A/N: Apparently the muse didn’t want to jump immediately to New York. She wanted more drama before Bobby gets to go home.

Again, huge thanks to bammi1 for helping me to formulate this chapter, and the ideas within. We have been putting our sadistic minds together to come up with new and inventive means of tormenting Bobby, and I must say that it’s been very, very productive.

And again, not the last chapter. Sooooooooo not the last chapter...

It was finally decided that they would stay until the end of the week, giving Jarod sufficient time to arrange safe transport for them back to New York. None of them objected, least of all Bobby. He took advantage of the extra bit of time, and over the next few days he was frequently sighted wandering alone around the estate. Alex had asked him initially whether he wanted company, and he’d sheepishly told her no, that he needed to be able to start moving around independently. She conceded to that without argument. He was right. He did need to be able to have some degree of independence, or the confidence that he’d fought so hard to regain would only be sapped away once more.

Their final day at the estate finally arrived and, sorry though they were to leave the place that had provided them all with a safe haven, they were equally anxious to return home. It was with that thought in mind that an issue that had not yet been discussed finally occurred to Carolyn, and she raised it with Alex and Mike as they loaded their bags into a pile by the front door.

“Where’s he going to live?”

“Bobby, do you mean?” Mike asked, Carolyn nodded.

“Yes. We can’t just let him go home alone to his apartment...”

“We can’t let him go back there at all,” Alex murmured, suddenly realising what Carolyn was getting at. “If they do try to come for him, that’ll be one of the first places they try.”

“So, any suggestions?” Mike wondered, and even as he spoke, he knew it was an idiotic thing to say.

“He’ll live with me,” Alex stated firmly. She paused, and then smiled faintly, realising the assumption she was jumping to. “At least, if that’s what he wants to do, he can.”

“I wouldn’t worry too much about it, Alex,” Mike assured her. “I don’t think Bobby’s going to have any objection to staying with you. But it might be better if you both stay in his apartment, and not your house.”

Carolyn nodded in agreement, seeing where Mike was headed.

“He’s right, Alex. We could rig up security systems at his apartment that we wouldn’t be able to at your house.”

“Plus, you’v egot the added security of it being a big apartment building,” Mike pointed out. “The other tenants... Did Bobby get along okay with them?”

Alex nodded slowly.

“Uh... Yes, I think so. At least, if he did have any problems with anyone there, he never said anything to me about it. Mike, what are you getting at?”

“I was just thinking that we could clue the other tenants in his building in to what’s going on, and set it up so that they can contact us. You know, if they see anyone sniffing around who doesn’t belong there, or if anyone starts asking questions about Bobby.”

“Or,” Carolyn added in a subdued voice, “if Raines, Lyle or Sydney make an appearance.”

“Exactly,” Mike agreed. Alex considered that, and had to concede that it was a sound idea. And, she certainly didn’t mind forgoing the comforts of her own home – at least until he was ready to be on his own once more.

“Alex and Bobby?” Deakins echoed when Mike raised the subject with him later that morning out on the patio outside the family room. “Living together? Do you know how much fun I’m going to have keep that one under wraps from the brass?”

“For security purposes,” Mike suggested, and the captain smirked.

“I don’t believe that any more than you do, Mike. At least, not for it being the sole reason. But I take it that no one’s thought to discuss that with Bobby as yet?”

“I doubt it,” Mike murmured. “I mean, we’d already talking about getting a specialised security system installed in his apartment, and the plan was for Bobby to stay with Alex while that was done... Actually, I overheard her talking to Bobby yesterday, and I think she’s planning on taking him to her parents’ home. Something about it being less obvious, and pretty low key.”

Deakins nodded thoughtfully.

“That’s a good idea. There’ll be someone there to watch out for him during the day. He won’t be able to go back to work immediately, but you, Carolyn, Alex and I will have to. If he’s at John and Helen’s place, we can be sure he’ll be properly looked after.”

“We’re going to have to get him checked out fully, too,” Mike pointed out. “That shoulder of his hasn’t fully healed, and he won’t be approved for active duty until it has.”

“He’ll probably need some degree of physio,” Deakins mused. “Ordinarily, I would have said he’d hate it, but I have a feeling he’ll be happy to cooperate with anything that he needs to in order to get the okay to go back to work. But maybe if John or Helen takes him, he’ll be less likely to put up an argument.”

“That’s sneaky,” Mike said, and Deakins nodded, unashamed.

“Yes. It is. But I’ll do anything I need to do to make sure the right decisions are made this time. And that includes anything it takes to get Bobby back to work.”

Mike sighed faintly, looking around with a mixture of regret and relief.

“I’ll be glad to be home, but I’ll miss this place, too.”

“We have an open invitation to come back any time,” Deakins reminded him. “That offer wasn’t exclusively for Bobby.” He paused, realising that he hadn’t seen Bobby all morning. “Where is Bobby, anyway? Have you seen him?”

Mike shook his head.

“No. He said he was going for a walk, and that he’d be back at lunch time. He’s got guts, Captain. It scares the hell out of him, going outside on his own like that, but he makes himself do it anyway.”

Deakins nodded.

“He has to, Mike. As much as we’d like to, we won’t be able to shelter him forever when we get back home. Sooner or later, he’s going to find himself in a situation where he’s on his own. He’s trying to teach himself to cope now, while there’s still a chance at easing himself back into things. And yes, I admire him for it, too.”

“You really think he’s going to be okay?” Mike wondered, and there was a hint of uncertainty in his tone that Deakins couldn’t miss. The captain smiled faintly, and clapped Mike on the shoulder.

“I’m sure of it.”

When Bobby left for a walk that morning, he’d honestly had no intention of going any further than the outer wall of Margaret’s garden. That was the furthest he’d gone on any one day, on his own. A number of times he’d stood at the gate, and contemplated going further, but ultimately his nerves got the better of him, and he decided against it.

That particular day must have been different, somehow. He would later try to understand what had possessed him to do what he did, but he would never be able to come up with an answer. At least, not one that satisfied him in any way. All he knew was that when he started walking, he’d intended on a pleasant walk around the outside of the house, and through the garden. When he finally pulled his mind back to the present, away from the many thoughts that had occupied him, he found himself on a road, and well out of sight of the estate.

For a minute, he panicked, fearing he was lost. But no; as he regained his equilibrium, Bobby realised he was on the road that led directly from the estate to the nearby village. He’d been there just once, since the day that James had finally coaxed him outside. It had been meant as a pleasurable outing, but his state of mind at the time hadn’t been so great. As a result, he hadn’t enjoyed the short journey away from the estate, and had spent most of the time huddled in fear in the car.

Maybe, he thought, this time he could enjoy it.

Making up his mind, he came to the crest of the hill, and found himself looking down at the village. He’d come even further than he realised bemusedly. After a moment’s hesitation, with just a brief glance back over his shoulder, Bobby headed on down into the village.

It was a lively place, Bobby mused as he wandered slowly along the road that cut straight through the centre of the village. Lively and colourful. The facades of the shops were decked out in all manner of bright coloured streamers and balloons, and most had stalls set up out the front, with various wares for sale. People were everywhere, cheerful and friendly.

He stopped a child on the path, and asked if there was some sort of celebration happening, and was enthusiastically told that it was the birthday of the founder of the village, and that they always celebrated on that day. Then, the child continued on his way, and so did Bobby.

He didn’t venture into any of the shops. He had no money, and saw no point in going in to look. Especially when he knew he was leaving the very next day. He was, however, content to just wander, and observe at his own leisure. That was something he’d not been able to do for a long time, and he was actually enjoying himself.

He came to the end of the row of shops on one side, and crossed over to the other side. As happy as he was to be going home to New York, he would also miss this place, and he resolved then and there that he would come back some time.

He was perhaps halfway back along when he stopped to admire a model train display in the window of a toy shop. It was an exquisitely designed model of a mountain village, with the train – a miniature steamer – running around its circumference.

Smiling at the simple pleasure the sight induced in him, Bobby watched the train make a couple more circuits, and then straightened back up to continue on his way. An instant later, his smile dropped away like a rock as his eyes locked onto the reflection that was immediately behind him. Wave after wave of icy cold panic crashed down over him, leaving him almost paralysed with fear.

“Hey, Bobby,” Lyle said with a distinct sneer. “Long time, no see. How’s it going, pal?”

Bobby stood frozen, not daring to move, and hardly daring to breathe. After a long moment in that stalemate, Lyle took a slight step back and indicated for Bobby to turn around, which he did very slowly. It was all he could do to stay upright as he came face to face with his tormentor once more.

“H... How...?”

It was all he could get out. Pure terror had all but robbed him of his voice. Lyle chuckled softly, delighted at the effect his presence was having on Bobby.

“How did I find you? It was easier than you know, my friend. Although, granted, it took longer because your buddies blew up our little hideaway in Blue Cove. But here we are, nonetheless. So, Bobby, are you ready to go home?”

Somehow, Bobby found his voice in the midst of his pounding, racing heartbeat, and the waves of panic that were still swamping him.

“I’m not going anywhere with you!”

Abruptly, he felt something pressing into his gut, and he looked down to see the muzzle of a gun. Bobby snorted derisively.

“What, you’re going to shoot me? Fine, go ahead, you psychotic bastard. I’d rather be shot dead than go back to the Centre.”

Lyle, however, smiled cruelly.

“I’m not going to shoot you, Bobby.” He paused, glancing around thoughtfully before nodding towards a couple of children playing innocently nearby. “But I will shoot them. It’s your choice.”

Bobby felt suddenly light-headed and sick, unable to believe it was happening again, and as much as he wanted to make a break for it, he dared not risk innocent lives. To escape Lyle at the cost of a child’s life would destroy him as surely as any of Raines’ or Lyle’s chosen methods of torment.

Lyle saw acquiescence in Bobby’s eyes, and he grinned at his perceived triumph.

“Very smart, Bobby. Very wise decision. Now, let’s go.”

Bobby found himself being hustled to a car not too far away. Lyle unlocked it, but before he pushed Bobby in, he took the precaution of handcuffing his wrists in front of him.

“No funny business, now,” Lyle warned him mockingly as he turned the car onto the road and headed away from the village. He paused, glancing at Bobby in amusement. “You’re looking good, Bobby. This country air must agree with you.”

Bobby said nothing, instead staring out the window as the scenery swept past, carrying him further and further away with every passing moment from Alex... from Mike... from everyone who cared about him.

“It’ll be fine, Bobby,” Lyle told him. “You’ll be back where you’re supposed to be very soon. And, I guarantee that you won’t be... allowed to stray again.” He paused, and then grinned. “Mr Raines is really looking forward to seeing you again.”

Bobby didn’t react, didn’t even spare him a glance. Lyle thought it over for a long moment before trying again.

“So is Brigitte.”

There was no way Bobby could conceal his reaction to that. He went rigid where he sat, and his breath caught audibly as he struggled to stay calm. Lyle chuckled cruelly.

“Oh, yeah. She really missed you, my friend.”

In that moment, the fear that Bobby was experiencing subsided rapidly, to be replaced with a white hot rage. In that instant, he decided he was not going to submit, and allow himself to be taken again. Even if it cost him his life, he would not go back to the Centre.

With an angry snarl, Bobby suddenly lunged across, slamming his body weight into Lyle and momentarily pinning him to the door of the vehicle. The car fish-tailed wildly as Lyle fought against Bobby, to regain control. Then, at the same moment that Lyle stomped on the brake to bring the speeding car to a halt, Bobby grabbed the steering wheel and jerked it towards himself as hard as he could.

The result was as spectacular as it was devastating.

The car started to turn hard to the right and, as it turned, both wheels on the right hand side lifted off the ground. For a split second, the car seemed to suspended there, tilted to the side on just two wheels. Then it became airborne, flipping twice in the air before hitting solid ground.

The vehicle rolled several times before its momentum slowed and it finally came to a halt, upside down, in the middle of the road. There it sat, silent and still, with no sign of life from the occupants within.

Minutes passed before a hand finally appeared in the front passenger window, weakly pushing out what remained of the window pane. A second hand appeared, handcuffed to the first, and a moment later, Bobby’s head came into sight as he dragged himself slowly and painfully from the wreckage that had once been a motor vehicle.

A sob of pain escaped him as pain flared up afresh in his shoulder, but he didn’t stop until he was completely free of the wreckage. There he sat on the asphalt road, drawing in shallow, painful breaths, each one setting his chest on fire. Broken ribs, he thought distantly. He was sure he had at least one broken rib, maybe more. As he came back to reality and began to check himself over, though, he became sure that he had no other broken bones. His head hurt like hell, though, and so did his bad shoulder. But no broken legs, and no broken arms.

He couldn’t see Lyle inside the car from where he was sitting on the road, and he had no intention of moving in for a closer look. Maybe the son of a bitch was dead... More probably not... But he was in no condition to finish the job if he wasn’t dead. On the other hand... His gaze went down to his handcuffed wrists. The key, he suspected, was in Lyle’s pocket.

Bobby grimaced, instantly deciding it just wasn’t worth the risk. He’d find another way to lose the cuffs.

Struggling to get a grip on the pain that threatened to swamp him, Bobby got unsteadily to his feet and, with a last look at the wrecked vehicle, he stumbled away up the road.

Some hours later

“It’s definite,” Charles said grimly when they all came back together after searching the house and the surrounding grounds. “He’s nowhere on the estate.”

“So what now?” Carolyn asked softly. Silence met her question as they all leapt to the most obvious conclusion. Alex was the first to react verbally.

“No. No! I won’t accept that. He... He just went for a long walk, that’s all. He’ll be back any minute...”

“I’m with Alex,” Deakins agreed. “I think we should at least be checking the immediate area outside the estate before we jump to conclusions.”

“That’s not unreasonable, Charles,” Margaret pointed out, and he conceded with a nod.

“All right. We’ll take the cars and check the roads outside the estate. Say, as far as the village?”

Jarod nodded.

“Let’s go.”

It was nearing early evening when the searchers returned, luckless and dejected. There had been no sign of Bobby anywhere, and by now they all suspected the worst.

“How?” Emily was asking as they filed back inside. “How did they find him? They never knew about this place!”

“I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter,” Charles said heavily. “The point is, we’ve lost him. They’ll never let down their guard again. We’ll never get him back.”

A choked sob came from behind him, and he stumbled a little as Alex shoved past him and ran for her room. Cursing softly, Mike hurried after her, not caring to leave her alone. Several pairs of eyes turned to Charles who, in turn, at least had the decency to look guilty.

“I’m sorry,” he said, “but I can’t see the point in deluding ourselves. They won’t allow us another chance to take him back. It’s as simple as that.”

“It’s never that simple,” Jarod snapped. “And I won’t let them get away with this. I will find out where they’ve taken him this time, and I will get him back. I swear it.”

Alex heard Mike coming after her, but didn’t stop, even when she heard him calling to her. Right then, the belief that they had lost Bobby once more to the Centre was too much to take and she didn’t want to face anyone or anything. She reached her room and slipped inside, shutting and locking the door seconds before Mike got there. He knocked loudly, begging her not to shut herself away, and to let him in, but she paid him no heed.

Walking over, she dropped onto the bed, buried her face in her arms and gave in to her grief.

Outside her door, Mike stood helplessly as he listened to the sounds of her distraught sobs. Short of breaking the door in, though, he had no way to reach her, and he wasn’t quite prepared to go to those lengths yet. She would eventually let him in, he decided. It was just going to be a matter of giving her time, and a lot of it.

Shaking his head, Mike turned away and began to walk back down the hallway, trying to grasp the horrible truth in his own mind that Bobby had fallen victim to the Centre once more. He was just passing Bobby’s room when a thin bar of light underneath the ensuite door caught his attention. Puzzled, he ventured into the room and over to the door, and hesitated only a moment before throwing it open.

The sight that met him left him speechless. Bobby was there, sitting in the bath and gingerly bathing several open cuts on his arms and chest. His face was caked with blood, and he looked like he was in severe pain, but it was him.

“Bobby?” Mike burst out as Bobby stared up at him in surprise. “Where the hell have you been?”

Bobby swallowed hard.

“I... I’m sorry...”

For an uncomfortable moment, it looked to Mike like Bobby was about to start crying, but the tears didn’t come. Then, as the haze faded from Mike’s eyes, he finally noticed the physical state Bobby was in.

“Damn... What happened to you?” he asked anxiously, dropping into a crouch beside the tub. “Man, you look like you got hit by a bus.”

Bobby drew in an unsteady breath.

“It was Lyle.”

Mike froze.

“Lyle? That psycho fuck from the Centre?”

Bobby started to answer, but Mike cut him off.

“Hang on. Before you say anything, I’ve gotta let everyone know you’re here. They’re all in a panic, think you’ve been taken again. And Alex... I’ve gotta tell her! Hang on...”

Scrambling to his feet, Mike almost fell in his rush to leave the room. He went first to Alex’s door, and banged hard on it.

“Go away, Mike!” came her muffled voice from within.

“Alex, open the friggin’ door! Bobby’s here!”

There was a moment of silence, and then the bedroom door was yanked open so hard and fast that Mike nearly fell into the room.

“What?” Alex demanded. “Mike, if you’re joking...”

“I’m not,” he told her fiercely. “He’s in the bath, in his ensuite. He said he had a run-in with Lyle, and I believe it from how he looks. Go see to him, okay? I’ll let everyone else know that he’s safe.”

Mike hurried off to do so without waiting for Alex to respond. She didn’t hesitate, but hurried into Bobby’s room to see for herself that he was safe.

The group had migrated into the family room, and a heavy silence now blanketed the room. No one knew what to do or say, and it threatened to rip them all apart. Deakins was just contemplating what to say when Mike flew into the room, eyes wide and gasping for breath.

“He’s here! He’s safe!”

Margaret took a slow step forward.


Mike bit back a powerful urge to make a sarcastic remark, and instead nodded eagerly.

“Yes!” He paused, taking a breath and trying to get a grip on his enthusiasm, because what he had to say next was going to flatten them all. “He said he had a run-in with Lyle.”

Again, silence fell. Then, finally, Deakins spoke in a tense voice.

“Where is he, Mike?”

“In the bath, in his ensuite. He looks pretty badly beaten up.” He looked over at Emily. “You might need to take a look at him, Em.”

Emily nodded, already heading for the door.

“I’ll go right away. Everyone, wait here. Alex and I will bring him in here when we’re done.”

“My god,” Margaret whispered as she dropped heavily into her chair. “That was a fright none of us needed.”

Deakins looked grim.

“It settles it, though. We have to leave first thing tomorrow. They know where he is, now.”

“Forget about that,” Charles said. “I think we need to get you folks out of here tonight.”

“Don’t jump the gun,” Margaret told them with a frown. “Let’s be patient, and at least wait to hear what Bobby has to say before we go into panic stations. All right?”

Deakins and Charles exchanged grim looks for a long moment before they both nodded in agreement.

“All right,” Deakins agreed quietly for the both of them.

Bobby was just climbing awkwardly out of the bath when Alex came in. She stood staring at him for a long moment before falling towards him and throwing her arms around his upper body.

“Don’t you ever do anything like this again!” she choked out. Bobby hugged her back with his good arm, trying to ignore the fiery pain in his chest from the way she was squeezing him. Finally, though, he couldn’t fight it any longer, and spoke in a rasping whisper.

“A... Alex... Please... My ribs...”

She pulled back quickly, and horror filled her eyes as she stared at the massive bruising that was forming all over his chest.

“Oh my god...” Then her gaze swept over the rest of him. “Bobby, what happened? Mike said it was Lyle...”

Bobby nodded, wincing a little at the pain that shot through his skull at the simple gesture.

“It was. He... He found me. He tried to take me again.”

She picked up the wash cloth and gently began dabbing it at his face to clean away the blood.

“Well, it looks like you put up one hell of a fight. Is Lyle dead?”

“I don’t know,” Bobby mumbled, his gaze dropping. “Probably not. I decided not to wait around to find out.”

“Okay,” Alex murmured. “Don’t worry about it now. The point is, he didn’t get you.”

Footsteps alerted them to a new presence, and they both looked up as Emily came in. She paused, and winced at the sight of his chest.

“Okay,” she said as she set her bag on the bench space and opened it up. “Let’s see what we need here...”

“Uh... Does anyone mind if I put some pants on?” Bobby asked, blushing red despite knowing full well that both Alex and Emily had both seen him naked more than once since his arrival at the estate. Emily smiled wryly.

“Sure. Sorry. We’re just so relieved that you’re safe...”

“So I keep hearing,” Bobby retorted as he pulled on a pair of boxers, and sweatpants, and then allowed himself to be ushered back into his bedroom and seated on his bed.

There was silence as Emily checked him over. For the most part, it seemed to be bad bruising and lacerations, but no broken bones. Even the pain in his shoulder wasn’t as bad as it had been at the time of the crash. When she got to his chest, though, it was all he could not to scream in pain. Emily frowned deeply as she ran her fingertips lightly over the bruised flesh, pausing to press carefully in key places.

“I’m sorry, Bobby,” she murmured. “I have to do this, though. But I think you’ve been lucky. I don’t think you’ve got any broken ribs. Cracked, maybe, but not broken. You’ll have to have x-rays done to know for sure, but I really don’t think any have been broken.”

Bobby sighed faintly as she ended her examination and moved back a little.

“Thank God,” he mumbled, shuddering a little at the memory of the car flipping through the air whilst he and Lyle were still inside. Emily eyed him critically.

“You definitely took a battering, though. How much are you hurting?”

“A lot,” he admitted. Emily nodded and delved into her bag, producing a small bottle from which she removed two pills.

“Here,” she told him, pressing them into his hand. “Take those. They’ll take the edge off the pain without making you drowsy.”

He took the pills without protest, a testament in itself to how much he was hurting right then. Between Alex and Emily, they were able to get a sweater over his head, and then Emily urged him gently to his feet.

“C’mon out to the family room. You can tell everyone together just what happened.”

Eyes that were filled with question met them when they emerged into the family room. Deakins got up and walked over, eyeing Bobby with concern.

“You look like you’ve been in a train wreck, Bobby.”

“Ironically, you’re not far off the mark,” Bobby answered ruefully. He sat down gingerly in a vacant chair, and let his breath out slowly before speaking. “I’m sorry for scaring everyone... but in my defense, I didn’t do it deliberately.”

“We’ll kick your ass later,” Mike told him with a smile. “Just tell us what happened, buddy.”

Bobby nodded and, after taking a moment to gather his thoughts, he told them what had happened.

“I only meant to walk to the end of the garden,” he explained. “I don’t even know how I ended up as far away as I did. All I know is that suddenly I was at the top of the hill before the road comes to the village. I decided to go down and look around. I... I was feeling okay about it... about being out on my own like that. I looked around for a bit, and I stopped to look at a model train set. Wh... When I looked up again... He was there. Lyle was there... right behind me. He had a gun, and I told him...”

Bobby faltered, his eyes flickering upwards to Alex, who was sitting on the arm rest beside him. She shifted closer, and smoothed his wayward curls back.

“Just say it, Bobby.”

He sighed faintly, but conceded.

“I told him to go ahead and shoot me, because I’d rather be shot dead than go back to the Centre.”

He thought he detected the slightest of change in the grip of Alex’s hand on his head, but she said nothing. After a moment, he went on quietly.

“Lyle said he wouldn’t shoot me. He... He threatened to shoot some kids that were nearby if I didn’t go with him. I didn’t have a choice, I had to go. I couldn’t let him shoot those kids.”

“He would have done it, too,” Jarod said softly. Bobby nodded.

“I know. I wasn’t going to call his bluff. I already tried that... and lost. He took me to a car... handcuffed me... but he handcuffed my wrists in front of me, not behind my back. Then he put me in the car, and we were driving... away from the village...” Bobby paused, trembling slightly at the memories. “I decided I couldn’t let him take me... so I pushed him into the door, and then I grabbed the steering wheel and jerked it towards me. The car flipped, and rolled... I know I blacked out, and when I woke up, the car was upside down on the road. Lyle was next to me. He was unconscious. I crawled out of the car, and managed to get up and run. I... I know I could have done something about Lyle then... but I just wasn’t strong enough. And, I was hurting...”

"How did you get out of the handcuffs?" Emily asked, leaning in closer to get a look at his bruised wrists.

“Broke them on a rock,” Bobby answered. “Took me nearly half and hour, and I thought I'd broken my wrist at one point, but I got them off. I... I'm sorry...”

“It’s okay, Bobby,” Deakins assured him. “When you ran, where did you go?”

“I headed back here,” Bobby answered. “But it took me so long because I went right around the village, so no one would see me.”

“Honey, why?” Margaret asked in confusion. “You only had to go and talk to someone, and they would have brought you back here.”

Bobby, however, looked less than certain.

“I... I don’t know about that. How did he find me here? Someone must have said something.”

“The boy’s right,” Charles said soberly. “I don’t believe Lyle could have just shown up here by chance. This place has been a perfectly kept secret for six years. There is no reason why they would suddenly discover it now, unless someone said something. That just settles it, that we really do need to get you folks out tonight.”

“Hang on a second,” Mike cut in. “Bobby, when did this happen?”

“Uh... around eleven this morning, I think.”

Mike looked around at the gathered group.

“If that was a planned Centre attack, and they knew about this place specifically, then wouldn’t they have had operatives all over here by now?”

“Yes,” Jarod confirmed. “They would have. So, somehow, they knew Bobby was in the village, but they can’t know exactly where he’s staying. For all we know, they think he was holed up somewhere in the actual village itself.”

“We still can’t afford to waste time, though,” Deakins said. “The sooner we get home now, the better.”

Charles stood up.

“I’ll get the van out and ready. We’ll have one last meal together, and then we’ll leave for the airport as soon as it gets dark. I believe Jarod’s got a flight organised for you.”

Jarod nodded.

“A friend of mine offered me use of his private jet. I’ve got it on standby, ready to go as soon as we get there. It’ll be a straight flight, all the way back to New York.”

“Sounds good,” Bobby murmured gratefully. Margaret rose up.

“I’d better go and see about dinner, then.”

Soon, only Deakins, Alex, Mike and Carolyn were left in the room, with Bobby.

“Are you okay?” Deakins asked in concern. Bobby hesitated in answering. Physically, perhaps not. Emotionally and mentally...? That was another matter.

“I got away,” he said softly, simply. He raised his eyes to meet Deakins’. “I think I’m okay.”

Alex leaned down and kissed him gently on the temple.

“You are okay. And by tomorrow, you’ll be even better. By then, we’ll all be home.”

Bobby nodded, and sighed as she drew him in to lean against her.

“Home,” he echoed softly, wistfully, wishing that he could somehow convey to them all just what a foreign concept ‘home’ had become. He was happy and grateful to finally be returning to New York, but a tiny voice deep inside whispered that it would be a long time before he would be comfortable again with the concept of home.

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