A/N: I am going to fucking kill my muse. Two weeks off, and nada on the Nano story. I am so far behind now, that I may not be able to catch up. This is what I get for writing an original story. Meh.
On the other hand, this chapter should allay the fears of those who seem so worried that Mike was honing in Alex But I swear, if I get one word back about shippiness and incorrect pairings... (shakes fist threateningly)
Seriously, I fell asleep writing on Saturday night, woke up not remembering what I wrote, and this is what happens. The muse takes over. We had a serious discussion about it, and all I could get was ‘that’s what you get for not following through with the death row escape fic’. Damn furball...
Also, not as long as the previous chapter, but that's how it goes.

An hour later, they were on board a cessna, and on their way to Ontario. George listened intently as Carolyn told him the whole story of Bobby's abduction, from the actual abduction through to the dramatic rescue, and what they knew of the suffering that Bobby had endured.

“A pretender?” George asked again, frowning as he contemplated the word.

“Yes, that's right,” Carolyn confirmed.

George sat back, fascinated.

“A child genius raised and trained to take on other identities, but never allowed to have one of their own.”

Jarod, who had remained silent until then as he flew the little plane, glanced back over his shoulder at George with a wry smile.

“I couldn't have put that better myself, Doctor Huang.”

“Well,” George mused, “I can understand where Detective Goren's trauma is coming from.”

“Actually, you can't,” Jarod corrected him. “Before you see Bobby, there's something else you have to see. Then you might have some idea about his traumas.”

George looked at Carolyn, puzzled, and she offered him a small weary smile and nodded.

“He's right. Until you see the sin discs, you can't fully understand how awful it really is.”

“Sim discs?” George asked, startled.

“Recordings of the simulations Bobby was forced to do,” Carolyn explained to him. “And the experiments Raines conducted on him, too. Some of them... God, George, all I can say is that it's no wonder he's suicidal.”

“We'll help him, Carolyn,” George reassured her. “I promise that I'll do everything I can for him.”

They arrived back at the house late that night to find just Charles and Deakins waiting for them. Deakins greeted George warmly, and it wasn't hard to see the relief in his expression, and hear it in his voice.

“Thankyou for agreeing to come, Dr Huang. We all appreciate it.”

“I just hope I'll be able to help him,” George said sincerely.

“How was he today?” Jarod asked.

“He's been quiet,” Deakins answered. “He wasn't talking very much to anyone, except for Alex and Mike.”

“Alex Eames?” George wondered, and Deakins replied with a quick nod.

“His partner, yes. I have to say, she's been an absolute god-send for Bobby. He's responded to her when no one else could reach him.”

George looked thoughtful as they made their way through into the family room.

“And he's responding to Mike Logan as well?”

“On a lesser scale, yes,” Deakins answered. “Out of all of us, they seem to be the two that Bobby trusts the most.”

“That's good to know,” George mused. Jarod bade them sit, and then began to set up the sim viewer.

“I'm sorry that you have to see this right now,” Jarod apologised, “but it's vital that you understand as soon as possible what he's been through.”

He selected a disc from the box that Sydney had given him, and slid it into the viewer to play.

I don't want to do this, Sydney.”

Sydney walked around slowly, observing his charge with a harsh, critical gaze.

This is not an optional exercise, Bobby. You are expected to cooperate.”

Bobby sat stiffly, his thin face pale as water.

I don't like this simulation. I'm not comfortable doing it. It... It just feels wrong.”

That's not for you to judge, Bobby. You've been given a simulation to perform. You must do it.”

Sydney, please don't make me do this,” Bobby begged him. “Please, refuge...”

It was said with heartbreaking desperation, but Sydney appeared to be unmoved by his plea. Instead, he focused a hard stare at the younger man.

Would you prefer to spend the rest of the day in the company of Mr Raines? Because I can certainly organise that for you.”

Bobby's already pale face turned grey at the blatant threat, and he shrank down in his seat, his breath quickening in his throat.

I... I'm sorry. I'm sorry, Sydney. I'll do the simulation. Please... just don't call Mr Raines.”

Sydney relaxed a little, and laid a reassuring hand briefly on his shoulder.

All right, Bobby. I won't call Mr Raines. Now, continue with the simulation.”

Visibly shaking, Bobby picked up a photo on the desk in front of him. With a trembling hand, he traced the image of the child in the picture.

He... He likes...”

You, Bobby,” Sydney interrupted him firmly. “You are him, now.”

Again, a noticeable shudder passed through Bobby, but he conceded with a small, reluctant nod.

I like small children... They're easy to overpower... but it's more than that. Their... their innocence is what really attracts me.”

Why?” Sydney pressed. “Why does that attract you?”

I envy it,” Bobby said, struggling to keep his voice even, and the bile down. “I envy them for what I lost. And it makes me so angry. I... I want to strip them of it, the way my parents stripped me of mine.”

As he spoke, Bobby's hands slowly crushed the photo he held, and the placid expression on his face was slowly replaced with a dark and frightening rage.

Is that why you rape them?” Sydney asked.

Yes,” Bobby answered roughly. “That's why I fuck them.”

Then why kill them?” Sydney pressed. “You succeed in stripping them of their innocence through raping them. Wouldn't killing them negate that?”

Bitter hatred and raw anger had twisted Bobby's features harshly by then as his mind sank deeper still into the simulation.

Parents would hide it. They always hide. Pretend it didn't happen. I fuck the babies to teach them a lesson.”

What lesson?”

Life's cruel. Nothing is really innocent. I kill them them so everyone will see they're not innocent anymore. When they're dead, the truth can't be hidden. Their mommies and daddies can't cover it up. They can't hide the truth.”

He swept his hand around, indicating the news clipping that were strewn over the desk, with headlines like 'Three Year-Old Raped, Gutted'.

See?” he said with a twisted satisfaction. “No cover up. Everyone knows the truth.”

Is that what you want?” Sydney asked. “That everyone knows the truth about you? About what happened to you?”

It's too late for me,” Bobby said in a guttural tone. “This isn't about me. Not anymore.”

So you believe you're beyond redemption, not because of the children, but because of your parents,” Sydney deduced.

They're dead,” Bobby said dismissively. “What good would that truth be now?”

If that is the case, then why do this to others? Make me understand.”

Silence met Sydney's demand. Then, finally, Bobby spoke once more in his own voice – shattered and miserable.

He didn't take their innocence.”

Sydney ceased his pacing, staring at Bobby piercingly.

Explain that.”

Bobby passed his hand slowly over the many pictures of the murdered children, stricken with sudden understanding.

They'd already lost their innocence. Every one of these children had already been abused. By their father... or their mother... He targeted abused children. That's the truth he was trying to make everyone see. That these children were all being abused by their parents.”

Sydney walked over and clapped him lightly on the shoulder.

Well done, Bobby,” Sydney praised him quietly. “Very well done.”

Please,” Bobby whispered plaintively. “Can I go back to my room now? I... I don't feel very good.”

Sydney conceded with a nod.

Of course. And tomorrow, I'll have a simulation for you to perform that won't be quite as taxing on you.”

Bobby said nothing as he stood up to allow Sydney to escort him back to his room, but the broken look on his face spoke in volumes...

George sat back, both disturbed and intrigued by what he'd just witnessed.

“Are they all as bad as that?” he asked quietly.

“Some don't seem as bad,” Jarod answered. “But there are a lot that are much worse.”

“Worse?” George murmured in dismay, as though he had trouble accepting that was possible. He looked around at them, concern suddenly in his eyes. “Is someone with him now?”

Deakins nodded.

“Yes, Alex is with him. Don't worry, he hasn't been left alone.”

“Good,” George said with visible relief. “That's good.”

“He knows that he needs help,” Carolyn said quietly. “He told Mike that he's feeling suicidal. That's got to be a positive step in itself, right?”

“It is,” George agreed, “but the problem is that there's a big difference between knowing you need help, and actually accepting help.” He paused, and then went on quietly. “I'd like the opportunity to speak to Detective Eames and Detective Logan before I talk with Detective Goren. If they're the ones that he's responding to the most, then it might provide some insight on how I can best begin.”

“First thing in the morning,” Deakins promised.

“I think I'm beginning to understand what you mean,” George said as Jarod took him to an empty bedroom. Jarod nodded.

“The abuse that Bobby was dealt over the last nine months was a hundred times worse than what he went through as a child in the Centre. He's hurting now – physically, mentally and emotionally, and none of us know where to start to help him.”

“Nightmares?” George queried, and Jarod nodded.

“To say the least. But Alex and Mike couldn tell you more about that than I can.”

“I'll talk to them first thing tomorrow, then. Tell me, though, does Detective Goren know that I was coming?”

“Alex and Mike were going to tell him,” Jarod confirmed.

“Good,” George said. “It's important that we try to ensure that he's always aware of what's going on. No surprises, not for any reason.”

Jarod nodded approvingly. He was pleased with George's approach, and with his open attitude. It gave Jarod hope that maybe, just maybe, there was still a chance for Bobby to recover.

Rather than sitting beside the bed when Bobby turned in that night, Alex lay down with him, her arms around him in a protective gesture. He didn't object, settling down and relaxing against her. It was a while before sleep came for either of them, though, and after a little while she happened to look down to find he was watching her through half-closed eyes.

Caught out, he quickly averted his gaze, and she couldn't resist a smile at his behaviour.

“Not sleepy?” she asked softly, impulsively pressing a light kiss to the top of his head. He didn't answer; not that that surprised her. Silence fell again, the minutes ticked by and Alex was just starting to feel herself drifting off when Bobby's voice cut into her consciousness.

“Did you ever stop...?”

Alex hesitated, and then shifted her position slightly so that she could better see his face. He still wouldn't look at her, but she thought she could see tears on his cheeks.

“Did I ever stop what, Bobby?”

“Thinking about me?”

She heard the tremor in his voice, and felt her throat tighten.

“No,” she promised him. “I never did. And I never let myself stop thinking that we'd find you again. If I'd let that happen, then I don't think I would have been able to go on.”

“I... I thought about you... all the time,” Bobby whispered. “When I was frightened... or hurting... I pictured your face in my mind. And I drew pictures... of you... of Captain Deakins... of my mom...”

Alex swallowed hard at the unpleasant memory that his words raised.

“Bobby, tell me something?”


“Your mom...”

Even as she said it, she felt him stiffen. Steeling herself, she ventured on.

“Were you ever allowed to call your mom again? After that day when we intercepted your phone call?”

He didn't answer, and she wasn't sure whether he couldn't, or wouldn't.”

“Bobby, please tell me,” she begged him, and at the same time wondered why she was pressing for an answer that she wasn't sure she wanted to hear.

“No,” he said finally, his voice broken and filled with a despair that gutted Alex. “After that, they never let me near another phone. They didn't want to take the risk.”

“I'm sorry,” Alex whispered, hugging him as fiercely as she dared. “I am so sorry, Bobby. We were so desperate to hear your voice, that none of us stopped to think about what it might have cost you. It was selfish of us, and I'm so sorry.”

He turned his face upwards, then, looking at her tiredly.

“Don't be sorry,” he told her. “Hearing your voices... It proved that you hadn't decided to just forget about me. I clung to that for as long as I could... and especially after I escaped.” He faltered, looking at her tentatively, as though he was suddenly unsure of how she'd respond. “I... I did get away from them... once... but I was caught again.”

“I know,” she murmured sadly, recalling with bitterness when Mike had told her on the quiet the story of Bobby's failed escape attempt. She had been furious at first that he'd not told her sooner – he'd finally caved and told her nearly two months after the fact. But then he'd pointed out that he and Deakins had not found out themselves until nearly two weeks after Bobby's recapture. In that respect, she could understand their reluctance to tell her, for fear that it would just compound her misery. And, indeed, it had. The only good thing to come of it, from her perspective, was the knowledge that Bobby was still fighting. “I heard about parts of it. Can you tell me what happened?”

“A... Angelo helped me...”

She watched him, watched as the emotions played across his face. Fear, sadness, despair... Emotions that at one time she would never have imagined seeing on his face, especially not all at the same time. She cradled his head to her shoulder, wishing more than anything that she could erase his misery.

“Who's Angelo?” she asked, intrigued that there might have been someone within the Centre who had actually tried to render practical help to Bobby.

“He was another child, like Jarod... like me. Raines experimented on him... Destroyed his personality... But he was my friend in there. Just about the only friend I had, except for...”

He trailed off, and Alez gently stroked his forehead at the trembling sensation that passed through his body.

“Except for?” she prompted, but he circumvented her query very neatly by returning to the original topic of discussion.

“Angelo helped me to escape. He got me out one night... through the ventilation tunnels.”

Alex sucked in a sharp breath.

“And you didn't try to contact us?”

But even as she spoke the words, she knew she was wrong. Of course, Bobby would have tried to contact them, had he been able.

“I was drugged,” Bobby said, confirming her suspicions. “It... It was one of Raines' experiments. I don't really remember anything between walking along a tunnel with Angelo, and waking up in the woods. I wandered around for a while in a daze before I found a road... Damn near got hit by a truck, too. The driver picked me up, and I thought I was safe, then.” He shook his head, bitter at the memory. “Should've known better. He... He took me to a town. I don't know which one. Left me with the local PD. The sherriff there... I begged him to call Captain Deakins, and I thought he did... but he lied to me. He didn't call Deakins. He called them. By the time I realised I'd been tricked, it was too late. I never really had a chance. I was back in that hell-hole within twenty-four hours. After that, I never got another chance. The only times I was left alone after that was when they locked me in my room.”

Alex hugged him tightly, struggling to suppress her anger.

“I'd like to get my hands on that son of a bitch sherriff. Maybe, when you're feeling better... When you're back at work, we can find out where that was, and pay the sherriff a little visit. I bet Deakins would be in on that. Mike and Carolyn, too. I bet it would give that son of a bitch one hell of a heart attack, to have you march in there... Or, better yet, haul his ass to New York, into One Police Plaza. That would be better still.”

“I... I don't know,” Bobby whispered, and Alex caught the faintest of tremors in his tone. “I don't know if I could do that. See... See him again. See any of them again...”

Alex shifted her position and tightened her hold on Bobby ever so slightly.

“You don't have to lay eyes on any of them, ever again. I'm sorry, Bobby. Just ignore me. I'm just babbling now. I'll be quiet, if you want me to be.”

“No, please...” Bobby begged her anxiously. “I... I like listening to you. It reassures me that I'm not just dreaming this whole thing. It scares me... thinking that maybe I am just dreaming it all, and that maybe you're not really here. M... Maybe I'm still in the Centre, and this is all just a hallucination... Another of Raines' experiments...”

Alex stared down at him in dismay, realising that, in his increasing distress, he really was starting to believe that possibility. Even with her arms around him, she could feel him slipping away from her, losing his fragile grip on reality. Even as she watched, his eyes began to galze over as the terrifying memories of his nine months in captivity began to take hold.

Desperate to reassure him that this was reality, she settled on an extreme course of action.

“Bobby, listen to me. If I'm just a hallucination, would I do this?”

And with that, she leaned over and kissed him firmly on the mouth.

She didn't know how he would react. She couldn't even be sure in herself why she did it. All she knew was an overwhelming urge to make Bobby understand somehow that he was free, he was safe, and that he had no cause to be afraid. And the only way she knew to convey that was with love.

Bobby lay frozen, eyes wide open with astonishment, and too stunned to respond in any way. Unexpected though it was, the kiss had succeeded in jolting him back to the present, and he stared up at her speechlessly.

Alex didn't try to move, either closer to him or further away. She continued to lie beside him, her arms around him protectively and, as she watched, she saw the astonishment slowly fade from his eyes, and watched as he slowly relaxed.

“I'm not going to apologise for that,” she murmured. “But I don't expect you to reciprocate, either. I love you, Bobby, and right now I just want you to feel safe.” She gently brushed her thumb over his eyes, drawing them closed. “Close your eyes, Bobby. Go to sleep. Everything is okay. You're safe.”

She felt him relax completely against her as sleep took him.

“You're safe,” she whispered sadly, at the same time praying that George Huang's arrival would be a good thing for Bobby, and that he would respond positively to the psychiatrist. She shuddered as she struggled to hold back her tears. She prayed George would be able to help Bobby, before it was too late.

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