A/N: My thanks to Bammi1 for her input with this chapter. I love our long chats, and it’s fantastic to have someone to bounce ideas off. And, of course this is not the last chapter.

Alex awoke to sunlight. She lay there for a few minutes, her mind a blank while she enjoyed the warmth that was streaming into the room. Then, as memories of the previous night came back, a smile made its way onto her face.

She and Bobby had stayed up on the roof for another half hour, at least – she comforting him while he wept. When his tears finally eased, and then stopped altogether, she’d coaxed him back inside and back to his room, where she’d helped him into bed once more. When she’d turned to go, though, Bobby had stopped her.

He’d caught her hand and pulled her back, and before she knew what was going on, she was lying on the bed beside him, with his arms folded around her. Bobby had begged her not to leave him alone again and then, to her delight, he’d leaned towards her and pressed his lips lightly to hers. Any thoughts of leaving that she might still have harboured were obliterated in that moment.

It hadn’t gone any further than that, of course, but it was the promise of what lay ahead for them that really thrilled her. His actions, simple though they’d been, had shown her that her love was not unrequited, and that he cared for her just as much as she did for him. They would eventually reach the point where they were ready to share themselves with each other. She had no doubt about that, and it gave her something tangible to look towards. She only hoped that, when they eventually returned to New York, and to work, Deakins would still be willing to turn a blind eye.

Her smile widened a little with satisfaction. After all that had already happened, she didn’t think that was going to be a problem.

Deciding that she was, indeed, awake, Alex slowly sat up. She stretched and yawned as she did so, and it was as she was relaxing again that it occurred to her that Bobby was not there. The second thought to occur to her was that she felt no panic at his absence. Indeed, she realised that the constant fear she’d felt for Bobby since arriving at the estate had subsided considerably after that night’s events.

Bobby had successfully negotiated another hurdle, and she had seen the difference in his eyes as they’d lain together in the bed. He was still afraid, but there was a sense of control there that had long been missing. She honestly believed that he was, finally, starting to claim back his life, as he had been so desperately trying to do ever since his rescue from the Centre.

Alex got up, intending to have a shower and get dressed, when movement out on the patio outside Bobby’s room drew her attention. She went to look, and was both surprised and pleased to find it was Bobby who was out there. Without a second thought, she pushed the door open, and stepped outside to join him.

Bobby looked around at the sound of the door sliding open, and a small but genuine smile lit up his face at the sight of her.

“Good morning,” he murmured, holding out an arm to her. She went willingly into his embrace, stretching up to place a gentle kiss on his cheek.

“Good morning. How long have you been out here?”

“An hour, maybe,” he estimated after a moment’s thought. “Since just before sun-up, anyway. It... It’s the first sunrise I’ve seen since before they took me. It was beautiful, Alex.”

She slipped her arms around his waist, but took care not to squeeze too tightly.

“You should have woken me up. We could have enjoyed it together.”

“I will next time,” he promised. “It’s just, after last night, I thought you’d prefer to sleep.”

The soft laugh escaped her before she could stop it. She had to admit, he knew her well. Some things just never changed.

“Thankyou,” she murmured with sincere gratitude, smiling at the way his arm tightened a little around her shoulders, and drew her in closer still. “Bobby, how are you feeling? I mean, after last night...?”

He didn’t answer immediately, but continued to stare out across the property.

“Better,” he answered finally, though the frown on his face suggested he was having trouble accurately describing his feelings to her. “I... I mean... I feel more in control now. I still feel scared... but I feel more like I’m ready to deal with it now. I... I want to deal with it. I want to face it. I... I feel like I can face it now. It... It’s a pretty good feeling.”

She hugged him to her.

“It’s confidence, Bobby. You’re starting to find your confidence again. Those people tried to break you, but they didn’t succeed.”

“No,” Bobby agreed, and she silently rejoiced at the fresh determination in his voice. “They didn’t.”

Breakfast was a lively affair that morning, as everyone in the house sensed a positive change in the air. Though Bobby was still as quiet as he had been on previous mornings, none of them could miss the way he was now watching all of them, and following the conversations. Previously, he’d kept his head down, refusing to meet anyone’s gaze and letting any conversation simply drift over him. Now, even though he wasn’t verbally taking part, he was still making an effort to connect by meeting the gaze of anyone who happened to look at him, and even go so far as to offer a small smile. It was a huge difference, and it was felt by them all.

“I’m going swimming after breakfast,” Emily announced. “Anyone care to join me?”

Momentary silence met her query before Carolyn spoke up with enthusiasm.

“I’ll join you.”

A grin passed across Mike’s lips as he eyed his partner with a less than professional glint in his eyes.

“Count me in, too.”

“Down, boy,” Carolyn remarked dryly. “I didn’t bring my bikini. It’s too damned cold.”

Mike frowned, visibly disappointed. A moment later, she leaned across and whispered something into his ear. She’d barely finished speaking when Bobby suddenly choked on his juice, and looked around at Carolyn incredulously.

“You want to do what to him?”

Carolyn stared back at Bobby in astonishment, her face heating up visibly.

“You... heard me?”

Mike smirked, and couldn’t quite suppress a laugh.

“Yeah, he heard you, Carolyn. Our boy’s got really great hearing. Seriously, he could rival the Six Million Dollar Man.”

“Mike, you idiot,” Alex retorted dryly. “It wasn’t Steve Austin who had the bionic hearing. It was his girlfriend. He had the bionic eyesight.”

Mike snorted, unperturbed by his error.

“Whatever, Alex. You know what I mean.”

Amused, Deakins leaned forward, against the table.

“What did Carolyn say she wanted to do, Bobby?”

Bobby hesitated, glancing sideways at Carolyn, who shot him a death glare.

“Don’t even think about it, Goren.”

A grin spread slowly across Bobby’s face at her warning.

“How much is it worth to you for me not to say anything?”

Her expression darkened even more, although inwardly she was cheering that he was actively joining in with the banter.

“How much is it worth to you for me not to soak your head when we get in the pool?”

Bobby started to reply, only to falter as, for the briefest of moments, a new and disturbing memory threatened to claim him. Then, it was gone, and the only evidence of it remaining in his mind was the faintest sense of unease.

“Bobby?” Alex asked gently. “Are you okay?”

He nodded and tried to offer her a reassuring smile, but couldn’t quite manage it.

“I’m fine, really,” he murmured, desperately wanting to shift the attention from himself. Seeing his discomfort, Deakins spoke up decisively in an effort to change the subject.

“I think a swim is a damned good idea. I’ll be in on that.”

Emily nodded.

“That’s four of us. Who else?”

Alex looked around at Bobby questioningly. The thought of going for a swim was an inviting one, but she wasn’t going to place Bobby in an uncomfortable position. If he didn’t want to, then she would go along with that. She was surprised, though, when he answered positively.

“I’ll go swimming,” he confirmed. “Except... I don’t think I have...”

He trailed off, flushing red with embarrassment.

“Swim shorts?” Margaret suggested lightly, and he nodded, his gaze suddenly fixed on the table top. She smiled reassuringly, ruffling his hair with gentle affection as she walked past with a stack of dirty breakfast plates. “Don’t you worry about that, sweetheart. You’ll find a couple of pairs in the drawers in your room. We had a couple of pairs sent up along with the rest of your clothes. Just in case you decided you felt like a swim.”

Bobby blushed an even fiercer red, but managed to verbally express his gratitude.


Half an hour later, after breakfast was done, Alex walked into Bobby’s room to find him sitting on the edge of his bed. He wore the swim shorts, and nothing else, and he had his arms folded tightly around his body, as though for protection. She paused in the doorway, watching him with a renewed feeling of grief and pain.

As on that very first night, after the rescue, Alex was struck by the physical evidence of the abuse that had been perpetrated on Bobby. His upper body was covered in scars, some old and some new. Those injuries that had still been raw and open wounds on the night they’d brought him to the estate were now covered over by tender, pale pink flesh, which would in time turn white and harden into more scar tissue. His entire body, she thought miserably, was a testament to his suffering.

Equally shocking to see, though, was Bobby's emaciated appearance. Even after a month of Margaret’s cooking, he still looked gaunt, and half-starved. It was a huge difference to how he’d looked before his abduction.

Then, he’d been big and stocky. His body had just been starting to show the inevitable signs of middle age. He’d no longer been able to maintain such stringent control of his weight, and other aches and pains had just been starting to appear. Now, there was not an ounce of fat to be found anywhere on him, and she wondered how much that had to do with being regularly starved, rather than being given the right foods with plenty of exercise. Now, she could see his ribs poking out through the pale flesh of his sternum, and the sight turned her stomach.

Bobby hadn’t spoken much about the food he’d been dished up whilst in the Centre, but she figured it must have been pretty awful. She had some clue from the reaction he’d had to certain foods. One morning, perhaps a week after their arrival at the estate, they’d walked into the kitchen for breakfast to find the boy, James, making his way through a bowl of steaming porridge. It had been a particularly cold morning, and the idea of hot porridge with honey had appealed greatly to Alex. However, upon turning to Bobby with the intention of making that suggestion to him, she had been brought up short. Bobby had been staring at the bowl of food, almost literally turning green. He’d bolted straight to the nearest bathroom to throw up, and hadn’t been able to keep any food at all down for the rest of the day.

Much care had been taken after that to ensure that porridge, and any other foods that were even remotely like anything he would have been served up in the Centre, were kept well out of his sight.

Then, on top of the food issue, there was the cruel regime of physical exercise he’d been forced to undergo. Again, he’d not spoken about it, but Alex had gotten an eyeful when she happened to wander past George’s room late one night when he was watching one of the many sim discs from the nine months of Bobby’s captivity, and she’d stopped to watch out of curiosity.

The viewer had shown Bobby being subjected to a gruelling barrage of physical trials, until he literally collapsed from sick exhaustion. If that had been the norm, she thought bitterly, then it was no wonder that he looked almost skeletal.

He finally looked up, and she offered him a warm smile as she cross the floor to join him.

“Hey, you. Ready for a dip?”

Even in his obvious reticence, Alex didn’t miss the way his eyes flickered over her, taking in the sight of her scantily clad form with appreciation. She couldn’t resist teasing him, and nudged him lightly on the arm.

“Like what you see?”

Bobby went beet red, and his gaze dropped to the floor. Laughing softly to reassure him that she wasn’t bothered by his checking her out, Alex slipped her arm through his.

“It’s okay, Bobby. If I didn’t want you to look, I’d be wearing sweats and a jumper.”

Though he didn’t verbally respond, he did look up slowly once more to meet her gaze. Alex gently smoothed back his hair as the uneased he was feeling finally registered with her.

“Listen,” she murmured soothingly, “you don’t have to go swimming if you don’t want to. It’s not compulsory, you know.”

“I know,” he answered softly. “I do want to. It’s just...”

“What?” she pressed when he faltered. “Talk to me, Bobby.”

“I don’t know,” he admitted. His eyes lifted slowly to hers, and she saw the uncertainty and fear of unremembered trauma reflected in them as he struggled to explain. “I feel like there’s something about water that I can’t quite remember... Maybe a simulation I had to do... It’s right at the edge of my memory, and I just can’t see it.”

She reached up and ran her fingers lightly through his greying hair. He sighed faintly, and leaned into her gentle touch.

“If it’s important, you’ll remember. Try not to worry, okay?”

“I’m sorry,” he murmured, and she answered his apology with a fierce hug.

“Don’t be. Now, get up off your ass, Goren. I want to go swimming.”

Smiling wryly, Bobby allowed himself to be pulled to his feet, and he followed her from the bedroom.

When they finally walked into the enclosed area that housed the enormous indoor pool, mostly everyone was already there, and in the water. Emily was busy swimming laps. Deakins was lounging at one end of the pool, watching Mike and Carolyn with open amusement as they kept trying to douse each other. Jarod, James and George were at the other end of the pool, showing marginally less exuberance than the two detectives. The only ones who weren’t there were Charles and Margaret.

Dropping her towel on a spare seat, Alex walked over and dipped one foot in to test the temperature. Satisfied with the water’s warmth, she sat down on the tiled edge and slid fully into the water. Then, sparing Bobby an encouraging smile, she swam away to where Mike had just lifted a shrieking Carolyn out of the water, only to dump her back in very unceremoniously.

Bobby stood at the edge of the pool for a minute, watching with a small smile as Alex joined Carolyn in retaliating against the older man. A moment later, it was Mike who was left spluttering when both women pounced simultaneously, driving him beneath the surface of the water.

Deakins watched Bobby for nearly a minute before speaking in a low, calm voice.

“C’mon in, Bobby. It’s fine.”

Whether he was referring to the water, or the situation in general, Bobby didn’t know and had no intention of asking him to elaborate. He stood there for a long moment, contemplating jumping into the water, as opposed to sitting down and sliding in as Alex had done. Neither method particularly appealed to him, and the metal ladder on the side would only hurt his still-tender feet.

“There are steps into the pool over on that side,” Deakins told him gently, pointing over to the far side. Far from looking embarrassed, as Deakins had thought he might, Bobby instead looked relieved at having an easy way to get into the water.

“Thanks,” he murmured, genuinely grateful, and he headed around the pool.

“Check it out,” Mike said softly, having to hold Carolyn off at arm’s length as she tried to pounce on him again. Both Carolyn and Alex ceased what they were doing, and looked around to see Bobby descending slowly into the water, via steps that were cut into the pool itself.

He wasn’t paying any attention to anyone else. In fact, he didn’t seem at that moment to be the slightest bit aware of anyone or anything around him. They continued to watch as he entered the water slowly, up to his waist, an odd mixture of relief and trepidation on his face. He came to a halt at the bottom of the steps, one hand on the edge of the pool as a means of security as well as support while he looked around him with uncertainty.

Leaving George and James, Jarod made his way over to Bobby.

“Are you okay?” he asked quietly and, although Bobby responded with a nod, Jarod noted that he wasn’t quite meeting his gaze.

“Sure,” Bobby mumbled. “I... I just...”

But he couldn’t quite formulate the right words in his mind, let alone vocalise them. All he knew was a deep, unsettling sensation in his gut. There was something... something about water, but he just couldn’t remember what.


Bobby’s breath caught in his throat as Jarod reached over and gently pried his hand away from the edge of the pool, and led him into deeper water.

“It’s okay,” Jarod reassured him with a warm smile, at the same time moving slowly back to give Bobby some space. “There’s nothing to be afraid of here. Just relax. Enjoy being in the water.”

And slowly, as Bobby edged into the deeper water of the pool, he did find himself relaxing. No one attempted to splash him or be in any way rowdy around him, and the water that lapped gently around him was soothing to his nerves. By the time the bottom of the pool dropped away beneath his feet, and he found himself needing to actually swim, he had managed to almost completely forget about his immediate surroundings.

He couldn’t swim laps the way Emily was doing, and he wasn’t even going to try. His arms, and his shoulder in particular, were still aching too severely to be able to manage. Emily had done what she could for him medically, but he knew that upon returning to New York, he would have to see a specialist and would probably need physiotherapy.

Maybe, he thought as he began to revel in the weightlessness that being in the water afforded him, regular swimming would provide him with a tolerable means of working the injured joint and getting back full mobility. He was willing to try, at least.

He ceased paddling, and looked around slowly as he floated comfortably in the middle of the pool.

The captain had stayed where he was, lounging at the end of the pool and observing everyone with a watchful eye. Emily had ceased swimming laps, and had joined him at the pool’s edge. Carolyn and Alex were once more trying to get the best of Mike, while Jarod had rejoined George and James in the far corner.

Out of the way of everyone else, Bobby maneouvred himself over so that he was floating on his back. He stretched himself out as much as possible, before his healing body protested, and then sighed faintly as he felt the tension slowly bleed from his body.

His mind didn’t block out the sounds of the others completely, but rather he found himself beginning to pick out odds and ends of the conversations going on around him.

He heard Alex plead and threaten all in the one breath just seconds before a shriek and a loud splash told him that Mike had just dunked her solidly into the water.

He heard James explaining to George a concept of philosophy and psychology that Bobby doubted even the intuitive doctor would understand.

He heard Emily asking Captain Deakins about New York, and what it was like there. She had spent much of her life on the run with her mother, and had never ventured into any of the major cities.

Most of all, though, he could hear the pounding echo of his own heartbeat as he floated.

It was amazing, he reflected distantly, how fine-tuned his hearing had become. He almost laughed. Mike’s crack about the Six Million Dollar Man... or, his girlfriend... wasn’t all that far off the mark. All he needed to do was focus...

Bobby’s blood almost literally froze. Focus... Focus in the water...

And with that, the memory that had been eluding him struck with devastating force.

I can’t, Sydney,” Bobby insisted as he stared at the water chamber in trepidation. Sydney regarded him with a frown.

It’s just the Focus Chamber, Bobby. You’ve enjoyed being in there before.”

Bobby spared Sydney an incredulous look that the doctor paid no attention to..

Enjoyed it? he wondered. According to who? He kept that thought to himself, though, knowing it would only get him in trouble.

I can’t. Not today. Sydney, please...”

He hated having to beg, but it seemed more and more that it was the only way to make himself heard. Only in debasing and demeaning himself would any of his controllers pay him any heed. Just another method of stripping his dignity and his identity away from him, he thought bitterly.

Bobby, I expect you to do this simulation, and the only way you’ll be able to do it successfully is if you can fully relax. The chamber will help you to do that. Now, stop trying to stall, and get in.”

Sydney, I’m tired,” Bobby pleaded. “Mr Raines... He wouldn’t let me sleep for nearly three days! He wouldn’t let me eat anything...”

Sydney didn’t glance up from his notes.

Well, perhaps if you gave him a little more cooperation, he wouldn’t feel it was necessary to deprive you like that.”

Bobby jerked as though he’d been stung. He couldn’t have been more stunned had Sydney gotten up and physically slapped him. He’d expected Sydney to be sympathetic towards him. Apparently, he’d been wrong.

Sydney, please,” he begged softly in a final effort to win the doctor over. “I’m tired, I’m hungry and I’m hurting. Can’t you see that?”

Sydney spared him a brief, cool glance, but that was all. Bobby tried again, growing more desperate by the second.

If you make me go in that chamber, I don’t know exactly what will happen, but I can tell you what won’t happen. I won’t be able to relax, or focus. Sydney, please... Refuge?”

Bobby jumped visibly as Sydney slammed his hand down on the desk in an uncharacteristic show of anger.

Get in the chamber now, Bobby. I won’t ask you again. When you’ve done the simulation, then we’ll see about getting you something to eat. Until then, you will do exactly as I say... unless you want to be put in isolation again?”

Bobby stood stiffly, staring at Sydney with disappointment and a slow-burning hatred.

You’re no better than Raines,” he said softly. Sydney looked up sharply, frowning at the insulting comparison. Bobby was no longer looking at him, though. Head down and shoulders slumped, he climbed into the chamber and lowered himself into the deep, cold water.

Floating on his back, he watched as Sydney closed the door over him, effectively blocking all light and leaving him in absolute darkness. A moment later, he heard the dull, metallic thunk of the bolt sliding into place, ensuring that he couldn’t let himself out.

In what seemed now like another lifetime entirely, darkness had been a comfort to him. Not anymore. Now, thanks to Sydney and Raines, the darkness had become something to fear. Trapped in the chamber, fear was all he felt, for he couldn’t bring himself to consider himself to be anything but trapped. If Sydney really thought he was going to be able to relax and focus on the simulation, then he was badly mistaken.

Bobby shut his eyes, even though it seemed a pointless thing to do when he was surrounded by nothing but darkness. He tried to concentrate on anything other than the hunger pangs he was suffering, or the utter exhaustion that threatened to consume him. He tried most of all to ignore the pain he was in from the beatings he’d received over the last few days.

It wasn’t working. The more he tried to relax and stop thinking about it all, the worse it got.

Bobby drew in a slow breath that was cut off with painful abruptness when the muscles in his arms and legs suddenly cramped, and then locked. A strangled cry of pain tore from Bobby’s lips, and echoed horribly inside the chamber as the muscle cramps were rapidly followed by a crippling pain in his gut.

He floundered in the water, struggling to regain control of limbs that no longer did what they were supposed to do, and screamed with pain when he tried to make them. Somehow, he didn’t know how, but somehow he managed to get one arm out of the water to bang weakly on the metal door in a desperate attempt to get Sydney’s attention.

He had no way of knowing whether Sydney had heard or not. In the next moment, his entire body spasmed as pain exploded afresh and he sank beneath the surface of the water, no longer able to keep afloat.

A new kind of darkness closed around him – cold and suffocating. With his body locked in rigour from the crippling pain of the cramps, Bobby couldn’t fight any longer. He came to rest on the floor of the chamber, his eyes half-open and staring into the darkness of the water that surrounded him. He held his breath for as long as he could, but finally his lungs rebelled against the lack of oxygen, and his mouth and throat opened up, allowing water to rush in.

Bobby’s body convulsed once, twice and a third time in a violent seizure. Then, mercifully, he knew no more...

It was Deakins, who realised Bobby was in trouble. From his vantage point, he first noticed Bobby stiffen in the water, and turn out of the floating position. It seemed to him that the detective was having difficulty staying afloat, but he put it down to the fact that Bobby possibly hadn’t swum since long before his abduction. Still, he kept a watchful eye on him, ready to act if the situation warranted it.

Seconds later, he realised it did, and Bobby suddenly twisted sharply in the water, and Deakins finally got a look at the panic-stricken expression on his face.

“Mike!” Deakins bellowed, even as he pushed away from the wall.

Mike froze, even as he was reaching for Carolyn to dunk her, and for a split second he crazily thought that Deakins was telling him to stop. But then his gaze went from the captain to the middle of the pool, just in time to see Bobby sink under the water. Swearing loudly, Mike lunged through the water, suddenly not able to move fast enough.

Deakins reached him first, and had to dive under the water to grab him. When they surfaced precious seconds later, Bobby was in a blind panic, struggling with a ferocity that belied his weakened physical condition.

“Goddamnit, Bobby, quit fighting us!” Mike gasped as he tried to get his arm around his friend in order to pull him from the pool.

It took not only Deakins and Mike, but Jarod as well to get Bobby back into the shallow water, and to the safety of the steps. Once there, Alex pushed through all of them and wrapped her arms fiercely around him in a protective embrace. He soon stopped struggling, and collapsed against her, crying pitifully into her shoulder. Alex cradled him to her, at the same time looking to the others in confusion. They returned her look with confused ones of their own. None of them had a clue as to what had triggered this episode. Bobby needed no prompting to talk, though, and he began to speak in a stilted voice as his panic slowly subsided.

“I... I drowned...” Bobby choked out in a stricken voice that was muffled by Alex’s shoulder.

“No, pal,” Mike tried to reassure him. “We got you. It’s okay. We wouldn’t let you drown...”

“No,” Bobby cut him off, distraught. “Not here... Not now. B... Before. I drowned... He let me drown!”

And then they realised he was talking about an incident that happened while he was at the Centre. Reaching across, Deakins lay a hand gently on Bobby’s shoulder, though he took care not to squeeze.

“Do you mean Raines, or Lyle?” he asked. Bobby shuddered violently.

“No. Not them... It was Sydney.”

Startled silence met his words. Then, finally, Jarod spoke in a shaken tone.

“No... That’s not possible. Sydney wouldn’t have...”

“He did!” Bobby snarled, cutting the other man off short and causing him to stumble back a step or two with the force of his anger. “He p... put me in the Focus Chamber when I’d c... come straight off three days of starvation, sleep deprivation and beatings from Raines. He... He wouldn’t listen to me when I said I wasn’t strong enough to be put in there. He made me go in... He threatened me... Said that if I didn’t go in, he’d have me p... put in isolation. I had really bad pain. My muscles cramped and locked, and I couldn’t stay afloat... I tried banging on the door, but he ignored it. Then... Then I drowned...”

He broke down again, and Alex’s jaw locked as she glared at Jarod.

“It’s starting to look like your precious Sydney is as much of a monster as Raines and Lyle.”

Jarod flinched, but wisely chose against arguing with her. Instinct warned him that it wouldn’t be beneficial to his health, and he had always paid attention to his instincts.

“C’mon, Bobby,” Mike murmured, and between him and Alex, they managed to get Bobby to his feet and out of the pool. “Let’s go get you dry.”

“That was it, wasn’t it?” Alex asked softly as she and Mike helped Bobby to dry himself, and get dressed again. “When you said there was something about water, that was it.”

Bobby sat down with a thud on the edge of the bed, and rubbed miserably at his red eyes. Alex sat down next to him and, after a moment’s hesitation, Mike sat down on his other side.

“I kept trying to tell myself that Sydney was okay,” Bobby told them softly. “That he did actually give a damn about me. But I was wrong. He didn’t care. Not really, not about me. All he cared about were the results he could get from me. Even when I said refuge, he just ignored me! That was supposed to be a safe word. If... If I said that, we were supposed to stop! He should have let me stop. But he ignored me! I hate him,” Bobby choked out, pressing his pale face into his hands as the tears came in a fresh flood. “I hate him so much... I swear to God, if I ever see him again, I’ll kill him...”

Mike and Alex exchanged grim looks over Bobby’s head. Each one had the same thought, and Mike voiced that thought with quiet determination.

“Bobby, you won’t have to. If that son of a bitch ever comes near you again, we’ll kill him for you.”

Just outside the door of Bobby’s room, Jarod stood frozen, his face a mask of anxiety as he listened to what was being said. He was finding it almost impossible to believe that Sydney had deliberately allowed Bobby to almost drown. Raines or Lyle, without a doubt, but not Sydney. Worse, the idea that they could even consider kill Sydney was unthinkable to Jarod.

And yet, Bobby’s trauma was all too real, and Jarod knew he wouldn’t have imagined it. Still, he wondered whether the way Bobby had perceived that incident was, in reality, different to the way it had actually happened. Maybe Sydney hadn’t realised just how bad a condition Bobby was really in.

Jarod knew from his own experiences that Sydney was capable of being hard on his charges, but he also believed that Sydney only behaved that way when he knew that he could reasonably expect a better effort than was being given. That, at least, had always been his experience. Sydney had never been hard on him when it wasn’t warranted. Perhaps, that had been the case in this instance, but Bobby simply wasn’t seeing it from that perspective.

He drew in a long, steadying breath. The more he thought about it, the more he was sure that it was simply a matter of perception. There was one way to know for certain, though, and that was to find and view the disc that showed the actual incident.

Hoping... no, praying that he was right, Jarod headed for George’s room to search for the disc that he sincerely hoped would exonerate the man who had effectively raised him of any wrongdoing.

He got to George’s room a few minutes later to discover he was not alone in his idea. George was already there, along with Captain Deakins, Carolyn and Emily, and he was searching through the box of sim discs with clear intent.

“I guess you have the same idea we did,” Carolyn murmured. Emily, however, frowned. She knew only too well her brother’s strong emotional attachment to Sydney.

“Yes, he does, but not for the same reasons. Jarod, don’t you dare try to excuse Sydney. Not this time. What he did to Bobby was unconscienable.”

“Let’s just look at the disc before we make any judgments,” George murmured.

“How can you know which disc it’s on?” Deakins wondered. “Aren’t they all just labelled by date?”

“They are,” George confirmed, “but I know what incident it was now, and I’m pretty sure I know what disc it’s on. I watched part of it in my first few days here, just up to the point where Bobby actually got into the chamber. I didn’t watch beyond that, and I should have.”

After another moment of searching, George finally found the right dis. Without hesitation, he slotted it into the viewer, and let it run.

I can’t, Sydney.”

It’s just the Focus Chamber, Bobby. You’ve enjoyed being in there before.”

I can’t. Not today. Sydney, please...”

Bobby, I expect you to do this simulation, and the only way you’ll be able to do it successfully is if you can fully relax. The chamber will help you to do that. Now, stop trying to stall, and get in.”

Sydney, I’m tired. Mr Raines... He wouldn’t let me sleep for nearly three days! He wouldn’t let me eat anything...”

Well, perhaps if you gave him a little more cooperation, he wouldn’t feel it was necessary to deprive you like that.”

Sydney, please. I’m tired, I’m hungry and I’m hurting. Can’t you see that?”

If you make me go in that chamber, I don’t know exactly what will happen, but I can tell you what won’t happen. I won’t be able to relax, or focus. Sydney, please... Refuge?”

Get in the chamber now, Bobby. I won’t ask you again. When you’ve done the simulation, then we’ll see about getting you something to eat. Until then, you will do exactly as I say... unless you want to be put in isolation again?”

You’re no better than Raines.”

“Son of a bitch,” Carolyn whispered heatedly as they watched the slightly black and white image of Bobby climbing into the chamber.

Jarod was silent. He was both disturbed by Sydney’s apparent lack of concern for Bobby’s wellbeing. Even with the image being in black and white, it had been painfully obvious that Bobby was suffering phsyically. It frightened him that Sydney didn’t seem to care.

They watched as Sydney closed the door of the chamber, and slid the bolt into place. Deakins looked around at Jarod in horror.

“He locked him in?”

Again, Jarod was silent, and his face pale as he watched the viewer. He didn’t ever recall actually being locked inside the chamber by Sydney. He’d always been left to his own devices, and it had been his choice when he climbed out again.

Slowly, their attention returned to the viewer screen. Only a couple of minutes had passed when there was a sudden, dull thump from inside the chamber. It happened just the once, but there was no mistaking it. Bobby had, indeed, banged on the door from the inside. There was also no hope of suggesting that Sydney hadn’t heard it, or that he misunderstood the sound. He lifted his head from his work, looked back at the chamber, and then turned back to the camera, speaking in a voice that was filled with thinly veiled irritation.

Bobby is becoming increasingly wilful in his attempts to avoid carrying out even the most basic tasks that we require of him. It’s my hope that by leaving him inside the Focus Chamber for a prolonged period, it will help him to concentrate on what we expect of him.”

Then, Sydney returned to his work, ignoring the chamber behind him.

“Oh god,” Emily whimpered, tears filling her eyes as the minutes slowly ticked by. “How long...?”

Her question was abruptly answered when three newcomers arrived – one of whom Deakins recognised as Miss Parker.

Sydney? Where’s the golden boy?”

Sydney indicated back over his shoulder.

In the Focus Chamber.”

Silence met his statement. Then, Miss Parker spoke carefully, in a low voice that was void of all sarcasm.

You do realise that he came straight back to you after Raines had him in solitary for nearly three days? Without food or sleep? And that he was beaten unconscious twice by Raines’ goon squad?”

Sydney didn’t so much as look up.

He needs to learn to cooperate with us. It’s for his own good, Parker.”

Parker blanched visibly at Sydney’s response.

Open it up, Sydney. Open up that chamber, and get him out of there. Now!”

Sydney rounded on her angrily.

This is not your business, Parker! Now, please leave! And take Angelo and Broots with you.”

“Which one is Angelo?” Deakins asked, frowning. Jarod spoke in a strained voice.

“The man on the far left.”

Deakins hesitated, staring hard at Jarod for a long moment before looking back to the viewer.

Goddamnit, Sydney...”


They were both cut off short when Angelo suddenly gave a wail, and loped over to the chamber, scrabbling frantically at the bolt.

Angelo, no...” Sydney protested, but the savant had already undone it, and was pulling open the door.

Jesus!” Parker burst out as they looked in to discover Bobby floating face-down in the water. “Broots!”

Broots didn’t hesitate. Climbing over the edge, he dropped down into the water below, pulling Bobby’s head out of the water and back onto his shoulder. From there, he maneouvred Bobby’s arms up, so that Sydney and Parker were able to grab his wrists and pull him up out of the water.

He’s not breathing,” Parker growled as they lay Bobby out flat on the floor. “Congratulations, Sydney. You may have just killed your pretender.”

She promptly began to attempt resuscitation, pushing down as hard on Bobby’s chest as she could, and forcing air back into his lungs. Sydney, meanwhile, stood back and looked on in numb horror.

It could have been hours, minutes, or only seconds that passed, but it felt like an eternity before Bobby’s body suddenly convulsed, water poured from his tmouth and he began to breathe again. With Broots’ help, Parker turned him gently onto his side, allowing him the chance to clear his throat of water. He coughed painfully a few times, shuddering and looking up in dazed confusion as she lay him back down again.

Don’t talk,” she murmured when he opened his mouth to speak. “Just rest.”

It wasn’t a hard command for Bobby to obey. His eyes easily slid shut again as darkness claimed him once more. She watched him for a moment, reassuring herself that he was breathing without difficulty, before getting up to confront Sydney. The psychiatrist, for his part, took a definite step back and held his hands up defensively.

I never realised... Parker, I didn’t realise...”

No, you just didn’t want to see,” she snarled. “Just like Raines, and Lyle. I thought you were better than this, Sydney.” She paused, drawing in a long breath before speaking again. “I’m going to call for the medical staff now to come and take him up to the medical wing, and I swear to God, if I hear that you or Raines has used him for anything at all within the next week...”

She trailed off, leaving the threat unspoken, but Sydney’s expression told her that he understood. She nodded, satisfied.

Don’t ever do anything like this to him again, Sydney. Do you hear me? Ever.

George turned off the viewer and sat back, sickened. A glance over his shoulder told him they were all feeling the same way – even Jarod.

“No wonder he panicked,” Deakins muttered, his face the colour of ash in the wake of the horrifying footage that they’d just watched. George regarded him grimly.

“I would never advocate it, but I think I understand now why Bobby wants them dead. Even Sydney. Especially Sydney. Bobby trusted him... as much as he could be expected to trust anyone in that place... and he let him down.”

“In the worst possible way,” Jarod agreed in a strained whisper. He stood there for a long moment, as though torn, before suddenly wheeling around and all-but running from the room.

“This is hard for him,” George murmured, with some sympathy. “He sees Sydney as a benevolent figure.”

Emily nodded.

“It’s hard for him to put Sydney on the same level with those other monsters. But we warned him, when he talked to us about bringing Bobby here. We warned him that he might end up being confronted with some unpleasant truths. He’s just going to have to learn to live with knowing that Sydney is just as capable of evil as Raines and Lyle.”

Deakins looked back to George questioningly.

“Are you going to talk to Bobby?”

“I will,” George confirmed. “But not just yet. Alex and Mike are with him right now, and I think time spent with them will probably be a lot more beneficial than me running in and trying to analyse him. He should be fine.”

Jarod didn’t stop until he was outside, and once he was outside, he kept walking until he was well away from the house. Then, finally, he pulled out his cell phone and dialled a memorised number with trembling fingers.

It was answered after several rings.


For a split second, Jarod couldn’t speak. He could barely even breathe, his rage was so great. After a moment of silence, the voice spoke again.

Hello, is there anyone there?

Jarod sucked in a long breath, and spoke hoarsely.

“I trusted you. Bobby trusted you!”

Jarod? Is that you?

“Yes, it’s me, Sydney.”

What are you doing? They could be tracing this call!

“Who is they, Sydney?”

The Centre, of course! You might have destroyed the building in Blue Cove, but it has other bases of operation! You, of all people, should know that!

“Relax, Sydney,” Jarod said flatly. “Even if they had the technology to follow this particular trace, I won’t be on long enough for them to complete it.”

Silence met his statement. Then, Sydney spoke slowly.

What’s wrong, Jarod?

“What’s wrong, is that I trusted you to do everything you could to protect Bobby, and instead, you nearly killed him!”

Again, silence.

I don’t know...”

“Don’t,” Jarod snarled. “Don’t say you don’t know what I’m talking about.”

But I don’t!” Sydney protested. “Jarod, please...”

“Refuge,” Jarod said, his voice taking on a guttural tone, and Sydney faltered.


“You heard me.”

Yes... But I don’t know what you mean...”

“It was our safe word. You taught it to me and to Bobby, and you promised us that we only had to say it, and you’d put a stop to whatever we were doing. You promised us that you would!”

And I did...

“No. When Bobby begged you not to put him in the Focus Chamber, you ignored him. And when he used the safe word as a last resort, you threatened him. How could you do that to him? Damn it, Sydney, he nearly died because of you!”

The silence that followed was palpable, and when Sydney finally spoke again, his voice was heavy with guilt.

I’m sorry.

“That’s not good enough this time, Sydney.”

It’s all I can offer, Jarod. Perhaps, in the future, I’ll have the opportunity to speak to Bobby, face to face, and...”

“No,” Jarod said abruptly. “Believe me, Sydney. You don’t ever want to see Bobby again.”

Why is that, Jarod?

Jarod let out his breath in a long, hissing rush.

“Because he’s sworn that if he ever sees you again, he’ll kill you.”

Jarod arrived back in the house nearly an hour later, after doing some serious contemplation. He walked back into the family room to find all of them sitting there in silence. All, he noted, except for Bobby, Deakins and George.

“What’s happening?” he asked, even though a fairly large part of him didn’t really want to know.

“We’re not sure,” Margaret answered, where she sat beside her husband. “Bobby asked to speak to Jim and George alone. We don’t know why yet.”

Jarod glanced around, taking in the concerned looks on the faces of those around him with some disconcertment. Just briefly, he considered going and finding them, and asking directly what was going on. A small part of him feared Bobby was talking to them about actively seeking out Raines, Lyle and Sydney, and killing them, and as angry as he was at Sydney right then, he still didn’t care to see him killed.

In the end, though, he could do nothing but sit and wait, like the rest of them.

Bobby, Deakins and George returned to the family room nearly a half an hour later, and while Bobby appeared to be particularly pale, there was a fresh determination in his appearance. He walked over without saying a word, and sat down next to Alex, who promptly slipped her arms around his waist and pulled him close to her. A faint sigh escaped him as he returned the embrace, and rested his head on her slim shoulder, shutting his eyes in weary contentment.

Deakins, however, stayed standing, with the obvious intent of addressing everyone.

“After talking with Dr Huang and myself, Bobby has come to a decision. He wants to go home to New York.”

Margaret looked over at Bobby, startled.

“Sweetheart, are you sure you’re ready?”

Bobby lifted his head from Alex’s shoulder, and looked Margaret directly in the eye, without hesitation.

“I’m as ready as I can ever hope to be. I know it might not seem like it, after what happened earlier in the pool... but that took me by surprise. And anyway, it won’t matter. I know I’ll have support.”

“You will,” Mike confirmed vehemently. “Always, pal.”

“I appreciate everything you’ve done for me,” Bobby went on quietly, and this time his words were directed not only at Margaret, but at Charles, Emily and Jarod as well. “I really do... But I want to go home. I think I’ve gone as far as I can here. I... I need to go home.”

“I hate to be the one to put a dampener on your determination, Bobby,” Charles said quietly, “but you do understand that they’ll try to take you again? As soon as they know you’re back in New York, they will try again.”

“And this time, we’ll be ready,” Deakins stated firmly. “We will not allow them to take him again.” He paused, and then added softly, vehemently, “We’ll shed blood before we let it happen again.”

Nervous silence permeated the room. Then, Emily rose up and walked over, dropping into a crouch in front of Bobby.

“I believe you’ll be okay, Bobby.” She reached up to cup his cheek in a tender gesture. “I know you’ll be okay.”

Bobby gently extricated himself from Alex’s arms, and leaned forward into Emily’s embrace.

“Thankyou,” he whispered.

Emily withdrew after a moment, and Margaret came over.

“Just remember, you’ll always have a safe haven to run to with us, if you ever need it. But I agree with Emily. I think you’re going to be just fine.” She leaned down and hugged him fiercely. “Sweet boy...”

Bobby returned her hug with enthusiasm, and felt tears stinging his eyes once more.

“Thankyou, for everything,” he murmured. As she straightened up, Margaret kissed him tenderly on the forehead.

“The pleasure was ours, my love.”

As Margaret retreated, Jarod came forward, and Bobby rose up to meet him.

“Can I talk to you?” Jarod asked softly. “Alone?”

Bobby hesitated for just a moment before nodding in acquiescence, and followed Jarod from the room.

“You think I’m making a mistake,” Bobby guessed as Jarod led him outside. Jarod paused, considering that before answering.

“That’s not my judgment to make,” Jarod answered. “But I admire that you have the courage to go back.”

“Knowing that they’ll probably come after me again?”

Jarod grimaced, and chose not to answer that.

“I wanted to talk to you... about Sydney.”

Bobby slowed to a halt, his expression darkening.

“If you want me to be sympathetic towards him...”

“No,” Jarod interrupted quickly. “No, I don’t. I understand why you hate him, Bobby. I really do. But please... Think about it carefully before you just decide you want to kill him on sight.”

Confusion flickered across Bobby’s face, and then understanding dawned.

“You think he’ll try to contact me, don’t you?”

Jarod tried to smile, and couldn’t quite manage it.

“He’s a psychiatrist, Bobby. He can’t help himself. Look, all I’m asking is that you don’t let your emotions rule your mind. Raines and Lyle may try to take you back, but Sydney won’t.”

“You can’t say that with any certainty,” Bobby shot back, and Jarod had to concede to that.

“Maybe I can’t, but I believe it anyway. Please... will you trust me? If you do see him, please don’t hurt him.”

Bobby sighed heavily, and turned away from Jarod.

“I can’t say for sure what I’ll be likely to do if I ever see him, Jarod. I just hope he stays away... for his own sake. Because even if I decide not to kill him, I can’t say the same for Alex and Mike. They will, without hesitating.”

“I understand. If... If I ever talk to him, I’ll warn him off.”

Bobby paused, and then ducked to the side a little to catch Jarod’s eye.

“But... you already have, haven’t you?”

Jarod blanched, and promptly reddened at the realisation he’d been caught out. Bobby chuckled softly.

“It’s okay, Jarod. I get it. I don’t blame you for the attachment you have to him. He... He did raise you, after all. But I need you to understand why I feel the way I do about him.”

“I do,” Jarod confirmed. He regarded Bobby thoughfully. “I have to admit... I’m a little jealous.”

The admission surprised Bobby greatly.

“Of what?”

“That you have something to go back to. I finally have what I wanted. I have my family... But I still don’t have my own identity. You do still have that. They tried to take it from you, and they failed.”

Bobby smiled faintly.

“Yeah,” he murmured in soft agreement.

“I’ll stay in touch,” Jarod told him, switching subjects with a practised smoothness. “Email...”

Bobby didn’t bother to query how safe that was. He knew Jarod would never allow himself to be tracked through the internet... At least, not unless he wanted it to happen.

“Listen, Jarod...”

But he suddenly couldn’t think of anything to say. Jarod hesitated, and then stepped in and threw his arms around Bobby. It only took a moment for the gesture to be returned, with interest.

“Do you remember what you told me when we first met?” Bobby asked, his voice slightly muffled by Jarod’s sweater.

“You might need to refresh my memory,” Jarod remarked wryly. Bobby’s smile widened, and he pulled back a little.

“You said we could be brothers. And for five years, we were. I knew I could rely on you when there was no one else. You... You didn’t let me down, Jarod.”

Sharp pain cut through Jarod’s heart, and he searched Bobby’s eyes for any sign of insincerity, but there was none.

“Thankyou, Bobby,” Jarod murmured, pulling Bobby to him for another hug. “Good luck... but I don’t think you’ll be needing it.”

Again, Bobby smiled as he thought of the friends that he knew would be there to support him.

“No,” he whispered in agreement. “But it won’t hurt all the same.”

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