THE LONG ROAD HOME
A/N: Well, here we are at last. We’ve finally reached the last chapter of this very long journey, although it may not necessarily be the last we hear of Bobby in this particular little ’verse. I am planning to revisit him here, but it just won’t happen immediately. I think we need to give him time to settle before throwing him back into chaos, don’t you?
I want to thank my good friends bammi1 and Vikki for their constant support and prodding throughout this story. They helped shift me along when it felt like things were stalling, and I know I can rely on them both for inspiration when I next visit Bobby in this timeline. Until then, however, back to reality we go...
A month and a half later
Alex awoke late on Sunday morning, drawn back into awareness by the lack of a warm body beside her. She lay still for a few minutes, taking pleasure in the peace and quiet, in the warm bed and, most of all, in the extremely pleasurable memories from the night before.
Physically, Bobby was well and truly recovering from the injuries he’d incurred as a prisoner of the Centre, and she was reaping the full benefits. Emotionally, he was still finding his way, but the nightmares that had plagued him so severely to begin with finally seemed to be easing off. He still suffered them on regularly, but more often now he was enjoying nights that were undisturbed by dreams of any kind.
A smug smile graced her features. She took pride in the knowledge that he never suffered nightmares on the nights when they made love. She’d mentioned it once to him, and he had teasingly replied that it was because her insatiable appetite left him thoroughly exhausted. Her indignation had lasted only as long as it had taken him to chase her into the bedroom.
Sighing softly, Alex stretched languidly before reluctantly abandoning the warmth and comfort of the big bed. Tugging a robe around her body, she padded out into the kitchen to find Bobby.
He wasn’t there, but there was evidence of his presence in a freshly brewed pot of coffee that awaited her on the bench. Smiling with a mixture of amusement and appreciation, Alex helped herself and was just sipping at the brew when she saw the note on the bench. Her smile widened, tempered with relief. He had taken to leaving little notes for her whenever he went off somewhere, just to reassure her that he was all right, and she greatly appreciated it.
They were all slowly coming to accept that he appeared to finally be out of danger, but remnants of fear still remained. Bobby himself was not quite prepared to completely relax his guard. Nor might he ever, as George Huang had suggested, and none of them were willing to tell Bobby that he should. Not when they themselves still remained subconsciously on watch.
Picking up the note, Alex unfolded it and read the two words printed neatly on the paper with a smile.
It was all it said, but she knew exactly what he meant. Taking the coffee with her, she retreated back to the bedroom to shower and dress before heading out to join him.
Bobby stood on the roof of his apartment building, looking down at the city below. It was hardly one of the tallest buildings in the city, but it was still high enough to give him that sense of separation from the rest of the world. A wry smile touched his lips. Like he needed anymore sense of separation.
Haven’t you been separated long enough? a small voice whispered in his mind, but he ignored it. He’d already come to accept that he was a different man now, and in some ways he would always be separate from the world around him. It wasn’t necessarily a choice that he made for himself as much as one that was forced on him by circumstance. He was as much a part of society as he had initially hoped to be, but it didn’t phase him as much as he that once thought that it might. In truth, he’d known deep down for a while now that in some ways he would never really belong.
That was okay, though, he reflected. Nothing was ever meant to stay the same, and that was the case here. He’d changed, and the creature he had metamorphosed into was a unique one – one that had the ability to meld into any society, into any life, for as long as was necessary. And right here, right now, he chose this life.
Nothing stays the same…
That wasn’t entirely true, he supposed. Some things were just as they had always been. If they were different, then it was only because they were a little better than before. That was especially true now of his ability to work a suspect in the interrogation room, and he smiled at the memories that thought invoked.
Four days ago, Mike and Carolyn had arrested a suspect over the murder of a young girl who was the god-daughter of the Commissioner. The man was smart, though, and was taking great joy in playing mind games with the detectives. Bobby had watched from the observation room, taking in everything about the man and absorbing everything he could from the case notes. When Mike and Carolyn had taken a break in sheer frustration, Bobby had asked to be allowed in to talk to him.
Deakins had allowed it, if somewhat reluctantly. Then the captain, Mike, Carolyn and Alex had all watched as Bobby walked in and set about systematically taking the suspect apart. He stripped away the killer’s emotional layers one by one, and lay out his motives on the table until the man was reduced to a sobbing wreck. By the time a lawyer arrived, he was ready to make a full confession, and was begging them to lock him up for the good of society.
Bobby smiled faintly at the memory. He recalled them all watching him closely for the rest of the day… he supposed, for some sign of a possible break-down, but had they just asked he could have told them that it wouldn’t happen. He had eventually admitted to Alex later on that he used his ability as a Pretender to not merely profile the killer, but to become him; and in becoming him he’d been able to see and understand what Mike and Carolyn could not. He had that edge, he used it and he didn’t feel bad about it.
That, he reflected with some small pleasure, was a good thing. A very good thing.
He heard the rooftop door open behind him, and looked around to see Alex walking across the roof to join him.
“Good morning,” he murmured, slipping an arm around her shoulders and pulling her in close.
“How long have you been up here?” she wondered.
“Not long. Maybe half an hour or so. You found the note?”
“And the coffee. Thankyou. Are you okay?”
His grip tightened on her just a fraction.
“Yeah,” he murmured. “Just thinking.”
“You like coming up here, don’t you?” she asked, peering out over the streets below.
“Yeah. I do.”
He didn’t offer an explanation for this particular predilection, and she didn’t ask for one. There were some things that he either couldn’t explain to her, or simply didn’t have it in him to explain. She trusted him to talk to her when he could, and patiently waited for him to do just that. If he wanted to eventually talk to her about this particular need that he had, then he would without her badgering him to do so.
“Tomorrow’s the big day,” she commented quietly. “Are you ready for it?”
Though he smiled, she couldn’t help but notice the way his grip on her shoulders tightened just a little.
“I think so,” he answered. “George told me two sessions ago that he felt I was ready to go back to active duty, so I don’t think I have to worry about the report he’ll give to Deakins. So, it’s just my weapon proficiency that I have to worry about.”
“Are you worried about it?” Alex wondered, and Bobby laughed softly.
“A little,” he admitted. “I was never the greatest shot. I think the last score I got was eighty-seven percent… That was about four or five weeks before I was taken. I remember Deakins calling me into his office and telling me I had to improve, or there might be issues when my next evaluation came round.”
“You’ve been the shooting range regularly,” Alex pointed out. “Every second day. You’ve been scoring all right, haven’t you?”
“Some days I do better than others. Yesterday morning’s effort was shocking… I only scored seventy-one percent.”
“But the day before that, you got ninety-three percent,” she countered. “There was nothing wrong with that effort.”
“No,” Bobby agreed, “but it might have some people questioning the discrepancy. And I don’t particularly feel like explaining that I scored so badly yesterday because every time I looked at the target, I was seeing the face of a twelve year-old boy.”
“Kyle?” Alex wondered, and Bobby nodded.
“Yes. I dreamt about him the night before. I just hope that I sleep well tonight, so that I’m in a good frame of mind for when I take the proficiency test tomorrow morning.”
Alex couldn’t quite keep a grin off her face.
“Well, I think we both know what we need to do then, don’t we?”
Bobby looked down at her, and a moment later he grinned as well.
“Insatiable,” he murmured, leaning down to kiss her on the forehead.
“Just performing my civic duty,” she retorted, and he snorted in amusement.
“That’s a new one. I’m just a civic duty, am I?”
“You’re my partner. I need my partner back, and this city needs Goren and Eames. Do you have any clue how badly Major Case’s solve rate dropped after you were taken?”
“So that would explain why the Commissioner was so enthusiastic about me being back?”
“One of the reasons,” Alex conceded with a chuckle.
“Well… What can I say? It’s nice to be appreciated.”
She laughed outright at that, and hugged him tightly in a sudden surge of emotion.
“I love you, Bobby Goren. And I know you’re going to do fine in that test tomorrow. I believe you’ll be fine.”
Bobby sighed and wrapped his arms around Alex.
“I love you too, Alex. Thankyou.”
“For your faith in me. I don’t know where I’d be without that… or you.”
She tightened her grip around his waist.
“Hey, where’s Bobby?” Mike asked as he and Carolyn returned from interviewing a string of witnesses from their latest case, to find Alex alone at her desk and Bobby’s chair unoccupied.
“In with the captain,” Alex told them, not quite unable to mask her nerves. “It’s D Day. The psyche report on Bobby from George Huang is in, plus Bobby was at the shooting range this morning doing a weapons proficiency test.”
“It’ll be fine, Alex,” Carolyn assured her. “He’ll be fine.”
Alex, however, couldn’t conceal her worry, and it manifested in the way she chewed lightly on her lower lip.
“I hope you’re right, Carolyn,” she whispered. “I really hope do.”
Bobby didn’t think he had been so nervous since walking into the observation room to identify the woman who had been posing as Brigitte. It was nerve-wracking, sitting there while Deakins read slowly through George Huang’s report, and with his ballistics test results still sitting unopened on the desk. He wanted desperately to get up and start pacing, to try and expend some of his nervous energy, but he kept himself in check.
He was reasonably confident that George had given him a positive report, but he didn’t know that for absolute certain. Also, he didn’t know how well he’d done in the weapons test. He’d felt confident enough while doing the test, but the way the tester had regarded him with a raised eyebrow when examining the results, and the way she’d slipped the results into an envelope and sealed it with that same raised eyebrow look had set his nerves on edge. He needed a bare minimum score of ninety percent to regain his active status. Anything lower would not be acceptable.
Bobby was starting to feel sick to his gut with the thought that perhaps he had not passed that ninety percent threshold.
He looked up slowly to find Deakins had set down the report from George, and was watching him.
“You’re nervous,” Deakins commented. It wasn’t a question, and Bobby didn’t try to deny it.
“Very,” he admitted. Deakins smiled, then.
“That’s good, Detective. I’d be more concerned if you weren’t. Now, let’s see here…”
Bobby’s mouth went dry as Deakins picked up the test results and opened the envelope. The captain’s face gave nothing away as he read through the test results. Minutes dragged by, and Bobby was becoming more agitated by the second until Deakins finally set the results down and leaned over to open one of his desk drawers. A moment later, he straightened up and set a gun and holster down on the desk in front of Bobby.
“Congratulations, Detective Goren,” Deakins told him with a barely suppressed grin. “You’re officially restored to active duty.”
Even as Deakins watched, the tension literally bled out of Bobby. His shoulders slumped, and his breath escaped him in a rush as he finally relaxed.
“So… I scored all right?” he asked tremulously.
“Bobby, you scored ninety-eight percent,” Deakins told him with a smile. “I think that’s the best you’ve ever scored. And between that result, and George Huang’s report, there’s no need to enforce a probationary period for you. You’re back on active duty, straight and simple. Well done.”
Slowly, Bobby reached for the gun, and was brought up short when Deakins stretched his own hand out and closed it briefly over Bobby’s.
“I know you still have to deal with it, Bobby. We all know that. Don’t forget that we’re here, okay? If you ever need to talk, don’t be afraid to come to me, or Mike or Carolyn. George left a note in his report, too, to say that his door is always open to you. And, you have Alex…”
Bobby flushed red, but nodded in gratitude.
“Thankyou, Sir. I appreciate it.”
Deakins sat back, smiling wryly at his detective.
“All right, then. Go on, back to work. And enjoy the peace while it lasts. Odds are you’ll have a full case load before the week’s over.”
Nodding again, Bobby got up and strode out of the office, head held high.
He was so busy reattaching the holster to his belt as he exited the captain’s office that he didn’t realise the eyes of the entire squad were on him until someone shouted elatedly.
“Captain gave him his gun! Goren’s back!”
Bobby looked up, both embarrassed and pleased as a cheer went up in response to the news. A moment later, Alex flew across the floor and threw her arms around him, not giving a damn who saw.
“I’ve got you back,” she whispered, hugging him fiercely.
“Yeah,” he murmured, returning the hug with equal enthusiasm. “You do.”
A couple of weeks later
Deakins hadn’t been wrong. Within a week of Bobby’s return to active duty, he and Alex had a full case load. Neither was complaining, though. It was the most visible sign of a return to their lives before Bobby’s abduction that they were being run off their feet again with murder investigations, and both were revelling in the chance to work side by side once more. Bobby, in particular, immersed himself back in the work just as he had once done nearly a year ago now, with one notable exception. While he still profiled the perpetrators as keenly and accurately, there was something different in his approach.
While Alex was the first one to notice it, as she was the one working with Bobby, it was Carolyn who was able to put it into words.
“He’s learnt to understand them without getting inside their heads,” she remarked when she and Alex went out for lunch a couple of weeks after Bobby’s return to active duty.
“You mean he’s not trying to do the mind meld thing,” Alex retorted, and Carolyn grinned.
“You watch Star Trek with him last night, girl?”
“Seriously, Carolyn, I like the change. Our first case was a bad one. I think Deakins was a little bit worried about dropping that one in Bobby’s lap as his first case back, but he didn’t have a choice. But Bobby… He got his head into the case… but he didn’t let it take him over. It’s like he’s learnt where to draw that line, and not step over it. I know it’s only been a week, but I hope he can maintain it. Before, a couple of weeks of dealing with a case like this would have had him at a bar with Mike getting smashed. But now, we go home, and he’s managed to put everything that’s happened through the day behind him, and just focus on us. He’s managing that even better than me, and it used to be me who was better at doing that! Don’t get me wrong, Carolyn, I’m not unhappy about it. Not at all! I just can’t help thinking that in some ways, he’s benefited from what happened to him.” Alex sighed and shook her head. “And then I feel lousy for thinking that.”
Carolyn regarded her bemusedly.
“Have you talked to him about it?”
Alex gave a short laugh.
“That’s the other thing. He’s as perceptive as ever. He picked up on the fact that I was thinking that! I swear, it’s like he’s psychic!”
“What did he say?” Carolyn wondered. “Anything?”
“Not much, except to agree with me,” Alex answered ruefully. “I don’t know… I guess time will tell whether he ever drops back into old habits.”
“Do you want him to?” Carolyn asked, and Alex shrugged.
“Part of me says no, but part of me says yes, and I feel so guilty for that part of me that wants him to be exactly the same as before he was taken… No matter how screwed up he was.”
“There’s nothing to be ashamed of over that,” Carolyn told her. “It’s a comfort thing, Alex.”
“I know,” Alex murmured, “but I still feel bad. He’s so happy now, Carolyn. He’s got his confidence back finally… He’s got his life back! And that threat is gone. He doesn’t have to be afraid anymore. He’s got his whole life in front of him, and no need to be constantly looking back over his shoulder. It’s what he wanted when all of this started.”
“He’s not entirely over it, though,” Carolyn pointed out.
“I know that,” Alex agreed. “He still has nightmares… Some nights he has bad ones. I mean really bad ones. Two nights ago, he woke up screaming, and it took me five minutes to convince the neighbour that he didn’t need to call the police. We really need to get the walls in his apartment sound-proofed.”
“What was it about?” Carolyn asked. “The nightmare, I mean.”
“Sydney,” Alex admitted grimly. “He dreams about Sydney a lot. It’s the one aspect of his whole experience where he hasn’t had any closure at all. And he’s terrified that that bastard will come looking for him. He hates Sydney almost more than he hated Lyle and Raines, Carolyn… and he’s definitely as frightened of him as he was of them.”
“Just keep reminding him that we’ve got his back,” Carolyn told her. “Whatever happens from now on, we’ve got his back.”
“He knows that,” Alex said. “And he’s grateful. But at the same time, we can’t forget that he’s got his life to live. He doesn’t want to live in fear. Not of Sydney, or the rest of them.”
“There’s a difference between being cautious, and being afraid,” Carolyn reminded her.
Before Alex had a chance to reply, they were interrupted by Carolyn’s cell phone ringing. She glanced at it, and rolled her eyes in mock irritation.
“It’s Mike.” She answered it, speaking tersely. “Do you have any idea what interrupting our lunch is going to cost you, Logan?”
The brief silence on the other end of the line almost had both women laughing before Mike regained his train of thought and spoke.
“Sorry, ladies. But I thought you might want to get back here quick.”
Carolyn frowned. She did not like the sound of that.
“Why? What’s wrong?”
“Nothing’s wrong… At least, not for us. But there’s gonna be one hell of a show here in the next fifteen to twenty. You might want to hot-foot it back if you don’t want to miss it.”
“Damn it, Mike, what the hell are you going on about?” Carolyn demanded.
“I’m talking about the son of a bitch sheriff that handed Bobby back over to the Centre after he escaped that time. Deakins tracked the bastard down, and between him and the Commissioner, they talked our DA’s office into cooperating with the Delaware DA’s office, and filing a charge of aiding and abetting in the unlawful detention of a police officer. The sheriff’s being brought here right now, but he thinks he’s getting a commendation for showing due diligence, or some bullshit like that. So if you don’t wanna miss it, get your asses back here now!”
The call ended, and Alex and Carolyn stared at each other in momentary shock before leaving a few bills on the table to cover their meals and bolting from the café.
They arrived back to an air of tense anticipation. Though all the detectives present appeared to be going about their duties as normal, it was easy enough to tell that they were waiting for something. The only member of the squad making no attempt at a pretence of working was Mike, and he strode over to the women as they walked back in to the squad room.
“Where’s Bobby?” Alex asked, and Mike motioned towards Deakins’ office. The shades were all drawn and the door closed, making it impossible to see inside.
“In there. Captain Deakins is in there with him, and so is Carver and Arthur Branch.”
“Carver and Branch?” Alex echoed. “But neither of them know what really happened to Bobby.”
“They do now,” Mike said. “Chief Harris is in there as well.”
Carolyn whistled softly.
“That’s some turn-around on Harris’ part.”
“Maybe,” Mike agreed. “Personally, I think he damn well knows that he owes Bobby. Backing up Bobby’s story to Branch and Carver is nothing in the grand scheme.”
Alex walked over and sank into her seat.
“So when is this… sheriff due to arrive?”
Mike paused, his gaze going to the entrance to the bullpen.
Both Alex and Carolyn looked to see a smug-looking man walk in, flanked by another man in an expensive-looking suit.
“Lawyer?” Carolyn wondered.
“ ADA from Delaware,” Mike corrected her. “He wouldn’t have brought a lawyer with him. As far as he knows, he’s here to get a pat on the back, not get a legal ass-kicking.”
It seemed that Deakins had been watching for his arrival, for the door of his office opened, and he emerged with Harris, Carver and Branch all right behind him. Bobby remained behind in the office, well out of sight.
“Sheriff Morgan,” Deakins greeted him, sounding amicable enough. And then, to the accompanying ADA, “Mr Roth. Thankyou both for coming.”
Dennis Morgan looked around, and it was all Alex, in particular, could do to keep quiet at the arrogant look on his face.
“Well, it’s our pleasure. When I heard you big city cops wanted to give us small-town boys a pat on the back, who was I to say no?”
Deakins glanced across at Branch, barely containing his disgust. Branch took the hint, and spoke coolly.
“Sheriff Morgan, exactly why do you believe you’re here?”
“Well, it’s something to do with apprehending a dangerous criminal some months back, isn’t it?” Morgan answered. “Some fellow your big city detectives couldn’t catch?”
“Let us refresh your memory, Sheriff Morgan,” Harris said in a quiet, but authoritative voice. “Approximately ten months ago now, a truck driver brought a man to your station. A man that he’d found lying in the road. A man that you apparently wrote off pretty much straight away as a junkie.”
Morgan shifted slightly, suddenly uncomfortable. Harris went on stonily.
“I’m glad we seem to have sufficiently jogged your memory. Let me go on. This man identified himself as a New York police officer.
“Well… It was ten months or so ago,” Morgan stammered. “It’s all a little hazy…”
“That wasn’t a question,” Harris snapped. “He identified himself as a police officer. He told you he’d been abducted, and he begged you to call his superior officer.”
“Again, that was not a question,” Harris cut him off. “But this is. What did you do then, Sheriff Morgan?”
Morgan froze, his face turning an ugly shade of ash.
“What did you do then?” Harris repeated. Morgan looked to his companion in visible growing panic.
“Joe? What the hell is going on here?”
“I suggest you answer the question, Dennis,” Joe Roth answered quietly. Morgan looked back to Harris, swallowing hard.
“I… I figured he was just some junkie… or nutcase… who got loose from the asylum in the next town… that Centre place in Blue Cove. The guy didn’t have any ID on him!”
“Because he was telling you the truth!” Deakins exploded. “You stupid son of a bitch, he really was a cop who’d been kidnapped!”
“H… How was I supposed to know that?” Morgan stammered.
“Perhaps if you’d done as he’d asked, and called his superior officer,” Carver intoned in a very unforgiving voice, “then you would have known.”
“What is this all about?” Morgan demanded to know. “Am I being charged with something?”
“We’ll be charging you with aiding and abetting the abduction and unlawful detention of a police officer,” Branch informed him. “And that’s just to start with. But the reason you’re here, right now… The reason we didn’t just allow your own state to lay charges against on behalf of the state of New York, was because we wanted you to see with your own eyes the man that you so willingly turned back over to his abductors. Detective…?”
Bobby emerged from Deakins’ office slowly, bracing himself as he came face to face with the sheriff who had so cruelly ended his one and only attempt at escaping the Centre’s clutches. For his part, Morgan looked as though he was about to faint, and his mouth opened and closed like a guppy as he struggled for words that apparently were simply not going to come.
Bobby walked forward slowly, his face expressionless as he stared at the other man.
“Detective Goren,” Branch said, “is this the same man who refused to assist you nine months ago?”
For nearly a full minute, Bobby said nothing. He simply stood there, staring into the face of the man who had turned him back over to the Centre. When he eventually spoke, it was in a toneless, emotionless voice. He was attempting to stay detached, Deakins realised, and he supposed he could understand that. It was easy to accept that Bobby might have felt a similar hatred for this man as he felt for Raines and Lyle.
“Yes,” Bobby said softly. “This is him. I asked him to call Captain Deakins, because I knew the people I’d escaped from wouldn’t be far behind me. He told me he’d contacted him, and that Captain Deakins would be on his way, but that was a lie.”
“How did you know that, Detective?” Roth asked passively.
“He told me it took a long time to get through to Captain Deakins,” Bobby answered, “because he was taking an extended coffee break. Captain Deakins rarely takes coffee breaks, and he never took extended coffee breaks. I knew he was lying… but I realised it too late. I got out of there, but they were already outside… waiting for me.”
“And how do you know that Sheriff Morgan was specifically responsible for turning you over to those people, Detective Goren?” Carver asked.
“Because when they were taking me away in the car, I saw Sheriff Morgan and Lyle. They were shaking hands, and I saw Lyle hand money to the sheriff.”
“Now that’s a damned lie!” Morgan exploded.
“Save your indignation,” Branch cut him off sharply. “One of your deputies already gave you up there. Seemed he wasn’t satisfied with the fifty dollars hush money you offered him, as opposed to the five thousand that you pocketed.”
Morgan turned an accusing stare on Roth.
“You know about this, you son of a bitch.”
“Yes,” Roth admitted, “but allowing them to proceed with any charges hinged directly on Detective Goren positively identifying you. Now that he has, the New York District Attorney’s office can proceed to lay charges against you.”
Branch looked across at Deakins.”
“Captain? Would you care to do the honours?”
Deakins smiled grimly.
“I’d be delighted.” Walking around, he took out his handcuffs, and proceeded to cuff Morgan’s hands behind his back. “Dennis Morgan, you are under arrest for aiding and abetting in the abduction of a police officer. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you do say may be held against you in a court of law…”
Morgan turned the full force of his hate-filled glare on Bobby, who didn’t so much as flinch in the face of it.
“They should’ve just killed you.”
“I’d be very careful about what you say, Mr Morgan,” Harris said quietly. “You’re in Detective Goren’s house now, sir, and I can assure you that his colleagues are intensely loyal to him.”
Morgan glanced around, and blanched at the open hostility that was focused in his direction from every detective in the squad room. He fell silent, smart enough to sense a very real threat from a squad who, as Harris had said, was intensely loyal to their colleague.
Multiple pairs of eyes stayed fixed on Morgan for the entire time that it took to read him his rights, and escort him out of the Major Case squad room. Only when he was gone from their sight did the squad detectives return to what they had all been doing.
“Thankyou,” Bobby said to Branch, Carver, Harris and Roth. Roth nodded placidly.
“Thankyou, Detective. We’ve had suspicions about Morgan for some time, but we were never able to prove that he was dirty. I’m just sorry that you had to suffer in the way that you did. I hope this arrest will contribute in some small way to your piece of mind.”
“It will,” Bobby confirmed. “If nothing else, at least I know he’ll never do that to anyone else.”
“He won’t,” Branch assured him. “With the number of charges we have lined up to hit him with, and the fact that the offences were committed against a cop, it’s going to be a very long time before he sees the light of day again outside prison walls.”
Branch then exited the squad room, with the others close behind. Once they were gone, Deakins clapped Bobby lightly on the back as Alex, Mike and Carolyn came over to join him.
“How are you feeling, Detective?”
Bobby smiled as Alex stepped in close to embrace him, and he answered softly but surely.
It was after midnight. Bobby wasn’t exactly certain what time it was. He hadn’t bothered to check the alarm clock. All he knew was that it was after midnight. He lay silently for a while, staring into the darkness while at the same time enjoying the comforting sensation of Alex’s warm body cuddled up against him.
His choice of phrase to Deakins that afternoon hadn’t been a fabrication. He did feel free at last, and seeing Morgan taken away in handcuffs had only reinforced that feeling. He wasn’t going to kid himself that it was over, though. He knew there would still be nightmares aplenty, and memories that might catch him off-guard… and then was Sydney.
More than anything, he dreaded an encounter with Sydney, if only because he simply didn’t know how he would react. The last thing he needed was to find himself facing a murder or manslaughter charge because he just pulled out his gun and shot the sorry son of a bitch, but he had to accept that that was what might just happen if the psychiatrist ever tried to approach him.
Bobby sighed softly. He hated even thinking about Sydney, and yet his subconscious seemed as though it would not be deterred. Frustrated, Bobby gently detached himself from Alex, and slipped out of bed. Dressing quickly, he spared Alex a last, affectionate look before silently exiting the apartment.
The night air was cold, but not bitterly so. Still, Bobby was grateful he had thought to grab his coat before heading up to the roof. Wrapping the garment firmly around his body – it fitted much more loosely now than it had before his abduction, he noted subconsciously – he walked over to the edge of the roof, and looked out at the many lights of the city.
“You’ve got a pretty good view from up here.”
Bobby showed no surprise at all at the voice, even though he’d had no idea when he came up that he wasn’t alone.
“I know,” he answered calmly. “And since no one else in the building ever comes up here, it’s a good place to come and think.”
There was movement at his side, and he finally turned his head to find himself looking at Jarod.
“I hear you’ve been… finding closure,” Jarod remarked quietly, and Bobby smiled wryly.
“In a manner of speaking. You know that Lyle and Raines…”
“Are dead? Yes. I heard. I heard that it was self defence.”
“They tried to kill me,” Bobby answered simply. “Lyle shot my brother. My colleagues… repelled borders.”
“And Sheriff Morgan. That must have been quite a sight, the look on his face when he saw you.”
Bobby laughed, then.
“It was pretty satisfying,” he admitted. He paused, throwing Jarod a curious look. “The Delaware ADA said one of his deputies gave Morgan up over the hand-out Lyle gave him. You wouldn’t have had anything to do with that, would you?”
“I might have poked at his conscience a little,” Jarod conceded. Bobby sighed.
“Well, thankyou. It was reassuring to see him arrested.”
“What now, then?” Jarod asked. “Now you’ve closed the book on the Centre…”
“Not entirely, I haven’t. I’ll always have to live with the memories. I won’t forget again. I can’t.”
“That’s important,” Jarod agreed.
“Yeah… Well, after the last time, I don’t need another shock like the one I had when you… helped me to remember.”
“I’m not going to apologise for that. You needed to remember.”
“I don’t dispute that,” Bobby assured him. “But, your bedside manner sucked.”
Both men laughed softly, and for a while they stood side by side in silence, looking out at the city.
“Have you talked to him recently?”
Jarod hesitated, eyeing Bobby thoughtfully. He was fairly sure he knew who Bobby meant, but he wanted Bobby to say the name.
The frustration and irritation appeared quickly on Bobby’s face.
“Don’t play games with me, Jarod. You know who I mean.”
“I know, but I want you to say his name.”
“ Sydney,” Bobby snapped. “Have you talked to Sydney recently?”
“Yes, I have,” Jarod confirmed. “I talked to him two weeks ago. He asked if I knew how you were doing.”
“Did he? And what did you tell him?”
“I told him you were taking your life back,” Jarod answered. “I told him again to stay away from you.”
“But he won’t. Will he?”
“Not forever, no,” Jarod said softly. “You need to be prepared, Bobby. He’s going to contact you at some point. He won’t be able to help himself.”
Bobby looked sceptically at his fellow Pretender.
“Please don’t try to convince me that he’s just concerned about me.”
“I’d like to, but I know that you won’t believe it,” Jarod replied. “He does, though, whether you want to accept it or not.”
“Not,” Bobby said heatedly. Jarod sighed.
“Promise me one thing, Bobby?”
“That if he does ever contact you, at least try to listen to him?”
Bobby stood stiffly for a long minute before conceding grudgingly.
“I’ll try. I can’t promise anymore than that.”
Jarod nodded, satisfied.
“In answer to your question,” Bobby went on finally, “now I get back to where I was before all of this happened. Now, I get to be a detective again.”
“You’re content with that, aren’t you?” Jarod wondered, and Bobby nodded, exuding a fresh enthusiasm that made Jarod grin.
“Yes. It’s who I am.”
“So the wheel has turned, and you’re back to where you were twelve months ago. The same as before?”
“No,” Bobby corrected him. “I’m not the same as I was. I don’t think I’ll ever be the same as I was… but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.”
“You’ve come a long way.”
“We both have, Jarod. Same journey, different pathways. You have your family, and I have mine.”
Jarod nodded in agreement.
“Why don’t you go back inside, Bobby? She’s waiting for you.”
Bobby smiled faintly.
“Maybe I will.” He turned away from the edge of the roof to face Jarod head on. “I never really thanked you for everything you did for me.”
“You don’t have to,” Jarod told him. “Brothers shouldn’t have to thank each other.”
“Take care of yourself, Jarod,” Bobby murmured, stepping in to embrace the other man fiercely. “And if you ever need help…”
“I’ll know where to come,” Jarod confirmed, returning the hug with enthusiasm. “You take care, too, Bobby. I’ll be seeing you.”
Bobby drew back, a wry smile on his lips.
“I hope so.”
Then, with a last look at Jarod, Bobby headed back inside.
Alex stirred as Bobby slipped back into the warm bed, and she looked up at him with sleep-heavy eyes.
He wrapped his arms around her, pulling her in close and kissing her softly on the mouth before settling down beside her.
“I’m fine,” he whispered, and meant it.
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