Rating: M, for emotional trauma. I don't know yet whether there will be physical violence ensuing in this story (that is, perpetrated on our favourite detectives), but I like to play it safe.
Disclaimer: The standard. I don't own any of the characters relating to Law & Order: Criminal Intent, or A Touch of Frost. I just like messing with them. I'm just a poor sap on minimum wage. Don't sue, you can't get blood out of a stone. Not in this reality.
Author's note: Continuing on with mypenchant for cross-overs, this story is a follow-on from 'Deliverance', and focuses primarily around Goren, Eames and Detective Inspector Jack Frost. It's set only a month down the track from the end of 'Deliverance', so trust me when I say there is still plenty of trauma and anxiety for Bobby and Alex to deal with. And yes, this will be a NON-'ship story. Others can pair Bobby and Alex up to their hearts' content. I'm not going down that sordid little path.
I can't honestly say whether I'll be able to churn this one out quite as fast as 'Deliverance', but I'll do my best.
For anyone not acquainted with Det. Ins. Frost, I'll give you a brief description. He's a hard-nosed British copper, with a penchant for bending (if not breaking) the rules to get a result. He's a work-a-holic, and committed 150 to the job. He's also a grumpy old bugger, who won't take any crap, either from crooks, his subordinates or his idiot Superintendent, one Mr Mullett. He and Goren should get along famously... shouldn't they?
Captain James Deakins stood at the window of his office, looking out into the hub of the Major Case Squad room. It was the official start of the working day, and all the on-duty detectives were just arriving, along with various other staff members. More specifically, though, Deakins was watching for the arrival of two detectives in particular. The clock ticked over to eight-thirty, and right on cue they came around the corner together.
Deakins was unable to suppress a relieved smile as Bobby Goren and Alex Eames entered the squad room. They had been back at work for a month now, and yet he still found himself performing the same anxious ritual every morning. He would stand watching, waiting with progressively worse anxiety until that moment when they would come around the corner and he finally laid eyes on the both of them. Then, and only then, would he be able to relax, at least to a point. It would start up all over again each time they left the building for whatever reason, be it for lunch or to chase up a lead on their current case.
Deakins grimaced a little. He'd taken to calling them regularly when they were out, if only to reassure himself that they were okay. He suspected they were starting to get more than a little irritated with his stifling concern, and he conceded that the ten or more times he'd phoned them throughout yesterday might have been just a little over the top, but he simply couldn't help it.
The counsellor he'd been seeing on an intermittent basis had assured him that the anxiety he felt whenever Goren and Eames were out of the office was normal, and that it would fade with time. Meanwhile, he continued to go through the motions every morning, and through the rest of the day, to reassure himself that they were, indeed, all right.
He paused before returning to his own work, watching with sympathy as Goren and Eames made their way slowly across the floor to their desks.
They were moving with painful slowness, a necessity resulting from the fact that Goren still wore a brace on his right leg (and would have to for another five or six months), and still required the use a walking stick. Goren hated the walking stick with particular vehemence. He had frequently been caught hobbling around the Major Case offices without it, and Deakins had lost track of the number of times he'd chastised Goren over it. Yet, still the detective continued to 'forget it' whenever he left his desk for short periods.
While Eames had not suffered a broken leg, she still limped slightly as a result of the arrow wound to her right thigh. Some of the nerves that had been damaged were still in the process of healing, and caused her more than a little pain and discomfort every now and again. Also, her left arm was still enclosed in a full length brace, to protect the badly damaged limb while it slowly recovered to full strength.
Both detectives were still undergoing fairly intensive physiotherapy for their injuries; two to three times a week for Eames, and every second evening for Goren.
It was over five months now since the dramatic events that had seen two of New York's best detectives abducted and nearly murdered by a sadistic serial killer; five months since they had literally been rescued from the jaws of death. He, along with virtually every employee that worked in One Police Plaza, was only too aware of just how close Goren and Eames had come to losing their lives. Truth be told, he was still having nightmares about it.
Deakins paused, watching with a small smile as they finally reached their desks, and the same scene that had played itself out every morning since their return to work played out once more.
Goren helped Eames remove her jacket, something that was no easy task for her, with her arm in the stiff brace. Then, after he'd hung up both her jacket and his own, she pulled his chair out for him and helped him to sit down without jolting his leg too badly. Then, the act that had really gotten tongues wagging, and had nearly sent their ADA into an apoplexy the first time it happened.
Eames leaned down and kissed Goren gently on the cheek. He responded by grasping her hand, and drawing her in close for a brief but affectionate hug. After a moment, she gently extricated herself from his embrace, and sat down in her own seat, ready to begin the day.
Deakins was grinning almost before he realised it. Before their abduction by Mathers, Goren and Eames had been models of professionalism. There had been no touching between them, ever, unless it was purely professional, or purely incidental. Now, it was nothing to see them exchanging hugs, or even to witness one of them kissing the other on the cheek, or the forehead. There was nothing romantic about it, as Deakins had stressed to his superiors when they'd voiced their concerns at a recent meeting. Rather, there was a certain sweetness about it, a certain innocence, if that were at all possible for two people who had seen so much… been through so much.
Bobby and Alex were not a couple, not in the romantic sense, but ever since their ordeal on Gore Mountain, they behaved more like twins, completely attuned to each other's frequency in a way that no one else could begin to fathom. He'd watched them interrogating a suspect just the week before, looking on from the observation room as they tag teamed each other, working in tandem as they had never done before. Minutes into the interrogation, they had started finishing off each other's sentences and, in some instances, pre-empting each other entirely. They drove not only the suspect to distraction, but his lawyer as well, and succeeded in getting a full confession within fifteen minutes.
Their ordeal five months ago had permanentlyaltered the dimensions of their relationship, bonding them together in a way that Deakins had never seen before. Where the brass upstairs had demanded a watch be put on the two of them and that they be separated at the first signs of trouble, Deakins had known right from the start that such a measure was unnecessary. Goren and Eames were a danger to no one… unless you counted the criminals they went after. Separating them would be a crime in itself.
Still smiling to himself, Deakins returned to his desk, and got back to work.
"He was watching us again, wasn't he?" Goren murmured, his attention fixed on booting up his laptop. Eames nodded, a tiny smirk on her face as she sorted through unfinished paperwork from the previous evening.
"Same as every morning. He's starting to get paranoid."
Goren smiled in response.
"I think he was to begin with, but it's getting worse. How many times did he phone us yesterday when we were out of the building? Eleven, or twelve?"
"Fourteen," Eames confirmed. "I checked when I got home last night. And the excuses got lamer as the day went on."
Goren shook his head.
"Next thing we know, he'll be having us put under surveillance."
Eames grunted. "Hell, why doesn't he just save time and have us micro-chipped, with homing beacons implanted in our brains?"
Goren chuckled. "Don't say that too loud. He might hear it, and actually think it's a good idea."
"I hope you two aren't deriding Captain Deakin's concern for your well-being?"
Goren and Eames looked up simultaneously to find Ron Carver standing there, looking less than amused.
"We were only kidding," Eames said defensively. "But you've gotta admit, fourteen phone calls in one day is a bit much."
"Be that as it may," Carver said, looking sternly at the two of them, "I don't think it's very appropriate for you to joking about it. He's gone to considerable trouble to ensure that not only were you able to return to work so soon, but that your partnership wasn't split up. I think you owe it to him to be a little more gracious."
Goren and Eames exchanged annoyed looks, irritated that Carver could lay on the emotional blackmail so smoothly and so easily.
"Can I have the paperwork for the Vasquez case, please?" Carver went on.
"We haven't finished it yet," Eames answered for the both of them. "Can you give us an hour?"
Carver frowned in displeasure.
"You promised you'd have it ready for me first thing this morning."
"Well, we just didn't get it finished last night," Goren muttered, starting to sound as irritated as he felt. Carver shook his head, openly annoyed.
"It really isn't good enough, Detectives. When you promise to finish something important, I do expect you to keep that promise..."
A moment later, Carver started a little in surprise as Goren slammed his hand down hard on the desktop.
"Sorry, Counsellor," he snapped. "Next time, I'll remember to cancel physio, because your precious paperwork is so much more important."
For several seconds, Goren and Carver stared at each other, the tension between them thick enough to suffocate. Then, finally, Carver backed down.
"I apologise, Detective Goren. I wasn't aware that you had a physio session last night. I'll come back in an hour or so. Excuse me."
Eames watched him go, then looked back to Goren, who was fuming at the desktop.
"Bobby? You okay?"
"He damn well knows I have to go for physio every second day. Damn it, I hate this! I hate needing special consideration."
"It's not going to be like this forever," Eames murmured. "Just try and be patient, okay? And remember, it's the only way Deakins would agree to let us come back to work."
"I'm going to be in this damned brace for another five months, Alex. That means at least five more months of physiotherapy. It might not be forever, but it sure as hell feels like it."
Eames smiled a little, then, recognising the aggravated tone in his voice for what it was. Opening her desk drawer, she took out a small pill bottle. Goren took one look at the bottle, and shook his head vehemently.
"I don't need those."
Eames emptied two tablets into her hand, and pushed them across the desk to him.
"Shut up, and just take them. Then maybe you'll quit being in such a foul mood."
"Alex, I don't…"
"The hell you don't. You only get this crabby when your leg is really hurting. So take them now, voluntarily, or I'll call Ash and King, and get them to hold you while I personally shove them down your throat."
He glowered at her, though there was no malice in his eyes.
She merely smirked at him, watching as he scooped up the painkillers and swallowed them dry. Only when she was certain he had actually swallowed them did she return her attention to the pile of paperwork in front of her.
Goren hesitated in starting his share of the pile, watching his partner's bowed head with open affection. After a moment, Eames sensed his gaze on her, and looked up questioningly. He smiled faintly, not the least bit embarrassed at being caught out staring at her.
"What is it?"
She smiled warmly at him, and returned to the work in front of her without speaking. Goren smiled to himself, and lowered his head to start on his own pile of paperwork.
Minutes passed in silence, stretching out to nearly an hour. Eames was just starting on her last report form when Goren's laptop chimed to signify an incoming email. She didn't look up, but continued concentrating on the final report, eager to get it done and out of the way. She had half-finished it when she felt a twinge of unease deep inside her gut. Feeling unsettled, and not knowing why, she looked up at her partner. The expression she saw on his face froze her blood.
His face was the colour of ash, and he was hanging onto the edge of his desk in a death grip. He looked seriously like he was about to throw up.
"Bobby, what's wrong?" she asked tensely. He looked up at her slowly, looking as though he wasn't quite comprehending anything around him.
"I… I need to… Deakins…"
She stood up and walked around to see what had flustered him so badly. On the screen of his laptop was an open email attachment. There was a photo of a severely battered corpse on the screen, seemingly lying where whoever the responsible party was had dumped it. It was not the body that caught her attention, though. It was the multitude of wounds that covered the victim's body; wounds which were all too familiar to the both of them.
Eames wheeled around and almost ran across the floor to Deakins' office, throwing the door open without so much as knocking first.
"Alex…?" Deakins asked, too startled to be annoyed at her for interrupting his meeting with Carver.
"Someone just sent Bobby an email," she told him tensely. "You need to see it, sir. Now."
Deakins was on his feet in an instant, and followed her over to where Goren still sat, staring at his laptop.
"What's this about an email?" Deakins asked. Goren motioned numbly to the screen, saying nothing. Deakins leaned in for a closer look, then swore loudly, drawing bemused looks from a number of other workers.
"What is it?" Carver wondered, not quite sure what the problem was. Deakins spoke grimly.
"It's one of Erik Mathers' victims. Probably one of the eleven that were killed in Florida. He's not one of our five vics."
"So, this is supposed to be someone's idea of a joke?" Carver said.
"If it is a joke, then it's a damned sick one," Deakins growled. "Does it say who it's from?"
"No name," Goren said hoarsely. "Just a generic email address, from one of the online companies that offers free email accounts. But look at the ID… Look at the login."
"Son of the Hunter," Eames read. "It's got to be a joke."
"I'll call Mack Taylor at CSU," Deakins decided. "We'll get them to check it out, and see if they can trace the email. I'll see if they can match this guy to any known victims in Florida." He paused, then laid a hand lightly on Goren's shoulder. "Are you okay, Bobby?"
He got a very abrupt answer as Goren literally launched himself out of his chair and headed quickly towards the bathroom, limping heavily.
"I never thought I'd see the day…" Carver murmured. Eames shot him a threatening look.
"Don't even think about finishing that thought, Mr Carver. He's got every right to be upset. If that email was meant to be a joke, then it damn well isn't funny."
"Alex is right," Deakins agreed, and he sounded angry now. "I want to know who's responsible for this. I'll call Mack now, and have him send someone to come and get the laptop. Alex, will he be all right? Will you be all right?"
"We'll be fine," she said quietly. "Just… find the son of bitch who sent that email."
Twenty-four hours later
Goren and Eames walked into Deakins' office in silence. They had just returned from court with Carver, and had both been looking forward to taking a well-deserved lunch break, only to be told they were wanted in Deakins' office immediately.
Deakins waited until they were both seated before speaking.
"I've been instructed to update you both on that email," he said quietly, looking intently from one detective to the other. Eames was back on her feet in an instant.
"We don't want to know."
"You don't have a choice," Deakins said, his voice becoming slightly strained. "Sit down, Alex. Please."
She sat, albeit reluctantly. Deakins went on apologetically.
"I am sorry about this. I would have preferred not to bother you with this, but I've been given strict instructions from my superiors. I need you both to at least hear me out."
Goren spoke softly.
"They're new victims, aren't they? We have a copycat on our hands."
Deakins nodded slowly. He took in their ashen expressions, and silently cursed his superiors for forcing him to do what he was going to have to do.
"You're partly right. The pictures are of three different victims found within the last month. The catch is that it isn't in our territory. Bobby, that email originated from the UK. Specifically, a place called Denton, in Britain."
"Britain?" Eames echoed, stunned. Deakins nodded.
"So we send them our case files," Goren said. He paused, locking stares with Deakins. "But that's not enough, is it?"
"The Chief of Detectives wants me to send two detectives to assist with the case," Deakins admitted reluctantly. "Specifically, he wants me to send the two of you."
Whatever reaction Deakins had tried to prepare himself for, he simply wasn't ready for the frigid looks that he got from both Goren and Eames. If looks could kill, he would have been dead twice over.
"Let me get this straight," Eames said in a toneless voice. "We're expected to go to Britain to help find the copycat of the killer that nearly killed us. Does that pretty much cover it?"
"You don't have to agree to do it," Deakins told them. At least he had the grace to look apologetic, they both thought, exchanging rueful looks. Deakins went on, having little trouble guessing what they were both thinking. "I want you to understand that I'm not ordering you to do this, not under any circumstances. I don't care what the Chief of Detectives has to say, or the Mayor for that matter. I'm just asking you if you would be willing to go. If you both say no, I'll accept that."
"You might," Goren said, "but the Chief of Detectives won't. I bet he told you not to give us a choice, didn't he?"
"Forget him," Deakins growled. "You let me worry about him. I am not forcing this on either of you. If you can't do it, I want you to say so."
Goren and Eames looked at each other for several long seconds in silence before looking back at Deakins.
"Can we have some time to talk it over?" Eames asked. Deakins nodded.
"Sure. Take your time, and remember this is between us. You can say no if you want to."
Again, the detectives exchanged looks, and then rose together and silently left the room.
"Like hell we have a choice," Eames muttered as she and Goren retreated to an empty case room. "The captain wasn't given a choice, and that means we don't have a choice."
Goren sank into the nearest chair, his breath escaping him in a rush.
"We do have a choice. Deakins will take the heat for us if we say no."
"And spend however long making us feel guilty for it."
"Forget about whether we do or don't have a choice, Alex. Just think about the situation. Do you think you could cope with going?"
She stared at him, uncertainty in her eyes.
"I don't know. I just don't know, Bobby."
"I want to go back to Deakins and tell him no," Goren said. "I really want to, but I can't."
"Those people," Eames whispered, understanding what he meant.
"Three victims so far," Goren said. She regarded him grimly.
"It could be a trap. There's every chance that it was the killer who sent that email. What if whoever it is just wants to finish off what Erik Mathers started? Namely, us!"
"Are you frightened it could happen again?" he asked.
"Yes," she admitted simply. Goren sighed faintly.
"So am I."
"I just don't understand why it has to be us!" Eames burst out. "Why can't they send Ash and King? Or even Logan and Bishop? Why us?"
"We're the ones with the first-hand knowledge. Bishop and Logan had a hand in finding us, but we're the ones who experienced it. I don't want to, Alex, I really don't. But if we can help catch this new guy…"
"I really am scared, Bobby," she told him softly. "I just don't know if I can deal with this. Not again."
Heclosed hishand gently over hers.
"I understand that. But this needs to be all or none. If you can't do it, then neither can I. There's no way I could go without you."
Eames frowned at him.
"Are you trying to guilt trip me, Robert Goren?"
He flushed red with embarrassment.
"What? No! I… I was just… I mean…"
She silenced him with a fierce hug, which he returned with equal enthusiasm.
"I'm kidding, Bobby. I know you wouldn't do that to me. At least, not deliberately. Look, what's the bottom line here? What are the pros and cons of us going?"
"Okay," Goren murmured, thankful to have the situation put back into logical perspective. "They have a killer in Britain who is imitating Erik Mathers. They have three victims so far, that we're aware of."
"The pros are that we could help them catch this guy because of what we've experienced," Eames went on. "We know he's deliberately copycatting Mathers, and not just another whack job with a sick sense of fun, because of that email. Unfortunately, that means this new killer might also be hoping we'll take the bait and go over there."
"It could be a trap," Goren agreed. "But we also know what to expect, and we'd be doubly cautious. Neither of us is likely to be caught off-guard again."
The two of them sat for the next few minutes, simply staring at each other in wordless understanding.
"We stick together," Eames said softly, reaffirming a vow made more than five months ago. "Whatever happens, Bobby, we stick together."
He drew her in for another hug.
"We stick together," he agreed. "I promise, Alex."
"Okay," she murmured. "Let's go tell Deakins the good news."
Deakins and Carver looked up as Goren and Eames came back in.
"That was fast," Carver said dryly. Both detectives ignored him, focusing instead on Deakins.
"We talked it over," Goren said. "We decided that we'll go."
Neither Goren nor Eames could miss the relief that flashed oh-so-briefly over Deakins' face.
"Thankyou," he told them. "I'll let the Chief know, and I promise you I'll make sure he understands that it was your decision."
"There's just one condition we have," Eames said quietly. Deakins raised an eyebrow slightly.
"What condition is that?"
Goren and Eames exchanged glances, and then Eames went on.
"We don't want to be separated while we're over there. Not for any reason."
Deakins nodded. He had a sneaking suspicion he wasn't quite getting what Eames really meant.
"All right. I understand…"
"No, sir," Goren interrupted. "I don't think you do. We don't want to be separated. We don't want to be out of sight of each other. We assume we'll be staying in a hotel while we're over there?"
"Yes, but what…"
"We don't want separate rooms," Eames said bluntly. Deakins gaped at them both.
"What? But… Do you have any idea what sort of questions that will raise?"
"We don't care," Goren said. Deakins gave a short laugh.
"You don't care. That's great. Meanwhile, I'm the one who has to explain the single room on the expense account."
"Captain," Goren went on slowly, "we aren't sleeping together. We just don't want to be apart."
"Explain it to me," Deakins pleaded with them, "because I really don't understand."
Neither detective answered immediately. Once more, they sat staring at each other, giving Deakins the unnerving impression that they were communicating without speaking aloud. Finally, Goren broke eye contact with Eames, and looked back at Deakins. When he spoke, the words came tentatively, as though he was struggling to find the right words.
"We have to consider the possibility that it was the killer who sent that email to me. And if it was, he might just be looking to finish what Mathers started. We could be walking into a trap. We were caught off guard, last time. We weren't together…"
"We were out of sight of each other when Mathers took Bobby out," Eames said quietly, when Goren faltered. "It's important to us that we don't let that happen again."
"You can't keep each other in sight every minute of every day," Carver pointed out softly.
"We know that," Goren said, starting to sound agitated. "We know… But this is important to us. It might sound ridiculous…"
"But we're asking you to trust us," Eames finished off the sentence for him. "Please, Captain Deakins, just trust us."
"Look at it this way," Goren added, with a wry smile now. "You'll be saving the Department money, because even if you book us into individual rooms, we'll just end up in the same room together anyway."
Deakins rolled his eyes.
"Well, since you put it that way… All right, but you owe me one. God knows how I'm going to explain this one to my superiors."
Eames smirked as they rose to leave.
"Just tell them we don't sleep."