Tuesday night, late

Deakins sat by Mike’s bedside, fighting the desire to give in to his need for sleep. He’d been sitting there for nearly an hour now, after finally convincing Carolyn and Alex to leave the hospital for at least long enough to get something to eat. How much appetite either woman had, he didn’t care to guess, but they had agreed to go all the same.

However, neither had been willing to leave their partners unattended, so now John Eames was sitting with Bobby, and he was sitting with Mike.

He didn’t mind, not at all, but he was just so damned tired. Truth be told, he’d gotten precious little sleep when he’d finally gotten home the previous night. His sleep had been broken, and plagued by vicious nightmares. Images of Bobby and Mike as they were brought up out of the semi-demolished building haunted him. He knew just how close he’d come to having to attend two funerals, and it scared the living hell out of him.

He rubbed a hand tiredly over his face. Even now, the possibility still existed that one of his detectives might die. He’d spoken to Dr Mackey earlier that day, and Mackey had been less than enthusiastic about Bobby’s chances of survival. Of course, he’d insisted that it wasn’t a hopeless situation, but at the same time he’d warned against unrealistic expectations.

Apparently, wanting Bobby to wake up soon and have minimal or no brain damage was an unrealistic expectation, according to Dr Mackey. Deakins had quickly decided he didn’t like the doctor much at all.

On the other hand, Mike’s doctor, Jane Harrison, was a far more positive personality. She had been in to check on Mike personally a number of times in the last forty-eight hours, and each time she had been able to offer them a few words of reassurance. She was a stark contrast to Aidan Mackey in her attitude.

Deakins was just dozing off again when he caught sight of movement in the bed. Getting up, he found himself looked into a pair of green eyes that were filled with pain.

“Mike?” he asked quietly. “Are you with me?”

A slight but visible shudder passed through Mike, but then he gave a single, distinct blink. Deakins smiled faintly at the childish means of communication. Childish, but effective.

“Yes. Okay, that’s good. Now tell me, is the pain bad? Do I need to get a nurse?”

There was a long moment, and then two distinct blinks.

“No,” Deakins murmured. “All right, then. Do you think you can stay calm this time? I think your doctor would prefer not to have to sedate you again.”

One blink. Yes, he could stay calm. Deakins nodded, relieved. Now, however, came the difficult part. He didn’t like that he had to ask these questions right now, but nor could it wait the three or four days that it was going to take before Dr Harrison decided he could cope without the ventilator.

“Mike, do you remember what happened? Do you remember any of it?”

Mike didn’t need to blink to answer that question. The look in his eyes was answer enough. Before Deakins had a chance to ask anything else, though, Mike startled him by reaching his left hand up and snagging the pen from the breast pocket of his jacket.

“You want something to write on?” Deakins guessed, and Mike blinked in confirmation. “Okay. I’ll be right back.”

Mike watched as Deakins hurried from the room. Although he was managing to stay outwardly calm, he was in turmoil on the inside. Yes, he remembered what had happened, and the memories along were enough to scare the hell out of him. What was even worse, though, was not knowing where Bobby was, or whether he was even still alive. He had to know, hence the request for something to write on.

Deakins returned with a clipboard and a handful of loose paper, which he held at an angle and height that Mike could manage. Holding the pen in a shaky grip in his left hand, Mike scrawled out the first thing he could think of, struggling to keep his writing legible.


Deakins read the query, and was unable to keep himself from flinching. Mike saw, and the dread in his eyes was unmistakable.

“He’s not dead, Mike,” Deakins reassured him. “But he’s not doing too good right now, either. Bobby’s in a coma. We don’t know when… or if he’s going to wake up.”

Deakins stopped short of mentioning the possibility of brain damage. Mike looked distraught enough without dropping that bombshell on him. Then, as Deakins watched, Mike scrawled again on the clipboard.

my fault

Deakins blanched visibly.

“What? You’re not serious… How, in the name of God, could you think that what happened is your fault?”

Mike shuddered involuntarily, and a single tear worked its way out of his eye and rolled unchecked down the side of his face. He was fairly positive that he did not have the energy to write an answer to that question. Deakins stood still for a long moment before speaking again.

“This wasn’t your fault, Mike. I’m as sure of that as I am that you wouldn’t deliberately put yourself or anyone else deliberately in danger. Did you deliberately put yourself and Bobby in danger?”


Deakins nodded at the definitive answer that Mike wrote.

“I didn’t think so. Did you anticipate in any way that you might end up in a bad situation like that?”


“And you intended only for Bobby and yourself to have a friendly night out at a bar?”


Deakins leaned in a little closer.

“So why do you want me to think it’s your fault?”

Mike couldn’t answer that. Deakins hesitated, and then reached out to lay a hand gently on Mike’s shoulder.

“You can’t answer me, because there’s no answer to give. It wasn’t your fault.”

Mike looked away, feeling sick and distressed. He knew he should have been grateful for Deakins’ benevolent attitude but, perversely, he couldn’t help feeling cheated. He was nearly out of strength and stamina, but managed to lift the pen to write another brief message.

my fault if he dies

Deakins shook his head, frowning.

“No. No, I don’t believe that. You can’t be held responsible for this. If I’m going to lay blame on anyone, it’ll be the son of a bitch who locked the two of you in that cage.”

Mike shuddered once more. He had perhaps just enough energy left to write one more question. Gathering what shreds of strength he still had, he lifted pen to paper once more.

how did you find us?

Deakins smiled at that, quietly grateful for the change of topic. It disturbed him greatly that Mike seemed bent on taking the blame for what had happened to him and Bobby, and he simply didn’t know how to redirect the other man’s thoughts.

“Tell me, Mike, do you remember helping out a street kid by name of Jeremy?”

It took nearly a minute of searching his tired mind, but Mike eventually answered with a slight nod. Yes, he remembered Jeremy.

“Well, that one really came full circle, Detective. If you didn’t believe in karma before this, you damn well ought to now. Jeremy was back out on the streets, and he saw what happened to and Bobby on Friday night. He followed when you were both bundled into that car and taken away, and he saw where you were put. He was out on the streets again when Eames, Barek and I started looking for the two of you on Sunday. He found out who we were, found out where our squad room is, and went there to wait for us, to tell us where you were. It’s primarily because of him that you and Bobby are still alive, Mike. He put himself at risk, because he remembered how you helped him out once.”

Mike shut his eyes, though it did nothing to hide the tears that forced their way out of his eyes. It didn’t surprise him that Jeremy had had the nerve and the smarts to actively seek out Deakins, Eames and Barek. Even back four years ago, when he’d gone to the kid’s aid, a part of him had wondered whether Jeremy even needed the help. The kid had plenty of good, old-fashioned courage, and he hadn’t been afraid to accept help from a cop.

“Hey, he’s awake?”

Mike looked just as his partner walked back into the room. She looked exhausted, Mike thought, and felt a fresh pang of guilt. Exhausted from sitting with him, for however long it had been.

Mike resolved then and there to take Carolyn out to the nicest restaurant he could find once he was recovered, to thank her for all she’d done and all she was doing. All of a sudden, more than anything, Mike wanted her to know how much he appreciated having her as his partner, and for her apparent dedication and loyalty to him. He wondered tiredly whether this was even remotely how Bobby felt about Alex, and found himself experiencing a whole new level of understanding toward his friend and colleague.

A hand closed over his own, bringing him gently back to reality, and he found himself looking up into the warmest, kindest face he had ever known. Carolyn smiled down at him, and reached down to smooth back his mussed-up hair.

“Welcome back, partner. How are you feeling?”

Mike glanced briefly at Deakins, and then away again. When Carolyn looked questioningly at the captain, he answered reluctantly.

“He’s feeling guilty. That’s how he’s feeling.”

He showed her the clipboard, and Carolyn scanned it briefly before looking back at Mike in dismay.

“That’s not true, Mike. You can’t believe that.”

Why not? he thought dismally. Why couldn’t he?

Carolyn went on, her voice growing fiercer by the second.

“We spoke to people who witnessed you and Bobby in the bar that night. You didn’t do anything out of the ordinary while you were in there, and the guys that ambushed you weren’t even in the bar themselves. They just happened to be out on the street when you left the bar, they made you both for cops, and decided to take out their issues on you. That wasn’t your fault.”

Mike lifted the pen and reached for the clipboard once more.

shouldn't have gone there
my choice
my fault

Deakins sighed softly, frustrated that Mike didn’t seem to want to be dissuaded from his belief that he was at fault.

“I agree. It was a bad choice of location, and if it will really make you feel better, I’ll step into you over it when you’re better. Not before. But the bottom line is that I am not laying the blame for this situation on your shoulders. The truth is, I’m too damned relieved that you’ll be okay to want to do that to you.”

He stepped back, away from the bed, throwing a wry look at Carolyn.

“Maybe you can talk some sense into him, Barek. I’m going to check in on Bobby, and then head back to One Police Plaza… see how the investigation is going.”

Carolyn watched him go, and then turned her attention back to her partner. She was surprised to find that, while her attention had been diverted, he had scrawled again on the clipboard.

is bobby going to die?

Her breath caught almost painfully in her throat and, for a split second, her memory flashed back to the image of Bobby Goren, lying in a coma, his vital signs fading with every hour that passed.

What Deakins hadn’t been aware of when she walked back in, and what he would find out when he stopped in to check on Bobby, was that Dr Mackey had been there when she and Alex arrived back. Even before then, it had been nearly impossible to get any sort of encouragement out of him as far as Bobby’s condition, but this time he had virtually radiated pessimism.

Carolyn remembered with a distinct feeling of nausea the grim news that Mackey had delivered to them, with all the sympathy and consideration of a rock to the head.

Bobby was slowly but surely losing his fight for life. Not only did it seem unlikely that he was ever going to wake up, but according to Dr Mackey, the odds were high that he would not live out the week.

Bobby was dying, and there didn’t seem to be anything anyone could do to save him.

Now, looking down at Mike’s distressed gaze, Carolyn found she couldn’t lie to him, not even to spare him the pain and grief temporarily.

“It… It isn’t looking good. His doctor… He doesn’t think Bobby is going to last out the week.”

Mike looked away, stricken, and Carolyn glanced around fearfully as the heart monitor began to spike wildly in direct response to his distress.

My fault, he thought dimly. My fault, my fault, my fault

Dimly, he heard another voice, followed by Carolyn’s voice, but he couldn’t make out what either voice was saying. Shadows moved around him, and he was vaguely aware of someone lifting his left arm briefly, and somewhere in the distant corners of his mind he thought he heard something about sedatives, and the IV.

Then, exhaustion overcame him, and his world faded to black once more.

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