bishop elbowed him hard in the side.
“Sorry,” he muttered, not quite game enough to look at either Bobby or Alex. Brenner spared the two a puzzled look, but didn’t press for an explanation.
“I guess it’s time to get down to business,” he said, reaching into a cardboard box that sat on the floor against the wall. He pulled out several thick manila folders, and passed them around the table to each of the detectives.
“This is all the case information we have so far,” he explained. “Uh… Which of you is in charge?”
“Olivia and I are in charge,” Elliot answered, keeping his attention focused on Brenner.
“Okay,” Brenner murmured. “We’ve got six victims so far, all women of varying ages, and all sexually assaulted to some degree. The profile doesn’t match exactly, but we’re worried we’ve got a killer on our hands who is copycatting the Erik Mathers killings from ten months ago. Now, I was contacted by your Chief Salinger earlier this afternoon, and he told me four of you were directly involved in solving that case. And he said two of you in particular had invaluable experience that would help with the case?”
The statement was met with silence. Then, finally, Bishop spoke up.
“Detective Logan and myself were part of the task force that tracked Mathers down on the mountain,” she said. Brenner looked from her to Elliot, puzzled.
“It’s just the two, then? Because Salinger led me to believe…”
“Never mind anything Salinger told you,” Elliot said dismissively. “The truth is, Salinger’s a politician with his head stuck up his own ass. He wouldn’t know what was going on around him if it was advertised with flashing neon signs.”
Brenner smiled ruefully as he opened up his own copy of the case file.
“Yeah, I’ve known a few of those in my time. But if it’s okay, I’d like to talk further with… Logan, was it…? and Bishop tomorrow morning. Perhaps we can work out just how similar the cases really are, and whether we do have a copycat on our hands, or just another whack-job doing his own thing.”
Logan nodded, again deliberately avoiding looking at Bobby or Alex as he replied.
“Sure. We’ll be happy to help out however we can.”
Brenner nodded appreciatively.
Bobby looked up as Fin spoke, pausing in the middle of removing the heavy calliper from his leg. They were back in their motel room after an extremely drawn-out discussion with Brenner and his deputy about the spate of killings. It was now after ten and the exhaustion of the day’s events, as well as the effort not to show said exhaustion, had clearly taken its toll on Bobby.
“Sure,” Bobby murmured, hoping he sounded more genuine than he felt. “I’m fine. Why?”
Fin paused, then walked over and sat next to Bobby on the bed.
“I’m just making sure. You know… you don’t have to put up the ‘tough guy’ front to me.”
That was answered with a long moment of silence before the detective finally spoke.
“I appreciate that, Fin, but I’m not putting on a ‘tough guy’ show for anyone.”
“Not even Alex?”
Bobby smiled at that.
“Especially not Alex. She’d draw and quarter me if she thought I was trying to act tough just for her sake.”
“So why are you acting tough?”
Bobby’s smile faded.
“You don’t quit, do you? I told you, I’m not acting…”
“C’mon, man,” Fin growled, just a hint of impatience creeping into his voice. “Don’t act dumb to me. I know you too well. You think the three and a half years I spent as your partner in Narcotics didn’t teach me to read you?”
Bobby looked away to the floor.
“You really want to hear about how just being here is making me want to throw up? About how I’m dreading tomorrow so much that I’d almost be willing to quit, just so I could go home? Is that what you want to hear? Between having to deal with all the memories just being in sight of that damn mountain drags to the surface, and the rest of you tripping over each other trying not to say anything to upset either of us, it's almost enough to tip us right over. And then there's that son of a bitch Salinger. If Elliot hadn’t blown Brenner off over Salinger’s call, I think I might have been right on the verge of doing that for real, and so would Alex.”
Fin sighed softly.
“That asshole couldn’t leave well enough alone, could he? It wasn’t enough that he got you both back here, he had to shove another knife into the wound just to try and make it worse for you guys. Look, Bobby, I get all of that. I really do. I just want to know why you think you have to hide it from the rest of us. We all understand how hard this is going to be for you and Alex. None of us are going to go running back to Salinger and telling him that you chickened out, and couldn’t get the job done. It ain’t gonna happen, man, I promise you.”
“It’s not for you, or anyone else,” Bobby confessed finally. “It’s for me, Fin. This is harder than I ever imagined it could be, and we haven’t even started the actual investigation yet. The truth is, if I don’t put up this front, I doubt I’d last two minutes without breaking down.”
“I’m sorry, man,” Fin murmured. “I hadn’t thought about it like that. I just thought you were putting on a show when you didn’t need to.”
“I know you all understand,” Bobby said, “and I appreciate that. We appreciate that. We’ll do our best to do our fair share of the work, but we’re going to have moments when the memories just get to be too much. We’re going to have a lot of those moments, I think, and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. There’s nothing anyone can do.” He paused, shifting his position on the bed and wincing as he finished removing the calliper. “Between that, and this, I just don’t know how to deal with it. Putting on a front is the only way I can deal with it. And it’s only going to be worse in the morning.”
“Nightmares?” Fin wondered, thinking of the number of times Bobby had told him of waking up in cold sweats, sometimes crying, or even screaming. Bobby answered with a quick nod.
“Yeah. If I don’t have any, it’ll be a miracle.” He winced again as he gingerly rubbed his hands over his slowly-healing leg. “If I can even get up in the morning, it’ll be a miracle. It’s gonna cost me tomorrow, missing my physio session today.”
A grin lit up Fin’s face at that.
“Now, there’s something I can help with.”
Bobby looked at him, puzzled.
“What do you mean?”
Fin stood up and walked over to his bag, and began rummaging through it.
“Get your trousers off, and lie down. And if you crack any gay jokes, I’ll shoot you.”
Bobby couldn’t suppress a grin at Fin’s warning.
“Sorry, pal. Alex beat you to that already.”
Fin glanced back at him, startled.
“What? Shooting you?”
“When? I mean, not that I’m all that surprised by it. You’re a total pain in the ass, after all, you know that.”
“Funny,” Bobby said dryly. “It happened in Denton, when we had that last showdown with Erik Mathers’ father.”
“Ah. But you never told me you were shot. You said you were hit in the shoulder with an arrow, and the son of a bitch broke your leg again, but you never said a word about getting shot.”
“Alex was aiming at Graham. Unfortunately, she shot at him at the same moment that I tackled him. I just got in the way. She didn’t shoot me deliberately.”
“No? That is a surprise.”
A moment later, a pillow went flying across the room, hitting Fin squarely in the back. He turned back to Bobby, grinning as he picked up the pillow and took it back over to the bed.
“Watch it, man, or I might change my mind about doing this for you.”
Bobby finally noticed the jar of oil that Fin was holding.
“What are you going to do?”
“Well, I wasn’t always a cop… as you well know. But what you don’t know is that years ago, in another life, I had a qualification for physiotherapy. I got it straight after coming out of high school, so I could help to look after my little brother. He had a degenerative disease, and he needed regular physio to keep the pain at bay. Now, get your damn pants off and lie down, and we’ll see what we can do about keeping you on your feet tomorrow.”
For a long moment, Bobby didn’t move or speak, and Fin was starting to wonder if his offer of help was going to be rejected. Then, a grateful smile broke out across Bobby’s face.
“Thanks, Fin,” he said softly as he finally obeyed his friend’s instructions. Fin smiled back, quietly relieved at Bobby’s acquiescence.
“Just glad to help.”
Cold, hard floor… ropes burning into wrists, and ankles… blindfold tight around the eyes doing nothing to help the threatening migraine… Blood in the mouth…
“Aw, look at that. You got your gags off. …I guess I could tape your mouths up again but I suppose I don’t really need to. Even if you wanted to waste your breath yelling for help, no one would hear you. Not where we are. …don’t kid yourselves that any of your cop buddies are going to be busting down the front door any time soon. Even if they do somehow manage to work out that I’m their guy, this place where we are now is listed under an alias I picked at random years ago. So, we’re perfectly safe for the time being. …I promise it won’t be long now. I promise.”
Cement floor gone… replaced by hard, rocky ground… Mathers, kneeling over him, sneering cruelly… That damned crossbow… And Alex… Alex is dead… I’m dead too…
Bobby awoke with a start, half-sitting upright in bed with a violent jerk. His breath came in ragged gasps that hurt his chest. Tears of pain filled his eyes. He tasted blood in his mouth, and it took him a moment to realise that he’d bitten his tongue in his sleep.
Gradually, the erratic breathing eased, but the sickening feeling of panic and terror remained, churning in his gut and leaving him feeling sick and miserable.
Still in a semi-daze, Bobby looked around the darkened room, and his gaze finally fell on Fin. The other detective was sound asleep, apparently undisturbed by Bobby’s abrupt awakening.
Fighting back the urge to groan aloud, or to make any sort of vocal noise just to reassure himself that he was indeed awake and, therefore, safe, Bobby slowly extricated himself from the tangled bedcovers and made his way carefully into the bathroom.
He limped through the door, closing it behind him and turning on the light over the mirror, giving himself enough light to see without nearly blinding himself. Then, sighing faintly with relief, Bobby sank down onto the chair that Fin had placed in the bathroom for him earlier that evening, so that he wouldn’t be forced to stand for longer than absolutely necessary.
He knew damn well that he shouldn’t have gone even that short distance without the calliper, but the short term relief of not being weighted down by the heavy implement momentarily outshone the long term necessity for constant support. Even now, though, he could feel the pain starting to gain momentum, and he knew he wasn’t going to be able to sit here for very long.
Grimacing, Bobby reached across and turned on the faucet. The water that flowed from the tap was one step away from freezing… Just like the freezing water into which he and Alex had fallen on that fateful night. The fall that had left him with two broken legs, and Alex with a severely broken arm. The fall that had damn near killed them both.
He splashed the icy water onto his face, wanting desperately to rid himself of those terrible images. The nightmare had been bad enough on its own, without torturing himself with more unwanted memories.
He shuddered, pressing one hand over his eyes. Right then, he wanted nothing more than to go and wake up Alex, tell her about his nightmare, and take comfort in knowing she understood. But he didn’t dare. Not that he thought Benson or Bishop wouldn’t understand, but simply because he didn’t feel comfortable letting them see him in such a state. There was nothing macho in his attitude. He just hated feeling vulnerable like this, and he hated even more having that vulnerability on show to everyone around him.
He grimaced again. Okay, maybe it was being macho, at least to a degree. But in the end, he still had a right to his privacy, and that included not having his traumas and miseries publicised.
The door opened and dim light flooded in from the motel room as Fin looked in at him.
“Bobby? You okay?”
Bobby didn’t answer, instead looking away to hide the tears that threatened in his eyes. Fin came all the way in, watching his friend with deep concern.
“You’re not okay. Wanna talk about it?”
For a split second, Bobby nearly said no. But common sense ruled, and he forced himself to be gracious and accept the offer.
“Yeah… But not in here.”
“C’mon,” Fin murmured. He helped him get up, and insisted Bobby put an arm around his shoulders and lean on him to keep his weight off his leg. Bobby complied meekly. He’d made a mistake in going any distance without the calliper, and could feel the effects of that mistake starting to take hold already.
“Here, sit on your bed,” Fin instructed him. “Stretch your leg out slowly… That’s it. Man, how’d you cope just wearing boxers? It’s freezing!”
Bobby managed a strained smile.
“My boxers, or your duck pyjamas. I’ll take the boxer shorts any day.”
“Oh yeah,” Fin snorted. “NYPD boxers. Real chic, pal.”
“Ah, shut up.”
Fin smiled, quietly pleased to have gotten a smile and a joke out of his friend. Grabbing the oil from the table, Fin rubbed some onto his hands and began to gently massage Bobby’s leg, silently and acutely aware of the pain that was all too visible on Bobby’s face.
“So what was the nightmare about?” he asked quietly.
Bobby didn’t answer immediately. He thought it over for nearly a minute before speaking.
“It was just a mixture of things. When Mathers came and talked to us in that room in his cabin… Being out in the cold… And at the end, after he shot Alex and he was about to kill me. It was just a whole lot of memories that I don’t want.”
“It’s not getting any better, is it?” Fin murmured. “The nightmares, I mean. You told me how bad they were to start with, and they haven’t gotten any better.”
“No,” Bobby whispered. “It’s the same, every night. The… The only time we don’t have nightmares is when we… when we’re together.”
Fin paused for just a moment before continuing to massage the scarred limb.
“You don’t have to answer this if you don’t want to, but when you say together, you do mean sleeping together, don’t you?”
Bobby smiled faintly.
“Not in the biblical sense, Fin.”
Fin smiled, perhaps just a little bit sheepishly.
“Sorry. Didn’t mean anything by that.”
Bobby smiled ruefully.
“Yes, you did. It’s okay, though. Yes, Alex and I have slept together in the same bed, but there’s nothing sexual in it. It’s just for mutual comfort and security. It’s the only time we can both feel totally safe.”
“I shouldn’t have been surprised,” Fin mused. “The relationship you two have is really one of a kind, and I think I can safely say that I’ve never seen a partnership as close as yours and Alex’s is. You’re a lucky guy, Bobby. I hope you know that.”
“I know,” Bobby murmured. “I know I’m lucky.”
Fin smiled to himself as Bobby’s eyes started to flutter closed. Between the quiet conversation and his careful massaging of Bobby’s leg to loosen the muscles and ease the tension and burgeoning pain, it was starting to send Bobby back to sleep.
“C’mon, buddy, lie down,” Fin murmured. “That’s it. Just relax, okay?”
Bobby surrendered to Fin’s instructions without protest. He could feel sleep starting to take hold once more and, after the previous night’s general state of sleeplessness, was more than willing to give in. He settled down in the warm bed, staring up at the ceiling as Fin continued to massage his leg.
“You think it’s just… just coincidence?”
Fin glanced at Bobby questioningly.
“Is what coincidence?”
“These murders. Coincidence, or a copycat?”
“I don’t know, man. I hope it’s just coincidence. But I suppose we’ve gotta be prepared for it not to be. What do you…?”
Fin trailed off, leaving the question unfinished. Bobby was asleep. Smiling to himself, Fin rose up and carefully pulled the blankets up to cover his friend, and then went to wash the oil off his hands.
With a bit of luck, that would be the only disturbance of the night, and Bobby would sleep peacefully until morning. He glanced at the alarm clock, and his smile faded. It was only just on midnight now. They had both settled down to sleep around eleven, so that meant Bobby hadn’t even lasted an hour before the nightmares kicked in.
He sighed softly to himself as he settled back into bed. He could only hope Alex was having a better night. If not, he would have to consider talking to Elliot and Olivia on the quiet about altering the sleeping arrangements. The trick would be doing it in such a way that wouldn’t set off the alarms.
Another sigh escaped him as sleep started to creep over him once more. Tomorrow. He’d deal with it tomorrow.
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