Chapter One

Bobby winced as the lamp's light struck his eyes. He pierced the bridge of his nose and tried to take a calming breath, but the moves only increased the raging pain behind his eyes.

"Hey." Alex's soft voice broke through the fog of pain. "You ok?"

"Bad headache," Bobby answered and attempted to concentrate on the report on his desk. The words jumped and blurred on the page, and Bobby realized that the headache had been attacking him with greater ferocity for at least two days.

Alex studied her partner carefully. He rarely complained about any discomfort, so the pain must be very bad if he'd admit to it. And she realized this headache had plagued Bobby for some time.

"Have you taken something for it?" She leaned across their desks.

"Uh, yea…different over the counter stuff…" Bobby's voice echoed inside his brain, each wave of sound increasing the agony in his head. "None of them seem to help."

Alex's face loomed in front of him; she looked terribly worried. "Bobby." Her voice was strained but gentle. He felt her hand on his shoulder. "Are you really ok?"

Bobby stared at her. Her voice reverberated in the chambers of his head. His right arm and leg were numb and appeared to be getting more so by the minute. His attention turned to his right hand; it rested flatly on the paper on his desk. He desperately wanted his fingers to grasp the paper, but the hand refused to obey him. He looked back to Alex, who seemed to be becoming more frightened. Bobby struggled to say something, but the effort resulted in garbled and warped sounds. Fear rose in him.

"Bobby." In spite of her growing panic, Alex's voice sounded calm. "Something's wrong…I'm getting help…"

He became dimly aware of furious activity in the Major Case Squad Room. Other detectives and officers scurried back and forth; the Captain's form hovered near Alex. Bobby tried to move, to rise from his chair, but his right leg was as useless as his arm. He felt Alex's hand on his left arm. When she pulled it away, Bobby gave a weak cry. Her hand returned immediately.

"Hang on…an ambulance is coming…" she said softly.

Terror seized Bobby. "I'm going crazy," he thought. "It's finally happened…my mind has snapped…no…please…" He pleaded with a God he'd never understood. "Please…let me die…don't let me be insane…or a vegetable…like my Mom…who'll take care of my Mom? ...Work…what if I can't work? Alex…Alex…what will I do without Alex…"

Alex watched as fear spread through Bobby's eyes. "Oh no," she thought. "He thinks he's going crazy…I…I need to tell him what's going on…give him the truth…something to help him fight…"

She gripped his arm. "Bobby." She fought to keep her voice calm and even. "You're showing a lot of the signs of…of a stroke…you're not crazy…this is physical…we'll deal with this…" She focused on his dark eyes and tried to ignore the growing weakness on the right side of his face. "Bobby, if you understand me, please…squeeze my hand twice…"

There was a pause of two of the most awful moments of Alex's life. Bobby finally, weakly squeezed Alex's hand two times. "Ok," she said, unable to hide the relief in her voice.

The EMTs appeared in the office. They gently but firmly pushed away Alex and the other officers, and surrounded Bobby. He watched Alex with desperate, wide eyes; she prayed to a God with which she felt increasingly at war. "Please," she thought. "Please let him be ok…if he has to be hurt, don't let it be his mind. Please don't take away his mind and words…I know you don't make deals, but anything…I'll do it…please…"

The EMTs moved Bobby with some difficulty to a gurney; both his size and useless right side worked against any easy movement. Before anyone could question her, Alex followed as Bobby was wheeled towards the elevator. The Captain walked behind her. "I'll contact people," he said.

"Who?" Alex thought. "Who is there to contact?"

They reached the elevator. "Call me, Alex," the Captain said. He helped hold the elevator door open. "Please…let us know how he is…"

As the elevator door closed, Alex realized that the new Captain had called her by her first name for the first time.

End Chapter One