A/N: Short, but intense. I'll say no more...

Deakins walked back through his front door that evening feeling utterly exhausted. He had spent the entire day maintaining a delicate balancing act between planning Saturday’s action, and running the squad as normal. By the time the day was over, he’d found himself wondering whether retirement wasn’t that far off. God knew he was exhausted, and the Centre business was only partly responsible for it.

He paused in removing his jacket. If he was completely honest with himself, he knew the reason for his mental exhaustion, and it centred entirely on the decision he’d made to kill Lyle and Raines. It would have been a lie to say he didn’t feel uneasy about it, but the desire to end it once and for all and ensure Bobby’s safety was a powerful motivator.


He looked around as his wife approached. He tried to smile, but couldn’t quite manage it. She came up to him and slipped her arms around his waist.

“Honey, what’s the matter? I haven’t seen you look this worried since before you went off to rescue Bobby.”

He took her hand, and led her into the family room, and sat her down.

“We made some decisions today…. Decisions that I hope will keep Bobby safe permanently.”

Angie regarded him in quiet concern.

“What decision, Jimmy?”

He drew in an unsteady breath.

“We’re going to take them out, Angie. Lyle and Raines.”

It didn’t take her long to realise what he meant, and the shock in her expression was palpable.

“You’re going to… kill them…? Oh, Jimmy, no…”

“It’s the only way,” he insisted softly. “Bobby is never going to be safe while either of them is alive.”

“But Jimmy, what you’re talking about is premeditated murder! You could go to prison! All it would take is just one person to say the wrong thing at the wrong time…”

“Everyone involved is of the same mind,” Deakins told her. “And they all know the importance of keeping this under wraps. Our prime objective is to keep Bobby safe, Angie, and we can’t guarantee that with Lyle and Raines chasing after him. This is what we have to do. It’s just the way it has to be.”

She stared at him, tears just visible in her eyes as she realised that the course had already been set, and that he was not going to be dissuaded.

“Just tell me one thing, Jimmy. You’ve lived your life operating under the belief that there is no justification for taking a life. If you go ahead and do this now, will you be able to live with yourself?”

He paused before answering, if only to show her that he was thinking it through thoroughly. He knew that she would not accept anything less than a carefully considered response.

“If it achieves what we want it to achieve, and guarantees safety for Bobby? Then yes. I can live with that. But what about you, Angie? Can you live with it? More importantly, can you live with me?”

Distress filled her face at his questions.

“Jimmy, I love you, and I do understand that you want Bobby to be safe. So do I! But this is murder that we’re talking about! I agree that what they did to Bobby was awful, but can you really justify killing two people over it? Surely there must be another way…”

Deakins stared at her for so long that she started to feel painfully uncomfortable. When he finally spoke, there was a deep sadness in his voice.

“I’m sorry, Angie. I wanted to shield you from it, but maybe that was the wrong decision on my part. Maybe you do need to see it for yourself.”

“See what?” she asked uneasily. “Shield me from what?”

“The truth about what was done to Bobby,” he replied. “He wasn’t just spirited away and locked up for nine months. That would have been bad enough if that was all that had happened, but it wasn’t all. They nearly broke him, Angie. He was in such a shocking state when we found him…”

He paused, shuddering visibly at the memory, before getting up and walking over to the wall cabinet. Unlocking the top drawer, he withdrew a single silver disc.

“Jimmy? What is that?”

“It’s a sim disc, Angie. A simulation disc, to be exact. There are over two hundred of these altogether, and each one holds footage of some trial or test that Bobby was subjected to.”

Angie watched in trepidation as her husband fed the disc into their DVD player. He paused before switching it on, looking back to find that she’d risen to her feet.

“You’re going to want to sit down for this.”

She did so without argument, suddenly acutely afraid of what she was about to see. Deakins hit play, and then stepped back to give her a clear view. There was a moment of static, and then the screen cleared to reveal a disturbing sight.

Bobby was sitting on the floor in the middle of a large, brightly-lit room with his knees drawn up to his chest, and he was rocking back and forth. Soft, distressed whimpers and other unintelligible sounds could heard coming from his lips.

“Dear God, he looks starved,” Angie whispered in dismay as she took in his skeletal features.

“He was starved,” Deakins confirmed. Angie looked back to the screen, only to gasp in horror a moment later as a new realisation struck.

“Jimmy! He’s got no clothes on!”

“I know,” Deakins said quietly. “It was one of many methods they used to torment him. Just watch, Angie.”

She fell silent again, watching in growing horror as the scene unfolded before her.

He sat huddled, struggling to keep his fear under control. The more he let it take hold, the more he made unwanted sounds; and the more he made those sounds, the more likely he was to suffer for it. All the same, he could not prevent the soft whimpers that escaped him.

Nearly two hours ago, he’d been hauled from the safety of the little room on SL26, brought to this room and forcibly stripped naked. Then, the cleaners had left him alone. Except, he knew he was not really alone. Somewhere in the room, there were cameras, and that meant that somewhere, someone was watching him. Someone was always watching him.

He tried to huddle up even more tightly, and buried his pale, bruised face in his bare arms. He’d long given up trying to make any sense of Raines’ plans. All he knew was that every time he was taken out of his room, it meant more pain than he could reasonably bear – both physical and emotional.

Comfortable there, Bobby?”

He went rigid at the unwelcome voice that broke the silence. A moment later, Lyle walked into the room and came over to stand beside Bobby’s huddled form.

Not too cold, are you? We could always turn the heating up if you are, buddy.”

Please,” Bobby whispered. “Let me get dressed.”

He hated having to plead, but his anguish at being so exposed and so vulnerable overrode whatever pride he still had.

Sorry, pal,” Lyle answered, sounding not the least bit sorry. “No can do. But I’ll tell you what I can do. I can bring you something to eat and drink, if you want. How about it? You hungry?”

A shiver passed through Bobby, and he risked looking up at Lyle.

Wh… What do I have to do?”

Nothing huge,” Lyle answered. He dropped into a crouch beside Bobby, so that he could look him in the eye. “Just quit fucking around, and do what Mr Raines tells you to do. Think you can do that, Bobby?”

Bobby looked away from Lyle. His pride and self-respect had been stripped away, and he’d been reduced to a mere plaything in the eyes of those around him, but he still had one means of fighting left to him, and that was his steadfast refusal to cooperate. He suffered grievously for it, but it was all that he had, and so he took it and held onto that with all that he had.

G… Go fuck yourself,” he whispered, just loud enough to be heard. Lyle nodded placidly, unsurprised by Bobby’s response.

I thought that might be your reaction, so I brought along a little something to put you in a more cooperative frame of mind.”

Bobby started to look up at Lyle, just in time to suffer a fist to the head that sent him reeling to the floor. An instant later, the two cleaners who had entered the room behind Lyle were on him, pinning him to the floor and holding him there. Bobby struggled, but he was no match for the strength of two healthy, well-fed men.

And then Lyle was crouching over him, syringe in hand. While one of the cleaners held Bobby’s head to the floor, Lyle injected the contents of the syringe into Bobby’s neck.

There we go,” Lyle murmured. “That’ll help things along.”

Wh… What did you just give me?” Bobby asked as the cleaners released him and quickly backed off.

"Just something to loosen you up a little," Lyle answered calmly. "Go with it, Bobby, and you won't have such a rough ride this time."

This time?” Angie echoed in dismay. “They drugged him like this more than once?”

“A number of times,” Deakins confirmed. “They used him regularly to experiment on with new drugs. In this instance, we think he was given a psychotropic drug.”

“A mind altering drug?”

“Watch, Angie. See how much regard they really had for him.”

Then he was alone again. Terrified, not knowing what effects the drug might have on him, Bobby crawled over to the far corner of the room, curling into as tight a ball as he could and trying to will himself to sleep. It was a pointless effort. Before long, he began to experience unpleasant effects such as nausea, light-headedness and vertigo. He kept his eyes shut tight, but it did nothing to ease the sensation of spinning.

His stomach suddenly heaved, and he threw up violently, although what he brought up was little more than water. Bobby groaned and collapsed fully to the floor. He wanted to fight, but he was tired, weak and hungry. His defences were about as low as they could be, and he simply had nothing left with which to resist.

Angie Deakins continued to watch in horrified silence as Bobby descended into a state of drug-induced madness. He began to babble incoherently, and at times cried out and swatted weakly at torments that were not really there.

“Jimmy, please,” Angie whispered, feeling sick to her stomach. “Turn it off.”

“Not yet,” he said softly. “There’s one more thing I want you to see. Then you’ll understand why we have no choice. You’ll understand why we have to take out Lyle and Raines.”

Angie stared at him for a long moment before returning her gaze to the television with reluctance. A moment later, a new figure entered the room, dragging an oxygen tank along with him.

“That’s Raines,” Deakins explained, a vehemence in his voice that Angie had rarely heard. “Evil, psychotic bastard…”

Angie glanced worriedly at her husband before returning her attention to the scene unfolding before her.

Hello, Bobby. How are you feeling today?”

Bobby, who by that time had somehow managed to work himself back up into a sitting position, stared blankly at Raines. Raines regarded him with more than casual interest.

Do you know who I am, Bobby?”

Bobby didn’t answer. His lips moved, but no sound emerged. His eyes were wide and wild, and his breath came in hitching gasps. Raines nodded.

Good,” he practically purred. “Very good.”

Setting the oxygen tank carefully on its end, Raines crouched down in front of his distressed captive and spoke in a falsely soothing tone.

Don’t you remember, Bobby? I’m Dr Shimo.”

Bobby blinked, confusion flickering in his eyes.

D… Dr Sh…”

Shimo,” Raines said in a low, almost seductive tone. “Remember? I’ve been looking after your mother, Bobby.”

Slowly, Bobby looked around.

Wh… Where… Where am I…?” he whispered hoarsely.

You’re in Carmel Ridge. You’ve been here for a while now. Don’t you remember?”

The confusion on Bobby’s face increased.

I… I don’t…”

You suffered an extended psychotic break, Bobby. You’ve been here for five months now.”

And then there was fear, mixed with the confusion.

A… Alex… I w… want to s… see Alex…”

I’m afraid that’s not possible.”

Please,” Bobby whispered. “Please let me see her…”

I can’t do that, Bobby. Don’t you remember?”

Bobby looked up at Raines, his eyes lit up with growing panic.

Wh… What? Remember what? What did I do?”

You snapped in the middle of an interrogation, and attacked her. She’s dead, Bobby. You killed her.”

Bobby seemed to shrink in on himself at the terrible words.

No… No… I wouldn’t… I didn’t…”

I’m sorry, Bobby,” Raines said, and though his tone seemed kind, there was nothing kind or caring about the glee on his face as he watched Bobby fold under the weight of horror and despair.

My… mom…” he whispered, and Raines shook his head.

She doesn’t want to see you. She’s ashamed of you. She’s always been ashamed of you. You’ve had no visitors the entire time that you’ve been here. No one wants anything to do with you now.”

Raines stood up, and took hold of the oxygen tank once more. He looked down at the distraught man at his feet with an expression that was pure evil delight.

I’m all you’ve got now, Bobby. I’m all you’ve got. There’s no one else. There’ll never be anyone else again. Never.”

“Oh my god,” Angie whispered. “Jimmy, for God’s sake, turn it off…”

He did, finally, and went over to sit next to her.

“Now do you understand? Do you understand why we have to act?”

The tears came in a rush, and she crumpled against him, sobbing heavily.

“How could they? How could they treat him like that?”

“They’re evil, Angie. They’re purely, utterly evil. We have to stop them, and if that means committing murder to do it, then that’s what I’ll do. Please tell me you understand now?”

She looked up at him miserably.

“I understand, Jimmy. I still can’t say that I like it…”

“I don’t like it either,” he assured her. “But given the alternative, where Bobby has to watch over his shoulder for the rest of his life? It’s a choice that I know I’ll be able to live with.”

She shuddered against him, struggling against the threat of tears.

“He looked like he’d been beaten,” she whispered, and Deakins nodded.

“He had been. They beat him on a regular basis, particularly when he refused to cooperate. His right shoulder is going to need surgery, because they dislocated it and wrenched it so many times. They starved him, like you saw, and locked him away for hours at a time… They treated him worse than anything I’ve ever seen in my life. When we found him in that place… I wanted to cry when I saw him, Angie. He didn’t even recognise me to start with, they’d screwed with his head so badly.

“I didn’t know it was that bad,” Angie murmured. “Even after what you told me and the girls, I didn’t understand how bad it really was.”

“But you do now?” Deakins asked, and she nodded.

“Yes, now I do. Jimmy, how is Bobby now? I haven’t seen him since you came home.”

“He’s improving,” he answered her. “It’s a slow process, but considering the state he was in when we first got him out of there… He is definitely improving. Of course, a lot of that is thanks to Alex’s parents. They’ve taken him in, and treated him like he was their own. It’s what he needed more than anything, to have parent figures that he trusts, to look after him.”

“Will he be able to go back to work?” Angie wondered, and Deakins hesitated at that.

“I want him to,” he said quietly. “I really do… but right now, I don’t know. They did so much damage to him, physically, mentally and emotionally… I just don’t know.”

“Do what you have to do,” she whispered, hugging him fiercely. “You do what you have to do to keep Bobby safe from those monsters.”

Deakins nodded, relieved to finally have his wife’s understanding.

“We intend to.”

Friday afternoon

Mike found Alex in one of the task rooms, standing at the window and staring out at the city in absolute silence. She’d been distracted and short-tempered all week, ever since Bobby’s meeting with Frank at the library. Not that he could blame her, he supposed. He was feeling much the same way. He stood in the doorway for a few minutes, contemplating whether to interrupt her, when she suddenly turned and saw him.

“What’s wrong?”

He walked all the way in, and joined her at the window.

“I was about to risk asking you that. Are you okay?”

She turned back to the window, arms folded tightly across her chest.

“I’m scared,” she admitted softly. “What if something goes wrong tomorrow? What if they manage to out-manoeuvre us? I couldn’t bear to lose him again, Mike.”

“We’re not going to,” he murmured reassuringly, slipping an arm around her shoulders and hugging her to him. “We’re going to do what we have to, and when it’s over, Bobby’s going to be free from those assholes once and for all.”

She shuddered against him.

“I wish I had your confidence.”

“You really think it’s a mistake, don’t you?” Mike wondered.

“Honestly?” she answered soberly. “Yes, Mike. I think it’s a big mistake. Don’t get me wrong, I understand where Bobby’s coming from over this, but it terrifies me to know he’s putting himself at risk.”

“He’ll have back-up, Alex. It’ll be just like any sting we’ve done in the past…”

A grunt of surprise escaped him as she suddenly whirled around and thumped him hard in the chest.

“No, it will not! Don’t say that, because it’s nothing like it! He’s using himself as bait to trap people who are specifically out to get him! That is not the same, and don’t try to make out like it is!”

Mike sighed and hugged her again. She resisted briefly before finally giving in and slumping against him.

“It’s gonna be okay, Alex,” he murmured softly. “You’ll see. This time tomorrow, Bobby’s going to be free of those scumbags, for good.”

“Why can’t I believe that?” she whispered, her voice muffled by his jacket.

“You will,” Mike assured her. “It’s all going to be okay. Trust me.”

She hoped he was right, but despite his certainty, nothing would quell the fear and doubt that was steadily rising inside of her.

Alex arrived back at her parents’ home that evening to find them in the family room with Bobby, all three of them helping themselves to an array of Thai take-out. Bobby, she noted with some small pleasure, actually looked as though he’d eaten a decent amount for once. That in itself was a huge change from when, not so long ago, they’d been lucky if they could get him to eat much more than a slice of toast, or a piece of fruit.

“Hey, sweetie,” John greeted her. “Come and grab a plate. We ordered plenty.”

“Thanks,” Alex murmured as she sat down on the sofa beside Bobby. “I think I’ll pass. I’m not really hungry.”

Bobby looked sideways at her, concern creasing his brow.

“Are you okay?”

No! she wanted to scream at him. No, she was not okay!

“I’m fine,” she mumbled, and with her eyes fixed on the floor, she missed the looks exchanged between Bobby and her parents.

She heard the sound of movement, and when she looked up again, she was startled to discover that her parents had both exited the room, leaving her alone with Bobby. Looking up at him, she was taken aback by the renewed confidence in his eyes. As little as she liked the idea of him acting as live bait to trap Lyle and Raines, she could not deny that making the decision to take action against the Centre had clearly given him a fresh sense of purpose.

“You don’t want me to do this tomorrow, do you?” he asked quietly. Alex tried to look away, but he refused to let her.

“No,” she admitted finally, unhappily. “I don’t. I think you’re walking into trouble, Bobby.”

“I know I am,” he admitted.

“Then why?” she burst out. “Why take such a huge risk?”

“Because I have to stand up to them sooner or later,” he said simply. “I’d rather it be sooner than later.”

“These aren’t a bunch of schoolyard bullies that we’re talking about here,” Alex argued. “They’re dangerous, Bobby! What if they manage to take you again?”

“They won’t,” Bobby assured her, but she was not convinced.

“How can you know that?”

A small smile touched his lips, and lit up his eyes.

“Because I trust you.”

His simple declaration of trust only served to bring fresh tears to her eyes, and she made no protest when he pulled her close.

“I trust you, Alex. But now, I need you to trust me. I have to do this. I need you to understand that.”

“I do,” she insisted. “But that doesn’t mean I have to like it, does it?”

He smiled in wry amusement at her slightly petulant tone.

“No,” he conceded. “I guess not. Just promise me you’ll be there tomorrow, along with everyone else? Because I don’t know that I could go through with it if you weren’t…”

Alex sighed softly, and slipped her arms around his torso, hugging him very gently while at the same time keeping mindful of his slowly healing injuries. She’d already resigned herself to the fact that he was not going to let himself be talked out of it.

“Of course I’ll be there. Wild horses couldn’t keep me away. I won’t let them hurt you again, Bobby. Never again. Part of me hopes I’ll get to pull the trigger on Raines and Lyle myself. I want to kill them for everything they’ve done to you.”

His hold on her tightened just fractionally.

“I want them dead,” he confessed, “but I don’t want you to be the one who does it. I… I don’t want you living with knowing you committed murder.”

“It’s not murder, Bobby,” she told him softly. “Don’t look at it that way, because it’s not. It’s self-defence. I’m defending my partner. You’re in danger from those bastards, and I’m taking appropriate measures to defend you. It’s not murder. It’d be murder if they show up there tomorrow with no guns, and we both know that’s not going to happen. We all want this to be over, and we all know this is the only way it’s ever going to be over. I want you to be safe, and if putting bullets in their heads is the only way to achieve that, then I say bring it on.”

Bobby sighed and pressed his lips gently to her hair, then her cheek, and finally found her lips.

“Thankyou,” he whispered. “I love you, you know.”

Alex nestled in comfortably against him, resting her head on his shoulder.

“I know. I love you, too. Just promise me that you won’t take any unnecessary chances tomorrow?”

“I won’t,” he promised. “Scout’s honour.”

She raised her eyes to him, bemused.

“You were never a Scout, Goren.”

He grinned down at her, then.

“No, I’m sure I was… at least once.”

She froze, staring up at him incredulously, taking in the widening grin on his face before swatting him lightly on the arm. At the same time, though. she was filled with relief that he was actually able to make a joke about his experiences in the Centre.

“Jerk. That’s not funny.”

But she couldn’t keep from grinning, and a moment later they were both laughing softly.

“It’s going to be okay, Alex,” he murmured. “You’ll see.”

“You’d better be right,” she threatened lightly.

He smiled softly at her, feeling a fresh wave of a confidence fill him.

“I know I am.”

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