THE LONG ROAD HOME
A/N: God help me, I'm descending into shippiness. I swore this would never happen, but then again, I also swore I would never waste money on a laptop computer. I've got to stop saying never.
B/A shippiness implied. Whether anything comes of it later in the story? We'll just have to wait and see what mood the muse is in.
Blue Cove, Delaware
The evening of the abduction
Bobby awoke to silence. For a little while, he took comfort in that silence, and let his mind rest, not thinking of anyone or anything. He rested, deciding he could allow himself a few precious minutes of unawareness, paying no attention to anything around him. Just a few minutes…
Slowly, inevitably, awareness began to filter back in. And with it, came the realisation that his wrists were held with thick restraints, as were his ankles. With new awareness, came the dull throb of a sedative-induced headache, and the grim understanding that he was in a whole world of trouble.
Bobby opened his eyes slowly, cringing a little at the bright lights that assaulted his senses. He was surrounded by whiteness, but instinct warned him that it was no hospital that he was in. As he was still struggling to get his bearings, Bobby heard a voice speak from somewhere behind him.
“Hello, Dr Raines? Yes, he’s awake.”
Bobby felt a full-blown panic attack threaten to engulf him as the true gravity of his situation suddenly hit, and it was with difficulty that he kept his senses from just shutting down. He was back in the Centre, he thought numbly, and the memories of what had happened in Chief Harris’ office gradually began to filter back to him.
The last thing he clearly remembered was seeing Captain Deakins on the floor, bleeding from the head. He could only hope and pray it hadn’t been a serious injury, and that Harris would have been quick in summoning medical help for him after Raines and his cronies had taken him away. He also hoped fervently that Deakins wouldn’t blame himself for what had happened, or that the others wouldn’t blame him for it. None of them had foreseen a betrayal from within their own ranks. There was no way to have guessed that might happen.
He almost smiled at the thought of what Alex and Mike, in particular, might do to Harris when they found out. Alex would probably want to shoot him. Hopefully, though, they wouldn’t do anything to get themselves suspended. He didn’t want that at all.
A face suddenly appeared above his own, causing his heartbeat to quicken just briefly. He assumed from her uniform that she was a nurse, and his first instinct was to beg her to let him go. But the placid, uncaring expression on her face as she went about checking his blood pressure and other vitals warned him that to do so would be a waste of breath. That, and a deeper sense of pride wouldn’t allow him to beg.
He made a vow to himself right then, even as the woman’s hands roughly and painfully extracted an IV needle from his arm, that no matter what was done to him, he would never beg, not for anything. No matter what, he would hold on to at least a shred of his humanity… and his identity.
Footsteps on the floor alerted him to someone else’s presence. Bobby sucked in a sharp breath in an effort to stay calm. He wasn’t sure how he was going to cope with facing the psychotic Dr Raines again, but damned if he would let the bastard see his terror.
He shut his eyes, making a concerted effort to keep his breathing even, and braced himself for the inevitable.
“It’s all right, Bobby. You can open your eyes.”
Bobby’s breath caught in his throat. That was not Raines’ voice. He knew that voice, and it belonged to someone who had always provided him with a refuge from Raines’ sadism. Slowly, he looked up to find himself staring at a familiar, not unkind face.
“Sydney,” Bobby whispered hoarsely. His throat was raw and painful from the effect of the sedatives, causing him to cringe and cough.
“Nurse, get some water,” Sydney called out, and then looked back to Bobby in concern. “How are you feeling?”
“Great,” Bobby muttered bitterly. “Couldn’t be better.”
“I am sorry,” Sydney apologised softly. “I truly am. I’d hoped that Jarod might have been able to prevent this from happening.”
Bobby looked away, knowing that if he spoke right then, it would be thoughtless words of anger. He didn’t want to take that anger out on Sydney, not when he knew Sydney had tried to keep the Centre from capturing him. No, he wanted to save it all for a certain bald-headed freak with an oxygen tank.
“There’s some water here for you,” Sydney told him. “If I undo the restraints, can I have your word you won’t try anything foolish?”
Bobby looked back at him, his expression hard.
“You mean like trying to escape?”
“Bobby, please,” Sydney begged him. “You must trust me now. If you tried to run, you wouldn’t even get as far as the door. You can’t see them, but there are no less than eight guards in this room alone, and each one is armed.”
“So they’d shoot me? At least I’d be free of this nightmare.”
Sydney felt disturbed at the suggestion that Bobby might be willing to put himself in a position where he knew he might be killed.
“They wouldn’t be aiming to kill you,” he said softly.
Even as Sydney watched, Bobby literally deflated, and the stoic look on his face dissolved into one of real misery.
“I won’t do anything,” he said finally, his voice dull with defeat. Relieved, Sydney set about undoing the restraints, allowing Bobby to sit up.
“Here,” Sydney murmured, handing him the water. “Drink slowly. You don’t want to make yourself sick.”
Bobby took a few sips, relishing the cool relief that the water brought, before looking back at Sydney.
“How long was I out?”
“Approximately twelve hours.”
“Do… Do you know if my captain is all right? He was hit pretty hard by one of Raines’ goons.”
“He’s all right, Bobby,” Sydney assured him. “There was no real damage done. Just a nasty concussion. I got the report from Mt Sinai Hospital, where the paramedics took him. I thought you’d like to know.”
“Thankyou,” Bobby mumbled, feeling more than a little resentful that he would feel that he owed thanks for anything.
“What are you doing here?”
Bobby stiffened visibly at the new voice that cut through the quiet. Sydney, however, turned to face Raines with absolute calm.
“I’m looking after the wellbeing of my charge, just as the Director personally requested I do.”
Raines glared at him.
“He’s my pretender, Sydney. I don’t want you interfering with him.”
Sydney didn’t flinch.
“If you have a problem, I suggest you take it up with the Director. But you should be aware that she is acting on direct orders from the Triumvirate. But I believe you already knew that, didn’t you, Raines? As per orders from the Triumvirate, Bobby will be in my care exclusively until he readjusts to being here. You will have access to him only when I say he’s ready. If it takes one month, or six, or more, then that’s how it will be.”
Raines’ expression turned distinctly dangerous.
“I won’t tolerate you interfering in my programs, Sydney. I suggest you tread very, very carefully.”
“I always do,” Sydney murmured as Raines walked away.
“I suppose you want me to thank you,” Bobby said once Raines was gone. Sydney turned back to him.
“No, Bobby. I expect you to be honest, with me as well as yourself. Don’t feel that you have to hide your anger.”
He looked away again. He’d never liked shrinks very much, and to be sitting here getting psychoanalysed by a man who was, effectively, his captor, was almost too much to stomach.
“What happens now?” he asked, trying hard to keep his voice level.
“Once we’ve cleared you physically, you’ll be escorted to your quarters.”
“You mean that dingy little prison cell that I was locked inside of every night when I was a kid?”
Sydney smiled faintly.
“I think we can do a little better than that for you. I think you’ll find you’ll be quite comfortable in the room we’ve prepared for you.”
“I will never be comfortable in this place,” Bobby said in a soft, intense voice. “Never, Sydney. And I’ll never stop looking for a way out.”
“I understand,” Sydney conceded. “But I need you to understand, Bobby. The Centre lost Jarod. They have no intention of losing you. For your own sake, I hope you’ll cooperate.”
“Or what?” Bobby asked. “You’ll lock me up? Oh, wait. You already have.”
“Raines will resort to any means he thinks will help to force you into complying, Bobby. From physical punishment, to threatening your loved ones. Just because you’re here now, don’t make the mistake of believing they’re now safe.”
“And what about you?” Bobby asked. “Would you use those methods? Would you threaten my… my loved ones?”
“No, Bobby,” Sydney assured him. “I don’t operate like that. But you will be expected to cooperate with me and complete the simulations that Jarod never finished. If you do that, I may be able to negotiate privileges for you.”
“Privileges? What sort of privileges?”
“Well, being able to phone your mother at Carmel Ridge, for one.”
Bobby drew in a long, steadying breath. Sydney had just nailed it for him. Of all the things he could have suggested, that was perhaps the one thing that was most likely to gain his cooperation.
“How long?” he asked softly, trying to ignore the nauseous feeling in his gut. “How long would I have to wait before I could do that?”
“If you cooperate immediately? I could try to obtain permission for you to do that by the end of the week.”
Bobby’s expression changed just fractionally as he stared at Sydney.
“Don’t make false promises to me, Sydney. I’m not a child anymore. If you’re lying just to get me to do what you want…”
“I’m not lying to you, Bobby. Give me your full cooperation for this first week and if, by the end of it, you still haven’t been allowed to phone your mother, then you can cease doing the simulations, and I promise that neither you nor anyone else will suffer retribution for it. All right?”
For nearly a minute, Bobby didn’t reply. He stared at Sydney piercingly, so much so that the psychiatrist began to physically sweat under the intensity of his charge’s gaze. Finally, Bobby conceded with a reluctant nod, although he couldn’t keep from feeling that he was selling himself out in the worst possible way.
When Alex left One Police Plaza that night, she had every intention of simply going straight home, curling up in bed and crying herself to sleep. She’d had to threaten physical violence against all the do-gooders in the squad – Deakins included – who were reluctant to let her go off on her own, but finally they’d conceded. When she eventually pulled into the curb, though, she quickly discovered that rather than going to her own home, she had gone to her parents’ home instead.
Alex sat in the SUV for a long time, debating whether to give in to her desire for the comforting sanctuary of her parents’ home, or whether to flee and go home to nurse her grief in solitude. In the end, though, the decision was taken out of her hands when the front door of the house was flung open and a small figure came running down the path towards the vehicle.
She had to smile, despite her heartache. Getting out, she caught Nathan up in her arm and hugged him fiercely.
“Hey, baby boy,” she murmured, taking what small comfort she could in holding the little boy to her. Nathan snuggled in against her, wrapping his little arms around her neck and hugging her tightly.
It was her sister, and she looked up reluctantly.
“I told Mom and Dad you’d be here. They thought for sure you weren’t gonna show. Everyone else is already here.”
Confusion filled Alex’s face, mixed with alarm. She was not of a mind to be facing up to her rowdy clan. Not tonight, not after everything that had already happened that day.
“Sarah, I’m not really up to dealing with lots of people tonight. I… I might just go…”
“Oh, no you don’t,” Sarah said with a laugh, catching Alex by the shoulders and propelling her into the house.
Sure enough, it seemed nearly the entire immediate Eames clan was present. There was her sister and her family, her two brothers and their families, her parents, her two uncles and three aunts. The house was bursting with people, and noise. Starting to feel distinctly ill, Alex made her way through the crowd of people and into the kitchen, where her aunts were gossiping with her mother.
“Look who’s here, Mom!” Sarah crowed, and Alex was suddenly besieged by three clucky aunts, all of whom wanted to hug her and kiss her cheek. By the time they let her loose, Alex was feeling decidedly faint.
“I was starting to think you weren’t coming, Lexie. Uncle Marty would have been dreadfully upset if you missed his birthday.”
Alex groaned softly. Of course. Her uncle’s birthday. She wondered dimly how long she would have to stay before discreetly excusing herself.
“Mom, I… I just came to wish him happy birthday, and go.”
Helen Eames raised an eyebrow at her.
“Go? Honey, we haven’t even started yet. Why don’t you grab yourself a beer, and go join the boys? Oh, and what about Bobby? You did bring him along, didn’t you? You know how much Marty, Frank and your father love talking to him.”
After hours of struggling to keep her composure, that proved to be more than Alex could cope with. She shuddered, giving a choked sob, before her knees buckled beneath her and she collapsed to the linoleum floor.
“Alex?” Helen cried out in alarm, abandoning the meat she’d been busy garnishing to kneel down beside her stricken daughter. “Sarah, go and get your father, quickly.”
John Eames came quickly, not hesitating to crouch down beside his oldest daughter.
“Lexie, honey, what is it?”
“B… Bobby…” Alex choked out between sobs. John felt a chill go through him.
“What’s happened to him? Was he shot?”
“No…” Alex whispered. “K… Kidnapped…”
John blinked. If it weren’t for the fact that Alex was in a crumpled heap on the kitchen floor, crying helplessly, he would have thought it was a joke. The idea that someone… anyone… could have kidnapped her giant of a partner was almost too ludicrous to believe.
“What do you mean, kidnapped?” he asked, willing himself not to laugh. Surely it was just a joke? Any second now, Alex would look up, grinning, and say she was just kidding…?
“An agency c… called the Centre…” she choked out. “They ambushed him… They used the Chief of Police to trap him… and now… he’s gone! My partner’s gone, and I might never see him again!”
She dissolved into a fresh flood of tears, all the pent-up emotion of the last two days finally finding an outlet. John hugged her tightly, looking around at the family who were crowding into the kitchen, trying to find out what had happened.
“John?” Frank Eames asked in confusion. “What’s going on?”
“It’s Bobby Goren,” John said quietly. “Alex said he was ambushed today, and abducted.”
“Someone kidnapped Bobby?” Alex’s younger brother Philip asked incredulously. “You’ve gotta be kidding! The guy’s a walking mountain!”
“Philip, hush,” Helen growled.
“C’mon, honey,” John murmured, getting up and urging Alex up as well. “Come into the family room, and tell us just what happened.”
A half hour later, Alex had given her family an outline of the events of the past two days, ending with Bobby’s abduction from within One Police Plaza earlier that day. By the time she was done talking, a sombre silence had descended.
“This guy, Jarod,” Philip said finally. “You trust him to do what he said he would? You trust him to come back?”
“We don’t have any other option,” Alex said bitterly. “We don’t even know where this place is. We looked on every map we could lay our hands on, and the only evidence we have that a place called Blue Cove even exists in Delaware is Captain Deakins’ memories from when he served there as a rookie. But he doesn’t remember how to get there, now.”
“Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t make an offer like this,” Marty said quietly, “but this is anything but normal. I know some men who owe me favours… Men with a lot of influence. If you think it’ll help, Alex… Well, I’m willing to cash in those favours if it’ll help Bobby.”
Alex sighed softly.
“I appreciate the offer, Uncle Marty, but this agency… They just don’t seem to answer to the same hierarchy as everyone else. Maybe, once we’ve gotten Bobby out of there, then maybe I might come back to you for that... to give him some protection... but until then, I think Jarod was right about one thing in particular. We have to be careful how we go about this, or they might just send him back to us in a body bag.”
Her voice cracked as she spoke the words, finally accepting the grim reality of them in her own mind. A pair of comforting arms slipped around her shoulders and pulled her in close as the tears threatened once more.
“I just want him back!” she choked out. “I want him back, safe! How can they do this? What right have they got? It’s not fair!”
“No,” John murmured as he hugged his daughter. “It isn’t fair. I just wish there was something practical we could do to help. I’m so sorry, Lexie.”
“I won’t have another partner,” Alex vowed in a trembling voice. “I’ll work alone. I won’t have any partner but Bobby. I won’t.”
She began to cry again in earnest, clinging to her father in search of a comfort that she knew she was not going to find.
Deakins caught a taxi home, rather than risk driving with a concussion. It had been a hell of a fight to get the hospital to discharge him, but he’d eventually succeeded, and had returned to One Police Plaza for the remainder of the afternoon. There, he and the rest of the squad made only a cursory show of working. In reality, they were all too distraught to concentrate.
Carolyn had left first, pausing only long enough to hug Alex and offer a few words of comfort. Alex decided to leave soon after, and no amount of protests on either his or Mike’s part could convince her to accept an escort. In the end, she’d threatened bodily harm on them both before they finally conceded and let her go.
Then, when Deakins finally decided it was time to head off, he discovered Mike still at his desk, staring at the same page of paperwork that he’d been looking at for the last two and a half hours.
A gentle suggestion that maybe it was time to go home had been met with a rough shake of his head, and a mumbled word or two about hanging around for a while longer. In no mood for an argument, Deakins had decided to let him be and headed off in tired silence.
Now, he was home again, but there was little comfort in that. He was coming home to a cold, empty house, for his wife and daughters would not be home for another three days. Bypassing the kitchen, despite the persistent growl in his stomach, he headed straight for his study, searching for a sanctuary that he knew in his gut he wasn’t going to find.
Deakins dropped into the large armchair, his vision glazing over slightly as he allowed himself to be caught up in his memories. Memories of the last two days… and his now sketchy memories of that incident in Blue Cove so long ago now, when he’d helped Catherine Parker smuggle a frightened twelve year old boy away from the Centre in the middle of the night.
Slowly, his gaze focused on a framed photo that sat on his desk, in amongst the photos of his family. It was a shot of Bobby, Alex, Mike and Carolyn, taken at the previous year’s Christmas party. All four detectives had been more than a little drunk by the time the designated photographer got around to them, resulting in a very candid shot that, at some point, each of the four had approached him about, asking for it to be destroyed. He’d assured them that it had been, deciding to keep quiet about the fact that he’d obtained the negative from the photographer and had the photo reprinted and framed, to sit on the desk in his private study at home.
A small smile flickered across Deakins’ face as he picked up the picture for a closer look. Mike had his arms wrapped around Carolyn’s waist and she, for once, didn’t appear to be putting up a fight over it. The two detectives looked very comfortable together, Deakins mused. What had really endeared the photo to him, though, was the image of Bobby and Alex. Like with Mike and Carolyn, Bobby had his arms around Alex, but there was far less exuberance in their embrace than there appeared to be with their colleagues.
Alex was leaning in against Bobby, a look of pure contentment on her face, while Bobby looked down at his diminutive partner with a gentle, loving smile.
Deakins’ smile faded.
This photo was, without a doubt, the clearest evidence he had of Bobby and Alex’s feelings for one another. Whether they were yet to act on it, or whether they had already taken that next step, he didn’t know and he didn’t want to know. What he did know was that the next few months – or however long it took Jarod to make his plans – were going to be harsh on all of them, but especially on Alex.
It was going to be the hardest thing he’d ever done, to try and hold his team together while facing the uncertainty of Bobby’s fate. The truth was, he didn’t even know where to start.
He set the photo back down and headed out of the study, and upstairs to his bedroom. He had no stomach for food now. All he wanted was to be able to sleep and, at least for a little while, forget about the misery that was biting at his heels.
He collapsed on his bed without bothering to shed any of his clothes, pressing his face into his pillow.
“I’m sorry, Bobby,” he whispered, shutting his eyes tightly in a pointless effort to stop the tears. “I am so sorry…”
And he continued to lie there, still and silent but for the occasional shuddering sob that escaped him. Sleep was a long time in coming, and when it eventually did come, there was nothing restful about it.
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