A/N: You wouldn't credit this. You really wouldn't. After over twelve months, and me starting to think the muse had abandoned me entirely on all matters CI, this comes literally out of nowhere. I'd thought this might be the last chapter of this particular story, but as it turns out, it's not. Go figure. Let's all hope it won't be another twelve months before the next update. :P
Two months later
Bobby slowed to a halt as the snow pattered down softly, having to pause to regain his bearings. It had been months, literally, since he'd last set eyes on One Police Plaza, and never from a perspective such as this. Almost as an afterthought, he set the brakes on his wheelchair – he was not particularly keen on rolling backwards, off the pavement and into the traffic. With that done, he took a moment to look up at the building that had effectively become a second home to him.
It was a daunting feeling, knowing that he was entering the place now in an entirely different capacity. Truth be told, even he didn't fully understand what that capacity was, yet. All he knew was that his status as Detective, First Grade, was terminated. He was here today at the request of the Commissioner and the District Attorney.
When Alex had learned of the meeting, she'd made several remarks, only half in jest, about the top dogs of the New York legal system getting into a bun fight over who got to re-hire him. Bobby wasn't so sure about that. Personally, he still couldn't understand why anyone would want to hire him now, but that was a self-doubt he had long since ceased voicing – if only because it was the fastest way to piss Alex off.
"You stay there for much longer, you're gonna turn into a snowman, Goren."
Bobby looked around quizzically, and a smile twisted across his lips.
"Hey, Logan. How's the new job going?"
Mike Logan shrugged nonchalantly, but Bobby would have had to have been blind to miss the gleam in his eyes.
"Beats Staten freaking Island any day. Not exactly the homicide placement I was hoping for, but beggars can't be choosers, right?"
Bobby smiled wryly at the comment. After the prospect of permanent paralysis had become bitter reality, Bobby had told Deakins to go ahead and start looking for someone to take his place in the Squad. It had been a hard thing for him to do, but he knew as well as Deakins did that the decision couldn't be forestalled any longer. He wasn't returning to Major Case, and the position had to be filled. Before Deakins had left, though, Bobby had suggested Mike Logan's name, remembering the assistance the long-time detective had given them during the Staten Island prison case.
Deakins had appeared to take the suggestion seriously at the time, and Bobby had soon forgotten he'd even mentioned it. But then, a couple of weeks later, Alex had come to visit him looking wide-eyed with disbelief. The captain had pulled some strings, and the infamous Mike Logan was coming to Major Case.
The entire squad had been unsettled by Mike's inclusion in the Squad, but he'd apparently settled in quickly, and proven that his reputation as a damned good detective was not undeserved.
"You're not a beggar, Logan," Bobby told him quietly, sincerely. "And you deserve to be there. Remember that."
Mike eyed Bobby thoughtfully.
"Thanks. Just wish it hadn't been in those circumstances."
Bobby didn't try to argue with him, primarily because he felt much the same way. It still hurt to think that his career with the NYPD had been brought to such a shuddering halt like this, but at the same time, he was long since past grieving over a life that was no more.
"So, you coming in?" Mike asked, and Bobby nodded.
"Yeah, I guess so. I have a meeting with the Commissioner and the DA. God knows what they want."
"Yeah. Right. God knows."
The comment was deliberate and calculating, and Bobby looked up at him in puzzlement and suspicion.
"Do you know something about this?"
Mike's eyes promptly went wide in a faux innocent look.
"Me? Not a thing. No one's told me a thing, I swear it."
Bobby grunted, deciding he was in no mood to interrogate a colleague… His stomach dropped a couple of inches. A former colleague. Swallowing the bile that threatened to rise in his throat, Bobby shoved down on the wheels of his chair, and made his way into One Police Plaza. Had he taken just a moment to look back, though, he would have seen the wide grin that had appeared on Mike's face as the big cop followed him inside.
Bobby bypassed the eleventh floor, and headed straight up the fourteenth floor, and the office of the Commissioner. He was slightly unnerved upon arrival to find Deakins already there, waiting with not only the Commissioner and Arthur Branch, but the Chief of Detectives as well.
"Goren, thankyou for coming," the Commissioner greeted him warmly, leaning down only as far as he needed to shake Bobby's hand. "Let's go through into my office, shall we?"
Bobby followed the other men through, and nodded gratefully when Deakins shifted one of the chairs out of the way in order to make room for his wheelchair. The Commissioner's assistant took requests for coffee, and then they were alone to discuss business.
"All right," the Commissioner said, looking around the group meaningfully before letting his gaze come to rest on Bobby.
"I suppose you'd call this a conciliatory meeting. It's come to my attention that there's something of a dispute developing between the NYPD and the DA's office and you, Goren, are right in the middle of it."
Bobby opened his mouth to protest that he had no idea what was going on, but the Commissioner silenced him with a wave of his hand.
"Don't worry, Goren. I know you're in the dark at the moment. Hopefully things will be a bit clearer for you very soon. What I'm talking about are the job offers that have been extended to you by both the NYPD and the District Attorney's office."
All of a sudden, Bobby felt incredibly uncomfortable. The truth was that he had been seriously considering both offers, but had yet to decide on either.
"Tell me, Goren, had you made a decision yet on what you want to do?"
Bobby shook his head, increasingly uncomfortable with the scrutiny.
"Not yet, sir."
"All right. Now I'm sorry, but I need to ask a couple of questions that would otherwise be entirely your own business. But just bear with me, okay? Firstly, what aspects of each offer are you most interested in?"
Bobby shifted awkwardly in the wheelchair. Part of him was powerfully tempted to turn around and leave. After all, his brother, sister in-law and niece were all waiting for him a block away… And yet, he found himself answering, albeit unwittingly.
"Well… I appreciate the salary offered by the DA's office," he admitted, deciding that if he was going to be asked questions like that, then he might as well be honest in his reply. "It's a lot closer to the amount that I know I could live comfortably on… and I like the freedom that I'd have to be able to go out and investigate for them... to actually talk to people. To..."
"Get involved," Deakins offered, and Bobby nodded.
"Yes. Get involved. With the NYPD's offer, I'd be pretty much confined to a desk. On the other hand, though, I could continue profiling with the NYPD, and that's something that I wouldn't have the opportunity to do with the DA's office."
"So let's look at it simply," the Commissioner said. "You'd like the job that the NYPD is offering at the salary that the District Attorney's office is offering, but with the freedom to go outside the office to investigate."
Bobby went red, but again the Commissioner waved away any potential protests.
"Relax, Goren. It's perfectly reasonable, and we all know how in demand you are." He grinned knowingly at the former detective. "And don't think I don't know about that offer from Jason Gideon. Now, I don't know about anyone else in this room, but I'll be damned if I'm going to lose you to the FBI, of all places."
"I wasn't planning on taking that offer, Commissioner," Bobby pointed out.
"So you say right now, but who's to say that further down the track you won't change your mind? That's why we're here today, Goren. We need to work this out, so that we don't lose one of the best profiling minds the NYPD has seen for years."
It took nearly all of Bobby's self control to keep from saying something he knew he would have regretted. As it was, he couldn't keep the expression on his face neutral, and the other men all picked up on it.
"You don't believe we're genuine, do you?" the Chief Bradshaw mused. Bobby reddened a little.
"Sorry. I don't mean any disrespect. It's just..."
"It's all right," Bradshaw assured him. "I know, the NYPD in general hasn't given you the respect you deserve. It shouldn't be any surprise now that you're finding all of this a little hard to swallow.
"Let's get to the point, shall we?" the Commissioner pressed on. "Goren, I've been discussing this matter with Chief Bradshaw and Mr Branch all morning, and we think we've come up with a solution for you. Of course, it's your decision ultimately. We're just hopeful that what we've come up with will be enough to tempt you to stay."
Bobby's eyebrows rose as Deakins handed him a folder that contained a dozen or so pages.
"I won't ask you to read all of that through now," the Commissioner said. "I'll just give you an overview, and then you can go away and think it over. Basically, we've agreed to offer you a position that splits your time between the DA's office, and the NYPD. You'd be officially employed by the NYPD, but contracted to work within the DA's office. You'll act as an independent investigator for the DA's office, and as a profiler for the NYPD. There'd be an office for you both here at One Police Plaza, and at Hogan Place, and of course you'll have the freedom to come and go as you like. And, if you care to look at the first page in that folder, you'll find the salary offered is quite substantial."
Bobby looked, and his eyes widened in astonishment.
"This... This is..." He paused, shaking his head to try and clear it. "I'm sorry. It's just that this is extraordinary! I never expected anything like this."
"Will you consider it?" the Commissioner asked. Bobby nodded, although he was already half way to making his decision.
"Yes, I will," he promised. "Uh... When do you need an answer?"
"Would by the end of the week seem unreasonable?" Branch queried. Bobby shook his head.
"No, that's fine. I think I can decide by then." He paused, looking around at them all with renewed appreciation. "Thankyou. This really is unbelievable."
"You're too valuable to lose, Goren," Bradshaw told him sincerely. "The NYPD may have been lax in the past about showing its appreciation for your skills, but no more. This is where you belong... and, from an entirely selfish point of view, we just don't want to share you with anyone else. Especially the FBI."
Again, Bobby fought back a smirk. It was common knowledge that Jason Gideon had come to see him twice more during his rehabilitation. The latter time he'd brought with him two of his colleagues – his second-in-command and Unit Chief, Aaron Hotchner, and a young, goggle-eyed man by the name of Spencer Reid, who had just about talked Bobby's ear off in his enthusiasm. Not that Bobby had minded – it had proven to be the brightest point of what had otherwise been a very tiring and rather frustrating day. Before they'd left, Gideon had again reiterated his offer, and it had been backed up by Hotchner. Any time that he decided he was ready to move on, all he had to do was call.
News of the open offer had once again sent the NYPD hierarchy into a froth and this, apparently, was the result. It was all Bobby could do to keep a straight face, and he was still working on that half an hour later when he and Deakins rode back down in the elevator together. Deakins, knowing Bobby better than those they had left behind on the fourteenth floor, didn't miss Bobby's amusement, however cleverly concealed.
"How you didn't laugh in their faces, I'll never know."
Bobby looked up at Deakins in genuine surprise.
"C'mon, Bobby. I saw the look on your face every time the FBI was mentioned. Admit it, you're enjoying being able to hold that over them."
"No…" Bobby started to protest, but trailed off when Deakins lifted his eyebrows in a wordless challenge. Bobby sighed in defeat. "Okay. Maybe I was, just a bit."
Deakins chuckled and clapped him lightly on the shoulder as the elevator slid to a halt at the eleventh floor.
"Coming in to say hello? Everyone would be thrilled to see you."
Bobby froze, though, a look in his eyes akin to panic.
"I… Uh… Frank, Emily and Sophie are waiting for me…"
Understanding dawned in Deakins' eyes, and he nodded.
"Not today, then. Next week, maybe? You can come in and join us for a cup of really bad coffee."
Laughter erupted from Bobby's lips, and he visibly relaxed.
"That would be… Yeah, I can do that. Thankyou."
He wasn't merely referring to the half-joking offer of coffee, and they both knew it. Deakins smiled again.
The elevator doors slid shut, and the captain headed back into the squad room. He'd barely made it past the break room when he found his path blocked by Alex.
"Was that Bobby? Where is he?"
Deakins held his hands up to silence her.
"Slow down, Alex. Yes, that was Bobby, but he's on his way out. His family is waiting for him, apparently."
A flicker of hurt crossed Alex's face.
"He could have stopped in just for a few minutes."
To Deakins' surprise, it was Mike Logan who spoke up in response to that.
"Give the guy time, Eames. He's only been out of the hospital's rehab centre for two weeks, and it had to have been hard enough just coming here for that meeting. Speaking of which, Captain, how did it go?"
"Not entirely sure yet," Deakins admitted as they continued on through to his office. "I think Bobby was interested in what was on offer, but he kept a pretty good poker face. He was asked to make a decision by the end of the week, though, so we'll know by then."
"And if he takes it?" Alex asked. "Are they planning on giving him an office upstairs with the brass? You know he'll hate that."
"One step at a time, Alex. If and when he accepts the offer, then we'll decide where to set him up. Just do me a favour, and don't go hassling him over it. I've got a feeling that he's already made up his mind, but he needs to be allowed to make the choice completely autonomously."
"So what am I supposed to say if he asks me for my opinion? Tell him I'm staying neutral? He'd never buy that."
"Don't be an idiot, Eames," Mike spoke up bluntly. "If he asks, tell him what you think. But don't go pushing what your agendas onto him. I think we all know he isn't going to want to leave the NYPD, but Captain's right. He's gotta be allowed to decide it for himself."
Alex groaned softly and rubbed her hands over her face.
"I just want him back here, with us. I feel like, if he was working in here, then I could kid myself that he's still a part of the squad… but I guess that's just being selfish, isn't it?"
"I wouldn't say selfish," Deakins murmured, musing with a slight feeling of guilt that his line of thinking was very similar. Mike raised an eyebrow, and Deakins grimaced. "All right, perhaps it's a little bit selfish. But most of the squad feels the same way."
"What if he doesn't want to come back?" Alex wondered suddenly, a hint of panic in her eyes. "Do you think that's possible? What if…"
"I think," Mike cut her off firmly, "that you're over-thinking the situation, Eames. Like I said, he's only been out of rehab for two weeks. Today was the first day he's been back to One Police Plaza since the shooting. Don't go reading anything more into it just because he didn't stop in here for a visit. It's gotta still be pretty raw with him, after all."
Alex looked from Mike to the captain unhappily as she took a step towards the door.
"I just don't think I'm going to feel right again unless we have Bobby back here… however we have him back."
The two men watched her retreat back to her desk before Mike spoke softly.
"I know I could get my ass kicked for asking this, but was she really ready to come back to work?"
"I wouldn't have wanted to wait any longer, Logan. She needed to get back on the job, for her own sake. I know it's not easy right at the moment, but it will eventually start to get better."
Mike nodded passively.
"I hope so. But right now…?" He paused, and inclined his head to where Alex sat, staring desolately at the empty desk opposite her. "That's a damned miserable sight, Captain."
He wandered out of the office, leaving Deakins alone to take in the sight before him.
"I know," Deakins agreed softly. "Damn it, I know."
Emily whistled softly as she leafed through the pages that Bobby had given over to her while he sipped at a particularly strong latte.
"This is an impressive offer, Bobby. They really don't want to lose you."
Bobby smiled wryly.
"They weren't going to. To be honest, I was getting ready to accept the original offer from the Commissioner, on the proviso that they allowed me to act in a consultant capacity to Jason Gideon's team. I wasn't expecting this."
"Do you have any idea what you're going to do?" Frank wondered as he helped Sophie with her hot chocolate. Bobby was silent for just a few seconds before answering with a slightly sheepish smile.
"I'm going to accept. It's more than I hoped for, and everything I want. I'll have more freedom than I did as a detective, the pay is a hell of a lot better, and…"
"And?" Emily pressed with a knowing smile. Bobby smile shyly, mildly embarrassed.
"And I'll have the opportunity to keep working with Alex. It… It won't be the same, but that doesn't have to be a bad thing. The most important thing, though, is that I'll be able to keep doing what I'm good at. Profiling…"
"Catching the bad guys and locking 'em up!" Sophie burst out, and the adults all laughed.
"Right," Bobby agreed, smiling widely as Sophie slipped off her chair and climbed up onto Bobby's lap, throwing her arms enthusiastically around his neck.
"Easy, sweetheart," Frank murmured, anxious that she not put a foot where it might accidentally do damage.
"She's fine," Bobby reassured him, and then to Sophie; "You want to go and get some ice cream?"
She squealed her assent, and Bobby manoeuvred himself and his passenger away towards the ice cream counter.
"He's gonna be okay," Frank said, feeling a greater sense of relief than he would have ever thought was possible. He felt a hand close over his own, and looked to see Emily smiling brightly at him.
"Yes, he is. Thankyou."
"For trying. You could have run away… In truth, we all expected you to. But you didn't. You stayed."
Frank shrugged, trying to appear nonchalant.
"Yeah, well, had to stop running some time. This was as good a time as any."
Emily laughed softly but chose not to argue with him, opting instead to change the subject.
"And the visit to your mom went better yesterday, too."
"It did," Frank agreed. "She was totally lucid yesterday. Didn't remember what happened the last time, but I think Bobby was glad about that. Of course, we had to go through the process of explaining what had happened to Bobby all over again, but at least she accepted it. Just hope she'll remember it for the next visit."
"One at a time, Frank," Emily advised him, and he nodded his agreement.
"Right. One visit at a time."
Bobby and Sophie returned at that moment, with Sophie holding a lavish looking banana split sundae.
"Sophie…" Emily growled lightly.
"We're going to share it," Sophie announced. "Uncle Bobby can have the bananas, I get the cherries, and we get to have half the ice cream each."
"Don't look at me," Bobby protested when his brother and sister in-law shot him identical looks. "It was all her. I just paid for it."
"Oh, that's shameful," Frank laughed. "Blaming a kid!"
Bobby smirked, picked up a spoon and helped himself to an enormous scoop of ice cream, much to the amusement of the other adults. As he and Sophie dug into the towering treat, Frank and Emily exchanged surreptitious smiles across the table. Bobby was definitely going to be okay.