A/N: Again, mucho thanks to bammi1, and to my good friend Vikki, for their help in formulating this chapter. I doubt I could have done it without them. And, it would have been much shorter and more boring if I’d tried.

And no. I'm not introducing potential romantic competition into the mix. The Bobby/Alex pairing is safe.

Alex arose just as dawn was breaking. She dressed quickly and quietly, acutely aware that no one else was up yet. She paused in the doorway of Bobby's room, watching him with a smile of satisfaction. He hadn't moved an inch since she'd last looked in on him, and for all appearances appeared to be sleeping peacefully. She fervently hoped that that would continue to be the case.

Slowly, with more than a little reluctance, she moved away from the door. Little though she liked it, she had agreed to be in at One Police Plaza first thing, and that meant entrusting Bobby into the care of her parents. It was a harder thing to do than she had imagined it might be. As much as she trusted her parents to look after Bobby, the bottom line was that she didn't want to give him up to anyone else's care.

She wanted him to herself, she realised with some embarrassment. But then, after nine months separated from him, was that really such a terrible thing? She didn't think so. All the same, that one particular morning she had no alternative. All she could hope was that she wouldn't have to stay at One Police Plaza beyond meeting with the Commissioner.

With a last look at her sleeping partner, Alex hurried down the stairs, and out of the house.

John was the first up, after Alex had gone. He lay in bed for a while, his mind pleasantly blank, before remembering that he and Helen were not alone in the house. Suddenly curious, he got up and left the bedroom, heading upstairs to check in on their guest. It was as he was coming to the top of the staircase that he heard it – muffled sobs, intermixed with heartbreaking pleas for mercy. Hurrying down, John strode into the room where Bobby had slept, and stopped in shock and dismay.

Bobby had fallen completely off the bed, and was curled up on the floor, tangled up in the blankets. John suspected he must have hit his head on the dresser when he fell, because his head was bleeding. It didn't look too severe to him, but it was certainly going to need medical attention.

Hoping fervently that Bobby wouldn't react badly, John went over and crouched down beside the younger man.

“Bobby, wake up, son.”

He spoke loudly and firmly, hoping to be able to wake Bobby up without having to actually lay a hand on him. It worked – he awoke with a violent start, his breath catching in his throat.

“Easy, son,” John murmured as Bobby started to sit up, only to wince from the pain of his head injury. “You've given yourself a pretty nasty knock on the head. That must have been one unpleasant dream you were having.”

Bobby shuddered.

“I... I don't remember.”

John very much doubted that, but he wasn't going to argue with him over it right then and there.

“Here...” He got to his feet and offered a hand to Bobby, who accepted the help graciously. “C'mon downstairs, Bobby. I'll make us some coffee.”

Five minutes later, they were sitting at the table in the kitchen, sipping steaming hot mugs of coffee. So far, Bobby hadn't said a word about the nightmare he'd had, but John was patient.

“Helen and I promised Alex that we'd take you to see a doctor this morning,” John explained quietly. “Get those ribs checked out... and anything else that needs looking at. Are you okay with that?”

While John watched, Bobby rubbed gingerly at his ribs. They hurt badly, he couldn't deny it. His shoulder was also an ongoing issue. As much as he loathed the idea of seeing a doctor... any doctor... he knew he had to do something to try and reverse the damage that had been done. If he didn't, he knew he would never be approved to return to work.

“That's fine,” he mumbled, his gaze fixed on the coffee in front of him.

“Well, is there any doctor in particular you'd prefer to see? Or are you fine with just going to an ER?”

“We... We could go to the ER at St Clare's,” Bobby said finally. “There's a doctor there. Dr Liz Bauer. She's treated me before. I... I don't mind seeing her.”

John held back from commenting, but he found it curious all the same that, given the choice, Bobby chose a female doctor over a male one.

“Okay, then,” he said simply. “St Clare's it is.”

St Clare's Hospital

Elizabeth Bauer was a busy doctor. In addition to the work she did in the clinic that was attached to St Clare's Hospital in New York, she also worked as a trauma specialist in the hospital's ER. That was where she was when word reached her that there was police detective in the clinic in need of medical attention, and that he was refusing to allow anyone else to treat him.

She treated cops all the time, and it wasn't uncommon for them to ask for her if they happened to show up at the clinic for any care they might have needed. They knew, however, that her time was divided between the clinic and the ER, and if she wasn't available they generally accepted that. It made her curious, as well as irritated, that someone could be so arrogant as to demand her exclusive attention.

“You're gonna want to see this guy, Liz,” the doctor who had offered to find her said.

“Danny, I don't give a damn if he's the Commissioner,” Liz grumbled as she tried to focus on stitching a foot-long knife wound on the arm of a young man. “No one person can monopolise my time! If he's that eager to see me, he can come back when I'm rostered on for the clinic again, in two days' time.”

“It's not that simple, Liz,” Danny Schroeder told her. “I tried to deal with the guy myself. I tried to explain that you weren't available, but when I tried to get near him, he damn near had a panic attack.”

Liz paused, looking around at Danny quizzically.

“A panic attack?”

“Yeah. When I finally gave up and said I'd come get you, he was sitting on the floor in the corner of room, and he refused to get up again.”

“Oh, just great,” she grumbled. “A cop having a tantrum. Just what I need.”

“Liz, he's not having a tantrum,” Danny told her softly. “He really is genuinely terrified. The couple that brought him in, they said he'd been through a really severe trauma over the last ten or eleven months, and that he was still recovering.”

“Then he should be at a shrink's office, not here,” Liz grumbled.

“Maybe, but he still needs treatment. Apparently he was in a bad car accident just a couple of days ago. The couple told me they think he might have a few cracked or broken ribs.”

Finally, she sighed and stepped back from her current patient.

“If he's got cracked ribs, then sitting on the floor sulking is going to do him an absolute world of good, isn't it? Okay, fine. I'll go see to him. And he better be for real, Danny. I'm not in the mood to deal with hypochondriacs. Not today.”

“Oh, he's for real,” Danny answered grimly, “and he’s not sulking on the floor, either. Just… trust me, please? I wouldn't have come to get you if I didn’t think it was warranted.”

“Fine. Here, you finish this up, and I'll go deal with our precious police officer. Did you happen to get a name?”

“Yeah. He said his name was Bobby. Bobby Goren.”

Liz stood frozen, staring at Danny in shock before turning and running from the ER.

Liz arrived at the clinic, and was immediately pointed towards Examination Room Three. She found a man standing in the doorway, watching with grim anxiety as she approached.

“Are you Dr Bauer?” the man asked, making no effort to move from the doorway. She nodded, and motioned to her ID card.

“Yes, that’s me. And you are?”

“John Eames. My wife Helen and I brought Bobby in. Our daughter is his partner.”

Liz tried to look past him into the examination room, to no avail.

“Where is he?” she asked finally, and John stepped to one side.

“In here.”

Liz stepped inside, and came to a complete halt, staring at Bobby in confused dismay. He was sitting on the floor, just as Danny had told her, with his knees tucked up to his chest and curling himself into as tight a ball as he could manage. Tears streaked his face, and he was rocking back and forth slightly. His lips were moving fervently, but no sound came out.

She stared at him for nearly a minute, stunned, before looking to the elderly couple who had come in with him.


Eloquent though it was, she could think of nothing else to say. Never before had the sight of someone incapacitated ever left her so utterly speechless.

“He’s been traumatised,” John said, and this time she clearly heard the anger in his voice. “He suffered nine months of a hell that you couldn’t begin to imagine, and your… colleague has just made it worse.”

“What happened?” Liz asked as she started forward.

“Bobby asked specifically for you,” Helen said heatedly. “But that Dr Schroeder wouldn’t listen to him. He told Bobby he had to get undressed, and when Bobby refused, he called in a couple of orderlies to help. Bobby went into an absolute panic. And now… Well, I don’t even know if he can hear us now.”

Liz passed Helen, and dropped into a crouch in front of Bobby, looking him over critically as she tried to determine the best way to deal with him. There were a thousand questions in her mind, but now was not the time nor the place to be asking any of them.

“Bobby,” she spoke, keeping her voice low and gentle. “Look at me, Bobby.”

Though he didn’t look directly at her, the way he winced slightly at the sound of his own name being called told her that he could indeed hear her. She tried again, raising the volume of her voice just fractionally.

“Detective Goren, look at me.”

Bobby’s eyes snapped up, locking onto hers, and for a brief moment, Liz had to fight a powerful desire to look away. She held his gaze for what felt like an eternity before she saw some clarity finally return to his brown eyes.


She reached out to gently touch her fingertips to his chin, and lifted his face a little.

“I’m told you sent one of my colleagues packing. If I’d known you were that eager to see me…”

The light joke failed to get so much as a smile from him. Instead, she felt a violent tremble pass through his body.

“He… He wanted me to undress… I… I couldn’t do that.”

She heard the raw fear in his voice, and wondered again what could have possibly happened to him to make him so afraid. This was not the same detective who had once given her nurses hell while recuperating from a burst appendicitis, or who had tried to check himself out of the hospital the day after being shot in the leg.

This was not the same man who had taken her out, wined and dined her into the early hours of the morning, and shown her how a woman deserved to really be treated.

The man who now sat on the floor in front of her, cowering in fear, was almost unrecognisable.

Even as she reeled in mental shock from what she was seeing, her professional state of mind kicked in almost without her realising it as she finally registered the bruises and swelling on his face. A glance down told her his chest was similarly bruised. Despite his obvious reticence about undressing, she had to find a way to coax him into taking his shirt off, at the very least, if she was going to treat him successfully.

“Okay,” she murmured finally. “How about we start by getting you back up, and sitting on the examination table?”

She held out one hand to him in as non-confrontational a gesture as she could manage. After nearly a minute of no response, Bobby finally reached out a trembling hand, and allowed himself to be coaxed up off the floor.

“All right,” Liz murmured, guiding him over to sit on the examination table. She then looked at the bruises and swelling on his face with sympathy. “You look like you got into a brawl, Bobby, not a car accident. You want to tell me exactly what happened?”

He didn’t answer immediately and, for a moment, she watched the shadows pass fleetingly across his face. He wasn’t going to tell her exactly what happened, she realised. Right at that moment, he was trying to decide exactly what to tell her. As he thought it over, she gently probed with her fingertips along his jaw, cheeks, the bridge of his nose, and finally his forehead. He winced visibly as she made contact with each and every bruise.

“It wasn’t an accident,” he said finally, his voice barely more than a whisper. Liz regarded him in curiosity.

“You weren’t in a car accident?”

“I… I didn’t say that.”

“Well, either you were or you weren’t.”

Bobby let his breath out in a rush.

“I was in a car that crashed… but it wasn’t an accident.”

She paused, and then took a step back from him, staring at him piercingly.

“What are you trying to say, Bobby? That you deliberately ran a car off the road?”

“Not off the road,” Bobby answered softly. As he spoke, his gaze became fixed on his hands, and she couldn’t get him to maintain eye contact with her. Another disturbing change… “The car flipped, and rolled… F… Four or five times.”

He offered no explanation as to how the crash had occurred, and she decided against pressing him for one. Instead, she shook her head and returned her attention to a particularly nasty looking abrasion along his hairline.

“Damn, Bobby. And you walked away from that?”

He shuddered a little.

“Yes. As fast as I could.”

She blinked in surprise at the odd remark but made no comment about it, instead choosing to comment on his physical condition..

“Well, you were really lucky, Bobby. I’m going to take facial x-rays, but I think you are only badly bruised.” She stook a step back, then, eyeing him thoughtfully. “Bobby, hon, I’m going to need to see your chest. Will you let me?”

It was a very carefully worded request. There was no demand in her tone, and that perhaps was what won her his acquiescence. Slowly, with trembling fingers, he unbuttoned his shirt.

“Sweet mother of God…”

The horrified exclamation came from John, and Liz felt inclined to agree. Bobby’s chest was not covered by a whole lot of individual bruises, but rather one enormous, all-encompassing giant bruise. There was very little flesh on his chest that wasn’t touched by it. Liz’s sharp eyes picked up the scarring that peppered his upper body, but chose to raise it with him later. Now was the time to focus on current injuries.

“Bobby, I want to get x-rays of your face and chest… and I think of your back as well. Tell me, how do your arms and legs feel? Any significant pain there?”

“No,” he mumbled. “Just my chest… and my shoulder.”

Liz hesitated before responding.

“Your shoulder hurts? Which shoulder?”

“The right one.”

“Okay. Hon, if I’m going to be able to do anything about it, you’re going to need to take off your shirt. Will you do that for me?”

She thought that he was going to panic again. But even as she watched, he seemed to take control of his own emotions and, with a fresh resolve, he shrugged off the shirt and let it fall to the floor.

It took a great effort on Liz’s part not to groan in sympathy pain at the sight of his inflamed shoulder joint. She didn’t need a scan to know with reasonable certainty that he was going to need surgery to correct whatever damage had been done. She said nothing, though, sensing that a comment like that might only trigger another panic attack.

“Okay,” she murmured. “I’m going to organise for x-rays to be taken immediately, as well as a scan of your shoulder. Are you okay with that?”

He glanced at her briefly with a gaze that clearly said he knew he didn’t have a choice, and for a fleeting moment she could see the man she used to know in those world-weary brown eyes. Smiling reassuringly at him, she retreated to the door, and her gaze went to John.

“Mr Eames? Could I speak to you outside, please?”

John hesitated, but Helen nodded reassuringly to him as she walked over to join Bobby.

“I’ll wait here with Bobby. You go ahead, John.”

With some reluctance, John followed Liz from the room.

“All right,” Liz said in a soft, tense voice once they were outside the door. “What the hell happened to him?”

John didn’t answer immediately, but walked away down the corridor, and didn’t stop until they were at the far end.

“First of all, Dr Bauer,” John said quietly, “you need to know that Bobby has exceptional hearing. And I do mean exceptional. Secondly, all I know is that he was abducted and held prisoner for nine months before he was rescued.”

Liz gaped at him, and a short burst of laughter escaped her. The laughter faded as fast as it had surfaced, though, as she got a good look at his grim expression.

“You’re not kidding… are you?”

“Do I look like I am?” John growled. “Look, Bobby has been gone for nearly eleven months now. He only came home to New York last night. That boy has been through absolute hell, but I can’t tell you the details. All I know is that whoever the bastards are who took him, they damn near broke him.”

Liz nodded as she glanced back up the corridor to the room where they’d left Bobby.

“I gathered as much. Okay, I’m going to put in the order for the x-rays and scans, and we’ll get them done as quickly as possible. I’ll send in a nurse with some forms that Bobby will need to sign.”

“Doctor,” John said quickly as she started to walk away from him. Liz paused, looking back questioningly at him.

“What is it, Mr Eames?”

“I saw that look on your face when you saw his shoulder. How bad is it?”

“I really can’t answer that without doing a scan first…”

He cut her off quietly but firmly.

“I’m not asking for a formal diagnosis, Dr Bauer. I’m asking you what you think.”

She looked uncomfortable, but conceded reluctantly.

“My personal opinion, Mr Eames? Speaking confidentially, I believe he’s going to need surgery to set that shoulder right again.”

John sighed softly.

“That’s not going to sit well with him.”

“It’s just an opinion, Mr Eames. There’s a possibility that we’ll scan the shoulder and find that the damage isn’t as severe as it looks from the outside, and that all he’ll need is physiotherapy to put it right again.”

“But you doubt it,” John put in, and Liz nodded.

“Yes, I doubt it. Excuse me, Mr Eames. I’ll go make the arrangements, and send in the nurse with the forms.”

A couple of hours later

Alex arrived at the hospital after lunch, after finally getting permission from Deakins to leave. She grimaced as she headed up in the lift to the fourth floor, following the directions her parents had given her. Despite Deakins being equally concerned about Bobby’s wellbeing, it still hadn’t taken him long to fall back into the role of captain, and in that role he’d demanded she finish filling in the forms the Commissioner had dumped on all of them in order to complete their return to work.

She supposed she couldn’t complain. When she’d left, Carolyn still had half a dozen pages to fill in, while Mike… Well, needless to say, he had a lot more left to do than his partner.

She turned a corner, and almost ran into her father, who was standing just outside one of the rooms.


He offered her a weary smile.

“Hey, sweetheart. How’d it all go this morning?”

“Pretty good. The Commissioner was particularly glad to have Deakins back.”

“Jackson hasn’t been doing such a great job?”

“It’s not that. It seems that Jackson hasn’t learnt the art of kissing asses. When a politician, or a leading figure tried to get their own way with him, he apparently told them to… well, you know. The Commissioner was starting to get worn out covering his ass for him.”

John chuckled.

“What a pity that is. So, did the Commissioner ask about Bobby?”

“He asked about Bobby before anything else. When Deakins told him that it might be a little while before Bobby can come back to work, he was disappointed, but he accepted it. He said he’ll hold Bobby’s place in the squad until he is ready.”

“Well, that’s something,” John murmured. Alex glanced past him to the open doorway of the hospital room.

“Your message said that he’d been admitted?”

“Just for the afternoon,” John answered. “It was the only way that they could get him into a bed here, by promising he’d be able to go home this evening. The doctor wanted to consult a specialist about Bobby’s shoulder, but he apparently wasn’t available until mid-afternoon. And…”

He paused, then, a frown creasing his features. Alex read the concern in his face, and felt her stomach lurch.

“What? What’s wrong?”

“Calm down, Lexie,” he told her gently. “As far as we know, nothing. It’s just… I overheard Dr Bauer talking to another doctor about something that’s come up in the chest x-rays they took. But I don’t know what it is. I think they realised I could hear them, and decided to take the conversation elsewhere. It’s probably nothing to panic about, so don’t get yourself all worried just yet, okay?”

Alex nodded, although the expression on her face suggested she was already worried. Stepping around her father, she walked into a warm sunny hospital room to discover a touching sight. Bobby was sound asleep on the bed, with his chest thoroughly bandaged and his right arm held firmly against his body courtesy of an immobiliser. Helen sat on the left side of the bed, his hand firmly clasped in hers. She offered Alex a warm smile as her daughter walked in.

“It was the only way he’d go to sleep, for me to hold his hand. Poor baby…”

Alex walked over to the bedside and, on impulse, leant down to kiss him tenderly on the cheek. He stirred at the contact, and his eyes fluttered open. A tired smile touched his lips at the sight of her.


Alex smiled and smoothed back his hair, conscious of the gauze that covered a portion of his forehead.

“Hey yourself. How are you feeling?”

“Ready to go home,” he mumbled. His gaze went past her to someone standing in the doorway. “How much longer do I have to stay here?”

Alex turned to find Liz standing there, watching with the scene before her with a smile. Deciding not to worry about how much she might or might not have seen, Alex walked over to exchange a hug with the other woman.

“Hi, Liz.”

“Alex. Good to see you again. In answer to your question, Bobby, a little while longer. I need to talk to you about the x-rays we took.”

“Broken ribs instead of cracked?” he queried, and Liz shook her head.

“Miraculously, no. You have seven cracked ribs, and that’s the worst of it. No, it’s something else.”

Walking around, she produced and x-ray from a large envelope, and held it up against the window, giving them all a clear view. Silence descended for several seconds before John came forward slowly, a frown on his face.

“What the hell is that?”

Liz looked back at Bobby, while still holding the x-ray up to the light.

“That’s what I’d like to know. Personally, I’ve never come across anything like it, and I was hoping Bobby might have an explanation.”

She was holding up an x-ray of Bobby’s back. There were distinct cracks visible in the ribs as a result of the crash he’d been in, but that was not what had their collective attention. On the left side, apparently attached to the underside of one rib, was what appeared to be a small, rectangular-shaped piece of metal.

Alex looked around at Bobby quizzically.

“Bobby? Do you have any idea what that thing is?”

He didn’t answer immediately, his attention focused on the x-ray. When he did eventually respond, there was a tension in his voice that none of them missed.

“I… I don’t know what it is.” He looked up at Liz. “Can you get it out?”

“I think so,” Liz murmured as she peered at the x-ray. “It will have to be done under a general anaesthetic, though. It’ll mean admitting you for surgery, and an overnight stay at least.”

“Then do it,” Bobby said hoarsely. Liz blinked, realising he meant immediately.

“You mean… now?”

“Yes,” Bobby answered, his voice rising with agitation. “Now. As soon as possible. Just get it out!”

“Okay,” Liz conceded as she slipped the x-ray back into the envelope. “Calm down, Bobby. I’ll have to see about OR availability, but I think I might have a chance at slotting you in later this evening. Bobby… are you sure you don’t know what that thing is?”

“I’m sure,” he whispered. “I… I don’t know.”

He was starting to look distinctly pale by then, and Liz didn’t particularly like the sound of his shallow breathing, either. She was prepared to leave the issue there, when Helen spoke with innocent curiosity.

“Do you know how it got there?”

His reaction was immediate, and dramatic. Bobby went rigid in the bed, his breath coming in rapid gasps as the memories he’d been struggling to suppress exploded to the forefront of his mind and mercilessly overtook his consciousness.

What’s going on?” Bobby asked softly as Sydney led him along a corridor. “Where are we going? This isn’t the way to the sim room.”

No. we’re not going there today,” Sydney answered placidly. Bobby waited for a further explanation, and when none was forthcoming, he tried again.

Sydney, what’s happening?”

Just stop, Bobby,” Sydney said, with an edge to his voice. “No more questions, please. You’ll find out soon enough. Just trust me.”

Bobby fell silent, almost painfully aware of the foreboding that was building deep in his gut. Trust him, Sydney said. That was rich. He hadn’t really trusted Sydney since the good doctor had gone away for the weekend a month ago, leaving him to Raines’ sadistic whims. All the same, Bobby complied, and didn’t say another word, even though his fearful mind was awash with questions.

Sydney finally led Bobby into a room that he didn’t recognise. Bobby froze just inside the doorway, his heart rate soaring. It was a room with a long, ‘T’-shaped, waist-high table that was equipped with leather restraints.

Sydney?” Bobby asked, feeling acutely afraid. “What’s going on?”

Just a minor procedure, Bobby,” a new voice said. “Nothing to be worried about.”

Bobby suddenly felt light-headed as Lyle emerged from the shadows. He looked to Sydney in burgeoning panic, but the psychiatrist was looking everywhere but at his charge. Walking over, Lyle patted the table top and offered Bobby his most friendly smile.

C’mon, Bobby. How about we do this the easy way, just this once? Because I, for one, would love to get this over with as quickly as possible, and I’m sure you would, too. And I’m sure you’d like to walk away without getting the crap beaten out of you for once. Whaddya say, buddy?”

Bobby looked from Lyle, to Sydney, to the table, and then to the eight or more men standing around the room, all watching him with cruel pleasure. It wasn’t hard to tell from the looks on most of their faces that he was hoping he’d refuse.

Just get it over with, he thought numbly. Whatever they had planned for him this time, just cooperate for once, and pray it would be over with quickly.

Suddenly feeling incredibly tired, Bobby trudged over to the table, and tried to ignore the way Lyle’s face lit up.

That’s great, Bobby,” Lyle purred. “You’re being smart for once. I like that. Now, take your shirt off, lie face down, and stretch your arms out along the T bar.”

Bobby did so with extreme reluctance. Then, once he was lying down, the cleaners moved in and began to do up the restraints. His arms, legs, waist, upper torso, shoulder and even his head were locked tightly into restraints, and by the time they were done his fingers, toes, mouth and eyes were the only parts of his body that he was still capable of moving.

Then, to complete his sense of utter helplessness, Lyle appeared in front of him with a ball gag in hand, and a malicious grin on his face.

Open up,” he said in as patronising a tone as he could manage. When Bobby refused, Lyle tried again. “Trust me, Bobby. You’re going to want something to bite down on. So, open up!”

Bobby felt sick to his stomach, but he was in no position to put up a fight now. He opened his mouth, and Lyle jammed the gag in, effectively silencing him. A moment later, he heard a rasping voice that sent chills of fear down his spine.

What are you still doing here?”

I’m stay, Raines,” Sydney said flatly. “To make sure you only do what the Director has given you permission to do, and nothing more. Now, do it, and get it over with.”

Fine,” Raines snarled.

Silence fell, and a minute later Bobby whimpered faintly as he felt the sharp sting of a syringe in his back.

Just relax, Bobby,” Raines said in a tone that suggested he really didn’t care one way or the other. “It will be a lot easier on you if you just relax.”

Silence fell, and Bobby was just starting to wonder if maybe it was all just meant to be a major psych out, when cold, sharp steel cut into the flesh of his back. Searing pain flared through his upper body, and a strangled scream of pain escaped his lips through the gag. Then, just as he thought it was as bad as it could get, it got worse still.

Bobby’s head reeled from the pain, and a fog descended on him, leaving him incoherent and barely aware of anything or anyone around him.

Distantly, he was aware of what was going on. He could feel the cold metal of something being pushed through the long incision that had been made in his skin, and felt the sickening pressure as they attached whatever it was to one of his ribs. He was aware of the wound being sutured, and covered with gauze, and of being released from the restraints.

He was aware of being dragged unceremoniously off the table, and out of the room, and somewhere between that room and his own room, he finally blacked out.

When he came back to awareness hours later, it was to a severely aching back, and a fresh deluge of nightmarish memories that he would spend the following days doing his best to suppress...

Bobby came back to the present to discover an oxygen mask being held gingerly over his mouth and nose, while a blood pressure strap was wrapped around his upper left arm. Light fingers stroked his hair soothingly, and slowly he became aware of voices all around him. Not the voices of those who were responsible for his ongoing nightmares, but warm, friendly voices.

He tried to force his eyes open, only to realise that they were already open, and that he just wasn’t registering anything. For a fleeting, frightening moment, he genuinely thought he’d gone blind. But no – slowly, his sight returned, and he found himself looking up into four concerned faces.

“Welcome back,” Liz said as his attention seemed to focus on her. “That was some panic attack you had. I thought I was going to have to sedate you for a moment there.”

“Bobby, what was that about?” Alex asked softly, though a part of her really didn’t want to know. He couldn’t answer immediately, though.

“Need some water,” he whispered through the oxygen mask. The mask was removed, and John and Liz both helped him to sit up before Helen handed him a half-filled glass of water. He sipped at it for a couple of minutes, still trembling violently, before making himself answer.

“They put something inside me. I… I don’t know what it was. Sydney took me to a room, and they strapped me down onto a table… face down. Raines came, and he injected me with something. If it was supposed to be an anaesthetic, it didn’t work. He cut my back open… they put something inside me, and then sewed me back up again.”

“Oh dear God,” John moaned. Liz stared down at him in horror.

“Wait a second… Are you saying someone performed surgery on you… while you were awake?”

He didn’t answer verbally. He didn’t need to. The look in his eyes, and the evidence in her hand was sufficient.

“Oh my god,” Liz whispered.

“Please,” Bobby begged her. “Get it out of me. Whatever it is… just get it out.”

She needed no more convincing.

“Okay, Bobby,” she conceded softly. “Okay.”

Despite what she’d warned them to expect, Liz was both surprised and relieved to find that she could schedule the surgery for just before three, after first learning that Bobby had not been able to bring himself to eat anything, or drink more than a little bit of water, since arriving back in New York. Secondly, there was an opening in one of the OR schedules after someone else’s surgery was cancelled.

So, at approximately two o’clock, a nurse came in with forms that Bobby was required to sign, which he did without hesitation. At two-thirty, the same nurse returned to carefully removed the bandages and the immobiliser and, to the amusement of both Alex and her parents, insisted on bathing Bobby’s upper body before allowing him some privacy in order to slip on the hospital gown, and a pair of hospital issue scrub pants.

Then, at ten minutes to three, Liz came back with nurses and a gurney, which they had Bobby manoeuvre himself onto, lying on his stomach. While he was lying there, Liz produced a water-based marker and carefully marked out the scar that they were going to have to reopen.

“Do you have to do that?” John asked, somewhat bemused. Liz smiled faintly as she put the marker away.

“I know, it seems ridiculous. But it just makes it easier in the OR.”

Alex snorted.

“Like someone who’s going to have a limb amputated. They write ‘not this one’ on the other limb.”

Liz chuckled.

“Something like that. Okay, Bobby. Ready?”

“Let’s just get it done,” he mumbled, his flippant words belying the tension he was experiencing.

“All right,” Liz agreed, and nodded to the nurses. “Let’s get this show on the road.” And then, to Alex, John and Helen, “Don’t worry. I’ll have him back here before you know it.”

And then they were gone.

“He’ll be fine, Lexie,” John murmured as his daughter sank down into one of the visitor’s chairs.

“I hope you’re right,” Alex whispered, taking what small comfort she could from her father’s protective embrace.

And that was how Deakins found them when he arrived there twenty minutes later, waiting in steadily increasing anxiety for Liz to come back and tell them how it had gone.

“So…” Deakins said with a frown after they’d finished bringing him up to date. “There was actually something inside him? Attached to his rib?”

“But we don’t know what,” Alex said tiredly. “If Bobby knows what it is, he wasn’t letting on.”

“Did his doctor say how long she expected this to take?” Deakins wondered.

“She thought maybe half an hour… Forty-five minutes at the most,” John answered. “It’s just been twenty minutes now.”

“Captain, Bobby told us that they…”

Alex trailed off, unable to finish the sentence. Deakins looked to John questioningly, and he finished off what Alex had tried to say.

“He said they operated on him without anaesthetic. That whatever it is that’s inside him, they cut him open and put it in there while he was still awake.”

“Sons of bitches,” Deakins whispered, shaken. He looked to Alex. “Who, exactly? Did he tell you?”

“All three of them were involved,” Alex replied, hatred in her voice. “Raines, Lyle and Sydney.” She laughed bitterly. “And Jarod wanted Bobby to forgive him!”

“I think Jarod had given up on hoping for that by the time we left,” Deakins assured her. “He wasn’t feeling to kindly towards Sydney himself at the end.”

“Who is this Sydney?” John wondered, and Alex answered in a harsh voice.

“He’s one of the bastards who held Bobby captive… treated him like his own personal lab rat.”

“I have pictures of him and the other two, Raines and Lyle,” Deakins told him and Helen. “Remind me to show them to you, so that if any of them turn up, you’ll recognise them.”

“It really isn’t over yet, is it?” Helen asked, and Alex shook her head furiously.

“No. It won’t really be over until all three of them are dead.”

Deakins was saved from having to comment by Liz’s return. She smiled at the captain briefly in greeting before holding up a jar with an inch and a half long piece of metal enclosed.

“Well, here it is.”

Alex walked over and took it from her, peering at it with a deep frown.

“Lexie?” John asked. “What is it?”

She didn’t answer immediately, her gaze locked on the offending item in the jar. Finally, she looked back up at Liz, her face pale.

“Is this what I think it is?”

Liz nodded.

“I’m pretty sure it is. Although, I swear, I felt like I was in the middle of a science fiction film… or maybe a conspiracy theory.”

Alex turned and held the jar out to Deakins, who took it with some caution. A moment later, he sucked in a sharp breath.

“Those sons of bitches… This is how Lyle found him yesterday!”

“Lexie?” John asked again, and Alex looked back at him grimly.

“It’s a tracking device. The bastards implanted a tracking device inside Bobby’s body.”

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