Title: Gamesmanship

Author: elfluvr

Summary: games·man·ship (gāmzʹmən-shĭp´) noun
The use in a sport or game of aggressive, often dubious tactics, such as psychological intimidation or disruption of concentration, to gain an advantage over one's opponent.

Follows my story The Hard Way.

Disclaimer: You know it by heart.

Archive: Fanfiction - anywhere else, just ask

Feedback: Please! It's always welcome


It helps if you've read "The Hard Way" because this story references the crime and some other things in that one.


Chapter 1 – Gamesmanship

Seated at a table in the New York City library, Bobby Goren found the reference he was looking for in an encyclopedia. It related back to a French philosopher and theologian – Peter Abelard. Abelard asserted that truth must be attained by carefully weighing all sides of any issue. His concept of ethics maintained that an act is to be judged by the intention of the doer. Goren made notations in his binder so he had the information he needed to search for a biography on Abelard.

What he hadn't expected to find was that in 1117 Abelard began tutoring Héloïse, the niece of a canon of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris. They fell in love and secretly married after Héloïse gave birth to a son. Abelard then persuaded Héloïse to take holy vows. Her uncle, convinced that Abelard had abandoned Héloïse, had him castrated. About 1132 Abelard and Héloïse began a famous exchange of letters, which had become classics of romantic correspondence.

Goren added that last bit of information to his notes as something else he needed to research.

He once made the remark that his most important investigative tool was his library card – it was true then and it was still true now. For him, even the internet couldn't compare with the wealth of knowledge he could find among the rows of books, reference materials, periodicals and maps. The smell of aging paper and leather bindings combined with the calm quiet to provide a setting in which he could gorge himself on research. But in all honesty he would have to admit his love of the setting could be attributed to the affectionate memories he held of better days when his mother was still able to work as a librarian.

Jotting notes in his binder from the section he had marked with his index finger, he barely noticed when someone sat next to him until he felt the hair on the back of his neck stand on end. Before he even glanced at his new companion, his spine stiffened and his gut twisted – something about the body language …

"Hello, Bobby. Have you missed me?"

Looking into familiar, large brown eyes, Goren had a sick feeling of vertigo as his quiet Saturday at the library was suddenly and violently turned upside down. Closing the book in front of him, he coldly glared at Nicole Wallace.

"Well … maybe not," she gave a pretty shrug, then grinned broadly. "I've missed you! Keeping up with your life through newspapers and gossip just isn't the same as being here."

"Why are you here, Nicole?" Goren asked while trying to hide the feeling of dread that was clawing at his chest. "It's been so long I … I thought you were finally locked up somewhere."

"Very funny, Bobby." Nicole clasped her hands on the table in front of her, like a good little school girl. "But you know, other than you, no one is out to get me."

"Well…i-it's a large oversight on someone's part." His mind was quickly processing the fact that this bane of his existence was again sitting in front of him – that could only mean trouble.

"I've missed our little game."

"I'm through playing your games, Nicole"

"Oh, you'll want to play this one," her eyes glittered and the clawing in his chest became more insistent. "It includes your pretty little partner."

Nicole leaned into him, placing one hand on his knee. "You've still never told Detective Eames how you feel about her, have you?" she spoke in a conspiratorial tone. "Tell me, Bobby. When she was pregnant, did you fantasize that it was your baby growing inside her? Or at least that you had the chance to plant the seed."

Goren momentarily closed his eyes and fought to tamp down the anger building within him. Anger was too raw an emotion and emotions gave Nicole the advantage. "These 'games' … have always been between us. Why bring Eames into it?"

"She adds an extra bit of interest for me," her fingers trailed a short way up his thigh then back down to his knee where they continued to circle in a slow caress. "I hear she has exquisitely poor judgment when it comes to choosing men …including a bi-sexual drug addict who was murdered."

How the hell would she know about that? It wasn't something that was common knowledge.

Nicole straightened in her chair and removed her hand from his knee. Goren resisted the urge to use the heel of his hand to rub away the sensation of her touch.

"That was your case, wasn't it?" she purred. "Only she wasn't your partner on it. I wonder why?"

She can't know! There's NO WAY she can know! Bobby felt his poker face slipping and shifted his gaze to his binder on the table – a sign of weakness he knew, but less so than letting her see what was in his eyes.

"Well, as you said … she knew the victim. Conflict of interest," he replied evenly with much more calm than he felt.

"Ah." That small sound left Bobby with the sick feeling that she knew everything,

"You and – Logan was it?" In a move she could have learned from him, Nicole dipped her head to catch his eyes and bring them back up to hers. "You two didn't spend too much time investigating Detective Eames' involvement with the victim. Or his murderer for that matter."

"The …there was nothing to investigate." This time he couldn't hide his feeling – confusion.

"I'm afraid that's not how your IAB would see it."

The rock that had formed in his stomach the moment she sat next to him decided to start tumbling. "What have you done?" he asked coldly.

"Nothing," she sang while once again grinning happily. What Goren saw was the bared teeth of a predator. "The game is just beginning. I thought I'd give you a head start on this one."

She was gaining too much of an advantage. He had to deflect the play – gain back at least even footing. He took a few moments to study her, sizing up his adversary.

"Your pursuit of vengeance through me is … obsessive." Goren leaned close to her. "I wonder why that is. What makes me the primary target of all your venom?" Tilting his head and leaning even closer to her left ear, he kept his voice low and threatening. "Why do you keep coming back here when you could inflict yourself anywhere?"

Goren grabbed her right wrist and held it tight, taking pleasure in her look of surprise. "How much do I resemble your father? Was he a big man … tall, like me?" he tightened his grip. "Or did he just look that way to a … a three-year old Nicole?" his voice was more insistent as he tugged on her wrist. Nicole gasped and the final remnants of her smile faded.

"He had brown eyes, didn't he? But more like yours than mine. No wonder you hate yourself so much, Nicole," Goren released her and leaned back in his chair. "Every time you look in the mirror, you see him staring back at you."

She abruptly stood, the chair legs scraping against the wood floor. "I'll take that as a 'yes' to playing the game." Nicole picked up her purse from the table. "I really have to rush now … I'm already late for an appointment," she waved her fingers over her shoulder as she turned to walk away.

"Nicole!" Goren stood and called her attention back to him. "I'm your opponent, not her."

"Don't worry, Bobby … I'm not replacing you," her voice soothed. "She's going to be the sacrificed pawn."

Two strides and he was close enough to grip her upper arm and pull her directly in front of him – her face inches from his. Bobby's arm shook with the willpower it took to keep from wrenching her arm hard enough to break it.

"Go ahead Bobby … hurt me. Show me just how much like daddy you really are."

She always knew exactly what wounds to open to put him at a disadvantage, but the stakes of this game were too high – involving something more precious than his damaged psyche. No taunts could goad him closer to the edge than he already was.

Twisting her arm from his grasp, Nicole raised her hand to brush hair away from her eyes. She gave him a satisfied smile.

"Let the game begin."